The first thing Serath noticed when he woke up was that he had a headache. Must be from the knock I took, he thought fuzzily. He risked opening his eyes, and found unfamiliar surroundings. He was in a sparsely furnished bedroom; the only things of interest were the simple single bed and the nightstand beside it. Moving his head slightly he could see that he was fully unclothed, with bandages on his legs and right arm. He slowly lifted his left arm and touched his hand to his head, feeling around for the lump he knew was there. There it is. He winced as a jolt of pain shot through his head upon contact. It was a good-sized bump. Above his left eye was a small pad of gauze.
As he became more alert his sense of smell picked up a subtle scent emanating from nearby. After a few seconds of sniffing he deduced that the pillow his head was lying on contained a few aromatic herbs or something similar.
Footsteps sounded in the hallway outside the room, and a moment later a big lupine head poked itself around the doorframe. "Ah, you're awake at last," he said in a deep but gentle voice. He padded in and stood at the foot of the bed, looking at Serath with interest. "I hope you don't mind your nudity -- your clothes were very dirty, so I put them in the wash. They should be dry any time now."
Serath looked back at him, taking in his impressive size. Seven feet at least, with warm looking brown/grey fur all over, and soft brown eyes. He was also almost nude. His sole concession to clothing was a loose loincloth. "Hello," he said lamely. "Um...I guess you pulled me out of the ditch?"
The other wolf nodded. "That I did." He came closer and sat down on the edge of the bed. "I was following behind, and I saw what happened. You're a little bruised, and you've got a few scrapes and cuts, but I think you'll be fine." He lifted up the bandage above Serath's left eye and nodded. "Looking good. How are you feeling?"
"I have a headache," Serath mumbled, "but otherwise I'm not feeling much pain. Probably being overridden by my head," he added with a weak laugh. He glanced down at himself for a few seconds. "I'm Serath."
"Marcus," the other said, smiling. "I wish we could have met in better circumstances, but fate often conspires to do things differently." He looked over at a clock on the nightstand. "You've been out of it for about three hours. That's not bad."
"That's not good either," Serath countered. Right then he wondered when Lukim would start worrying about him. "I hate to be more of a bother, but I have a flatmate who might be worried about me not coming home. I didn't tell him exactly when I'd be home, but...."
Marcus nodded. "I can call him for you, if you like. I'll drive you home once I've done a little work on you."
Serath blinked in confusion. "A little work on me? What do you mean?" Images of having something amputated went through his mind, and he just as quickly suppressed them. That's it. No more watching thrillers at night.
"I'm able to perform a certain amount of healing on a person," Marcus explained with a smile. "It's...hard to explain. Let's just say that I have an 'ability' that I can use to speed up your healing. I'm not sure if you'd believe me if I told you otherwise."
"Ah. Okay, then." Serath relaxed a bit. "Will it take long?"
The larger wolf shook his head. "Only an hour or so, maybe a little longer, depending on how bad it is." He got up off the bed and moved to the doorway. "What's your number?" Serath told him, and he left the room. Moments later he could hear the sounds of muffled conversation, telling him that the phone must be in the hallway.
Marcus was soon back. "He'll have dinner ready for you, if you feel like it. He'll eat the extra if you don't eat." He grinned. "Your flatmate has an interesting sense of humour."
"Yeah. He's a riot sometimes, though some of his humour totally escapes me." He yawned widely, trying to resist the urge to stretch out all his limbs. "So," he began, "when do we start the healing process?"
"Right now. All you have to do is just relax." Marcus smiled and shuffled down the bed to get better hold of his legs. "You'll feel some warmth around the area being healed, but it won't hurt. In fact, you'll probably like it." With that Marcus put his large hands on Serath's right leg and closed his eyes, slowing his breathing. Soon a gentle warmth began to flow through Serath's leg, running from shin to thigh.
Serath lay still, letting Marcus perform his task. While he waited he examined the other wolf a little more. He was big, but he was built heavily, rather than being fat. Serath suspected that he kept himself fit and in shape. Behind him his tail wagged slowly back and forth in a set rhythm, like a furry metronome. His feet were out of sight. For some reason that he couldn't quite put a finger on he seemed attracted to Marcus. He pondered this for a while, then gave up to think about it later.
After about fifteen minutes Marcus relaxed his hold on Serath's leg, and moved around to the other side of the bed to treat his left leg. Hmm, my leg really does feel much better now, Serath mused, pleased. I wonder if he can treat my headache as well.
Over the next hour or so Marcus treated Serath's left leg, then his right arm, and finally his head, starting with the large cut above the left eyebrow. Serath felt almost dizzy from the healing on that. At the same time he could also sense the headache starting to ease. It's the not the brain that hurts, Serath reminded himself, but the skull itself.
Finally it was over. Marcus opened his eyes and blinked slowly a few times as he seemed to come back to reality. "There. All done. Your body will do the rest in its own time; I just gave it a boost." He smiled then, showing off his impressive array of dentition. "Feeling better now? Less of a headache?"
Serath nodded. "Yes, I am. Thank you, Marcus." He smiled back, then added, "How long have you been doing this for? The healing, I mean."
"Oh...many years. I could probably do it when I was a cub. It's only been recently that I've learned how to do it properly on others. On myself I was fine, because I knew my body well, but a stranger's body is a little more complex. It differs in minute ways, and I have to make adjustments for those."
"I guess that makes sense," said Serath, not entirely sure if it did. Externally bodies were different, but surely they were roughly the same inside?
"I'll just check your clothes, and if they're dry I'll take you home." Marcus patted Serath's leg and left the room quietly.
Serath sat up, slowly testing his limbs for any pain. There was only a slight twinge from his right leg, but otherwise he felt pretty good. He sat on the edge of the bed, and thought a bit about Marcus. He couldn't figure out why he was so attracted to him. Males had never interested him sexually before. What he had done with Lukim was more exploratory than out of any real interest. Yet he was oddly fond of this large, kind wolf. It's not just that he 'rescued' me and fixed me up. There's something more to it...but what?
He was still trying to figure it out when Marcus returned, his arms holding the clothes Serath was wearing earlier. "All dry now." He put the clothes on the bed and sat down on the end. "As soon as you're dressed I'll take you home."
"Thank you." Serath slowly dressed, all the while wondering if he should ask the question that was running through his mind. "Marcus? I hope you don't think me too obtuse, but...I'm attracted to you, and I don't know why. I barely know you, and yet...." He shrugged helplessly.
"Ah. I guess I should have explained a little more. To heal others requires a strong bond of empathy. It's like...a minor form of mind control. I can use their emotions, their relaxation, their feelings, to help me heal them. Sometimes it has the effect of causing them to be attracted to me. I haven't quite worked out why." Marcus stopped, looking at Serath with his soft eyes. "The attraction should pass in a couple of days, though sometimes...it doesn't, in which case it will need to be dealt with. Have I explained that well enough?"
"I think so." A small smile creased Serath's lips. "Thank you." He stood up and stretched slowly, yawning widely. "Damn, I'm tired," he murmured.
Marcus nodded. "That's normal for most people. With a quick treatment, the recipient feels no drowsiness, but for a longer session it's almost certain. Come, Serath. Let me take you home." He lightly put a hand on Serath's back and guided him out of the room.
The drive home was short, but it seemed to the tired wolf to last forever. He caught Marcus glancing at him now and then; each time the bigger wolf smiled and turned his gaze toward the road again. He had put some more substantial coverings on; now he wore a plain grey shirt, tucked into long brown shorts.
Lukim hurried out to meet them as the car pulled up by the kerb. "How is he?" he asked Marcus as he opened the passenger door and helped Serath out of the car.
"You must be Lukim," Marcus said with a smile. "He's fine; he just has a few minor injuries. A day or so of rest, and he should be ready for almost anything." He turned Serath's custody over to Lukim, who supported him with a ready arm.
"Thank you. Would you like to come in? Have a drink?" Lukim levered open the gate and began to guide Serath up the path to the front door, glancing over his shoulder to see if the stranger was following.
"Uh, no," Marcus replied, "but thank you for the offer. I have things to do at home." He padded around his car and opened his door. "If you wish to call me, my number's 0997," he called before he got into the driver's seat.
Serath turned his head to watch Marcus drive away, then leaned against Lukim as they went through the front door. "He's...rather good-looking, isn't he?" he murmured in a low voice. He smiled at Lukim. "I know it's strange coming from me, but...."
"Well...it is a bit odd hearing you talk about another guy like that. He is cute, I'll admit. Go lie down on the couch, and I'll bring you some soup -- homemade vegetable soup from a can." He shrugged with a chuckle. "Go figure."
"Thanks, Lukim." Serath padded slowly into the lounge and sat down on the couch, lying back against the soft cushions. His eyelids felt so heavy.... He shut them, just for a moment.
Lukim went into the lounge a few minutes later, a large bowl of soup in his hands. "Oops," he murmured to himself. He smiled down at Serath; his expression was one of contentment. "I wonder if he's dreaming about anything," Lukim said to himself as he returned to the kitchen to put the soup in the fridge for later reheating. He went to a cupboard in the hallway and pulled a blanket from it. Going back into the lounge he laid it on the sleeping wolf, then went to his room and quietly closed the door.