The Magic in Your Touch Ch. 05bywavyscribe©
The first thing he saw when he walked through the door of Nate’s room was the reassuring, wavy line on the heart monitor. The rhythmic beeping should have been enough to convince Brandon that Nate was still alive, but it just wasn’t good enough. He walked over to where Nate lay, fell to his knees beside the bed, and wept. All the anguish of waiting and the pain of not knowing poured out of him like poison. When he was finally able to slow the flood, he crawled into the chair beside the bed and carefully laid his head down on Nate’s chest. He closed his eyes and thanked God as he listened to Nathan’s heartbeat.
* * *
Nate’s first thought was that he really needed a toothbrush. His teeth itched and his tongue felt thick and swollen. His second thought was, who in the hell punched him in the stomach? He remembered arguing with Brandon, but he didn’t remember exchanging blows. He couldn’t move his right arm, and his left eyebrow stung. Only when he looked down at the I.V. in his left hand did he remember the accident. He also remembered that he had something important to tell Bran, but the pain was making it hard to concentrate. He had to try, though. He focused all his energy on his vocal cords and managed to croak out one word.
Almost the instant he said the word he felt two warm hands encompass his left one, carefully so as not to disturb the needle. He struggled to focus his eyes as Bran’s masked face came into view.
“Bran, need to—”
“Shh, baby. Let me call the nurse and get you something for the pain, okay? If you raise a fuss and get all upset, they’ll throw me out of here.”
Brandon fiddled with the switch at the side of the bed and a minute later, a nurse came into the room, syringe in hand.
“Well, hello there. It’s good to see you awake. Let me just shine a little light in your eyes and then I’ll give you something for the pain.” She pulled a penlight out of her pocket and checked Nate’s pupils. “Everything looks good.” She depressed the contents of the syringe into his I.V. while she talked. “Your partner here has been telling me what beautiful eyes you have, but I had to see for myself. He was right. They do look like big ole’ Hershey’s kisses.” She checked his blood pressure, and after promising to bring some ice chips to moisten his mouth, she left.
The medicine started working almost immediately. A warm fuzziness crept through Nate’s bones. He turned his heavy head towards Brandon. “Partner?”
He could just make out the uncertainty in Bran’s eyes through the drug-induced haze. “If you don’t want me anymore after the things I said, I understand, but God Nate, I love you so much. Please. . . God, please don’t leave me, baby. I’m so sorry.”
Nate felt the soft darkness creeping in. He managed to say, “Me too,” before sleep took over.
* * *
Keith stuck his head in the door not long after Nate got settled into his private room. A pretty brunette nurse named Lisa was flirting around the patient, checking and rechecking his pillows, filling his water glass, and arranging the dozens of flowers dotting the tables and windowsill. Obviously, she didn’t know much about the handsome doctor or she would have known her efforts were all for nothing. Keith wasn’t about to enlighten her. He had been on the receiving end of Lisa’s razor-sharp tongue more than once, but because her father sat on the hospital board, there wasn’t anything he could do about her attitude. Now though, he planned to have a little fun.
“Lisa, you don’t have to wait on him like that. We have aides and candy stripers who would be more than happy to fluff his pillows and rearrange his flowers.”
Lisa whirled around and arched her heavily tweezed brows. “I’m aware of that, Doctor, but I’m on my break right now, so I can do whatever I want.” She turned back to Nathan and gave him one of those sugar-pie grins. “Dr. Morris is good company.” She reached down and smoothed Nate’s blankets, all but pressing her ample chest into his face.
Poor Nate was looking desperate. “Come on in and have a seat, Keith. You just missed Dr. Lincoln.”
Keith took the chair closest to the bed. “Damn. I hope he wasn’t bothering you, Nate. He was told in no uncertain terms that he was being replaced as your doctor.”
Nate laughed. “Dr. Rinehart is my doctor now, but he’s already come and gone this morning. Actually, Lincoln came up here to apologize for a certain off-color remark he made last night. Seems that little brother of mine really put the fear into him.”
Keith’s grin covered his whole face. “Damned right, he did. I wish you could have seen him, Nate. I’ve wanted to put that look on Lincoln’s face ever since he came to work here three years ago. Seth did in five minutes what I’ve been plotting for thirty-six months.”
Nate eased back against his thrice-fluffed pillows, struggling to comfortably situate his broken arm. Keith could tell he was still a little groggy from the medicine, but he was lucid, at least. Lisa was at the other end of the room fiddling with some English ivy sent by Brandon’s Grandma and Grandpa Taylor. She was also taking in every word.
Keith saw Lisa straining to hear what they were saying and winked at Nate. “Speaking of your brother, I stowed him at Bran’s last night. He’s really anxious to see you.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing him, too. I think it’s past time we worked this thing between us out. It’ll be nice having a brother again.”
“You’ve got more than one brother, my friend. You are now an official member of the Nash Clan. Mother has spoken.”
“How does Brandon feel about that?” His voice dropped so that Lisa was forced to move to a flower arrangement closer to the bed.
Keith said, “How do you think he feels?”
Nate closed his eyes. “I honestly don’t know. I thought I remembered seeing him last night, but I was so out of it, I wasn’t sure. Then, when I woke up this morning, he was gone. I haven’t seen or heard from him all day.”
“And you thought once he realized you weren’t going to die, he might have changed his mind about you.”
“Yeah. We had a fight right before the accident.”
“I know. Brandon told me all about it. He also told me he didn’t mean a single thing he said.”
Keith could see the relief on Nate’s face. He hesitated. He didn’t want to tell Nate the rest of it, but he couldn’t have him thinking that Brandon was deliberately staying away from him. He finally gave in and said, “Nate, the reason Bran hasn’t been here has to do with your accident.”
“My brake lines were cut, weren’t they?”
Lisa nearly dropped the flowers she was holding. Keith just ignored her. “Yeah. You remembered?”
“Just bits and pieces. I remember trying to slow down for a curve and not being able to. I also remember that odd sensation you have when you mash the brake pedal and your foot goes all the way to the floor. My car is only three years old, and I keep it serviced. It didn’t take much for me to realize mine was an accident by design. At least now I know why Bran hasn’t been here.”
“He went over the edge when the mechanic who examined your car said the lines were cut. He’s been on the phone all morning with the State Police trying to get them to investigate this as a potential hate crime. Even as we speak, he’s got undercover patrols roaming the hallways of the hospital. There’s an armed deputy outside your door, too.”
Nate shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense. He’s told me time and again that he believes this is a personal attack made to look like a hate crime. Why would he get the State Police involved if he doesn’t believe it’s really a hate crime?”
Keith patted his uninjured arm. “Doesn’t matter. He’s going to do whatever it takes to keep you safe, even if it means calling in the Feds.”
“He called the FBI?”
“Yep. He still has a lot of friends left over from his days with the Bureau. He’s called in every favor he’s got coming and a few he didn’t. He’s having one of those high-tech security systems installed at the house and he’s upgrading the system at your office.”
Nate nodded. “I knew about the upgrade at the office. Amy called me not long before you came in. She’s afraid to come by because she’s been exposed to mono.”
“That was her emergency last night?”
“Yeah. One of her pediatric patients has it. The little girl’s temperature went up and wouldn’t go down, so Amy met the girl and her mother at the office to see what she could do. She finally had to ice the poor little thing down, but it did the trick, thank God. She’s wasn’t happy about not being able to come up here, but Amy’s a fanatic about germs. She wouldn’t even let Mike come for fear he’s picked up the virus from her.”
Keith laughed. “Better safe than sorry, I guess. Anyway, the new security means at least you’ll be covered at home and at work. Hell, Bran’s even talking about sending Sasha to be trained as an attack dog.”
It was Nate’s turn to laugh. “Now that I would like to see.”
Lisa couldn’t stand it anymore. No one was paying her any attention. She used her silkiest voice and said, “Dr. Morris, there must be some mistake. I find it hard to believe that someone would deliberately want to hurt a man like you.”
Keith couldn’t resist. “You may change your mind about that, Lisa. You know what they say about doctors making the worst patients. You may be ready to kill him before he’s sprung from this place.”
Lisa’s demure sniff was so phony Keith almost cracked up. “You must not know Dr. Morris at all if you think that. He’s been a perfect sweetheart.” She stared at Keith with yellow-green eyes that reminded him of cat’s eyes. He’d always hated cats.
Lisa leaned against the side of Nate’s bed. “I couldn’t help overhearing, but a few minutes ago you said Dr. Morris was like a brother to you.”
It was the moment Keith had been waiting for. “Maybe ‘brother’ wasn’t the right word. Brother-in-law is more accurate.”
“You’re married to Dr. Morris’s sister?”
Lisa looked at Nate. “You aren’t married. You don’t wear a wedding band, and I haven’t seen any signs of a wife.”
Nate closed his eyes again. Keith could tell he was tired, but he seemed to be enjoying this little game as much as Keith was, if his smile was any indication. He said, “No, Lisa, I’m not married.”
He couldn’t have given Keith a better opening. “But if I know my brother, he will be soon.”
How Lisa made it through nursing school was a mystery to Keith. She scrunched her eyes up and said, “What on earth does your brother have to do with—Wait a minute. Are you saying Dr. Morris is gay?” She looked at Nate. “You can’t be gay.”
Nate opened his eyes and raised his bandaged brow. “Really? Why not?”
Lisa shook her head. “You don’t priss around or lisp your words. You’re one of the manliest men I’ve ever met.”
A knock sounded on the open door. Brandon stood there holding an armload of roses and wearing an awesome grin. He said, “Well, I certainly agree with the manly part.” He dropped the flowers on a chair and came to stand beside the bed. “How are you feeling, baby?”
Nate sounded better than he had since Keith got there. “I’m fine now that you’re here.”
Brandon needed no further encouragement. He bent down and gave a Nate a kiss guaranteed to raise his blood pressure. It certainly raised Lisa’s.
“That’s disgusting! I can’t believe that you . . . that you’re a. . .”
Keith said, “Better be careful, Lisa. Our chief of staff takes a dim view of certain words. Just ask Dr. Lincoln.”
Lisa didn’t say a word. She stalked off, but Brandon and Nate were too wrapped up in each other to even notice. Keith just smiled and slipped out.
* * *
Nate whimpered a little when Brandon broke the kiss, but a least he didn’t go far. He sat on the edge of the bed and took Nate’s hand.
Brandon smoothed Nate’s hair away from the bandage on his forehead. “Wow, yourself. It’s good to see your eyes looking so clear. Last night they were all glassy and unfocused.”
“They’ve decreased my level of pain killers a notch or two. So I wasn’t dreaming last night? You really were there with me?”
Brandon lifted Nate’s hand to his mouth, kissing the sore spot just above the I.V. “I was there, all right. I would have been here when you got up, but I was called out on business.”
“I know. You were terrorizing law enforcement the world over trying to find the guy who cut my brakes.”
Brandon’s jaw went rigid. “And I will find that son-of-a-bitch, too, even if I have to call in the National Guard.”
“I think calling in the FBI and installing a NASA grade security system is enough, don’t you? And what’s this I hear about you turning Sasha into a pit-bull?”
“I think our dog is canine enough to take it.”
Brandon shifted so that he was looking directly into Nate’s eyes. “I know you said last night you were leaving me, but I can’t let you go, Nate. I convinced myself that you were only leaving to keep me safe. Was I wrong about that?”
“No. I thought I was doing the right thing. The idea of that bastard doing something to you is more than I can take, Bran.”
“Not gonna happen, sweetheart. I’m not going to let anything happen to either of us, Nate. I haven’t waited thirty-two years to find you just to lose you now.” He lowered his eyes. “That is, if you still want me.”
Nate reached out and stroked Bran’s injured cheek. “Oh, I want you, alright. What happened to your face, angel?”
Bran leaned into his touch. “Angel. You’ve never called me that before. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you call me by any endearment, come to think of it.”
“I never really felt like you belonged to me before. Now tell me what happened to your face. It looks like a concrete burn.”
Brandon leaned forward and nuzzled his neck. Even as bruised and battered as he was, just the heat of Brandon’s breath on the sensitive skin was enough to make Nate’s pulse race. “If you don’t stop that, a nurse is going to come in here and run you out.”
Bran stopped kissing him, but he pulled back only enough to see him as they talked. “Nate, last night. . .I thought you were running out on me because you didn’t trust me enough to protect you. It never occurred to me that you were trying to protect me. Well, it did, finally, but only after I’d made a complete ass out of myself. All those things I said—”
Nate carefully leaned forward enough to press his lips softly against Brandon’s. “Shh. I said things I didn’t mean, too. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust you enough, Bran. I was trying to keep you safe. I should have talked to you about it instead of running away. For what it’s worth, I had just made up my mind to come back and try to make you understand when my brakes failed.”
“It took me a few minutes, but I finally realized what you were doing. I had Amy’s number half-dialed in a desperate attempt to track you down when Sam came in and told me about a bad accident on the highway. I didn’t know it was your car until we were already on the scene. When I saw them pulling you out of that wreck, I just blacked out. You were so still, baby.” Nate’s heart broke when he saw the tears on Brandon’s lashes. “I guess my mind couldn’t cope. I saw you lying there, and I thought I’d lost you.”
He pulled Nate as close as he could without hurting his tender belly and spoke against his ear. “I can’t go through that again. As soon as they’ll let me, I’m taking you home, to our house, with our dog. I love you, Nate. I know you wanted to take things slow, but—”
Nate kissed his temple. “I think we’re past the slow stage, Bran. I’m ready to take our relationship to any level you want. I love you, angel. I’m ready to show it.”
Brandon kissed just below the bandage on Nate’s head. He pulled back and lifted Nate’s chin with the tip of his finger. “You know we’ll take this at your pace. You show me your love just by the way you look at me. You don’t have to prove it. But before we take this any further, I want you to understand what I’m talking about here.”
Brandon took his hand again. Nate was shocked to feel him trembling. He started to speak, but Bran shook his head. “Just let me get this out.” He took a deep breath. “Nate, when I said I wanted to take you home, I didn’t mean just until this is over. When I called it our house, I meant I want it to be your home from now on. I’m talking your name on the deed, me taking out the garbage, us doing the dishes together, the whole family bit.”
Nate wasn’t following. “I understand. You’re asking me to live with you.”
“No, you don’t want me to live with you?”
“No. Yes.” Brandon raked his hand over his face. “Fuck, this is hard.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not asking you to live with me, Nathan. I’m asking you to marry me.”