Nathandiel

Copper Kisses

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"Five eyes, really? How many times did enucleation tickle your fancy?" Mharren asked. Nathandiel lifted his shoulders in a shrug.

"Five times, apparently." He answered.

She shoved the files towards him across her desk. She lifted a brow and tossed her white-blonde hair over her shoulder. She disapproved. "Don't be smart."

Female superiors; such humour.

"There's nothing that says that I can't take their eyes." He offered, sitting back and crossing one leg over the other. He squared his shoulders and lifted his own brow. Dr. Sil'Orah was good at what she did and, like several of their colleagues, she disapproved of the needless butchery that went on in prisoner processing. Still, she herself was very good at it.

She was silent and inclined her head, prompting him for further explanation.

He took in an exasperated breath. ". . . I was practising." He said, meeting her eyes.

"Oh . . . oh right. Practising. 'Cause that makes sense. You need to practise a procedure that, in a pinch, can be done on a kitchen table with a pair of scissors, a spoon and fifth of good booze. Yeah, I buy that."

He couldn't help but laugh. She had a point. Still, he really had been practising. Baalthemar's enucleation was coming up and he wanted to have sure hands. He'd made the mistake of getting involved with the other man and now he was nervous about botching the surgery. He didn't want to mess up, so for the prisoners that he'd been given to work on he'd taken the liberty of adding the minor procedure. He'd spent the previous night with Baalthemar and they'd had each other in the hot spring behind his home. He had been uncomfortably aware of how little time he had to enjoy both of Baalthemar's pretty eyes. Mharren could be mad at him, but he wasn't sorry he'd practised.

"It looks like pirates are invading the general population holding cells." Mharren said, opening her hands on the desk.

"Are they all stable?" He asked.

"So far. I mean . . . one isn't, but it's not because of the job you did on his eye. Infection was post-op and we're dealing with it."

"So . . . stable, still." He said.

She cocked her brow again. ". . . stable. still." She agreed, her voice flat.

He huffed, bored with the inquisition. He liked Sil'Orah well enough, but he had a list of prisoners to deal with that day and he wanted to get started. He wanted to go home and be with Drinn. He tilted his head as he peered at her. They were both silent for several moments until finally, she rolled her eyes "Fine. Go. I signed the charts."

"Excellent!" he declared and stood, straightening his theatre greens and his white coat. "Always a pleasure Dr. Sil'Orah, I'll be sure to give Drinn your regards." He headed for the door.

"Yeah. You do that. And Nathandiel . . . ."

He stopped at the door and looked back at her.

"Stop plucking out eyes, if for no other reason than it pisses me off."

He chuckled at this, took a deep breath and then drew himself up straight. "On my honour as a Sin'dorei." He put a hand over his heart. "I shall behave."

She shooed him away, gesturing with one hand. Even if the promise hadn't been empty he was done practising. He was ready.

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************************! Warning Adult themes! *****************

Baal brushed his hair, a habit he had taken to thanks to Nathandiel. It wasn’t the same as when he was having it done for him but it gave him time to think.

He hummed softly to himself enjoying the short moment of peace before he would head back out and start killing again.

It seemed like he no longer enjoyed the hunt like he once did, the thrill of a good fight had been lacking recently, ever since he ended Hendrick. Kills had become dull and routine, he would head to the battle front, and wet his blades but it was more like work than it once was.

Perhaps after his trial when he worked with Drinn and Nathandiel he would get the taste back.

He had talked with Nathandiel about how he felt, he was unsure if he got his message across, it was getting harder to think when he was around them, lust filled his mind like oil on water, it’s vivid image tainting everything it touched. Exploding into colour in his mind, it was wonderful and toxic at the same time.

Drinn was wild, a barely tamed wolf of a woman. And she used her feminine wiles as a weapon, an effective tool if he hadn’t see it before when he was younger.

Still knowing what she was doing and being immune to it was not the same thing, he would need to be careful around her.

To think she was so calm and relaxed when he had interviewed her for his second trial, she must have been playing the good girl. So that she didn’t scare off the little supplicant.

Baal stopped humming and laughed a little at the idea.

*Careful, you let them see through the cracks when you showed off Hendrick but only some could see the truth, don’t play your hand too soon, there is still much more to do* A soft voice whispered in his mind. He nodded to himself. As always the voice of caution and careful planning would see him through.

But his mind clung on the words “Through the cracks”. Nathandiel had asked him some very pointed questions before he had come swimming with him.

Questions that had painful answers. Questions than stirred up old feelings, and foul memories.

Why did he care? When he asked it seemed like he really wanted to know, not just to use the information against him, but because he wanted to know more about him?

Baal was confused, people used each other. That’s how he had survived this long, by using and being used, but there was little for Nathandiel to gain by learning more about him.

Something dark crept along in the back of his mind, whispering cruel things, after a while the whispers stopped and a low and sinister voice mocked him. *He doesn’t care, you are being used.*

Baal stopped brushing his hair and forced himself to focus on pleasant things, he let his mind wander back to the night’s events.

Images and feelings came to mind, little details that anchored the night to his memory, water dripping off wet hair into the lake, warm lips working their way down his chest, soft hands sliding down his thighs, the sharp tug on his hair followed but a gentle bite on the ear. The bite of a chin at the peak and the tender touch after.

Baal sighed, well whatever this was he enjoyed it, and didn’t want for it to stop, no matter how it played out at least he would have some good memories to take with him, even if he died in his trial.

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************************! Warning Adult themes! *****************

He was frustrated. Again he had to justify his trial to the Grim, at yet another Inquisition, the High inquisitor had made light of him being called on to report that nothing had changed but it ate at Baalthemar.

He couldn’t understand why they doubted him. He was brave, he wasn’t going to back out. Why did they always question him?

*Pathetic boy! They can see how weak you are. That is why they doubt you!* a mocking voice called to him from the back of his mind.

His blood boiled. Shaeile hated the idea and would show it in her sideways looks and her sounds of disapproval, she wasn’t alone though. He could hear the same sounds and feel the same looks from some of the Grim as he explained his trail, again and again.

But that’s not what got under his skin, not this time. This time Nathandiel had asked the high inquisitor if he needed to do this. He stood there and gripped his dagger hilt until he could control his anger, it was all he could do. While the two talked about him like he was a child too foolish to make his own choices.

This was his trial and he would make it a good one, he would join the Grim by giving them a worthy sacrifice or he would die. He never did things in half measure--you are all in or you are out. That is how he had lived his life, and that was how he would enter the Grim.

When it was his time to talk he had himself under control, and made himself very clear to his detractors that, it was his choice to make, not theirs. His anger simmered under his skin, until he turned to see Nathandiel’s face.

*He was hurt, he cares for you, and you ignored his concerns* a gentle voice echoed in his mind.

His guts twisted, Damn it Nathandiel, why do you make me feel like this? Baal walked to him, his anger quickly dying down, gently he placed a hand on his shoulder. “A word?” It sounded harsh as he said it.

*Too stern, he cares, remember that. Forgive him.* the gentle voice whispered.

He sat on the small round bed in the ritual room, while the other supplicants gave their reports. As a wounded-looking Nathandiel followed.

Baal felt awful, he needed to show Nathandiel that he wasn’t mad. Baal removed his mask to talk to him.

After the Inquisition

“Torture me later” he had said. Oh you are going to get it, of that there was no doubt. Baal smiled as he walked with Nathandiel to his Garrison.

Nathandiel had asked to be fed, but for now Baal had other plans. He had let Nathandiel get ahead of him somewhat. While he plotted his “Torture”.

As the two entered the warmth of his garrison, Baal did his best to look stern, he walked to Nathandiel and as the dark haired elf turned to meet Baal, he picked him up by the waist and slung him over his shoulder, spanking him firmly on the rump.

Grinning, Baal said only a few words. “Food later. Bedroom now.”

Nathaniel's eyes went wide and he struggled, but he'd been caught unawares. "Really?!You're in charge this time? I dare you."

Baal threw him to the bed, anger was fueling him, but not to harm. No, something far more fun.

Hours passed until his frustration was spent, his body glistened with sweat and his breathing was labored but Baal was happy once again.

Because of him.

Calming down he looked at Nathandiel, just as spent as he was. “I’ll get the food now if you like” He said with a playful grin, turning on his heel, Baal headed out of the room.

Nathaniel's voice followed him out, his tone amused but also a little indignant."Bring me some ice as well, please . . . sir."

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Nathandiel watched Baalthemar leave, one corner of his mouth tugged up into a half-smile. He stayed where he was, tangled in blankets and basking in the warmth they'd created there together. He held one hand to his forehead, his bangs over his fingers. That was a special sort of warmth, the kind where one's bed was perfectly matched to one's body. He relished it.

Baalthemar's bed was surprisingly cozy for such a minimal man. Baalthemar bathed in the spring and the garrison was not well-decorated.

But the bed is good.

He stretched out, spreading his arms and pointing his toes. He winced. Baalthemar had a done a number on him.

If I keep sleeping with both Drinn and this man I'm going to be sore, beaten and bruised--permanently.

He sat up, stuffing pillows behind himself and pulled the blankets up to cover his modesty. He'd angered Baalthemar at the inquisition by expressing his concern and appealing to Khorvis. Baalthemar was healthy, there was no medical reason to justify removing his eye. Still, he wanted to. As a physician Nathnadiel had a problem with mutilating a patient without cause. As a psychiatrist, he had problem with the motive behind the mutilation.

Baalthemar wanted a family, he wanted to belong, and The Grim and their mandate promised both of those things so long as candidates proved themselves to be assets, proved themselves not to think too freely, and gave up something dear to them. He frowned and and leaned over the side of the bed to dig into his pack. He took out his cigarettes, went to light one, then reconsidered. He wasn't sure if Baalthemar would allow him to smoke. He put them back and took out his journal and a pencil instead.

It was harder to see without his reading glasses but if he squinted he could read his notes and make additional ones in the margins. Khorvis had blown off Nathandiel's expression of concern as a plea to keep his "twink" intact. Nathandiel had been advised to simply have Baalthemar made whole after. But he wouldn't be whole, he'd be missing an eye. What sort of 'family' asked anyone to give up such a piece of themselves.

Atticus had given up Drinn, he'd renounced her and ruined their farm. When Nathandiel had been a supplicant there had been talk of him cutting something off.

Something like my penis.

He shifted in the bed, frowning uncomfortably at the memory. Atticus had been the Dreadweaver in charge of him. Nathandiel had slept with Drinn before he'd started his second trial, and Atticus had already expressed his dislike even though Nathandiel was sure he hadn't known about the coupling. Atticus had failed Nathandiel on his second trial and requested that he repeat it. He'd been lucky and The Scalp Hunt had commenced. Nathandiel had killed his way to the top of the roster--and been spared his final trial.

And here I am, questioning the banner I walk under. Maybe if I'd given something, made a sacrifice, I wouldn't be questioning it.

Maybe there was a point to the final trial. Nathandiel didn't like it, but anyone one willing to give up body parts or wives was likely to make a useful soldier. He couldn't argue with the cold reality of the efficiency behind the trials. But he worried for Baalthemar. Baalthemar had yet to tell him the whole story, but there was pain behind his clear eyes and what he had told Nathandiel explained much of his motives and the hope behind them. Nathandiel didn't want that hope to be misplaced. He didn't want the young man to waste himself on people who were undeserving of him.

"Come back to bed!" he called, scribbling a note next to a list of medications he needed to order from the chemist; the math was wrong.

"Bring me food; I wish to eat it off of your naked body!"

He smiled lightly, Baalthemar had punished him and the strength he'd employed to restrain Nathandiel had impressed him. Now he would punish Baalthemar, but it would be with a soft mouth and caring hands.

Poor boy, even with two eyes he won't see this coming.

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************************! Warning Adult themes! *****************

Warm water lapped around the two of them, Baalthemar pressed his chest against Nathandiel’s back, his hand was exploring below Nathandiel’s waist.

Baalthemar nipped on his ear softly “Very well, I’ll stop teasing and we can head to the bedroom, but if you want my answers you’ll have to work for them.”

Softly Baalthemar kissed down his neck. *Run all you like boy, you’ll not out run the truth. He like all of them will leave you.*A cruel voice whispered.

Shaking his head to rid himself of these foul thoughts Baalthemar stands quickly running his hand through is hair to make it look like he was moving water or hair from his face.

A quick grin and a warm smile. Don’t let the mask slip again. He smiled at Nathandiel as he got up.

He watched as Nathandiel stood, still aroused. “Come, let’s get dry and warm and you can earn some of those answers” winking at the man.

As they gathered their clothes and equipment, his mind coiled around what he had let slip while in the water.

I let people see what I chose to let them, and you my dear Nathandiel have seen more than most. He cringed. Ugh, why do I talk to him like this? What happened to arm’s length? *Perhaps it’s good for you?* a gentle voice said.

Walking behind Nathandiel thinking to himself. And how is reliving the rape and murder of my friends and loved ones fucking “good for me”? He yelled at the voice in his mind.

He kept his warm smile on his face as the two half naked men entered the garrison building.

*It’s not, he just wants to break you, to make you weak so you’ll fail in your trial!* the cruel voice roared from the depths of his mind.

Calmly and in a well-practiced voice Baalthemar asked Nathandiel to meet him in the bedroom while he sorted out some food and drink, giving him a sly wink as he headed to his cooking area.

Once he was out of sight Baalthemar dropped his clothes and started to vent his anger by chopping some fresh meat, slamming home a large cleaver sent vibrations up his arm, the feeling grounding him.

The voices in his head had started to rise again, he needed to focus or he might scare off the only thing that kept him calm.

*You are safe, this is not going to hurt, you just need to let it play out.*the gentle voice soothed his mind, quelling the storm in his head.

He breathed out, and relaxed. Focus on this task then enjoy yourself with that creature in your bed. He thought to himself.

A few minutes passed and he returned to the bedroom with a small platter of meats and fruits with some bowls of ice, to find Nathandiel ready and waiting for him. He looked at the man sitting patiently in his bed, his white skin beckoning him. His arousal still obvious despite the sheets covering him. Baalthemar couldn’t help but smile. “You look rather at home in my bed.” He placed the platter on a table and walked to the waiting man.

Crawling on his bed toward Nathandiel he softly spoke. “So, what was the plan again?” holding his chin lightly Baalthemar kisses him and smiles. “Ah yes. You were going to earn some answers”

The night passed peacefully. Baalthemar had made sure that he was as tender as he could be, after the inquisition he had been too rough. Well maybe not too rough knowing Drinn. He thought. But he wanted to make sure Nathandiel was treated well.

He looked at the sleeping man and gently rubbed behind his ear like he had asked in Warspear.

“You earned your questions, ask me whatever you like.” He sighed “I’ll try to answer them as best I can”.

Nathandiel smiled, his eyes drooping. "You're petting my 'off button' you know. Still trying to get out of answers..." He reset his head on the pillow and looked at Baalthemar."Tell me what your favourite thing to steal was." Nathandiel laughed. "I'm just kidding--actually I'm not, I do want to know, but. . . " His eyes became serious. "You're childhood sounds like it was horrible, rape and death and neglect. . . ." Nathandiel put a hand on Baalthemar's chest. "I really want to know about those things, but I would love to hear you talk about the good parts and see you smile like you did when talked about drawing on your wanted posters. Tell me about the good things, the things that made you happy. Please?"

Baalthemar leans back and nods slightly, “Very well” taking the question seriously, he thinks back on his childhood. “I enjoyed the city at night, and being on the roof tops when it was late at night.” He smiled. “There is something about being up while the world sleeps that I enjoy. It was… peaceful.”

Grinning again. “As for the stealing, we would take food to start, but when we got to know some of the store owners we started taking coin and paying for the food.” Turning to Nathandiel. “But by far my favorite; was anything from the guard barracks”

Baalthemar lets out a soft laugh, shaking his head slightly. “Pointless things like quills or papers, boots even. So long as I could show it off and prove that it was from the barracks it was good.” Baalthemar settles down in his bed and looks at Nathandiel, smiling warmly at him “Ask me another.

Nathandiel chuckles. "So you like being a pain in the ass...and a show off." He grins. "I like that.” He closes his eyes to think of another question. "Tell me about what you wanted when you were younger. What did you want to be? If you could be anything, anyone...what would it be?"

Baalthemar blinked. “I… Hmm” looking very confused, “I wanted to eat I guess, so I wanted to be someone that had food?” Smiling at Nathandiel, “That one was easy, what else you got Doc?”

"That's an awful answer! You didn't want to be a...hero or a knight or...a Doctor?" He smiles.

Baalthemar shrugs and kisses Nathandiel on the forehead, “Maybe a famous cat burglar, with a mask and a cape” playfully Baalthemar uses his hand to mock a mask peeking through the fingers. “A loveable rogue and heart-throb scoundrel. Stealing hearts and easily as coin or gems” he grins, at Nathandiel.

Nathandiel rolls his eyes. "Somehow your silliness is endearing. You're really not going to tell me are you? Fine...tell me about the bad stuff. Tell me why you've never been in love and why you feel alone and why you deflect my questions with sexual and silly distractions." Nathandiel tips up Baalthemar's chin and kisses him. "Tell me.”

*You walked into that one* the soft voice gently said.

“Ugh, your too cleaver for your own good you know that Nath?” Baalthemar sighed, “You know most of the bad stuff already. But you don’t know how I got out or what I did after.” Rolling onto his back Baalthemar folds his arms.

“I killed one of my captors, caved his head in with a steel jug. After that I just left. I knew most of my friends were dead or too broken to flee with me so I just left them there.”

“I could have helped, perhaps. But I wanted to survive, so I ran.” His face lost its warm smile, and relaxed into a stern emotionless state. “I ran to Undercity, and tried to blend in with the travelers and traders. It didn’t work as well as I had hoped, so again I did something to help me survive, I took to whoring. Easy work, learned a great deal about using sex and charm to manipulate people.”

Baalthemar grinned, “There was a man, another escort, really strange undead guy. “Laszlo” he fancied himself quite the gentleman, tried to have an accent and play himself off as some exotic world traveler. Taught me a great deal.”

“But I didn’t want to be sold like meat anymore so I left, and headed out into the wilds.” Rubbing the back of his neck, “I was out there alone for… a few years I guess. It is hard to tell. But whenever I would come back to a town or city to get supplies or collect a bounty I would hear about The Grim.”

Shrugging “As for love I might have loved Elora, but she was taken from be before I could find out.” He doesn’t look as somber as when he had talked about this in the lake. *It helps to talk to someone* the gentle voice whispers from the back of his mind. Smiling softly Baalthemar turns to Nathandiel. “Tell me more about you. I don’t really know anything about you.”

When Baalthemar laid on his back Nathandiel had turned onto his stomach, his neck twisted so he could watch Baalthemar. "Me? Oh there's not much to know about me my little run away. Good family, loving parents, no siblings but my cousin Anne and I were very closely, we were often mistaken for twins.

I loved her dearly. She's dead now. " Nathandiel closes his eyes a moment and takes a breath. "Dad was a doctor, Mom was "mom," I had good schooling but I didn't get in to the university my father went to. That was okay though. I met my wife at the one I did get into." Nathandiel opens his eyes and looks at Baalthemar. "I loved Clara very much, I loved our son more. That's why I know you're going to really like love when you find it." Nathandiel reached for Baalthemar and absently fingers a mark on one of his ribs. "Happiness is worth all of the pain that tries to keep you from experiencing it. Even if it doesn't last, it's always worth it."

Baalthemar watched Nathandiel as he spoke of himself. "Loved", he lost what he loved too. The thought had crossed his mind before, The Grim seemed to attract the damaged.

Looking at the man, he wanted to ask so many questions. But one stuck out at him, it was pointed but he needed to ask. “How did you lose them?” his face showing concern for Nathandiel.

*Careful not to push him too hard.* the gentle voice warned. Baalthemar blinked, "Oh uh, you don't have to say if you don't want."

Nathandiel blinked several times, silent, then he opens his mouth. He doesn't speak right away. "...Alexander got sick when he was still small. He was sick and then he got better, but the he was sick again. It was like that; sick then better, better than sick. When he was close to his eighth birthday, he got sick and didn't get better. He died."

Nathandiel bites at his lower lip a moment. "The relationship between Clara and I -- Clara was my wife -- died somewhere in between the first time he got sick again, and when he died. We fought, she blamed me for Alexander. I couldn't fix him and I couldn't find anyone else who could either. I know she tried not to, but she hated me for that." He twists and turns onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. "Three days after we buried our boy I came home and found Clara hanging from the light fixture above our bed. I buried my family in just eight days."

Baalthemar listened, he couldn’t understand that pain, he might never understand. The loss of a son, having hope snatched away each time only to have the boy finally die. And a wife so full of venom that she turns against you, compounding failure with her vile and hurtful words then to leave him alone.

No, he couldn’t know that hurt. But he knew senseless death, snatching away loved ones, while you were unable to help. That he knew well.

He did his best to show that he cared for Nathandiel while not looking like he was pitying him. This man deserved more than hollow pity or empty sympathy. He thought.

He said nothing only nodding and putting his arm around Nathandiel. Something twisted in his guts, I commented on him and Drinn maybe having a child. Had I known about Alexander I would have kept my mouth shut, idiot. Baalthemar held Nathandiel closer. “Is that what made you join The Grim?”

*Haha you just can’t help yourself can you boy? You’ll drive this one away by opening old wounds* the cruel voice mocked.

He forced himself to ignore the voice, looking at Nathandiel prodding at his ribs.

Nathandiel chuckles. "In an indirect way perhaps. It made me available." He looks at Baalthemar and climbs ontop of him, deflecting in his own manner. As he presses against the other man he smoothed back Baalthemar's hair and kisses him.

"But no, it was not my reason. Now hush, let's stop pouring our hearts out like girls and get busy like menfolk." He favours Baalthemar with a devilish grin, clearly no longer interested in "talk."

Baalthemar swells as Nathandiel kisses him. Looking at the man grin, he feel can feel the warmth of Nathandiel’s rump.

Carefully Baalthemar moves to allow Nathandiel to lower himself onto his lap.

Baalthemar is enveloped in Nathandiel’s warmth and all other thoughts are banished from his mind.

A gentle gasp escapes his chest as he holds Nathandiel tightly. “You are dangerously addictive, have I told you that?”

Nathandiel kisses Baalthemar’s neck and whispers. “You might have said something like that. Yes”

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Drinn wasn't coming to the trial. As much as that meant she didn't care about Baalthemar's performance, it also meant she didn't care to watch Nathandiel operate. She wanted, instead, to sleep. He felt defeated by that. He'd tried to entice her with all the things she liked; interaction, gore, suspense and, of course, The Grim.

But she'd politely asked to be left alone to sleep.

I'm boring to her now. He thought as he tucked her in. She's dealing with something and I can't help her, I can't even amuse her enough to take her mind off of it. He crouched at the side of the bed and reached out to touch her, to smooth back her bangs, but stopped himself. He shouldn't touch her. If she wanted to be touched, she'd ask. Whenever she did want his touch, she took it. Drinn wasn't shy. If she didn't take what she wanted, then she didn't want it at all.

And if I'm ever going to make this easier for myself, I have to stop reaching out for her.

He was deeply in love with her, he knew that the most when she didn't want him around. She had been so fond of him and that fondness had lasted, which had made him confident that her adoration hadn't just been superficial and that it was worth making himself vulnerable for. It had been worth admitting that he adored her back.

Which makes the fact that she's not interested in me now so much worse. That I adore her, love her, makes it so much more painful that I can't help her.

He frowned and then stood. Castor and Linna got up and he ordered them to stay. "Keep Mum warm." He demanded and they laid back down behind Drinn, looking dissapointed that they weren't invited to come with him. "Mum." He liked having a "Mum" opposite to his title as "Dad." He wasn't ready to leave Drinn, he couldn't with how much he cared for her.

Notice how I don't use the term "love" if I can avoid it, even though that's exactly what I feel. He knew it was unavoidable, but he didn't want to look like a fool for having had his heartbroken. He'd made a conscious decision to let his feelings for her develop. If he failed to keep her happy and keep her in love with him, then the heartbreak was his own fault. Somehow calling that love by other, less potent, names took some of the sting out of it all.

He took two steps away, stopped, and allowed himself to touch her ankle, feeling the bony prominence of her slender limb beneath the fur blanket. "Why don't you want me like you used to?" He whispered, unaware he had done so aloud. He thumbed over that bony protuberance with the same delicacy and affection he had used to thumb over her lower lip, when her eyes smiled at him and she asked for his kisses. "What aren't I doing?"

She didn't answer. She was deeply asleep. Whether or not she had gotten down so deeply with the help of a concoction he didn't know. He didn't mind either way, he understood that need to just check-out of the world for a while. But when she checked -out of the world, she also checked-out from him. When it was all too much, it meant he was part of that "all."

He scowled and took his hand back, resisting the urge to wipe it on his thigh. There was the anger again, the resentment for having been rejected flaring in the back of his throat.

I need to leave.

He did have a trial to attend, and it would be prudent for him to arrive early, but the speed with which he packed his bag and dressed was more flight than fastidious care for his patient.

Not that I don't also care about him. He thought, leaving the garrison quarters. He did care about Baalthemar, had a bit of crush on him even. He let Baalthemar have him, something he didn't let his male partners do much. That might be because he never asked, he just took me. That was possible, but part of the not asking was that when they were together neither of them was a substitute for a female partner; it was just two men, enjoying each other while they enjoyed fulfilling their own urges. He imagined that was how it was when two women were together without the ogling of any nearby males.

It was nice to have someone he could be that way with. Pascal had been easy like that, but Pascal didn't like girls and so he'd fallen into serving as one for Nathandiel quite easily. Nathandiel had never seen Pascal as a woman, but a nancy, surely. That was part of what had made him love Pascal as much as he had, and part of why they had been together since boyhood, at least until Nathandiel had married. After Clara had died, Pascal had been back in his bed, taking care of him and loving him like he'd never been the ass that he had and left him for a "proper partner."

God I miss him. Thinking of Pascal made his chest hurt. Literally. He shook his head as headed towards his destination. Drinn could sleep all she needed to, he'd try to stay patient with her. Nathandiel would take out Baalthemar's eye, like he'd promised he would, and then take him home to care for him.

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Baalthemar's procedure had gone well. The eye had been enucleated with no difficulties and delivered for the macabre ritual. Nathandiel had been annoyed with the magic. He hated magic. His focus had been on Baalthemar and making sure that he was taken care of.

He sat next to the bed that Drinn had made for Baalthemar, a small table with a book upon it his company for the watch. He'd intended to be in his own bed while he waited for Baalthemar to wake up, but he'd found himself to be restless after he'd settled Baalthemar into bed and removed the ventilation equipment. When Baalthemar had started to breathe on his own Nathandiel had been kind and removed the urinary catheter. The boy had dribbled a little, but he'd been lain on a pad meant to serve such purposes. No one liked to wake up with a catheter.

Baalthemar hadn't woken at all yet, none of the woozy bouts of half-consciousness in which patients revealed embarrassing facts about themselves or made accusations at those around them. Nathandiel had woken from anaesthesia after a surgical procedure for a knee injury. The nurse that had been placed at his bed side to attend to him -- he had a history of waking up poorly -- had been busy jabbering with another nurse about how lazy her husband was. He'd reached over the rail for her and whacked her with one flaccid hand that had been about as dangerous a bit of drift wood blown in the wind.

"You're cunt. He's cheating on you. You can't even do your job." He'd been rewarded with a look of absolute horror, either from what he'd said or because he'd been right -- she hadn't been paying attention to him. She'd been chatting instead of working and taking care of a high-risk patient. He hadn't been to medical school yet, but even then he'd hated people that didn't do their jobs. After his uninvited judgement, he'd promptly fallen back under the tides of anesthetic sleep. He'd woken up later in a private recovery recovery, a new nurse at his side.

He leaned over and stroked Baalthemar's cheek with the backs of his knuckles, smiling. "I'm paying attention. You're safe." he murmured. He reached under the blankets to put his fingers on Baalthemar's wrist so he could take his pulse. He'd tethered one of Baalthemar's wrists to the bed with a soft restraint, just in case he got up and wandered away half-conscious while Nathandiel got up to piss or otherwise take care of himself. He didn't have the luxury of a nurse, though Aziris had made a fine one during the procedure.

Should have brought her back here with me.

"You're doing fine." He told Baalthemar. "Just fine." He tucked the other man in, bringing blankets up to his chin. He'd brought a gown from the Undercity for Baalthemar to wear until he woke up and they were notoriously poor for keeping patient's warm. "You're gonna look stupid when you wake up in a grey dress." He teased softly while he checked Baalthemar's IV. He'd need to change it soon. He intended to continue giving Baalthemar fluids and narcotic pain medication until he drink on his own, then he'd switch him to pills of a lesser strength.

He sat back and picked up his book again, taking a moment to look back towards his bed. Drinn was still asleep. He worried about her. He wanted to climb into bed with her and hold her, but he resented her for being asleep in the first place, so he left her alone.

Stuck between two slumbering beauties. Sad that it's not in sexier circumstances.

He managed a smiled and opened the book to his marked page.

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Baalthemar awoke with a start. The Grim need him, we are under attack. “I need to get up.” Rolling out of the bed that Drinn and Nathandiel had set up for him and flopping to the floor with a slapping thud of flesh hitting something solid. Dizzy, hard to focus.

Slowly trying to get back to his feet, he tugs against the restraints that hold his arm to the bed.

No! They need help. I need to join the fight. Pulling hard on the bindings to get his arm free. His feet slide on the cool floor in his futile attempts to get out. Baalthemar’s mind is racing. “I need to get up!”

Arm stuck, need to help. Reaching for his daggers that are no longer there, Baalthemar panics.

“Aarrgg” he roars in frustration. Pulling on his arm again, trying to wrench it free.

Quickly turning to his he looks at his wrist. He crawls to his trapped arm and starts to bite at his wrist. I need to help them.

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Nathandiel was mid-stream when he heard the "thud" from the bedroom. He shook off and hurried back in. Baalthemar was gnawing at his wrist.

"Okay...that's about enough of that." He crossed the room quickly. Castor and Linna were on their feet, watching, but waiting for a command. He motioned for them to lay back down. He reached the bed and squatted down, taking hold of Baalthemar's jaw so he could turn his face and see him. His eyes met Baalthemar's remaining one.

"You're waking up. You're in my home. You're fine. Everything is fine." He said firmly. He held Baalthemar and hauled him to his feet then back into bed. He kept a knee on his chest to hold him place and dug into his bag, taking out a syringe and a vial. "I think...you need to calm down...." he murmured as he filled it.

He leaned over Baalthemar and took the IV tubing between his fingers, then administered the anti-anxiety medication. Anxiety and even panic were not uncommon amongst patients upon waking and, clearly, something had spooked poor Baalthemar.

"There we go." He tossed the syringe into a bin and sat on the side of the bed, effectively using his weight to casually keep the other man in place. He held Baalthemar's cheek and pressed the backs of the fingers of his other hand to Baalthemar's forehead. "No fever...." he commented softly, relieved.

"You're waking up. It can be scary, but you're safe and everything is well. The procedure was clean, the ritual completed, and all that we need from you now...is for you to rest." Nathandiel offered Baalthemar a smile and kept a hand on one of his shoulders, ready to restrain him if need be. He was unlikely to remember much of this after he was fully functional again.

"Close your eyes Baalthemar...." He urged. Eye, you mean. "Shhh now, just sleep. Everyone is very pleased with you." He leaned down and blessed Baalthemar with a chase kiss. "Sleep." He reached down and released the tether, then laid down with Baalthemar, holding him as much to comfort him as to keep him in place. "More sleeping. Doctor's orders." He whispered.

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A few hours later.

Baalthemar slowly opens his eye, looking around to get his bearings.

He was inside, in a bed. Nathandiel’s home, must be. He could feel someone holding him, a pleasant warmth snuggled into his side. Baalthemar smiled at Nathandiel the dark haired elf had fallen asleep next to him.

“Hey Doc.” His voice harsh and sore, waking Nathandiel from his peaceful rest.

"Ugh" Baalthemar grunts. Everything hurts, but I’m not dead. He grinned.

“I uh.” A wave of nausea hit him. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Nathandiel quickly hands Baalthemar a bucket, and holds back his hair as Baalthemar vomits.

"Good thing I opted for the bucket instead of the standard kidney dish." Nathandiel says, his voice somewhat amused. He wipes Baalthemar's mouth with a cloth.

The nausea passes quickly, his body ached, and his head was still somewhat fuzzy.

Placing the bucket on the floor beside him. "So, What did I miss?" smiling weakly at Nathandiel.

"What did you miss?" Nathandiel begins to examine Baalthemar, taking his vital signs. "Well...you missed Malhavik slobber black goop all over you before nearly putting his face on yours. He managed to get something out of you, even intubated. You also woke up a little while ago and tried to chew through a soft wrist restraint I put on you..." He turns his attention to Baalthemar's hair to arrange it. "...wild creature that you are. How are you feeling? I brought the contents of a locked drug cabinet with me, I've got you covered."

Nathandiel’s touch is cool on his skin, as he pushes and prods at various spots on his body.

Baalthemar listens to Nathandiel explain the ritual and he cringes a little at the mention of black slobber. “So long as it’s done.” He adds with a stern face. When Nathandiel tells him about his attempt to chew his restraint off, Baalthemar can’t help but grin. “I don’t remember doing that, I’m sorry I caused you trouble.” Offering Nathandiel a playful grin.

“I… feel alright. My mind is a little foggy, and my body aches. But nothing too bad.” Patting himself down checking for wounds or sore spots, frowning and tilting his head as he looks under the sheets. “Why am I in a dress?”

Nathandiel grins. "It's a hospital gown." He gets up and goes to the washroom, returning with a folded pair of pajama pants and a black T-shirt. "I don't think I'll need quick access to your naked body, so you can wear these if you like. They're mine, but I promise that I have very good taste in lounge wear."

He brings the clothes to Baalthemar and holds them out. When Baalthemar takes them he sits down and takes Baalthemar's arm into his lap. "Let me unplug you before you change, otherwise you'll get tangled." He fidgets with the catheter hub and move a small clip up the line, then separates Baalthemar from the IV tubing. "Get changed and I'll plug you back in. I've got you on vitamins, minerals, sugars, and...really good pain meds." He winks.

Baalthemar watches Nathandiel unplug his arm from the tubes and bags that were being fed into it.

He stands and removes his gown while Nathandiel watches. “Maybe you will want access, we will have to see how good these “pain meds” are.” Grinning as he puts on the pajama pants.

“How long do you think it will be until I can join the Grim on the front again?” Baalthemar asks as he slips his arms into the T-shirt.

Pulling the shirt over his head, it clings tightly to his chest. Baalthemar flicks his hair out from under the shirt and crawls back into bed next to Nathandiel.

Nathandiel watches him change and when Baalthemar gets back into bed he plugs the line back in and makes sure that they don't get tangled. He curls around the other man, seeking safety in the crook of his neck. "Soon." He whispers. "...you only have to stay here a couple of days." He whispers. "So far you're doing well. I...can go in the other bed if you want? You'll get sleepy again, probably sleep late tomorrow. Then I'll feed you and we can take out your line."

He sits up, a hand on Baalthemar's chest. He looked over towards the bed where Drinn is alseep and the dogs watch. Castor hesitantly wags his tail. He looks back at Baalthemar. "...do you wan't me to go? I'll be right there if you need me."

Baalthemar looks at Nathandiel and smiles at him gently placing his forehead on Nathandiel's, “I want you to stay. I like it when you sleep next to me.” Lifting his head up and blushing slightly. “That is, if that’s not a problem.” His eye darts over to Drinn sleeping in her bed. “I wouldn’t want to over stay my welcome.”

Nathandiel looks towards Drinn and scowels, and then cuddles into Baalthemar more, tangling their legs together. "No. I want to stay here...to keep an eye on you I mean." He closes his eyes and curls his fingers into the fabric of Baalthemar's shirt. "Go to sleep. You can go back to the front faster if you rest...take a little time though? Just to make sure you're okay."

Baalthemar relaxes as Nathandiel makes himself comfortable, watching him play with his shirt.

“Yes doctor, whatever you say doctor.” Baalthemar grins and holds Nathandiel tightly to him. You have no idea how much I need this Nathandiel. Some rest, some peace. As the two slowly drift off to sleep.

Baalthemar softly whispers. “Thank you Nathandiel.”

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Nathandiel relished how hard it was to breath. The thumping beat of his pulse against the fingers he pressed to his neck was exhilarating. His muscles hurt, his side had a stitch, and he was so sweaty he wanted to dump his skin rather than his clothes. He shook out the free sweat from his short hair outside the garrison door, spraying sweat like a wet dog and loving the contrast between the cold of the weather and the heat he was desperate to get out of himself. The air was cold and crisp as he sucked it in, and soon he was chilly, the wet hairs on his arms and legs beginning to prickle as his flesh bumped up and became pebbly.

I fucking hate running. I fucking hate it. But it's not so bad here in the cold.

No, it wasn't so bad in the cold. Nathandiel did like running, but he hated being sweaty and hot. He hated to be uncomfortable. When he'd been in his youth he'd been a gymnast, and so he'd embraced physical activity for the love of the sport, happy to deal with all of the discomfort so long as it got him closer to his training goals. But then he'd gotten older, retired, and had to be honest with himself about the fact that that the only reason he still ran was to keep himself feeling confident when he was naked. It was for the babes, the boys, the power of being fully clothed while sitting across from someone who didn't want to fuck him and knowing they were still undressing him, comparing, and coming up short. Vanity was less of a motivator than the sport had been, but it was enough.

If I keep sleeping with these young elves I'm gonna have to add more time to my runs.

He pushed into the garrison building, his goose-flesh flushing and then abating as he was enveloped by the warmth. Linna and Castor bounded off of the bed and ran to him. He squatted, as was custom, and allowed them to put their snouts where they wished, loving him for his stink and even more for bringing home the exquisite odours of the world outside. He patted their solid bodies, pleased with how they were growing. "Oh yes . . . Daddy's puppies . . . he loves you so much . . . ."

Castor started to dribble because of his excitement.

"Oh no . . . nope." He got up and pushed the door open and directed them both outside. He squatted in the door and continued to love them where they could dribble all they wanted, leaving tattoos of urine in the snow across their door step. All the better for keeping other creatures away. Once he'd had enough of their probing noses he shooed them off to run and do their business, both validated by his attention and invigorated by the scents they'd been treated to.

He went back into the building and noted that both Drinn and Baalthemar were still asleep. That was good, it was early, the sun had yet to wake and the moon wasn't quite in bed itself. He smiled as he passed both elves, stopping at Baalthemar's bed to check him for fever and make sure his IV line wasn't kinked. He'd take it out when Baalthemar woke up. He'd be strong enough to eat and drink on his own and it was unlikely Nathandiel would need venous access so long after the surgery.

He then went to Drinn and squatted by the bed, reaching out to touch her. She was hugging one of her pillows, curled around it as it were a favoured comfort object. "My sleepy girl . . . what can I do?" He whispered as he pet her, combing her bangs back form her face with his fingers. She made a soft, sleepy sound in the back of her throat and his smile grew. He wanted to wake her and climb on top of her, spread her legs, and have her, face down and fighting, rub his stink all over her and own her.

Beast. He thought and suppressed a chuckle. He would spare her such an awakening until another time. Maybe after she'd been awake for more than a few hours at a time and was more like her usual self. He settled for tucking her in.

He went to the washroom and drew a bath, shed his clothes and went to the wash basin. He smeared shaving cream on his cheeks and over his mouth, the night's stubble rough against his slippery fingers. He stopped as he looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were bluer than they should have been. They narrowed with disapproval, but part of him missed his blue eyes, missed the man that owned them and all that came with them. He missed home.

"You stink." He heard Drinn grumble from beyond the open door and he looked away from the mirror. He missed home and he missed who he was, but he also liked where we he was and who he was with. He liked Drinn, certainly more than he should have. He liked Baalthemar too, but more as a friend.

You fuck that friend.

Yes, he did, but that was part of the friendship. They were comfortable enough together to just to give each other a hand, get off, and get on with business. He liked that. That Baalthemar was also capable of being tender was bonus. Sometimes Nathandiel wanted to be handled carefully and it was nice to have someone that would do that for him.

Drinn though. You're in trouble there. That's not a friend, that a fire-sale waiting to happen.

"Smelly." She added, but she wasn't awake, not really. She sounded pouty and grumpy, like a child. "Can smell your stink from here."

He decided that he'd shave -- only shave -- then he'd go out and force her to give him kisses, maybe pin her and get his stink on her. If he could get away with it he'd have her too. If Baalthemar woke up, well, maybe he'd enjoy the show.

He drew the blade of his straight razor over his jaw, relishing the closeness of metal on his skin and the conflicting scent of fresh perspiration and ripened shaving cream while she continued to comment groggily that he was stinky and smelly and "full of ick." Smell aroused him though.

And there is no way that little Drinny isn't a delightful nose treat after so much sleep.

He finished his wash, pat-dried his face, then went out and buried his face between her legs to wake her. While there, he discovered why she'd been so moody and sleepy.

His morning was subsequently delightful.

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Baalthemar awoke to the savoury smells of cooking meat, he looked around himself. He had slept for what seemed like an age, but he had slept for more than a few hours for the first time in… he couldn’t quite remember. The room was lit by candle light, It must be past dusk.

His body ached, his arms and legs felt a size too big for his skin. He groaned as he slowly sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

Tilting his head and looking over toward the sounds of cooking, an amusing mental image came to mind: Nathandiel in a cooking apron, and little else. He grinned.

Nathandiel had removed his IV, and placed some water and some pills next to his bed, Baalthemar took the pills, sniffing at them, shrugging he popped them into his mouth swallowing them with the glass of water.

Slowly standing Baalthemar headed to the washroom, he wanted to wash up before he found Nathandiel or Drinn. He looked over to her, she seemed to be relaxing in her bed. Is she awake? Baalthemar questioned.

Baalthemar tried his best to move quietly, but Castor and Linna had other ideas, they wanted to greet their now awake guest. The little pups, barked and wove around his legs, demanding his attention.

He smiled, “I should have known better than to try and sneak by you two” kneeling down to greet them, rubbing their little cheeks playfully.

The playful barks and growling summoned Nathandiel from the small cooking area outside the larder to see Baalthemar kneeling beside the two pups.

"Oh . . . I thought you were dead." Nathandiel said. He smiled and absently waved a spatula at Baalthemar. ". . . either that or you're the most polite guest an impolite couple could have." He pauses and then motions for Baalthemar to follow. "C'mon, I'm making a pasta bake. You can uh . . . toss the salad."

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Baalthemar hadn't been retarded in the kitchen -- which had surprised Nathandiel. The young man was wild and had only recently discovered civil inventions like the hairbrush. Yet the salad he'd put together had been good, and he'd arranged the fruit and cheese plate in an admirable pattern that had pleased Drinn. She favoured visual arrangements and pretty things, had she been permitted a proper education Nathandiel thought she might have pursued fine art.

My Drinny, so silly. He squeezed her hand a little more tightly as they walked about the garrison. She was quiet, moody again and lost in her own thoughts. He'd been happy just to get some time with her where she was conscious, so he walked with her, strolling about the buildings while Linna and Castor ran ahead.

He wondered for a brief moment what it would be like to walk with her like that at home, and instead of watching their dogs run ahead, what watching their children run ahead would be like. His brow furrowed and he frowned. No, she wasn't the mothering type, there was no room in her for such things.

I'm not sure there's room in me either. I haven't gone home. I picked a woman whose not exactly available. She'll never ask me for more than I give her now; I don't have to try much harder than I already am.

No, he didn't. He only needed to put up with her mood swings and her tendency to disappear whenever the wind called her. As if on cue, a gust enveloped them and he pulled her closer. She smirked and kissed his shoulder, thanking him for being sweet.

I'm not being sweet. I just don't want her to leave again.

"When does the boy leave?" She asked, leaning against him as they walked.

He smiled, happy to hear her voice. Over supper she'd be chatty, but mostly she'd attempted to goad Baalthemar in the way that she did when she was prying at someone, testing the waters to see if she wanted to prey on them for real.

"When he's better. Another day or two." He said. "Do you want him to leave sooner?" He asked.

She was quiet for several steps. ". . . No. Just wondering how long I have to decide what to do with him."

He rolled his eyes. "Don't do anything with him."

"No promises" She murmured and then she pulled away, taking off after the dogs -- both of whom were delighted -- and he followed. They played with their dogs in the snow and when they got tangled, fell down, and kissed, their dogs licked at their joined faces.

He was happy.

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****************************Warning Adult Themes ************************************

Nathandiel had helped Baalthemar get changed out of his armour and get into some ‘lounge wear’ as he called it. The changes to Baalthemars body made it quite the challenge to find clothes that fit, while his armour could be loosened to fit. This ‘lounge wear’ was not designed for that, and so Nathandiel had given up on trying to find a shirt for Baalthemar.

Nathandiel watched Baalthemar walk. His arms bound behind him with his chest exposed, he had indeed changed. Whatever was happening to him had increased his muscle and bone growth, his back no longer held the scars that it once did. But what had it done to his mind? Nathandiel wondered.

Baalthemar was scared that he would lose consciousness and somehow attack him, and had suggested that Nathandiel tie him up. Nathandiel had agreed, in part because he would enjoy seeing the man bound to a bed, but mostly because Baalthemar would be safe with him in his house.

Baalthemar sat on the bed while Nathandiel bound his ankles. He trusted Nathandiel but he couldn’t trust himself and this was the only way he could think to keep Nathandiel safe. Nathandiel had finished Baalthemar’s legs and had started on his arms, attaching cords to the corners of the bed that had been set up for him for his recovery after his trial.

Baalthemar tested the knots Nathandiel had used to tie him up. He pulled on them as hard as he could, his new muscles flexed and strained but they held fast. Good, if I black out again I won’t hurt anyone. Baalthemar thought. Nathandiel went to get some bedding for him, leaving him tied to the bed. Helpless.

He saw his chance to show off his new friend to Linna, Castor bounded over to the helpless Baalthemar, Linna followed behind. Baalthemar was attacked by two wet noses, sniffing and licking at him.

“Yes. Hello… Stop.” Baalthemar managed to say before the joyful pups climbed onto his chest and lapped at his face. He turned his head in an attempt to prevent the two from licking his face, but this only seemed to spur them to chase their squirming prey.

Nathandiel returned with some fresh blankets, to see Castor and Linna laying on Baalthemar.

Between the two furry bodies Baalthemar managed a muffled call for aid. “Help, they got me.”

Nathandiel grinned at the sight, “Get off him” he clicked his fingers and the two scamper off their mission complete.

Dressed in his own lounge wear Baalthemar couldn’t help but admire him, Nathandiel was a strange mix of deadly assassin and caring doctor. Baalthemar grinned at the thought. “You know you’re a special creature Nath, I’m sorry for the trouble I have put you through.”

Nathandiel crawled in beside Baalthemar and slowly ran his fingers over his chest, starting at his collar and tracing slowly down, stopping over his nipple and gave it a forceful and quick flick. Baalthemar yelp in pain. “Don’t do anything so foolish like that again.” He said as he softly planted a kiss on the tender nipple.

Baalthemar winced slightly he expected teeth to tug on his unprotected flesh. “I will try, but my minds not quite right. You’ll have to keep me tied up in case I lose control.” He gasped as Nathandiel chose not to nip at him but instead continued to kiss along his bare chest. “I think I could enjoy having you bound.” Nathandiel said softly as he kissed lazy shapes over Baalthemars chest.

Nathandiel slowly ran his fingers over his chest exploring the changes to Baalthemars flesh, he crawled on top of the bound man, and sat on his lap. Baalthemar looked at Nathandiel, there was something in his eyes. More than the normal lust, there was a need behind them. Perhaps he was as addicted to me as I am to him. He wondered.

*He cares for you, and he’ll help you gain a great deal of strength, if you let him.* A woman's voice called from the foot of the bed.

Nathandiel raised up started kissing Baalthemars neck. Slowly he worked his way down his collar bone and his chest. Baalthemar swelled and strained against his lounge wear, this cruel torment was almost too much to bare.

Baalthemar gasped as Nathandiel stopped over his stomach and slowly slid his pants down. “What are you doing?” he asked. Nathandiel looked up and grinned. “You’ll see”

*I’m here to ensure you are safe, while you are with him I’ll watch over you.* The woman grinned and softly licked her lips as she watched Nathandiel gently free Baalthemar from the confines of his lounge wear.

“Are you sure?” he asked. Nathandiel gave him a gentle squeeze. “I’m sure.”

*I’ll enjoy the show as much as the actors* the woman winked at Baalthemar and relaxed as the two men started their show.

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Nathandiel awoke with a start, the force of the jostle making him jar his injured leg. He hissed and closed his eyes. He suppressed a string of curses and stilled himself. Next to him, Baalthemar was asleep. He sat up and shifted in the bed, lifting his injured limb and putting it on a pile of pillows -- Drinn's pillows -- and then leaned against the headboard. He didn't remember being put to bed, he remembered laying down on the floor with Baalthemar while the other man treated the broken skin around his dislocated knee. He remembered Baalthemar laying down with him and the reassuring feeling of the other man's hands on his hips as he was urged to sleep.

He remembered the taste of cured leather in between his teeth and how all the crowns of his teeth had pressed into it when Baalthemar had set Nathandiel's knee. Even then, hours later, the memory of bones being shoved back into place made him feel ill. He closed his eyes and swallowed, realized how dry his mouth was, and turned his attention to the side table.

Baalthemar had put him on Drinn's side of the bed, which was fine given she'd stolen his preferred side when she'd started to stay with him at night. The side table had some of her things there such as uneaten candies a pen and the note she'd left him. He felt and unwelcomed pressure rise up in his chest as he looked at the handwritten note and hastily shoved it into a book she'd left out and shoved it into the drawer of the side table, hiding it.

Drinn had left again. This time she'd left a note, but it hadn't been very reassuring. She needed to look out for her and do what she needed to do for herself. She hand't specified what that had meant or indicated when she'd come back. She seemed to think such beahviour on her part would be new to him, but it hadn't been. Regardless of how she felt about him she still chose to be elsewhere. He'd wondered if her departure had anything to do with the return of Atticus, or if there was still just many things she wouldn't share with him. Perhaps he'd been convenient at the time and her feelings of appreciation had been genuine, but she didn't care for him nearly as much as was needed for them to truly be partners. She was broken and flawed and he supposed he couldn't' fault her for that. She did need to care only about herself, that was only way she'd ever be whole again. It was his fault for having gotten attached to her. She was a runner, and when she'd run again he had been more concerned about how little it had actually upset him than anything else.

He didn't doubt that he cared for her, but as she had shifted her focus away from them to her, he had shifted his back to himself in response. He needed protecting, his heart needed protecting most. He'd given her his, but she'd refunded it. He wasn't sure he'd ever be able to give it away again, especially to her. He also knew he couldn't make any decisions when he was protecting himself, so he put her away, figuratively and literally.

Still. No need for anyone wandering into my home to see her goodbye sentiments. Lilliana had been in his house to speak to Baalthemar the night before. He didn't need someone like her finding out about his newest wounds.

He smiled at the tall glass of water that Baalthemar had left for him and the pills. He took some from each and then slid back down in bed. Castor and Linna watched him from the door. They were waiting for Drinn to come home. They'd figure it out her was sure.

He carefully turned over to face Baalthemar, noting the single wrist shackled to the bed post. He smiled. Poor Baalthemar, he been through so much, the least of which had been the loss of an eye. Now he insisted on being tethered and restrained in case of a blackout and any subsequent violence that might ensure. When Nathandiel had found him in Duskwood Baalthemar had been eerily depressed. He'd spoken about waking up to find himself face-deep in a horse, a horse he'd shared with Castor. He had been so worried about hurting Nathandiel and Nathandiel hadn't been sure he'd be able to convince Baalthemar to ignore The Grim's entrance into Duskwood and just come home. But he had.

He slid closer and reached up to touch Baalthemar's sleeping face, his fingers tracing the faint lines of some kind of injury on his cheeks. They were hard to see but they gave him an unnaturally broad grin. He wondered what had caused them and how they'd healed so quickly.

Perhaps I just never noticed them before.

Maybe, but he didn't think so. Baalthemar's skin was darker and the difference in his height and build was difficult to explain. He'd told Baalthemar that he thought the changes would go away once wreave was out of his system, but there were some things he didn't think a body could go back from.

He frowned and slid his hand over Baalthemar's chest, noting the apparent absence of hair. The skin felt new and delicate, soft like an infant's. When he'd brought Baalthemar home he'd lain with him, or rather let Baalthemar have him. More and more he was finding himself on the receiving end of their pairings, something he rarely let happen with anyone but apparently had decided was acceptable with this particular man--it didn't feel like submission with him and that somehow made it alright. Laying with Baalthemar had been important, he'd needed to show the other man that he cared for him and that he accepted him regardless of what had happened to him. Subsequently, the pairing had bee more tender than their typical romps between the sheets or on the shorelines.

He'd rescued Baalthemar and then Baalthemar had rescued him. Lilliana apparently really did not like Nathandiel. She'd tried to kill him. He thought they'd been friendly with one another, maybe he bugged her some but he'd thought his feelings of comraderie for her had been reciprocal. He'd been teasing her about how constipated she'd seemed, offering every bit of advice on how to cure the matter when the Alliance had attacked. Castor had gone missing and he'd been sure that the smoking weirdo's spider had eaten him. He'd demanded the man open his spider and thrown a knife at it. Tahzani had gotten in the way. Liliana had then used her dark magic on him. She'd made him discard his clothes, toss his pants over the bluff at Warspear and then . . . go get them.

He'd fallen several stories into the rocky shoreline below. She'd released his mind mid-fall and he'd seen what was coming and screamed, screamed in pure fear. Then he'd hit the rocks and screamed for entirely new reasons. The impact had been solid, shards of rocks had cut his skin, and his leg had gotten caught between two teeth of stone, twisting his leg so that his kneecap came fully off of it's track and the track itself no longer lined up. The swollen, deformed mass of bone and flesh had been instantly black and blue from internal bleeding and he had screamed and screamed and screamed.

She'd tried to kill him, something that darkend his soul deeply now that he was home and safe. He could have chalked it up to a prank gone awry if she hadnt' then pulled him up to the bluff and thrown him back down again. Her mate had been kind and tried to help, had even offered to take him to the medics. Lilliana had perhaps been a little shamed into offering assistance, but when she'd come down to 'help' she'd just kicked him several times the ribs. His thorax was black and blue and it hurt to breathe. If he'd suffered injuries from the impact she had risked killing him by kicking him in the chest and causing further trauma to already-injured organs. She'd tried to kill him. There was no denying that.

He closed his eyes, thinking about how heavy an implication that was. Lilliana was an inquisitor, an officer, and she'd tried to kill a subordinate. Surely that had been an abuse of power. If not, then it spoke to how little he was valued by the people he associated with.

Baalthemar though, he'd rescued Nathandiel. He'd even shoved Lilliana away when she'd tried to help -- too little, too late of course -- and she'd shot back with her rank. Baalthemar hadn't cared. He'd gotten Nathnadiel home then gotten his discarded clothes and found Castor. By the time Baalthemar had joined him back at the garrison Nathandiel had given himself morphine and had been loopy from it, but he had been genuinely pleased to be cared for, flattered by it, and had further realized how little he still thought of Drinn, because right then he'd only been thinking of the young man who made him tea and promised to stay with him while he recovered, crippled or not. He wasn't sure if that meant he was done with her, or if it was okay just to put his feelings for her on hold while she did whatever it was she needed to do but wouldn't share with him. Regardless of matters having to do with her, she'd made room for Baalthemar to come into Nathandiel's life and he wasn't exactly sad about that.

He kissed Baalthemar's arm and settled in against him. The medication started to take effect and there was rush of warm euphoria that warned him that it was no time to think too deeply for his thoughts would not be reliable. That was fine. A chemical vacation from the pain in his leg and the pain in his chest and his heart was exactly what he would have ordered.

He traced aimless shapes on Baalthemar's chest as he drifted to sleep, and when he finally did cross beyond the veil, he didn't dream.

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****************** Warning adult themes ********************

Baalthemar watched Nathandiel fall asleep, he was hurt and needed to rest. The floor would do for now, Nathandiel needed time for the herbs to do their work.

Baalthemar thought about what had happened in Warspear. Lilliana had hurt Nathandiel.

She could have killed him. A familiar cold feeling started to creep up his spine.

*You should kill the giggling runt.* A voice called from the back of his mind as images flashed into his mind.

He felt his teeth tear into her soft blue flesh, he could feel her hot blood fill his mouth. He twisted and yanked on her throat ripping the flesh, as she wept her eyes full of fear and betrayal. He felt her flesh slide down his throat as he devoured her alive, while her mate watched on his face twisted in horror.

He shook his head and removed the morbid visions.

“No. Never.” He said to the voice. She is family, and I’ll never turn on my family. Even if they hurt each other. He thought. Baalthemar slowly ran his fingers through the sleeping elf’s hair, “And she hurt you badly” he whispered.

After a few hours Castor and Linna needed to be let outside. He stood and carefully left Nathandiel’s side. The two pups ran to the door, he barely opened the door before the two shot out into the snow. He watched over the two as they did their business, the cold night air helped him think.

I need to keep him safe. He planned out Nathandiels recovery in his head. Six weeks before he will be back to normal, maybe less if he lets me help. And I’ll need to protect him from anyone that might want to hurt him. Including myself.

The two little wolves finished and had headed inside to the warmth. He stood alone for a moment, enjoying the cold air.

Baalthemar turned and headed back inside. “Time to put you in a real bed Nath.” He said as he entered the warmth of Nathandiels garrison. He let him sleep while he made up the bed.

Drinn was nowhere to be seen, but he could see the letter she had left. Nathandiel will need more support than a cane, if that is what I think it is. He thought. He wouldn’t take her place. He had no right, but he wouldn’t leave Nathandiel to suffer alone.

Baalthemar picked up Nathandiel careful to support his damaged leg, the drugs and herbs had numbed much of his pain but he would need more when he woke up. “I’ll try to make this easier for you.” He said to the sleeping Nathandiel as he slid him into Drinn’s side of the bed.

Baalthemar prepared for Nathandiels needs in the morning. Food, more herbs and pain meds, fresh dressings and bindings for his leg. He made a list in his head. “And a cane.” he said rubbing his chin. Timber and some leather will work. He thought, and headed outside again.

Nathandiel slept quietly while Baalthemar worked, he had trimmed down a branch with his dagger, and bound his makeshift cane with a leather handle, it looked rough but it could hold his weight and was about the right size, he hoped.

He placed the cane in the cooking area, near the start of a breakfast Baalthemar had planned for the morning. He nodded. “A strong herbal tea and a good breakfast will help.” Baalthemar bit his lower lip slightly he had another idea to make Nathandiels morning better. But that would have to wait until he woke up. He grinned at the thought.

Baalthemar walked back to the bedroom, the two pups had crawled up next to him, smiling he undressed and put a shackle on his wrist, before placing the key beside Nathandiel. Slowly Baalthemar slid into bed beside him. He turned and shackled himself to the solid bed frame, he pushed all thoughts of the night’s events from his mind and slowly slipped into sleep.

Once again he was in the strange room with the woman in a black dress. She looked like she was waiting for him, she held a violin. “You need a distraction and a creative outlet while you wait for lover to find out what’s has happened to your body.” handing it to him she moved behind him.

“I haven’t played in years. I’m not sure these hands can anymore.” Baalthemar tested the violin drawing the bow over the stings slowly. “Perhaps, but you won’t know until you try” she kissed his neck softly. She walked back to the bed, and sat down as Baalthemar started to practice.

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He felt his teeth tear into her soft blue flesh, he could feel her hot blood fill his mouth. He twisted and yanked on her throat ripping the flesh, as she wept her eyes full of fear and betrayal. He felt her flesh slide down his throat as he devoured her alive, while her mate watched on his face twisted in horror.

((Crikey!))

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Breakfast had been good, hearty even. The herbal tea had been a bit bland, but he was grateful. He assumed it had medicinal properties and those teas usually tasted quite bad to Nathandiel. Baalthemar had brought him the meal in bed after Nathandiel had uncuffed him. He'd even tried to intricately fold the napkin, though it hadn't been quite on the mark, Nathandiel had appreciated the effort.

He sipped his second cup of tea, eyeing the cane that Baalthemar had made for him. When he'd had to urinate earlier in the morning he'd half-hopped, half-limped to the washroom, unaware that Baalthemar had brought him a helpful appliance. Now that it was there though, he couldn't help but fear it a little. What if he was stuck with it? What if he limped forever? What if the flexibility in his joints was lost? That last thought had prompted him to attempt to bend his knee. The swollen tissue strained and his eyes widened.

Nope. Not yet. No way.

He would try the item the next time he needed to pee, until then he intended to stay in bed, propped up on pillows with his leg elevated. Liliana's meager attempt to heal him had seemed to help a little bit, but it was curious that it hadn't help much. Perhaps she hadn't wanted it to, maybe it didn't work so well on people like him, how else did they avoid healing individuals they didn't want to? He wasn't sure.

He hadn't finished his tea, but Baalthemar had moved closer, sliding a hand up under Nathandiel's shirt while he kissed at Nathandiel's neck. The move was cheap and deliberate and he wondered if Baalthemar knew that he was a sucker for it (neck kisses, that is). When Baalthemar took Nathandiel's cup away and set it aside he let the other man guide him to lay back.

"What's dessert after breakfast called?" Baalthemar asked as he slid down further. Nathandiel shook his head and shrugged. He hadn't a clue, nor did he care, not with those pink lips so full and sweet to behold.

Awesome. That's what it's called. He thought as he let his fall back when Baalthemar took him into his mouth. He laid back and enjoyed most of it, pleased to be sated and pleasured and in no rush, but eventually his troubles rose, his eyes caught sight of the side table and he was reminded of the letter hidden inside the book in the drawer. He fisted a hand into Baalthemar's hair, holding him in place as he took over. It wasn't kind and he uttered several addresses of abuse before it was over, but once it was, he felt immensely better, so much that he insisted Baalthemar hug him and lay with him for a while, just so that he could enjoy feeling better.

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************************! Warning Adult themes! *****************

Baalthemar grinned wide as he walked into Nathandiel’s garrison, he had returned from the battle grounds covered in blood. It looked as if he had crawled through a slaughter house, and rolled in every puddle he could find. He thought on the night’s events as he made his way to the main building.

He was full Grim, he was a Reaper. ‘Reaper Dawnsorrow.’ The high inquisitor had called him. Never had he felt such pride.

He swore to wash his new colours in Alliance blood, and he had done just that. He ignored the objectives the battle leader had called. And instead he killed in the open field in the center of the battle. A few others followed him, a battle healer and other combatants. He had paid them no mind. Save for the battle healer, he kept an eye on her. Lest she fall and his killing be forced to stop.

He lost track of time, and lost count of the kills. He remembered the rush of sprinting into gunfire, and sinking his daggers into a cocky hunter that fought him alone. And the feeling as he lifted a gnome above his head and eviscerated it. Showering him in its hot blood.

He laughed as he stepped into the warmth of Nathandiel’s home. Castor and Linna came bounding to him, overwhelmed by the smell of gore. He lifted his hand allowed the blood to drip off his fingers onto the two pups little faces, the two blinked at looked up at him, licking at their chops. “Yes, I have no idea who that belongs to, but it tastes good with its fresh doesn’t it?” he spoke to the two wolf cubs.

His hair was slick with blood, it stuck to his face. Baalthemar ran his fingers through his hair in time to see Nathandiel as he emerged from the bedroom, cane in hand. “You’re a complete mess” Nathandiel said, as he looked over Baalthemar.

Baalthemar held his hand in his hair and give him a sultry look, then finished flicking his hair back. “Yeah, I’ve been busy.” He said and started to walk slowly toward Nathandiel, removing his equipment dropping it on the floor as he walked.

He stopped a few inches away from Nathandiel, blood running down his half naked body. “I want you. Here. Now.” Baalthemar said before he wrapped his hand behind Nathandiel’s head and pulled him into a kiss, Baalthemar forced his tongue into Nathandiel’s mouth.

Nathandiel seemed hesitant at first but then he kissed back eagerly, a hand going to Baalthemar's waist to pull him closer. He broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to Baalthemar's, the left corner of his mouth lifting in a smirk. The pups waited at their feet, interested in the elves but also the coating of delightful smells on the blond one. "Now? You got it. You'll have to help me into bed though...maybe get these clothes off of me?"

Baalthemar needed no more convincing, he immediately started to undress Nathandiel, he softly kissed him as he removed each item of clothing.

Baalthemar picked Nathandiel up and placed him gently into bed, and made sure that Nathandiel was comfortable before freeing him from his pants. He gave him a firm squeeze, and looked up as Nathandiel started to swell. “I’m going to ride you. If I hurt your leg, let me know. Otherwise let me do all the work” He said with a grin.

With that Baalthemar set to work and ensured that their coupling was easy. Nathandiel does made some lovely sounds, just like breakfast, only this time I’m in control. He thought.

Lewd sounds echoed off the walls, as the two elves preformed their duet. Before the music could reach its crescendo Baalthemar stopped. Leaving his singer gasping and out of breath. “Heh, that was close.” He teased as he slowly moved over Nathandiel’s lap.

Nathandiel looked up at Baalthemar, mouth open and eyes wide and unbelieving. "You. Have GOT. To be kidding me...." He said, punctuating with his breath.

Baalthemar looked down at him and offered a playful grin, he ran his finger over Nathandiel’s cheek, and a thin line of blood marked his skin. The soft pale white of Nathandiel’s contrasted with the sharp red of the blood. Baalthemar tilted his head looking at what he had done. An idea struck him. Slowly he impaled himself on Nathandiel.

Baalthemar’s singer found his voice again, as Nathandiel let out a soft moan. Baalthemar smiled, he was glad Nathandiel was enjoying himself. But he had a wonderful canvas to work with.

Softly Baalthemar rocked forward and started to paint Nathandiel with the wet blood on his hands, slowly at first, he rocked forward and drew meaningless runes on his face and chest, before he pushed himself down and traced the lines of Nathandiel’s abdominal muscles.

Baalthemar painted Nathandiel with blood allowing the music to rise once again. Nathandiel was covered in ‘paint’ but Baalthemar had made a space for something special, just over Nathandiel’s heart. He grabbed Nathandiel’s hand and pushed it into his wet hair. He made sure that both his and Nathandiel’s hands were covered in blood.

The crescendo approached.

Time for the final part of this little project. He thought, he pressed Nathandiels hand against his chest, and pushed his own down on the spot he had made. As the two elves shook with rapture, his work was finished. Baalthemar opened his eye and took it in.

Nathandiel was exhausted, covered in runes, and had Baalthemar’s bloody handprint over his heart. “Perfect” he sighed before collapsing on Nathandiel’s chest.

Nathandiel wrapped his arms around Baalthemar and planted a kiss softly on his forehead. “Perfect.” he agreed as he started to play with Baalthemar’s hair. The two embraced each other until long after the ’paint’ had dried to their bodies.

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Nathandiel woke when the pain crept back in. It poked at him, boring fingers into his wounds until he finally pulled himself up from the dark embrace of sleep. He groaned softly as he opened his eyes. Baalthemar had an arm across Nathandiel's chest, one reddened cheek resting on Nathandiel's shoulder. He smiled and blinked away grogginess, squinting and then batting his lashes.

We're a mess. He thought as he carefully disentangled himself from the other man. He didn't want to wake Baalthemar. He'd evidently had an arduous time in the field getting his metaphorical manhood wet. He smiled down at the filthy boy, thinking of how much of a regression this was from the grooming habits Baalthemar had adopted after they'd met and Nathandiel had badgered him enough to start combing out his luxurious blond locks. Now they were clumped and brown with scaly tissue, a strand crunched like a dried reed between his fingers.

Nathandiel sat up and shook two pills from the glass bottle at the side of the bed. He downed the tablets with the remainder of the glass of water he kept there and then simply sat for a moment, his hair in his eyes and one elbow on his good knee. His and Baalthemar's clothes were strewn about the room and he titled his head. They hadn't done that, they'd peeled them off and dropped them where they'd come together. He twisted and looked at the two dogs on the bed. "Monsters...." he murmured with a smile. Both of them had rust-coloured stains around their snouts.

He hoisted himself to his feet, shifting his weight to the cane Baalthemar had made for him. He hated the thing, but still it was helpful and it was also sweet that Baalthemar had made it for him. He gripped it tightly and hobbled to the chest where he kept his clothes. It was chilly in the garrison, they'd let the fire die, and he felt the fine hairs on his bare buttocks stand up as his nipples perked and his penis retreated.

He fumbled through getting into a pair of pants and selected a fresh shirt and bathrobe. He made his way to the hearth and set the items aside while he squatted down on one leg, keeping the bound one straight and his body balancing in a awkward sort of drop stance that took him back to his more youthful days as an aspiring gymnast. From this precarious position he reset the fire, lingering to guard the new flame until he was satisfied that it had caught. The place would be warm by the time he'd had a bath.

Better be or I'll be a girl by the time I get back into bed.

Getting up was harder than getting down, but he managed and made his way to the bathroom with minimal groans and grunts. Once he was inside he shut the door and started the bath. He went to the wash basin and his brows rose when he took in the sight of himself. He was covered in little shapes and cross-hatchings. He looked like a two-year-old with it's mother's lipstick had mistaken him for a new wall. It made him smile though as he touched his cheeks, the dried blood flaking away from the surface and leaving little dark dots where the blood had clogged his pores.

"You crazy, crazy kid." He mumbled, thinking of Baalthemar. He ran the tap and wet a cloth to give himself a preliminary wipe-down. He stank like old metal, sweat, and sex -- none of which constituted a bad stink, but it wasn't one he associated with the comfort of freshness.

As he wiped at his cheeks it occured to him that so much sex with partners that liked to bleed on him, or otherwise bring blood into the mix, was apt to get him ill eventually.

It was still worth it. That boy is a delight. That was true. Drinn was a delight too, and she was all about making him bleed when they were together. He wasn't sure if it was something new that he was into, or if it was just what his latest partners were into. Either way it was--

-- He stopped when started to wipe his chest. All of the scribbles were seemingly pointless, more tracks of a finger caressing his own curvatures than anything deliberate, but over his heart was a palm print, placed there as if the spot had been privileged for that purpose.

He smiled and reached up to trace the print lightly. He remembered Baalthemar on top of him, bucking in his lap with the fervor of a wild filly, stopping only to tease him and remind him who had been in charge of that particular romp. But then before they'd crossed over together he'd felt Baalthemar's hand on his chest and here was the print. His eyes had already been rolling into the back of his head at that point and he'd missed it.

Ferociously erotic though. It's even sweet.

He didn't wipe the print away as he cleaned himself. It was sweet, even if it had been unintentional. As he got into his bath and sunk into the water he wondered if he'd managed to leave any similar prints on Baalthemar, and if he had, if he'd done so on his own or with Baalthemar's guidance. Either way, he hoped that he'd made a mark, both literally and figuratively on that sweet, sweet boy.

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************************! Warning Adult themes! *****************

Baalthemar opened his eye slowly, his vision was blurry. He had slept through the night, no strange room, no violin, but sleep. Real dreamless and wonderfully normal sleep.

He reached out for Nathandiel. He was alone in bed, although Nathandiel’s side still held his warmth. Baalthemar moved to enjoy it but a sudden tug on his wrist reminded him of his confinement.

He groaned and rolled to look at the shackles, his matted and bloodstained hair made an audible crunching sound as he moved. The fabric from his pillow stick to him when he moved. He gave up and laid on his back.

He stretched and ran his free hand over his body, his fingers felt the rough texture of Nathandiel’s hand-print, placed over his heart. Baalthemar smiled.

Maybe that was too much, marking him. Drinn made clear that he was hers, but then… she’s not here. Not here to threaten him. Not here to hurt him. No she can manage that by leaving. He thought his smile changed into a frown.

We will see what happens. I’m not going to be a replacement, something different perhaps. Baalthemar thought to himself as the smile returned to his face.

He closed his eye and relaxed until Nathandiel was finished with whatever he was doing.

Nathandiel emerged from the washroom, naked save for an open bathrobe. He held fresh clothes under the arm that used the cane and a towel to his hair with the other. When he saw Baalthemar he grinned. "Awe." he said. "You're still trapped."

Nathandiel hobbled over and sat down on Baalthemar's side of the bed. He reached for the binding but stopped, opting to touch Baalthemar's brow instead. Then he tapped him absently on the nose, light as a landing insect. He leaned down and kissed Baalthemar. "I would say 'good morning sunshine,'" He said, "But it's not morning yet." He pulled the binding free and sat up. He looked down over Baalthemar's body and then touched the print over his heart. He smiled quietly as he touched it, his eyes a million miles away. "You need a bath...." he murmured finally.

Baalthemar woke from his light slumber as Nathandiel entered the room, he watched him walk over to him. Baalthemar looked over him as he came closer, and noted that the hand-print Baalthemar had given Nathandiel had been scrubbed off.

After being freed from his binding Baalthemar stretched and watched as Nathandiel swooned over him. “Yeah, I got a little carried away last night.” He paused for a moment before he added. “I hope you don’t think I was being too forward, marking you like that.” a slight hint of concern on his voice. “I’m not sure how… Uh” he stumbled over his words. “I don’t know how this works.” He finally said as he gave Nathandiel a sly grin.

Nathandiel favoured Baalthemar with a genuine smile and the kissed the print over his heart. "This is all that you do--just be you. I'll be me. And that will let us be a 'we.'" He said, then frowned. "I really didn't meant for the rhyme." He chuckled and got up again, hobbling away before coming back with a basin of water and a cloth. He winced as he sat back down and began to wipe at Baalthemar's face. "You weren't forward at all. I like having you around. I have affectionate feeling for you." He said, wiping at Baalthemar's cheeks. "I also greatly enjoy having sex with you." he smirked.

Baalthemar smiled and looked visibly relieved as Nathandiel explained how things worked and grinned at his unintended rhyme. He watched as Nathandiel limped away. He is still in pain, after I was up I’ll make him a strong tea. He thought as Nathandiel came back and sat next to him. The wince on his face as he sat cemented the plan. Much stronger. He noted.

The warmth of the water felt good on his face. Tender, intelligent, and wonderfully violent. Damn it Nathandiel, you are in my veins. Worse you are in the marrow of my bones. He grinned. “Before you get dressed.” He gave Nathandiel a smoldering look. “You could ‘help’ me with the bath. That is… if you’re not too sore.”

Nathandiel chuckled and set the cloth aside. "You require assistance?" His smile was large and bright. "Fine. But only if you help me wash these mutts later." He nodded to the two dogs who watched, tails wagging. "They got their noses in our clothes." Baalthemar looked over at the two wolf cubs and grinned at their little faces stained brown with dry blood. “After I make us breakfast, and you some tea. Sure.” He said.

Carefully Baalthemar peeled his dry and matted hair away from the pillow, gritting his teeth slightly as it pulled at him, he sat up as Nathandiel stood slowly. Baalthemar’s hair was wild and unkempt, it stuck out at odd angles and had twisted into balls in a few places. "You look like a morbid clown." Nathandiel said with a smile. "Good thing your ass is cute." As the two walked to the bathroom, Baalthemar couldn’t help but place his hand on Nathandiel’s rump. He grinned and gave the firm buttock a hard squeeze and closed the bathroom door behind him.

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Nathandiel had tried to sneak out from under Baalthemar’s vice-like hold after Baalthemar had fallen asleep, but the young man had clung to him with a desperation Nathandiel had only felt from a child—his child, specifically. Baalthemar was a grown man but sometimes his naiveté reminded him of his son Alexander, especially when Baalthemar was vulnerable or behaving recklessly.

Youth. He thought. It leaves you swinging on a pendulum between invincibility and a complete desire to surrender to an adult.

Invincibility had been challenged when Baalthemar had figured out Nathandiel’s secret and that had sent the poor lad into a full childish surrender. “You’re dying!” he’d cried and then hugged Nathandiel so hard he’d thought he might break a rib.

No. Not anytime soon I’m not.” He had assured Baalthemar. “We have plenty of time.”

But it wasn’t enough time, not to Baalthemar. He’d been upset and had sworn to save Nathandiel. He’d kissed him and promised him and laid him down. They’d come together and the love-making had been urgent and immensely satisfying. It had been the kind of love-making that had been full of gentle caresses, meaningful kisses garnished with the slight taste of tears. He hadn’t minded, he’d wanted to comfort Baalthemar, to hold him and take away the pain he had seen in his pretty, clear eyes.

You can’t ever really make anyone feel better about death though.

No, not really. Death was impossible to soothe because it was just loss dressed up in all its finest evening wear—finality. Loss was, by default, only possible to soothe through restoration of the thing taken away. When it wasn’t given back, loss remained like a scar, but a scar that still hurt.

Fear of death amongst those that would remain behind was fear of that loss, of the scar on their shoulder that they could maybe work up to forgetting about, but that would always be with them, everyday, looking over them like a shadow and waiting to be caught sight of in a mirror or the reflective surface a window. That scar waited to be noticed so that it could open up and bleed all over the victim it had claimed and remind them that nothing would make it go away. Ever.

He'd had to explain death to his son. In Alexander's case it hadn’t been something that was going to happen someday far, far into the future. Alexander had been sick and dying at the time and there had been no way to avoid talking about it. Clara hadn’t wanted him to talk to their son about death, she had still wanted him spared from what she had thought was the worst of his illness.

“He’s been through the drugs, the doctors, the surgeries and the transfusions, all of which didn’t work, all of which were maybes. This, Clara, isn’t a maybe. He’s going to die. It has to be done.” He’d blurted at her in their bedroom during another of their many fights over the fate of their son.

She’d tried to slap him but he’d caught her wrist. “Enough!” He’d thrown her aside--their fights had become more and more physical as Alexander approached his finish line. He usually let her hit him, he knew it made her feel better and he wanted that for her, and if kissing his cheek with her palm instead of her lips brought her some relief he had been willing to bare the humiliation for her. Just not that day.

He’d lifted his boy out of his bed in the nursery and taken him to the rocking chair where he’d read him bedtime stories and given him his bottles when he’d still been small and pink and new, an infant wrapped in pale blue with eyes like shards of ice and a mop of jet-black hair as deep as space above. He’d loved his son and he’d come to cherish every occasion they’d had to sit together in that chair together.

He’d held his son against his chest, aware that his baby boy, who had grown from a tiny six pounds and three ounces to a lad that’s nose ended up in his Dad’s belly button when he hugged him would never get any bigger.

This is it is. He'd thought. This is all we get. He'd never know his son as a man, only as a child.

He’d spoken to his son about death in the terms of the religion that they’d both been born into. There was God and there were angels, there was a heaven and a peacefulness that came when they shed their mortal coils. Death was as natural as being born and there was nothing to fear. He hand’t lied to his son; dying hurt but being dead didn’t. The pain would stop when he died. Alexander had understood, but then he’d been struck by a realization that had been awful for him, a realization that most all children were blindsided by and forced to acknowledge. It was part of growing up; at least Alexander had gotten to grow up just that little bit more.

“But that means you and Mommy will die too.” Alexander had said, looking up at his father with those beautiful blue eye and his cheeks red from illness and tears.

Nathandiel had continued to rock the chair and he looked down at his boy and nodded. “Yes. We will. But not anytime soon.” He hadn’t known then that Clara would take her life after Alexander died.

Alexander’s eyes had welled up and he cried out, “No! That’s not fair!” He’d buried his face in his father’s chest and Nathandiel had stroked his son’s soft hair. For Alexander it hadn’t seemed to matter if he died first, only that Mommy and Daddy would die one day.

“I know, sweet boy, I know. It doesn’t seem fair, but death is the fairest thing that ever was. He doesn’t care if you’re good or bad, if you’re strong or if you’re weak. It takes you when it wishes to, and that is in no way a punishment, in no way a judgement. Death is impartial. The farmer that reaps his wheat doesn’t care what the wheat did while it was being sown, only that he collects it when it's time—whenever he deems that to be.” He’d explained.

His boy had cried and cried. Some of it had surely been that he'd come to understand that he was going to die too, and soon. When Alexander had died, his questions leading up to the end had still been about Mommy and Daddy and their dead pet cat Bibbles. Would he see Bibbles in heaven? Yes, Nathnadiel had said he would. Would Bibbles play with him until Mommy and Daddy got there? Yes, Nathnadiel thought Bibbles would. How long would it take for Mommy and Daddy to die so they could be together? Nathandiel had said he didn’t know, but that it wouldn’t be anytime soon. Alexander had been sad about that.

“I tell you what though.” He’d said to his boy, kneeling at his child’s bedside, his chin on the comforter and his hands on his baby. “You remember how I told you that there’s no pain in heaven? Well missing people you love is a kind of pain, so you won’t miss Mommy and Daddy while you’re waiting. You and Bibbles will be so busy making friends with the angels and the other people that have passed away, like Grandma and auntie Ann, that you’ll be surprised when we show up, just like when you’re having a great time at school and suddenly its time to go home, and there you were thinking the day would be oh so long.”

That had made his boy smile, which had made him want to cry. He'd wished that the words would have comforted him too. He’d have to wait to see his son again, he’d have to wait a long, long time and while he didn’t dare tell his child how much that scared him, it did.

Alexander had died on a Tuesday morning, shortly after sun-up. His last words had been nonsense, nonsense that Nathnadiel still tried to make sense of. When he’d seen the life leave his son’s eyes the mask of strength he’d worn for years had cracked and then broken and it had all come through. He hadn’t been able to comfort his wife, even if she had wanted to let him; he’d just screamed, wailing his grief and his anger and his. . . loss. Dressed up in dapper black as it was, it was still loss--and it cut him deeply.

He shifted beneath Baalthemar, the young man was nearly on top of him he clung so tightly. Nathnadiel wasn’t going to have to explain death to him, but Baalthemar had still been upset by it. He would be gentle and as understanding as he could with the young man, but he would encourage him to focus on the time that they did have.

That day had been good. Baalthemar had invited him to go for a walk in the Grizzly Hills. He was planning on building a home there and they’d passed the time spotting dear, avoiding bears, and speculating about what sorts of sexy, exotic furnitute Baalthemar could decorate his new home with. They’d eaten a meal of fruits, pie, wine and a delicious roasted meat that Baalthemar had made.

When Nathandiel had gotten pomegranate juice all over his chin Baalthemar had playfully licked away. They’d been sitting atop a short bluff above a river, laughing and stuffing their bellies when an imp with knives had attacked. They’d responded with their knives and ended up chasing the bastard gnome—all the way over the edge of the bluff and down into the cold water below.

Nathandiel had hurt himself again and Baalthemar had flown him to safety—inside a break in the great God Tree, Grizzlemaw. There, Baalthemar had reset Nathandiel’s bandages and treated his pain. They’d cuddled up together to warm up and dry out and their dogs had looked out happily over the forest down below.

It had been a good day, and they still had lots of good days left to enjoy. One day Baalthemar would feel pain like Nathandiel had, but, like Nathnadiel, he would have good days again once it was over.

He kissed the top of Baalthemar’s head and closed his eyes, following his friend into sleep, the one place the living could still visit their dear departed. At least until they were together again. He wondered as he drifted down, if Baalthemar would visit him in his dreams when Nathandiel was gone.

He hoped so.

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