Doctor of My Heart
“Thank you, Churchill! Goodnight!” Francis gave his best press smile as he walked offstage, waving to the fans. As soon as he was out of sight of the audience, he peeled off his microphone, and murmured to Cheri, “We’re clear?”
His friend and publicist nodded, “Nobody here but us chickens.”
“Good,” Francis smiled, before his eyes rolled back, and he collapsed.
He had the vague impression of all hell breaking loose around him, but people and lights swirled and flowed around him. Need to remember this for a video sometime, he thought as the scene finally resolved to reveal the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen.
“I’m dead?” Francis murmured at the angel hovering above him.
“Nae, lad - though if you keep pushing yourself like this you soon will be,” the angel’s gruff voice pulled Francis’s focus sharper. The heavenly robes resolved into a lab coat, the halo effect from the lights above them, as the doctor continued. “You’re at the Churchill General Hospital, in the emergency room. I’m Dr Pemberton, what is the last thing you remember?”
“The concert, we wrapped up, and I… I got off stage, before I fainted, I think?” he asked.
“Dropped like a sack of bricks, aye,” the doctor said as he checked Francis’s eyes. “We’re treating you for what looks to be exhaustion, but we’ll know more after your bloodwork comes back.”
“I don’t do drugs,” Francis kept his volume low, trying to minimize any damage to his vocal cords. “Can’t write or perform under the influence. Bad role model.”
“Small mercies,” the doctor growled. “Still, you’re young, but not immortal! You need sleep and proper nutrition if you want to keep going.”
A snort of derision caught Francis’s attention, and he turned to see the nurse with brilliant turquoise hair as she said, “Physician, heal thyself.”
“Yeah, yeah - do as I say, not as I do,” Those brilliant twilight eyes turned back to Francis. “Your girlfriend has your things, but you’re going to need to stay at least overnight for observation.”
“Girlfriend?” Francis asked.
“Petite and posh, pushy but polite?” the doctor asked.
“Oh, Cheri - friend, yes, girl, yes, but not girlfriend, more like a sister,” Francis smiled dazedly. “She’s my medical proxy because we grew up together.”
“Better her than the suit who wanted me to drug you up to get you on the road again. He’s a guest of the RCMP until he can talk his way out of it,” Dr Pemberton harrumphed. “Since your tox screen came out clean, the constables aren’t after you, but everyone else is. The hospital is crawling with teenage girls and idiots with cameras.”
“I’m sorry, I was hoping to keep up the pace until we got home.” Francis murmured.
There was a knock at the door, with Cheri following soon after, “Right, got our sympathetic label representative on the phone, and Padman is now aware of Marvin The Martian’s attempt to get you doped higher than Floyd Pinkerton. He said he'll back us on the next move, pending your doctor’s orders.”
“He’s going to need more than a good night’s sleep, but we’ll start with that and check in the morning,” Dr Pemberton nodded.
By morning, however, Francis discovered he had been transferred to the care of the chief surgeon, and did not see Dr Pemberton again while he was in the hospital.
Charles ground his teeth together as yet another love song piped into the elevator. “Bunch of sentimental, shallow crap.”
“What, you don’t care for MacKenzie?” Kat grinned as she sorted through the files she was carrying, “He seemed a nice enough patient while he was here.”
“That MacKenzie is who’s singing?” Charles frowned and focused on the lyrics, You aren’t an angel, but you defended me, what else could you be, but the doctor of my heart!
He shrugged, “Good enough voice, but syrup for lyrics.”
“Syrup sells. It’s been a top chart hit since he released it.”
Charles harrumphed, but it was mostly to cover his embarrassment. “I hope that’s not the reason why there’s more teens in the ER this summer.”
“You’re only seeing the increase in tourists to the area. We’ve gotten popular after the coverage of MacKenzie’s collapse.” She cut her eyes over to the doctor as they exited the elevator, “There’s even a rumor that he’s singing about a doctor here in town, as all the songs were released after his convalescence.”
“Great,” Charles groaned. He slumped into his tiny office, leaning against the door. I only saw him once, no reason to get attached. he thought as he put his head in his hands, He’s probably straight, I have no right to be jealous. It’s just a stupid song.
Kat put a teen magazine on top of the files she brought him.
Charles glared at her, “What is this trash?”
“The usual dreck we get for the waiting room, but there’s one article that’s fairly interesting.” She flipped the magazine open to a picture of MacKenzie, in jeans and shirtless, with a lab coat draped over his shoulders. The opposing page featured a police sketch that looked vaguely familiar.
“What, was he assaulted? Why wasn’t it in the news?” Charles snatched up the magazine to read the article, only to find the story was not as dire as he thought at first. “This is the doctor in the songs?”
“Yep, near as they can guess from the descriptions in the album,” Kat leaned against the desk, smirking.
Charles glared at the magazine, willing it to catch fire and failing. “All this fuss over a fantasy woman.”
“Maybe so, maybe no,” Kat looked at the portrait again, “She actually looks like a female version of you.”
The doctor’s glare of fiery death shifted from the magazine to the nurse, “That is not in the least bit funny.”
She held a finger up to her lips, “I didn’t say anything but who I thought it looked like. Calm down.” She casually picked up the magazine again, “Have you worn out the CD yet?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Charles grumbled, opening the first file of the stack on his desk.
“You should hide the CD case better. It’s visible on the floor of your car when it slides out from under the seat.” Kat sighed, “He’s a nice guy. Wouldn’t be a stretch for him to be singing about you.”
Charles closed his eyes, “A big stretch, considering we only spoke for his intake.”
“I dunno, doc. You tend to make an impression.”
“Out,” he growled, pointing at the door.
The tour bus had to be loaded onto the train for the last part of the tour, but Rail Canada had been more accommodating about the loading times, for MacKenzie’s second tour of the area. Considering the third single from the album mentioned the “rhythm of the rails matching the beat of my heart”, fans of MacKenzie were quick to queue up for rail passes. Cheri had managed to get them upgraded to a dedicated car, with some licensing agreements. Sure they had to share with the whole crew, but that meant more people to keep the record label’s representative out of Francis’s face.
“Back to Churchill, oh joy,” Hayreddîn’s sarcastic drawl carried over most of the car, while the roadies cheered the oncoming city limits.
The interaction caused Cheri to roll her eyes. “That idiot has no clue how to tour in Canada,” she muttered. Since all she got from Francis was a soft sigh, she added, “The concert for the hospital sold out, so the new children’s clinic got funded.”
He responded with a soft smile, “At least I can do that for him.”
“Look,” she lowered her voice, with a glance to the disgruntled executive, “The album’s gone double platinum, even with the rumors that the doctor could be a guy.”
“You know that’s the only reason he’s along for the ride, this tour,” Francis's eyes flicked over to Hayreddîn, “to make sure I behave. Or at least if I misbehave, it’s with an appropriate female.”
“Yes, and I told him to quit hiring strippers and party girls for photo ops. On the other hand, you and I both know how sneaky you can be,” Cheri chuckled. “I’ve been in touch with the hospital to arrange a formal tour the afternoon after the concert. Which means they won’t expect you there immediately after the concert.”
Francis stiffened, his eyes darting over to the executive, then carefully relaxed back into the seat, murmuring, “Is he still on staff?”
“His nurse said he would be finishing up his shift at midnight.” Cheri sipped her sparkling water, with a small smile, “There’s going to be a car waiting at the tech entrance once you’ve changed out of your stage gear.”
“You’re the best sister,” Francis said, with one of the first bright smiles he had worn in the past year.
The concert went well, with the new material energizing the crowd. He wrapped up with Blue Skies, Angel Eyes after asking everyone to be careful on their way home, a key part of his concerts on this tour.
There were a few more fans with backstage passes at this concert, but since they were all the kids from the hospital that could attend, his guests were being led off to their van, most of them asleep in their wheelchairs of caregiver’s arms when he left the stage.
Cheri hustled him into his dressing room, “The car will be here in fifteen minutes; shower and change, I’ll get everything else cleared.” Then she locked the door behind her as she left.
Fifteen minutes was just barely enough time for him to get presentable, and yet not quite long enough for him to wind himself up in worry. Cheri did know him pretty well. When he stuck his head out of the door, he caught the sounds of the roadies breaking down the stage, and Hayreddîn arguing with one of the venue managers right beside the stage door. Cheri caught him by the arm and hauled him into the dark hallway leading to an employee’s exit. “Here, I packed a bag for you, I’ll see you in the morning,” she said, shoving him into the taxi with a kiss on the cheek, and she disappeared back into the concert hall.
The driver dropped him off at the back of the hospital, and waved off Francis’s payment, “Your sister already took care of it. Have a good night.”
Francis looked over the very utilitarian facade of the hospital. This was not the front admissions nor the emergency department; it rather looked like the delivery area for supplies. He checked to see which way would take him to the door quickest when one of the doors to the side of the loading dock opened.
“Come on! The reporters are starting to hit the admissions desk!” the nurse called.
He caught sight of turquoise hair in the light from inside the hospital, and that was enough to make him run for the door. “I’m not too late? He’s still here?”
“Just a little bit longer, I dumped a stack of files on him to get finished before he takes off on holiday, with a threat to get it all done before he leaves,” she lead him at a quick walk through the service halls. None of it was a straight shot, and there were a few times they ducked into an office or storeroom to avoid meeting anyone else. After what seemed like walking the length of the building twice, she pushed him into doorway that was open. With a parting shot of, “Make him take you to the good coffee shop!” she shut the door to the tiny office.
Leaving him alone with Dr Charles Pemberton, the man he had written two albums of songs about. “Oh, am I dead?” Francis breathed on a whisper.
“Nae, lad,” the doctor murmured, standing. “I thought you were due here tomorrow,” he checked his watch, “or rather, this afternoon.”
“Would you have been here, then?” Francis asked, heart pounding.
“I - well, I wasn’t going to be here,” he shrugged, putting his hands in the pockets of his lab coat, “wasn’t particularly interested in watching you meet your muse.”
Francis swallowed nervously, and decided to jump in with both feet. “If you weren’t here, I would not have been able to meet him.”
The only sign of emotion was when Charles’s eyes widened, “You take a lot of chances, do you?” the doctor asked, quietly.
“Only when the hoped-for result is more than worth the risk,” he responded, feeling his cheeks heat under his blush. “Truth though, I probably wouldn’t have said anything if we weren’t left alone, just gone off and written more songs about you.” Francis sighed, “I-I guess I should let you go -”
“No,” Charles reached out to stop Francis from opening the door, “Don’t leave, please.” Lightly grasping his arm, he asked, “At least let me buy you a cup of tea, so we could talk?”
“I’d like that,” Francis smiled, touching Charles’s hand, “very much.”
Due to the doctor’s favorite table being in the back corner of the coffee shop, the stampeding horde of reporters missed them as they were searching the hospital for Doctor Love.
Cheri smiled at the couple snuggled in against each other on the porch swing of their vacation cabin. This far out in the backcountry, the paparazzi had yet to find where MacKenzie relaxed, and still had not found his blue-eyed angel of mercy.
“Cripes, you’d think they would have figured it out before now, seeing as I haven’t publicly dated anyone in over a decade,” Francis chuckled, rubbing his cheek against Charles’s hair.
“I’ve worked hard to keep your private life private, so you could enjoy it, thank you,” Cheri said, sipping the same brand of seltzer she had ordered since high school. “Your music didn’t suffer, and neither did your relationship, I hope.”
“Nae, you did good, Cheri. It gave me time to see what he has to put up with when he’s alone, and it’s not good to leave him,” Charles made a face, “I don’t want to say unprotected, but without all the support he should have.”
“This will put you in the public eye, you know. There’s a fair number of ladies who might take it hard that their dream man was even farther out of their reach,” Cheri warned.
“There’s a lot of kids out there who need us to do this, though. Coming out, and participating in the parade, that’s us letting them know they aren’t wrong for being who they are.” Francis sighed, “They shouldn’t have to deal with the crap I had to, but we’ve got to show them the way.”
“I do what I can in the clinic, but that’s just one community,” Charles added. “I can support my partner and help with a wider audience by standing by him.”
“Partner?” Francis teased.
“Would you prefer fiancee?” Charles asked. “Even if we can’t get the government to give us a legal document right now, I still want to be your husband, someday.”
“Yes, I want that, Charles.”
Cheri stayed quiet as the couple shared a kiss, but when they came up for air, she giggled, “Mazel tov, now let’s get to work on the announcements.”