Helem was holding a sick baby when the young man was brought into Arooj’s hut. He looked pale, sweat dotted the man’s brow and he was shaking. The two men helping him looked terrified, but Arooj’s voice ordering them around seemed to force them to move to one of the beds where she kept patients. He looked back at the child whose mother was waiting eagerly for him to finish healing the child. “He has the flu, make sure he stays hydrated. A little bit of water between feedings.”
“Thank you sir.”
“There is no need to thank me.” He handed the child to his mother and she left quickly. He had only been there a week and it seemed like many people had the flu. Few passed through remote villages like this, but when they did, they brought sickness with them and it always swept through the entire village before going away. “What’s wrong with him?” He asked as he passed the two men on their way out.
“Someone poisoned him damn it.” Arooj had a damp rag in her hand and was wiping the sweat from the man’s face. “Why can’t people just leave him be.”
“Did he do something wrong?”
“No, but there are idiots who think he is dangerous. I don’t even know what they used.”
Helem moved closer to the bed and bent down to study the man’s face. “It could be anything.”
“When I find those pieces of shit, I’ll kill them. I’m sure the dragonlings left them singed.”
“More death will not help Arooj, it will fix nothing. I can heal him.”
“We can’t just give him medicine willy nilly, we could make it worse. Oh Rama, haven’t you been through enough.”
“Just trust me.” He took Rama’s face in his hands pressed their lips together. He could feel the poison seeping into him, making the blue color of his veins stand out against his pale skin. Every part of his being burned, his skin was drenched in sweat and he felt his stomach knot up. He pulled back, running outside and throwing up.
“What in the hell was that?” Arooj asked as she came out behind him.
“Go back to him, he should be fine now.”
“What about you?”
“Some water and some rest and I’ll be fine. Go back to him, I need to cleanse myself of this toxin. Please get me when he wakes.”
“thank you” she said before running back in. Helem threw up again. This was miserable but saving a life was worth it. When he was sure he was done puking for the moment he went inside and made himself a glass of water to rehydrate. Helem cleansed and dealt with the poison in his body for quite awhile until he was finally done with it and ready for rest. What little remained would sort itself out in his sleep. Helem brushed his teeth and settled into his bed for the night. He hoped Arooj’s friend would wake soon so she wouldn’t fear for him any longer. Rama was surprised to be waking up when he saw his sleeping friend beside him “Arooj” he said as he sat up. Arooj’s eyes opened, revealing her concern “you feeling okay? Helem said you should be fine now”
“Helem, sounds familiar”
“he’s a pretty well known healer. He has amazing talents. That he has proven to me through you. He is why you live this morning”
“why did he help me? Have you paid him?”
“He just likes to help.”
“how did he save me?”
“He apparently can draw out sickness through his mouth. He…well he had to kiss you but it saved your life so I wouldn’t give him lip about it”
“are you trying to be funny?”
“lip about it” Arooj laughed “I’m glad a sense of humor is buried in there somwhere.”
“I suppose I should thank him.” He got to his feet, feeling a little unsteady, but managing to stay up right.
“You should keep resting.” Arooj insisted.
“I’m fine, I’ve had worse.”
Arooj frowned. “Okay then. Helem is sleeping in the the extra room, I’m sure he won’t mind you waking him.”
“Just tell him thank you for me then, I need to go check on the dragons. The babies were not happy to see me poisoned.”
Arooj wrapped him in a hug. “Just come back if you feel sick.”
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” He patted her head and she watched as he left, her heart breaking for him.
Helem woke a few hours later feeling thirsty and hungry. His head throbbed and his body ached, but he was able to move so he got up and stretched. “Rama left.” Arooj said as he passed through the large front room where she was changing bed sheets.
“Is he okay?”
“Probably not, but he wouldn’t say so.”
“Is there something wrong with him?” He stopped to help her change sheets.
She paused. “I don’t like talking about it.”
“I didn’t mean to pry. I’ll check on him in the morning.”
Her eyes met his. “You should be careful, the dragonlings might attack you.”
He smiled. “I have no fear of dragons young one.”
The next morning he set out to check on Rama, Helem just had to know that he was okay. There was obviously a lot of story to him and a lot of pain. Why would someone poison him? Why was he so quick to leave Arooj’s hut? Why was it so common for him to be hurt and why was anybody afraid of him. He wondered if the man would let him be around long enough to learn the answer to all these questions. Helem lived to help but his soul especially needed to help this man regardless of the fact they had only just met. You really could only barely call it a meeting since Rama was passed out and then left while he was sleeping.
When he got closer to Rama’s home, he was immdiately stopped by the dragonlings Arooj had mentioned. They hissed at him and spit out small puffs of smoke. “Hello little ones, all I want is to check on your master. He was nearly killed yesterday and I want to make sure he’s okay.” They cocked their heads to the side like scaled puppies and moved out of his way. “Thank you.” He went up to the door with the dragonlings trailing him and tapped lightly. When the young man opened the door he looked surprised and looked down in confusion at the dragonlings. “Rama?”
Rama raised his eyes and Helem could see the sadness swimming in them. “Yes?”
“Oh, the one who saved me. Sorry you had to do that.”
“Sorry? Why sorry?”
“It’s nothing, would you like to come in?”
“I would like to examine you and be sure all of the poison was pulled out.”
“Don’t worry about me, there are more important things.”
“Please, for my peace of mind?”
“I’m grateful you helped me so if you really want to examine me I guess you can” Rama moved so Helem could enter. The dragonlings waited outside, not worried about this man with their friend. They knew Helem meant Rama no harm. Helem was surprised as he entered how empty this home was. Rama didn’t seem to keep much of anything that wasn’t essential. “How’re you going to check me?” Rama asked, pulling Helem’s attention back to him.
“I won’t be kissing you again if that’s what you mean. That was only to remove the poison, touching you will suffice.”
Helem took Rama’s face in his hands then closed his eyes. He focused on the elf’s bloodstream, letting himself feel for any leftover poison. He moved his hands down, searching for internal damage as he touched Rama’s chest. He cocked his head to the side at the elf’s heart. There was pain there, a shift in the energy rather an actual physical defect. He tried not to linger too long to analyze it and moved to Rama’s abdomen. He noticed a couple of ribs that had been reset and he recognized them as Arooj’s work. She did an amazing job with what she had. They had healed perfectly.
“So, everything fine then?” Rama asked and Helem slowly opened his eyes and smiled.
“As far as I can see, you’re fine though I would like to come back to check on you from time to time. Poison is such a nasty business.”
Rama shrugged as he turned away and went into the small kitchen. “It’s no big deal, I’m used to the treatment.” Helem could hear the depression in his voice, the exhaustion. “Would you like some tea?”
“Arooj’s tastes better I’m sure.”
“I’m not picky, after traveling a lot you learn not to be.”
“I’m the same. I just take what Arooj brings me.”
Rama walked into the kitchen and came out with a freshly brewed pot of tea “I had just finished making this. You have really good timing Helem”
“Somthing I was born with. I have made a habbit of good timing.”
“You must stay busy if you make home calls like this” Helem smiled “I don’t always but somthing about you had me worried. You seem to take abuse a lot”
“How do you know?”
“Your body and spirit tell me” Rama sighed “I’m fine”
“Can I know why people hurt you? Arooj seems to think a lot of you so you can’t deserve it”
Rama paused, pain cutting through his heart like a knife. The blood, the screams, the black hounds. They were all seared into his mind. The face of his beloved, pale and lifeless. Helem reached out and touched his arm, making him jump and slosh tea onto the table. “Damn, sorry.” He put his cup down and grabbed a rag, quickly soaking up the mess.
“You don’t have to apologize, I shouldn’t have touched you.”
Rama looked into his eyes. There was so much compassion there, a need to heal the wounds. He swallowed. “They’re afraid of me is all. Some of them take cheap shots when they get the chance.”
“Poison is hardly a cheap shot and you are far from scary.”
Rama gave an emotionless chuckle. “Spend some time with the villagers, listen to their whispers. They fear what’s inside of me even though they shouldn’t. Many of them have little to no compassion for me and even go so far as to curse my name. It doesn’t matter anyway, I think of it as a form of atonement.”
“Atonement?” He grabbed Rama’s shoulders. Something in his voice worried him. “What do you have to atone for?”
Rama swallowed, his heart twisting in agony. “Failing.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s probably better if you just stay away or you’ll get hurt too.”
“Please, just let it go. I…I can’t right now, I’m too tired.”
Helems heart hurt for Rama and he wanted to know what had happened and to help Rama heal emotionally but Helem knew Rama probably really was tired. He had taken the poison out but it had still been in there doing damage until he was brought to him. He would let it go for now, give him some time and get the answer later. Helem decided right then and there he wouldn’t leave this place until Rama was healed and the village quit being so stupid or Rama just left with him. Traveling with him nobody would dare mess with Rama.
They enjoyed the rest of their tea, Helem doing his best to make small talk. Rama stayed quiet most of the time, his eyes mostly on his cup. “So, you’ll be back then?” Rama asked as he walked Helem to the door.
“Tomorrow after I’m done helping Arooj.”
“Oh. okay.” He opened the door and one of the dragonlings climbed up Helem and rested on his shoulders like a scarf.
“Well hello little one.” He stroked the dragonling’s head.
“They like you, it’s kind of strange for them to accept a stranger. Arooj is the only other person who can get in here without getting singed.
“They’re not so bad, adorable really.” He lifted the dragonling’s head with his finger. “You need to get back to your mother little one, it’s safer for you out here than in the village.” It let out a little puff of smoke as if it was sighing and hopped down. “Don’t be mad, I’ll be back.”
As Rama shut his door behind Helem he wished the man wasn’t coming back. He was just trouble and he didn’t want a kind man like Helem getting hurt or worse…end up like his lover. When Helem returned to Arooj’s home she asked “so how did it go?”
“his heart is so heavy with burdens I want to heal. Is it okay if I stay indefinitely? I can’t leave here until I’ve helped him”
“He means a great deal to me. I’d love for you to stay, maybe if somebody else tries to hurt him you can help me make them see how aweful they are. They are the real monsters, not him”
“I noticed he had his ribs broken.”
Arooj sighed. “The poisoning and ribs aren’t even half of what’s been done to him. He’s been stabbed, beaten, has had things thrown at him. If it wasn’t for myself and the dragons, he’d be dead. I’m so afraid one of these days someone is going to succeed in killing him.”
“He wouldn’t tell me what he did, but I can see whatever it is causes him great pain.”
“What happened to him was really, really bad. It…I…”
Helem could tell she was distressed and he placed a hand on her shoulder. “He’ll tell me when he’s ready, you don’t have to feel like you’re betraying his trust.”
He gave her a gentle smile. “It’s okay, really. I’m going back to him tomorrow after I’m done here.”
Thank you” The next day he did as he said and went back to Rama’s home. “You actually came back”
“I’m a man of my word” Rama let Helem in the door and shut it behind him. “so, what is it you like to do Rama?”
“I go on walks or just stay in here with the dragonlings.”
“why don’t we go on a nice walk then?”
“You could be seen with me”
“and if I am I don’t mind. I’ve never been one to care what others think”
“They’ll want to hurt you. They’ll think you’re bad like me”
“You arent bad”
“In any case they think I am. They fear me”
Helem gave him a smile. “Come on, I’m not worried. Walk with me, it’ll do you some good after being poisoned.”
Rama couldn’t understand why he cared so much, but he nodded anyway and followed Helem outside where they were met by the dragonlings. “They really do like you.”
“Animals know.” The same one from yesterday took its place on Helem’s shoulders and he chuckled. “Adorable little thing.”
“So, what brought you to the village?” Rama tried as the walked.
“I go everywhere. If people need help, I stay for awhile and help.”
“Arooj said you drew the poison out of me by kissing me.”
“That’s only used in emergency situations.”
“I’m surprised you’re not sicker.”
Helem chuckled. “I tend to expel most of it by vomiting. Then I have to cleanse myself and drink a lot of water. The worst I ever had was when I came to a city that had been hit by a plague. There were times I wasn’t able to expel the toxins between each session. I nearly died.”
“Not many people would keep doing what you do if they almost died but not many people would travel around using your gift like you do.” Helem shrugged “It makes me happy, gives me purpose”
“I guess, I wish I could help the world doing more than just keeping myself away from it”
“There’s no need for you to. I’m sorry for whatever happened but Arooj is a good judge of character. If she thinks you don’t deserve this I trust you don’t. I hope you’ll talk to me about what happened at some point. Rama sighed “I guess you saved my life and you deserve to know if you’re going to be around me” Rama swallowed, not sure where to even begin.
“Take your time, there’s no rush and I’m not going anywhere.”
“Sorry, it’s just…” he stopped walking when he felt tears sting his eyes. He took a deep breath. “When I moved here, I had just retired from knighthood. I decided to settle here with my father’s people, the elves. He and my mother never married, but he visited often enough that living with the elves appealed to me. I moved here, built a home. Arooj was one of the first to welcome me, the other was a man named Evir. He was…he was so kind and gentle, warm and sweet. I fell in love with him almost immediately.” He clenched his fists. “We were together six months when they came. Elves, new like me, they moved into the village. They found out about us, found out that we were a couple and they…they…” His tears spilled over, his throat choked off by sorrow. He wiped at his face, taking another breath. “They came and attacked us, beat both of us. I was forced to watch Evir die. I remem…remember begging them to stop, screaming and screaming.”
“Rama, you don’t have to say anymore.”
“In my distress the magic that had been dormant before rose out of me in the form of the blackest wolves. I remember screams and blood,” now that the floodgates had been opened he couldn’t stop, “I remember holding Evir and screaming. I was still clutching him when the others came. They allowed me to bury him, Arooj helped. I could tell they were afraid of me, I could hear their whispered words as I passed through the village. Dangerous, evil, unstable. So I moved out here, away from them so they wouldn’t worry.”
“Rama.” Helem could hold back no longer and pulled him into his arms. “Hush now, it’s okay.”
Rama clung to him, his tears soaking into Helem’s shirt as he cried. “It’s not, I should have fought harder, I failed him.”
“That’s not true. What happened to you both was monstrous, but it wasn’t your fault.” He stroked his hair.
Rama shook his head and tried pushing away. “You can’t stay close to me, you’ll die too and I can’t let that happen. Please leave me, let them have me if they want me.” His heart ached in his chest, feeling like it was being gripped tightly. Helem could sense the energy, the pain, the self loathing and he refused to let Rama go. He was needed, he could see it in this young man’s eyes even if he wouldn’t admit it.
“Stop it Rama.” He said as he grabbed his face in his hands. “You stop now. I’m not going anywhere, I’m sticking to you and that’s final. Let them dare try to touch me, to ever touch you again. You don’t have to be alone anymore, you don’t have to hide, not with me around.” He wiped at the tears on Rama’s cheeks. “Let me help you, let me heal you.”
Saying everything out loud had his brick wall down and he couldn’t help but accept Helem’s offer to help him heal and to keep him safe. Helem stood there both angry and sad. He was sad on Rama’s behalf and angry he and his old lover had been treated so poorly. He now understood why Arooj said they were the bad ones not Rama. When Rama could quit crying he was a bit embarrassed but it felt nice to be open with somebody about it. Keeping all that inside with nobody to talk to only made the misery worse.
“Sorry.” He said and Helem gently patted his head.
“It’s alright, it’s good to cry when you need to.”
“I never talk to anyone, not even Arooj.”
“Then please talk to me whenever you need someone. I’m not afraid of your power and I don’t think you’re dangerous. I think people need to be more sympathetic instead of allowing you to be bullied simply for being you.” He pulled back to look at his tear stained face. The pain had been alleviated a little, but it still twisted around Rama’s heart and soul. “If I could, I would kiss the sorrow away, but it only works with diseases and poisons.”
Rama felt his cheeks heat and his heart skipped a beat. It had been so long since he had felt anything but sadness that he didn’t understand what was going on. He chocked it up to nervousness and worry. “You are too kind and I’m so exhausted. It’s been awhile since I cried that hard.”
“No more holding it in okay, doctor’s orders.”
Rama gave Helem a smile that tugged at his heart. Rama stood up straight, took a deep breath in and out and walked on with Helem. It was nice not to be so alone and he’d take advantage of having somebody to walk with. Arooj probably would go on walks like this but he worried for her safety. Somthing about Helem now told him he had nothing to fear when it came to Helem being hurt. “Have you been this way before Helem?” Rama asked for conversation. “Not that I recall”
“There’s a cave over here where the dragonling’s mother lives. She hardly ever comes out, only when she’s really hungry. The little ones are really good at defending themselves so she tends not to worry.”
“Just having them so willing to get close to you should tell you you’re not evil. Animals are incredibly smart Rama, they wouldn’t touch you if they thought you were bad.”
“Stop doubting yourself so much. I could sense your good heart even if it is torn up by pain. You love unconditionally.” He draped an arm over Rama’s shoulders and pulled him closer. “Don’t try to distance yourself from me.”
“Then we’ll break you of it. Now, show me this dragon, I’d like to introduce myself if I’m going to be around you and her children.”
Rama guided Helem into his dragon friends home. It looked like she had been sleeping but she lifted her head as they entered. “Hey, this is my new friend Helem” Rama started. She came closer, seeming to inspect the man at Rama’s side. She made a content purrish noise and Rama knew he didn’t have to tell Helem she accepted him. She was a beautiful dragon. She had mostly purple scaled but scattered throughout her body she had patches of black. Her eyes were orange and surprisingly gentle for a dragon.
“Such a beautiful girl, thank you for taking care of Rama for me.” Helem’s gentle voice gave Rama butterflies and look at his feet. The dragon nudged him with her nose, nearly knocking him over.
“Easy.” He said as he patted her nose. She gestured with her head to Helem and Rama blushed.
“What is it?” Helem asked.
“Nothing, she’s just being a bit of a brat.” He lied and the dragon nudged him a little hard so Helem had to grab him to keep him on his feet.
“She’s certainly affectionate.” Helem patted the dragon’s neck. “You’ll have to take me up sometime.” The dragon chuffed then yawned and let out a little chirping sound that had the dragonlings coming to her.
“She wants to take them hunting.”
“Alright then, we’ll come back some other time. It was really nice to meet you.” The dragon nodded and Helem followed Rama outside. “Thank you for that.”
“You’re welcome. You can come back anytime, even without me.”
“It wouldn’t be as enjoyable if you weren’t here.” Rama blushed again and Helem leaned in, pressing their foreheads together.
“What are you doing?”
“You’re flushed and warm. Are you feeling okay? Do you need me to check you again?”
“Um…I…” With Helem this close Rama realized how handsome he really was. He was surprised at his thoughts and took a step back. “I’m fine, just a little tired I guess.”
“I’ll take you home.”
“No, I mean it’s fine…I’m fine.”
Rama you just got over being poisoned, we can sit on your couch and talk while I keep you hydrated” Rama relented and let Helem walk him home so they could sit, talk and drink plenty of water. Just sitting down with only eachother to concentrate on made Rama even more nervous. He hadn’t been attracted to a man in so long and on top of that Helem deserved better. He hadn’t been able to protect his last boyfriend, who was to say if somthing happened he could protect Helem.
“Rama, what’s wrong?”
“You look a bit distressed, are you sure you’re alright?” He touched the back of his hand to Rama’s forehead. “You’re not hot anymore. How about your stomach?”
“Stop, I’m fine, really. Please don’t worry about me so much, I…I really am okay.”
“Do I trouble you?” Rama’s cheek reddened once more and he looked down at his glass. “So I do then, I see. What’s wrong? What are you thinking?”
“Nothing, I mean nothing important.”
“Sure, it’s so unimportant it had me thinking you had a fever.”
Rama swallowed. “I am sick Helem, whatever is inside me, those wolves, that magic, it’s bad. I can’t use it to protect you or anyone else, it’s just a spurt of the moment, unstable kind of thing.”
“I told you I don’t need protecting.” He gently grabbed Rama’s chin and lifted his head, giving him a gentle smile. “What has you so afraid? It’s more than just protecting me, I can feel it, the anxiety is coming off of you in waves. Tell me.”
“It’s just…I mean I…I can’t get involved…I don’t deserve anyone and it’s dangerous. I feel torn between logic and selfish desire. Arooj would tell me to take what I want, but I can’t do that right, I can’t.” He felt his eyes fill with tears at his frustration. “I don’t know what to do.”
Helem easily put those pieces together and held him “don’t cry, I think you are handsome aswell. I don’t need protecting and I can help you learn to control your powers. Most people learn from childhood as their power grows. It’s just harder for you because you got all of it as an adult. I want to stay and help you and dating you is somthing I’d also like. Arooj is a good person and I trust her character judgement. From her words I know you are a good man.” Hearing that from Helem helped Rama pull himself together “You could really teach me?”
“Of course, let me stay here with you.”
“Okay” Helem kissed him, surprising Rama. Rama was struggling to put together words when Helem ended the kiss “I didn’t want you flustered about our first kiss. You taste amazing” The heat came right back and Helem chuckled. What a trip this had been. He had a boyfriend now. He couldn;t even remember the last time he had a boyfriend and he could help him live a life he would actually enjoy. Helem wouldn’t rest until Rama could use and control his powers with ease and he also wouldn’t let the foolish people here mess with him any more. Things were going to be different for Rama, Helem had already decided that as fact.
~ The End