The Magic in Your Touch Ch. 01bywavyscribe©
Nathan Morris stretched in a useless effort to loosen his knotted back muscles. Hours of examining patients and filling out the mountains of paperwork mandatory to a fledgling medical practice had taken their toll. His partner in the practice, Amy Vaughn, did more than her share, but after watching her work three fourteen hour days in a row, Nathan finally insisted she take a couple of days off. He kidded her about her husband, Mike, forgetting what she looked like. In reality, though, he envied her the security of home and family. The closest he had come to marriage was seven years ago, during his last year of college just before medical school. His first mistake had been falling for a guy who wasn’t strong enough to stand up to his parents about what clothes to wear, much less about his sexuality. His second mistake had been believing that his love would be enough to convince Rick to leave it all behind, if necessary, so the two of them could have a life together. All it took was the threat of loosing his hefty trust fund to send Rick crawling home to mommy and daddy.
Nathan shook himself out of the past and glanced at the clock. It was well after six and already dark. Autumn in Reed, Illinois was going to take some getting used to. Having been raised in the south, Nathan was still adjusting to the cooler temperatures and shorter days, but anything was better than the long hours spent watching premature infants fight to rid themselves of the addictions to crack and heroin so generously passed on to them by their mothers. Three years of residency in Atlanta Northern Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit had been almost more than Nate could take. When the opportunity to open a practice in Reed came up, he didn’t even have to stop and think about it. The fact that Amy, his best friend since the third grade, had decided to move up here with him was just a bonus, as was Reed’s reputation for being a “gay friendly” town. Since Nathan had only been in Reed a grand total of three months, he had yet to test that theory. The only people he saw on a regular basis were his patients, and he hardly thought “Hi, I’m Dr. Morris and I have a preference for penises” an appropriate way to start a conversation.
Nathan gathered up the last of the day’s paperwork and headed toward the front of the converted Victorian cottage that he and Amy used as offices. He winced at the thought of going home, but he had little choice. His apartment wasn’t exactly homey, but it was better than sleeping on one of the exam tables. He turned out all the lights and grabbed his keys. Before he went out the door, he set the alarm and punched his code into the keypad. Even though Reed was a small town, it was close enough to Chicago that someone might conceivably break-in hoping to find drugs or prescription pads. He fit his key into the deadbolt and was just about to turn it when he felt a blinding pain on the right side of his head.
“You’re a dead man, faggot. Best you go back where you came from.” The voice was little more than a harsh whisper, but to Nathan the words might as well have been screamed from the top of the Reed County Courthouse. From the corner of his eye, Nate saw his attacker raise whatever object he held, ready to strike again. Fighting waves of dizziness and nausea, and knowing he was too dazed by the blow to fight back, he used what strength he had left to open the still unlocked door and trip the alarm. The shrill beep caused his assailant to run just as Nathan fell to the ground. He was unconscious before he hit the porch.
* * *
His first thought when he woke up on one of his own exam tables was that he must have decided to sleep at the office, after all. His next thought was that he must have gotten drunk and picked up one hell of a hang over before he did so. He tried to move, but a set of soft yet strong hands stopped him.
“Oh no you don’t, buster. I have not spent the past twenty minutes trying to wake you just to see you get up too soon and black out again. As it is, I’m still deciding whether or not to pack you into an ambulance and send you to Chicago for an MRI.”
Nathan smiled in spite of himself. “I’m fine, Amy. You know my head is the hardest part of my body.” He gave her a mock leer. “Most of the time, anyway.”
Amy punched him playfully on the arm, her hazel eyes filling with relief. “If you can crack sex jokes, I know you’re alright. Now tell me what in the hell happened to you.” She swung her long brown hair over her shoulders and pursed her bow lips. Not for the first time did Nathan admire her beauty. She made quite a contrast to her husband Mike’s white-blonde hair and clear blue eyes.
“You know, I should have married you back in the fifth grade when you first proposed to me.”
Amy laughed at their old joke. “Sorry, sweetheart, but I don’t think I have anything you’d be interested in.”
Nathan shook his head, an act he regretted the minute the pain returned. “Yeah, well, I didn’t have anything Rick wanted either, so I guess you had something in common with him after all, huh?”
“If I wasn’t just sure you had a slight concussion, I would shake you for even saying that. All the women in Reed— and some of the men too— are talking about the sexy new doctor in town. Since I was here for two full months while you were still in Atlanta working off your contract with Atlanta Northern, I think it’s safe to say they aren’t talking about me. Since you’ve been here, every woman in town has come in for one thing or another. I’ve had six different patients ask about your marital status in the last week alone.” She leaned in closer. “Rick Landon was an idiot. Hell, he probably still is for all I know. You were too good for him, Nate, and that’s the last time I’m going to say it.” She straightened and said, “Now tell me what happened.”
Nathan recalled everything he could, though most of it was fuzzy. Mike Vaughn came to stand by his wife just as Nathan got to the part where his attacker threatened him and called him a fag. Nathan watched as all the color drained from Amy’s face and Mike started shaking with rage.
Mike took Amy’s place at the head of the examining table. “You’re sure that’s what he said?”
Mike turned to his wife. “How soon can you find another pair of doctors to buy out your practice?”
Amy was right behind him. “Shouldn’t take long. This is a new practice, so most anyone could step in.”
Nathan sat up, grimacing as fresh waves of sickness washed over him. “Look, you two, we’re not selling out just because some bigot took a shot at me. Even if I was scared enough to leave, which I’m not, you don’t have to go, too. You just bought your first house, dammit.”
Amy started to speak, but Mike cut her off. “Do you always have to be so damn logical? There is no way in hell you’re leaving without us. Likewise, if you stay, we stay. You’re family, man. That’s the whole reason we all moved here from Atlanta together in the first place. If you want to stay, then we’ll just have to find the bastard who did this.”
Amy took her husband’s hand and reached out to Nathan with the other one. “He’s right, you know. We are a family. The sheriff is on his way, so let’s wait until we talk to him before we decide what to do. In the meantime, let me check your vitals and reflexes again.”
Mike went out into the lobby to wait for the cops while Amy examined Nate. As she worked, she talked about getting a call from the alarm company and coming to check it out, only to find him lying in a heap on the porch. Nathan could feel her fear and hated the jerk who hit him even more for scaring Amy. Still, he didn’t exactly relish having to talk to the sheriff. He had seen enough of police responses to gay-bashing to know that he was just as likely to get some homophobic prick who could care less whether or not the world had one less fag in it. He suppressed a groan as he heard a large engine pull into the parking lot. The cavalry had arrived.
Amy insisted Nate stay put, so he was forced to wait while Mike spoke to the sheriff. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Mike was clearly angry. The man was probably trying to deny that the whole incident even happened. When Amy finished her exam and opened the door to let the guy in, Nathan prepared himself for a sixty-year-old codger with a beer-gut and a bald spot. The 6’3” stud who walked in the door was not what he expected.
The man had the bluest eyes Nathan had ever seen. His hair was midnight black with not a hint of gray, the perfect foil for his left-over summer tan. Even through his kaki uniform shirt and tight jeans, Nathan could tell the man was built.
He stuck out a calloused hand, first to Amy, then to Nathan. “Sorry it took me so long to get here, folks. I was out on another call when my dispatcher told me what happened. I’m Sheriff Brandon Nash.” His voice was rich and smooth. Nathan wanted him to keep talking just so he could hear it again. His next words made Nathan want to scream for him to shut-up.
“Your friend out there tells me you think you were the target of a gay-bashing, Dr. Morris. I have to tell you, I find that hard to believe.”
Anger coursed through Nathan’s blood, driving away all thoughts of pain. He moved to the side so that the swelling of his face and jaw was visible under the harsh fluorescent lights of the exam room. “Does it look like I did this to myself, Sheriff Nash?”
Nash didn’t flinch. “No, sir. There’s no question that you were attacked. I just wonder if maybe you were mistaken about the motive. This town is pretty tolerant towards gays and lesbians.”
“The man who jumped me called me a faggot and told me I was dead if I didn’t leave town. Doesn’t exactly sound like the Reed County Welcoming Wagon, now does it?”
The sheriff’s handsome face never changed expression. “No sir, it doesn’t. All I’m saying is, could it be possible that someone would want this to look like a gay-bashing? Do you have any enemies?”
Amy and Mike, who had been listening from the open doorway of the exam room, rushed to defend Nathan’s character, but Brandon Nash’s blue eyes never left Nate’s face. It was almost like he was searching for something. Nathan found himself growing uncomfortable under the scrutiny. He decided to relieve the tension by lashing out.
“To answer your question, I don’t have any enemies that I know of, other than my parents, who hate me because I’m gay, and my brother who avoids me because he’s afraid my queerness might be contagious. None of them would touch me, though. They’d be too afraid they might catch something from the ‘unclean homo’. I think you’re overlooking the obvious. Maybe the good people of Reed don’t want a faggot for a doctor. Did you ever think about that?”
For the first time since the interview started, Nash’s eyes flashed with irritation. He put his notebook down on a nearby counter and looked Nathan straight in the face. Since Nate was still seated on the exam table, they were about level, even though Brandon was a good four inches taller standing up. He edged closer to the table until they were almost nose to nose. Nate could feel Brandon’s breath on his face, could smell peppermint, coffee, and some kind of aftershave that made him want to nuzzle his face in the man’s neck. To his horror, he felt himself getting hard. He could only hope the sheriff didn’t notice. He needn’t have worried; Nash’s eyes never broke contact with his own.
“No, it never occurred to me that the people of Reed might not want a ‘faggot’ for a doctor. After all, they elected one sheriff.”
The room fell into total silence. Amy and Mike may have been speechless, but Nathan was absolutely stunned. Nash was the only one who seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Now that we have established that I am probably the last person in the world to ignore a gay-bashing, let’s get on with this so I can file a report.”
Nathan answered the sheriff’s questions, all the while wondering about the man asking them. He was sexy enough to make even a straight guy look twice, but that wasn’t what drew Nathan to him. Brandon Nash had some quality that made Nate want to get to know him, to find out what he liked, what made him feel good. God, he wanted to get that man into his bed. For a guy who hadn’t had sex with anyone other than his right hand, the feelings of lust that hit him came as quite a shock. It was probably all just wishful thinking, anyway. A man who looked like that was certain to have a boyfriend, maybe even a life-partner. He was so lost in thought, he didn’t hear Nash’s last question.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
For the first time since the interview started, Nash gave him a genuine smile. “I said, are you sure we shouldn’t take you over to the hospital to have you checked out? Chicago’s only about a thirty minute drive from here.”
Nathan was about to decline when Amy spoke up. “I think you should go to the hospital. I’ll feel a lot better if you do. My exam was pretty thorough, but I still think you should have an MRI.”
Mike nodded. “I agree with Amy, dude. I’ll drive you.”
Mike reached for his keys, but Sheriff Nash stopped him. “My shift ended about half-an-hour ago. I can take him and get the doctor to sign a report on his injuries.”
Nathan felt himself loosing control of the situation. He hated it when people talked about him like he wasn’t even in the room. As desperately as he wanted to get to know Brandon, he wasn’t ready to spend an hour alone with him, especially when he was half-addled from a blow to the head.
“Amy already checked me out. She can fill out your report.”
Nathan’s stomach turned over as Amy started shaking her head. “No. I really think you should have an MRI. I can write the orders and you can take them with you.”
Nathan’s jaw hardened. “Fine, then. Mike can drive me.”
He turned around just in time to see Amy nudge Mike in the ribs. “Honey, don’t you remember that proposal you have to have ready for your client tomorrow?”
“Huh?” Another nudge to the ribs, this one harder. “Oh, you mean the proposal I was working on when the alarm company called.” He gave Nash an apologetic grin. “I’ve been offered a junior partnership at a firm in Chicago. Not a bad commute, and the pay is damn good for a guy who just passed the bar a year ago. Of course, if I don’t turn in my work on time. . .”
Brandon nodded. “Wouldn’t want that to happen. I’ll take Dr. Morris to the hospital. Don’t worry about it.” He gave Nate an apologetic smile. “Afraid you’ll have to ride in the ‘sheriff-mobile’. My car’s off having some detail work done.”
Before Nathan could protest any further, he found himself being hustled into a state-issue SUV with the sexiest man he’d seen in a long time. Not even a head injury could stop the feelings of longing when they hit.
* * *
Brandon hated evening calls. Reed was small enough that his deputy, Sam, and he could usually handle all the calls themselves without having to pull the junior deputies off their regular shifts. Unfortunately, no one told that to the eighteen wheeler that jackknifed off of Interstate Twelve just three miles outside of town. No one was hurt, thank God, but the truck had been carrying live poultry to the processing plant two towns over. Nothing like trying to dodge traffic and catch ninety angry chickens at the same time to set the tone for the night. Sam managed to stop traffic and enlist a handful of volunteers to help with the round-up, but the whole scene looked like a sketch from Saturday Night live. After being pecked for the fifth time by creatures he only wanted to see fried with gravy, Brandon had been grateful to field another call. He could still see Sam’s face when he told him he had to leave. After twenty-five years as friends and a hellish six months at the F.B.I. academy together, he knew Sam well enough to know his buddy would get even at the earliest opportunity. He only hoped the poor guy didn’t get mites from all those feathers.
Brandon stole a glance at the man slumped in the seat next to him. He had heard tales of how good looking the new doctor was, but the bits of gossip he’d heard didn’t do the guy justice. He was shorter than Brandon, maybe five-eleven, but his body was well sculpted and muscled. His chocolate eyes were red-rimmed, but still beautiful, as was his fine-featured face. His hair was dark blonde and spiky, a look which suited him. Brandon felt a familiar pull in his groin just thinking about the sexy doctor.
He never would have figured Nathan Morris as gay. Certainly the female population of Reed didn’t know he was. Of course, Brandon didn’t exactly fit the gay stereotype, either. Then again, none of the gay men he knew did. There wasn’t an effeminate one in the bunch.
The ride to Chicago was silent, but Brandon figured his passenger was in too much pain to talk, if the grimaces and grunts he was making were any indication. He wondered what the good doctor would sound like in bed. He forced himself to stop thinking about it when the bulge in his jeans started to rise.
He pulled the SUV into one of the spaces marked for police vehicles and cut the engine. He got out and was around to open Nathan’s door before he could get out by himself. Brandon took Nate’s elbow and helped him to the ground.
Nathan’s voice, low and rough, made Brandon want to jump him right there in the parking lot. “Thanks, Sheriff, but I can go in by myself.”
“Call me Brandon.”
“O.K., Brandon. I can do this by myself. I did my residency in a hospital a lot like this one. I know the drill and most of it is hurry up and wait.”
Brandon smiled and started walking him towards the emergency entrance, locking the doors of the SUV with the remote on his keys. “Normally, I would agree with you, but I just happen to know someone who works here. He actually owes me a favor, so I think he’ll be able to get us in and out of here a little bit faster.” While he was talking, he led Nathan past the emergency wing to a row of elevators inside the hospital proper.
“Where are we going?”
“Relax, Doc. We’re going up to the third floor to neurology. The guy I told you about has an office up there.”
Brandon pushed the button for the elevators. The one closest to them opened, allowing a woman and four half-grown children to get off. One of the larger boys bumped into Nathan, nearly knocking him off his feet in his already addled state. Brandon caught him to his chest, trying to ignore the arcs of electricity that went through his skin when he wrapped his arms around Nathan and pulled him to his chest. Both the woman and the boy apologized, but Brandon’s only focus was the man he held in his arms.
“Doc, are you O.K., man?”
“My name is Nathan, or Nate. I figure if you’re going to hold me in your arms like we’re about to do the tango, the least you can do is call me by my name.”
Brandon pulled back to see the grin on Nathan’s face, the first smile he’d since the moment he walked into the doctor’s office. “If you’re joking around, you must be O.K.”
“That’s what Amy says. Do you want to let me go now?”
Brandon pulled him close again. “Do you really want me too?”
“Considering we’re in the middle of a hospital lobby waiting on an elevator and being watched by dozens of people, yeah. Thanks for catching me, though.” He lowered his voice and cast his eyes down a bit. “It felt kind of nice to be held again.”
Not certain how to respond, Brandon let him go, immediately missing the warm heat from his body. He stayed close enough to catch him again, if necessary, as they boarded the elevator. Other people crowded in, making conversation difficult. The silent ride gave Brandon a chance to tamp down some of the lust he was feeling.
The third floor of Chicago General wasn’t as crowded as the lobby, so Brandon was able to lead him through the hall at a fair clip. When Nathan stumbled, he immediately apologized.