Hey people! 52% of you voted for 'Brother to Brother' to be the next story and so here it is!
Thank you so much to those of you who reviewed 'Louder Than Words', I am so touched by your comments!
I hope you enjoy this one just as much :)
"Okay who's next…?" Troy Bolton picked up the next clipboard in the busy ER room and scanned down the details. "Miss. Montez?" He called out.
A nurse pointed him to the right cubicle and he swifted the curtain open, the stress showing on his face for a few seconds while he read the initial report.
Name: Gabriella Montez
Reason for admission: Cuts and bruises
Now just how did a twenty year old woman get cuts and bruises, he frowned, then looked up to the hospital bed and saw a petite Filipino girl laid there; her long, bushy hair plumped around her shoulders and her face showing the puffy, bloody mess of what he could only assume was some form of assault.
"Jesus Christ," he prayed under his breath. "There's some sick bastards out there…"
He hooked the clipboard on the end of the bed and called for a nurse who helped him tame back the wild hair that got in the way of his inspection of the extent of her injuries.
Other than her face; her neck seemed clear but even under the hospital gown; he could see purple discolouring from bruises on her body. He looked up to Kelsey, his nurse and licked his lips.
"Do we know what happened?" He asked with his usual detached concern.
"No, she's been unconscious for a while…" Kelsey explained. "She was exhausted and dehydrated so I gave her saline and a sedative until you were available."
Troy nodded. "You did the right thing," he assured as he carefully examined the whole of her body- something he was used to doing day in and day out with nameless, faceless patients but he still felt a twinge of inexperience as a junior doctor when he had to check the form of a young female.
"You'll get used to it," Kelsey offered with a small smile at his awkwardness and he gave her a nod back to acknowledge her support.
"She's badly bruised but just her wrist is broken. She'll need that set and the other wrapped- seems she tried to fight off whoever did this…" He added with a painful wince at her face. "Are you okay to clean her up?"
Kelsey nodded, and then looked at the patient sadly. "She's so beautiful, why would anyone do this?"
Troy pressed his lips together. "That's what I'm about to find out. Did anyone come in with her?"
"Yeah, he's outside, in the waiting room…" Kelsey offered and Troy let Kelsey start the clean up now he was happy that Miss Montez wasn't suffering any internal bleeding or more dangerous conditions than surface wounds. He'd need to get a look at her facial injuries once Kelsey had finished, though.
"Anyone with Miss. Montez?" He called out to the waiting room while he scribbled down his findings in the notes section of her report.
"So, they finally let you loose in ER, then, bro…" A husky voice familiarized and Troy looked up with a puzzled look of incredulousness at seeing his older brother, Jake before him.
"And they finally let you back in the country…" Troy quipped back with wary eyes, then the two of them hugged and clapped backs with a kind of relief only siblings could feel at knowing the other one had been sorely missed- worried about even, but ultimately ok.
"God, I missed you, little bro," Jake strangled out on an emotional voice and Troy closed his eyes over the shoulder of his taller, broader brother and held on tighter.
"I thought you might be dead for a while, man," Troy sighed back, unable to avoid this emotional moment in his workplace.
"Hey, your secretary is looking at us like we're gay boys or somethin'," Jake stood back and Troy surveyed him properly.
Yeah, he was tall- always had been. And broad. Troy's lips twitched at that fact when he had inherited the shorter, sleeker genes from his parents. Jake was older- had more wrinkles. He wore a stubble now, and tattoos. God, how many did he have..? Troy tried to count the ones he could see poking out from his sleeves and t-shirt neckline and gave up trying. Jake was in leather and looked dangerous. He looked like a biker on a vengeance trip, yet Troy still knew the person behind the blue eyes.
To all these people, the man seemed like a mountain of fear. To him, he was Jakey, the guy who would beat up any bully in the playground and get him any girl he wanted in school- not that Troy had gotten those girls of course, he was always the shy, sensitive brother, but then, that didn't really matter right now.
All that mattered was the fate of the girl in the cubicle and he swallowed hard as he had to ask his brother the most difficult question he'd ever had to in his whole life.
"Do you know what happened to Miss Montez?"
"Well, I didn't beat her, if that's what you think," Jake answered brusquely, obviously reading the worry in Troy's face.
"I'm sorry; I have to ask these questions…" Troy admitted sheepishly.
Jake planted his hand on his back affectionately. "I know, you're a doctor now. You did good."
"I'm a junior, actually," Troy amended. "I just work the night shift to get some experience…"
"You always did want to be in with the action," Jake remembered fondly. "Remember when Dad cut his thumb damn near off his hand while he was trying to slice apples that summer?"
Troy nodded in fond but sad memory. "Yeah, the summer he left…"
"Well, how's my baby doing?" Jake asked to change the subject and Troy licked his lips as they stood in the family room away from the public.
"Well, Miss Montez has cuts and bruises and a fracture in her wrist…but nothing else life-threatening…" Troy began. "Kelsey is just cleaning her face and then I can see what damage is under all that blood…"
Jake squinted. "I know what you're thinking- that I just picked up another junkie and carted her around but that aint true," Jake provided defensively.
"She's your girlfriend?" Troy checked and Jake nodded.
"We…got together when I got back inland. Seems someone thought they would follow her home from the waitressing job she had- at a men's club-" Jake added, "And I guess she tried to fight them off the best she could but lucky for her; I was on my way to meet her from work anyway and dealt with the little creeps myself…"
Troy rolled his eyes. "Tell me you didn't kill anyone?"
"Kill?" Jake questioned as if this amused him. "Nah, death was too nice for those guys…"
"You do realize I'll probably be treating those guys later?" Troy sighed impatiently.
"Sorry bro," Jake shrugged. "They deserved it."
"Okay, let's move on," Troy suggested testily. "Do I need to test her for…"
Jake lifted his brows.
"You know…internally? Might she be in danger of becoming pregnant?" Troy tried to spell it out. "Or contracting an STI?"
Jake frowned and puzzled at Troy's questions, then just looked at him blankly.
"Might she have been raped?" Troy finally whispered, blushing even as he said the words.
"Oh! Oh that…Oh no, don't you worry, those little worms didn't get a chance to pull nothin' out their pants and they won't have to worry about tryin' either for a while…"
Troy closed his eyes and groaned. "I really hope they don't come in on my shift…" he mused as he shuffled back out to finish his assessment of the small brunette he'd just found out to be his brother's girlfriend.
"Okay," he slipped back into the cubicle more gently the second time round in case his patient had roused, but Kelsey was just finishing up and there was no movement from the bed. "Let's see…"
Miss Montez had cuts on the inside of her lips where she had most likely been smacked in the mouth, but her teeth had survived the impact to her credit. There was a cut above her eye, a bruise on her cheek and the other eye was swollen shut and already surrounded with dark bruising. But that was good, Troy pursed his lips. It was good as long as the bruising came out. Anything that might be hemorrhaging inside is what worried him.
"Can we get a scan just to make sure there's no other damage we're missing, please nurse?" He asked Kelsey.
"Yes, doctor." She marked something on her pad.
"And this needs stitching," he pressed at the skin that was split above the brow.
"About to start when you came in…" Kelsey quipped and Troy looked up with a smile.
"You're too good for me," he acknowledged.
"Did you find out anything?" Kelsey wondered as she went to work.
"Yeah. She's my brother's girlfriend and she got attacked on her way home from work…"
"Oh," Kelsey frowned. "Are you okay treating her?"
Troy tilted his head, missing her meaning for a minute, and then he clicked.
"Oh, yeah, I haven't seen Jake in three years and I've never met Miss Montez so it's fine…"
"Once I've done the stitching…?" Kelsey led even though Troy knew she could have finished that sentence, as the on-duty doctor- however junior- he still had to make the call.
"Admit her into the women's ward, she might be scared if she wakes up in a mixed ward," he considered. "Keep up the sedatives if she feels she needs some help sleeping and administer pain relief and muscle relaxants as usual," he prescribed and Kelsey nodded curtly.
"As you suggest, doctor," she agreed with a smidgen of teasing as he turned out of the cubicle.
"Is she ok?" Jake was hovering in the Emergency Room corridor and Troy gently moved him back into the family room to explain.
"She will be. We're keeping her asleep at the moment and we're doing a scan but for now, she'll be admitted onto Ward 5. Best to come back tomorrow once she's gotten settled a bit…" Troy suggested.
Jake nodded and licked his lips and Troy lifted his brows to question him silently.
"Can you give her something for me?" Jakes asked and fished into his pocket.
Troy pursed his lips and flicked his eyes to one side- he couldn't say no to this brother, could he?
"Sure, man." He held out his hand and Jake dropped a simple gold ring into his palm; one that held a tiny diamond.
"It's her engagement ring. Those bastards ripped it off her finger and I found it in the street once I'd done with them," Jake explained roughly. "We just got engaged two weeks ago so…"
"She'll be missing it," Troy finished for him and flicked his brother a surprised look. "You're really getting married?"
Jake cleared his throat and pocketed his hands, a sure sign of uneasiness that Troy recognized.
"Yeah. I am."
Troy nodded. "Well congratulations, bro. You're back and you're settling down, I couldn't be happier," his grin said it all.
Jake grinned back and kind of nodded. "Right, I'm off for now. I'll get clean and make myself look like husband material for when she wakes up…"
"Good idea," Troy cupped his shoulder and walked him out. "See you tomorrow."
"Well, hello…" A warm voice greeted Gabriella as she opened her eyes and blinked three times and instantly, she tensed and began to panic.
"Oh no, no…" the voice was female, she recognised. "Don't panic, I'm not here to hurt you. Just to help. You're in hospital. I'm your nurse…my name is Kelsey and I'm just checking up on you, okay?" She spoke softly and calmly. "There's no-one bad here…"
Gabi flicked her eyes around the room as if to check, then attempted to sit up. Everything seemed to hurt, but she could move, she considered.
"Water?" She licked her dry lips and asked.
Kelsey nodded and poured her a large glass while Gabriella watched on.
"Here, I have a straw…Doctor Bolton's idea of course," the nurse rattled on making no sense to Gabriella.
"Thank you," she said as she sucked and the cool liquid soothed her throat and hydrated her dry mouth.
"Would you like some lip balm? That's his idea too, you know…" Kelsey derided as she fished in the drawer for some Vaseline and Gabi nodded, pursing her lips for the protective balm.
God, who knew she'd be eternally grateful for the provision of Vaseline, she mused.
"Okay, now, you're still wired up and we'll get you unhooked as you get acquainted with the real world but the doctor asked to see you as soon as you woke so I'm just popping out to get him okay?" Kelsey asked and Gabriella wasn't sure what to do so she nodded her agreement. As if she could refuse, she puzzled.
"So the straws and Vaseline work then," came an even warmer, amused tone and Gabi shot her eyes up to the imposing male figure that stepped into her room.
She startled on the bed and scrabbled for something to grab- a bat, a knife, an alarm bell- anything!
"Whoa…" he took a step back and called for Kelsey and Gabriella thought she saw him blush but she couldn't be sure, she was still looking for means of defense.
"Hey, hey, it's okay sweetie…" Kelsey soothed her as she sprang back to her side and Gabriella flicked her gaze between the nice lady and the man standing sheepishly in the doorway with his hands in his white-coat pockets.
Gabriella swallowed. "Who is he?" She whispered.
"The doctor," Kelsey supplied in that same gentle tone. "The one I was telling you about. Doctor Bolton."
"Strictly I'm a junior," he inserted if this may help the situation any. "I normally work the graveyard shift but I kind of wanted to be around when you woke…"
"Bolton?" Gabriella repeated, her mind foggily finding familiarity there. "Jake Bolton?"
She was confused that much was evident, but Troy smiled at the fact she at least remembered his brother.
"Ah, no, I'm Troy. Jake's actually my brother…"
Gabi frowned, this information finding a hard place to slot into in her fuzzy mind.
"Have we met?"
"No," Troy smiled again easily and ventured a step inside the door. "It's okay, you're not meant to remember me."
She nodded vaguely and let out a breath as she leaned back, relaxing somewhat by all appearances.
"Uh…look I know you haven't had a good time of it," he began, flicking Kelsey a look and his nurse pursed her lips to belittle him but he ignored her teasing ways. "But I'm not going to hurt you…is it okay if I come in?"
Gabi looked to Kelsey, who she seemed to trust, he noted with confident warmth in his chest. Kelsey was a great nurse and he hated the nights he was on duty without her to assist him.
"It's okay, honey. He was there when you came in and we both cleaned you up…"
"You saw me naked?" Gabriella's next thought cast out randomly and Troy choked on his own spit as he came inside, but didn't shut the door. He stopped at the end of the bed and checked her chart, deciding to phase his closeness to her so he could check her wounds.
"I see people naked every day," he assured breezily. Just not his brother's fiancée, perhaps…
"Oh." She reached for her glass and frowned at the cast and bandages that wrapped both wrists.
"Let me," Troy offered smoothly as Kelsey busied herself with tidying the room.
He picked up the glass and pointed the straw at her and waited for her to lift her head and sip. When she did, he felt the strong pull of liquid through the straw and was pleased she was drinking heartily because he was worried about her fluid levels even with a saline drip. He always liked to see patients drinking for themselves; it was a good indication of their health.
"Er, Miss. Montez?" Kelsey piped up. "I need to go and check on dinners, would it be okay if I stepped out for a few minutes?"
Gabi looked at the woman. Well, she wasn't her maid, she derided internally.
"Of course, I'm sorry I kept you…" Gabriella allowed guiltily and Kelsey assured her it wasn't an issue.
Troy, meanwhile, was making himself comfortable in the visitor's chair.
"I'm sorry I frightened you earlier," he began. "I should have been more sensitive to the fact…I mean, for the reasons you were admitted."
Gabi flicked a look to him. She licked her lips and for the first time, her tongue felt damp and warm and she smiled in bliss at that feeling.
"How bad do I look?" She asked vulnerably, running her fingers firstly over her bandaged wrist, then over the casted one.
Troy swallowed. He couldn't lie. Not to such a beguiling pair of big, brown eyes. But he didn't want to scare her either. She was already frightened- and clearly of men- but he was a doctor- sort of- and he had a job to do.
"You have a stitched cut above your left eye, your right eye- as you can probably tell- is extremely swollen and bruised but there's no internal damage and the swelling will go down in time and you have some cuts on the inside of your mouth where your teeth caught…"
"That's what stings?" She wondered of when she had sipped her drink.
"That's what stings," his gentle smile somehow reassured her.
"And my body?" she wondered next. "I feel aches…"
"Well," he squinted his eyes and she thought she caught a flash of regret cross his face. "You have some bruises- some pretty bad ones. I think they'll take a little longer to heal, but be assured we checked on the scanner and you have no internal damage or bleeding, so consider yourself a lucky lady."
"Lucky?" She derided and he blushed again, confirming her suspicion earlier.
"I'm sorry, that didn't quite come out how I intended it…"
"It's okay. I get it. You're a doctor, people must come here and die every day." She commented insightfully.
Troy stood and carefully checked over her healing wounds while she closed her eyes and pretended he wasn't really the best-looking junior doctor she'd ever seen in her life. She was engaged now; she couldn't go thinking other men were attractive. Especially not her beau's brother.
"Is Jake here?" She asked lightly.
Troy stepped back from the bed, his checking done.
"He's coming tonight." Troy supplied. "Oh, he gave me this to pass on…"
He fished into his inside pocket and Gabi frowned until she caught sight of the gold band he pinched between gentle fingers.
"Oh," was all she managed to say because really, what else was there?
"He thought you might miss it…apparently it fell off during…well anyway, I should say congratulations. You're part of the family now, sis-in-law," he teased with cute shyness Gabriella marveled at.
Jesus, the guy was adorable. How in the hell was he related to Jake?
"Thank you," she operated on manners seeing as her brain wasn't fully connected yet. "Bro." She added, equally jokily and he gave her a bemused look that told her never to say that again. Oh, this was a minefield, she realized sharply.
"Ah, well, I'm back on duty in the bomb shelter at midnight so I should get some rest…" Troy began and he noticed Gabriella's frown.
"Bomb Shelter?" She quizzed.
Troy shrugged in that adorable way he seemed to do everything awkwardly. "I mean the Emergency Room," he explained. "It just seems like a war-trench sometimes…"
"I can imagine," she nodded.
"I'll…catch you later maybe?" He suggested.
"Troy…" Gabi called and Troy mused at how she called him by his first name and not his official hospital title of Doctor Bolton- which was how he introduced himself before their informalities developed.
"Yes, Miss Montez?" He kept the patient-doctor divide strictly in place.
"Can you come see me before your shift ends?" She wondered. "Um…please?"
Troy looked at her for a long moment and she wondered what might be going through his head.
"Sure, I can do that," he finally relaxed into a smile.
"So, you met my brother…" Jake's drawl was low and familiar and Gabi smiled in relief before she opened her eyes and struggled to sit up.
"Whoa, princess…" Jake strolled over to the bed and picked up the remote for the head rest and adjusted the height so Gabi could comfort herself while they talked.
"He's not like you." Was all Gabi could offer on that particular subject and Jake let out a husky roar of laughter.
"No, sweetness, he is not like me at all…"
"He's polite." She stated, not that her comment was meant to detract from Jake's own manner; but just to offer her observations on the younger Bolton thus far.
"Well, he's a doctor, it's in the handbook," Jake smiled. "How are you doing?"
Gabi bit into her lower lip and ventured her eyes up. "Okay, I think."
"You got your ring," Jake noted with a wide smile.
"Thank you for sending it," she smiled. "And thank you for saving me…"
"Look, no more words on those lizards and how we got here, okay?" Jake insisted.
"So, are they keeping you okay in here? What's the food like?" Jake wondered as he stood and mooched about the room, already with itchy feet even though he had only just sat down.
"Are you leaving town for a while?" Gabi asked back, knowingly.
He looked over and smirked. Nothing would get past her pretty little head, he mused.
"Not just yet. I want'a make sure you're safe first…" he ventured.
"And how do you plan on ensuring that?" She wondered, seeing as he wasn't actually planning on being around.
"Well, that I'm still figuring out," he admitted ruefully. "But don't you worry; I'll have it sewn up in a stitch."
"Nice phrase," she mused of her own stitched skin.
"Look, pumpkin, I'm gonna be gone for two weeks but you're not working in bars or at night. I promised to take care of you and I will." Jake assured.
"I can take care of myself," Gabi murmured under her breath.
"This is gonna take time for you to get over and learn to trust again, okay?" Jake guessed easily. "And I'm going to make sure you can do that with no stress…"
"You make me sound like I'm in a delicate condition," Gabi derided of his strong words but deep down, she welcomed his protection. Being attacked like that had frightened her to her very core and she still didn't sleep without aids from the memories of it.
"Well, honey, no need to hide the obvious," he teased even though they both knew perfectly well she wasn't pregnant.
"Are you trying to say I'm fat?" Gabi arched back, in their usual banter.
"No, no…I'm trying to say you have a beautiful glow about you and becoming womanly curves to match…"
"Jake Bolton!" A pillow launched across the room to duff him accurately in the head.
"Oh, no pillow fights, please…" came a voice from outside the room and Kelsey stepped in with a cup of tea for Gabi.
"It's for the bump," Jake smirked at Gabi's indignant gasp.
"Are you expecting, Miss Montez?" Kelsey looked up, surprised.
"No, I am not," Gabi assured through clenched teeth and swiped her pillow back to smack Jake with it hard, except her fragile body didn't let her create too much damage.
"Hm, okay, well visiting hours are over, Mr Bolton," Kelsey addressed the tall, broad man who was grinning at Gabi as she sulked in bed.
"Hm? Oh, right. I have to be off then, sweet-pea," he made a great show of leaving after kissing her and stroking her hair back and Gabi grimaced at how she must look.
"Am I allowed a shower?" She asked Kelsey once Jake had gone.
Kelsey turned and smiled as she went to leave after Jake.
"Of course. We have a special, adapted one upstairs; I can take you up tomorrow."
"Thank you," Gabi called as her favourite nurse left and darkness descended upon the hospital.
Hm? What was that? Gabi cracked one eye open and flicked it around but it was her bad eye so it didn't offer much help.
"Are you awake?" A voice whispered and she rolled onto her back, to see a shadow in the doorway which made her gasp.
"Hey, it's only me…it's Troy…" The voice assured quickly, relieving her. God, when was she going to learn, she reprimanded herself. She was safe in here.
"I'm awake," she offered back and watched him advance into the room in darkness and giggled as he clonked his knee on the iron bed frame and swore in a completely un-doctor like way.
"Ouch," he hissed as he rubbed his knee once he found the chair and plopped into it.
"You could have turned the light on," Gabi offered.
"Now you tell me," Troy grumbled from the seat. "That injury might have put paid to my Sunday morning football game…"
"You play football?" Gabi awed.
"No, but did you feel sorry for me?" Troy quipped and she wasn't sure what had gotten into him.
"Are you really a doctor?" She wondered suspiciously.
"Not anymore, I just got off duty," he crowed. "Right now, I'm just a nearly-brother-in-law."
"Oh. Yeah," she agreed softly.
"So Jake said he caught up with you…" He offered for conversation.
"How long have you been working?" She changed the subject with a question.
"What time is it now?" She puzzled.
"About four a.m," he supplied and she could have guessed as much from the very slight yellow tinge to the darkness outside her window.
"You've been awake since this morning?" She calculated from his visit to her this afternoon, guessing he'd waited for her to wake.
"Yeah," she saw him shrug in the dark.
"You should go home," she realized. "You deserve a break."
"Strangely enough, I never sleep for at least an hour after my shift ends," he admitted. "Adrenaline or something…"
"What do you normally do to wind down?" She wondered and somehow- even though it was the most innocent question in the world and she only asked out of pure curiosity, it still sounded like she was flirting. How the hell did she do it, she wondered?
"Go to a sports bar, watch some ice-hockey on the big-screen…sometimes just have a drink…"
"No girl?" She licked her lips, her voice raising an octave even though she was strictly not interested in his answer.
"Nope," he confirmed. "Let's just say working all hours of the day and night doesn't suit some people's schedules…"
"Do you find it hard?" She wondered and he was quiet so she decided to explain. "Dealing with what you see?"
"You know," he considered. "No-one ever asked me that before."
"Well, do you?" She insisted.
Troy breathed even breaths into the dark room and closed his eyes as his lids felt heavy. Hell yeah, he found it difficult; he was only human after all. And a caring one at that or he wouldn't be doing this, he mused. And those cases that involved children or abused young people; or a good life lost always got to him. But they weren't there to decide who was good and bad and who deserved to live and die. They were just there to help and to care for those beings while they needed it. He wouldn't expect someone from outside this world to understand, but maybe Gabriella did, he considered.
"Sometimes," he offered huskily, tiredness washing over him now that he had sat down and was bathed in darkness, too.
"Jake told me a bit about you," she offered as she closed her own eyes and just listened to Troy's breathing.
"Oh yeah?" She could hear the smirk on his lips. "What did he say?"
"That his little brother was the good guy. That he was proud of you…"
"He didn't suggest that you marry me instead, then?" Troy joked sleepily.
Gabi swallowed. "No." She answered simply.
"Did he say anything else?" He wondered on.
"Not that I remember…just how you used to be close…"
Troy fidgeted in the chair and Gabi realized he was moving onto his side to get comfortable.
"He didn't tell you I was the weedy, skinny version of him, then," he mocked himself, on the verge of sleep now. "Goodnight, Gabriella," he added and she frowned.
Was he really planning on sleeping there?
"It's Gabi," she sighed and let her own sleep prevail. At least she wouldn't be alone now when she opened her eyes.
"Oh god….whoever said Doctors are intelligent should be shot," Troy groaned as his awkward, uncomfortable sleeping place reminded him that although he was in his prime at twenty-two years of age, he worked more hours than most grown men put together and therefore sleeping in chairs was not a wise idea.
"That's a little extreme," a voice quipped and he froze, then looked up from his inordinate amount of stretching that had inadvertently revealed his belly where his top had ridden up.
"I have company," he told himself and quickly tugged his clothing back down and into place while he more sureptuosly straightened himself.
"You're also talking to yourself, which is the first sign of madness," Gabi offered as she came into his focus and he noted she was busy poring over a board game of some description. Wait, was that chequers? Just how much thinking went into chequers, he wondered?
"And you're playing with yourself, which by my standards, is remotely worse…"
He didn't even realize his gaffe until she looked up at him, her brown eyes steadily fixed on his, her brows lifting.
"Playing by yourself," he corrected quickly with a hot blush. "I meant by yourself…"
Gabi let an amused smirk curl her lips. "I'm sure you did, Mornin' Glory," she nicknamed him with the same drawl that Jake might have used and Troy frowned before shooting a glance at his crotch, where indeed, his jeans were evidencing an obvious arousal.
"Can't imagine what you must have been dreaming about," Gabi murmured to herself as she frowned and made a move on the board.
"Jesus, fuck," Troy swore to himself and Gabi startled at his language as he groaned and hid his face in pure embarrassment.
"Are you beatin' him princess?" Jake's warm voice came through the doorway and Troy froze in panic, quickly intercepting an item of clothing that was laid over the arm of the chair to spread on his lap like a convincing blanket.
"He just woke up," she shared of her non-cheating ways.
"Nice cardi…" Jake commented and Troy split the fingers that covered his face and looked at his brother with one eye, then his lap, then flopped his head back and decided to give himself up to the gods of injustice.
Of all the clothing items to be laid on that chair, he mused; it would have to be a girly pink knitted cardigan, wouldn't it? What was this, an alternate universe where his day went spectacularly wrong?
"Pink's my colour," he rolled his head up and smiled wanly.
"So…you slept here last night," Jake began nonchalantly, but Troy caught the inquisitive undertones of his question. The kind of undertones an engaged man should be asking of his sharing his fiancée's room. Possessive undertones even.
And although Troy couldn't explain his inexplicable arousal this morning- and thankfully didn't need to as Jake didn't seem to have noticed- he needed to assure his brother there was no wrong-doing here.
Just a tired junior and a patient in need of company. He relayed that to this brother with an easy smile.
"You look like a bag of crap, go home and get some rest," Jake told him and Troy considered he may well have deserved that brotherly insult.
"Sure thing," Troy rose with the cardigan loosely hanging from his fingers and felt weird leaving it when it had just been in his lap.
Instead he looked to Gabi with some puzzlement in his features and ran his fingers through hair that already spiked in every direction.
"Uh…I'm gonna take this…and bring it back," he said and dazedly wandered out of the room.
"He's weird," Jake shook his head affectionately.
"Are you staying with him while you're in town?" Gabi wondered as they played on with their game.
"Yeah, he just gave me the spare key and told me to come and go as I pleased." Jake supplied.
Gabi looked up. "I'm coming out in two days."
"I know, and I'll have something sorted by then, I promise." Jake answered her silent question.
Gabi's face crumpled. "Thank you. For helping me." She said suddenly.
"Well, you are my wife-to-be," he smiled.
"That I am," she nodded in return.
"Dr. Bolton! Doctor- Troy!" The voice called him as he made his way like a zombie through the hospital corridors towards the lift.
"Huh? Oh, Kelsey it's you, sorry I fell asleep here last night…" he trailed off, realizing she didn't need to know the details.
"I think Miss Montez is pregnant." She said outright and Troy's brows lifted as his heart thumped wildly in his chest.
"Really? We didn't pick up anything in the scans…"
"I heard her and Mr. Bolton mention her 'bump' during his visit yesterday and I wondered if we should do any extra tests?" Kelsey worried.
Troy squinted his eyes. The ward doctor could see to all that, of course. He was just a junior following up on an ER admission that just happened to be his future sister-in-law. But then, the ward doctor probably wouldn't order any further tests or show any concern because the information was not entirely reliable. Perhaps he would broach the subject later, when he came back for his next shift.
"Thank you, Kelsey, I'll follow it up," he forced a tight smile and got into the lift.
With the sunset of orange hues casting on her healing face, Troy considered his brother's fiancée to be a very attractive girl.
He still wasn't sure what a twenty-year-old would see in his battered thirty-two year old brother, but then who was he to judge when it came to love? He hardly had a shining record of relationships to boast about.
But this girl was different. She was…exquisitely beautiful, he considered. Not just the bog-standard, every-day beautiful.
Her dark brows were perfectly arched, her lashes thick and black even without make-up. Her cheeks were arched, but her face rounded to soften those angles and her mouth bowed in the top where her bottom lip was full. There was a little dent in her chin and when she had smiled, he remembered a dimple in her chin somewhere, too.
Yeah, she was beautiful, alright. And most likely pregnant with his brother's child, so why was he standing here, drinking in her beauty, he wondered?
Had it been that long since he'd dated? That he needed to study the features of his brother's partner and wonder what her lips might taste like? God, he didn't get out enough, he mused.
Snapped out of his thoughts by movement in the bed, Troy quickly went about making himself look busy.
When Gabi awoke it was to find him with the clipboard and a studious look on his face.
"Is something wrong?" Her sleepy voice had a high note of worry in it and he closed his eyes at that and for being the one to cause it.
"No! God, no…" he quickly assured. "I just wanted to make sure the meds were right…"
Gabi nodded and propped up and he helped her by fluffing her cushions.
"So," he began pacing around her bed, thoughtfully, as though searching for a conversation topic.
"Did you get some rest?" She asked, putting him off track somewhat.
He looked up. "Yes, thank you. Slept like a baby…"
Gabi arched her brow and he could read her silent thoughts. Babies don't have enormous erections while they sleep…
"Good," was all she said with a nod. "Jake left?"
Troy shrugged. "Room was empty when I came in."
"I had a shower today, it was wonderful to finally get out of this bed," she sighed blissfully.
"I'll make a note of that," he teased. "Could go down a storm with the straws and Vaseline I suggested…"
"What do you want to ask me?" She wondered, reading him like a book as he paced and rubbed his lips with dexterous fingers. Fingers of a man who owned gentle hands; hands that cared for people and helped them better.
"Uh…" He looked at her, perplexed by her honesty.
"I'm a woman, Troy. Not an idiot."
He considered that actually she was more of a girl than a woman exactly, considering her petiteness and her age.
"I…just...I wondered if…" He cleared his throat and frowned, cutely she thought, like he wanted to ask her if she was a prostitute and didn't know how.
"If what?" She prompted boldly.
"If you think you might be pregnant," he asked.
Gabi opened her mouth. Then closed it. Then opened it again. Then closed it again. For she knew exactly where this little doubt had come from and she didn't entirely know how to confront it. With the truth, she supposed.
"No, I don't think I am," she turned down her lips casually. "Why do you ask? Was there something in the scans?"
Troy's cheeks heated with her counter-question. One he hadn't prepared for.
"Erm, it wasn't clear," he semi-lied. "I just wanted to make sure before you're dismissed that we'd checked everything out- for your health and for the baby's."
"There is no baby," she reminded him with a brow lift.
"Oh, I mean if there was….of course, I wasn't implying…that…uh…"
"I know where this misunderstanding originated," she offered formally. "It's because your charming brother said I looked fat and needed a pillow to prop up my belly," she paraphrased that particular gem of conversation with Jake.
"Fat?" Troy spluttered convincingly. "No! You do not look…anything but, in fact!" He swallowed as he realized how ridiculous he sounded.
He was twenty-two, not sixty-two. So why did he sound like one of the graying doctors doing the rounds here? He looked around the room sheepishly as he blushed yet again.
"Now that we have that little misconception cleared up, any chance you could find me some orange squash?" She held up her glass and widened her brown eyes becomingly.
"Please," she added dutifully as he looked at her.
"Of course," he agreed and went on his little mission.