The Magic in Your Touch Ch. 04bywavyscribe©
When Nate thought back to that night six years ago when he’d ceased to be a brother and a son, he always pictured someone else, a man who existed in another lifetime. The new life he’d worked so hard to carve for himself offered a certain amount of insulation against the pain of his abandonment. Walking into that office and seeing Seth again would rip away all the layers of protection he’d built up. Nate wasn’t sure if he was ready to have his shell torn open again.
Amy went back inside the office, but Nate just stood there, his mind refusing to tell his feet to move. He heard Brandon dial a number and tell the person on the other end to handle things at the Sheriff’s department for the rest of the afternoon. Then he felt a pair of iron-strong arms wrap around him and pull him close.
“Are you okay, sweetheart?”
“I don’t know. After all this time, what could he possibly have to say to me? Why now?”
Brandon just shook his head and held him tighter. Nate wasn’t sure how long they stood there like that, but he was thankful he and Amy had a private parking spot where patients and passersby couldn’t see them. Within minutes, the warmth from Brandon’s body began to sink into his own, causing his muscles to relax and his head to clear. He was reluctant to break their embrace, but he knew he would have to face Seth sooner or later. He might as well get it over with. He pulled away and took Brandon’s hand.
“I think I’m ready now.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, but I don’t have a whole lot of choice. Will you go in there with me?”
Brandon nodded. “If you want me to be there, then I’m there.”
“A few minutes ago, when you said I could consider myself off the market, did you mean that you consider us a couple now?”
“That’s how I see us.”
Nate pulled him towards the office. “Me, too.” He stopped before he got to the back door, the one only employees used. “Before we go in, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Brandon led him over to the picnic table that sat just outside the doorway. He and Nate sat across from each other, Nate holding his hand in a death grip. “You can tell me anything. I think you know that by now.”
“I’m learning.” Nate took a deep breath. “Remember how I told you my dad got a restraining order forbidding me from contacting either my parents or my brother?” He Brandon said yes, Nate went on. “Well, since Seth was a minor when my dad took out the order, it expired when he turned eighteen. After that, it was up to him to take out another one.”
Brandon gave his hand a squeeze. “You went to see him, didn’t you?”
“On his eighteenth birthday. I found out where he was from some mutual friends. See, I convinced myself that the only reason he wouldn’t see me was because my dad wouldn’t let him. Don’t worry, though; he set me straight. Well, maybe straight isn’t the right word. Let’s just say, he let me know in no uncertain terms just exactly what he thought of me.”
The sympathy he saw on Brandon’s face was almost his undoing. “What happened, baby?”
“He started screaming at me, telling me to get away from him. He said his brother was dead, that he died the day I decided to become a fag. He said he only hoped that someone would come along and put me out of my misery before I decided to molest a child or something.” When he saw the anger that reddened Bran’s face, he quickly added, “He was only repeating what me father said the night he found out. My dad said it was a good thing I would never have children because a pervert like me would end up raping them myself or allowing another pervert to do it. Anyway, the day after I went to see Seth, he filed his own restraining order against me. That was four years ago. I haven’t heard from him since.”
Bran crossed over to Nate’s side of the table and pulled him close. “You don’t have to see him, Nate. I’ll go in there right now and tell him he has to leave.”
“No. I can handle it, as long as you’ll stay with me.”
Brandon kissed him tenderly on the lips. “I’m not going anywhere. Face it, babe. You’re stuck with me.”
* * *
Part of Brandon’s training, first as a profiler, and then later as sheriff, was never to let his emotions get in the way when dealing with a case. Nate may have started out as a case, but he’d been more than that from almost the minute Brandon laid eyes on him. The thought of anyone hurting Nathan made Bran want to hide him away from the rest of the world and stand guard at the door. It was hard to hate a man he’d never met, but the things Seth Morris had done to Nate made it difficult for Bran not to despise him.
When they walked into the office, Seth was seated in one of the chairs in front of Nate’s desk. Nate teased him about how much he and Keith favored, but the resemblance between the Morris brothers was startling: same dark- blonde hair, same chocolate eyes. Nate was a couple of inches taller and a touch more muscular, but there was no mistaking the fact that they were brothers. What bothered Bran the most was how someone as sweet and gentle as Nate could be saddled with that bunch of losers he called family.
Seth stood up when he saw them. He started towards Nate, but Bran positioned himself between them. Seth stopped short and looked at his brother.
“Nate. It’s been a while, huh?”
“Four years. You aren’t supposed to be here, Seth. You’re violating your own restraining order.”
“No, I dropped that about six months ago.” He looked up at Bran’s hardened jaw. “Uh, Nathan, do you think we could talk? Alone?”
Nate put his hand inside Bran’s larger one. Brandon’s fingers closed around his immediately. “Seth, this is Brandon Nash. Sheriff Brandon Nash. He and I are seeing each other. That means that what concerns me, concerns him. He stays.”
Seth didn’t seem to like having an audience, but at least he was smart enough not to say anything. Nate said, “There’s a small sitting room upstairs. If we’re gonna talk, we’ll have more privacy up there.” He turned to Brandon. “Will you take Seth on upstairs while I ask Amy to cover my patients?”
“Sure, babe.” He started towards the stairs, leaving Seth to follow.
The upstairs sitting room was little more than a landing with a couch and a couple of armchairs, but at least it was private. Brandon sat down on the overstuffed sofa. Seth settled himself into a chair, and the two waited for Nate in awkward silence.
Finally, Seth said, “So, you and my brother, huh?”
Brandon crossed his legs, right ankle over left knee. “Yeah, me and your brother. You got a problem with that?”
Seth leaned forward like he was sizing Brandon up. “You don’t exactly seem like Nate’s type.”
“Meaning I’m nothing like that Landon guy he was engaged to for five minutes?”
The sarcasm in Seth’s voice might have bothered Brandon if he gave a rat’s ass what the guy thought. As it was, he was having a hell of a time not picking the little bastard up and throwing him head first from one of the second story windows. “You’re definitely nothing like Rick.”
“You don’t say.”
“Rick was cultured. He liked the finer things in life, things like the opera and the symphony. You look like you’d be more at home at a tractor pull than Carnegie Hall.”
Brandon leaned back against the cushions. “So what you’re really saying is, because I prefer Budweiser to Dom Perignon, I’m not good enough for Nate.”
Seth fidgeted in his chair. “That’s not what I said. I just don’t want to see my brother get hurt.”
Brandon leaned forwards again, his eyes pinning Seth in place. “Now see, that’s where I get a bit confused. Must be brain damage from the exhaust fumes at all those monster truck rallies. What I’m wondering is, what’s your definition of hurt? Is hurt having the man you love walk out on you because mommy and daddy threaten to cut of the ‘ole checkbook the way Landon left Nate? Or maybe your definition of hurt is having your eighteen year old brother throw you out of his life—again—after filing a restraining order against you and calling you a child molesting pervert?”
Seth’s face turned a deep crimson but his eyes were defiant. “I was just a kid. I made a mistake.”
“Took you four years to realize that, did it? Well, while you were finding yourself, making your way, or whatever you ‘cultured’ boys call it, your brother was suffering—alone. And if you think I’m going to sit here and watch you destroy what little peace he’s been able to find for himself, you’re sadly mistaken. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Nate from being hurt again, by you or anyone else.”
“Are you threatening me, Sheriff?”
“No, sir. You see, that would be uncivilized. I’m simply telling you that if you do anything to cause Nathan harm, directly or indirectly, as the case may be, you won’t like the consequences. Where I come from, that’s called promising, not threatening.”
Seth probably would have responded had Nathan not chosen that moment to come into the room. He took the seat next to Brandon on the couch, close enough that Bran could feel his trembling. He put his arm around Nate’s shoulders and received a grateful smile for the effort.
Brandon was proud of the strength in Nate’s voice when he said, “Seth, what are you doing here?”
Seth moved forward to perch on the edge of his chair. From his viewpoint, Brandon could see that Seth was shaking almost as bad as Nate. If the guy wasn’t such a self-righteous prick, Bran might have felt sorry for him.
“If I told you I was sorry for what happened four years ago, would it make a difference?”
“I don’t know, Seth. Sorry if that’s not what you want to here, but that’s just how it is.”
“Will you give me a chance to explain why I did what I did?”
Brandon’s heart sank when he saw Nate nod to his brother’s request. He settled back against the cushions, pulling Nathan with him and holding him tight to his side. If Seth was uncomfortable with their closeness, he didn’t show it.
“Nate, before we go any further, I need to tell you something: I’m gay. I’ve been involved with another man for several months now.”
“Look, Seth, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but—”
Seth pulled a picture out of his wallet and handed it to Nate. The photo showed Seth with a rugged looking man about Brandon’s age, or older.
“His name is Philip Patterson. He’s older than I am, but Mother said, as long as he treats me well, she’s all for it.”
The disbelief in Nate’s voice was cutting. “You’re telling me Mother knows about this, and she’s O.K. with it?”
“She and Dad both do. That’s one of the reasons I’m here, Nate. We want you back, man. All of us.”
“I’m twenty-eight-years old, Seth. Even if I believed what you’re saying—and I’m not sure I do—don’t you think that’s a little long in the tooth to move back home with the folks.”
“That’s not what I’m saying. Mom and Dad want to be
a part of your life again.” He lowered his head. “I want
my brother back.”
“Some crazy guy bashes you in the head, trashes your house, and you can ask me that?”
Brandon switched from concerned boyfriend to sheriff in a one-second rotation. “You mind telling me just how in the hell you know about that?”
Seth again went into his wallet, this time pulling out a faxed copy of the clipping from The Reed Daily Courier about Nathan’s attack. “Mr. Davis at the paper has a son who manages one of the Mor-co franchises in Chicago. He recognized the name and faxed the entire article to Dad. He and Mom are scared to death, Nate.”
Nathan displayed the first show of anger Bran had seen since Seth arrived. “So what, they decided to send the good son up here on a reconnaissance mission to the deviant? They were so concerned they sent someone else to do their dirty work?” Nate stood up. “Well, you’ve done what you came for. I’m not sure who that guy in the picture with you is, but I believe he’s your lover like I believe Jimmy Hoffa is downstairs waiting in my reception area. You go back home and assure Mom and Dad that I’m not going to do anything to further disgrace the Morris name. And hey, if this guy who’s stalking me does happen to kill me, I’ll make sure they list ‘none’ under the relatives column of my obituary. That way neither you nor our illustrious parents will have to answer any embarrassing questions about the family fag.”
Seth didn’t make a move to stand. “I was raped, Nate.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“When I was fifteen. I was raped by a guy I met at a party. It happened a few months before you told me you were gay.”
Nate collapsed back onto the sofa and into Brandon’s arms. His voice was thin and tight in the now silent room.
Seth rubbed his hand over his face the same way Nathan did when he was nervous. “When I was thirteen, I started having feelings for other guys. Girls did nothing for me, but a picture of Brad Pitt gave me a boner every time. I waited to see if it would go away, but it didn’t. A couple of years later, I worked up the courage to ‘come out’ to one of the guys at school who was already out. He invited me to this college party a friend of his was having. I met a few guys, had a few drinks. That’s where I met Andy. He seemed perfect: eighteen, sexy, shy, kinda quiet. He asked me out for the following weekend, and I went. That first night, he didn’t try anything heavier than holding my hand. I thought it was because he was such a gentleman. The next time we went out, he corrected that impression for me.” Tears were rolling down his face, but Seth kept going with the story. “On our second date, he took me to his place, an off campus apartment he shared with a couple of roommates. We started drinking, and then he made his move. He was all over me. Hell, I had never even kissed a guy before, and he was undoing my zipper. I fought him off, but he was too strong for me.” Seth shuddered at the memory and stopped long enough to pull himself together. “When he was done, he passed out from all the alcohol, and I was able to get away. I ran for a few blocks before I found a pay phone. I called Dad to come and get me and told him the whole story.”
Nate was shaking too bad to speak, so Brandon said, “Did he took you to the hospital? Please tell me you pressed charges.”
A shadow fell over Seth’s eyes. “No. Dad was afraid the whole world would find out I was gay if he did that. He said we would handle it privately, that the doctors at the hospital and the police just wouldn’t understand. Instead, he sent me to a shrink that convinced me I wasn’t really gay, I was just confused. I found out later that she belonged to one of those religions that believe all homosexuals should be rounded up and shot. At the time, I was young enough, and vulnerable enough, to believe her when she told me all homosexuals were rapists and molesters like Andy.”
“So when Nate told you he was gay just a few months later—”
“I freaked out. In all honesty, I think that’s what happened with Dad, too. I convinced myself that Nate was evil, and that he was just like Andy. It wasn’t until after he came to see me on my birthday that I began to wonder if maybe Dad and the therapist were wrong. I mean, I still had feelings for other guys. Not even being raped was enough to kill those. I found a therapist at school who helped me work through it all. It took me a couple of years, but I finally realized that being gay and being raped had nothing to do with each other. Hell, straight women get raped and they don’t just stop being straight.”
Nate stood up and walked over to the window, Brandon got the feeling he wasn’t seeing what lay outside, but remembering the events that brought him here, instead. Finally, he turned around and said, “If everything you say true, then why did it take you a full two years after you finished therapy to try and contact me?”
Seth walked over to where Nate stood and took his hand. “I was ashamed, Nate. I didn’t know how to apologize for the things I’d said and done. I know what happened to me is no excuse for the way I hurt you, and I don’t expect you just to welcome me back into your life with open arms. All I’m asking for is a chance to get to know you again.” Seth dropped his hand and went back to his seat.
Nate ran his fingers through his hair and came to stand by the couch. Brandon stood up beside him and wrapped an arm around his waist. Nate said, “Look, Seth, I’m really sorry for what happened to you, and I’m glad you got help, but I’m just not sure what you expect of me. I mean, do you really think I’m going to believe that mom and dad have had some miraculous change of heart about me just because you announced that you’re gay and they claim to accept it? I was there six years ago when they decided a fag wasn’t worth having as a son. The very fact that they sent you here to plead their case proves that they aren’t exactly overrun with concern for my well-being.”
Seth clasped his hands in his lap. “They’re scared, Nate. Just give us a chance, man.” He rose to his feet and pulled a card from his wallet, handing it to his brother. “This has my cell phone number and my e-mail on it. I have to get back Atlanta, back to school, but I have a three day weekend coming up the week after next. I’d like to bring Phillip up here to meet you, if that’s alright.” Seeing the stern look on Brandon’s face, he said, “We’ll stay in a hotel somewhere in Chicago, I promise. I’m not trying to force you into anything, Nate. I just want to be with you again, is all. We were really close once. You were my hero, remember?”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do.” He sighed, and Brandon could hear the exhaustion in his voice. “Let me talk it over with Bran, and I’ll let you know, O.K.?”
Seth walked over and pulled him into a quick hug. Brandon noticed that Nate didn’t resist, but neither did he return the embrace. After a moment, Seth broke away and said, “Hey, where are you staying, anyway? Where can I contact you, besides here at the office?”
Brandon was about to tell Seth “don’t call us, we’ll call you, but Nate got to him first. “I’ve got your number and your e-mail. Let me make the first move, alright?”
Seth didn’t seem to like it, but he simply nodded his head and walked towards the door. As he was leaving, he said, “It was good to see you again, Nate. I’ve really missed you.” Before Nate could reply, he was gone.
Brandon fell back onto the couch and pulled Nate down onto his lap. “How you holding up?”
Nate laid his head on Brandon’s shoulder. “I’m not sure how I feel, to tell you the truth. When Seth told us about being raped, all I really wanted to do was take him into my arms and cuddle him the way I did when we were kids. I wanted to hurt the bastard who did that to him, and I wanted to blast my father for not prosecuting the son-of-a-bitch. My feelings towards my parents may be mixed, but I’ve never stopped loving Seth. I’ve always wanted to have a relationship with him again. I guess it’s the timing that makes me a little suspicious.”
Brandon kissed the top of his head. “Me, too, babe. Until we know more about this sudden turn-around in your family, let’s not take any chances, O.K.?”
Nate snuggled closer. Brandon did his best not to get a hard-on, but finally gave up and hoped Nate wouldn’t feel it. After a minute, Nate said, “I do know one thing. I couldn’t have made it through today if it hadn’t been for you. Thanks for seeing me through this, Bran.”
Brandon just kissed him again and held him tighter. Having Nate in his arms was all the thanks he needed.
* * *
Over the next few days, they fell into a pattern. Either Brandon or a deputy would follow Nate to work in the mornings, then the same routine would be carried out on the way home. Usually Nate's day ended before Brandon’s did, so he would come home and spend a little time with Sasha before starting supper. Since Brandon’s idea of a balanced meal involved a frozen dinner that included dessert, Nathan took charge of their meals. His Grandmother Morris had passed to him her love of cooking, a task made even more enjoyable by the homey warmth of Brandon’s kitchen.