Euphemia woke with a gasp, surprised at how weak she felt. It made her question how long she had been bed ridden. The last thing she remembered was the troll that hit her. She remembered how much the contact of his mallet hurt and grabbed her head. It was the middle of the night but Harlem was sleeping by her bed as he almost always did. The movement woke him “Euphemia?” he asked. She easily recognized that voice “Harlem?”
“Euphemia” he said her name again as tears began spilling from his eyes. He hugged her “I can’t believe you’re finally awake”
“You’ve been like this almost a year now. I was so scared you wouldn’t wake up”
“Yeah, you were hit so hard. I thought…I’m so glad you’re awake.”
“I need to…” she tried sitting up and Harlem gently pushed her back down. “Hey.”
“Easy okay, let me get the healer. Promise me you’ll stay in bed.”
“I will, I’m thirsty too.”
“Okay, just give me a moment.” Harlem had never run so fast in his life and he quickly roused the healer and explained what was going on. They both hurried back, him holding a glass of water.
“So you are awake, I’m so glad.” The healer said. “You’re weak right now so just relax okay and I’ll raise the bed. I need to check your head and make sure everything is okay.”
“Alright.” Euphemia said and Harlem moved to the other side of the bed and took her hand. Really looking at him now, she could see how exhausted he was and she wondered how long he had been there.
He examined her head, finding nothing wrong so he moved on to checking her mentally “do you know who that is?” he gestured to Harlem “That’s Harlem”
“How do you know him”
“we work for the king and queen together under Azriel and his husband Vrai”
“good, how did you end up here?”
“the last thing I remember was the three headed troll hitting me. How I got to this bed is beyond me”
“Thats alright, you were unconscious so you shouldn’t have memories of getting here. You seem to be just fine but Harlem, if she regresses at all you need to tell someone”
“so do I need to stay here?”
“if you didn’t have someone to help you until you get your strength back but seeing how Harlems been this past year I’m sure he’d take you home or back to his home”
“I couldn’t burden Harlem like that” Harlem reached out, moving her face so she’d look at him now “I want to take care of you. Let me help you, You don’t need to stay here, I’ll take you to your place and help you until you can do things on your own” she smiled “you’re such a good person Harlem…thank you, I’d really rather go home”
“can I take her home now?”
“Yeah, I know the king and queen have been sending someone to take care of her house until she could return. It should be just as she left it when she went on the last mission, if not cleaner. I’m serious though, someone on teh staff needs to know if she’s having any problems mentally. Just because she seems fine right now doesn’t mean she’s out of the woods”
“I understand” The doctor did everything he needed to do so she could leave then Harlem picked her up, being as gentle as he could. She smiled as she rested her head on his shoulder “Harlem, I’m not physically wounded anymore. You don’t have to be so careful”
“I’ve been so worried”
“should you really be carrying me home now? You look so tired.”
“I’m not that tired”
“Harlem, we’ve been friends for at least three hundred years now. You’re tired, I can see it. Have you been resting?”
“Of course” She wanted to ask what the doctor meant by “how Harlems been” but she was too tired to continue talking. He took her inside her home then locked the door behind them. He didn’t like the fact the door had been unlocked and planned to thoroughly check her home once she was in her bed.
“I’m still so tired.” Euphemia said.
“Come on, let’s get you into bed.” He lifted her into his arms and she rested her head on his shoulder. He got her tucked in, but as went to leave she managed to grab his hand.
“Where are you going?” She asked softly.
“To check your home, the door wasn’t locked, I want to clear it.”
“Then, will you come back?”
He gently stroked her cheek then brought her fingers to his lips. He knew he was taking some liberties, but he couldn’t help it. He had very nearly lost her. “I promise, just relax okay, you need it. If you want I can make you something to eat.”
“You need to eat something or you won’t get strong.”
“something quick then. I’m so tired”
“you can rest while I check your home and make you something good”
“Okay, thank you so much. It feels a lot better to be in my own bed and around my own things” He stroked her hair “I don’t mind at all. Just rest for me okay” she almost instantly succumbed to sleep so he checked her closet and under her bed before going to search the rest of the house. He found that the healer had been right, her house was well taken care of and thankfully nothing was inside. Seeing this place he wanted to thank them for doing this. Their king and queen were such good hearted people. Beyond Euphemia, that was also why he agreed to work for them. He would however make sure they knew the people taking care of this place left her home unlocked. He still didn’t know if someone had stolen something but with the door just unlocked like that anybody could have come in here.
He decided that chicken broth would probably be the easiest for her right now, knowing he could always get her to eat something more hardy in the morning. He could go shopping for some food with a lot of calories so she would regain what weight she had lost as well as her strength. He didn’t want to leave her alone for too long so he made it as quickly as he could and brought a still steaming bowl up for her. She opened her eyes when he closed her door. “Harlem?”
“Hey beautiful.” He replied softly as he sat the bowl down and helped her set up.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to lift my spoon.”
“That’s okay, I’ll feed you. Tomorrow I’ll get you something better, maybe even dessert.”
She gave him a tired, but warm smile. “Trying to fatten me up?”
“You actually lost some weight while laying there so I just want to get you back to where you were. Besides, once you get your strength back you’ll be able to start training again so it won’t matter if you gain a little extra. It’s not like any of us will mind, you’re still you.”
“You’re still such an amazing guy Harlem….it’s hard to believe it’s been a year. Did you guys have to go on any jobs without me?”
“No, all has been calm since the trolls but for now I want you to eat okay, I want you to get better” He slowly helped her eat the entire thing, blowing on each bite until he could feed Euphemia without worry of it burning her tongue. “I think I already feel better. Thank you, really..I can’t thank you enough Harlem”
“You’re my best friend Euphemia. This is what best friends do” There he went again, he knew Azriel was right. He always just played it off like he did anything he did for her was because they were friends. He could tell she didn’t think anything he said or did was flirtatious, she just thought he was a sweet guy. He liked to think he was a good friend but he’d do anything for Euphemia. He wanted to be with her, to be as affectionate as he so often craved but that required him being bold and telling her how he felt directly. It couldn’t just be actions any more, it couldn’t be just him telling her she was beautiful. When she felt better he was going to tell her, scared or not he was going to make himself be honest with her.
“I’ll take this down and grab the room next door.” He went to stand and she grabbed him again.
“Could you just stay, please? that way if I need you, you’ll be right here.”
“Are you sure?”
She gave a small laugh. “Of course, it’ll make me feel better.”
“Alright, but at least let me take this down and wash it out, okay?”
He helped her lay back down then pulled the covers up for her and headed downstairs to wash her bowl. His heart was tripping over itself at the prospect of sleeping next to her. He took a deep breath and headed back up to her. She was fighting sleep while waiting for him and he quickly removed his boots and climbed in next to her. “Hey, you’re supposed to be sleeping.”
“I just wanted to make sure you were actually coming back. No sneaking off.”
“Good, because I’m kind of cold.”
“Your body went through quite a bit. Make sure to tell me if anything feels more off than it is.”
“I will, just hold me for now if that wont make you too uncomfortable” He moved closer, pulling Euphemia against him and placing a gentle kiss on her forehead “Is there anything else I can do to make you more comfortable?” She sighed contentedly “this is perfect” she was asleep moments later, leaving him smiling and holding her tight. He wanted to tell her in a whisper he loved her but he couldn’t risk her hearing, not yet. He let himself fade to sleep, not stirring again until he heard a knock at her door the next day. He quickly got out of bed, it could only be someone from the palace or one of their comrades. It turned out to be a knight from the palace ‘how is she?”
“she’s resting, she seems really good so far”
“good, the queen also wanted me to make sure everything was fine with her house”
“it was except for the fact her door was unlocked. Nobody was in here but someone could have stolen from her”
“I will let her know, I’m sure she’ll be incredibly upset. Euphemia was wounded protecting the kingdom and if anything is missing I’m sure our majesties will replace it. Have her check when it’s well enough”
“make sure she knows we’re grateful to her and her husband though.” The knight bowed and took off.
She was awake when he came back and trying to get out of bed. He chuckled and went and helped her. “Hey, slow down.”
“I hate being slow.”
“I know, but be patient with your recovery. Did you need something?”
“The bathroom and a bath.”
“Let me help you.” She arched an eyebrow and he blushed. “Not like that, but you could fall or something.”
“Don’t panic silly, you’ve helped bandage me up before so I’m sure you’ve seen more of me than most.”
“Sorry, I just really don’t want you getting anymore hurt. I was terrified you’d never wake up.”
“Well I’m awake now and I have a knight in shining armor here to help me get better.”
He smiled at her, his heart warming. He almost told her he loved her but managed to catch himself in time. He spent so much of his time around her avoiding saying those three words. “so how much do you want me to help you with your bath?”
“I want to try to do as much as I can on my own. I need to do what I can myself if I’m going to get better. I don’t howevere want to hurt myself worse and I can tell I might struggle so if you wouldn’t be uncomfortable I trust you to be a gentleman if you sit on the toilet after I pee.”
“so help you get to the bathroom then come back in after you’ve peed so I can help you get into the tub?”
“Alright.” He helped her into the bathroom and lifted the seat for her then left, staying alert in case she fell. She called him back in after she flushed and had her pants up and he switched on the water. “Do you have any bubble bath or anything you want in it?”
“There’s some lavender oil in the medicine cabinet, could you put a few drop in there for me?”
“Of course, whatever helps you relax.” He found the oil and dripped some into the water. “So that’s why you always smell so good.”
“Shh, don’t tell anyone my secret.” She teased with a wink.
He filled the bathtub with warm water and her lavender then turned around to let her try and undress herself. It was exhausting for her but she managed and slipped into the tub. He then took his place on the toilet, looking at the wall instead of her. She smiled “I swear you’re the most honest guy in this world”
“Most men would try to look but you’re making a point not to”
“well I respect you, I’m here to help, not to ogle”
“so um….were you in the medical wing a lot with me? With what the healer said it sounded like it” He wasn;t going to confess yet but he wouldn’t lie either “I stayed by your side basically non stop. With no jobs I had all the time in the world to sit with you. Life wouldn’t be the same without you Euphemia. There wasn’t much point in leaving your side because I couldn’t enjoy anything with the risk of losing you. I needed to be there, to know the second I lost you or you came back” She blushed, her heart skipping a beat. “I’m sorry it took me so long”
“I’m just glad you’re awake”
“I really can’t believe it’s been a year. That’s crazy. I missed everyone’s birthdays.”
He smiled. “I’m sure you’ll be forgiven.”
“How is everyone? No one else got hurt did they?”
“Yoki used his blood magic and passed out, but he recovered quickly once he had something to eat and drink.”
“I may have overexerted myself keeping that thing contained and everything else.”
“I know, I shouldn’t have, but I was pretty mad.” Mad didn’t even begin to describe how he had felt. It had been an all consuming rage and if his other companions had not been there he knew he would have done something stupid. He had only managed to stay on his feet because of Euphemia.
I obviously need to work on my ability to dodge when I get back to normal.”
“I’m sure the group would love to help. I’m sure they’ll be showing up some time today if anybody told them you’re up”
“Has anything changed much with our friends?”
“I really haven’t missed much.”
“No, everyone’s just been worried about you. Besides, we can’s just go out without you. It wouldn’t be right. It’s all of us or none of us.”
“I feel so loved.”
“You are loved.” He felt his heart skip a beat and a blush tinted his cheeks. Euphemia herself was blushing and she was thankful that the warm water had made her skin rosy. “You should finish bathing so you can get to bed. You must be tired.”
She nodded and quickly washed and rinsed then drained the tub. “Could you hold the towel for me?”
“Uh, sure.” He grabbed the towel and held his open, looking away as she got up and stepped out. When he felt her move into the towel, he wrapped it around her, then grabbed another and dried her hair. “There, better?”
“Yeah, thank you.”
“How do you feel standing up like this?”
“alright, I mean, it’s tiring to do anything but I’m not going to collapse or anything”
“well to be sure lets get you back to bed while I cook you a nice breakfast”
“Maybe I could come to the kitchen with you”
“will you sit in there?” she smiled “yes…it’s getting cold though so I need to get dressed” He followed her out, staying close but still trying to not admire her while she dressed. When she was done she hooked her arm in his “there, now if I stumble we’ll be connected” he smiled, seeming comforted by this even though she knew he’d have no trouble helping her even if they were across the room. He was an odd but incredible friend and though she had been tempted to laugh she didn’t and let him walk her to the kitchen.
“Just relax here okay? No trying to help me or anything.”
“So bossy. Looks like someone did change while I was sleeping.” She teased.
“I’m just worried so let me be bossy.”
Her hand came up, resting on the side of his face and he found himself leaning into her touch. “You don’t have to worry about me, unlike a certain magic user I don’t plan on overexerting myself.”
“I had a reason.”
“Still, your health is just as important as mine. You can relax now, okay? I’m awake and other than a little physical weakness, I feel fine.”
“I will, I promise.”
“Good, don’t make me worry about you. I want you happy and healthy.”
He felt complete happiness, he was getting to stay here with her. They were halfway through their breakfast when Azriel and the rest of their crew arrived to see Euphemia. Clio and Temperance were the first to pull her into a hug “It’s so good to see you well” Clio said then her sister added “it killed us worrying about you waking up”
“I’m sorry” Azriel now hugged her “You shouldn’t be sorry for anything Euphemia. I always put you right in the thick of our problems since you can control most things. It’s amazing you don’t get hurt badly more often” Vrai was next to hug her “How’re you feeling?”
“really good besides feeling weak and tired. Harlem has been helping me every second so far though” Phelan now spoke as he took his turn to hug her “I’m just glad to hear and see you obviously don’t have memory issues. The doctors told us you were fine so far but I still needed to see it for myself. You looked so bad on that mountain.”
“well thank you all, for finishing the mission and getting me help” Bryant hugged her saying “Harlem had that shit covered once you were out of it. Pissed him off to hell, we won the second that thing dared to bust your skull” Harlem blushed and Euphemia laughed “well he’s always at his best when protecting friends.” Yoki chuckled at her words, her honest innocence that Harlem did anything special or treated her at all differently from the rest of them.
“Is there anything we can get either of you?” Vrai asked.
“We’re fine, the place is fully stocked.” Harlem answered.
“He needs clothes.” Euphemia said.
“I’m fine, I can wash these.”
“She’s right, give us your key, we’ll run and get some real quick.” Clio said, holding out her hand.
“Alright, alright.” He pulled his key out of his pocket and gave it to Clio.
“We’ll be right back.” She and Temperance left and Harlem relaxed next to Euphemia. His heart was still beating a million miles an hour at what Bryant had said. Even if Euphemia couldn’t see how protective he was, it was still embarrassing. She was the only thing that could make him completely lose control.
The group caught her up on different things around the kingdom, just telling her about their lives in the past year. She listened intently, happy to hear about everything. She felt lucky to know all of them, to be a part of this loving tight knit group. All their stories had one thing in common though that she didn’t very much like. She hated Harlem was in hardly any story they had to tell. He obviously really had been by her bedside near the entire time. She felt bad knowing he might have wasted years of his life if she hadn’t already woken. He was kind to a fault, it was why while she loved everyone in the group Harlem meant the most to Euphemia. He had such a big heart and she felt whomever he ended up loving, as more than a friend would be an incredibly lucky person.
After Clio and Temperance brought a suitcase of clothes from Harlems house the group left. They knew she probably needed rest and there was also the matter of Harlem talking to her about how he felt. They doubted he’d ever come out with it around them. Now that they were alone Euphemia said “If I ever get hurt again, please don’t seclude yourself….you werent in any story really…”
“I needed to stay by your side…” she hugged him and he gently held her in his arms, hoping she’d just stay there awhile. “you need to think about yourself sometimes too Harlem” she said in almost a whisper. HIs arms tightened around her “I was” holding her like this made it harder not to tell her even though he really wanted to wait until she didn’t need him. “How were you thinking about yourself” There was a long pause of him mulling over what to say. She pulled a little out of his arms “Harlem?”
“I don’t know why you can’t see how much I love you Euphemia” He was blushing, his blood coursing through his body out of nervousness but he couldn’t take it back now, he had said it and she would react how she would react. She looked confused a second “differently than them?” she asked, piecing together everything, every little moment between them and actually feeling stupid which was a first. She wasn’t accustom to feeling dense.
“Euphemia, you are my everything. The thought of losing you…I’ve never been so angry. If it had not been for the others, I may have done something very stupid that day. I need you.”
“I’m sorry, Harlem.” She took his face in her hands. “Wow, you really do love me, don’t you?”
“I feel so stupid.”
“I should, you’ve been right there next to me and I was to blind to notice your feelings.”
“May I kiss you?”
“Yes.” The moment his lips touched hers, he was completely lost. His arms tightened around her, pulling her as close as he could while he melted into the warmth of her. He almost couldn’t bring himself to part their lips, but he didn’t want to go to far and ruin what had just started.
Her eyes slowly opened then just gazed into his. They were filled with so much love, so much adoration and she felt like a fool all over again “I love you too” He pulled her against him again to hug her “I was foolish too Euphemia. I had the courage to flirt but despite the numerous times it was pointed out that you weren’t getting it I wasn’t brave enough to be more forward. I don’t know how long telling you might have taken me if what happened didn’t happen. I’ve been so scared I lost my chance to tell you how I feel….I truly was going to wait to tell you until I wasn’t helping you but I couldn’t wait…”
“what would that matter?”
“I don’t know…isn’t it a little wrong to confess right now?” she smiled, giving him a brief kiss “you’re so damn sweet”
“You’re going to have to tell me what I can and can’t do with you. I’m afraid I might smother you now”
“You’ve always stuck to me like glue”
“I’ll be worse” she laughed “you could never annoy me Harlem”
“You have no idea how hard it is to be away from you sometimes, when I don’t see your smile or these beautiful, commanding eyes, I feel lonely. The thought of never seeing them again was maddening. I could barely make myself leave your side long enough to eat and bathe, I just really wanted to be there.”
She gave him a light slap on the cheek. “Please don’t ever neglect yourself, I would have to beat you up. Understand?”
“Do you think we could just cuddle on the couch? You could read to me.”
“Of course, anything you want.”
“Be careful, you might regret saying that.”
He moved in soon after and their friends were elated that this was finally happening. It seemed even the king and queen were awaiting the two of them to get together when they heard the news. They just seemed so pleased. Yoki made jokes that they probably had secret ships for everyone in their elite group. Everything just seemed perfect over the next few months. Their kingdom was in harmony, Euphemia was awake and their little group could just spend their days laughing and being the best friends they had all become over the years.
~ The End