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Levi had no idea where he was.
His body hurt. He had a sense of dread. He briefly thought he was back on Tarus 9, hiding in the shadows.
Levi bolted upright, only to find that his body was sluggish in response, and his head pounded in unbearable agony.
"Relax. You're safe."
Levi squinted in the fluorescent light and saw the man who had rescued him from the mugger. The man inserted an IV needle into Levi's arm. Levi frowned at the clear fluid being fed into him.
"It's davirzole," the doctor said. "It will reverse the effect of the dart you were shot with. Take it easy; it should work in no time."
Levi took in his surroundings. He was in one of half a dozen empty hospital beds lining a chipped plaster wall. The room was small, the ceiling low, and it was full of ancient medical equipment. There were two dirty plastic windows in the front that were barricaded with bars. A small metal desk was the only other object in the room, and it was crowded with acrylic papers and an old osys interface.
A single fluorescent tube lit the room and made shadows jump across the pale walls. Levi squinted up at his rescuer.
The man looked weary. His short blond hair was so yellow it made his handsome face appear even paler.
There were strange scars on his body as well. A faint gash on his forehead, faded over the years. A fainter line near the base of his neck. And both his hands were marked with small lines of raised tissue that caught the light and glinted like silver. He had medical implants. Implants were so expensive, only the wealthiest doctors could afford them.
His eyes were deep blue, and looked down at Levi with a somewhat bemusedexpression.
"Do you have any idea how heavy you are?"
"One hundred and ninety pounds," Levi mumbled. He winced as he spoke, feeling the swelling on his jaw where the assailant had hit him.
"I practically dragged you here," the doctor said. The corner of his mouth twitched upward. "I'm sure that didn't look suspicious at all."
"Where am I?" Levi demanded. His tongue felt thick in his dry mouth.
The doctor handed him a plastic cup of water.
"You're in the Washoe Free Clinic." He pulled up a rolling stool and sat beside Levi. "My name is Dr. Tiergan Seoras."
With sudden recollection, Levi reached for the bandage on his upper arm. He felt it was still intact and breathed a sigh of relief.
Tiergan Seoras stared at him with an intense, unreadable expression. His lean, muscular body didn't fit Levi's image of a doctor at all. He seemed too young and too strong. Levi could make out the contours of his arm muscles underneath his plain white T-shirt.
"This sucks," Levi said.
The doctor smiled crookedly. He gently urged Levi's shoulder back against the bed.
"You can't leave yet. I need to examine your head. You have a nasty concussion."
"I know," Levi said, scowling. "I can feel it."
"Good. That means the drug is clearing from your system." Tiergan leaned over Levi and peered at him with a keen expression. Levi's scowl deepened.
"What are you doing?"
"Quiet." The doctor stared at the gash on Levi's forehead. As he did, Levi saw Tiergan's left pupil dilate. There was a faint chink of metallic parts whirring, and then he noticed a small metal lens rotate around the inside of his eye. He focused on Levi intently.
"Your robot eye is creeping me out," Levi told him.
Tiergan smirked. But his focus didn't waver.
"I know what I'm doing," he said. His voice, smooth and low, rumbled in a way that was assuring and solid. His accent was strange and implacable. He was obviously not from this system.
"I've met some bad doctors in my life," Levi told him, trying hard not to be worried by the strange noises emanating from the turning, focusing lens around Tiergan's iris.
Tiergan leaned even closer. Levi could smell a sweetness on his skin, like cloves, slightly hidden under an earthy, masculine scent. He was finding the doctor's proximity pleasantly distracting.
"This treatment isn't going to involve you kissing me, is it?" Levi asked, noting how Tiergan's smile was charmingly crooked. His teeth were very white, his lips full. Levi had to suppress an urge to run his fingers along Tiergan's mouth.
Tiergan kept staring at Levi's forehead. "Unfortunately, no." He moved even closer. "Relax. This is going to sting."
A small pin prick of light suddenly shot out from the metal lens in Tiergan's eye. Instantly, Levi felt the flesh of his forehead heating. He told himself to breathe deeply.
"So, how does a doctor working in a free clinic afford an x-eye?" Levi asked.
"What will happen?"
"I could burn the very flesh from your body."
Levi blanched. "Really?"
Tiergan smiled crookedly. "Nah. Just kidding. But stop moving. I'm going to sterilize and seal the wound shut."
Levi closed his eyes, and concentrated on not moving. He wondered how much training a doctor in a free clinic would have in using such expensive equipment.
The burning sensation eased to a sting, and then a soft ache. Tiergan became still as stone. It was strange, looking into a man's face from only a few inches away, his focus so unwaveringly upon Levi's forehead. Levi had a sudden desire to scratch his scalp.
As soon as the light from his implant extinguished, Tiergan pulled back. Levi immediately missed his proximity.
"You didn't answer my question," Levi said. Now that the doctor's pupil was contracting back to its normal size, Levi wanted to keep him near. After such a harrowing experience, he liked the companionship of a man beside him. It didn't hurt that the man was also hot as hell.
Tiergan's eyebrow lifted. "Yes, I did. Kissing has nothing to do with the treatment."
Levi flushed. "No. The question about how you can afford an x-eye."
"You're too nosy," Tiergan said. He gently prodded the swelling on Levi's jaw and frowned. "That probably hurts, but nothing is broken." The doctor's fingers lingered on Levi's face for a second longer than need be, and then he removed them. "Give me your hands, please."
Levi placed his large hands in Tiergan's, feeling slightly foolish. "So, how does a doctor with cybernetic implants end up wandering Washoe Street so late at night?"
"I was on my way home," Tiergan said. "It's only a few blocks."
"You walk to work? In this neighborhood?"
"Good for the lungs." Tiergan studied Levi's palms for a moment, and then rustled on a side table for some tweezers. He then methodically pulled small pebbles of gravel from the abrasions on Levi's palms. They were so small, Levi hadn't even seen them himself.
Tiergan's bangs fell over his eyes as he worked, and once again Levi felt a surge of desire flush through his body. It had been ages since anyone had elicited such an immediate effect on his sex drive. Tiergan's touch was gentle but effective. Levi only felt small stings as Tiergan picked at the tender flesh of Levi's palms.
As Tiergan bent his neck lower, Levi saw a barcode tattooed behind his ear. It was so small that most people would never have noticed it. But Levi had grown up in the mining camps of Tarus 9, where indentured servitude was commonplace. He had never considered the possibility that educated men such as doctors could be owned as easily as laborers.
Levi tried to make out the individual characteristics of the barcode, to see if he could look it up later. But Tiergan seemed to realize he was being stared at, and quickly lifted his head.
"You sure you're a good doctor?" Levi asked.
Again, that charming crooked half smile. "Don't worry. I'm a great doctor," Tiergan said. "I'm a terrible person, however."
"Just my type." Levi smiled at him.
Tiergan touched Levi's arm. His touch was confident and assured. Levi could feel a melting inside of him.
Levi shook his head to clear it. This was insane. He had just been mugged. His body shook with aftershocks of adrenalin and fear. All he needed to do now was go home, check the implant, and put this terrible night behind him.
But instead, Levi was flirting with a complete stranger in a dingy medical facility, wishing that he had more injuries for the doctor to tend to.
Tiergan sprayed the palms and split knuckles of Levi's hands with an antiseptic and then placed them on Levi's lap.
"All the gravel is out. I'll give you a pain suppressant for your headache."
Levi tensed. "No. No mind drugs."
"I don't like being drugged."
Tiergan stared at him. His eyes were mesmerizingly blue. "Your head is only going to feel worse as the paralyzing drug fades, Mr. Kaszeri."
Levi narrowed his eyes. "How do you know my name?"
Tiergan pointed to Levi's wallet, on the table beside him. "I'm sorry. But I scanned your ID card to see if you had insurance before I brought you inside."
Levi frowned. There was no way that he could ever afford medical insurance on his reporter's salary. He shifted uncomfortably.
"I thought you said this was a free clinic."
"It is." Tiergan placed a hand on Levi's knee. The gesture was at once so innocent, and yet such an obvious come on, that Levi felt his entire body surge to life in response. It couldn't be his imagination anymore. This doctor was definitely flirting with him.
Where Tiergan touched him, Levi felt his skin grow warm. His muscles loosened, he felt almost drunk. Then again, it could also have been the various drugs coursing through his system.
"I wouldn't be treating you if you had an insurance account registered," Tiergan said with a lowered voice.
"You refuse to treat the insured?"
"It's not that I refuse. The insurance companies won't let me. Insured have to see their own doctors. If they come to me, they could be dropped, and I would be fined."
"So you would have left me in the street, bleeding to death?" Levi asked.
"No. I would have erased the insurance registry key on your ID card."
Levi raised an eyebrow. "That's illegal."
Tiergan shrugged. He was looking at Levi almost hungrily.
"I didn't realize being covered was such a liability," Levi said.
"You have no idea."
The two of them sat there for a moment, looking at each other, and Levi's heart began to race. Now, he thought. Now, now, kiss him. Don't be such a coward. Just kiss him.
Tiergan stood. Levi's skin felt cold as soon as Tiergan's touch withdrew. He was an idiot. He always missed the opportunity to catch the guys he wanted.
The problem was that Levi hadn't grown up on Ishan, where men were openly gay and flirtation seemed to be easy. Levi grew up hiding his nature in a devastated war zone.
As Tiergan stepped away from Levi, Levi felt an aching sense of disappointment in himself. He would remain alone forever if he didn't find some courage and just take a chance with someone.
"You should fully recover from the effects of the dart in about half an hour," Tiergan said. "Just sit back and relax."
Levi leaned back and watched Tiergan move around the room, putting his equipment away. Tiergan was strong and graceful, but Levi could see a bone-weary exhaustion in his movements.
Levi closed his eyes. The fact that he had been mugged was beginning to sink in. Exhaustion began to tug at him as well, along with a steadily increasing headache. The more movement he gained through his body, the more his head hurt.
Levi tried sitting up but his head immediately protested, sending a surge of agony through him so startling he groaned. Tiergan put down the bag of garbage he was lifting and moved to Levi's side. He looked down at Levi and shook his head.
"Most people would be screaming for a painkiller about now," he said. "I'm impressed."
Levi tried to play off the pleased rush of joy he felt at the compliment with a shrug. "I had a rough childhood."
"Are you from Ishan?" Tiergan asked.
"No. From Tarus 9."
Tiergan frowned. He picked up his bag of garbage once more. "I don't know many people who grew up on Tarus 9."
"Not many of us lived to grow up."
Tiergan paused on his way to the incinerator. He looked at Levi. "Do you want me to turn on the screen so you can watch something while you recuperate?"
Levi drummed up every ounce of courage he had, and reached out to grab Tiergan's arm. "I'd rather talk to you."
"Oh?" Tiergan's eyebrows raised just a fraction. "Why me?"
Levi shrugged. "You're interesting."
"It's not every day that a guy gets dragged down an alley by a handsome doctor who not only has cybernetic implants but once was owned."
Tiergan stared at Levi intently. Any hint of a smile was gone. "You see a lot, Mr. Kaszeri."
"Call me Levi. And I'm a reporter. I'm nosy. It's my job."
"So it is." Tiergan turned and tossed the bag into the incinerator, and then sat beside Levi once more. There was a slight tension in Tiergan's body language now. He did not reach out and touch Levi as he had before.
"What netcast do you work for?" he asked.
"The Ishan Report," Levi said.
Tiergan looked impressed. "And what story were you working on this evening?"
"It is an old story I've been working on for years. It's about Tarus 9."
Levi sensed Tiergan's expression cooling. Of course it was. Nobody wanted to talk about genocide. It was a mood killer. He was losing Tiergan's interest. He had to act fast.
Levi steeled his resolve. He reached toward Tiergan's hand and wrapped his fingers around Tiergan's wrist. "But we don't have to talk about that. Maybe you could help me take my mind off my pain some other way."
Tiergan went very still. "What did you have in mind?"
Levi still couldn't read him. He would have to be bold. "You could touch me." Levi urged Tiergan's wrist downward.
Tiergan frowned again. Levi's heart stopped. God, was he wrong? Was the doctor straight after all? How fucking embarrassing. Nothing worse than coming off like a complete pervert toward some straight guy who just saved your life.
"I'm a doctor," Tiergan said roughly. He swallowed. "You're my patient. It's against the rules."
Well, at least he's not straight. Levi noticed that Tiergan didn't move his hand. It stayed, unmoving but firm, on Levi's crotch.
"What rules?" Levi whispered. "I'm just a bystander who you helped out of a scrape." Levi took a deep breath, then looked Tiergan in the eye. "I could pay you back for your help in any way you want."
"Any way I want?" Tiergan's throat trembled as he swallowed again. His eyes had gotten big, and not because of the implants. They locked with Levi's.
"Yes," Levi said.
"Well, then." Tiergan raised an eyebrow. "I am allowed to take payments in creative ways." He pressed his palm down, stroking Levi's already hard cock. Levi's eyes fluttered closed.
"How's your headache?" Tiergan asked, rubbing his palm along Levi's shaft.
"What headache?" Levi whispered, and Tiergan laughed quietly.
Tiergan used both hands to unbuckle Levi's dark jeans and pull out Levi's straining cock.
Tiergan pumped Levi's dick quietly and assuredly. His hand was warm, the metal of his implants glinting in the fluorescent light as he fisted Levi's shaft and stroked almost roughly.
It had been a while since Levi had done this, an impersonal hand job with a stranger, and while it lacked sentimentality, it still made his heart race, pleasure building in his testicles, overwhelming all other sensations, all other needs. He was conscious only of the steady rhythm of Tiergan's hand. Levi arched on the bed and then came explosively, coating Tiergan's fingers.
Tiergan silently reached over and wiped his hand on a towel. His pupils were dilated, he looked flushed, and Levi suddenly wanted to kiss him. As he leaned forward to do so, however, Tiergan quickly pulled back. Levi's face flamed in embarrassment.
"Better?" Tiergan asked.
Levi nodded. He looked pointedly at the doctor's crotch, which showed an encouraging bulge.
"Your turn," Levi said, sitting up on the bed.