I’m so tired of being told to fit someone else’s mold.
Beden. It was a stupid name that didn’t fit him, which is why no one used it. Though really, it wouldn’t have bothered him if they would. Better than what they called him now. But soon enough that would change. And most days, he was too high to even care. Numbing the pain was the only way to survive.
He hated losing control like this. Slumped over in a hovel in who knows where, caught between the relief of having a hit and the fear of losing himself just a little more. If he had more money and more guts, he’d buy a bigger hit. So big that it would end him. But he was a coward and a lousy thief, forcing his family to cut him off.
Chewing nervously on his thumb, he let the thoughts swirl. It shouldn’t have been this way. His family’s intolerance of him is what pushed him to use drugs. So, shouldn’t they pay for his escape? Why couldn’t they just accept him? Why did he have to change? Why?
“Curse?” someone called the name that most people knew him by.
There was a sense of urgency, but the voice was too far away, and the anger in his mind was too damned strong. He hated himself as much as his family hated him! He was wrong. He was useless. He was a burden.
Darkness took over, leaving him alone with the knowledge that he had no worth. But, there was peace in this moment so long as he could accept that truth. And in the dark, it didn’t even really matter. Being worthless while alone numbed the painful reality.
The pain that accompanied a bad drug hit struck. The darkness was overwhelming, yet the pain was acute. Heat raged through him. Fear followed because he knew that this might be it. This might be the last hit he ever took. He hoped there was nothing but darkness on the other side.
“Hey there, it’s time to get up. Time to open those eyes.”
The voice was soft and masculine. Insistent, yet also gentle and coaxing. The eyes held flecks of gold nearly hidden within the field of green. There were no accurate words to describe such beauty. The softness of his eyes challenged that of the brown in his hair.
“Who?” he tried to speak.
“No time for that, sadly,” the young man with the sparkling eyes was helping him to sit up. “Another wave coming through shortly.”
“When… when did I get to Velen?” Beden looked about in confusion. All about were dead bodies in armour surrounded by fallen banners. If not for the smell, he would have thought he was in a drug hallucination.
“Think that bump on the head got ya,” the stunning warrior grinned with sympathy.
And, the man was a warrior. One with breathtaking green eyes and a cavalier appearance despite the armour he wore. The dents spoke of hits taken. The blood told of victories that came at a high cost.
A shining metal hand was held out to him, offering help that he wasn’t accustomed to. Still, he took the hand because if his passed through, he’d know that he was hallucinating. The cold metal was real. It felt very real!
“I’m Mitch,” the cavalier warrior slipped an arm around his waist. “Who are you?”
“It sure is,” Mitch nodded, his eyes drifting across the field. “But this war’s been in the making long before either of us were born.”
He couldn’t help but look around in confusion. He lived in Saskatoon. A small city, but a city all the same. And a modern one. He knew the local countryside well enough from having woken up in it numerous times. Drugs did bad things to people. Where exactly had he landed this time? Beyond the battlefield, there were rolling green hills, pastures, rock walls, and…
He squinted to try and see clearly for the house was quite some distance away. It couldn’t be! “Is that a sod hut?”
“Stone and thatch roof, of course,” Mitch chuckled. “Come on, we need to get away from here. More are coming, and we are only two.”
A horse stood in wait for them. He too was decked in armour to keep him safe in battle. The sandy brown coat was a near match for the brown hair of his rider. The lean muscle tone was a nod to the dedication Mitch clearly had to being in shape. Of course, there was something medieval about this place. Maybe it was like the video games he loved where everyone lived a life of hard labour.
“I still have no idea who you are,” the kind young man reminded him.
“Oh uh, Beden,” for some reason he gave his real name.
And for some reason, he allowed himself to be held by the brown-haired, green-eyed god from a fairy-tale that rode a horse and wore armour. That was a touch dramatic, but he’d been accused many times of being just that. But really, looking at Mitch, there would be few that would be able to argue with his view.
“I’ve never heard the name Beden before. It’s really nice!” Mitch’s smile was beautiful! They settled onto the horse with Beden in Mitch’s arms. Just like the romantic stories he was secretly obsessed with.
He was dead. That was the only explanation for it. He’d overdosed and was dead. This was heaven. A weird and oddly graphically gory heaven.
“It’s supposed to mean blessing.” The confessions were a little too easy with the young man he’d only just met. “Where am I?”
“My home,” his voice echoed his kind touch. It was a simple response that was easily accepted. Give it a name and it didn’t matter. He wasn’t at his home. Maybe, he was finally free.
It didn’t even matter if this was real, a drug hallucination, or heaven. He simply had to accept the moment as it was. Being in the arms of the most gorgeous man he’d ever seen, made accepting it easy. Beden was more afraid that the moment wouldn’t last. If this wasn’t heaven, he could lose everything!
“It is strange clothing that you are wearing,” Mitch pointed out.
“I know,” he responded with sadness. His family had always disapproved of him, and definitely hadn’t ever understood his style. But he liked his bracelets and punk-inspired clothing. Plus, no matter what people said, leggings weren’t just for girls!
“So, how about family?”
Was Mitch trying to get him to talk? Was this what normal conversation was meant to be? Beden was used to insults and lectures, not civil conversation. Though, he’d heard it was a thing others enjoyed.
Shouting came behind them to warn of people interfering with their moment. Mitch looked over his shoulder. A strange curse slipped past the pouting lips that seemed to keep their smile despite the situation.
“Hang on,” Mitch pulled his smaller body close to his chest. There was a click from the side of Mitch’s mouth and his horse broke into a run. He wasn’t even leading his horse by the reigns. Was it perhaps those strong thighs that guided the animal? Or was the horse trained to know where to go? Expertly, the beast dodged fallen bodies and discarded weapons.
Beden clung to Mitch as though his very life depended on it. He realized that it was strange that this was his reaction. Of course, his life did seem to actually be in danger. The men coming behind them were in armour and they seemed to be calling out for blood. Their blood!
But, the strangeness was that Beden cared. Just a short time ago, he’d invited death to come. And in the span of only moments, suddenly he wanted to flee from it. This wasn’t logical. Then again, he was a man wearing faded rainbow leggings and a skull t-shirt. He’d never been normal. No point in starting that nonsense now.
They left the battlefield and entered the woods. This was not like the woods Beden had seen in his province growing up. Those trees were thinner, possibly younger and a different species. Breed? Plant-type-scientific-thing? What was the right word? He really hadn’t paid any attention in school. Almost a shame now.
The woods hid them even though he didn’t know a thing about them. But, even if he didn’t, Mitch seemed at ease. He probably did most things in life with ease. Someone this handsome, life had to have been good to him. Where he was from, Mitch was a movie star. No, Beden peered through the woods thinking upon the face he’d opened his eyes to, Mitch was a Rockstar!
They burst through the woods into a clearing. It had been some time that they’d been running horseback through the woods. His butt was killing him! Mitch’s thighs must be on fire. He’d never once touched the saddle nor the reigns. The poor horse was exhausted. He hadn’t failed them for a moment, taking them further and further into the unfamiliar woods.
“Let’s rest here,” Mitch released his protective hold. “They won’t come this far off course.”
Using Mitch’s hand, Beden slid down. His legs were shaky, nearly causing him to fall. With a clang, Mitch landed on the ground. He stretched his back and rolled his head.
Mitch reached across his chest to release the straps on his shoulders. The clunky gauntlet made it difficult to manage. Instead of watching Mitch struggle, he offered his help. Mitch smiled with thanks as he dropped his hand. It was a struggle for him to figure out how the armour was held in place. The gauntlets were simple enough; just pull and they’d come off. He did that first. But the chest armour was clearly two pieces hinged together on one side and strapped together at the shoulder. Inefficient, as far as Beden could tell. But then, it had seemed to have kept Mitch alive. So, perhaps it wasn’t all that bad.
“Why did you help me?” he dared to ask because he could not understand.
As Beden worked the ties, Mitch replied, “you stood out.”
His hands paused, “I did!” Foolishly, he was pleased.
“Blue hair, no armour, colorful clothing,” Mitch pointed out. “You definitely stand out to me.”
He’d never been so idiotically smitten… Wait, blue hair? He hadn’t had blue hair since he was in high school! Looking up, he tried to catch a glimpse, but his hair was razor short which made it useless to try and look. What was going on?
The armour fell open revealing a white, cotton shirt heavy with sweat. Mitch slid out of it like a dancer shedding a shawl. It fell with a lot more weight though. The crash was loud yet dull. Mitch, unaffected and unaware of Beden’s emotional state, moved to release the rest of his armour. In pieces, it too fell to the earth.
Standing in only the white shirt and a pair of brown…trousers, Beden figured they were. Being from the future, or whatever he was, trousers weren’t too common. But, he figured these not-quite-tight-enough pants could likely be called that word. Mitch wasn’t as big as the armour made him appear to be. Lean was definitely the word best used on him. Lean, and sexy AF! Dear gawd, Mitch looked breathtaking with his defined pecs revealed where the shirt strayed open. The video games depictions of the era seemed rather spot on. Ties were used on everything. No zippers and no buttons. Just ties which had tried and failed to do their one job.
“So um,” he turned away to hide his flushed cheeks, “what’s happening here?”
That smile could be heard even though he wasn’t looking. Mitch spoke with soft tones, “hopefully, I’m not misreading you. Forgive me if I am, but I’ve narrowly avoided death more times than I can count today. I’ve lost brothers and sisters on the battlefield. And then, I find you, Beden. A strange yet most alluring blessing among a field of death.”
He turned, shocked to hear anyone speak about him like that! He should ask how Mitch could ever think Beden was a blessing. They’d only just met. Mitch knew nothing about him. They knew little of each other. Everyone had a bad opinion of him.
He moved into Mitch’s arms. Taken in by the honesty the young man held. There was no reason to lie. It aided Mitch in no way, and Beden’s feelings counted for nothing. And maybe that’s why he could believe what this man had to say. Or maybe, he was just desperate not to be a Curse.
“They call you Curse?” Mitch was bewildered.
They were holding each other in the moments before the morning light arrived. There were a lot of firsts for Beden this night. He hadn’t fallen asleep for fear that all of this would vanish. But, whether this was real or a hallucination he didn’t want to waste a moment being unconscious.
He looked down at his arm with reflection. Before he’d woken to Mitch yesterday, there were track marks because he hadn’t been one of those addicts that tried to hide the truth. His goal with taking drugs was to numb the pain until he died. It didn’t matter if other people knew it. And maybe, there was a part of him that wanted them to know that he’d done this because of them.
It was strange that he hadn’t felt the need for a hit yet. He took drugs because he wanted an escape. That was always the reason he felt the need for a hit. But, he wasn’t a fool. Drugs were addictive. The need for a hit was hidden within his need for escape. He now had an escape that wasn’t rooted in drugs. When would withdrawal hit?
He answered Mitch, “I’ve been nothing but a disappointment to my family.”
“How so?” Mitch questioned, his fingers tracing lines on his shoulder.
“I’ve never lived up to their expectations of how they think I should be.”
“Then, isn’t that their fault?” Mitch raised an important question.
Mitch picked up his left hand in his right, the other hand was still on his shoulder tracing invisible lines. “There are many people in this world. Why waste time trying to change someone to suit us when we choose who is in our lives?”
The logic was profound because it was simple. And, it hit Beden rather physically. “But, if they’re family?”
Mitch shook his head, “families can be chosen. Happens all the time here. Find people who accept you as you are and then hang onto them as tightly as you can. Because, you never know how long you have together.”
The pain could be heard. Fearing that pain had come to soon to this young man, Beden held him close, “you lost them?”
“War takes, it does not give,” tears were resting in those green eyes. But, he smiled as he amended, “well, sometimes it gives.”
Mitch was referring to him! Touched yet uncertain how it could be that Mitch saw him like this, Beden forced himself to maintain eye contact. Mitch had needed physical contact last night. Something good among all the bad he must have seen. Beden was glad that he’d been there to help. And, excited that somehow he had mattered.
“Could I,” he faltered because he was frightened. Mitch’s smile gave encouragement. “Could I choose you?”
“I would be honored,” Mitch didn’t seem like he was hesitating, nor that he was trying to spare Beden’s feelings by saying what he wanted to hear. “And I choose you.”
“But, we only just met,” he hated to point this out.
“I don’t get it either,” Mitch chuckled. He pulled Beden’s lips in for a slow kiss. “But, it’s still my choice.”
He smiled, bewildered and smitten. “It’s my choice too.”
They kissed again.
“Come on,” Mitch reluctantly moved. “We should try to find food, and maybe a spring to bathe in.”
Mitch had looked approvingly upon Beden’s body with those last words. It was insanity to think any of this was real. But, if it wasn’t real, then there was nothing to stop him. He initiated the kiss that Mitch was happy to return. The feel of Mitch’s hands on his body was all the real Beden needed!
They were dressed and moving through the woods a short time later. The armour for both Mitch and his horse were left behind. Had it been an intentional figurative statement by Mitch that the fighting was now behind him? Or, was it simply a matter of speed versus safety?
They walked next to the horse, indicating that speed wasn’t the concern. The sun could not be seen, but the woods were lighter. They walked next to each other, hand in hand. Even though war was behind them, there was so much peace here.
“What’s with the war?” he asked in the silence. He pulled his eyes away from the forest to look at Mitch, “who’s fighting and why?”
“The usual things,” Mitch shrugged one shoulder, “Why earn for yourself what you can take from others?”
There was bitterness in Mitch’s voice. He would not find fault in that tone. And, he thought about his world. Were the wars there any different? Other than the weapons used. Politics hid the real reasons behind most of the wars, he suspected. In the end though, selfish greed was behind each of them. So no, things weren’t that different.
A clamour of noise brought their discussion to an early end. Mitch pulled him close. People called out for help.
“Can you fight?” Mitch held hatred at the thought.
He couldn’t. He had no fighting experience. All he ever did was run from trouble and confrontation. He shook his head helplessly.
“Good,” Mitch seemed oddly relieved. He was kissed deeply. Then, he was urged up on the horse. They would flee. “I’ll find you.”
“What?” fear was in Beden’s entire being. Mitch had to come with him!
Mitch’s hand was on his thigh, “let him lead, he knows the way.”
“I don’t even know his name,” he struggled to find a reason to delay this moment.
“Give him any name you want,” Mitch was grinning, but there was fear behind those eyes. They’d come into each other’s lives so suddenly, was it to be over just as quickly?
“Roach,” he threw it out there because…because of many reasons that didn’t make much sense.
“Then take Roach and run,” Mitch’s hold was warm.
“I’m not leaving without you!” he had a hold of Mitch’s arm.
“I chose you as my family, remember?” Mitch was earnest. “I will find you.”
Mitch pulled his sword as he made the clicking noise that sent his horse running. Beden grabbed a hold, his eyes looking back over his shoulder and tears in his eyes. Mitch wore no armour. He would be killed out there!
Beden pulled at the reigns. The two of them would fly back to Mitch. They would pick him up and spirit him away to safety. But the horse would not listen to the commands of the reigns. Single minded, the beast ran ahead taking him further away from Mitch.
Screams echoed through the woods! Death loomed over the people behind them. A vicious demon bent on the destruction of all. Desperate, he pulled hard at the reigns. Tears fell down his cheeks. Mitch was in danger! For the first time in his life, Beden would not run away. He could not abandon his lover. His family!
Straining with all his might, Beden felt a desperation that he’d never felt before. He would find Mitch. He would hold him again. He would keep his family safe.
His arm stung. Through his tears he saw the first of the track marks reappear. One by one, pin prick by pin prick, they showed up. Deep, black wounds barely a gnat’s span wide. Death that he put in his veins to bring an end to the pain he could not cope with. He cried, hoarse and nearly silent.
“Not now,” he choked. Not now when Mitch needed him!
He did not have his amour, and he did not have his horse. Mitch would die, and it was be his fault. Mitch could not give his life for Beden’s. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. He would not allow it!
Screaming fearful rage, he pulled harder than he’d ever pulled before. The horse slowed. It was a small victory, but one all the same. Feeling hope coming back, he sobbed with relief. “I’m coming Mitch.”
His vision wavered, turning black in spots. He knew this feeling that made him want to throw up. Silently, he begged for time. He prayed for it. Not for himself, but for Mitch. He prayed to a God that hadn’t ever responded before because he didn’t know who else to turn to.
He buckled over, grabbing the horn of the saddle with both hands. He could not see now, and only trusted that the horse would return to Mitch. Just a little longer. He only needed to hang on a bit more. The pain pulled him deeper into the darkness. He struggled for air.
The crisp, clean scent of the woods turned sour. He felt the horse running, but he was moving on without Beden. He reached out, trying to feel the horse. Trying to reach Mitch. He was held back. Pulled away from the only one to choose him.
His eyes opened to bright, artificial lights. The tang of medication and cleaner hit him strongly. He blinked away tears. He fought to sit up. Voices spoke in anger about him, and he knew that he’d returned. Tears flowed.
“He’s a fu…” his brother was slapped by their dad.
“Watch your mouth,” was the reprimand.
With bitterness his brother amended, “he’s a curse. That’s why we call him that. Pull life support, he aint’ worth the air he breathes.”
“Your mother says we don’t give up on family. No matter the burden.”
His family…Mitch was his family. Mitch was the only one that wanted him. And Mitch was the only one he wanted. It couldn’t be too late. He had to get back. The tube down his throat was helping him breathe. With effort, he pulled it out as he sat up. The physical feeling of it coming out made him want to throw up. Somehow, he held that reflex in. His coughing alerted the others that he had woken. He was breathing on his own now.
The curtain was pulled back and his family was standing there. Confusion and surprise were on all their faces. No one ran to hug him, grateful that he was alive.
He didn’t blame them, and it didn’t matter. What mattered was Mitch! “What?”
“Dumbass,” his brother moved closer. “You nearly died in that fire because you needed your damned drugs.”
“When are you going to start thinking of others instead of yourself?” his youngest brother snarled.
“I can’t,” he fought to talk.
“No, you won’t,” his dad cut him off with cruel force. “Get the doctor.”
His brothers moved off. His dad watched him with hatred in his eyes. He would like to think that he worried them, but he didn’t think that was the case. He had caused them an inconvenience. Family didn’t turn their backs on each other, no matter what. That was why his family was here. He was a responsibility, not a choice.
“I gotta find Mitch,” he felt tears over a situation that he could not control.
“I don’t care about your druggie buddies,” he father ground out. His hand pulled a phone from his pocket. “It’s your mom. Stay put, we’ll deal with you later.”
His dad moved off to answer the call. He was among family that didn’t want him. The family that needed him was nowhere he could get to. He didn’t even know the name of Mitch’s home! How was he to get back there? It was real! It had felt real. And, he had to get back there now. Mitch needed him!
He was hooked up to the machines all about him. An IV needle in his arm tethered him to the bed. The monitors were practically his bedmates. He struggled to get up. He pushed his bare legs over the edge of the bed. The needle slid out. Fluids dripped slowly to the floor. On the chair was clothing; a hoodie and jeans. Things his family thought boys should wear. It would be enough to get him out of the hospital. Mitch was waiting. He could be struggling for his life.
He pulled the pants on and slid into the hoodie. Uncomfortable comfort because it made others feel better somehow. Why did it matter what he wore? It didn’t change who he was to hide it. Was he not enough just as he was? A useless internal argument for the answer was always the same. Hide himself to make others comfortable. Others would always be more important than he.
He saw his brother’s wallet on the second chair. Must have fallen out while he waited. He hesitated only a moment. He would do anything he had to now.
He made his way down the halls of the hospital. No one stopped him because he didn’t look like a patient. Just a dishevelled soul wandering about. Too many sick, injured, and dying people for them to worry about a lone soul.
He knew this area. Good thing he’d been brought here because now he knew exactly where to go to get what he needed. The others would think he was setting out immediately to find his next hit. His family would come for him. They may even send the cops because duty demanded it. But, duty had demands of him as well.
Familiar, dangerous streets greeted him back to this world. He hated these streets, and always had. He hated the people that frequented them. He hated his family for giving him no other choice but to come here.
Except for today. Today, something bigger than himself, bigger than his addiction, and bigger than his selfish nature brought him out here. Mitch. He begged for him to hang on. Just a little longer so that he could figure out a way to get back.
“Dude, Curse! Heard you lit up like a match! How you living?” one of his contacts was in sight.
“Need a hit,” he dug into his pocket. “Biggest one you got.”
He showed the money he had stolen. It didn’t matter how he’d come by the cash, nor did it matter that he was alive. Money was the only thing that mattered to these people. And to people like him, the only thing that was supposed to matter was the next hit.
Drugs and money exchanged hands. He moved off and his contact didn’t take it personally. He moved away. The river! It made sense. The river was the closest thing around that even remotely resembled Mitch’s home. Maybe there he’d have a connection. Some way to get back.
The river meandered about with deception. It looked peaceful and slow. But under that placid surface, currents pulled unwary people down and it didn’t let them back up. Bodies had gone missing in this river. From time to time, people jumped from the bridges to take their lives. He’d always feared going in that fashion.
He sat next to the river, watching it now and wondering if he shouldn’t forgo the drugs in favor of a watery death. He’d always hated the drugs. They were an easy escape that hadn’t done anything for him. They hadn’t even taken his life the way he’d always longed for. What if it had been the fire that had taken him to Mitch? What if it hadn’t even been the drugs? What if taking them now only resulted in reigniting the addiction?
What if not taking them left Mitch alone? There was nothing rational about this. But, what if Mitch needed this? He knew that he had to try anything or everything for him.
The tears fell down his cheeks as he looked down at the drugs in his hand. “I’m coming, Mitch.”
A hand moved over his, “why, when I’m already here?”
Golden green eyes sparkled kindly at him. It didn’t matter how. He threw himself into the strong arms that were waiting for him.
“I thought you’d died,” he held tightly.
“I promised that I’d find you again. We’re family,” Mitch reminded him with a soft laugh. “But now…”
“Yah?” he wouldn’t let go, but he pulled back enough to look into those beautiful green eyes.
“Could use some help figuring out how to get back,” he smiled. “Roach is waiting for us.”
~a short story by Selina Elliot
Special thanks to you for reading through my rough draft, short story! For those of you that picked up on the Witcher references; you are my people! I’m uncertain where this short story will lead, but I have vague ideas of what’s in store next for Mitch and Beden. Let me know if you would like to join them on their journey.
I was inspired to write this after being told that I need to look the way someone else thinks a professional looks. It’s frustrating to me because there is no one right way to look. People aren’t one mold. The world is filled with amazing colours!
Who we are is not only enough, we are right. Don’t hide yourself in the closet because corporate thinking is afraid of individuality. For me, money is not the most important thing. Helping people is. And, I help people the best when I am being true to myself. Not when I’m made to feel ashamed for being me.
So, don’t change for someone. Don’t hide. And don’t let them put you in a closet. You are beautiful! Let your colours shine!