Mats trembled slightly, still trying to stay awake despite being wounded and oh so very, very tired, at the same time leaning heavily on his friend Marco who had brought him here. But he didn’t know where he was, it was close to midnight already and by now, he had trouble orientating. They were in front of an old and massive stone building, waiting at the wooden gate for someone to open up and help them.
Marco’s knocking had indeed been heard, as one single man finally opened the door. Mats tried to listen to the words that followed, but to no avail. When several other darkly clothed men appeared and helped him inside and onto one of the hard bunks in a sparsely lit room, he had already lost consciousness.
Benedikt had heard the voices from the outside of his tiny room, but ignored them in order to concentrate on his prayers once more. He would get to know what had happened upon the next day soon enough, yet he was sure it was another warrior who had come to the monastery to heal his broken bones. So many hopeless souls arrived here, many of them on their pilgrimage to Italy, but also fleeing peasants, warriors from the Holy Land and some poachers, too.
He was indeed lucky he was not one of them, but he would often enough care for their wellbeing at least. Benedikt liked serving the wounded men that came here, although it was sometimes a hardship to witness all the dying, the badly healed wounds from war and torture and the many infections. He had heard so many of their sad stories, their secret sins and desperate pleas for salvation, so he put his own worries aside and cleaned them, fed them and prayed with them to the Almighty.
Then the men left again, one by one, either by walking outside of this building on their own feet, or by dying here a mostly painful death. And even if it occasionally tore his heart apart from the inside, he endured this patiently. He was not to give his heart to strangers, but to God alone.
Benedikt sighed inwardly and began to pray for the newly arrived guests, whoever they were.
Benedikt rose early when the sun was not yet fully up to begin the morning prayers, then went to the chorals with his fellows. Only afterwards they were allowed a sparse meal which consisted of oatmeal gruel and water mainly.
In silence he cared for his other duties, namely cleaning the empty stone floors, planting and cutting some herbs in the local garden and praying and singing some more. These simple things tended to give him more peace of mind than indulging in earthly pleasures, such as drinking wine and feasting on exquisite food, could have done.
Only much later Abbot Manuel spoke to him: “Benedikt, I would be glad if you would assist Philipp with the wounded man today. His friend couldn’t stay and has left already. He is not in an overly good condition.”
Benedikt bowed his head as a sign of acceptance, thereby revealing his tonsure to the taller man. “Sure I will, Abbot Manuel. How is his name?”
“He is called Mats Hummels, a strong man who fought for Duke Schweinsteiger. I hope we will not lose him as he is needed in the army.”
“I will do my best”, Benedikt declared dutifully, mentally preparing himself to meet another badly wounded man. Surely he shouldn’t have let it bother him this much; they lived in dangerous times, after all.
But when he finally entered the spital alongside Philipp, who was adept in medicinal duties, he was bothered again by the sight. There on the single bunk lay an unmoving young man, close to his own age judging by the looks of him, his face soft in his sleep, yet with such charismatic, energetic angles to it, that Benedikt could have only described him as beautiful.
He stared at the man for a few seconds, until he was remembered by his fellow monk Philipp that they indeed had some important duties to attend to. Benedikt hurried to the other side of the bunk and gathered his belongings, to gently wipe the sweat from the man’s forehead, while Philipp carefully examined the deep cut on the warrior’s left side and treated it with skilful hands. “It will take a while, but he will most likely recover when we succeed in keeping the risk of infection at bay. But first we have to get him to drink”, Philipp spoke quietly.
Benedikt nodded absentminded, too distracted by the fascinating features in front of him. It didn’t help at all that Mats’ torso was partially exposed to give them better excess to the wound. He wore a dark leather jacket along with matching trousers and riding boots, while his weapons, consisting of a knife and a short sword, were set beside him on the ground.
Suddenly, the man moved, fighting the coughs that tortured him, at the same time opening his dark eyes at last. Benedikt steadied him instantly by putting a helping hand to the broad shoulders, until the man came to rest again.
Tired brown eyes searched for his own to seek eye contact. “Where am I? What has happened to me?”
Benedikt didn’t know what to say or do, as he felt himself slowly falling apart. Fighting the temptation of gazing some more into these beautiful and intense eyes, he lowered his gaze and filled the cup with water, then brought it to the man’s lips, at the same time suppressing the too strong shaking of his hands.
This simply shouldn’t happen, him being so shaken by one soldier alone, and again he feared he was too weak, too sinful to be forgiven. His fellows knew nothing of his strange thoughts and the obscene pictures which endlessly haunted him in his dreams, of strong bodies entangled and searching lips that roamed his body. And they should never know, as he would face certain banishment or execution otherwise. So he needed to pray more and longer, to extinguish these grave sins from his mind.
When would the dreams stop, when would he finally reach the end of this ongoing nightmare? What more could he do besides praying, working hard and punishing himself for the evil inside of him? He was so tired of it all...
Philipp finally answered Mats’ question for him: “You are here in the Monastery close to Gelsenkirchen, you will be healed and cared for until you are strong enough to leave. The Lord above watches for his obedient servants; so don’t fear.”
“I’m without fear, but thank you”, spoke the quiet, but yet strong and manly voice of Mats Hummels.
Philipp hummed in agreement. “That is for the better. Brother Benedikt here will stay with you for the time being, as I have to look for one of the peasants who broke his hand on the fields. Take care.”
So he left the once more desperate Benedikt alone with Mats, who was at loss for words for fear of giving himself away. Mats Hummels yet was not: “You are called Benedikt?”
“Yes”, the monk answered readily.
“Please talk to me, as I’m in severe pain. And may you help me up, if it is not too much of an inconvenience? I feel dizzy at the moment and would welcome the chance to lean onto the wall at least.”
“Of course”, Benedikt declared resignedly, preparing himself for the too close contact and helped the poor man up, until he sat on the bunk instead of laying still. He gave him some more food and water and answered his ongoing questions as best as he could, all the while kneading his hands, not daring to look at the warrior too intently. He felt his curious gaze on him, begging for information and clearly confused as to why he was so reserved and distant.
But Benedikt couldn’t tell him anything, although he soon sensed that the warrior was by no means an evil man, was no demon despite his extreme physical beauty. Nonetheless he left the spital as soon as possible, as the fault lay exclusively within himself. This night, he found no sleep at all.
He was called to care for Mats every day from now on. It was a duty he feared, yet longed for at the same time. The worst thing was him having to wash Mats’ wound repeatedly and also helping him to clean his other body parts too, as the warrior was still weak and had trouble moving much on his own. On these occasions Benedikt found himself watching the slightly tanned skin which made his heart ache with forbidden longing, the hard muscles underneath that looked so promising. Later at night he fought the temptation to touch himself, never giving in as this was considered a severe sin, but never experiencing some kind of relief, either.
And indeed, it was not the first time this happened to him, as he had felt the pull of other clueless men before, but never had it been as bad as now.
Slowly, Mats’ condition improved. He never intruded into Benedikt’s personal space, never pried into his personal business, but was nevertheless curious about him and seemed deeply disturbed by his distant demeanour.
On one occasion he complimented Benedikt on the care he took with everything, told him that he had a friendly face and caring eyes, but he had never seen him smile. The monk felt his cheeks heating up upon hearing this and nodded only curtly.
Several days later, after he had helped Mats with his bandage, the question which he dreaded finally came: “Why do you fear me so? Why can’t you even look me in the eye? I haven’t done you any harm, have I?”
Benedikt didn’t know how to answer, so he stayed silent and unmoving.
“Oh, are all monks this hard to talk to? But I guess the others are different, Philipp is much easier. What’s the matter with you?”
Benedikt kneaded his hands and then gathered his belongings, preparing himself to escape and seek refuge in his cell. He shouldn’t, couldn’t ever come back to this man, even if he had to disobey Abbott Manuel’s orders in the end. A long time ago he had made vows to forget about earthly desires and forbidden sins and he had to stay true to that, no matter the cost. He stood and wanted to leave, but suddenly Mats was up and on his feet, effectively preventing him from leaving the cold room by standing in front of its entrance.
Closer and closer he came, while Benedikt awkwardly tumbled backwards, until he stood with the back to the hard stone wall, the slightly taller warrior beautifully hovering above him. Oh, where were the heavenly angels to help him when he needed them badly? Was he too sinful already to be saved? Benedikt didn’t dare moving, but soon he felt a warm hand delicately tugging under his chin.
He squeezed his eyes shut, only to hear the single softly spoken word: “Coward!”
The surprise upon hearing this brought him to finally open his eyes, and the burning flame that was Mats Hummels’ eyes consumed him. It was a piercing gaze at the beginning, but after a few seconds it melted down to a somewhat softer expression. “I think I know your secret. You monks are often not as holy as you claim to be. But don’t fear, you’re safe with me.”
With that, Mats laid his lips onto the monk’s to kiss him with eager passion, with soft strokes of his tongue, with cleverly swirling said member into Benedikt’s mouth at last to rob him of his every breath. And Benedikt, who had never kissed anybody since kissing his mother last goodbye when he was five years old, fell apart under the intimate touch, clung to the warrior’s strong body and let himself be kissed and devoured. Only then it dawned on him that he must have long ago fallen in love with Mats Hummels, who was so strong and proud, yet gentle at the same time.
Soon they lay down on Mats’ bunk, undressing each other to get closer still. And Benedikt’s most feared nightmare came true, as Mats’ hands roamed all of his body, found his erect penis and started to massage it without reservation. In return, Benedikt worshipped and admired the warrior’s body as well; let his fingers lustfully explore what his mind had dreamed of for so many years.
Yet hell didn’t open up upon the very instant to end his life and no demons came to take him with them. Instead, he forgot everything else in the warm and loving arms that held him, he felt closer to heaven than ever before, felt cherished and found.
After having achieved relief at last, Mats still held him for long minutes before speaking up: “Benedikt, you don’t belong here. Please, come with me!” Tender fingers caressed Benedikt’s temple, soft lips lingering on his lips and cheeks, giving him a hard time resisting Mats.
And the monk fell again, fell from God’s grace by not instantly declining Mats’ offer. “I… I will think about it.”
The next evening, he went back to Mats whose condition had improved much since first coming here. He only took his few clothes and a little beer and food from the monastery’s kitchen with him.
When the golden sunrays kissed the earth upon the following morning, Mats Hummels was gone, as he apparently had recovered from his illness. Brother Julian, who had been on duty to watch the entrance, had obviously slept during the warrior’s departure after having drunk too much of wine, he was to be punished.
Benedikt was also never to be seen again. Abbot Manuel contemplated what to do, but came to no useful solution. They had no armed guards that could be spared, therefore couldn’t afford to go into the wide forests to search their fellow monk. It could last many days to roam the region after all, and the nearby living peasants told of no fights or corpses they had seen. Obviously his departure had something to do with the warrior, but Manuel knew Duke Schweinsteiger’s soldiers to be men of honour.
So Manuel assumed that brother Benedikt, the so long pained soul, was well and went with God, and wished him a good journey too, wherever it should lead to.