(Dr. Patrick Dean was borrowed from Teri.)
Chad was awakened by a throbbing pain in his left hand. Getting out of bed as quietly as possible in an attempt not to disturb his sleeping partner, he made his way to the en suite, closed the door and turned on the overhead light.
He closely examined the aching finger and determine some infection must have set in that would require more care than he was able to provide for himself.
As operations manager, along with his two supervisors, he’d been inspecting some of the new equipment that had arrived yesterday in preparation for the upcoming opening of a new section of the mine. Additional employees had recently been sent notices informing them all of the proposed start-up date. Work would resume in one week's time provided the weather continued to co-operate. Although a smaller mine than most, here in this part of the valley they had a much longer season than the mines further north and were therefore more productive.
Chad had run his hand over the side of the hydraulic splitter when an unseen object sliced through his glove and sliced into his finger. He’d removed the miniscule amount of dirt, disinfected the wound and then promptly put the matter out of his mind.
“I guess it’s coming back to bite me,” he grumbled, more ticked off at having to have it attended to than at the discomfort it was causing him.
Back in the bedroom, he hastily got dressed. Any effort he made to let Cameron know where he was going and why, met with failure as the younger man merely groaned at being disturbed, rolled over and hid under the blankets.
When Cameron finally woke up, he was surprised to find the bed empty. He padded downstairs and immediately saw the letter prominently attached to the fridge. He grimaced slightly, remembering the spanking he’d got the first and only time he hadn’t left a note telling Chad where he’d gone.
Keeping each other informed of their whereabouts was on the top of the list of expectations and was cast in stone. Chad had proven himself a man of his word when Cameron had chosen not to do so, despite the warnings.
He read the letter and quickly squashed the slightly panicked feeling that arose when he learned his lover had gone to the ER because he thought his finger might be infected. He felt bad because he hadn’t even known about Chad getting hurt.
“There’s no need to panic,” Cameron sternly told himself. “Patrick is a good doctor. He’ll clean it up and Chad will be fine.”
Cameron was eating breakfast when Chad came home. “What’s up?” he asked, eying the bandage on Chad’s hand suspiciously “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, Mugs. It’s nothing serious; more of an inconvenience than anything else.” Chad poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down across from his partner. “It was too early to see Patrick, but Dr. Carter was on duty. I’m later than I planned to be because I had to have this prescription filled at the pharmacy.” He placed the small vial on the table. “Zack was in a great frame of mind. He and Rene are going on a cruise with his parents. They leave next week.”
“Sounds cool,” Cameron replied with a smile. “Did they say where they were going?” He listened to Chad’s answer with half an ear while silently telling himself, ‘told you there was nothing to worry about’.
“They’re off to the Caribbean for seven days on Celebrity Cruise Lines.” Chad sat back to enjoy his coffee. He smiled into his cup as he picked up his Brat’s partial inattentiveness.
“Do you need anything done that I can help with?” Cameron asked. “I’m guessing the doctor told you not to use your hand too much.”
“Actually, I wasn’t given many instructions regarding it. Maybe she thought they’d fall on deaf ears. We’re a little ahead of schedule at the mine so I was thinking, seeing as it is your day off, to take a day myself and go to Vancouver. Feel up to doing some shopping?” Chad chuckled to himself, already knowing that was a given.
Cam’s eyes lit up. It was not often Chad took time off . “Clothes?” he asked hopefully. “I don’t actually need anything new, but I love window shopping.” Cameron paused and cocked his head. “I can’t believe I just said that,” he exclaimed. “I’m guess I’m a different person from the vain model I used to be. Good thing too as he didn’t quite fit into Jade Heights at all.”
“You’ve come a long way, baby,” Chad teased and drained his cup. ”Hope you don’t mind doing most the driving," he commented as he got up with plans of getting ready to leave.
“I never mind driving the Ranger,” Cameron replied, taking Chad’s dishes out of his hand. “You don’t need to get that bandage wet this early on.” He gave Chad his best ‘Top’ look.
“Bossy Brat!” Chad muttered under his breath as he landed a light swat on the seat of Cameron’s jeans.
Two days later, Chad woke with a sense of déjà vu. The pain in his hand, that seemed to have been abating since having it attended to, had returned with a vengeance.
By the light in the en suite, he discovered his injured finger was badly swollen and starting to discolour. He frowned when he realized this would involve another trip to the ER. As a rule, he saw their family physician more on a social bases than for medical purposes.
When he finally returned home, Cameron was sitting at the kitchen table with Chad’s handwritten note in front of him.
“This isn’t something I like waking up to,” Cameron grumbled. “Why didn’t you wake me up? I want to be with you when you go to the damn ER. I’m your partner. I have the right to be there.” The younger man was trying to hide the hurt and worry in his voice.
Picking up on the apprehension in both his Brat’s language and tone, Chad went for a calming approach. He sat down and took one of Cameron’s hands in his own. “Sorry about not waking you, Mugs. I’m just not use to having someone with me when I go to the hospital. Hell, I’m not even used to going there at all.” He paused and wearily ran the fingers of his uninjured hand through his hair. “Look, I had no idea how long I’d be or what would happen while I was there. And I certainly had no idea how you’d react to waiting any length of time. After all, you’re not the most uncomplaining person I know, are you?” He gently patted his companion’s arm before pushing away from the table. “Now, if you are interested in hearing what took place, I’ll tell you over a cup of coffee. Okay?”
“Okay,” Cameron capitulated. “But I wouldn’t have minded waiting. You sit there while I’ll make coffee. I can do up some breakfast as well, as I’m guessing you haven’t eaten.”
“That sounds good.” Chad sighed and relaxed against the back of his chair. “Just toast and jam will be fine.”
Later on, Cameron was nursing a second cup of coffee when his blue eyes lifted to Chad’s “Spill,” he requested with his voice wavering a little. “Why did you go back to the hospital?”
Chad reached over to encircle Cameron’s wrist and physically encouraged him to move over onto his lap. Nuzzling into the space where Cameron’s neck and shoulder met, Chad murmured, “All in good time, Mugs. I want a morning kiss first.” He proceeded to follow through in search of his request, allowing several moments to pass before answering his partner’s question.
Holding up his hand, he showed off the discoloured digit. “I woke up to find that not only had the pain returned, but my finger was badly swollen. I went to the clinic hoping to find our own doctor and get a second opinion. After listening to my tale of woe and examining my finger, Doc drew some blood for testing. He was unable to determine if there was any foreign matter remaining in the wound as it has completely healed without leaving a mark as to where it was in the first place.”
The younger man’s brow furrowed as his eyes sparkling in anger. “Why didn’t they do a proper job first time?” he demanded. “You shouldn’t have to visit them twice and still be having pain. So what have they done this time? Have they even told you what might be wrong?”
“Aside from increasing the dosage of antibiotics, Patrick says all we can do for the time being is to wait for the test results.”
“Oh for Pete’s sake, that sounds like a cop out to me,” Cameron griped. “Surely the all-powerful Dr. Dean has more answers than that.”
“Careful, Mugs!” Chad’s growl had a world of warning in it. “I know waiting can be hard but believe me when I say all avenues are being explored. Rushing may only result in bad decisions.” He patted his Brat’s hip to indicate he wanted him up so he too could stand. “We better get a move on. I have to check out something at the mine and you have a job to go to.”
It was less than twenty-four hours later when Cameron woke to the persistent shaking of his shoulder. He glared blurry-eyed at the man responsible for wrecking the dream he’d been enjoying.
“I have to get back to the ER, Mugs; sooner rather than later.”
“What’s up?” Cameron asked, rubbing his eyes to help wake himself up.
“Look!” Chad held out his left arm, palm up. The hand was badly swollen. He used his right index finger to follow the clearly visible, thin red line that ran to just below his elbow. “The infection is spreading.”
“Fucking, umm I mean bloody hell.” Cameron blushed slightly. He had mostly conquered his swearing habit but at times of stress it tended to rear its’ ugly head. “Just let me get some clothes on and do my teeth; then we can get out of here.”
“Okay, but I don’t think we need bother with our entire morning routine as getting this seen to takes priority.”
Both men dressed as quickly as possible and were out the door in a matter of minutes. Cameron was still tying his shoes when Chad pulled out of the driveway.
Fortunately, not only was Dr. Dean once again on duty, but the ER being empty enabled him to see them moments after their arrival.
The doctor pursued his lips and shook his head as he examined Chad’s hand while Cameron nervously paced behind him. “This is not good, Chad. But then you already know that or you would not have made another trip here before I called to give you the results of your blood test. Which, by the way, revealed nothing new; it merely verified the existing infection we were previously concerned about. It is a dangerous situation that we are going to attack with a great deal more aggression than we have been.”
“Do whatever you think best, Doc,” Chad agreed, reaching around Patrick to snag Cameron’s arm.
Patrick had been unaware of Cameron’s pacing having come to a halt at the mention of the word ‘dangerous’ or that the young man had stepped closer to peer over his shoulder in open-mouthed apprehension. It was only the unspoken command from patient to upset partner to sit down that reminded Patrick of Cameron’s presence. He watched as the rhythmic rubbing of Cameron’s rigid back slowly eased whatever anxiety the young man was experiencing. As always, the doctor was impressed by the natural responses between two men who lived the same life-style as he did with Hugh and Kyler.
Dr. Dean cleared his throat and began explaining the next method of treatment as he got up to gather supplies from nearby drawers and place them on a small trolley. “I am going to start intravenous therapy, Chad. It will put antibiotics directly into your bloodstream and is the fastest way to deliver medication. Remove your shirt, please.”
Sitting down in front of his patient, Patrick disinfected the back of Chand’s hand and forearm. Next, he inserted the needle with a flexible plastic cannula through the skin into one of his patient’s peripheral veins, and then gently withdrew the trocar. After adjusting the position of the cannula and securing it, Patrick attached an infusion line to the connecting hub of the catheter, ran it up Chad’s arm and down his bare chest, taping it in several places. He left it hanging temporarily while he wrapped a belt-like device with a pouch around Chad’s waist.
Patrick calmly kept Chad and Cameron informed of each step during the procedure. Once the tubing and belt were positioned to the doctor’s satisfaction, he retrieved a syringe of sorts from the medicine cabinet and held it up for the others to see. “This is the antibiotic that will be administered intermittently as needed by the pump I’ll put in the pouch. You will have to return here every morning and evening to have it replaced with a full one.” He attached the syringe to an electronic pump about the size of a pocket radio, placed them in the pouch and connected the infusion line leading to the cannula. He finished off by meticulously programming the pump to dispense precise amounts of medication at the required intervals. “This will start and stop on a prescribe schedule without intervention by either yourself or any medical staff, Chad. All we need to do now is go over a few safety precautions and sterile care procedures.”
Nodding his acceptance, Chad continued to quietly sooth his partner as he had been doing throughout the entire process. Cameron seemed mesmerized by all the doctor was doing and Chad wondered just how much info the younger man was actually absorbing.
‘Jeez,’ Cameron thought to himself. ‘This is really serious. What if it doesn’t work? What then?” His anxiety once again began to escalate but not wanting to distract his lover, he regulated it into the back of his mind. He listened as best he could to what was being said, hoping he understood everything well enough to be there to help Chad as much as possible.
“There, it’s done! You can put your shirt back on,” Patrick directed at the end of his brief list of instruction. He wrote down some note while Chad got dressed and then announced, “I also want that finger x-rayed. There must be some foreign matter in it that we’ve so far been unable to detect. I really cannot think of any other explanation for the infection to be worsening the way it is.”
“Fine by me, Patrick,” Chad answered. “I’ll make sure to free up time for whenever you schedule the appointment. This has definitely caused a lot more trouble than a tiny cut would normally warrant,” he muttered. “But thank you for taking care of it for me.”
“It’s what I’m here for,” Patrick kibitzed with a smile. “I’ll see you in a couple of days. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with and that your hand will be greatly improved.” With that, the doctor got to his feet and extended his hand to shake Chad’s and then Cameron’s.
“How does breakfast at the Maple Grill sound, Mugs?” Chad asked as they were walking out of the hospital.
“Cool,” Cameron replied. “You’re going to tell me when the x-ray is, aren’t you? I want to be with you.”
“Okay, if you insist on accompanying me, I’ll let you know when it’s scheduled,” Chad promised.
“Neat!” Cameron exclaimed. “We’d better move it. I‘m on the morning shift again today and the boss can be a hard-ass if I’m late.” He laughed when Chad growled at him.
The mine was booming and the lounge get busier with the larger than usual numbers of workers. But for some reason today things were fairly quiet, giving Cameron too much time to think. He freely admitted to himself that he was worried and anxious, but he didn’t want to show that to his lover. With some effort, he managed to put his worry about Chad’s finger to the back of his mind. Things were still slow when Kyler entered the bar.
Kyler glanced around as the heavy wooden door shut behind him. His eyes needed a few seconds to adjust to the change in lighting. There were only two patrons playing pool on the other side of the large room and Susie puttering around trying to look busy. He called out a greeting to her as he made his way over to the bar where Cameron was re-arranging a large tray of clean glasses.
Cameron’s eyes narrowed slightly. Kyler was his friend, but he was also the partner of Dr. Patrick Dean, the man who he still blamed for not treating Chad correctly. He had conveniently forgotten it had not been Patrick who’d treated his partner the first time. His thoughts immediately flashed to the picture in his mind of the needle sliding into the back of Chad’s hand and he shuddered. “That would not have been necessary,” he muttered under his breath, “if he’d done things right the first time.”
“Hi,” Cam greeted his friend pleasantly enough, but then couldn’t keep his mouth shut as the anger he felt that morning once again rose up inside him. “I sure hope that partner of yours is at the hospital checking on Chad’s case. Honestly, I don’t see what Patrick’s problem is.”
Kyler’s expression was first one of surprise at his friend’s sour mood, but quickly turned to one of annoyance. “Hi, yourself. Who the hell pissed in your corn flakes this morning?” he inquired as he walked behind the bar to pour himself a glass of pop.
“It sure wasn’t Chad,” Cameron spat out. “He was in the ER because his finger is still hurting him. I thought Patrick was supposed to ease suffering.”
“He does easy suffering,” Kyler adamantly insisted. “He’s the best doctor around. Besides, you told me yesterday Chad was first seen by Dr. Carter and that his finger was getting better since seeing Patrick.”
“Oh yeah? Well we had to make another trip to the ER this morning because it had got way worse. That’s three trips in less than a week. Chad’s now hooked up to a bloody machine feeding him intravenous antibiotics. How can Patrick be the best if he can’t even fix a sore finger?” Cameron shot back, ignoring the last of Kyler’s comments. “It sucks.”
“It isn’t Patrick fault! My partner never talks about his patients, but I bet Chad’s not following instructions. Your partner can be kinda pigheaded, ya know!” Kyler retorted, hurt by the thought of anyone would think badly about a man he loved and admired. What hurt even more was the fact it was a friend spouting this garbage.
Cameron felt a slight niggle in the back of his mind reminding him that Kyler was his friend and this was no way to treat him. He chose to ignore it. “Don’t talk about Chad like that,” he angrily responded. “He looked after it fine and I helped him out when he needed it. He trusted the blasted doctors to treat it right.”
“All I’m sure of is that Patrick would have done what’s best and I don’t give a shit what you think, asshole.” Deciding against having a drink after all, Kyler turned his back and was about to walk off when his shoulder was grabbed and he was spun around to find Cameron right in his face.
Cameron’s anger had over-ridden his common sense. He hadn’t planned on getting into Kyler’s face. All he knew was that here was a handy target to vent on. He pushed Kyler, who stumbled and hit the wall hard.
Kyler righted himself and came back with a left hook that connected with Cameron’s nose, causing it to bleed. He blinked, totally shocked yet somewhat self-satisfied with his knee-jerk reaction.
Cameron had been momentarily stunned when the punch landed. But as he’d been in a few fights in his time, he was able to quickly counterattack with a straight right. He was gratified to see it land, splitting Kyler’s lip in the process. He forgot to duck for Kyler’s return jab and things went rapidly downhill from there.
The battle escalated with both men ending up on the floor between the bar and the back counter. It didn’t leave a lot of room for maneuvering. Lack of space, however, did not deter Kipper from reaching down and hauling the two combatants up by their collars and giving them a good shake. He had been working in the back office when the commotion attracted his attention.
“What do you two think you’re doing?” the older man demanded, giving them each another shake. When all he got in response were wide-eyed stares, and knowing they were putting on a show for the customers, he quickly manhandled them out of sight.
“All right,” Kipper began once he had the miscreants safety ensconced in office chairs facing him. He’d handed each of them a wad of tissue to staunch the blood still leaking from the damage they’d inflicted on one another. “I’ll ask again; what do you two think you’re doing?” He sat on the edge of his desk, folded his arms over his chest and settled in for the staring contest he took for granted was about to ensue.
Kyler and Cameron glared at each other out of the corner of their eyes and then concentrated on anything but the very perturbed man waiting for an answer.
After several minutes of watching a display of silent squirming, and having acknowledged that neither young man was about to be the first to speak, Kipper picked up the phone and hit the speed-dial. “Chad, we have a problem.” He never took his eyes off the men in front of him.
“Oh come on, Kipper,” Cameron pleaded. “Chad doesn’t need to be involved; he’s injured. Look, I’ll say I’m sorry. Honest.” Kipper just gave him a look and Cameron wilted. “Hell,” was all he muttered, running his hand through his hair. He listened as Kipper gave Chad a quick rundown of the fight. Listening to it from the older man’s point of view was sobering and he blushed with shame.
Kyler wisely kept his mouth shut. He knew his uncle well and knew the man would not give in to plea bargaining, in fact it would only make matters worse.
‘Fuck. Fuck, fuck,’ Cameron thought to himself. ‘I’m an idiot and a hopeless partner. Chad doesn’t need this shit. Why the hell did I pick on Kyler? He’s my friend.’ He looked to his left and whispered, “Kyler, I really am sorry.”
“Yeah, me too. Unfortunately, it’s a little late for apologies to get us out of this hot water we now find ourselves in.” Kyler stared open-mouthed in surprise when Kipper hung up the phone and didn’t make a second call. He fully expected his uncle to call one of his partners. He shuddered to think what either Hugh or Patrick would have to say about him fighting.
The three men returned to their staring match; the only sound in the room was the clock on the wall ticking down the seconds until Chad arrived. The wait lasted all of five minutes, but to two young men it seemed like an eternity before the office door opened and a not-too-happy Top walked in.
“Not a word, Cameron,” Chad ordered, holding up his hand to ward off his Brat’s anxiously voiced appeal. “We’ll discuss it all at home.” He glared for a moment at Kyler, nodded his head at Kipper and firmly steered Cameron out of the room.
“You want to tell me who instigated this?” Kipper asked as soon as the door was closed.
“Does it really matter who did what first?” Kyler wasn’t big on tattling.
“I suppose it doesn’t,” Kipper conceded. He moved over to sit in the chair Cameron had just vacated and place a heavy hand on his nephew’s knee. “But I would like to know what the scuffle was about.”
Kyler gazed sadly at his uncle. “Chad’s hand is getting worse.”
“Hmm, I see. And Cameron isn’t dealing with it as well as he’d like Chad to believe. Looking to blame others, is he; maybe someone in the medical profession?”
“He’s just stressed and overwhelmed,” Kyler defended his friend.
“I think it’s safe to say he’s also rather frightened.” The quizzical expression on Kyler’s face had Kipper explaining further. “Chad is a strong, healthy man. I doubt he’s had so much as a sniffle or a hangnail since he and Cameron have been together. Now, a tiny injury has mushroomed into what at the moment appears to be an uncontrollable infection. His fingers are swollen to the point of chafing as each extremity rubs against the adjacent one. I can easily see where Cameron would find that somewhat unnerving, to say the least.”
“Yeah,” Kyler agreed. He’d had a glimpse of Chad’s hand for the first time a few minutes ago and the memory of it caused him to wince. The sight of the cannula didn’t ease the dismay he felt. “The man’s hand is a mess. But it will get better, right?” He sought reassurance from the man who had helped raise him.
“Yes, it will. In the meantime, try to be more supportive for Cameron, okay?”
“Okay,” Kyler readily promised. “Ah, Uncle Kipper….are you gonna tell Hugh or Patrick about the fight?”
“No, my boy; you are.”
“I can’t see either of them being exactly thrilled,” Kyler murmured, acknowledging his uncle’s answer as being dead on.
“I have trouble picturing that too,” Kipper teased to lighten the mood. “I assume you came to do up the payroll, so I suggest you get a move on.” He got to his feet and out of habit, affectionately ruffled the younger man’s hair before pulling him to his feet and landing a hard swat on the seat of Kyler’s pants.
“Hey! What’s that for?” Kyler demanded, rubbing his backside and faking a pout.
“For messing with my day,” Kipper replied with a broad smile. “Now get to work.”
Chad entered their home and tossed his keys on the counter. He heard the door shut behind him as Cameron followed at a slower pace. He walked down the hall and into his study. Again he heard a door softly close behind him. He sat down on the leather sofa and patted the space beside him in invitation for his partner to join him.
Getting right to the point, he said, “Being as Kipper was only able to provide limited information, I want you to explain exactly what happened to initiate a public brawl.”
He frowned when Cameron continued to sit there chewing his lip and toying with the bloody tissue until it was in shreds. Leaning closer, Chad wrapped a beefy arm around the other man’s shoulders. “You know, Mugs, it could be your desire to keep certain concerns hidden from me that led to you taking them out on someone else. Talk to me, please. I guarantee it will be better once you unburden yourself and everything is out in the open.”
“I was just mad and took it out on Kyler,” Cameron replied. “I didn’t mean to; it just happened. It was strange. It kinda felt good to hit him and to be hit by him, until Kipper broke it up; then it felt really bad.” He chewed on his lip a little more and finally moved to look at Chad directly. “Plus I didn’t want you to know how worried I am about your hand. I’m supposed to be there for you at the moment. I screwed up.”
“You have been here for me, Mugs, and you have every right to worry. I’ve been worried myself. What you don’t have, is the right to keep upsetting thoughts to yourself and fretting to the point of losing control. You didn’t appreciate my going to the ER myself because as you emphasized at the time, you had a right to be there as my partner. Now, I not only have a right to know when things are bothering you, I insist on being informed so we can work them out together.”
Chad waited for the wheels in Cameron’s head to stop turning as his words sank in, then he got to the heart of the matter by asking, “Precisely what were you so angry about?”
Cameron shrugged his shoulders. “I thought your finger and any infection should have been dealt with straight away the first or second time you visited,” he replied. “I remember saying that at the time,” he defended himself. “Anyway I’d managed to keep a lid on everything and then Kyler came in. I don’t know why, but my mouth opened and I said some pretty nasty things about Patrick. That was stupid because I really like him and he did a really good job this morning. Kyler answered back, as he had every right to, and I pushed him. He punched me and it only ended when Kipper intervened.” Cameron took a deep breath and looked into his Top’s eyes warily. “I’ve already said sorry to Kyler,” he added softly. “I guess I was angry because I felt so frustrated. I don’t like waiting.”
Chad concentrated on what his partner was saying, paying as much attention to Cameron’s body language as he did to the words. He frowned when picking up on something unspoken. “It wasn’t just impatience on your part that pushed you over the edge, Mugs. You’re frightened,” Chad softly voiced statement held a note of sadness. “Talking things over would have prevented a great deal of the anguish you’ve brought upon yourself.”
“Yes, I’m scared,” Cameron reluctantly admitted. “But you didn’t need to know that. Remember, I’m supposed to be the supportive one here; which obviously didn’t work out too well. You’ve got enough on your plate without a basket case of a Brat. It kind of sucks you have this full-disclosure fixation.” He wrinkled his nose at his Top.
Chad chuckled at the ‘full disclosure’ comment and tapped his Brat’s nose. “Openness is important in any relationship, sweetheart, but probably more so in one like ours. You’re not a basket case. Your fear is causing you to panic a bit. Aside from that, you’re doing fine in the ‘supportive’ role, as you refer to it. I can understand where changes to the status quo can be unsettling, but I’m willing to be bet that a month from now our present circumstances will be nothing more than an unpleasant memory, so try to stop worrying so much.” His kissed his partner fully on the lips and sat back to see Cameron a little less edgy. “What other emotions are you experiencing that need to be addressed?”
“Nothing,” Cameron smiled up at Chad. “Honestly. Well, maybe a little guilty about the fight I started. It’s going to get Kyler into trouble with Hugh and Patrick, and he doesn’t deserve that. It was strange Kipper didn’t ring them straight after calling you. Don’t see why I get special treatment,” he grumbled.
“I don’t think the treatment you’re about to get is that much different from what’s in store for Kyler. Fighting is definitely not an acceptable way of dealing with upsetting issues, nor is taking out your problems on a friend. I am pretty sure you know what to expect before we end this conversation.” Chad knew it was important to demonstrate that the premise of their lifestyle choices had not changed, regardless of what else was going on in their lives. He cocked an eyebrow and waited for his Brat to do what was expected of him.
“Why is it, that the spanking arm isn’t the damaged one?” Cameron asked, stalling for time.
“What makes you so confident that my left hand wouldn’t be as effective as the right one?”
“Blind optimism,” Cameron shot back.
“Hmm, ‘blind’ being the operative word.” Chad rolled his eyes. “Okay, Cameron, quit stalling! You know what you have to do, so just do it.”
“Bully,” Cameron muttered under his breath as he stood up and began to undo his pants. He was bare from the waist down when he went over Chad’s thighs. It was a very familiar position and one he hated.
As with most everything he set his hand to, Chad was good at this. A little over a minute later, he had one very repentant and sobbing Brat cradled on his lap. He rubbed his burning palm on his pant leg for a moment, then put all his attention into soothing the man he’d soundly spanked.
“That hurt!” Cameron made his usual complaint. “But as you usually say, that’s the point of a spanking.” He cuddled deeper into Chad’s arms. “Are we going to ring Patrick or Hugh to beg for leniency for Kyler? After all it was my fault. I started it.” His voice was slightly muffled against Chad’s chest.
“No, we aren’t calling. It takes two to fight, Mugs. Even if you did start it, Kyler got his fair share of punches in and he’ll answer to his partners the same as you answered to me. I am fairly certain the reason Kipper didn’t notify either Patrick or Hugh earlier is that he expected Kyler to go home and tell them himself; which is exactly what he’d have to do as it’s rather difficult to hide a split lip. If you feel it is necessary, you can apologize to Patrick for tormenting his partner when we see him in two days to go over the x-ray results. My appointment for that is tomorrow morning. You may accompany me if you wish.”
“As long as it doesn’t require a lot of sitting down, I’ll be fine. But for tonight, I’m happy here if your arm is okay with me sitting on your lap.” At this moment in time, Cameron was in the safest place in his world; Chad’s embrace.
Chad sat calmly watching his partner agitatedly pace the floor of the examining room they’d been put in. Cameron was apprehensive over the tests and would remain so until they learned the results even though Chad’s hand had dramatically improved over the last two days and the pain had diminished significantly. Chad had hoped the walk over to the medical clinic would have rid the younger man of his excess nervous energy, but such had not been the case.
‘Maybe the walk home will do the trick,’ Chad thought seconds before a smile of anticipation crossed his handsome face. ‘If not, another good romp in bed should do it. We’d have to…..’ His musing was interrupted by a door opening and their physician entering the room.
Cameron looked up and sighed in relief. Finally things were going to happen. He knew why they’d walked to the clinic, but it would have taken a much longer walk to get rid of the tension, possibly to the frozen wastes of Alaska. He was only happy that Chad had felt up to suggesting they walk. Cameron’s mind wandered to the night before. He grinned and acknowledged that Chad hadn’t shown much evidence of his finger still bothering him.
Patrick kicked a small stool away from the wall and used his foot to push it closer to his patient before sitting down on it. He glanced at Cameron and invited him to make use of the second chair but his offer was declined.
Justifiably so, Cameron was a bit tender. But it had nothing to do with the spanking Chad had doled out a couple of days ago. It did, however, have everything to do with the erotic exercise he and Chad had indulged in the night before.
“Okay,” the doctor began. “After an in-depth study of the x-rays, the technician and I finally discovered a diminutive sliver of what we believe might be a flake of paint. The antibiotic regime we’ve had you on has more than met our expectations, but you can’t stay on it indefinitely; nor would you want to.”
“Truth be told; I am looking forward to living without it,” Chad frankly comment. “I also won’t miss making so many visits to the clinic.”
“Me neither,” Cameron added.
“I can appreciate that,” Patrick chuckled.
“So, what do you have in mind?” Chad inquired, knowing both he and Cameron were more than ready to get on with it.
“The finger has to be opened and the foreign matter removed.” Patrick happened to glance out of the corner of his eye in time to see Cameron blanch. Chad, on the other hand, had merely nodded his acceptance of the inevitable.
“That sounds pretty drastic,” Cameron stated, somewhat shocked.
“It is necessary to prevent the infection from repeatedly rearing its’ ugly head,” Patrick explained.
“Will you do it? Here or in an operating room? And when?” Cameron needed more information.
“Yes, I’ll be doing it right here and right now,” Patrick answered all the questions at once then turned to Chad. “Roll up your shirt sleeve and lie down on the examination table, please.” While Chad was getting settled, Patrick pulled out a shelf for his patient’s arm to rest palms up on and called for a nurse to assist him. After scrubbing his hands, he poured a brown disinfecting liquid over Chad’s hand and forearm, splashing some on the floor.
“You’ll never earn your good housekeeping badge making a mess like that, Patrick,” Chad bantered.
“Probably not; but lucky for you, I’ve already got my mending badge. I can cut and sew with the best of them.” The kibitzing lightened the mood for everyone present. “I’m going to tie down your arm, Chad. Although there has been a remarkable improvement with your hand, the residue infection may interfere slightly with the local anesthetic I’m going to administer. I don’t want you to jerk your arm involuntarily and risk doing more damage than necessary.”
After administering two injections and waiting several moments for the freezing to take effect, Patrick took a scalpel from the nurse, made short incision in the injured finger and as gently as possible searched for the offending item. Locating it, he deftly extracted the fragment of bright yellow industrial paint that was responsible for his patient’s suffering. He then expertly stitched up the wound and dressed it.
Throughout the entire procedure, Cameron stood stoically at Chad’s right side. His hand was tightly clasped in Chad’s, as much in pursuit of comfort as in providing it. He was unaware of barely breathing.
Cameron found if he didn’t breathe normally, he was less likely to be sick over the operation site. He really didn’t like blood and the fact it was Chad’s blood made it all that much more upsetting. However, he figured since he’d wanted to be with his partner, he’d better suck it up. As the bandage went on, Cameron quipped, “Why can’t Chad have the Scooby Doo pattern bandage?”
“I thought he was a Snoopy type guy, and we’re out of them,” Patrick wisecracked in return, adding to the upbeat atmosphere now that the minor surgery was over.
Chad winked at his partner, easily recognizing a young man coming down from a negative high caused by nearly unmanageable apprehension.
Last minute instructions were given. They included reasons for the cannula remaining in place for another twenty-four hours before switching back to oral medication. A few minutes later, two rather relieved men left for home.
“Do you think Kyler is going to forgive me?” Cameron anxiously asked his partner for the hundredth time that day. He was in the lounge office where Chad and Kipper were having a casual meeting to discuss their joint business endeavours. Chad was already a little irritated by the repeated questioning, but it was only Kipper’s fourth time hearing it.
“I’ve answered you numerous times, Mugs. You don’t seem to believe me so you’re now stuck with waiting to find out for yourself when next you see him.”
“Speak of the devil,” Kipper spoke sardonically and pointed to the door as his nephew walked in. “Chad, how about you and I taking our discussion out to the bar and having a beer while these two talk?”
As the older men left the room, Kyler looked at Cameron with a bewildered expression on his face. “What’s up, man?”
Cameron’s smile was a tad tentative. “I been bugging Chad,” he replied. “I’m a wee bit worried that my stupidity has hurt our friendship.” He chewed on his bottom lip as he looked uneasily at his friend.
Kyler frowned until that light bulb moment struck. “Ah-ha, you’re thinking about the little scuffle we had the beginning of the week. Forget it, Cam. I know you were kinda uptight about all that was probably running a mock in that convoluted mind of yours.” Kyler laughed when the other man rolled his eyes. “Panicking over nothin’ again, huh?” he teased.
“Story of my life,” Cameron joked back. Then he turned serious. “You sure we’re okay? It was a little more serious than a scuffle.”
“Strange, but that’s exactly what my partners said. And while Hugh, in an off-handed way, appreciated my trying to protect our partner’s good name, both he and Patrick agreed physical attacks were totally unacceptable.” Kyler grimaced at the memory of being face down over Patrick’s lap and his Tops’ displeasure being made known in no uncertain terms. “They said I should have simply walked away. I would have had I not been so busy throwing punches.” He smirked in the face of that observation.
Cameron laughed aloud. “Do you think Tops have a handbook they use, because Chad basically said the same thing? They must have secret get-togethers and discuss tactics for dealing with fighting Brats.” Cameron found he couldn’t stop giggling.
“Nay, I don’t think they need a book. It’s ingrained from birth for some of them. Those that are born that way merely teach others by example or something. Who really knows why we are the way we are. I just know that I’m happy being me even if it means I have to put up a couple of hard-asses. They love me and keep me safe, so it works for all three of us.”
“Yes, you’re right. Chad was born the way he is and I was born the way I am and we’re meant to be together.”
Kyler grinned at the other man and sent him the wink of a fellow conspirator. “Although I doubt they’re actually chomping at the bit or anything, do you think it’s time we go tell Chad and Kipper we’ve buried our hatchets like civilized folks are supposed to?”
“Sure is, my friend.” Cameron linked arms with Kyler and together they walked out of the office to face the future with their friendship well intact.