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Needs Must: Prologue

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Another night, another battle, and *lord* he aches with it. A hot soak and rest would probably take care of most of it, though his own doctor's instincts warn him that something else might be needed. No drugs, he knows that peril too well. Maybe--

"Hey Doc," comes Ted Grant's gravelly voice startlingly close behind him, "you okay? Lookin' kinda bruised there."

"I'm fine, Ted," he replies automatically, because that's what he does. Doc Mid-Nite ministers to the medical needs of the JSA and rarely spares a thought for his own. But his teammate Wildcat deserves honesty. "Just a little sore."

"Yeah, I bet. You sorta got the worst of it this time. Don'cha know you're s'posed to let Rex do the heavy lifting?" There's an impertinent grin in Ted's voice mirrored on his face when he pulls back his cowl.

Charles frowns; he can't help it. "I don't like what the Miraclo does to him. It makes him impatient, reckless--"

"It makes him *Hourman,*" Ted points out simply, "the one with super-strength, remember?"

"I know," Charles sighs, and lets it go. That's an ongoing argument that won't be resolved until Rex Tyler faces his addictions. All of them.

"Anyway," Ted is saying, "you're the doc, but I know more'n a little about strained muscles and you'll be better off if you let me rub 'em out for you. What d'you say, Chuck?"

Because it's late and he's tired, he doesn't even wince at the diminutive. And Ted means nothing but well. Charles pulls back his own cowl and smiles. "I'd like that."


Now lying naked but for a towel on the padded table in the gym, he wonders if this was wise after all. He's not...close to the other members of the Justice Society. Part of it is his mode, working in darkness where the others charge into the light. Part of it is the fact that he's their physician as well as their teammate, and that requires a certain level of professional detachment.

Part of it is that Charles has secrets of his own.

Or rather, not so much "secrets" as things never spoken of. The others talk about their wives and girlfriends and have stopped asking after his lack of same. He's never felt the need to lie when evasion does just as well. "No, no one special." And leaves it at that. He's been discreet, all his life; and really, there's nothing to talk about. It would make quite a scene, if he did. Charles imagines reporting to the team: The torn tendon in Jay's calf is nearly healed, he's still tracing the source of the latest illegal drug supplier to hit the streets, and in case any of them were wondering, yes, he is a practicing homosexual.

Although rarely 'practicing' lately.

Which is precisely why this might be a mistake. Ted's hands on his body are meticulous and skillful, no more erotic than a medical exam. But it's been so long since anyone touched him, much less with care. He can't...deny his arousal, it's been so long, and Ted's touch feels too good.

Charles closes his eyes and tries to gather his self-control. And that's worse, because he knows all too well that without vision his other senses work overtime to compensate. The tangible strength in Ted's hands as they work over his back, the thick scent of Ted's sweat.

"That's...fine," he says, hoping Ted will just stop, "thank you."

He can almost *feel* Ted frowning down at his back. "Nah, you're still all tense. I'm not hurting you, am I?"

"No," he manages in a strangled tone, and can't say any more.

"But-- oh," says Ted, softly and surprised, "oh."

Charles winces into the table, too mortified to look up, hearing the sound of the other man walking away and then the thud of the gym door closing. He wonders if he's irretrievably damaged his working relationship with Wildcat, if Ted will tell the others, if he'll be forced to leave the Justice Society. His clinic could be shut down--

He's so mired in his own humiliated thoughts he doesn't even hear Ted recrossing the room, and nearly jumps out of his skin when Ted rests a broad warm hand on his back.

"Y'look a little uncomfortable, there. Want me to do something about it?"

And the thing of it is, Ted says it in the *exact* same offhand tone with which he offered the massage in the first place, like it's nothing special. An everyday occurrence. But it isn't. Ted had girlfriends, he's not, he's never--

Charles gropes for his glasses and sits up, clutching the towel around him. If there's pity in Ted's eyes he won't be able to bear it. Ted looks...the same as ever, actually, which might almost be more disconcerting. He reads concern, friendly affection, slight amusement on that honest face. No pity, no disgust.

Ted just shrugs under his scrutiny. "Won't hurt my feelings if you don't."

Charles is beyond articulating his own feelings. This would be...wrong in more ways than he can count. It's not love. He'd never considered Ted Grant in this particular light before this moment. It would be mutual use, if that, and no more.

But he's *here.*

He reaches for Ted like a lifeline.






*looks Smitty-ward* Okay...I've started and ended it. He's all broke. Fix him?