“Good afternoon, gentlemen.”
Dean took in the curvacious, dark-haired female and a slow smile curled his sensuous lips.
She was surprised to feel her chest tighten and a warm flush creep up her neck. “I’m Dr. Kim, Dean. I met your uncle earlier.”
The young man looked startled. “I thought you were a nurse.”
“Here to give ‘im a sponge bath,” the unkempt older man added.
“Bobby!” The young man’s cheeks flushed, emphasizing the green of his eyes.
He scrambles my brain this badly when he’s all beat up, can’t imagine what he’d do to me without the bruises. She squared her shoulders. “It’s a common mistake. I’m actually your surgeon, and if all goes well, this will be the only time you’ll see me.”
His face actually fell, and she added, “As long as there are no surgical complications, you’ll be in the care of one of the staff physicians.”
“Okay.” He sounded disappointed, and her heart rate sped up.
Get it together, Lynne! This is not the first attractive patient you’ve had!
She reached for the controls on the bed. “I need to lower this to take a look at your incision. How are you feeling?”
“Hey, Doc?” the older man queried. When she looked over at him, he continued, “you mind if I step out? All this medical stuff makes me a little queasy.”
There was something odd in his facial expression, and she flicked a glance at her patient in time to catch him giving his uncle a wide-eyed look while mouthing something. What the hell is that all about?
“Yes, of course. This shouldn’t take long.”
She finished lowering the bed to the sound of her patient’s moan. “How are feeling, Dean?”
“Just peachy.” He had his eyes closed.
“I’m going to take a look at your abdomen, alright?”
She pulled the covers down, piling them on his lap, then unsnapped the right sleeve of his gown. That allowed her to peel the garment up and over to his left side, leaving the right half of his torso exposed.
“The discoloration doesn’t seem to have spread,” she observed, running gentle fingertips over his skin.
Gooseflesh appeared and his nipple hardened. He was nearly vibrating with tension, and had kept his eyes closed.
“Just relax. I promise I’ll be gentle.”
In response he draped his left arm over his face, stifling a groan.
“How much pain are you in?”
She pressed gently around the bandage over his incision before moving out to palpate his abdomen.
The muscles there were thick ridges beneath her questing fingers.
“Not much,” he mumbled.
She moved up, coasting over his ribs. The well-defined intercostal muscles served to emphasize the defect created by the fractures. She probed carefully, concerned about internal bleeding from the jagged rib ends, and noticed his sharp inhale.
“I’m sorry. I know that hurts. I’m done now.” She stroked the smooth skin once before turning to the cart she’d brought in. “I’m going to use an ultrasound machine to make sure your liver has stopped bleeding, and then I’ll change your bandage, alright?”
His body was tight, coated with a thin sheen of sweat.
“Yeah?” his voice was muffled by a well-muscled arm.
“Are you alright?”
“Let me see your face, please.”
His arm slowly withdrew.
She pulled out a penlight. “Eyes, please.”
They popped open obediently, and she was immersed in their seductive verdance.
It was suddenly very difficult to breathe.
He licked his lips, and difficult escalated to impossible.
His pupils dilated. “Doc?”
“I--Sorry.” She leaned back away from him, breaking the spell. “On a scale of one to ten, how is your pain?”
“Depends,” he said, voice low and a little rough, eyes following her.
That lazy smile came back, and she bit her lip. “What you plan on doing about it.”
She stepped back, bumping her cart. “I...I can get you some...some morphine.”
He chuckled, and the sound resonated inside of her. “I hate that stuff. Makes me all fuzzy and uncoordinated.”
“So your pain is…?”
“Undetectable when you’re looking at me like that.”
She knew her cheeks were flaming, and there was nothing she could do about it. “Um...let me...ultrasound.” With shaking hands she reached for the bottle of lubricant, discomfort growing as she squeezed it onto his skin. He was watching her, gaze so intent she could feel it, even with her own eyes deliberately averted. She used the machine’s probe to spread the gel, then scanned carefully, stopping to record images that would allow the machine to calculate a volume. “No significant increase in fluid. Looks like you’re doing well.”
Steadfastly refusing to look at him, she dipped a soft cloth into the basin of warm water on the cart. She ran it over his abdomen, gently removing the ultrasound gel, and felt his muscles tremble beneath her hand.
She swallowed, licking her lips, and had to physically turn her shoulders to force herself not to flick a glance towards the blankets piled over the man’s groin.
You are a professional! Stop acting like a freaking school girl!
She pulled on a pair of sterile gloves. “I’ll change your bandage now.”
His teeth caught his lower lip and he nodded, holding her gaze.
She reached for the bandage. Stop shaking! She peeled it away, doing her best to avoid hurting him. He made no sound, but his respiratory rate increased.
She probed the wound gently. He held himself very still.
She could feel him watching her.
“It looks good,” she announced, risking a glance at him, hungry for those green eyes yet afraid of being lost in them again.
He was still biting his lip, eyes burning.
She replaced the bandage, then reached for the edge of his gown.
He caught her wrist, grip firm and very warm. “Thank you. Your hands are amazing.” He lowered his own, taking hers with it, until her palm rested on his sternum between the swell of his pectoral muscles.
He released her, and her fingers splayed of their own accord. His heart beat strongly under her palm, and she closed her eyes. Nearly against her will that errant hand strayed, appreciating velvet skin over taut muscle, stopping when sensitive fingertips caught on the tight nub of a very masculine nipple, and his chest rose and fell rapidly.
She licked her lips, mouth suddenly very wet, and withdrew her hand.
“I have to go.” Her voice was nearly unrecognizable.
“Will I get to see you again?”
I shouldn’t. But she was single, and so was he, as far as she knew, and if he weren’t her patient, it would certainly be alright, so maybe….
She hurriedly jotted down her number.
Without saying a word, she left.
“Mr. Kayser,” the detective held out his hand. “Surprised to see you out here.”
Bobby grunted as he shook the man’s hand. Me, too. “Doctor had to do stuff to ‘im. Asked me to step out.”
“I see.” He leaned against the wall next to Bobby. “Guess I’d better wait then, too. By the way, what university did you say your nephew is attending?”
Bobby was saved from answering by the young female surgeon who exited the room, face flushed, barely glancing at them as she strode briskly down the hallway.
Bobby shook his head and sighed. “Guess he’s feelin’ better.”
The detective shot him a quizzical look which Bobby cheerfully ignored.
Dean was snoring softly when they entered his room. Bobby put a hand on one blanket-draped foot, shaking it lightly. “Hey, kid. There’s a detective here wants to talk to ya.”
“You don’t have to--” the officer began, but Dean snorted his way to consciousness.
“Hey,” he mumbled, fumbling for the bed controls. “Bobby, ya wanna?” He gestured at the bed.
Dean winced as the bed hummed, raising him to a sitting position. “Detective...ah...Hedley, right?”
The man held out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Dean.”
Dean completed the ritual, mindful of the IV catheter in the back of his hand. “My uncle told me you’re trying to figure out what happened. I’m not pressing charges.”
The detective pulled a chair closer to the bed before seating himself in it. “You almost died, son. Why wouldn’t you press charges?”
“‘Cause it was my fault, and I agreed to it. Who’m I gonna charge? Myself?”
“You agreed to nearly being beaten to death?”
“Well... I mean...no, that’s not how it was worded, but--”
“How was it worded then, Dean? Initiation? Proving yourself?”
Dean looked away.
“You do realize that hazing is illegal, right? That you yourself could be charged as an accomplice?”
“That’s enough,” Bobby stepped in. “First of all, we all know you can’t charge him with jack, and second, even if you could, no jury would lookit what happened to him and think he deserved even more punishment.”
The detective sighed. “Look, son, we been battling hazing in this town for a long time. It’s a serious problem. Kids get hurt, emotionally traumatized, and even killed over this kind of thing every year. You want to sit back and allow all of this to happen to somebody else? Or you want to step up and help put an end to it?”
“Ain’t gonna happen to anyone else. This was just me.”
“Right.” Hedley’s voice was ugly with disdain.
“It wasn’t hazing,” Dean offered. “I slept with a brother’s chic. He found out. There’s consequences, and I knew it. I had it comin’.”
“Which house? Which fraternity?”
Dean looked away.
“What university are you enrolled at?”
The detective snapped his notebook closed, standing to loom over the injured man. “You’re an idiot. Protecting someone who came very close to killing you over, what? Some out-dated code of honor? So this guy gets to walk around thinking that what he did to you is okay, that it’s an acceptable way to settle a dispute. And you’re okay with that? With letting a violent sociopath roam around, doing who knows what to people?”
Dean kept his eyes averted and held his silence.
The officer turned to Bobby. “And you--you’re just going to let your nephew do this?”
Bobby bridled. “I don’t ‘let’ Dean do anything. He’s an adult, he makes his own decisions. ‘Sides, whadda you expect me to do, beat it out of him?” His sarcasm was acerbic.
The two men stood, each with their hands on their hips, glaring at each other over Dean’s recumbent form.
Eventually the detective shook his head, disgusted. “Someone else is going to end up in the hospital--or the morgue. And that’s gonna be on you.” He spat the words at Dean before turning to stride from the room, back stiff with anger.
The two men watched until the last reverberation of the slamming door faded away. Then they looked at each other and grinned.
“Nice job,” Bobby offered.
“You, too, Mr. Kayser.”
Bobby sat. “So...How you feelin’?”
“Damn, Bobby. That surgeon--”
“Not what I was askin’, Dean.”
The young man grinned wolfishly. “Pretty sure I could go any time now. Got her number.”
Bobby snorted, shaking his head. “How about if we wait and see if you can hold some food down? You do that, and we can talk about gettin’ ya outta here.”
“Fair enough.” He lapsed into silence, face pensive.
“You wonderin’ about yer old man, ain’t ya?”
Dean licked his lips.
“Caroline’s workin’ on him.”
“What’s that mean?”
Bobby shook his head. “Dean, he ‘bout killed you. That ain’t normal, alright?”
Dean fought to control his temper. “He’s gotta...It’s not like I didn’t know , Bobby.”
“What the hell are you talkin’ about, boy?”
“I know how he is about me leavin’ Sammy alone. I knew what would happen if he found out, and I did it anyway. It’s nobody’s fault but my own.”
“Jesus Christ!” Bobby was back on his feet, pacing. “How are you so goddamned brainwashed?”
“I’m not! That’s his big rule, everybody fuckin’ knows it, I know it--”
“Dean, lemme ask you this,” Bobby stormed back over to the bedside and gripped the railing hard. “If yer pop had left Sam with me, and you stopped in and found Sam home alone, would you beat my ass next time you saw me?”
Dean scowled. “Jesus, Bobby. Of course not. That’s nuts.”
“And why is that nuts?”
“Because…” he struggled to find a reason that didn’t also apply to himself. “I’m younger than you. You’re the authority figure here.”
“So would yer dad have the right to beat my ass?”
That silenced him. “I...Well...Did something happen to Sam? In your scenario, did he disappear or get hurt or something?”
“Let’s say he ran away, like he did with you. If you found your dad beatin’ the ever livin’ hell outta me, would you just let ‘im, ‘cause I deserved it? I knew the rule and I ignored it, figuring a seventeen-year-old kid didn’t need a fuckin’ baby-sitter. What would you do, Dean?”
Dean tried to imagine that. His father and Bobby had some pretty heated arguments every now and then. Bobby’d threatened his father more than once, usually for something John had done to Dean. But would Dean step in? Would he stop John if his father was hurting Bobby?
“I don’t know, Bobby. I don’t know.”
“He ain’t a god, you know. He makes mistakes.”
Dean shook his head. “Not about big things. Important things.”
“I know you think you gotta believe that, ‘cause somehow it makes you feel safer, but you’re wrong, Dean.”
Dean had had enough. “And what exactly is it that you want me to do, Bobby?” he exploded. “You keep bringin’ this shit up, over and over again, and it’s too late, it’s already been done, and what do you want me to do, huh? You want me to tell the man to fuck off? Want me to throw a fist at his face? Run off with Sammy? Just what the fuck are you tryin’ to get me to do?” In his distress he’d tried to sit up, lean forward, and now he groaned, pressing a hand to his side as the color drained from his face. “Son of a bitch.” He exhaled, leaning back. Sweat broke out on his forehead.
Bobby’s face was creased with concern. “Relax, Dean. Relax.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gently dabbed at the boy’s brow.
Dean closed his eyes, panting.
“You need more pain meds? I’ll call the nurse…”
“No. Fuckin’ hate morphine. Just gimme a minute.”
Bobby stood by-- Hovering -- watching with pained regret as the young hunter consciously brought his physical distress under control.
Eventually the color returned to his face and the tension left his torso. Dean swallowed audibly before clearing his throat. “Maybe...maybe I oughta stay one more night.”
“Good plan, genius.” Bobby stroked the cloth repeatedly over Dean’s forehead. “I don’t know what I want from you, kid.” His voice was soft, the gruffness gone. “I just… I don’t want this to ever happen to you again.”
“Me, either,” Dean admitted. “So what’s this Caroline person doin’ again?” He had his eyes closed, and his breathing was still a little rapid.
“She’s helpin’ him figure out how to control his temper.”
“But he’ll still train me? Still be tough as hell, ganking monsters most hunters avoid? Still…” be a hero.
“Yeah. He’ll still be all a’ that.”
“You promise, Bobby?” and his voice was small.
Bobby felt the boy’s hand slide over to his, and he gripped it tightly. “I promise, kid.”