Epilogue to "The Mephisto Strain"
"How is he?"
Thanks to the phoned-in warning provided by the gate guards, Alex managed to meet the frantic Precept the moment the agitated Dutchman set foot in the House. As anticipated, Derek had eschewed the normal greetings in order to immediately address his most pressing concern.
Alex raised her hands in a placating gesture. "He's fine, Derek."
One elegant eyebrow arched in disbelief. "Fine?" A whole world of doubt was contained in that single word.
"Well," Alex temporized, "he's a lot better. Rachel says he's going to be okay....."
The last reassurance was said to Derek's rapidly receding back as the Dutchman strode towards the stairs. "Men!" Alex softly muttered as she hurried to follow, blessing the long legs she'd inherited from her father. They came in handy when it came time to keep up with impetuous precepts.
"The electric shock did the trick, Derek. When Rachel got in, we took him to the hospital for a CT scan. The demonic parasite is gone."
By the time Alex had finished updating her mentor on his lover's condition, they were at the bedroom door. To his colleague's surprise, Derek stopped for a moment. Alex had expected him to rush in, but the older man apparently needed a moment to gather his composure. After a couple of deep breaths, he squared his shoulders and silently pushed the door open.
What Nick Boyle lacked in height, he made up in attitude. Not a tall man, the force of his personality usually made him appear bigger than he actually was. When they were in uncharitable moods, certain of his colleagues likened him to a bantam rooster -- but never to his face. Sleep robbed him of that visual illusion and Derek was shaken to see just how vulnerable the ex-SEAL looked, curled up alone in their large bed.
Rachel had been stationed in a chair at Nick's bedside, but looked up when the newcomers entered. Seeing the distress on Derek's face, and she got up quietly and hastened to the Dutchman's side. "He's recovering nicely," she reassured the Precept in a whispered voice, careful not to wake the sleeping security chief. Seeing no ease in Derek's stricken expression, the psychiatrist put a comforting hand on his arm. "The fever's broken and the hallucinations are gone, along with all the other symptoms. All he needs now is some TLC and a few days in bed."
Rachel shooed Alex out of the room, but before she followed the curly haired researcher out the door, she turned to Derek one final time. "Let me clarify something: A few days in bed to *rest.*" She grinned slowly as the Precept started to blush. "Go on, he's not gonna break," When the tall man hesitated, she gave him a little shove. "You're the best medicine he could have right now. Coddle him -- that's doctor's orders, mister."
Confident that she'd put Derek's feet on the right path, Rachel exited the room, shutting the door behind her.
Derek barely made note of the two women leaving, so focused was he on the still form on the bed. Moving almost reverently, he quietly approached and sat in the chair, still warm from Rachel's body. The big man was afraid to wake his love and let his eyes do the caressing that his hands itched to perform.
If this was "fine," he was almost glad he hadn't seen Nick when he was truly ill.
Nick was curled up on his side, clutching a pillow in his sleep. The young man's face was pale and there were distinct dark circles under his eyes, evidence of the crisis just recently past. Derek noticed with some amusement that, instead of the normal t-shirt and boxers that he wore to bed (if, indeed, he bothered to wear anything at all in bed), Nick was dressed in one of Derek's own pajama tops. The sleeves, of course, were much too long for the smaller man and the way his hands disappeared into the silk material made the ex-SEAL look even younger than he was.
A soft whimper interrupted the Dutchman's reverie. Nick's face crumpled up as a nightmare interrupted his rest. Derek quickly reached out and gently stroked his lover's forehead. "Shhh, love. I'm here. Everything's all right. You're safe now......" The whispered endearments did the trick and, with a soft sigh of contentment, Nick drifted off into calmer slumber.
When it became obvious that his touch was not interfering with the young man's rest, Derek continued the caress, lovingly stroking the features that had become so dear to him. The forehead that was so cute when Nick wrinkled it while concentrating on his computer. The eyebrows that could twitch so mischievously when Nick was teasing. And the chin, which could either reflect Nick's iron determination when confronting a foe or become dimpled with one of his killer smiles. That chin was almost as good of a barometer of the ex-SEAL's mood as Nick's eyes were.
If ever eyes were windows to someone's soul, Nick's were. No matter how thick a protective shield that young man thought he'd created, be it built with stoicism or sarcasm, his eyes gave him away every time. Flat gray with anger. Twinkling with amusement. Sultry and dark with desire. No longer able to resist, Derek bent and placed a solemn kiss on each eyelid.
"Hmmmmmm......... Derek," The young man's eyes slowly opened and a sleepy smile lit his face as he saw his lover hovering over him.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, love," The Precept apologized, but he wasn't truly sorry. Not when he'd seen Nick's joy upon awakening and realizing that Derek was at his side.
"S'all right," the younger man said. "M'glad to see you. Rach said you were comin' back. Didn't have to....but 'm glad you did."
Derek kissed Nick's nose. "I'm glad I did too." He cupped Nick's face with one large hand, shivering when his half-awake lover turned his head enough to kiss the palm with sleep-softened lips. "Alex told me what you went through. I'm so sorry, love. Was it too terrible?"
It was Nick's turn to shiver at the memories Derek's question resurrected.
"Damn!" Derek swore softly, realizing that his question had upset the younger man, the exact opposite of what he'd wanted. "I'm sorry, Nick. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to..."
Nick made an effort to relax. "Good. Don't wanna. Not now." He yawned, his body reminding him that he needed to rest. Lifting both arms above his head, the athletic ex-SEAL indulged himself in a bone-popping stretch. Derek was riveted by the motion, the movement tugged the blankets off of Nick's muscular legs, revealing that the pajama top was the only attire his lover had on. While Derek was taller than Nick, and his pj top hung lower on his lover than it did him, during Nick's stretch, it revealed rather more skin that it covered.
Skin that had been abraded where a delusional Nick had struggled against the ropes that his friend had been forced to tie him down with until she could figure out what was wrong with him.
Hissing, Derek snatched at one of Nick's arms. "My god, what is this?" Alex had neglected to mention the bondage aspect of the incident.
Nick focused blurry eyes on the bruises and scrapes that had caught the older man's attention. "Don't blame 'Lex, Derek. She had to, I was tryin' to *hurt* her." Seeing the lingering anger in his lover's eyes, he continued, using humor as he so often did during tense situations. "You know, if people keep tryin' to kill her when she's left in the House alone, we're never gonna get Alex to stay in the control room again."
In spite of himself, Derek chuckled. Since Nick so obviously wished it, he let the subject of the restraints drop for a moment, but he and Ms. Moreau would be talking about it later. In detail.
"You have to sleep, love." He brushed the hair off of Nick's forehead, wincing when he saw the bruise from where Alex had hit Nick with the flashlight.
"All by myself?" Nick tried to look seductive but the effect was ruined by another large yawn.
"If I join you, will you sleep?"
"All right." Derek stood and took his shoes off before clambering up onto the bed with his lover. Curling behind Nick's smaller body, Derek snuggled close until he could feel Nick's back against his chest. "Better?" He asked, as he draped one long arm around the ex-SEAL's waist.
"Much," Nick said contentedly, intertwining Derek's arm in both of his own and snuggling it close to his chest, spooning their bodies even closer together. "You weren't there, you know."
"What?" Derek asked, knowing his lover was more than half asleep.
"The nightmares from the demon. You weren't in any of them," Nick's voice trailed off as sleep finally reclaimed him. "No nightmares with you, Derek, only good dreams......"
The Precept could feel the steady beat of his lover's heart as his hand rested against Nick's chest. "Sweet dreams, Nick," Derek murmured as he bestowed a light kiss on Nick's ear. Then, settling down next to his mate, the Dutchman drifted into sweet dreams of his own.
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