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Meet Me at the Trauma Bay

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Fletcher Bellucci , a mysteriously cynical, but undoubtedly hilarious ER RN finds himself crossing paths with Dr. Maddox Ramos - an alluring, luxuriously appealing, and quick to action ER doctor. Fletchers ultimate secret is exposed, putting anyone in the way in potentially deadly danger. Fletcher, Maddox, and help along the way in means of numerous forms work together to put an end to the nightmare he's been living in for nearly the last two years. Will they be able to stop the legacy of this extreme, long standing serial killer from his maximum end goal - capturing, torturing, and brutality murdering the only one that ever got away? Follow them along their darkly interlaced race against time and the unknown as they navigate deeply into this twisted chase of fate, lust, and unwavering love before they run out of time.

Erotica / Romance
Age Rating:

I Can Work with Complicated Things

You hastily make your way through the winding halls of the hospital until you reach the cafeteria, quickly swiping your badge against the panel on the wall.

The door before you opens automatically, inviting you into the familiar aromatics as you escape momentarily from the rush of working in the fast-paced emergency department.

You become lost in the array of desserts and decide on a frosted brownie before lazily grabbing an energy drink and a bottle of water. Before checking out you grab the grilled chicken and strawberry salad and make your way to a table that is secluded far in the back of the cafeteria.

You flip on the TV in the wide booth and slouch back into the corner to try and rest before your lunch is over. The space around you is filled with a soft mumble and for a moment you close your eyes in peace.

In the same instance, you are startled back awake as your phone begins buzzing erratically in your pocket. You roll your eyes, letting out an irritated sigh at what problem could possibly present itself now. You squint at the screen as your eyes adjust and look over the messages that keep flooding in from your twin sister, Celena.

You begin to text her back, reassuring her that you’ve already taken care of everything for the extensive annual family vacation next week to Cancun. After all, she’s only been micromanaging you for the sixth time today about ensuring it’s all taken care of – something that you had done weeks ago.

You grunt softly in frustration, running your hands up to massage your temples from the throbbing headache you’ve developed. You take a bite of your salad, cracking open the energy drink and find comfort again as you rest your head back against the wall.

Soaking in the darkness and warmth of the tucked away table, you welcome the quiet surroundings as you close your eyes again, hopeful for five minutes of silence and rest.

The moment your eyes close you hear someone clear their throat above you and it pulls you out of your sleepy lull. Forcefully, you crack open an eye lazily to see who is interrupting you this time. You have one semi-serious rule that you give to the nurses that you precept over – no distractions during your breaks, but clearly even something as simple as that isn’t to be followed.

“Hey there.” The man before you says, his voice mesmerizing like a soft velvet honey. That is, until you peer closer at him and realize that you’re staring down at the end of a long white lab coat. Your eyes instantly snap up to see one of the recently hired emergency department doctors standing next to your table with a tray of food. He’s giving you a coy smile, something you’d never consider good news from someone in his position.

“Shit, you startled me. I’m sorry, did I forget something before I went on break? I can wrap up and go finish whatever needs done, doctor.” You watch him with an uncertain hesitation. “I thought I was caught up, but the way this week has been I wouldn’t dismiss missing something – I mean really how the last two years have been, but that’s a story for another day.” You laugh dryly, nervously oversharing as he looms above you. You sit a little more upright and he smiles kindly at you.

“What? No, Fletcher. Of course not.” He laughs boisterously, holding his tray with one hand as he runs his other hand in an unsure manner against the back of his neck. “I was actually going to ask you if anyone else was sitting here?” He says softly, his voice becoming lower as he takes a step toward the table. He seems to hesitate, unsure of what to do with himself.

“You know my name? I mean, without reading it off of my badge like every other doctor here?” You jokingly laugh, watching him as he watches you. He smiles confidently, not breaking. This one is definitely going to be hard to navigate, his emotions are not easily shown, so this is a man that knows what he’s doing.

“Well, yeah, I know your name. I’ve known it for as many months as I’ve been here since the first day I met you.” He says, as if you should have already known that. This guy is something else, he’s completely out of your league, so you don’t want to get pulled in to whatever is going on.

“Seriously? I mean, no, no one is sitting with me. You can sit here if you want to.” You kind of question him instead of just give him an answer as you shrug, not knowing what to expect. “That came out wrong, you should sit.” You offer, your face turning deep scarlet.

He smiles toward you as a low laugh escapes his throat while he watches you in despair about how confusing this apparently is to you. He plops down in a chair on the other side of the table you are at as he puts his tray down across from you. You slide to the end of your bench seat and peer around the corner of the table to verify no one else is coming over. It feels like you’re waiting to get walked out by security or…something. Not like you’ve been hunted by a long-standing serial killer or anything for the last two years of your life.

“What…are you doing, is everything okay, Fletcher?” He questions, taking a bite out of his sandwich before wiping a napkin slowly across his face. He leans over the empty chair next to him to look in the same direction as you. He raises an eyebrow in concern as you both come back to the table, realizing that you are both staring at nothing.

You take an extensively long drink of your water as you try to think of what to do next. Honestly, you think he’s fucking with you at this point. It seems like he has been sneaking glances at you since you’ve started working together more over the last couple of months, but it’s probably just your mind playing out how you wish things really were with him. However, it seems like you may be about to find out.

“I just…I feel like I’m getting Punk’d or you’re holding me off until security comes to walk me out for something, or just…honestly, I have no idea why you are here.” You huff out, nervously chuckling into the tense air as he gives you a warm smile. “Either that or you came to do a psych evaluation on me because I’m always talking to myself while I work.” You add, trying to poke fun at yourself to make the situation more comfortable.

“Well, if it puts you at ease any, I can assure you I am not here for any of that. I’m here because I wanted to come and talk to you, alone, for once. If you don’t mind, that is. I just saw you were going on break and got brave enough to try and see if you would care if you had some company. I’ve been trying to find the right chance to get a moment with you, I think you’re intriguing, for starters. And, for the record, I do notice you do talk to yourself while you work quite often – but it’s cute.” He says, very matter of fact, before taking a quick drink of his Gatorade. “I’m assuming your attention to detail and perfection greatly benefits your patients.” He compliments you, his alluring eyes watching you carefully. You smirk while you squint your eyes as you look over at him, defensively crossing your arms over your chest.

“Is there something I did wrong or…” You trail off, unsure of his approach to this and exactly where this is going. His complexion becomes perplexed the further you question things. “I mean…it’s just literally no one ever tries to talk to me.” You nearly whisper out, feeling defeated and kind of embarrassed.

“No? At least to my knowledge you’ve not done anything wrong.” He questions, seeming genuine in the way he is presenting himself to you. Plus, it doesn’t seem like anyone is coming over to you at this point with a camera crew to post your vulnerability on a television show full of regret and embarrassment like you thought. “I just…I think you hold your own. I like how confident you are and your ability to easily care for coworkers and patients, you really represent what healthcare is.” He nearly laughs at himself as he opens up to you.

“Wait, you really mean that?” You softly mumble, your eyes meeting his again for a moment.

“Well, yeah, of course. You really are doing what you are meant to do, and I’m impressed when I see a colleague working to that extent. More importantly though, aside from these positive characteristics about you, I have found that I have a very appealing attraction to you. I watch you talk and laugh with new hires as you precept them, seeing them learn from you with such excitement is amazing. You treat everyone with this radiant respect, like it doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done, you just take care of everyone. You seem like the type of person who stays consistent in the way that you are – regardless of if they are the janitor or the CEO.” He shakes his head, almost like he can’t believe he is letting so much out at once when you’ve hardly gotten to talk to him prior to this.

But no one has ever said anything like this about you, not ever before, not until him.

“I’m really not that interesting.” You offer as you laugh lowly, your face turning ten shades darker as you feel your skin burn.

“I’d respectfully disagree. I would have loved to talk to you sooner, but I was unsure of how to approach it. It’s difficult to be subtle in such a constantly hectic environment where we have little time without chaos. I mean, I completely get it if you don’t agree, I can get up and find a table on the other side. I can quit staring at you like a creep all the time, sneaking glances at you as you work…but I feel something. Just give me five minutes of your lunch hour.” He nearly pleads as he tries to explain himself and you give him a partial smile, intrigued as to where this is going now.

“I’m listening.” You smirk, your face still burning from how much attention he has given you. You’ve hardly been able to keep your eyes off of him since he started and now here he is, right in front of you.

His eyes give off a darkly mysterious glint and it pulls you in deeply. So, he was sneaking glances at you this whole time.

“It would really break my confidence if the first person I tried to finally talk to after having to hype myself up for weeks to do so would then turn me down immediately without hearing me out. So, please, I don’t want to have to beg.” He says, begging.

You smile, feeling your face flush as your cheeks begin to burn from how long your smile has stayed put. This is a feeling of pure enjoyment in a simple conversation, an emotion that you can’t recall feeling in such a long time that you are hardly able to recognize it now as it happens. You’d like to see where this goes, though, he seems heavily invested in his thoughts. So, why not hear him out?

“Okay, stay. Five minutes. But first of all, why do you think I’d even have an attraction to another man?” You say, pretending to be offended as you take a bite of your brownie before turning the TV down to a low background murmur.

He smirks, eyeing you with a knowing spark.

“Is that a bad thing, Fletcher? You mean to ask how I know you’re gay, too?” He shoves some skittles into his perfect mouth as he questions you and begins chewing slowly. He thoughtfully watches the rain outside from the ceiling-to-floor windows next to the table before he looks back to you.

“Enlighten me.” You scoff, giving him a curious grin and you watch his eyes beam with yearning.

“Well, for starters, the blushing and embarrassed reactions you’ve just had when I told you that. I’d say in conjunction to all the looks you’ve been giving me when I see you catching glances on our shifts all the time. You can’t be that attractive and then be into women, sorry to say. I don’t really believe that you look at anyone else the same way that I’ve seen you looking at me. I only can say that because…well, I’m doing it, too. Not to sound like I’m constantly watching you while you are working, even though it pretty much sounds that way. I’m definitely not stalking you, I swear.” He laughs nervously, looking down at his hands before he runs them through his hair.

“You’re pretty good at your detective skills for being a doctor, you know.” You smugly say, unable to deny any of his speculations thus far.

“I don’t know about you, Fletcher, but I was never one to believe in the capability of a good relationship. I felt something, though, and I knew it the second I saw you. I’ve never felt that way with anyone else. That’s why I have been so compelled to make myself come and talk to you finally, I knew I had to. I don’t care really if you turn me down, even though that might hurt. This, though…it’s about letting go to tell you how I feel and to see if you feel the same – putting myself out there for the first time.” His face turns a dark shade of red, but oh does it look good on him. “I couldn’t forgive myself if I passed up this opportunity and it turned out like I would like it to.” He quietly rushes out the rest of his thoughts, caught up in his own embarrassment, but he gives off a sense of freedom too.

“How do you want it to turn out?” You ask, watching him with a slight suspicion on your face. He smiles, knowingly.

“Well, I’d like to marry you one day, Fletcher.” He mutters, halfway confident as he looks to the ground. Okay, twenty-five percent confident, maybe. “I know how it sounds.” He breathes out, his confidence quickly fading.

“No.” The tone of your voice nearly startles you while you watch him with a light smile. “It sounds like something I’d actually like to dive into.” You chuckle as he looks up at you in complete and total surprise. There really is something special about him, you can feel it.

“Are you serious?” He says, intently watching you as if you are the one in question now. “I didn’t expect that, actually.” He shrugs, looking like he just won the lottery.

“I think you’re great, you can hopefully see that, too. Then you’d see why I’d totally be waiting for you to come and talk to me like this.” You say, your tone serious, you’re completely invested. He raises an eyebrow at you, smirking.

“Okay, then I’ll spill.” He takes a sharp breath in before he decides if it’s safe to continue. “I feel like I’ve known you forever, that I’ve waited for you to be the one to come along in my life. I know I can trust you, I guess that’s why I’m breaking down all my walls and so intensely professing how I feel. It felt like those instances where we have worked closely together were tinged with flirting and lust. Maybe I’m wrong, for once, and you aren’t – which would be completely possible. You are an extremely hard person to read, but I’m capable of getting down to the root of things. It’s not hard for me to tell, because I’m constantly assessing people all the time for everything as my job. So, I’m kind of used to it…” He shrugs as his thoughts trail off, laughing to himself as he bites as the side of his finger anxiously. “However, I also can’t entirely pin you down, to be honest with you, the first one to be like that for me.” He hums quietly for a moment, seeming like he is lost in thought.

“You could say I’m a rather complex person, with a rather complex past.” You note, biting at your lip in anticipation.

“Plus, the way you style your hair, no one can do that unless…well, you get the idea.” He pegs you down with his eyes, knowing his has you caught. He’s fucking good, not that you were ever hiding it, but it just never really came up before in your work life. “I know what you’re thinking that all of this must sound crazy, right? I didn’t even want to entertain myself to approach this in this manner, but I just can’t keep putting it off. I swear this is not a normal thing for me, I’m never this…forward.” The nervousness that is blanketing the gruffness of his voice tells you his honesty is sincere in nature.

“Okay, yeah, fair assessment.” You mumble out, watching him continue to watch you intently as a grin threatens the corners of his lips at his accurate knowledge. “Fine then, answer me one question.” You ponder how to word it and he nods. You suck in a deep breath as you try to prepare yourself for whatever answer he comes up with next.

“Shoot.” He says, casually crossing his arms.

“Why are you, a doctor, trying to talk to someone like me? I’m a nobody who’s just some nurse that works under you. You have this, like, higher level where our professional lines don’t ever…uh…cross, I guess?” You stumble for the right words, making it sound weird as you try to make it hold some kind of sense. You shake your head, knowing it isn’t coming out right.

“Fletcher…” He starts, his eyes widening as he starts to understand where you are trying to come from.

“I mean, people like you that are in such high and respected positions, you don’t get to know or need to respect or mingle with someone like me. I’m a bottom feeder, you know? Doctors in general, they are great, but they never want anything to do with us – most of them anyway, apparently. Like honestly, this is strange, you know? Fuck, I mean not you being strange, that came out wrong. But, like, being so friendly to someone under you that means nothing.” You pause for a moment, trying to hold yourself together.

“That’s not true, I’d never think of you like that, not ever.” His face is covered in concern and confusion.

“I’ll shut up now.” You say, shoving more of the brownie in your mouth to keep yourself from digger a deeper grave. He quietly takes a bit of his sandwich, trying to hide his obvious smile. “Are you sure you’re not a new doctor or something, because my league is way down below yours, you should know that.” You say, showing with your hand his theoretical league way above yours that nearly touches the table while watching him smile around trying to chew his food.

“It seems we’re both just as bad at explaining ourselves.” He chuckles, watching you intently.

“I mean, you are like, absolutely amazing, beyond anyone I’ve ever met – and I barely get a second to talk to you when we finally cross again during shifts.” You feel yourself sweating, wiping your palms against your knees. His genuine smile he displays shows his appreciation and validation for you as it spreads across his face like the electricity you feel around him. It’s real, so very real, and tangible. It’s enough to make you melt into whatever he’s asking of you. “Now I’m the one being weird. See how that works?” You laugh to yourself, embarrassed, but giddy.

“You aren’t being weird at all. It’s actually comforting to know that I’m not the only one that’s been feeling this way. To answer your questions, I’m not freshly new, but I am relatively new into my practice, yes. Like I said before, status is not something that matters to me to begin with, but especially when it comes to how I feel connecting with you immediately. I’m just a normal person as you are, just doing different jobs in the same field of helping people.” He shrugs, now taking a more confident stance as he takes a bite of a massive slice of chocolate cake.

“Well, you’re the first doctor I’ve encountered in my career where status apparently doesn’t matter.” You challenge him before finishing off your energy drink and relaxing some into the comfort of the booth.

“I mean it when I say I just want to talk to you, get to you know, but for no reason other than that I find a true attraction to you. You feel like my person, you know? I figured that if you felt anything like I do, that I’d like to try to pursue it, of course with just getting acquainted for now.” He breathes out, looking away sheepishly at how forward he is being.

You soften up, slumping further into the corner of the booth while finishing off your salad. He seems to be turning into someone who you can finally relax and count on here, which would be inviting, but also rather unusual. A first for you, something you’ve never had in your life before.

“I’d like that, yeah. For full disclosure, though, I’ve had the strangest two years of my life leading up to this. So I doubt my life is as relatively normal as yours is, things you might not want to be pulled into. I’m talking serial killers and all, oh my.” You half joke, sighing dramatically into the air before lobbing your phone over to him to add a new contact. He laughs as if you were actually joking, if only he knew. “Want to formally put your name in?” He smiles across the table from you as he grabs the phone from your hand, the tips of your fingers touching lightly.

His head snaps up to meet your curious glance. You hold onto the phone for a moment longer to continue feeling the growing energy between the both of you before you finally let it go. He goes to work at inputting his information, replacing your quick added contact for ‘Dr. M Ramos’ with whatever he decides on.

You look cautiously at the front and back of your hands before putting them down in your lap as you twist your fingers anxiously. He has been staring at you while you looked over your hands for anything abnormal. A peaceful wanderlust smile forms over his face and now you’re wondering if it’s because he was feeling the same thing that you were.

“It’s not just you.” He confirms your suspicion, watching you carefully. “I feel it, too…a warm shocking sensation. It’s electric in nature, but not substantial enough to cause anything other than pure potency. Anytime we’ve made contact I’ve felt it. That’s what I’m saying. This is weird as hell without trying to sound crazy, I feel like I’m bombing this conversation I so tediously planned.” His thoughts pour out of him like hot lava. No one has ever been this open and honest with you and it scares you that you only crave more.

He softly hands the phone back to you before finishing off the dish of his strawberries. You look at the screen that is left open and see that his name has been replaced with ‘Maddox Ramos (BFF)’ and you can’t help but smile down at it. Okay, so maybe he is turning out to be perfect. You would take this type of perfect for the rest of your life.

“We can take off the last ‘F’ and call it good.” You grin, giving him your most convincing look.

“I like the sound of that.” He hums lightly, his sea-green eyes still watching you as intently as before. You could swim in them all day, forever.

“You should just call me Maddox, also. I don’t want to be doctor to you, anymore. If it’s not too weird at work for you, then just use Ramos. But I’d like Maddox if that’s okay with you. Just us, two people, exploring our future together.” He stretches in the chair, his back arching as he relaxes back into it, and damn do you wish you were that chair right about now.

“Maddox.” You hum softly, his name flowing freely from your lips and you see him suck in a sharp breath at the sound of it.

“So, Fletcher, I guess I should formally make sure that you don’t mind if I stay for the remainder of your lunch? And if you are even available for something potential in the future. I’m sorry, I sound so robotic sometimes. I get so nervous in planning an outcome because I’m an idiot and then it sounds aggressive and quite frankly odd, but that’s not how I mean it. I swear. I think it’s my job that made me this way, with all the potential perks, there are also negatives – like communication that is more intimate and less patient-related would be a great place to start improving on. When you have to tell a patient something you are so straightforward, and with this, it shouldn’t be that way. Gosh, I’m sorry. I’m making this weird.” Maddox says, his face deepening to a dark shade of red again, clearly embarrassed with trying to be more open.

You reach a quick, gentle hand across the table and lay it over his own as he is tapping the edge of it in a panic. His fingers soften almost immediately under yours, the blushing tone fading peacefully from his face. It is attractive, though, when he gets a little flustered. It’s a side of him that you’ve not seen yet, something that you definitely enjoy and could get used to.

“No, it’s okay. I totally get it. I know exactly what you mean, and it does make sense. It’s honestly so weird to be communicative, especially for someone like me who has been out of this type of realm for so long. I was never good at relationships, working is all I seem to do now, so I relate completely to that.” You huff out, flat out embarrassing yourself now.

“I can say that I feel like I am in good company, Fletcher.” Maddox glances out the window again for a moment as he becomes entangled in his thoughts again.

“To conclude this nightmare of a conversation that I’ve wrapped you up in, I think it would be amazing if you would stay. I clearly don’t have anyone else that I’m seeing or that I’ve seen recently. Relationships just really never were my thing, I guess. However, I do honestly believe though that I had an immediate attraction to you, too, from the first day that we worked together. I can definitively say that it has made the last couple of months very tempting.” You say, biting on your bottom lip as you feel the heat begin to rise in your face.

You feel your phone buzzing in your pocket and you roll your eyes, pulling it out assuming that it is your sister again. Instead, you are met with the glare of the light showing your supervisors name on the screen.

“Trouble in paradise?” Maddox jokes, cocking his head to the side as he watches your concerned look at your phone.

“Fuck, now what.” You whisper, mostly to yourself. “Something like that, I’m sure.” You huff out toward him in response.

You check your watch, seeing that you still have twenty minutes of your break. Against your better judgement you open the text from Eliza, your supervisor who’s working tonight. Her text to you is her usual bubbly self, letting you know that after your lunch you can just grab your stuff and clock out for the night. The new trainee nurse that you have been orientating is leaving sick and since she knew it was your sixth twelve hour shift in a row she was letting you go early.

You feel yourself relax from the tension you were holding, thinking it was some bad shit going down in the emergency room. You are thankful, your bed has been calling you for days. You bless her over text and look back up at Maddox who is curiously watching you with complex questioning plastered on his face. He sits patiently, not wanting to interrupt you.

“Eliza, my supervisor, she just text me to let me know that apparently my nurse that I’ve been training is leaving sick. She knows I’ve been working six nights now so she’s letting me head out early to catch up on some sleep.” You say, still shocked at how smoothly your evening is starting to go. You can finally run into the store for the few things you need to get during a time when no one will be there, or hopefully, no one will be there. You don’t go often anymore to avoid the fact that he could be there waiting for you. “Okay, honestly really, I’m not going to catch up on sleep – an impossible feat. But I am, however, going to the store finally and having a wine night in…or morning, whatever it is now.” Your days and nights are always flooded together, running into each other mindlessly.

“That’s convenient, my shift just ended half an hour ago.” Maddox says, kicking back in the chair as he picks up the various bits of food that are left around you and puts them on his tray. “Could I walk you to get your stuff, maybe, if that’s okay?” He questions, grabbing your tray from you as you watch him casually walk them to the nearby trash to empty them.

So, he’s even off work now and still sat to eat with you? What the fuck. Okay, so maybe he was taking interest in you in the ER all this time, it is a definite confirmation now. Who waits at work for someone when they could get the hell out of dodge? And then on top of that, throws your damn trash away for you.

Either he’s genuine and impressive or convincing and mischievous. You have yet to unravel that mystery.

“Of course, that sounds great.” You say, nodding and he follows you out of the booth and down the hallways as they wind towards the ER.

You swipe your badge and head quickly into the door, eager to make it to the store, and then comatose yourself into your bed for the next couple of days. You grab your bag, water bottle, stethoscope, notebooks, jacket, and beeline to clock out. Maddox is hot on your heels, and you run into him chest first as you turn around quickly from clocking out in the locker room. His scent is intoxicating this close and his sturdy hand holds you in place from falling backward.

“Better be careful, Fletcher.” Maddox’s sexually enticing deep, but low gravelly voice is persuading you to venture further into whatever he is trying to offer you. He looks inside the locker room for a moment, questioning its condition. “This locker room is a living nightmare. I feel like with as much as they can afford in other areas, they can give you a less abandoned haunted house vibe and more of a lavish lounge kind of deal.” You laugh at his response, not enthused, but he is right.

“Right, well, they would roll over in their graves if they had to fork over any money over for the nurses.” You sigh, rolling your eyes to exaggerate your response. “They’d spend more money on dried-up turkey sandwiches and mini apple juices before they did anything like that.” Maddox nearly spits out the drink he was taking, turning his unexpected laugh into a coughing fit.

“Hey now Fletcher, I like the dried turkey sandwiches. I haven’t gotten food poisoning from those, yet. I just need to grab my bag quickly, care to join? I mean, you seriously don’t have to, just putting an offer out on the table.” Maddox halfway asks, looking down at you ever so slightly, his breath hitting you softly on the face. It feels like it’s a trap in his trance. It’s all you can do to not stumble over an answer and just end up nodding as your yes to him as he turns around and opens a door going down another hallway near the other side of the emergency room.

You cram your stuff into your bag as you walk behind him, pulling your jacket back on and fling the bag over your shoulder. He stops short at a plain-looking door and swipes his badge as he enters swiftly, holding the door open for you before it shuts softly behind you. The hallway is empty from people, but expensive in decor that immediately spans extensively across an open but appropriately decorated area where more doors expand beyond. Seriously, the CEO of this place must be a real dickhead. You knew the doctors had better treatment than the nurses, but this? This is outrageous.

“And I always thought this was a spare morgue. That theory was way off, but holy shit. This is for sure a better trade than having a second extra-large human freezer.” You mumble, listening to his laugh vibrating around you both, looking around at him in this space. You turn around to see him grabbing things from a locker and tossing it all into his backpack as well. Impressive for a doctor as tidy as he seems. He shuts the locker and pauses a moment before standing up from his kneeling position.

“After the comparison, I’m going to push to have your locker rooms upgraded.” Maddox smugly smirks toward you as you marvel at everything around you.

“Well, I now see why our locker room is a definite downgrade from the doctors lounge. How pitiful for their peasants to get anything better than dented lockers and ten-year-old recycled couches. No dented lockers for you in here.” Maddox’s laugh feels contagious as it fills the space around the two of you, his presence alone is enough to get drunk on. Don’t fall for it, stay strong, dumbass.

“Can I show you something?” He says, tossing his bag over his shoulder recklessly as you begin to follow him down the hall towards more doors. He advances towards one and pulls the handle to check the lock, tugging it open with a soft grace. You step inside before him and are met with a large and over-stocked hell of a private bathroom. “The best part of the whole place. The fucking private bathrooms. This place has decked-out rooms and bathrooms, kitchen areas, living, etc. So, sometimes on my stretches, I will just stay here or when I’m on call. I mean look at the shower head, I’d never have something that nice in my house, it’s massive!” Maddox seems thoroughly impressed with this place like he’s not been in it a million times already. His enthusiasm for you is impeccable.

“I mean, this for sure isn’t the prison space we get. Metal, frigid, and likely full of demons. Not to mention our two-hundred-year-old showers that the local jail donated since they have felons in here all the time for treatment of ‘chest pains’. The fancy shower heads, a stocked private bathroom...we basically have to take a shit on top of each other with the crammed two-stall bathrooms they allotted for us. The plus side is that one of them actually locks sometimes, so, there’s that.” Maddox tries to hold back his laugh, but he can barely contain it.

“I’m sorry, I swear I’m not laughing at you. You’re just...hilarious. Someone really funny to be around for once, I like it. It’s a nice change.” Maddox looks in awe at the bathroom around you. And here you thought he was about to just take advantage of you after locking you in a bathroom. So close. “I’m just going to shower quickly, if you don’t mind sticking around. It’s huge, so... feel free to stay in. Or if you’d be more comfortable you can go look around. No one is ever around here.” Maddox smiles at you like he knows he has you hooked already, and you know he has you, too.

Maddox starts stripping off his scrubs before you even have a second to think and you try to find anything in the room other than him to look at as you hear the water turn on. You focus on how nice the shower head actually is.

It then takes approximately two seconds for you to get immediately roped back in as he teasingly pulls his shirt off over his head – ruffling his hair as he lets it fall to the ground beside him. His olive tone glistens in the steam rolling out already around him like he just dropped down from fucking heaven as a gift. Oh, God. Come on, Fletcher, resist this. Turn away, you idiot.

Holy shit.

“Holy shit.” You accidentally whisper, letting it slip out as if you were still caught up in your own mind. “Oh God, I’m so sorry!” You shriek, shaking your head, now full of embarrassment. You force yourself to sit down on a bench near the corner where you can still see the shower but can be less guarded when your body shows a response that your mind doesn’t want to let out, at least not yet. You hear his soft but booming laugh in the shower. He is sculpted to perfection in every single way.

You groan and bury your head in your hands to keep from getting more embarrassed after accidentally blurting that out like a moron. Don’t get hard right now, don’t do it. God, please spare me.

“I mean, hey…I don’t mind if you look. You already know I’m interested if you are.” Maddox says in a swooning mumble over the water running in the shower. “As I said, I trust you, and it’s really difficult for me to trust people anymore.” A spark of interest hits your body at once like lightning and you hear the gentle padding of feet on the hard floor before your gaze stops short of looking up to his face when he is in full display in front of you. You beg your eyes to travel up to meet his and he’s staring intently at you, a light grin spread across his face.

“You are…very tempting.” You barely mutter out as you still find yourself locked in his lustful gaze.

“What do you say?” Maddox says, offering a hand extended toward you. It would be a true skill to be able to be this confident all the time, with everything. He’s so unbelievably smooth. And he’s not even hard, so you can only begin to imagine the road ahead with his member on display. You try to push the thoughts to the back of your mind. You look back up to him, hesitantly grabbing his hand in yours as he pulls you up from the bench and stands dripping wet with hot steam rolling off a breath away from your own body. “I’m not going to try and have sex with you if that’s your concern, I swear.” He says, putting his hands up for a moment to show you.” You smirk, rolling your eyes.

“No…that’s definitely not even a concern.” You offer, but your recent self-harm is. You take a deep, unsteady breath and watch him, your eyes full of caution. “No, I trust you...” You say as you trail off your thoughts, your voice becoming quiet.

Maddox first takes your badge off with care and places it on the counter next to his. He pulls the string from your scrub bottoms and tugs lightly until they fall around your ankles as he does to your briefs seconds after.

He momentarily drops his head in defeat, holding softly onto the outside of your thighs to steady himself. He squats lower, slowly and with a concentrative intention. He runs his fingers ever so lightly against your thighs now and you know he knows it’s not just your junk he’s eyeing. This could be trouble, and not the kind that you are looking for.

The air burns your legs and as much as you try not to wobble and pull yourself back from the pain, you begin to flinch. Maddox looks up at you slowly with question plastered on his face. He pulls each foot up to toss your bottoms to the side completely near his and you flinch again when he pulls your shirt up over your head because you know his next sight will be your arms.

He studies you over as he gives you a steady but concerned sigh. He puts a hand against your chest, and you feel like sparks are traveling all over your body from his hand softly placed on you. He pulls back slightly for a moment before coming back to his original hold.

Maddox looks up at you, giving a hint of a smile. You can sense that he is trying to not be pushy, and that makes it all the easier to be transparent with him. Something you never had in your life.

Before you know what is happening, the sadness from Maddox’s stare leaks into the room and surrounds you in a warm hug as his body meets yours. He pulls you as close as your bodies will allow and you suck in a sharp breath, feeling his skin hot like fire against yours. He’s the first person who hasn’t questioned you like you’re crazy and just sat with you as you needed.

God, it’s me, I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks again for not sparing me the one single time I needed it. Hot men and steamy showers, give me a fucking break, man. How is someone supposed to resist this? Cruel, so very cruel.

Intentional, too, at that.

“See, did you feel that? That’s the feeling I’m talking about when I see you. When our hands brush against one another, working on a trauma together, knowing I know you have my back.” So, he does have the same feeling you’ve had. This must be fate, right? A good thing finally came after so much that was terrible. He pulls himself out of his lust brain for a moment.

“I know exactly what you’re talking about.” You gruffly say, still intoxicated by his presence.

“Fletcher, I need to know, when did this happen? From the looks of it, I’d say earlier this evening before you came to work. You could have told me something was wrong at the beginning of the shift when I asked you. I knew something was bothering you. Is this why you were grimacing all the time reaching and bending all night? You know you can tell me anything.” Maddox questions, sadness fills his voice as deep as it did in his eyes, and it makes you uneasy and guilty for what you’ve done. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

“I’m sorry.” You whisper, defeated by your own shame.

“You’ve been the same, but also different today. On edge, maybe? You keep looking over your shoulder like you’re waiting for something bad to happen.” Maddox cocks his head to the side with a raised eyebrow in concern. “Is everything okay, Fletcher?” You take a deep breath, and he must sense how you are feeling because he pulls you over into the shower while you formulate an answer, not pushing it further for the time being. He quickly washes his own hair and body, brushing his teeth and then he begins to gently wash your hair and body for you under the water. It burns your skin all over, but you don’t let yourself flinch. “I guarantee you need stitches, like almost one-hundred percent positive. These keep opening up, and I’m sure they have been all night, haven’t they?” Maddox says, deadpan.

“I’m sorry, it’s terrible, I know. I’ve just done it for so many years...it seems disgustingly natural by now. I was so caught up in you that I forgot that it had even been a problem to begin with.” You say, mostly to yourself. “It was never bad like this before though, not until recently. I had not done something like this for so long, but it’s just been difficult with the reasoning lately.” Maddox lets the water wash the soap from you and stands next to you, one warm finger sweeps along your jawline before his hand comes up to cradle your face.

He pulls you in closer as you lean into him, your body flushing against his. You hear his breath hitch and he pulls his lips up against yours nearly to the point of them touching with need and breathes heavily on your face as he plants one hand behind you on the shower wall.

Jesus, how fucking tempting can someone be upon first meeting them? Well, meeting them alone for once.

“There, it’s happening again.” Maddox says softly to himself, and you feel the same chills that you are assuming he is too. “I could get used to this feeling every day for the rest of my life.” He hums contentedly.

“Maddox, please.” You whisper out, your words trailing your breath into his parted lips as you beg. He sparks up at you using his name for once finally, and you can see just how tied up in you that he is. You can feel his body throb against yours as the connectivity is so radiating. It’s all he can do to messily clash his lips with yours, teasingly biting down on your bottom lip. He is trying so hard to hold himself back right now. He traces a finger softly over your lips before he comes back so lightly that you barely feel him against you at all. It clouds your brain with fog and feels like heaven all at once.

His tongue dances gracefully entangled with yours as he moans low and deep into your mouth. He pulls back for a moment, his hands grasping around each of your wrists as he pins your arms up against the back of the shower. You can’t force the moan in the back of your throat to stay where it is. It is so sensual in one way and then in another, it’s his excuse to be able to carefully focus on examining your arms in an intensely odd erotic way.

And a table for one after just ruining your near sexual experience in quite a long time...smooth as usual.

“We’ll have to continue this later.” Maddox nearly growls into your ear as his mouth trails away from your jaw, internally battling himself to quit with the temptation presented. “It’s apparent the chances of you requiring stitches are obviously not a choice now. So, let’s go get some stitches preferably before the appropriate window closes.” He says, glancing up at your arms as he lets them freely drop down from his hold as you look towards them.

“It’s a mess, honestly. I’m so sorry, Maddox.” You nearly whine out, feeling pathetic. You don’t remember even doing most of this, it’s like you totally blanked out in your mind. “It’s been a while, I guess I just pushed my body too far. I honestly don’t even remember doing half of this, it’s gross…dangerous.” You say, even though you want to look away you are left stuck watching your blood streak down both arms contaminating the water with sloppy lines in shades of red circling down the drain around both sets of feet.

Maddox isn’t bothered at all, he isn’t concerned about anything other than not breaking his concentration with you to keep you grounded.

“Please don’t be sorry. Just let me help you.” He gently says, his emotions on full display for you.

“It’s never been like this before. I didn’t mean for this to happen, I swear.” You say, feeling a little dizzy. The cuts are deep and jagged. They are soaked with fear, sloppy, and reckless.


“I believe you, Fletcher. I know something is going on and I know you’ll talk to me about it when the time is right for you.” Maddox says, his voice growing with a slight concern.

You feel lightheaded, so you try to lean more against the wall for support. Well, how romantic is this to try and entice someone? Some of the larger cuts have opened back up from so much moving and stretching of your arms and legs at work so far, they haven’t had a chance to begin to heal. You already had to change your scrubs three times on shift from blood beginning to show from saturation. You figured he was catching on to you with how much you were sweating and leaving to take breaks when that’s not like you at all. You now wonder if he was going to just check on you today and decided to go for it.

“Were you just coming today to check on me?” You question, feeling your heart sink if that was the case. He looks over at you, laughing.

“No, absolutely not. But now that I know, I want to help.” Maddox says kindly and with no judgment in his tone.

This time it was sixteen voicemails you woke up to from your attacker, threatening you again that sent you over the edge. It scared the shit out of you, considering how long it’s been since you were last contacted. In the last four months, you have been moved across multiple states to escape him, you have switched your phone number six times and he has tracked it down. He has proven that he’s basically tracked you down to your town. He promises in these voicemails that he is coming to find you, to finish what he started.

You remember the basement and what it was like, every single detail of every second you were trapped there. You can feel him everywhere, though, all the time. But no one can know about that. No one. You feel Maddox’s grip tightly, but with support on your wrists and you snap back to listening to what he is saying.

“Fletcher...hey look at me.” His voice sounds far away, you blink your eyes as you try to register what is going on, feeling hazy and lost. “I know. It’s okay, come on, let’s get to the bench. I know you didn’t do this to such an extent on purpose.” You come back to the present fully, shaking your head. You realize you are wobbly as he wraps a towel around your shoulders while turning off the water and guides you with great effort to the bench, helping you to sit down.

Your eyes trail from the blood leaking down your arms onto the white towel to the much larger gashes on your legs bleeding a little more than usual. Your stomach turns, how could you fuck all this up? You take a deep breath, trying to lean over the edge to collect yourself and stop the dry heave at the back of your throat. Maddox quickly slides a trash can under your spot on the bench.

“I’m sorry.” You whine out, your stomach sharp with pain. “I’m so sorry, Maddox.” You feel pathetic and overwhelmed all at once.

“Okay, listen to me, the ER is right down the hall from this other door. We’ll go into the closed side, and I’ll bring supplies into the room. We’ll get you stitched up quickly, but since I’m going to give you some pain medication and not trusting your thought process right now for reasons that I’m not aware of yet – I’d appreciate it if you’d come to stay with me so I can monitor you. It’s that or I take you to the open side now instead and they do their mental health assessment and you’ll get fucked.” Maddox says, nearly threatening, but in the sincerest way. If that’s possible.

“Well clearly I don’t want to get a psych hold, you seem like a better option any day.” You weakly joke, looking up to him in a haze.

“I honestly don’t want to do that, so the choice is entirely yours, but I’d pick the lesser of the two evils if I were in your position.” Maddox unwraps a small silver packet and shoves the dissolving Zofran onto your tongue to ease the nausea creeping over you. He has you cornered and he knows it. He begins pulling on a fresh pair of scrubs and throws some tennis shoes and a hoodie on. He tosses your blood-stained scrubs in the bin with his and helps you in your zoned-out state to pull fresh, new scrubs on.

“This is a lot less romantic than I imagined our first intimate meeting.” You mumble into his hold on you.

“Come on, let’s go. Take it slow.” Maddox carefully instructs, pulling on both wrists as your hands grip around him as tightly as you can. He throws both bags over his shoulder and you make your way slowly but surely to the ER doors.

He runs his badge over the door and it opens to a darkened sketchy-looking part of the ER that closes after midnight during the night shift if it doesn’t stay busy. He ushers you to the closest room and flips on the small lights. He beings pulling supplies out of cabinets and lays it on the metal table next to the bed as you try to get more comfortable. You’ve never had to play the role of the patient before now, how awkward.

“I’m sorry. This is so fucking embarrassing. It’s not exactly how I pictured all this going.” You say, watching as he watches you while still working. You feel yourself sinking back into the dark of your mind as the attention to your own bodily attack replays the series of voicemails repeatedly in your head. A warm hand looms over your thigh, pressing down ever so gently as you jerk back to reality. He can probably tell by now that you aren’t exactly fully present.

“Nothing really ever ends up going how we plan it to, besides, I just want you safe. Not to mention happy, Fletcher.” He says, not breaking his concentration toward you. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go grab the other supplies and we’ll be out of here in no time. Don’t worry, I practiced sutures once on a piece of fruit in school.” He says, laughing to himself jokingly before swiftly jogging out of the door.

Yeah, like he didn’t just do stitches on a patient before you went on break. He comes back moments later and puts the rest of the supplies down.

“I’m going to start a line just to replace fluids and give you a low dose of Ativan to calm you down, I know how uncomfortable this must be. But I’m here to help and support you.” Maddox says, quickly working to secure the intravenous line that he hooks up with the tubing to start the fluids as he pulls back some medications in syringes.

First, he gives Zofran for nausea, and then Ativan to keep you relaxed and calm. You’re thankful because your anxiety has rocketed at this point. Something you never really had to deal with before last year.

“I’m going to start an antibiotic too, just you know...prophylactic in nature, of course.” He watches his work. “I am not trying to do anything weird with you coming over. I just sense something is going on and I want you to have someone around to support you, that’s all.” He explains, looking at you.

“Thank you, I really do mean it. I trust you, completely.” You say, looking down to the floor, ashamed to even watch him work. “This is all just really, really fucked up...unbelievable...” You trail off, watching his shadow dance against the wall with the bright lights illuminating the space around you.

“I’m not going to push you to talk...yet. Feeling any better?” He asks, pulling on sterile gloves as his field is created and ready to begin the first area.

You nod your head, your eyes glazing over with a tired you can’t explain. You feel the oxygen start under your nose and you breathe it in deeply.

Maddox first injects the areas with numbing medication and then he gets to work. He quickly, but with precision works in each area to seal the cuts that need treatment. Most of the cuts he is able to seal with bonding glue and strips to keep them secured. You are pulled awake from a light sleep when you hear the chair scrape back on the floor. You groggily look up at him as he smiles down at you, and you can sense his emotions registered all over his face as he tries to stay composed. That looks like the face of someone who wants to tell you that you fucked up, really badly.

“All done, sleeping beauty. This was…bad, Fletcher. I’m not just saying that to guilt you, either. I’m totally an understanding person. But this, I haven’t seen some self-harm this bad in... awhile. You know I’m serious because we see a lot of shit here.” Maddox says to you, sitting down on the stool once more.

He begins to work to pull the intravenous line and secure your arm with gauze. The cuts are all wrapped and bandaged and he helps you to slide the scrubs back over your briefs carefully and with ease. He stares at you with caution, afraid almost to push it further.

“You look like you have something you want to say, but don’t know how.” You quietly mutter out, still extremely groggy from the medications.

“I must ask, I’m sorry to be intrusive. But you aren’t suicidal, are you? You know I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t absolutely have to.” Maddox says, his voice low and concentrated. You shake your head, realizing for the first time that maybe you don’t feel the best anymore – but not to that point yet.

“I know, I’m sorry. No, I don’t think I am. I mean maybe at some of my lower points. Things have just gotten…extremely difficult to say the least over the last couple of years. I’m glad you’re with me, though. Not everyone would have this understanding or take the time, you know. Actually, you’re the first person who ever has.” You say, grimacing in slight pain as you fully stand for the first time in a while, his warm arms keep you steady on your feet. Your muscles try to begin to work as you stretch with searing pain.

“Come.” He runs his face against yours, breathing you in as if he can’t get enough. He loops your hand in his and pulls you behind him out of the closest automatic door and towards the parking lot. You sit comfortably relaxed in his truck, the engine rumbling with a low murmur as he begins to drive down a comfortably dark road. He is quiet for a while, the radio playing low in the background.

“Are you going to tell me about that?” Maddox questions finally, turning his wipers on to clear the soft mist starting to form again. A low rumble of thunder plays forcefully in the background.

You take a deep breath, but really, he’s the first person you’ve felt you could easily trust in a long damn time. You haven’t told anyone what’s happened yet, still. So, it might be good to get it off your chest finally, it’s heavy.

“It’s really complicated.” You start, tugging against the fabric over your leg as you become a ball of nerves, unsure if there is any real danger in telling someone. But if you had to tell someone, it would be Maddox. So, you’re really considering it for the first time, ever. The thought of the threat still lingers deep inside you, complicating your willingness to let others in to help when so much could be at stake.

“I can work with complicated things.” He coaxes with a gentle tone, running his hand to loop over your knee carefully settling against the side of the seat. You huff out a low and uncomfortable but trusting sigh and catch Maddox glancing over toward you before returning his attention to the road. He turns down another winding road that leads to a dirt road. “I’m in the country, but it’s worth the drive.” He says, watching your expression change the weirder the situation gets. “My face had your same expression the first time I drove out here to see the place. I almost turned around, but I’m glad I didn’t. Completely creepy at night, still.” He chuckles lightly, mostly to himself.

“I just can’t put all of this on you, one person, as much as it is. It’s really terrible. Like, Lifetime original movie fucked up.” You say, guarding yourself, but also not wanting to potentially put him in any type of danger. “You won’t even believe it if I try.” You grumble, sinking down more in your seat.

“You’re one person, handling it all on your own so far. How is that fair? Let me handle it with you, I can handle the terrible stuff, it’s kind of my job.” Maddox smiles, reassuringly. “I will most definitely believe it, I promise.” He grabs your hand to comfort you and it puts you at ease.

“I haven’t told anyone about this, and I’m not even sure I should. I was threatened that if anyone found out, I’d pay for it...and so would whoever found out...so…” He holds a hand up firmly, and you trail off from the beginning of your story, moving your head slightly to the side to watch him.

“Wait, excuse me. Threatened?” Maddox says sternly, cocking his head in alarm. He seems infuriated almost as the words fall from your mouth like he was already yours and he knew he needed to protect you. “Who is this, the one that threatened you?” He goes straight to protector mode and you can’t help but feel just a little more impressed with him, falling deeper into something you shouldn’t be doing headfirst to begin with.

“Yeah, if you’ll let me explain.” You say in a rushed breath. He tenses his jawline, already seeming upset about your situation. You can’t possibly put this on him. It’s too much at one time for just one person to have to learn about.

“I’m sorry, I won’t interrupt you again. I just wasn’t expecting it to begin like that.” He says, softly apologizing. But you can see his grip on the steering wheel flex before softening. You listen to the dirt and rocks crunch as you slowly turn down more dirt roads. It’s peaceful.

The smell of the storm approaching in the air is calming as you close your eyes for a moment and breathe it in deeply. He rubs a hand against his forehead and for a moment he looks like he is going to pass out. His skin becomes clammy, he seems like he kind of goes away for a moment. You reach out to touch his arm.

“Are you okay, Maddox?” You ask out into the space, feeling nervous. He looks over at you, smiling weakly. He nods.

“Yeah, sometimes I just get a little dizzy is all. I’m fine.” He gets quiet, waiting for you to finish the story.

“Okay, alright. I’ll tell you, you deserve to know. There isn’t anyone else I think I could ever trust like I’m about to with you. Almost a year and a half ago I was living in New York and now I’m here, in Colorado. I’ve only been working at this ER for a few months before you started, mind you, so still relatively new. Before I moved, I was doing a home health call for the clinic I picked up hours for on the weekends aside from doing full time in the ER.” You shudder as images flash in your memory, his grip on your hand tightens gently and you let out the breath you were holding as you relax, knowing you are safe.

“I’m right here, you’re safe.” Maddox softly reassures you.

“I knew I had seen this guy before, I should have known something was up.” You shake your head remembering his features. “He was an agency temp respiratory therapist, or so he said, for like a couple of shifts. Then he never came back. I saw him come to the urgent care clinic shortly after that and it felt like he was just waiting and watching for me. He came in complaining that he had chest pain and he ended up getting admitted overnight for observation like he knew he would. He’s fucking weird in the urgent care before going to be admitted, I could tell something was off. Then a few days later I see his name on my list as the last added home health call to assess for resolution of the chest pain. It’s whatever, right? Completely normal to have a follow-up.” Maddox nods his head, giving you all of his attention even though he’s watching the road before him.

The truck rolls to a stop, very armed gates begin to open as Maddox pulls up. He drives down a winding road for a moment before getting to a lengthy garage. It again opens automatically as he pulls up and inside of it. After parking the truck and turning it off, he looks over to you, where he seems to be waiting for the remainder of the story.

“Holy shit.” You look around, it’s really fucking impressive. He chuckles at your response. “Your home, Dr... I mean Maddox, sorry. It’s immaculate already and I haven’t even been in. I can only imagine.” You get lost in looking around in the comfort of his home from what you can see so far – and it’s only the damn garage.

“Thank you, it took many years of hard work and determination to get here. I’m pretty sure we could change the fact that you haven’t seen the inside. Would you be more comfortable to stay out here or go inside somewhere? I’d really love it if you’d finish talking with me but I want to be where it’s best for you. I’m sure you are getting sore.” He says, leaning his face against his arm on the middle console. He smiles sweetly at you and you feel safe and content, something you haven’t felt in quite a long time.

“I’d like to go inside, that is if you honestly don’t mind.” You offer, still feeling the effects of being surrounded by him and nothing else, which seems to be increasingly tempting again. He nods and brings both of your things with him inside.

“How about we just get you situated for now somewhere, then we can talk comfortably. I can give you a tour tomorrow when you’ve gotten some form of rest, and then I can get you whatever you need for tonight. I just want you to know that you’re completely safe here, I promise.” Maddox says, pulling you with him up towards sets of stairs leading up to more levels of the house. Yes, sets. You follow him like a lost puppy down the hallway of such an elegantly decorated and filled space. You come to the last door on the right of the hallway and he opens it, ushering you inside.

“Would you be okay with finishing our conversation in my bed? I’m not forcing you or cornering you, honestly. I have other rooms we can use, or the couch, or anything. Whatever would be the best for you, that’s what I want. We could go anywhere that would make you the most comfortable to talk. I just feel like I probably spend so much time in my room anyway because it’s so inviting, but it could just be a personal preference. I do, however, have Lo-Fi Hip-Hop in my room, too, you know. And this is totally in a platonic way, just somewhere that might be what you prefer out of the options.” He says, turning on a couple of dim lamps and the room feels even more comforting.

“No, this is perfect. I feel safe, I promise.” You reply, looking around. He smiles at you as he turns the TV on, a rather lavish flatscreen against the wall across from the bed. He goes immediately to an Amazon music’s favorite station for Lo-Fi Hip Hop.

You smirk, pulling your scrub top off over your head and resting it on the floor next to the bed you are bending down on. You hiss softly, gritting your teeth as you meet the side of the bed, trying to relax your tense body. Your skin feels as though it’s ripping apart with any sudden movements.

Maddox must sense this as he comes over swiftly and bends down to slide the scrub bottoms off, depositing them next to the top. He pulls back the white puffy cloud of a comforter and you slide in carefully on a mountain of the softest pillows you’ve ever laid your head on. Maddox leaves and quickly returns leaving water and Gatorade at your side table. He puts the same out for himself but takes a long drink of the Gatorade before returning to you with full focus.

He turns on his side and mimics you, propping his head up on his extended elbow and hand, staring at you intently with deep concern. He looks perfect in the dim lights of the room and suddenly you feel like you’ve known him forever.

What in the fuck is happening? Not...love. God is this what it’s like, to love and be loved? You can’t even begin to conceptualize how bad that would be, you’re too unstable and fucked up to have someone deal with that. No way in hell, nope, not falling. You would be a nightmare to have to deal with for the rest of someone’s life.

“So, this is your last home health call, right?” Maddox says with a low mumble against the thunder rolling in the background. You nod, watching him, returning from your own sinister thoughts that eat you alive. He gently prompts you to keep talking, probably knowing that you were stalling to see if the conversation just ended. Nope, apparently not that theory.

“Yeah, so I’m finishing my shift and he’s my last home health. I knock on the door, no answer. I tried to call both phone numbers listed on his file, but they were disconnected. So, at this point I usually get the fuck out, right? I’m tired, I still need to stop for groceries after I get done, and then my sister was coming over early to plan this vacation with me. This asinine vacation is the same all the time and never changes. Every year the same shitty family vacation unearths itself. Anyway, only because I heard something knock over in the house did I turn back around and knock again knowing someone was in there.” You pause, thinking for a moment. “I should have just fucking left.” You criticize yourself.

“None of what happened was your fault, Fletcher.” Maddox states, his eyes meeting yours with a deep concern.

“I know.” You say softly. “Regardless this is super unlikely, but the guy could have really been having a heart attack then and fell grabbing out for something and I witnessed it. So I felt obligated to check. Sure enough though the second I turned back to the house the door quickly swung open, and before me stood the ruffled, distressed-looking man that had seemed to be looming over me for a longer period than I’m comfortable with. I was grabbing in my bag, asking questions that he was answering and was pulling out my laptop to fill in his assessment. I felt something hit me hard across the side of my head that knocked me to the ground.” You subconsciously put your hand up against the side of your head, showing where you felt the force come from.

“Oh, Fletcher.” Maddox face registers a deep pain and you feel shameful that you’re putting all of this on him already.

“I’m still semi-conscious so I know I’m moaning, trying to yell out or move, but I’m bleeding already and hit my head on the hardwood floor. After the first hit though, everything went black when he smashed something of similar strength into the back of my head. I remember waking up initially being in the trunk of the car and it was moving, my head was wet and matted with blood. The next thing I know I was handcuffed with my hands secured to a metal pole in the middle of a basement. It was dingy, I can still feel the metal of the handcuffs on me and hear the water drip if it’s quiet enough for too long. It was like I had been drugged, but overly so. My legs were zip tied together and I remember I wanted to scream out for help, but I felt like I could barely keep my head up. He came into view over me and squatted down, smiling darkly at me. His eyes looked black, possessive too, evil.” You shutter, your stomach turning the more you think about it. You can see it all in your mind. It’s so fresh you could see yourself there still.

“You’re safe here with me, don’t stay with your thoughts too long.” Maddox prompts you to keep moving forward and you do.

“He said he’d been waiting to find me and watching me until it was time. That’s when I realized I was in trouble. I mean, really deep shit, right? There was a little under a year, eleven months give or take. Three-hundred and thirty-eight long days to be exact where I was kept in the basement like that. I can’t count how many times I had been beaten, tortured, tied up, cut up, hit, whipped, assaulted, sexually abused, burned, starved, and the list just goes on. Everyday there was something, and there were always new people. Some of them would be there for a few weeks, but never longer. Then sometimes he only kept them for a couple of days, knocking them out with medications like me and then torturing them whenever he felt like it before he killed them in that basement, Maddox.” You look over at Maddox, his eyes hold a deep sadness in them.

“Fletcher, I can’t even imagine what you’ve had to endure.” Maddox whispers into the space between you as you recall the events of your torture.

“He’s dangerous, he killed them in front of me and said no one else would have me and no one would ever find me. Then said I was too good to ever let go like the others. He said if I tried to get away, he would always find me, that he would kill me and that no one would ever be able to find my body. That I was only made for him and him alone.” You pale at the thoughts racing in your mind and you feel Maddox turn completely ice cold and red hot like fire at the same time. You push past all the outside activity and focus on getting this out for once.

“You can do this, we can do this, together.” Maddox says low beside you, resting his hand on your forearm. His voice gravelly and seducing all at once. His nostrils are flaring though, so his body is showing more than his mind wants to. This is all honestly a hard pill to swallow regardless of how you look at it, unfortunately. “I thought when you joked about it in the cafeteria though that you weren’t serious. You should have told me you were, Fletcher.” He scolds you, his face shows that he doesn’t feel good about things.

“There was one day, a girl maybe in her thirties was thrown in the basement with me, Nora. He kept her for fourteen and a half days. On the last day, she cried to me and told me that she knew both of us couldn’t get away, but that she had a plan and she wanted me to go. She said the last few days of her life were full of misery and pain beyond what she could imagine and that she couldn’t possibly live with it after anyway. She said if this was so terrible for her, how much I must have endured for so many months, daily and never ending. She told me she loved me and that she knew I could start fresh, she said to run and run as fast as I could and not to ever fucking give up and let him win. She said to just go and don’t look back, because there is nothing here for me but sorrow and pain. I promised her I would do just that. She saw a box on the table when he was fighting with her to cut off their charming drink after dinner trying to shove her into the basement as part of his plan that she said he had stuffed with all kinds of cash.” You smile faintly, remembering the time you had spent down there with her.

“She sounds like a hero, like a true friend.” Maddox says as grief fills his voice, his eyes full of sorrow.

“She told me to grab it if it was there when I was running and to not look back, something she told me all the time, and to get farther away quicker on a jagged run so he couldn’t keep up and then to get as far away as I could. Nora told me that she grew up in Colorado and that I would be safe there. She told me to fight and to go as fast as I could when he came downstairs because she had finally secured a knife he sloppily left down here when he was drinking and taunting us. A dull useless knife, but still, it was something. She sawed for hours to get her hands loose and then quickly undid mine. She found a gun in a side table and while he was outside accepting a food delivery, she put it under her leg. She told me when he came down the day that he said he would kill her, that she was going to shoot him and that she wanted me to go then and to not waste any time I had.” You let out a defeated sigh, and Maddox can tell this is taking a toll on you just talking about it. He seems like he wants to reach out to comfort you but doesn’t want to overstep any boundaries.

“I feel so helpless, I wish I could do more…just hearing it makes me want to get revenge for you already.” Maddox growls, his face full of anger and hatred – pure rage.

“We stood in the basement and we hugged, sobbed, and comforted each other. She wiped tears from my eyes and her own, it felt like I was losing a mom. She gave me one last squeeze, a kiss on the cheek that was stained with our tears and reminded me how brave and strong I was. I didn’t feel like I was then, I felt defeated, like I was leaving her, and I didn’t want to.” You let your head hang down for a moment, taking a couple of slow, deep breaths. You quickly wipe away the tears from your eyes as you remember her face and every feature, every freckle.

“She gave you purpose, hope. Fletcher, I’m so sorry…” Maddox trails off, offering as much support as he can while you endure all of the details again for the first time in the open.

“I can still hear her...I can hear her screaming for help when I’m sleeping. It never stops, not never. We repositioned the ties around our hands so when he came back in, they would seem the same. When the door creaked open it was eerie and an unknown evil filled around us. He stepped slowly down the stairs, trailing a knife against the wall, humming to himself. It was ‘You are my Sunshine’ and he rounded the corner and looked straight at Nora and asked her if she was ready to die because he was done with her and he was getting a good deal on a kidney tonight. She laughed in his face with a sinister tone, but so brave and settled. She said he would never keep her trapped here forever like that and he wouldn’t get to do that to me, either.” You look to the floor, tears sting your eyes as they attempt to overflow.

“You’re being so strong, Fletcher. You can take a break if you need to, I’m here for you in whatever way I can be right now.” Maddox hums softly as he traces a hand lightly against your jawline.

“I’m okay, I want you to know everything, you deserve that much. After that Nora swiftly pulled the gun from under her leg and shot him right in the chest and then again in the leg as he yelled out, screaming at us in anger and hate. He pulled his own gun out as he was aiming at her...I’ll never forget. She screamed ‘run baby, go’ as he shot her directly in the face and then he turned around as she was slumping over and stared straight at me, through me it felt like, into me. I was sobbing hysterically, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I just wanted him to shoot me in the head that day too. But then I remembered my last conversation with Nora and how this was all for her to let me get away. So I had to do something, I just had to do it, and I got the strength and courage to stand up. I was pulling myself up from the pole to try and stand, but I was so weak. He said he wasn’t finished and his legs buckled under him, causing him to fall to his knees.” The images flash in your mind on repeat.

“I’m right here, Fletcher. Just stay with me, stay here.” Maddox instructs you and you force yourself to continue until it’s all out in the open.

“I scrambled to get up to my feet with all the blood on the floor as he pulled a knife out and grabbed for my arms. His hands were sliding from his grip on me, but he ran the knife straight into my abdomen, looking at me as if I was being hunted before telling me he would find me wherever I went. That no one ever got away from him all of this time. He collapsed to the floor, trying to get enough energy and strength to crawl after me as I was slipping on the stairs. I remember how it felt to have to pull the knife out, I just wanted to die there. I ran straight into the living room and the box was on the table. I flung the front door open and ran as fast as I could, holding a hand to my abdomen with the box tucked carefully under my other arm. It was desolate wherever we were and I was running and walking for miles before I finally made it to a gas station that looked like it was just about to close.” You scoff, remembering how difficult it was to keep going then.

“I wish I could take all of this away from you, I can’t believe something like this happened…that you were able to get away.” Maddox quietly reflects over what you’ve told him so far, his face twisted in anger and sadness still.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to make it there. I used all the energy I had left to get to the counter only to collapse onto the floor. I had spent two weeks in the hospital before getting released. They had sent me to a high security hospital since no one really knew what happened and then I was discharged. I told them I really didn’t remember anything when they asked, but I should have just told someone then. I was so afraid though, of what could happen if I did. The house for home health turned out to be a rental, the numbers listed were prepaid. Even the names he used were previous victims. Eventually the case just went cold...they said. They didn’t entirely seem like they believed me and I didn’t really offer them factual information due to the fact that I thought he was still looking for me. He didn’t exist, but he did at the same time. I took all the money I had gotten from him and it was thousands. I found my license and all the others, too, all of his victims so far. I booked the next flight to Colorado after leaving the box of the IDs at the door of the police station. I just couldn’t stand to make myself go in. Once I got here to Colorado I went and got a few items and some clothes, luggage and then I found work quickly. Before long I found myself getting increasingly paranoid. I was jumping around temp positions a lot to keep myself moving and busy as a distraction. It was two months later that he first contacted me on the new phone I had. I had everything new, there was just no possible way. So I ditched it all and started again like before – something I was getting too good at, but then he got my number again somehow because before my shift today I took a nap…” You trail off, finally getting to the recent actions that prompted your serious lash-out of self-harm.

You look into Maddox’s eyes, feeling your own consumed by the dim light in the room as you explain. He looks up at you, understanding now what had happened that caused this. And it explained it entirely.

“So this.” He motions to your arms. “This is why, because he’s closer to finding you again.” Maddox shudders at the thought.

“When I woke up, I had sixteen voicemails. Sixteen of them, and each from sixteen different phone numbers on my phone all from him about how he was down to knowing the city that I was living in and that he was going to find me to finish what he had started, that no one escaped him and that now I wouldn’t either.” You say, realizing your leg is restless under the covers. Maddox flips a switch and a fan turns on as a cool breeze begins around you. You feel better about letting him in, but at the same time immensely fearful and full of dread at the thought of something happening again. You’d die for sure this time if he found you again. No one gets away from a serial killer twice.

“Fletcher. Can I please listen to the voicemails? I’ll do it privately so you don’t have to hear them again. If you’re okay with it.” You nod, handing him your phone shakily with an outstretched hand. He trades you for your chicken salad and half eaten brownie that he saved earlier for you as he prompts you to eat. “I’ll just be out in the hall, okay? If you need anything I’ll leave the door cracked.” Maddox says, trailing a hand across your jaw and down your chest raising goosebumps all along your body before he leaves, his hand pulling the door shut nearly all the way.

You focus on relaxing with the music playing in the background as you chew some of the food, realizing just how hungry you still are as soon as it hits your mouth. You hungrily shove the rest of the brownie in your mouth and you hit a button on the remote going from station to station until you hear ‘Into Your Arms’ with Ava Max and you come to a screeching halt.

“Oh hell, hold on, my jam. I can’t pass this up.” You say to yourself, switching the app on the TV to pull open Amazon Music. You put on the remix of the Tik-Tok hits for 24 hours and settle in. Yup, that’s about right.

You must have fallen asleep because when you groggily rub your eyes you subconsciously grab for your phone and it’s back next to your head. You groan, sitting up and realize that you are alone in the room, but that it is well lit with dim lamps and your loop is still playing on the flatscreen.

You look at your phone and realize it’s only two AM. You laugh to yourself, what a nap for sure. You’d still be at work if the situation was any different. You want to text Maddox to see where he is, but don’t want to bother him. You stand wobbly while you grimace as you get used to being upright again and make your way to the couch closer towards the TV. Once there you find what seems to be a mini bar. Well okay then, thanks for the casual invite.

“Now that’s a sign if I’ve ever seen one.” You laugh like an idiot talking to yourself as you make your way toward it. Let’s see what kind of man we have going on here. You bend over some and squint at all the options. You land on a 2010 Dom Perigon and replace it with three-hundred dollars in cash where it sat on the shelf. After everything that’s happened, you always only carry cash – never leaving any kind of trail electronically where he could find you.

You grab two glasses in the event Maddox summons himself and plop yourself down on the couch. You turn the volume up almost excessively, popping the cork off the bottle and begin pouring yourself a heavy glass.

Suddenly from the corner of your eye you see something moving out the window near you. You casually dance your way over as you get closer and peer out of it from around the curtain. It’s Maddox down in his front yard, his features easily in view from the outside lights near him. He is standing near cornfields in the middle of what feels like the country where you imagine this would be where aliens and crop circles are found.

The closer that you look you can see him smoking something, pacing around in what looks like panic. It doesn’t look as long or thin as a cigare...oh my God he’s smoking weed. It has to be, which is mildly impressive. You clasp your hand over your own mouth as you hold back a giggle trying to escape from the back of your throat.

You see him begin to use his hands more for emotions as he talks and at times yelling threateningly into the phone. It looks like an ugly situation to be caught in, whoever is on the other end of the line.

You try to quietly open the window to slide it some so you can try and decipher what is going on. The second you try and tug against the frame it creates the loudest, most obnoxious screeching sound you’ve ever heard.

A small group of bats shriek as their domain is threatened and they fly off chaotically as if the window itself wasn’t enough commotion. There is no doubt he heard it and no way to deny it. He looks right up at you, shit.

Cover blown, retreat.

“Fletcher? What the fuck are you doing?” Maddox shakes his head while not being obvious or anything by taking an apparently extra-long drag. “I’ll call you back later. Just do whatever the hell it takes to get it done, Mark. You owe me, remember. Yes, of course he’s with me. I’m the only one keeping him safe.” He finishes with a razor-sharp tone as he hangs the phone up and pockets it. You shrug, holding up your glass of champagne out of the crack in the window as a toast.

“Um…I could ask you the same thing, handsome.” You clink your glass higher out into the air and drink the rest of it in its entirety. He can tell you must be spiraling with everything going on at once because his tone softens and he lets a slight smile slip. “By the way, are you smoking weed down there?” You question, feeling yourself turn a little more like Jell-O as the glasses of wine finally start to sink in.

“I mean, yeah, kind of. Are you drinking – and on medications?” He says, raising an eyebrow at you from down below.

“Such a doctorly thing to say, Maddox.” You tauntingly call out from the window.

“Okay, how about this instead. Want a hit?” He says, sounding halfway serious. “I’m not as picture perfect as you imagined, huh?” Maddox laughs to himself, taking a long drag in anticipation of your response. Less doctorly with the touch of weed, but you aren’t complaining by any means.

“Actually, yeah. A little rebellious, but still perfect, I like that. I wouldn’t turn it down right about now. I am also savoring a nice crisp 2010 Dom P, so you’d better come get a glass. It was well worth the cost.” He beams up towards you, laughing with ease. “I paid for it before I opened it, don’t worry.” You add, motioning sloppily for him to join you.

“A man who knows his drinks, your complexity and my interest deepens more, I see.” Maddox says, seeming to fully relaxing again for the time being. “I’ll be up in a few, I have a nice wrap around out there that’s calling our name. You should have found one of those windows to spy on instead of the creaky ones. Check it out.” He offers, going out of your view as you hear a door softly close outside.

You trace your fingers lightly over the frame of the window before you return to grab the bottle and the other glass. You step out of the door and into a quite luxurious, very modest wrap-around balcony. There is a sofa sectional out here, another flatscreen TV mirroring the one in the bedroom with your loop, and walls of plants and lights all around. Now this, this is something you could get used to living in.

You waltz around cautiously to take in the views and sure enough you find yourself face to face with another mini bar. This time you see three more bottles of the same champagne you are currently drinking. Damn, must be nice to be able to buy a whole fucking crate.

You pour the rest of the bottle into each glass and gently place it back on the bar edge. You hear Maddox clear his throat behind you and you turn slowly to face him. You take a moment for yourself to really take him in. He looks sweaty and dangerously tired, but still perfect in every single way imaginable.

You gently offer him the other glass and he takes it, your fingers sparking like electricity when the tops of them touch in the exchange. And he does look just slightly high – slightly in a very loose definition.

“Like it?” Maddox questions, softly putting the end of the blunt in your mouth with precise placement. You nod, watching him light the end of it as you inhale, and he clinks his glass to yours at your side. “To you, Fletcher.” He says before taking a long drink.

You hold the inhale, looking around the open space at the plants again before blowing it out slowly. You take a few more long, slow hits. The dull, numbing, and mind-altering sensation that you’ve missed dearly has returned.

“No, to you, Maddox. I’ve never had someone in my life like this and I’m so grateful for you – regardless of where we end up. I mean it. Yes, though, I do really like it, all the plants…I’d find it hard to make myself leave the house if I was in your position.” You chuckle lightly as you begin walking around a moment to run your hands along the rail in a haze before making your way back to Maddox. He is lovingly watching you delicately make yourself familiar with the space. “So, it sounded kind of heated earlier on the phone.” You shrug yourself into the space next to him as his arm wraps casually around your waist as if you’ve been molded to each other forever. It feels like you’ve known him your entire life, like you’re picking up somewhere you left off, and you are growing to love that feeling. He hums contentedly into the nape of your neck.

Maddox lazily pulls you over to the couch in a sloppy fashion and with little reserve. You get comfortable while your legs are resting over him as he passes the joint to you again, inhaling deeply a couple more times before you hand it over to him as you finish off your drink.

He takes a few more hits and then puts it out in a pristine ashtray you’d never even notice. It feels like the smell is gone immediately. He lightly lifts your legs off of his and swiftly returns with another bottle of Dom Perigon, popping off the cork as he walks back slowly toward you, smiling with a genuine fondness.

“This too, you know, just in the event you need to unwind a little further – considering you’ve already broken the med plus drinking rule.” He smirks, holding up a huge, rolled joint.

“My fucking hero.” You say, pretending to bow down to him and he rolls his eyes toward you. A low, seductive laugh escapes him that sends goosebumps along every inch of your body in response.

“Cute. This one’s on me, for performance alone.” Maddox says as he is pouring your cup full again before doing the same his own. “And the first one, too.” He chuckles freely while bending so close to your face that you can nearly taste him.

You pull his face toward yours and run your hand against the side of his jawline before contacting his lips. He kisses you back tenderly, as if you’re almost touching air. You feel his hand slip into your pocket before he pulls back, situating himself under your legs and asking Alexa to turn on a patio playlist as he shuts the TV off.

You dig around in your pocket and realize he’s slipped your money back, pressing a hand to your lower back. You feel like somehow you are both trying to cope with, deal with, fix, and ignore the situation – only to have a moment of normalcy, for now.

If drowning yourselves in weed and champagne is the first step, then so be it. Speaking of which, Maddox lights the joint and takes a few hits before handing it to you.

He challenges you to see who can hold the most in for the longest time and you agree, both of you trying to avoid laughing as you stare at each other. Miraculously, you both blow the smoke out at the same time, turning into a mixture of a coughing and laughing fit from both of you. You continue to take turns as he ponders how to answer your question. You can see the emotions registered on his face as he determines how to best approach whatever is going on.

“Yes, about the phone call. I don’t want you to get upset, I would never put you in harm’s way. I would ensure that, and I will, always.” He takes another long drink before patting his hand warmly on your knee. “My brother works a top tier position as a special agent in the FBI, and I think that we could benefit from him as he could do the same from us. He has a feeling this is someone they’ve been trying to track down for a long, long time, Fletcher. It’s important because he is praying over you, guarding you, and keeping you insecure about what could happen for your future. You and I both know this is already extremely dangerous, but you can’t live the rest of your life like this, in fear of it all. I gave him the voicemails and the numbers you had, and they are going to work to trace and find him and put down extra clearance around the city and surrounding ones for a while as they try to figure out a plan. We just do as we normally would like none of this is happening. I hope you’re not upset with me, I just can’t handle the thought...I can’t...I just can’t imagine what happened to you. I can’t let anything like that happen to you again, if I lost you…” Maddox trails off, his breath catching in his throat as he tries to stay composed.

“Wait, your brother is really in the FBI?” You ask in surprise, looking at him with a slight grin. He nods, completely serious.

“Yes, seriously. I wouldn’t lie to you. Actually, he’s the director now. He’s had a very high position for a number of years now.” Maddox finishes, seeming unenthused to discuss his brother further. “He’s not that impressive, trust me.” He grumbles to himself.

Maddox’s eyes seem to gloss over as he explains himself and you feel guilty for even dropping all of this on him. I mean, he’s an emergency room doctor for fuck’s sake – you’d thought he’d probably seen and heard it all already. You can tell though, it’s different now because it became personal. He plays with his hands anxiously in his lap, and you realize just how human he really is like everyone else.

“Talk to me, Maddox.” You prompt him, placing your hands over his to stop his fidgeting as he smiles softly at you.

“I don’t ever want that to happen again, it can’t, not ever again. It makes me feel so... just violated and sick myself to think of you...how no one even looked for you or...how you were just abandoned and now all of this because of being capable of surviving it. It was so vivid alone to just hear you relive it, I can picture it in my mind, and I just can’t believe...something like this, that it could happen. Why did it have to happen to you of all people? Why does someone like you have to live through and then with all this shit? Now here you are, you’re still standing like you are, how resilient that is. I can see how you are responding, the way you are now, and it’s completely normal that this would happen. I want you to know I’m here for you, always. I would never abandon you, regardless of where life takes us.” Maddox becomes flustered, overwhelmed almost by his own consuming thoughts. He shakes his head like you’ve recognized yourself doing to try and shove the images from your mind.

“No, I’m sorry that I dumped all of that on you, it was a lot. I shouldn’t have done that. I get it, really, I do. I’m sorry it all came out like that. I never considered how difficult it might be for someone else to hear it because I never thought I would be sharing it with anyone.” You mumble, laughing nervously and rubbing your hand against your neck. You look down as you do to relax your eyes in the darkness of the early morning.

“I want to be your person, I want you to let me in on everything that I can be part of with you. Please don’t be sorry, that is the last thing that I want.” Maddox traces small circles into your palm as he sits comfortably with you.

“I actually just thought you’d probably seen and heard it all as an ER doctor and that it would be like that anything else you’ve had to deal with. It felt good, though, finally, to not have to hold it on my own anymore. I can’t shake that I feel guilty for pushing it all onto you, though. I wasn’t thinking about how fucked up it is, especially to hear all of that, shit that happens in movies really – not something you’d assume in real life. I’m sorry, I feel like I wasn’t even considering how it might be for you to have to process all of it.” Your voice is nearly a whisper as you begin beating yourself up over it. A single finger of his lifts upwards on your chin causing you to be able to look at him, directly, and you do so as you become lost in his eyes.

“Don’t ever apologize for letting someone know something that needs to be let out. I’m glad you have trusted me enough to let me know. I feel, you know, in a way like I’m...honored in a sense to be able to be the person you felt that you could let that out to. So thank you, for trusting me, Fletcher. I hope you know that I am sincere in that I will not leave your side with this, that it changes nothing for me. I am only that much more determined to figure this out with you and I will protect you, always. I’ve only really known you in passing for these last few months and now in such a brief time I feel like I’ve known you forever.” Maddox smiles and you know that he is figuring out that you feel the same way. Suddenly you feel sick and he watches you with unknown hesitation.

“Fuck, I was so caught up in finally getting to know you that I haven’t even thought about the vacation.” You groan in frustration as he watches you intently. “I’m off for the next two days finally before working the following three and then start my PTO for this fucking vacation to fly to Cancun with my family. It fell on me since they had to cancel it last year when they thought I was just randomly attacked and no one knows anything of what really happened. If I miss it again after all this planning my sister has done with me I’ll be so fucked. Just. So. Fucked. They would kill me for the same thing occurring again. Well, I mean actually my family or this Ted Bundy knock off would, but at this rate he might get to me before anything else.” You take a deep breath, trying to collect your thoughts. How could you forget about fucking Cancun? I guess when a killer is calling you other things become a higher priority.

“Fletcher, that was an awful joke when it’s actually a seriously high potential to happen.” Maddox glares at you, biting on his lip as he scolds you. “Well, it’s settled then. I can work things around with my schedule tonight and I will get a ticket on your same flight. You’ll just have to tell your family they have to deal with me.” He says, picking up his phone now to manage his schedule over the duration of your vacation. He quickly ensures that he now has the same days on and same days off as you so he can figure this out. “It just does trouble me some that they knew in a sense that you had been assaulted or attacked, even if assuming it was really random. The thing they focused on was the vacation and the fact that you were missing wasn’t a huge red flag for them to worry about something else, like a fucking person. That’s just really shitty to me and I might not be able to keep my mouth shut with that one.” He says smiling, but you don’t think he’s smiling because he’s happy – but because he can’t wait to rip into your family.

God, you have got to witness this. For once in their lives your parents will be put down in an immaculate way and finally by someone who is above their status. This could be the best, no wait, it will be the best.

“You really don’t have to do that for me. That’s expensive and it’s asking you to do so much.” You say and he looks at you dramatically.

“Do you not want me to come?” He asks, watching you. All you can do is simply nod because all you can think about at this point is him.

“I do want you to come, I just don’t want you to feel obligated to have to come.” You state and he laughs loudly.

“The money and the time isn’t a problem. However, you being alone and feeling alone is a problem. Let me be with you, please.” He says, his look pleading, and you’re that much more hooked.

“I hope you can’t keep your mouth shut, too, actually. That would be fucking hilarious. I would pay to see my parents get what they deserved finally.” You throw your arms up in the air as if to say ‘it is what it is’ with a shrug. Then you realize something else. You take a moment to think about the best approach to your realization. Maddox won’t see anything wrong with it, but you sure as hell know your parents will when you are the main attraction to their jokes and ridicule again.

“Wait, what am I supposed to tell my family? I mean it’s extended and all, like my sister and her husband come and their three kids, then my other sister brings her boyfriend and their toddler together, my mom and dad, and sometimes my grandma if her health has been alright and she feels up to it. It’s nice to get her out. So, it wouldn’t be unusual to have a plus one or more…I just haven’t ever had someone with me so it would be a first for me with all of them. So just prepare yourself regardless of if you plan on coming that they will try to eat you alive. I mean, they do it with everyone if someone new comes, but I know they will dish it to me the worst of all. I’ve always been dragged around by them and their ridicule towards me.”

“Why can’t you just tell them the truth? That I’m your new boyfriend?” Maddox questions, pulling you up with him as you make your way inside the door back into the bedroom. He pushes you gently down on the bed, dimming the lights and turning the music up to a comfortable background noise. You snort out an unexpected laugh as he crawls up you, his skin sparking against yours as you try to focus. He hits another remote from the nightstand and the huge mantel fireplace that is below the TV turns on, creating such a warming and welcoming calm.

“Oh yeah, that’s a great idea, that will go over real well. Why didn’t I think of that before, my new boyfriend, the fucking doctor!?” You yelp, feeling him come up higher as he traces soft kisses against the arch of your neck until he reaches your lips, sensually running his tongue across yours that are parted ever so slightly. “They would not fucking ever believe something like that.” You huff out a humorless laugh that rolls into his mouth as he bites on your bottom lip. “It’s always poking jabs and taunts the whole time with me, it’s bullshit and every year is awful. I just end up drinking and smoking anyway there, so.” Good tactical plan that never fails.

“What, why not?” Maddox frowns and pleads in sheer frustration. “We can pretend if you want to, if you’re more comfortable, sleep in different beds in the room. I’ll say I’m like, a car salesman or something...or, we can really start this relationship and keep trusting each other. I’ll be Maddox, who happens to be a doctor, but that doesn’t matter. You will still be Fletcher, who happens to be an amazingly talented registered nurse in a busy metropolitan trauma hospital, which is cool as shit to say. We just say we started talking at work and then it was history from there. No one needs to know the timeline, we just go over some favorite and general questions and stuff about each other on the way there and it’s no problem, covers us, too. But then we can actually learn from it. You know, since we are somehow moving so quickly, not that I’m complaining.” Maddox’s voice is sweet and low and it draws you into him, your mind begs for more of him.

You lean up towards him with confirmation, you want this more than anything you’ve ever wanted before in your life and his reaction shows the same. He pushes you back down onto the bed with a longing and satisfying kiss that causes his usual gravelly moan to escape from the back of his throat.

Your teeth bite gently but with some force against his bottom lip before your tongue traces slowly over each of his teeth, savoring each second of him that consuming you as if these were to be the only ones you had left. “So, I take it you can introduce me as your boyfriend now, formally?” Maddox questions, laughing victoriously into your mouth when you don’t argue back with him.

“Yeah, yes, of course. I’d never want anything more.” You breathe out, a warm anticipation filling your body and voice as he pulls you in closer for a longer lustful kiss that steals your breath away from you. “My boyfriend. Oh, just...don’t mention the whole serial killer thing up front, okay?” You feverishly say, getting nervous again.

“Your boyfriend, the doctor. I like the sound of that.” Maddox whispers playfully in your ear, laughing into your neck before biting gently and sucking softly on your skin. God, he’s getting you hard, you can’t even help it. His body equally if not furthers your reaction. “My lips are sealed.” He groans into your neck, pulling a fake zipper across his mouth and tossing a key over his shoulder. “See? No problem. I actually don’t even remember what we were talking about to begin with. What were we talking about, anyway?” He questions, looking at you with a fake confusion plastered all over his face. He makes you laugh and fills you with all the good feelings you’ve been missing for so long in your life.

“I want all of you.” You whine out from under his touch, your body writhing with a radiating heat as he toys with you. “I need you, now.” You nearly growl out, your patience thinning the more his hands are on you.

“We will have to wait for that.” Maddox simply says, rushing the words into your mouth, hot with want. “You can’t do that to your stitches yet, my work will be ruined. Plus, I’ll have to do it again.” He says, murmuring the words up against your lips before he plants another kiss against the nape of your neck, breathing you in deeply. He can barely stop himself, but he knows he has to. “That wouldn’t be very much fun, now, would it?” He says breathlessly, seductively, and slightly mockingly. He runs a hand in your chestnut hair, lazily taking you in as much as he wants.

“Then our first night in Cancun, that’s my waiting period allotted, sorry.” You smirk, knowing damn well you will get your way very soon. “Well then for now we can at least do other things. I know how to be careful and I know you do, too.” You offer, giving him the best tempting smile you can while working to get him flipped over to be the one under you, careful of your thighs as he runs his hands against your briefs. He is moaning deeply as he finds what he is looking for. “We can call this the test run for Cancun.” You joke, gasping in built up anticipation when his hand slides in your briefs and works his hands up and down a few times as you straddle him comfortably.

“Fuck, this is so not fair.” You cry out to him, your eyebrow creasing in frustration, in good humor. You take it upon yourself to trace your hand lightly down his chest to his pelvis. You grab against his thighs next, feeling your heart throb in your head. You stroke him a couple of times and then move your mouth to give him the best head he’s ever had. You look at him briefly and the next second you are swallowing his length whole.

“Oh fuck. God, Fletcher, no. You don’t have to do this, you should rest, please.” Maddox rushes out to you as he is nervously laughing, begging you to stop. You both know damn well he is past the point of being able to stop himself and he wants restraint, but it’s looking grim. “You know how bad I have wanted this and have been waiting, this isn’t fair.” He says as he’s huffing out a long, unsteady, and jagged breath. “Please, I want you to be in a better...situation when we do something.” He begs you, but he’s not getting away that easily. As much as he’s been waiting for this to happen, you have, too.

“How does it feel?” You grumble with your mouth still around him, sliding down further repeatedly. Maddox groans out in pure pleasure as he throws his head back into the sea of pillows. “Don’t worry, this is good, so very good. I like it. Don’t you like it?” You raise your eyes at him like a puppy as he’s in your mouth and his hands find your hair, gasping for the release you hold over him. “You taste so good.” You moan in your own erotic pleasure from watching him enjoy it as he squirms under you.

“It’s fucking amazing, it’s the best thing I’ve ever felt...shit...like in my entire life.” Maddox tries to concentrate and pace himself, but to witness someone losing? That time, it was right now, and he’s losing hard.

“It’s okay to enjoy it, Maddox.” You say, your tongue sliding over the top of his cock before sucking down hard. “We both know you want to come down my throat as you finally get the release you’ve been anticipating for so long now.” You feel him clutch wads of the blanket in his hands as he pushes further down into the bed with immense pleasure. Check and mate. “You’re more perfect than I could have ever imagined.” You say seductively, your grip around his thighs tightens and he yelps out in pleasure as your touch intensifies everything around both of you.

“God, Fletcher. You’re so good, I can’t believe we are finally here. This is fucking perfect.” Maddox seems to focus briefly on his thoughts of how great of a moment he is having, just trying to not fantasize on how indescribably great the sex will be if giving and receiving head is already as perfect as it is now. You feel his breath pick up pace in his chest as you move faster and deeper to keep him climbing on the edge, barely able to contain himself much longer. “I can’t...I won’t be able to stop, you have to stop. I don’t want to do that to you, I know you’re dealing with a lot right now.” Maddox squirms under your control and you know you have him. He pulls deeper into the sides of the bed, securing his legs under his bucking hips while trying to be as gentle and considerate as he can. With how raw everything is seems to be making this very difficult for him as each second passes and the intensity spreads like a wildfire between you.

You lazily glance up at him for a moment, watching him struggle in anticipation and need of his approaching orgasm. Next, you want to finally send him over the edge. “I want you to come for me, Maddox. I want to taste every drop of you. Come in my mouth, so hard down my throat while I gag on you until you are satisfied.” You continue to run your mouth up and down quickly before going all the way down to the base and giving massaging smaller movements to stay far down until he’s ready to explode. By the looks of it, it seems to be coming on quickly.

“Fletcher, I’m going to come. I can’t...I can’t stop it. I’m...fuck, I’m so sorry. God...here it comes...fuck...shit. Oh my God, please don’t stop. Oh Fletcher, yeah, right there. Fuck, I’m coming. I’m coming so hard, holy shit.” Maddox’s words are rushed and accompanied by grunts and heavily saturated cries coated in contentment as he pants over the duration of a long-lasting orgasm that was warm and filling as it coated down your throat.

You sucked every bit of him dry as he begins relaxing his hands against the blanket, covered in his glistening sweat. They were ghost white from gripping so hard to try and keep himself grounded and they finally were regaining color as you wiped your mouth with the back of your hand and planted your lips lovingly against his forehead.

You tuck yourself in as he was showering again quickly. You feel his radiating presence fill the room as he steps back in from the bathroom, the steam rolling out of the door behind him. God, the whole package of the man is perfect.

“Fletcher, listen. I want to discuss something with you. I know you don’t formally know me very well, yet. At least on more of a personal level and not so much professionally, but I’d like to propose something. I know it’s a little drive, but how would you feel if we went and grabbed stuff for the time being from your place until it’s time to leave. Just enough for your days off and then whatever you need for work – if you feel like you want to go do that, that is. You know what, actually if you’d want to you can just get everything now you would need for the next few days and for Cancun and then have it ready to go at my place. I mean, it’s totally up to you. I’m not trying to rush or force you into anything at all, so don’t feel any sort of obligation. I would just feel more comfortable if I went with you to ensure your safety, until I know more, and then knew that you were somewhere where I know you are safe and that I can physically ensure that. Honestly, if you aren’t against it, my home is as much yours as it is my own. I mean that, even if you were just a good friend moving forward, it would be an open invite. I would really be less on edge I feel if you were to just stay here, with me, for what is left before leaving. Also, I got my flight booked earlier, so no worries there.” Maddox says, mentally calculating his plan in his head.

“Oh, Maddox.” You envelope yourself in him. “If you don’t mind, I would love nothing more than that, yes. I have a bunch of my stuff that I shouldn’t leave at my place while this is...going on. My social, my passport, my savings, all my personal information and work info – I have a lot of family stuff on my laptop. God, what a fucking mess. I didn’t even think about any of that, I’ve always just been in survival mode until now trying to face everything.” You sigh, frustrated with yourself. “I shouldn’t have dragged you into this, it’s all just so much.” Maddox finishes pulling a hoodie over his head, reaching out to touch your arm as you stand trying to get your pants on. Without hesitation, he bends down to help you, careful of his precious work to patch you back together again.

“Hey, you, stop thinking like that. I’m relieved you told me about everything and I stand by it when I said I wanted to be here with you and to support you and that I wouldn’t ever leave. Come on, let’s go get your shit. You better put this on though, it got kind of chilly with all the storms coming in.” His hand gently lifts your face up to look at him and he smiles at you lovingly, like you are meant to be here. He hands you one of the hoodies that is hanging in his closet and you throw it on over your shirt. It feels warm and smells like him, like home. “It looks good on you.” He winks, laughing lightly into the space around you as you make your way toward the garage.

The first part of the drive is quiet, you both sit peacefully with each other, Maddox’s hand rubbing warm circles against your knee as he drives. Little droplets from the rain pick up pace and dance down the front window in little thuds. The rain starts pouring down within minutes and it feels like an eerie drop as the morning turned to complete darkness with the approaching storms.

Suddenly your phone buzzes in your lap and you look at it, quickly silencing the noise. It’s a call...from Josh. The one you are running from, the fucking serial killer on the loose. You quickly jab at the screen to ignore it before pressing your hands up to your temples. Maybe you are just imagining it is happening since you brought it up again.

But after a moment your phone goes off again, and then again, and again as each buzz is a new text – starting with the always fan favorite original of ‘I’m going to fucking kill you when I see you. Answer the goddamn phone, Fletcher you motherfucker or I will find you right now and slit your throat’ and it’s just more insufferable and insulting. You feel yourself hyperventilating as your breathing and heart rate increase together in a matter of seconds.

“Whoa, hey, what’s going on?” Maddox sternly questions, looking at you with concern and the phone finally dings with a voicemail to accompany the flood of texted threats. You turn the phone towards Maddox and it illuminates his face as he reads the first text and onward. They continuously pop up, but he outstretches his hand toward you as he takes over the phone from your clammy grip on it. “Don’t worry, you’re okay, I’m going to pull over.” He says calmly, taking quick glances between you in your current state and the road as he tries to move lanes over to the side.

“No, you have to keep driving, we can’t stop!” You yelp out, your voice low even though you know he isn’t around. Or at the very least hopefully isn’t around.

“May I listen to that voicemail, please?” Maddox questions, and you nod as he begins concentrating on the phone while he picks up speed.

The thought makes you gag hearing his voice in the background. ‘Fletcher, listen to me you ruthless double-crossing worthless piece of shit. This is the last goddamn chance I’m giving you. I’m coming to fucking find you. You have two choices at this point, you can either return yourself to me and cut your losses so I can get what is due to me or I can do this the hard way with you and I can chase the kill. You know that I love the hunt, so consider yourself a dead man walking. Either way, you’re done for motherfucker, I will make sure this time. You will pay for what you’ve done in my plans and I will make sure that you suffer until I make you take your last breath. You’re making my job too difficult, I can’t wait to get my hands on you and torture you until I find it suitable to finally kill you! I can’t wait to slit your throat and watch you plead and beg to not die again while I play in your warm blood until you have finally succumbed to me. You can’t hide from me forever, I’m coming for you!’ Maddox softly hands your phone back to you and you accept it as your hands shake, his face is unreadable. You feel a lump of fear rising in your throat that you can’t get away from.

You hear the voicemail from far away and what you can make out of it is enough to make you question how Maddox can listen to that shoved up against his ear. It’s harsh, it’s cold, and it’s a completely valid threat. The phone dings one last time, now with a picture popping up. You open it and gasp, feeling like you are going to vomit. Maddox bends over the seat slightly to try and get a quick look. It’s a picture of Josh in a mask to hide his face as he is waving. He’s standing next to the ‘Welcome to Colorado’ sign that is by the state line.

“Oh, shit. Um...fuck, okay.” Maddox sucks in a deep, urgent breath. “I think for now with so many people, work will be a safe place to be the next two days. It will at least also be something to keep your mind busy where I can keep an eye on you, but we need to hurry in here and just get whatever we can to my house now. I’m going to have to communicate with my brother soon with all of this going on. This is getting increasingly terrifying, very quickly.” Maddox pushes a little more on the gas and soon enough you are pulling in the driveway. He turns off the lights and locks the truck, being outside of it feels too quiet for you to be comfortable. Maddox follows you up to the porch and your hands shake while trying to grab the right key. You are not able to get it inside to unlock the door as quickly as you would like to.

“Here, I got it. Everything is okay.” Maddox gently takes the keys from your hand and places one of his hands comfortably wrapped around your waist and the other feverishly working to open the door so you both can get inside. After getting inside you find yourself standing shaken up in the living room while Maddox hunts around to get some lights on without it seeming too obvious that you are there doing something. You snap back to the present moment, aware of how fast things need to start moving.

“I actually have almost everything packed for the trip, just a smaller bag that I need to put things in that I use daily. So it should only take a couple of minutes.” You say, beginning to dash around to grab everything you’ve packed and planned. Maddox follows you like a silent private security guard, every move he watches and copies to stay close to you. Once everything is by the door Maddox takes it out to the truck and you double check that you’ve gotten everything you need. You feel like you are missing something important but can’t place thought to it right now. What you need to do is get the fuck out of here and now.

“This is all so life-altering scary, I’m about to just move you to my house, permanently. You don’t deserve to be alone after this, just taken care of. Quite honestly, I don’t want to be alone after this, either.” Maddox says and it doesn’t sound like a joke. “Fletcher...” He trails off, beginning to drive off down the road. “Please, just, I can’t afford to lose someone who feels so special and important to me. I’ve never felt this way and I don’t want us to end. I want forever with you.” He says, his face showing dread that is tinged with fear. You take a moment to really internalize the ways that you have felt with him and you close your eyes before opening them again as you feel the memories as warm as sunshine on your face. It is forever, he’s the one. These feelings, it’s so new, so different. They are raw.

“I want to, actually. If you’re serious...about the offer, you know. I know there is a strong connection between us and I want to explore that and if that means staying with you when we have immediately started dating to protect myself from a serial killer then so be it.” Maddox rolls his eyes toward you, his anticipation must be building how you’ve left him hanging. “To be serious, I don’t think I can go back to anything else in my life without you in it.” He looks relieved when you answer him, finally letting his breath out.

“Then it’s settled. It’s you and me, forever.” Maddox declares, confidently rubbing small circles in the palm of your hand as he drives you to his home, your home.

Forever feels a lot more promising with him by your side.

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