?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Wild Kratts fic: Priorities on Point (2/2)

December 5th, 2015 (12:09 pm)
rushed

feeling: rushed

All notes and such in PART ONE



Martin had just really wanted a narwhal power suit.

That was an innocent impulse. In fact, it was a scientifically minded impulse for the creatively minded. More than that, it was a common impulse. That was, after all, sort of what they did.

He just hadn’t wanted one this badly.

Sure, there were inherent risks to everything they did. But they were safe, and they were careful, and they took absolute responsibility to protect themselves, to protect each other and to protect nature.

Most of the time, they were successful.

Other times…

Martin stood, shoulders slumped outside of Chris’ bunk.

Other times, a narwhal power suit didn’t seem all that important anymore.

“Hey,” Aviva said, coming up next to him. “How’s he doing?”

“Sleeping now, I think,” Martin said.

Aviva frowned a little. “Shouldn’t you go in and check on him?”

Martin shrugged morosely. “Do you think he wants me to?”

“What are you talking about?” Aviva asked.

“This whole narwhal thing,” Martin said. “It was my idea.”

Aviva lifted her brows. “So you feel guilty?”

“I told him that a little time in the water wouldn’t be so bad,” Martin said.

“I’m sure you didn’t tell him to jump in without any gear on,” Aviva said.

Martin conceded that with a small shrug.

“It was an accident,” Aviva said. “Chris knows that better than everyone.”

He knew she was right. But he glanced forlornly at the door.

Aviva nudged him. “You should check on him,” she said. “Make sure he’s okay.”

With that, Aviva continued on her way, leaving Martin still staring at the closed door.

He probably should make sure Chris was okay.

The truth was, though, Martin was a little afraid to find out, all things considered.

-o-

As upset as he was about Chris’ accident, Martin knew there were still several matter to attend to. His brother was sleeping, warm and snug, which meant that it was up to Martin to pick up the slack.

Back in the central area, he found Koki tinkering with an open panel while Jimmy studiously stared at the controls.

“Everything okay?” Martin asked.

“I can stabilize us on ice, water, ground and in the air,” Jimmy said. “But on rocking ice? It’s nearly impossible!”

“I’m trying to add more power to the stabilizers,” Koki said. “But at a certain point, it’s not going to get much better.”

Martin glanced down, as if he could make heads or tails of the circuitry. “Should we leave?”

Koki gave him a hard look. “You’re volunteering to leave?” she asked. “Before making a narwhal creature power suit?”

Martin blanched guiltily. “If it’s too dangerous--”

Koki stood up, putting her hands on her hips. “I can adjust the stabilization process by inputting a cross of data for both water and hard surfaces. That should be able to help control the more noticeable shifts we’ve experienced,” she said. “But it would help if you two didn’t hang out near open doors.”

“I didn’t think--”

Koki held up a hand. “I know, I know,” she said. “It was an accident. Which is why I can’t figure you asking to leave without a narwhal suit.”

“I don’t even have it anymore,” Martin said miserably. “We lost the creature power suit in the water.”

“Well, that one was a big one,” Koki said. “A chunk broke off not far from here. Created a small wave that even increased stabilization wouldn’t be able to account for.”

“My controller is not meant for this kind of pressure!” Jimmy wailed.

Koki cocked an eyebrow. “All things considered,” she said. “We’re lucky that a creature power suit isn’t all we lost. Have you thought about going out to get it?”

“We should probably focus on the Tortuga first,” Martin said.

With a chuckle, Koki turned back to the panel. “Your creature power suit isn’t your first priority?” she asked wryly. “Today is a day full of surprises.”

-o-

Everything was fine.

Martin reminded himself of that as he made his way down to the loading bay. Chris was warming up, the Tortuga was being adjusted, and all of this would be nothing but a cold memory tomorrow.

Everyone was fine.

True, no one on the Tortuga was an actual MD, but they had all passed extensive first aid training classes, and Koki was a pretty good field medic when it came down to things. Chris hadn’t been in the water long, and there was no sign that he had taken any significant amount of water into his lungs. His exposure to the elements was in question, but Koki had seem satisfied with the way his extremities were pinking up. The accident was unfortunate, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

None of that changed the fact that it probably could have been prevented.

It probably should have been prevented.

It had been Martin’s idea to split up. He was the one who had suggested going in the water first. That was why Chris had been changing into his gear and why he’d been alone when the accident happened. Which meant, everything might have been fine, but everything was also Martin’s fault.

Now here he was, a creature adventurer without a suit.

And, more importantly, without a brother by his side.

When he finally made it to the loading bay, Aviva was already there, trying to organize the chaos. The room was scattered with equipment, both big and small.

“Oof,” Aviva said, lifting a large box. “I was in the center of the ship when the wave hit, so I didn’t feel it this strongly. But it must have been pretty powerful here! I think everything is out of place!”

Martin looked around, hesitant.

“No wonder Chris couldn’t keep his balance,” Aviva said with a huff as she wiped her forehead. “Ay de mi.”

It was too much to even talk about. Martin gathered a breath. “Do you need some help?”

“Yeah, if you’ve got a little bit of time,” Aviva said. “But if you want to hang out with Chris--”

“He’s sleeping,” Martin said, a little quicker than he intended.

“I know, but--”

“I’m here to help, Aviva,” he interjected, steadily now.

Aviva took the hint. “Well,” she said. “We do have a lot to put away.”

Martin started collecting a small pile of gadgets and putting them into a crate.

“Besides,” Aviva said, securing a tool to the wall. “The faster we get this done, the faster we can deal with your creature power suit.”

Martin tried not to let the hitch in his breathing show.

“I was thinking about it, actually,” Aviva continued as she stowed another crate. “If the water hasn’t fully frozen the circuits, we might be able to get a signal from it, but with the waves, there’s a chance it might have already drifted too far.”

Martin tightened his jaw and kept working.

“We could take out the mini sub to get better range,” Aviva said. “But I’d have to outfit it for even colder temperatures if we wanted to dive with it for any substantial amount of time.”

Stiffly, Martin started packing another crate.

“But really,” Aviva said with a shrug, “it wouldn’t be too hard to make you another one. I mean, sure it would take a little bit of time, but I have all the instructions, and honestly, I had some design tweaks I wanted to--”

“We don’t have to think about it now,” Martin blurted with more force than he intended.

Aviva stopped, pinning him with a look. “I thought you’d be worried about it.”

“It’s just a creature power suit,” he said. “Not that it isn’t an amazing piece of technology, but it’s just a creature power suit.”

Aviva put down her crate, coming closer to Martin. “Are you sure you’re okay, Martin? We’ve all been so concerned about getting Chris warm and getting the ship back in order that we haven’t really had time to ask.”

Martin swallowed hard. “I’m not the one who fell into the freezing water.”

“No,” Aviva agreed gently. “But you were the one who found your brother half frozen outside.”

Martin sighed.

She put a hand on his arm. “If you want to talk--”

“I just want him to be okay,” he said.

“We all do,” Aviva said. “And he will be.”

“It was stupid, though,” Martin explained. “If I hadn’t been so stubborn about the narwhal creature adventure--”

“That has nothing to do with anything,” she said. “It was an accident.

“I know, everyone keeps telling me that,” Martin said with a shrug.

“Because it’s true,” Aviva told him. “Nature is, almost essential, impossible to predict and even more impossible to control. This had nothing to do with a narwhal creature power suit.”

Martin tried to smile. “You sure about that?”

“Positive,” she said with a reassuring smile. “You’ll see. You’ll both sleep it all off, and tomorrow morning, I’m sure you and Chris will be out there, ready to find that creature power suit in the morning.”

She said it with such enthusiasm that Martin didn’t have the heart to disagree with her.

“Come on,” she cajoled. “I know that’s what you really want.”

Everyone seemed so sure about that.

Everyone except Martin.

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess.”

“I don’t guess,” Aviva said. “I know. Now come on. We’ve still got work to do!”

There was always work to do. There was always another invention, always another creature. There was always another adventure, no matter what.

It wasn’t that Martin doubted that they did good, important work.

It was just that he was starting to doubt if it was the only important thing out there.

Sighing, he picked up another item and put it in his crate.

After all, they did have work to do, and someone had to do it.

-o-

It took the better part of an hour to get the mess cleaned up, and when they were done, Aviva admired their work with uncanny satisfaction.

“You know, it’s actually sort of a good thing that the Tortuga tipped,” she said. “This place was in desperate need of a spring cleaning. Or a winter cleaning.”

Martin tried to force a smile. “Yeah,” he intoned. “Good thing.”

Aviva wiped her hands on her pants. “I think I’m going to head up for dinner,” she said. “You coming?”

“What?” Martin asked.

“Dinner,” Aviva said. “I think Jimmy’s making pepperoni tacos.”

“Oh,” Martin said. “Um, I think I’ll pass.”

“You love pepperoni tacos,” Aviva said, sounding concerned.

“Yeah, but….”

“But you want to check on Chris,” Aviva said. “I understand. Hey, take him a taco, too. And tell him we all hope he’s feeling better.”

Martin managed a weak smile. “Will do.”

-o-

As suggested, Martin took two plates of food to go, but when he knocked on Chris’ door, he didn’t get much of a reply. Quietly, he opened it, tiptoeing inside cautiously. In the dimness, Chris was still curled up under the covers, face tucked against his pillow and breathing heavily. Food was important, but sleep was probably the priority right now.

Funny, now Martin knew how to be sure about priorities.

Decided, he set Chris’ plate of food on the desk. Before leaving, he hesitated before finally dredging up one more blanket to throw on top of his slumbering brother.

Priorities, after all.

-o-

In his own bunk, Martin tried to eat but found that he wasn’t all that hungry. Sure, pepperoni tacos were pretty spectacular, but so did a narwhal power disc, and it was pretty clear how that had turned out.

It wasn’t his fault, he tried to remind himself. It was an accident; plain, dumb, bad luck. That sort of thing happened.

This wasn’t any different than any of their other mishaps.

Frustrated, Martin gave up on his plate of food, leaving it on his own desk. He flopped down heavily on the bed, staring at the wall that separated his bunk from his brother’s.

The others were right. Everything would be back to normal tomorrow. Chris would be up and at ‘em, and they would go out and find Martin’s creature power suit. And then, who knows? Maybe they would even stumble across the secrets of the narwhal while they were out there. They’d laugh and have a good time, just like they always did.

Tomorrow.

-o-

Martin went to bed early, but he certainly didn’t sleep. It wasn’t just that his dreams were plagued with large blubbery mammals and little brothers on ice, though.

It was the muffled coughs and sniffles through the wall.

For as much as Koki had taken pains to add ample insulation throughout the Tortuga, there was little that could keep the shared wall from telling all its secrets between them. This had never been a problem, quite honestly, because Chris snored, but Martin snored louder. True, sometimes they did try to outblast each other with music, but they both enjoyed their impromptu bedtime brainstorming sessions when neither of them actually wanted to sleep.

Which was actually often.

The bunks were small and impersonal, and Koki had only added them recently to accommodate their extended stays in wild locales. Most of the time, they didn’t mind sharing a common space, but they all needed a little privacy from time to time.

The truth was, however, that a closed door and a thin wall meant nothing, not between brothers. Chris and Martin knew each other, and they knew each other well.

So when Chris coughed and sneezed all night, Martin already knew.

His stomach churned uncomfortably.

Today wasn’t going to be a good day after all.

-o-

When Martin finally gave up the fight with sleep, he hastily got dressed before peeking in on his brother. Chris was curled up in bed, snuffling noisily as she turned over and started snoring again. As much as he wanted to rouse his brother, Martin didn’t have the heart. Instead, he quietly picked up Chris’ uneaten plate from last night and made his way to the kitchen.

Breakfast was already on the stove, where Aviva was stirring a skillet of scrambled eggs. “Buenos dias!” she said with a smile. “Looks like the waves have calmed down outside!”

“That, and my new shock absorbers are fully operational,” Koki said, pausing to take a bit of her toast.

“Needless to say, today should be smooth sailing,” Jimmy said.

“Oh,” Martin said noncommittally as he put his plates in the sink. “Well, that’s good.”

“Good?” Koki asked. “That’s excellent if you ask me.”

“I know,” Aviva enthused as she transferred the skillet to a cool burner. “I already had an idea to draw up a search grid to make searching for your power suit a little easier. It’ll take some time and some luck, but I feel pretty optimistic.”

Koki held out a plate while Aviva piled it with eggs. “There should be no problems on my end,” Koki reported.

Jimmy swooped in for the next plate. “Just tell me where, and my controller and I will get you there.”

“I even prepped the mini sub,” Aviva said, handing a plate to Martin. Her eyes were bright with excitement. “Isn’t that great?”

It should have been great. It really should have been. But Martin could hardly think of any feasible response. The creature power suit was important, but…

There was a cough behind him. He startled, turning around, surprised and relieved to see Chris standing there.

He was still in his extra insulated green pajamas, but he was upright. His skin no longer had a blue tint, and there was no sign of ice anywhere in his hair or on his cheeks. In fact, his skin had its typical ruddy complexion with a blush of red in his cheeks.

That was the good news.

The bad news, however, was that his cheeks were red. And his eyes were bleary and tired, and even his normally spiky hair was matted and disheveled. His shoulders were hunched slightly and he almost managed a smile before he was racked with a deep cough.

“Chris!” Aviva said. “You’re up!”

Koki moved across to him. “You feeling okay?”

“What?” Chris asked, walking somewhat gingerly to the table. “Yeah, sure. I mean, I feel like I slept forever--”

“Well,” Koki said, pulling out a chair for him to sit down. “You did out sleep Jimmy for once.”

“Quite a feat,” Jimmy said, kicking back in his own chair.

Chris sat down with a grateful smile. “But I’m not cold anymore,” he said. “So that’s good.”

“That’s very good,” Koki said. “And you still have all feeling in your fingers and toes?”

Chris held up his hands accordingly.

“And your earlobes?” Koki asked.

“I don’t usually feel my earlobes,” Chris admitted.

Koki grinned. “Then close enough.”

Aviva slid a plate of food across for Chris. “We’re glad you’re up and about,” she said. “We were just talking about how to get Martin’s creature power suit back.”

It was Martin’s turn for his cheeks to burn.

Chris glanced toward him before his eyes darted away. “That’s good,” he said, clearing his throat and sniffling. “I want to help.”

“Well, you probably should take it easy,” Koki advised.

“Yeah, you did try to take a swim in arctic water yesterday,” Aviva reminded him.

Chris did his best not to look grim, but Martin knew better. “Still,” his brother said. “That suit’s important to Martin. We need to get it back.”

“It’s not that big of deal,” Martin tried to interject.

“Not that big of deal?” Aviva said. “We should get that in writing for the next time you beg me to make you a new creature power disc.”

“Or when you drag us through the wilderness on some adventure,” Koki said.

“Or when my controller is sacrificed to the mission!” Jimmy cried.

“Exactly,” Chris said firmly. “We have to get it back.”

Martin grinded his teeth together hard, doing his best not to speak. No one else seemed to notice, not that Martin wanted to scream and not that Chris seemed much sicker than he was letting. Not that none of this was okay at all.

“So,” Chris said, clearing his throat. “What’s the plan?”

-o-

As far as plans went, this was a good one. It was coherent, thought out and took into account most of the necessary contingencies. Plus, it was ambitious, fully committed to retrieving the missing creature power suit.

Except it was a terrible plan.

Martin didn’t know how to say this, not when everyone else seemed so happy and excited about it all. It was as if no one else realized that this plan wasn’t just terrible, it was wrong. The creature power suit had to be a secondary concern when Chris almost--

Martin couldn’t even think it.

But he also couldn’t forget it with the way Chris was trying to cough up a lung. His brother did a noble job of trying to hide his discomfort, but Martin could still see it.

He could feel it, every cough jarring his own lungs, every sneeze aching in his own sinuses.

And the worst thing of all?

Chris was the one pushing the hardest for this mission. He was the one who insisted they not delay. He was the one who insisted they get back in the water. He was the one, right here, trying to suit up when he needed to still be in bed.

Chris stopped, breathing heavily as he looked over at Martin. “Aren’t you going to gear up?”

Martin pursed his lips. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Chris moved heavily, trying to shrug out of his sweatshirt. “It’s your creature power suit,” he said. “Of course it’s a good idea.”

“I mean, you,” Martin said. “I’m not sure you should be going out?”

Chris’s brow darkened. “It’s just a little cold--”

He punctuated his point with a vicious sneeze.

Martin winced. “Doesn’t seem so little, bro.”

Chris sighed. “I’m the reason you lost the suit,” he said. “I need to help get it back.”

This was getting out of hand. No, it was quite decidedly already out of hand.

Martin shook his head. “Look, Chris--”

“No, really, Martin,” Chris said, holding up his hand to cut him off. “I have to do this. I need to--”

He stopped with a gravelly cough. Then another. It was followed by a sneeze which left him bent over with another round of wheezing cough. Chris face was red with the exertion, and he put his hand out to steady himself but it wasn’t going to be enough.

As Chris’ knees started to buckle, Martin rushed forward, catching his brother as he slumped toward the ground.

On the ground, Chris looked up at Martin, vexed.

Martin swallowed guiltily. “You were saying?”

Chris struggled to catch his breath. “Your power suit--” he tried to croak.

“Let’s take care of you first,” Martin said, working to pull Chris upright, an arm slung over his shoulder. “Then we can worry about the rest.”

-o-

By the time they got back to the bunks, Chris was dragging his feet. “I’m really okay,” he protested sheepishly.

Martin adjusted his grip on his brother’s arm, pulling him just a little closer. “Not really,” he said. “You’re burning up.”

“Funny,” Chris exhaled. “Yesterday I was freezing.”

“You probably caught something, being outside as long as you were,” Martin said, gut twisting guiltily as they opened the door to Chris’ bunk.

“But I want to help,” Chris said.

Martin guided them toward the bed. “You can help by getting better.”

Chris let himself be lowered to the bed, but he blinked glassy eyes up at Martin. “But the creature power suit--”

“Enough!” Martin snapped, his frustration too much to control. “No more about the creature power suit! What’s gone is gone, and I don’t want to hear about it anymore!”

Chris blanched, eyebrows knitting together disconcertedly.

Martin sighed. He wanted Chris to stop worrying, but it seemed like Martin was only making him worry more. He was really working on being brother of the year on this trip. “We can find it later, okay?” he said, schooling his voice carefully now. “When you’re not burning up.”

Sniffling pathetically, Chris slumped to the bed, curling in on himself. “Or when I’m freezing.”

“I’m going to get Koki to check you over,” he said. “Make sure you eat something; give you some medicine. You think you’ll be okay for a few minutes?”

On the bed, Chris was already sound asleep, breathing noisily through his open mouth.

Martin had to sigh again. Dejectedly, he plucked the blankets from the end of the bed, layering a few over top of his sleeping brother. It would be nice to think Chris would be able to sleep this off, that he’d be better when he woke up. At this point, though, Martin had reason to be doubtful of simple, straightforward, logical plans.

He rubbed the back of his neck, remembering how confident he’d been yesterday. So eager, so sure. As if getting a narwhal power disc was the only thing that mattered in the world. The only thing he needed.

Needs and wants.

They didn’t seem so interchangeable anymore.

Patting his brotherly gingerly on the leg, he nodded with as much resolve as he could drum up. “We’ll get through this together, bro,” he promised. “Just like we always do.”

-o-

Martin was totally calm, collected and professional as he went to get the first aid kit. They had a very well stocked first aid kit, because, well, they were professionals. And professionals were calm and collected in every circumstance.

They went head to head with lions and sharks, after all. They had faced venomous snakes and predators with giant teeth.

They were professionals.

Calm.

Collected.

Professionals.

“Whoa, watch it,” Koki said. “What did the first aid kit ever do to you?”

Martin looked down, suddenly aware that he was holding the first aid kit with a death grip.

Koki reached over, closing the cabinet door over his head gently. “You didn’t need to slam the door, either.”

“I didn’t,” Martin said.

“Slam the door?” Koki asked. “You did, and you stomped all the way in here and put that kit down so hard that you’re lucky I used scuff-free countertops.”

Martin forced himself to exhale, and he could feel the tension roil in his shoulders.

“You okay?” Koki asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be suited up? Where’s Chris?”

Calm, collected and professional.

“Martin?” Koki asked, a little more concerned now. “You okay?”

Martin closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. He didn’t dare release his grip on the first aid kit, or Koki would see that his hands were shaking.

Badly.

Because he hadn’t been calm, collected or professional when this mission started. He’d let his emotions get the better of him, and he’d been too excited about a creature power disk to listen to a reasonable compromise. He’d separated the team in a hostile environment, and he knew that he couldn’t prevent every accident, but he also knew that he hadn’t left things with Chris the way he should have.

They hadn’t left in amicable agreement.. They hadn’t separated to save time or have some privacy. They hadn’t even gone their own ways in the name of well intentioned competition. He had talked to Chris, but he hadn’t listened. Not to his brother’s concerns, his professional and personal concerns.

It wasn’t just that Chris got sick. It was that Chris hadn’t wanted to go alone. And Martin had made that call, and it hadn’t been calm, collected or professional at all.

What if he’d come back later? What if he’d come back too late?

This was bad enough, but it could have been worse.

It could have been so much worse.

“Martin?” Koki asked again, putting a hand on his arm this time.

Martin opened his eyes, letting his shoulders fall as he looked at her. “Chris is sick.”

Koki started to frown. “But what about the creature power suit?”

Martin shook his head. “Chris first,” he said resolutely. “We put the team first, just like always.”

-o-

Back in Chris’ bunk, Koki took over with the first aid kit. Aviva brought some water, and Jimmy got a washcloth.

Chris roused enough to talk to Koki, and he obeyed blearily as she put the thermometer under his tongue and told him to sit still.

Martin, for his part, stood in the doorway, doing nothing.

Calm, collected and professional had quickly become confused, scared and numb. It was all he could do to stand there, awkward and detached, while everyone else took care of his brother for him.

“Pobrecito,” Aviva murmured, placing a glass on the desk. “You should have told us you felt sick.”

“No kidding,” Jimmy said. “I don’t want to go outside here even when I’m dry!”

The thermometer beep, and Koki removed it with a critical expression. “You never should have gotten out of bed,” she chided him, reaching for the Tylenol. She opened it, shaking out two pills. “You think you can sit up?”

Chris tried to comply, getting sluggishly up on his shoulders. Martin was going to move forward to help him, but Koki was already there, propping him up on the pillow. Aviva adjusted the blankets, and Jimmy picked up the glass of water and held it out.

Hands shaking, Chris dutifully took the medication, smiling sheepishly as he handed the drink back to Jimmy. “I’m sorry, guys,” he said weakly. “I just wanted to get the suit back.”

Koki looked at him sternly. “And you thought you would help by what? Sweating on it?”

“Don’t worry about the suit, Chris,” Aviva said.

“Yeah, we’ll get it back for Martin,” Jimmy promised.

Chris sank down back to the bed. “I didn’t mean to lose the suit.”

“We know that,” Aviva assured him. “Accidents happen sometimes. They’re no one’s fault.”

“Just think about how many things I’ve lost!” Jimmy said.

“We can do that later,” Koki said. “After you’ve had a chance to sleep this off.”

If Chris wanted to argue, he was too tired to mount any kind of defense. Instead, his eyes were already fluttering closed as Koki stood up, and Jimmy and Aviva made their way out of the small bunk. The door was closed before Martin could say or do anything.

Not that he knew what he wanted to do.

He didn’t feel like he knew anything at all.

“He’ll sleep for awhile,” Koki said. “But we’ll want to check him in a bit, see if the fever’s gone down.”

“How high was it?” Aviva asked. “He seemed pretty out of it.”

“High enough to knock him out for a bit,” Koki said. “But if the medicine works, then that’s a good sign.”

“Do we need to head out?” Jimmy asked. “It would take a little time to get back to civilization.”

“We can’t, though,” Aviva objected. “The power suit--”

Martin’s chest clenched, and he shook his head.

“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about yet,” Koki said. “He did take a swim in freezing water yesterday. This reaction isn’t unexpected.”

“But are we sure it’s just a cold?” Aviva asked. “What if it’s pneumonia?”

Koki considered it. “His lungs did sound a little wet,” she said. “But if we want to find that power suit--”

“The team comes first,” Martin finally found the words to interject. The others looked at him, surprised. “We can’t take the risk. We head back. Now.”

Koki nodded in concession. “Can’t hurt.”

“I’ll go put in a course,” Jimmy said affably.

Aviva put a consoling hand on Martin’s shoulders. “I’m sorry,” she said as Koki and Jimmy left for the bridge. “I know how much that suit means to you.”

This time, Martin almost felt sick. “I keep telling everyone,” he said tersely. “It’s just a suit.

“I know,” Aviva said. “I just--”

Martin shook his head. “Just get us back to civilization,” he said. “I’m going to go sit with my brother.”

“Martin,” Aviva said. “You know I don’t think--”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said with a dejected sigh. He shook his head apologetically. “It’s not you, Aviva. I think maybe I’m just reminding myself.”

“That’s fine,” she said. “Just remind yourself of something else, too.”

“What’s that?” Martin asked.

“That it’s not your fault,” she said. “No one blames you. Especially not Chris.”

“I know,” Martin said with a meager shrug. “It’d just be easier if I didn’t blame myself.”

-o-

The medicine didn’t help.

With their normal adventures, Martin was used to some trial and error. Sometimes things worked as expected, and sometimes they didn’t. It was part of the ebb and flow of nature, and he’d never had any issues with that.

It was a little different, however, when it was his brother.

Chris’ fever held steady, leaving his hair damp with sweat and his face creased with discomfort. He slept but not peacefully, torn from his slumber periodically with gurgling coughs and ragged sneezes. Martin did what he could, which was basically nothing.

“It’s not working enough,” Koki said, sounding somewhat grim. “Are we geared up to go?”

“Everything’s secure on my end,” Aviva said.

“I can get us up as soon as you guys give me the green light,” Jimmy said.

Koki nodded, looking back at Chris. “I think it’s the safest option,” she said. “Fevers that don’t respond to medicine are always worth checking out.”

On the bed, Chris tossed, coughing in his sleep.

“Then go,” Martin said, reaching out to change the washcloth on Chris’s head. “There’s nothing here worth sticking around for.”

For once, no one mentioned the creature power suit.

-o-

Koki left him with strict instructions to check his fever every half hour. Aviva brought fresh water, and Jimmy offered to make some soup. Within minutes, Martin could feel the familiar hum of the Tortuga, warming up for take off. The heater was blasting higher than normal, and Jimmy’s take off was the smoothest yet. They were all doing everything they could, as if to compensate for the simple fact that they couldn’t do anything at all.

Their lives -- they were about action. They were about getting out into nature and learning. They weren’t idle observers; they were active participants. And Martin had embraced that more than the rest of them.

It was why he loved the creature power suits. The idea that you could do more than study nature -- that you could actively discover it -- well, that was what Martin was here for. His friends weren’t wrong. He did care about his creature power suit. almost more than anything else. Because it let him do the impossible; it let him live the unbelievable.

That was the problem, as much as it was the benefit. The creature power suit made them feel invincible sometimes, and while he and Chris always respected the dangers of nature, sometimes it was easy to forget exactly what their relationship with it was. The suits -- they were just technology. And the Kratt brothers? They were only human.


They bent and broke and bled, and the fact was, animals weren’t the only thing worth protecting. Friendship and family were the most important frontier.

Sure, Martin cared for animals -- a lot. He would risk his life to protect creatures, and he would stake a great deal on keeping the environment safe. Conservation was a cause near and dear to him, one almost above anything else.

Almost.

Martin cared about his brother more. This was obvious, maybe, but it seemed worth repeating. Because it seemed like everyone forgot about it -- even Chris. As the fever climbed, he tossed restless on the bed, and it was all Martin could do to change the washcloth on his forehead in a vain attempt to cool him down.

“Easy, bro,” Martin soothed, keeping his voice low and steady. “Just take it easy.”

Chris’ only reply was a strained whisper. “The power suit,” he mumbled, words slurred together. “Martin -- sorry--

It was disconcerting, to say the least. Not just that his brother was so sick, but that in the throes of his illness, all he was worried about was the creature power suit.

Martin’s eyes burned, and his stomach felt heavy.

Chris wheezed, turning his head away fretfully. “I didn’t -- I didn’t--” he said, voice hitching and breaking. “I’m sorry--”

It was too much. Wrought with emotion, Martin pulled his chair closer, running one hand through Chris’ damp hair. He twined his other hand with Chris, giving it a squeeze. “Don’t be sorry,” he said, willing Chris to hear him. “Not about that. I want a creature power suit, sure. But the thing I need -- the only thing I really need -- is my baby brother, right by my side.”

Chris’ head tilted toward the sound of his voice, his chest heaving as he breathed noisily.

“You hear me, Chris?” Martin asked. “All I need is you.”

Eyes still closed and face flushed, the worry lines eased a little on his forehead. Even in his stupor, his fingers clasped back around Martin’s.

And squeezed.

Martin grinned, hope like a deep ache in his chest as he squeezed back.

And didn’t let go.

-o-

Hope was one thing.

Reality was another.

Martin knew that the rest of the team was all pulling their weight, too. Aviva checked in frequently to see if they needed anything, and Koki monitored Chris’ fever. Jimmy was piloting the most direct course possible, ensuring that they would be to a first class medical facility within several hours.

As for Chris, well, he was working harder than all the rest of them combined. Martin knew his brother, after all. Chris was strong, competitive and he didn’t quit. He was persistent and thorough, and he never left a job half finished.

It was hard to admit, though, that this could have been their toughest opponent yet.

The fever was stubborn, clinging to Chris with an exhausting tenacity. Chris’ cough deepened, turning into a rousing hack that left Martin wincing just listening to it.

But Chris didn’t back down.

He struggled in the sheets, fingers fisting into the blankets as he clenched his jaw. He breathed heavily, the wheezing sound filling the small bunk. They had seen some impressive battles in nature during their time, but Martin was fairly sure he was witnessing the most intense one yet.

And, certainly, the most important.

Martin couldn’t do much, not like the rest of them, but he would be here. He wouldn’t leave Chris, not now. Not ever.

On the bed, Chris let out a shuddering breath, face contorted with pain. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled again. “Martin, I’m sorry…

That was all Chris had said, and the fact that he wasn’t coherent didn’t make it any less painful to hear. In fact, it bothered Martin that deep down, that was what Chris was thinking about. He wasn’t thinking about the next adventure or a new creature power suit. He wasn’t even thinking about beating this fever and getting better.

He was thinking about Martin’s power suit.

He was thinking about Martin.

And assuming that a power suit was what would preoccupy him most at a time like this.

“Martin, please,” Chris said, cut off by a railing cough. “I’m sorry.”

Martin stayed close and held steady.

Chris was sorry about the suit.

But this time, Martin was sorry about a whole lot more than that.

-o-

It took four hours to get there.

That was with Jimmy’s expert flying, and Koki’s constant tinkering on the engines. Aviva kept them fully supplied with drinks and cool water, and Martin had never been more impressed with his team.

This was what they did, when it counted. They came together, they worked toward a common goal, and they were there for each other.

No matter what.

So Martin wasn’t surprised when Chris opened his eyes and really looked at Martin.

Not surprised.

Still pretty relieved, though.

“Hey, bro!” Martin exclaimed, pulling his chair closer still. “You with me this time?”

Chris’ brow furrowed. “This time?”

“You’ve been kind of out of it,” Martin told him frankly.

Chris seemed unsettled by this news, his wheezing breath hitching in his chest.

Martin gently swapped the washcloth from Chris’ head with a fresh one. “What do you remember?”

“The power suit?” Chris asked weakly.

Martin had to roll his eyes. “Anything else?”

“Does anything else matter?” Chris asked.

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact,” Martin said. “You came down with a bad fever. Knocked out around pretty good. We had to haul out. We’re about to land, in fact.”

“Land?” Chris asked with growing concern.

“To get you looked at by a doctor,” Martin said. “Koki wants to watch you for pneumonia.”

At this, Chris shook his head, trying in futility to sit up. “But the power suit--”

“You first,” Martin said with a smile. “We can worry about the rest later.”

Chris sank back down. “You sure?”

“Yeah, Chris,” Martin said, patting him on the arm. “I’m sure.”

-o-

“Well, your fever broke,” Koki said, sitting back with a satisfied nod as she looked at the thermometer. “And you have some pretty impeccable timing, I’ll give you that.”

Chris glanced apologetically from Koki to the rest of the team. “I’m sorry I made you all leave early,” he said.

“There’s no need to apologize,” Aviva said. “We’re just glad you’re feeling better.”

“Yeah, you shouldn’t scare us like that,” Jimmy added. “I’ve never flown that fast before!”

“You didn’t have to go out of your way,” Chris said, sounding more sheepish by the second. After waking up, he’d had something to eat and drink, and though he was still pale and breathing thickly, he was looking a lot better. “Not for me.”

“Yes, for you,” Martin said, shaking his head with a chuckle. “When have we ever left you behind?”

“What about the time Zack captured me and you didn’t notice?” Chris asked. “Or the time you dropped me out of the back of the Tortuga over Madagascar.”

“That doesn’t even count,” Martin said. “You loved going back to Madagascar.”

This time, Chris grinned back. “That was pretty awesome.”

“We’ve all been there,” Aviva said. “You all had to stay put for weeks when I hibernated like a groundhog.”

“That’s because you all are crazy,” Koki said, shaking her head. She gave Chris a pointed look. “We’re still taking you to a doctor to get you checked out. I don’t like the sound of that cough.”

“I’ll warm up the Createrra,” Aviva said. “We’ll have you there in no time, so we can get back on the creature trail.”

“I’ve still got our coordinates from the arctic,” Jimmy said. “Say the word, and we can fly back any time to get Martin’s power suit.”

“You guys can go without me,” Chris offered. “It’s no big deal.”

“Uh, yeah it is,” Martin said. “We got together, or we don’t go at all.”

Koki chuckled, getting to her feet. “Typical Kratts,” she said. “You can’t do anything the easy way.”

“That’s why we love them,” Aviva said, on her way out.

“And why life would be a lot more boring without them,” Jimmy said, letting the door close behind him.

When they were alone again, Chris took a deep breath, looking at his hands for a moment. It was good to see him propped up in the bed now, but they still had a long way to go. They had cut this one close.

Too close.

Martin couldn’t take that for granted.

He wouldn’t.

“Look, bro,” Chris started. “About what happened--”

“What happened was an accident,” Martin interjected honestly. “All of it.”

Chris turned his eyes to his brother. “I still feel bad.”

“Well, you may be working on a case of pneumonia,” Martin said. “You probably are going to feel bad for a while here.”

“No, not that,” Chris said. “I mean, yes, that. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest, but that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Well, it should be,” Martin said. “I know you’ve seen what an elephant can do!”

Chris sighed, refusing to be placated. “Martin--”

Martin sobered. “Chris--”

“I still can’t believe I lost it,” Chris said before Martin could stop him, shaking his head. “I’m so, so sorry, Martin.”

“Trust me, you’ve already apologized,” Martin said, trying not to think about the four long hours of Chris’ fever-induced ramblings. “A lot.

Shaking his head dejectedly, Chris didn’t seem mollified by that. “But I lost your creature power suit,” he said, even more emphatically. “Your creature power suit.

“Do you really think that’s what I’ve been worried about?” Martin asked.

Chris blinked earnestly. “I know how much it means to you. It’s important to you.”

There it was again, and as frustrating as it was to hear, there was no one to blame for it except Martin. Because it was important to be zealous for a cause, but it was just as important to remember that relationships deserved the most attention of all.

And that wasn’t to say that they wouldn’t go on more adventures. Or even that they wouldn’t fight. But Chris was his brother.

Chris was his friend.

Chris was Martin’s other half.

Chris was Chris.

Martin could scour the wild and discover new species, but he’d never find something else quite like that.

He’d always known that, on some level.

Now it was time to make sure that no one else ever forgot it, either.

“Eh,” Martin said, flitting his hand through the air. “I almost lost something more important. Sort of puts things in perspective, I think. So I’m the one who’s sorry. I never should have pushed so hard to get in the water out here.”

Chris furrowed his brow. “That had nothing to do with this,” he said. “Me falling in -- that was an accident.”

“I know,” Martin said. “But I still should have been there.”

“We can’t be there for everything,” Chris said.

“Maybe,” Martin agreed. “But I’d sort of like to try.”

Chris drew a breath, but then he nodded. “I think I know how you feel,” he admitted. “None of it was really that important. I never should have argued.”

“You and me both, brother,” Martin said. “I mean, we have to be able to disagree. With what we do, it’s inevitable. But we have to handle it better. We have to handle it right. Mostly, we have to handle it together.

With that, they smiled, both somewhat relieved. Because they both got it -- of course they both got it. They had always got it, and the times they fought were the times they had to remember just how much they meant to each other. Most of the time, it went without saying, but sometimes -- just sometimes -- it was worth saying.

Just sometimes.

They were brothers, this much was true, which meant they could tell each other anything.

That didn’t make it any less awkward sometimes.

Martin let out a chuckle, running a hand through his hair. “Just think how much easier this would have been if we’d talked like this at the start.”

“I know,” Chris said in commiseration. “You would probably have your narwhal creature power disc.”

“And you wouldn’t have gotten so sick,” Martin said.

“And you would still have a creature power suit,” Chris said. He shook his head with a tired sigh. “What are you going to do when you can’t swing with the spider monkeys or burrow with the groundhogs? And what about the seahorses! I know you like swimming with the seahorses.”

“If it makes you feel better, you won’t be doing any of those things either, not until you get cleared by Koki to be in the field again,” Martin said with a serious nod.

Chris made a face, as if realizing his predicament for the first time. It wouldn’t surprise Martin. They were brothers, after all. Putting each other first when it counted came with the territory. “How long does she think it’ll be?”

“You got pretty sick there, bro,” Martin said. “We’ll want to give it a week to clear your lungs.”

At this estimate, Chris appeared stricken.

Well, more stricken than before.

Martin patted him on the shoulder. “That should give Aviva plenty of time to make me a new creature power suit,” he said. “Then, when you’re back on your feet, we’ll be out there together!”

Chris brightened. “You think?”

“Trust me,” Martin said. “I know.”

Because Martin knew creatures and he knew technology, but the thing he knew best of all -- and the thing he was proudest of -- would always be his brother.

Even if a narwhal creature power suit would be a close second.