by Palantean Writer


“Hi,” he said, using the informal greeting he’d only started to hear when his father had taken him and Tanna to the city.  Then he saw the way Helm paused from eating to look directly at him – self-assured, amused, alert – and blushed.  He ducked his head as the intense feelings in his whole body intensified.

“Hi,” came the confident reply.

When Moo summoned the courage to raise his head and look Helm in the eye again he saw that the other kilm was waiting for him to say something.

“I’m… sorry about my sister, Sar’ Helm.”

Helm broke eye contact with him and looked displeased.  But he didn’t say anything.

Which made Moo feel guilty.  Shame on him for wounding Helm by letting his sister loose on him!  How can I mend this? He tried to think of an answer, but his brain slowed and froze like lava on a cold night.

“I-I didn’t mean for her to stop…” us having sex.  He couldn’t finish the sentence.  Moo blushed and lowered his head again.  His ears weighed heavy and cast a shadow over his large lunch.

There was another pause, and Moo tried to force his brain to come up with a solution for how to make up for the offence he’d caused Sar ‘Helm.  Then finally, mercifully, Helm spoke.

“What did you say to her, Muss?”

“I-”  How could he answer?  When Tanna had spoken to him he’d shut down as he always did over issues where he didn’t want her interference, and he hoped she’d understood that he didn’t want her help.  She often read him without him having to speak his thoughts.  But now that Helm asked about it, he realised he hadn’t been explicit in asking Tanna for what he wanted and perhaps she’d still try to protect him.  He couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t accost Helm again.

He felt a flash of resentment towards Helm for thinking of this and of pressuring him with it, but then he squashed the feeling down.  No! This is why I need Sar’ Helm’s help.  He thinks of these things.  I just have to learn how to think of them myself.

“You what?” asked Helm impatiently.  Moo saw Helm’s arms jerk as he twitched with irritation.  It worried him.

“My sister knows me.  She knows I don’t want her to interfere with our friendship, Helm.  She’ll stay away from us. I promise.”

He kept very quiet about the fact that he couldn’t promise this.  He’d do everything he could to try and make sure Tanna didn’t cross Helm’s path.  Oh, he’d try!


Helm didn’t answer.  He didn’t huff.  He didn’t do anything at all that might give Moo an idea of what he thought about this.  Instead he slowly started to eat, using his chopsticks with quiet dignity and ignoring the presence of anything and everything except for his lunch (although of course, he didn’t tuck in as greedily as Moo had been known to.  He’d never be so uncouth).

Moo felt too mortified to try and speak again and silently followed suit.  His previously hungry stomach shrunk with dread that his promise hadn’t been enough, that the lack of truthfulness to his promise had been detected and that Helm had decided to have nothing more to do with him.  That he was letting Moo get the message on his own.

That Moo should already not only have got the message, but should obligingly slope away to save them both any more embarrassment.

So it came as a tremendous relief when, as Sar’ Helm picked the last few shreds of food from his bowl, he said, “So do you still want to fuck, Sar’ Muss?”

Everything of Moo’s clamped down so much that he didn’t even choke on the mouthful that had been on its way down his throat.  It wasn’t just that he’d used the ‘F’ word in public, not just that he’d suggested Moo was a samer.  It was his use of the respectful term, Sar’ Muss.  Somehow, it lent gravity – dignity – to the idea of Moo having sex.  His face burned.  With some force, he gulped down the rest of the food and tried to gather together all the dignity he could.

“I, erm…” he began as calmly as he could.  Would ‘tonight’ sound too desperate?  “I can do tomorrow night.”

Can do?  It didn’t sound right to Moo’s ears but once he’d used that terminology he knew he was stuck with it.  He waited for Helm to come up with some mockery or upset at his flippant choice of words, but it didn’t come.


Helm nodded nonchalantly. “All right.”

Moo locked his muscles in place to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid or humiliating.  But inside, his heart cartwheeled. I’m going to have sex!  Sar’Helm would teach him some of the life lessons of being truly alive!