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A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2015-02-04 11:33 am

I'd Feel Safer with Snakes

title: I'd Feel Safer with Snakes
players: Zhang Yixing/Lay, Park Chanyeol, Huang Zitao/Tao
word count: 2,360
rating: PG-13
summary: Zitao misses the comforts of home and resents the man who dragged him away from Shanghai.

a.n.: Written for rarepairexo. (Original post here.)
This became more Indiana Jones with a bit of Fern Gully than Tomb Raider, but they are in the jungle, and Zitao does not handle the jungle well. Ideally, this would be longer and fleshed out and really epic, but I am allergic to such writing, so this is more like a snapshot of the grand, dangerous journey and filled with a lot of whining.
My dad actually lived and worked in Brazil for a few years as a young man. Spent some time tramping around and experiencing the wilderness of the rainforest, but I don't think he ever went too deep. He stuck to the populated areas and bars, for the most part. All the Portuguese he learned came from the women there.

From Seoul to Shanghai to Mumbai, Cairo, Casablanca, Georgetown, and, finally, to Manaus, Chanyeol puts more miles on Zitao than Zitao ever expected. As a singer in Shanghai, he was used to a wide variety of clientele, including foreigners, but none of them had ever brought along as much trouble as the smiley Korean man with big ears and bigger voice.

Somehow, Zitao is dragged away from his comfortable lifestyle and pushed into plane after plane, moving so fast he couldn’t enjoy the exotic sights and sounds but also not fast enough, because travelling with Chanyeol is more of a hassle than he anticipated.

Chanyeol thinks he knows everything.

Oh God. Oh God. Ohgodohgodohgodohgod.

Chanyeol rolls his eyes and shifts in his seat to watch Zitao flail his arms with a panicked expression. “If you keep moving like that, you’re going to fall out of the boat.”

“It’d be better than getting eaten alive by all these bugs!” Zitao shrieks. He promptly blows raspberries, trying to spit out the bits of bug that flew into his mouth.

Behind him, Yixing, the guide, shakes his head. “Then you would be eaten alive by the piranha.”

“The what?”

“Piranha. Or caribes,” Chanyeol helpfully supplies. “They’re omnivorous fish. The indigenous people here will use the piranha teeth to make make tools and weapons, and they’re also popular as food—really good lightly grilled with some lime—although you’ve gotta reel it in quick, because others will attack if you hook one.” He smiles over his shoulder and beams at Zitao’s sick expression. “You can get a pet piranha, if you’d like. One, four, or more, though, because they’re aggressive little things. So cute as babies, just the size of a thumbnail, but don’t try tickling it.”

“Why the hell would you try petting a fish, and why the fuck would you want a pet that could eat you?!”

Chanyeol shrugs. “Exotic pets, man. Don’t you have a Savannah cat at home?” Personal life as a topic of conversation was quickly exhausted within the first leg of their journey to Mumbai.

“Yeah, from a trusted breeder. She’s no wild animal.” It’s an insult to even entertain the idea that Zitao’s precious Pumpkin is anything but a lady.

Yixing is still thinking about the danger lurking in the water as he navigates the Amazon. “In 2011, an 18-year-old was attacked and killed in Bolivia. There was a series of attacks that injured some hundred people in Brazil, and some time after that, a little girl was attacked and killed. Swimmers have been attacked. Fishermen.”

“How many caveman explorers?”

Yixing stops paddling a moment, seriously thinking back over the stories he’s read. He smiles softly. “I don’t know. Piranha attacks tend to peak in the dry season, anyway, and fatal attacks are actually rare. It’s usually a bite or two, which can still be quite vicious.”

“But you’ll have a totally bitching scar afterwards.”

“Neither of you are making me feel any better.” Zitao whines a little and tries to sit as centred in the narrow boat as possible. For whatever reason, they didn’t get a boat with a motor. Zitao’s biceps ached from all the paddling.

“No worries, Zitao,” Chanyeol calls back with an airy wave. “Yixing has been here plenty of times; he knows the ins and outs of the forest like the back of his hand.”

Yixing put his shoes on the wrong feet this morning. There was also the rather important detail, Zitao thinks, of the fact Chanyeol found Yixing in the back lot of a bar, hugging a pair of chickens to his sides with a small dog on his lap holding an empty booze bottle in its jaws.

They allow themselves a rest and let the river carry them when the sun is directly overhead. Yixing studies the map, looking reliable and diligent for once. Chanyeol naps. Zitao tries to not let his mind wander too far to shore, where he’s positive unfriendly eyes are watching them.

After a few more hours of quiet paddling, they pull to shore as the sun begins to dip behind the trees. “We’ll set up camp here. There’s a freshwater lake we can get some dinner and take a swim, if you want.”

“‘Set up camp?’ How long is this little venture supposed to take?”

Chanyeol shrugs. “A couple weeks, maybe.”

Weeks?!” Incredible. “What am I supposed to do in a jungle for weeks?”

“Rain forest, and you can help me find this particular piece I’m looking for, so I can fund our way back home.” Even better.

Zitao holds onto the sides of their boat as it’s dragged to shore, refusing to touch the water. “I thought you said you’ve done this sort of thing before.”

“Yeah, I have.” Chanyeol swats at and scratches the back of his neck. “I usually have a team, and they usually want to be here, so the time doesn’t matter.” Fantastic.

Zitao starts grabbing bags and equipment and marches behind Yixing to find a suitable spot to set up camp, determined to ignore the Korean man for the rest of the journey.

It’s really unfortunate they’re in the wild. Zitao is completely out of his element. If they had gotten stranded in any sort of city, he could have easily managed. The rain forest has too many bugs and not enough electricity.

There’s a clearing within sight of the river. During the wet season, the whole area would be flooded, more than doubling the size of the river.

Thick, old logs sit haphazardly in the clearing, surrounding a mossy collection of rocks. Yixing pushes some exposed rocks around to form a makeshift firepit and unsnaps his machete to gather wood to burn.

Chanyeol walks into the site to find Zitao frowning and rubbing his arms while sitting on one of the logs.

“For all your muscle, you’re really a marshmallow, aren’t you?”

Zitao scoffs and rolls his eyes.

Yixing returns with a heaping armful of twigs and small logs. Nothing had to be cut down; bits and pieces naturally fell to the forest floor, making his job easier.

Zitao snatches his pack and steps over the log.

“Where are you going? I wouldn’t recommend going too far from the fire.”

“I’d feel safer in the jungle.”

Chanyeol frowns at Yixing, brows raised. “Something I said?” His friends shakes his head and smiles, belting the machete around his waist again.

Zitao treks straight from the fire to the lake they—Yixing and Chanyeol—caught dinner from. A waterfall cascades over the cliff face and sends up a spray of mist.

Ignoring the eyes of the forest, Zitao strips to his skin and sticks a toe in the water. Even in the dying daylight, the water is warm. Schools of tiny fish investigate his toes and scurry away when he walks further into the water. The bottom is silt, not sand.

A sharp “Hah!” makes him jump, and Zitao turns to his left to see a weasel-like head sticking out of the water. It’s a giant otter, threatened by poaching, deforestation, and fishermen. Where one is, others must be, because they’re a very social species.

Zitao lays on his back and floats freely, calling softly to the otter. An answering snort makes him laugh; the otter flips onto its back and dives underwater. With a laugh, Zitao follows.

The water is clear, but it’s dark without the sun. He feels some pushes of water from fish and amphibians, but—thankfully—nothing touches him.

He breaks the surface of the water and shakes his hair from his face, treading water. The waterfall is directly to his right. Zitao swims over and climbs over a slippery boulder to a flatter, less scummy collection of rocks. Soap and shampoo are scarce in the jungle, but he feels the dirt and grime washing away, and his mosquito bites are soothed by the cool water.

With his head under the rush of the water, he hears nothing else, and he can almost imagine himself back home in his own shower. Almost. Cold showers are a rare occurrence.

Something in the water must be conditioning, because his hair actually feels soft. It could just be the difference between four days of travelling and being clean, though.

The otter’s friends slip into the water, chattering to one another. A bird calls overhead and flies to a further branch, looking for fruit.

Maybe the jungle’s not so bad. Zitao entertains ideas of a treehouse as he rubs his palms over his skin to scrub away as much ick as possible when he opens his eyes and sees something black on the underside of his arm.

Thinking it’s a leaf, he grabs the end of it and promptly screams.

Chanyeol nearly falls off his seat on the fallen log from a sharp, shrill scream. “Bobcat?!”

As its echoes die, he looks to Yixing, whose eyes are wide open and alert. His hand is on the machete at his hip. “What do you think? Caiman? Anaconda?” he asks lowly, scenarios playing through his head ranging from unfortunate to downright gruesome.

“Oh, God. I’m never going to live it down if he dies.” Chanyeol surges to his feet and dashes to the lake. At the edge of the water, he finds Zitao’s clothes and backpack but no Zitao.

Yixing jogs up beside him and calls Zitao’s name.


“I’m here!” Zitao huffs to their immediate left, stark naked and dripping wet. “I hate the jungle. I hate being outside. I hate this place. I want to go home.” He lifts his arm, nearly elbowing Chanyeol in the nose. “There are leeches in the water! I climbed over this whole fucking waterfall just to stay out of the water, now get. It. Off.”

“Aww, you made a friend!” The leech, slimy and thick with blood, clings to Zitao’s skin. “You know, it’ll fall off on it’s own in a while.”

“No! Get it off!”

Yixing hands him his clothes. “Let’s go back to the camp. Get dressed.”

For all his complaining, Zitao has little shame in his body, but there is a suspicious colouring to his cheeks when he faces the water and pulls his pants back on.

Zitao shrieks again at the plentiful bugs that come out at night and beats them both back to their fire. He drops his backpack and examines his arm again, bouncing with anxiety. “I think it’s getting bigger!”

Chanyeol straddles the log beside him and angles Zitao’s arm towards the fire. “Well, yeah. If you weren’t so sweet, it’d just fall right off and go back home … .” The firelight highlights Chanyeol’s cheeks, making them look warm. He works his fingernails beneath the mouth of the leech, trying to get as close to the tiny teeth as possible. “You don’t want to grab the leech in the middle and pull, because that part of the body is soft and flexible, like an earthworm or slug, so you won’t be able to get a grip or to pull without it stretching or splitting.”

“Are you trying to make me lose my fish?” Zitao presses his opposite fist to his mouth and thinks of good, positive things, like civilisation, shopping malls, hot and cold treated water, and everything but breaking blood-sucking leeches.

“Aaaaand there we go!” Chanyeol triumphantly holds up the leech.

“I don’t suppose I could have my blood back. They’re kind of my life juices, you know.”

“Eh, with the bacteria and gross stuff these guys have, it’d probably poison you, so … .” He tosses the offending creature into the fire, and Chanyeol takes great joy in watching it curl and roast alive.

He bites his lip and scrutinises his arm. There’s a small, bloody hole still leaking because of the anti-coagulants that leeches use. Yixing finds a first aid kit in one of their bags and pours disinfectant over the wound, followed by a bandage.

“Everything in this freakin’ jungle wants to kill me. Man-eating fish, blood-sucking insects, leeches, snakes … .”

“Poison dart frogs, giant spiders, jaguar, gators.”

“Caiman,” Yixing corrects.

Zitao looks closer and closer to stealing their boat and abandoning them both in the middle of the rainforest.

“This is a highly educational experience, Zitao. Some people would kill for a chance to be here.” Chanyeol lays back on the log, crossing his ankle over his knee. He can’t see the stars with how thick the tree canopy is, but he catches sight of some monkeys curiously observing them before getting comfortable for the night. “Just, next time you come here, remember to avoid the water and pack a mosquito net.”

“They can have it! I’m never leaving Shanghai again. You can take me back to my club, or I’ll become a monk and live in a monastery as far and high away from this place as I can possibly get.”

“C’mon. It’s not that bad.” Chanyeol stands to help Yixing tie hammocks between the surrounding trees.

“We don’t have beds?”

“You really don’t want to sleep on the forest floor. Just … You just don’t.”

Zitao flinches as a little spider walks past his foot and quickly shoves his feet into his boots, thankful nothing crunches or squishes.

Yixing holds the hammock steady for Zitao to struggle into. He drags his backpack with him and keeps his shoes on, assured that “It’s a good idea, because sometimes things like to sneak into bags and shoes,” and not feeling very reassured at all.

With the fire going strong and eventual snores of his companions, Zitao reluctantly slithers as much into the hammock as possible and waits for sleep.

He wakes when it’s still dark, however, and feels an icy chill run its fingers down his spine.

A man holds an arrow to his throat. He’s naked to the waist and has painted skin across his face and chest.

Zitao holds up his hands and wets his lips. He really wants to go home.