"I'm going to take care of you," I whispered as I carried him back to my house. My long, jet black tail flicked up - my fifth limb - to stroke the man comfortingly.
He flinched and moaned slightly, hanging limply in my arms. My heart gave a strangled sob at his frailty.
"Oh dear. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I hope you don't mind the fact I'm half-panther..."
"Your race..." he murmured, surprising me. "I'm used to it... hurt... no. No hurt." His voice was high and light - beautiful in fact - as he coughed slightly, his eyes flickering open.
"Oh my gosh! You're awake," I exclaimed. "Are you okay?! I was so worried. I thought you were going to die!" Some deep part of me was ecstatically happy that there was more of a chance that he was going to be okay.
"I will heal," he coughed again."I just need rest."
"Yes, you do," I said in concern. Was it safe for someone to be so pale? I thought not."You can have my bed tonight. I'll sleep on the sofa."
"Y-you're too kind... name?" The strain was evident in his voice. The ommitted words just worried me further.
"Corelle," I replied, hoping the anxiety wasn't too evident in my tone. "And yours?"
"What a nice name... It reminds me of a person I knew once... many moons ago... called Lune." I sighed, remembering the feel of velvet-soft hair under my fingers and breath condensing on my skin before the touch of warm lips on my own .
He nodded. "I can feel you... y'know," he murmured, "your emotions."
I snapped out of my reverie, startled. No, I didn't know. "You what?!"
"A human, any human or human-hybrid. I can feel their emotions... I help, I heal too." His eyes flickered and he swayed slightly in my arms, "I- I'm a unicorn... you know that."
"I know.... but I don't know much else about you. And what do you mean you can help? Do you go around fixing people?" I hoped that I didn't sound rude in my inquisitiveness.
"People come into the forest when they feel down. I help them." He helped them. Wow... Actually, part of me wasn't surprised.
"Wow,... that's so lovely of you." A tear slid down my cheek and landed on his face. I was one ... how shall I put it? Easily touched and prone to being over-emotional. It didn't help that I had been thinking of Lune. "Oops, sorry." I wiped the tear away with my tail.
"It's what I was born for, I have no choice. I have the heart of a unicorn and the blood too."
"No choice?" I was surprised by his words. Surely it was a good thing that he could help people. "That makes it sound like you wouldn't do it if you didn't have to," I told him.
"It's hard, seeing so much sorrow every day... I'm sorry, I can't talk... I feel so tired." He suddenly went limp again. I staggered under sudden weight, though only for a brief while.
"Oh my goodness!" I exclaimed.
I hurried back through the entrance to the city and to my house. I opened the door with my tail and carried the man upstairs. I laid him on my bed, gently moving the hair that had fallen out of his eyes. It didn't seem right somehow that he should look anything other than serene and graceful.
I fetched a flannel and filled a bowl with warm water. Sitting beside him, I tenderly mopped his brow.
Gratifyingly, he began to stir slightly. I put the flannel down and stroked his shoulder. Maybe that would cause him to wake up.
He woke up and moaned "Ugh...oh."
"Sh, it's okay," I murmured soothingly. "You're in my house. You fainted. I'm going to look after you." The words came out in the wrong order but I was more concerned with Mune's condition than the structure of my sentences.
"What do you do... work?" he asked.
"What do I do for work? I teach. Well, not teach really. I do a Creative Writing extension course up at the local high school."
"I'll help, to repay you," he told me.
"No, no, no. You don't have to repay me," I insisted.
"Shh," he whispered, "I do."
"No, you shush," I said laughing. "You don't have to do anything."
"I can't sit around all the time; it could be weeks before I get back to my original life." I didn't think I cared. I wanted to spend weeks with him.
"Then I'll stay at home and nurse you. The school can cope without me."
"I don't need nursing, I'm healed."
"Already?" I asked, a little sadly. I had looked forward to getting to know this guy/ unicorn. Of course, I wasn't unhappy that he was better but it just decreased the time I had with him.
"Yes, unicorn blood. Remember?" His tone was to me a little tiresome...
I nodded disconsolately. "I still want to stay with you."
"Don't be silly. Go, you have a life. And I haven't seen this town in years."
"I don't want to go," I said. "I've had enough of boring old Coldstone. Don't get the wrong idea but you're the first interesting thing that's happened to me..." I trailed off. Since Lune, I finished in my head.
"Go," he urged as he rose to his feet. "I want to see Coldstone again."
"You sit back down, mister," I ordered. "You're not ready to go out yet. I don't care what you say."
"Nor do I, what you. Excuse me," he winced and left my bedroom.
"You just winced!" I exclaimed in disbelief. "Get back on the bed or I will pin you down in my panther-form."
"I winced because I hate being cruel to humans, and I'm sorry for being impolite, but please..."
He began to walk downstairs. I followed him, wanting more than anything for him to return to the room I had installed him in. A very bad part of me wanted him to collapse.
He reached the front door.
"Why are you so desperate to go?" In a very depressed tone, I asked "Why are you so eager to be rid of my company?"
He paused. He had managed to open the door. "Because it's been over a thousand years since I have seen Coldstone. It's a very precious place and is very close to my heart," he said, before closing the door behind him.
Well, what a way to be rejected. I strode up to my room, slamming the door behind me. It wasn't as if I had helped him in any way. He had just used his unicorn blood. I had only carried him into my own house and put him on my bed so he had somewhere comfortable to lie during the process. Nah, I wasn't helpful at all!
I started to cry.
No! This was fine! I f he wanted to go out onto the streets and risk being attacked by violent youths, that was his choice. I wouldn't allow him to come running back to me either. Some people were just so ungrateful these days!
But still I continued to cry, and these tears were the last thing I felt before I fell asleep.