Chapter Two
Sullen At Sundown
©2004-2005  All Rights Reserved

This is a story about  tragedies and triumphs faced in the journey of life.  For the most part, it is a work of pure fiction, though some parts draw upon a host of life experiences.  Though not in the beginning, this story will eventually contain sexual acts between consenting adults.  Gay characters have gay sex, so if this bothers you, or if it is illegal to read such materials due to your age or where you live, then please do not read further.  All copyrights are held by the author, so please do not duplicate, print, alter, or resubmit (or anything else I may have missed ) this story without first obtaining written permission from the author. 

This is my second story in the Raven Cliff series.  For those of  you who read OF LOVE AND CHANCE, you will find ONE RAY OF LIGHT  to be quite different. For one, it is told in limited third person narratives, rather than various individual points of view.  It is also a much darker, more complex delve into the nature of humanity.  It contends with spiritual and social issues, but in a completely different manner.  In similarity, it is ultimately a romantic love story that is not meant to be a quick fix, jerk-off session.  You might also recognize a few characters here and there, for lives often interconnect in ways we do not realize.  If you haven't read OF LOVE AND CHANCE, don't worry, for this story stands alone.

A special thanks to Paul for all his efforts with editing, and to Tob for his input and feedback.

If you have any comments, ideas, suggestions, etc., I would love to hear them.  Please contact me via

'Why do I even bother?'  Nathan wondered to himself.  It had been a terrible day as far as he was concerned, for nothing seemed to have gone right.  And, it was only 9:30 in the morning!

Already, he had
managed to tick Nurse Channing off several times.  First, he had taken longer than she felt was necessary in helping Mr. Ream with his bath.  Then, he had tripped over his own big feet and spilled seven breakfasts by knocking over the cart.  If that weren't bad enough, he also accidentally set off the panic button while cleaning in Mrs. Kirk's room.  That sent a team of soon-to-be-pissed-off professionals armed with the defibrillator rushing to her room for an unnecessary Code Blue.  And, now, he had splattered Nurse Channing with...  well, shit. 

It wasn't exactly his fault, he felt, but that did not change the fact that she was standing in front of him with bowel movement dripping down her uniform.  He had been carrying the bedpan to
the bathroom to empty when she suddenly called out his name.  In a startled state, he had jumped, and the bedpan went flying into the air,  unfortunately landing on Nurse Channing's chest. 

'At least it wasn't her head.' he inwardly joked.  Then, he reassessed the situation.  'Man, am I so screwed!' he sighed to himself.  He continued to clean up the mess, all the while regarding Nurse Channing through the corner of his eye.

He just knew for sure that he would be dismissed from the CNA practical after this.  He had spent the entire summer in theory classes, then began the clinicals in August.  All he had was three more shifts until he completed the required hours of supervised practice, and he would earn his license.  Then, he would be paid, provided the hospital chose to keep him on staff.  

Nathan understood it was not a good idea to upset the nursing supervisor to begin with, but to douse her with feces?  Well, he knew for certain that was not a wise career move.  Disheartened, he figured he would not be getting the extra pay that would have come in quite handy.

What was worse was that Nurse Channing seemed to be the only one at the hospital who even remotely liked Nathan.  She was the only one who ever encouraged him or said anything that could possibly pass as praise in regards to his work.  He wondered why it could not have been one of the other, less likeable nurses.

Nurse Barns was somewhat of an ass, Nathan believed.  He liked to throw his weight around and give orders, taking delight that the student CNAs were at his beck and call.  He had even sent Nathan a few times to the cafeteria to pick up his lunch for him.  Then, when Nathan would return, Nurse Barns would chew Nathan out for not having things finished, like he could actually be in two places at once.

Nurse Proctor was just down right mean, Nathan surmised.  She had no patience with him whatsoever.  She seemed to thrill in putting Nathan on the spot and then belittle him for his stuttering.  She had even told him several times that he would never be able to become a nurse because he would never be able to give a sufficient oral report at the change of shift. 

"No one has three hours to change a shift, kid.  We only have 15 minutes.  You can't even get the patient's name out in that time!"
Nurse Proctor had screamed at him. 

That had brought Nathan to stinging tears, and he had almost quit the program that very day.  However, Nurse Channing had come to his rescue.  Without even realizing it, she had given him the courage to keep going.  She had complemented him on his thoroughness in executing his duties and responsibilities in the treatment plans for his mid-term care clients. 

Nathan didn't figure he was the best CNA there was, but, in his opinion, he was far from the worst.  That is, at least where the patients were concerned.  And, he loved what he was doing.  He loved to listen to his patients as they told their life stories. 

He wasn't a great talker; he knew that all too well.  But, he believed he was a pretty good listener.  He also enjoyed taking care of patients, as it seemed to make him feel like his life had meaning and value.  No, he hadn't been much more than a street whore before he had met his new family, but through their love and his experiences with the CNA program, he was just starting to turn his life around.

Then, his mind wondered how his new mother and father would take the news of his dismissal.  Jason and Jena Wilson had so much faith in him.  The very thought of disappointing them brought tears to his eyes, for he wanted so much for them to be proud of him.  He needed them to be proud of him.  Then, maybe... just maybe... he could be proud of himself for once.

That was why the extra pay from the CNA position was so important to Nathan.  He was going to have a sister soon, and he wanted to surprise his new parents by setting up the nursery.  He sighed to himself, remembering how his new mother had broken the news.

"Nathan, honey, there are going to be a few changes around here."  Jena smiled.  Nathan loved to see her smile, as it seemed to brighten his entire world.  Her green eyes would twinkle with every movement of her delicate face.  She pulled back her long red hair, only to smile even more.  "It seems you are going to have a brother or sister!"

Nathan remembered how his heart jumped into his throat at the thought of this.  He had dreaded the idea that his parents might someday have a child of their own, fearing they would not love him anymore.  As he took in his mother and father, though, he knew that was just silly thinking on his part.

Jason pulled Nathan into a firm hug, kissing his forehead gently.  "We wondered if maybe you would like to be with us when it's born."  He had said methodically, yet kindly.  Nathan's new father also possessed a stuttering problem, and he and Nathan's new Uncle Roe had been very helpful in assisting Nathan with his own speech impediment. 

Nathan was shocked by this, but in a delighted sort of way.  "M-me?"  He asked.  "Y-you w-w-w-want me to b-be with you?"

"Your the future nurse of the family!"  Jena laughed.  "I thought if your Papa passes out, you would at least be able to remain focused.  Somebody's gonna have to help me through this whole birthing thing."  She then joined her husband and Nathan in a family hug.  "This is an important change in the family, and I want the two main men of my life there with me."

Nathan beamed with the feelings of inclusion which radiated through him at that moment.  Then, he got to thinking.  "Moma, w-what ab-bout Ethan?"  He asked.

Jena laughed sharply.  "Honey, your Uncle Ethan would only set me off.  He is far too spastic in things like this, so I'm sure he will gladly pace in the waiting room with everyone else."

"W-well, what about G-grandma Jean?"  Nathan asked thoughtfully.  He was thinking there were many, many others in the family that deserved that honor far more than he felt he did.

"Honey, everyone will understand.  The thing is, we want YOU to be with us, sweetie.  You're our son, after all, and this will be your brother or sister."  She smiled.  "We love you, Son.  You're ours, and nothing will ever change that."  She soothed reassuringly.

Nathan didn't think he had cried so much in his life, well, except for the day when he found out what the baby was going to be.

"S-so, it's g-gonna be a g-g-girl!"  He enthused, in reply to his father's news.

"No, Son, it's gonna be a Natalie."  His Papa grinned.

"Natalie Rayne Madison Wilson,"  his Mama added.  "named after her big brother.  That will give you both the same initials, too, once the adoption is final."

"Oh, Moma!  Papa!"
He cried, embracing them both as tears soaked his face.  "I-I l-l-love you b-both." He sighed, resting in the comfort of their arms.

"We love you to, Son." 
His Papa soothed, gently running his fingers through Nathan's hair.

Nathan had been deeply moved that two of the most important people in his life would want to name their own flesh and blood child after him.  That had also opened his eyes to the fact that they were telling him the God's honest truth:  Jena and Jason Wilson loved him just as if he had been their own, and he truly was their son, no matter what.  All that remained was the legal actions of the court, but, in all their hearts, he was already a Wilson.  Still, Nathan was anxious for the adoption to be finalized.

'Nathanael Ronen Meyers Wilson.'
Nathan again dreamed to himself.  'I can't wait to be their son completely!'  

The smile that had crossed Nathan's face during his reflection quickly faded as he remembered where he was.  With the last swipe of the mop, he looked up slightly to regard Nurse Channing, still standing before him.

She scowled at him indignantly.  "Nathan, I'm just not certain that this is the right place for you."  Her hands stretched out, and Nathan read her actions to indicate that this meant the field of nursing.

Nathan's eyes went wide, then his head hung dejectedly.  "I-I'm s-s-s-so sor-r-r-ry, M-ma'am."  He sighed.  "I'll  c-c-c-clear out m-my things." 

Nathan started towards the door sadly, then stopped in his tracks when her hand grasped his shoulders.

"Like hell you will!"  She grumbled.

'Great!  She's not going to even let me gather my things!'  He sighed to himself.

Nathan slowly turned and looked at her through his lashes, unable to look her in the eye due to shame.  Her firm resolve softened slightly, he realized, and she shook her head at him.  Then, laughter erupted.

"Son, in all my years, I have never had this happen to me before."  She smiled.  "But, that doesn't mean you won't be a fine nurse, someday."

Nathan went to reply, but his words hung in his throat.  He closed his eyes and hummed for a moment, putting his thoughts to melody.  Uncle Roe, acting as his speech therapist, had taught him this, and it seemed to help Nathan focus much better.  "Y-you're not m-mad at m-me?" He finally asked.

Nurse Channing chuckled.  "Don't get me wrong, Nathan.  I am far from thrilled with having bowel secretions covering me at this very moment, but I don't guess it was totally your fault.  I should have made you aware of my presence."  She said knowingly.  "I forget that you are so skittish sometimes." 

She went to the sink and scrubbed her arms.  Then, drying them completely, she rested one lightly on Nathan's shoulder.  "Its just that you have such wonderful bedside skills with your patients, son.  One-on-one, you seem very comfortable.  You seem to come alive with such an energy when you are with your charges, and you are like a whole different person.  But, that changes the instant you realize you are no longer alone.  You seem a bit... distracted... when we nurses are around."

He closed his eyes again and hummed.  "Well, y-you're g-grading me."  He said softly, finally looking her in
the eyes.

She rubbed his shoulder reassuringly.  "Nathan, the fields of nursing are about much more than grades.  Try not to focus on the evaluation part of it.  Just do the job of which I know you are capable."  Nathan noted a strong smile spreading across her face.  "Then, I can check you off so you can do private duty."

"P-private d-d-duty!"  He stuttered with excitement.

"Yes, Nathan, private duty.  I believe that is a placement in which you will be more comfortable."  She smiled broadly, poking his chest lightly in emphasis as she said that.  "I also have complete confidence that your patients will receive the best possible care you can offer.  You go at it with both your head and your whole heart, son, and that is what makes a nurse the vital link in the health care system."

She turned him to the door and steered him down the hallway, ending at her office.  Once there, she motioned for him to have a seat.  As she left, Nathan's mind roamed freely, contemplating the whole idea of private duty. 

It was true, what Nurse Channing had stated.  He was not so comfortable being scrutinized by the nurses.  It seemed his whole life had been spent either under a microscope or as a target for aggression.  Up until the last year, anyway, when he had happened into the lives of his new family. 

He thought about all she had said to him as he looked around the small office.  He stood up and began to pace around, taking everything in as his mind continued to roam.  He read Nurse Channing's certificates, surprised to see that she had graduated from the same CNA program he was now attending.  From the dates, Nathan guessed her to be around 40, 42 at the most. 

Emily Channing had also gone through the LPN program he was hoping to get in.  She had gone on to the university to obtain an Bachelor's of Science in Nursing Arts, as well as a Master's within the same field.  Several other certificates and awards lined her walls and shelves. 

Maybe she was right.  The hospital might not be the place for Nathan, but that did not mean he had to give up on his dream of being a nurse.  After all, Hospice was done in the patient's residence.  The more he thought about this, the more his smile seemed to grow.

Nathan paid special attention to the HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) medallions that Nurse Channing had received.  His instructor had mentioned that he wanted Nathan to compete in this event come spring.  He felt Nathan showed promise, and Nurse Channing had also mentioned her feelings that Nathan could win many of the events.  He pondered the idea of this for several moments.

The HOSA events included a regional, state, and national competition for students attending technical education programs.  There were several scholarships and other prizes awarded, so his instructor had said.  Nathan wondered if he could really do such a thing, though.  The written and practical events would not be too much of a big deal, he thought, but there was sure to be oral evaluations involved.  That thought scared Nathan to death, and his feelings of self-doubt began to swirl out of control.

"Thinking about competing?"  Nurse Channing spoke. 

Startled, Nathan gasped and jumped back slightly.

Her laughter put him at ease, as he turned to smile at her.  "I-I just d-don't know.  I w-w-would h-have t-t-t-to speak during th-th-this?" He asked.

She had a sympathetic look on her face.  "Yes, Nathan, but I still think you can do it."  She said softly.

Nathan then noticed she was wearing a clean uniform.  Her wet hair let Nathan know she had showered, as he again felt embarrassment and shame for soiling her in the first place. 

"I-I'm r-really sorry f-for the b-b-bedpan."  Nathan sighed.

Nurse Channing pointed out her clean uniform, turning around like a fashion runway model.  "It was nothing a change of clothes and a quick shower couldn't fix, son.  Please, stop beating yourself up over it."  She said in a reassuring way. 

Then, her hand went to her chin in thought.  "Now, where were we?"  She muttered.  "Oh, yes.  Private duty."

Taking a seat, she pointed for Nathan to join her.  "The experience from the private duty assignments will also help you to get into the LPN program."  She explained.

 "Y-you th-think I'm ready f-f-for that?"  He asked excitedly.  Nathan knew getting into the LPN program would be difficult, but it would move him up into a better position within the nursing field.  From there, he could obtain a job that would help pay for his RN training, a certification necessary to achieve his career aspirations. 

Nurse Channing seemed to stare at him, making Nathan feel somewhat uncomfortable.  Then, she smirked at him.  "I certainly hope so.  I sent in my letter of recommendation on your behalf to the school about two weeks ago."

Nathan was completely surprised by this.  "Y-you w-w-w-would do th-that f-f-for me?" 

She shook her head in an affirmative response.

"B-b-but, why?"  He asked, conveying his confusion by scrunching his eyebrows.  None of the other nurses seemed to think Nathan could do anything right.  He did not understand why Emily Channing held such faith in him.

She sighed, and Nathan felt a lecture coming on.  "Nathan, why do you want to become a nurse?"

She had asked him this so many times, so Nathan knew she already knew the answer.  He figured she wanted him to focus on it, though.  He closed his eyes, humming to himself as he relaxed and formed his thoughts.  "I want to help p-people who are d-dying."  He said a little slowly.  "I want t-to make l-life as easy f-for them as p-p-pos-s-sible d-during th-their last days."

Nathan looked to see Nurse Channing smiling at him.  "Well, son, there is your answer." 

She seemed to sense his uncertainty and explained.  "Son, most of the time, when I ask that question, people will mention helping other people.  But, that help is followed by a statement about the money involved in nursing salaries."  She reached over and grasped Nathan's hand gently.  "You want to become a nurse in order to do the job, Nathan.  You have never once mentioned anything about the pay.  In fact, I believe you would do it free of charge if you were in a position to do so.  That is why, son.  You have the spirit of a true nurse, and I am proud to see that.  I just wish the rest of my staff saw our jobs in the same regard."

Nathan suddenly felt embarrassment washing over him.  His cheeks became hot, and he could not bring himself to look at Nurse Channing.  But, what she said was true.  Nathan would gladly help anyone he could, regardless of money.  As long as he had the basic essentials, he didn't have any other worries that required great sums of money.  In fact, Nathan wasn't even sure how much a Certified Nursing Assistant made, much less what a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse brought home.  No, the money truly had nothing to do with why Nathan wanted to work in Hospice.  It was simply something he thought he might be able to do well enough to help someone in a tragic situation, much like his family had helped him from when they took him in.

He thought about how his life had been.  The abuse Jasper and Barbara Morton, Nathan's former step-father and birth mother, had subjected him to had been traumatic to say the least.  His life on the streets had been just as bad, honestly.  But, things changed when the abandoned building where he and several others had taken up residency had caught fire. 

Nathan had been rescued from that building by a young man named Blade, but it was his new family that had rescued him from the turbulent seas of his former life.  In Nathan's heart, he felt that this gift of love should be passed on.  He guessed that maybe this was his true reason for wanting to be a Hospice nurse, to somehow repay the kindness that was granted to him.

"B-being a nurse i-is an honor."  Nathan finally replied, bringing a strong smile to Nurse Channing's face.

"Yes, son, it is, because it lets me meet wonderful people like yourself."  She smiled. 

Nurse Channing talked with Nathan for another forty minutes about the private duty position in which she wanted to place him.  He would earn $10.50 per hour, which really surprised Nathan.  For a guy who hadn't yet finished high school, this was good money, much more than he had ever thought it would be. 

In addition, he would still receive school credits for the work experience, and the shifts could be worked around his class schedule.  During the upcoming semester, Nathan would only have his English 12 class to attend, and it was scheduled last.  He would be able to work a 6-2 shift and still make his class on time.  Then, after graduation, he could work a later shift if he made the LPN program like he was hoping. 

After their discussion concluded, Nathan went to the cafeteria for lunch.  He looked at the food others were carrying on their trays with dismay.  He wondered how anyone could eat the stuff.  Thankfully, his Aunt Hela had packed him a hearty lunch as usual. 

Nathan sat down and opened his lunch container, taking out the rather large meat loaf sandwich his Aunt Hela had made.

"I'll pay you six bucks for that!"  A deep male voice said, startling Nathan slightly.

He looked up to see a very handsome man in blue-green scrubs standing before him.  Nathan knew that meant he was an ER doctor.  His name tag read Kersey, and Nathan felt it was a nice name for such a handsome gentleman.

Dr. Kersey had sandy blond hair that was haphazardly arranged, looking as if the doctor had ran his hands through it many times so far that day.  His light brown eyes were highlighted by long lashes, and he possessed an award-winning smile.  The good doctor was fairly tall, standing around 6'2", Nathan guessed.  He seemed to have a sleek, yet fit body, as well.

Nathan pulled out the seat next to him, motioning for the doctor to join him.  He hummed quietly for a moment, calming himself.  Then, he smiled shyly.  "I w-won't sell y-you my sandwich, b-but I-I'll g-gladly share.  I-it's big enough f-for t-t-two peop-ple a-a-anyway." He said somewhat softly.

When the doctor sat down, Nathan felt himself blushing.  'Damn, he's hot!' He smiled to himself.  Nathan looked to see the doctor smiling at him, only causing his blushing to grow more intense. 

"Thanks."  He replied, in his deep, manly voice, causing Nathan to almost gush with hormonal charges.  "My name is Garrett, by the way.  Garrett Kersey."

Nathan hummed to himself softly, then replied.  "N-nathan M-meyers."  Nathan took half of his sandwich, offering it to Garrett.  He then opened a container of potato wedges, taking one, then pointing them out to the doctor.  "These are r-really good."

Garrett grabbed one to sample, and Nathan noticed his immediate reaction.  "Oh, these are heavenly." He sighed with his mouth full.  "So much better than the shit they serve around here."

Nathan laughed.  "Y-yeah, th-that's why I alw-ways p-p-pack my l-lunch."  Then, he pointed to the sandwich.  "W-wait unt-t-til you try Aunt Hela's m-meat loaf."

The look on the doctor's face let Nathan know he agreed completely, as did the moans of delight from tasting Hela's fine cooking.  "Your aunt should open a restaurant."  He replied, once he finished a few bites.

"S-she has one."  Nathan smiled.  "I-it's at our h-house.  I-it's a b-bed a-and breakfast.  She h-has a s-s-spa, too."

"Do you think she would deliver?"  Garrett asked excitedly. 

"I g-guess."  Nathan replied.  He had never really thought about that before, but it would give Hela a lot of business, he felt.  He made a mental note to discuss this with her.  "I-if not, I-I c-c-could bring it w-when I w-work."

Garrett grinned widely at Nathan, then chuckled.  "This job can get to you sometimes, and we have such a short time for lunch.  That is our only real break to unwind, and it would be nice to at least enjoy what we're eating."  He seemed to be thinking, then continued.  "I guess that old saying is right.  The way to a man's heart must be through his stomach."  He laughed.

Both Nathan and Garrett ate in silence for a few minutes.  Then, Garrett started a conversation.  "So, you're in the CNA program, are you?"

Nathan shook his head in response.

"Do you like it so far?"  Garrett's gaze seemed fixated on Nathan, but, for whatever reason, Nathan wasn't uncomfortable. 

"I l-love it."  Nathan said softly. 

"Think you might want to be a doctor some day?"  Garrett inquired.

Nathan shook his head with laughter.  "N-no.  I j-just wanna be a n-nurse.  I-I wanna w-w-work in H-hospice."

Dr. Kersey seemed surprised.  "Wow!  Hospice, now that is a field few people consider."

Nathan went on to explain to Garrett about his career path he had lined out with his cousins during the past spring.  He elaborated on his desires for helping dying patients, which seemed to intrigue Dr. Kersey even more. 

Dr. Kersey told Nathan how he had come to the conclusion that the medical profession was his intended field.  Then, Garrett spun very entertaining tales of his adventures in med school and his first year of residency.  Nathan was surprised to learn that Dr. Kersey was 28 years old.  Most of the doctors were much older, and while Nathan thought he looked young, he had assumed he was at least in his mid 30's.  It didn't escape Nathan's attention that Dr. Kersey never once made a gesture or comment that pointed to any agitation or ill feelings about Nathan's stuttering.  That fact, along with his younger age, made Nathan feel quite comfortable around the doctor.

They had a nice conversation up until Garrett's pager went off.  Dr. Kersey quickly jotted down his work schedule for Nathan, asking him if he would see if Hela would be willing to send him a lunch on those days.  Nathan assured him he would, then smiled as he watched Garrett dart out of the cafeteria. 

Once his lunch hour was over, Nathan returned to his floor, 3F.  There, he checked on all of his charges and attended their needs.  All the while, Nathan kept thinking about how hot Garrett was.  Then, he started thinking about Trace Andrews.

Trace was a good friend to Nathan, whom he had met in his biology class during the spring.  They had gone out several times, though their relationship was pretty much on a just friends basis.  Still, Nathan thought he was one fine looking young man.  

Nathan began to laugh at himself.  'Lord, you're just a horny mess, Nathanael.  Quit thinking about all these guys and get your work done.' He told himself firmly.

But, no matter what he tried to do, his mind returned to thinking about all the hot fellows he had seen the past few weeks.  He did manage to get his work done, but his hormones were close to overload by the time his shift had ended.

After he changed from his uniform, he walked out to the front parking lot.  There, Grams was waiting to take him to work at Max's.  He smiled as he sat in the car. 

"Hi Grams."  He said, leaning over and hugging her tightly.

Grams seemed to regard Nathan a moment, then chuckled lightly.  "I know that look, son.  Your Uncle Ethan and Uncle Kanawha had it many times when they were your age.   So, who is the lucky guy?"

Nathan blushed heavily, and he felt certain he was about to burst an artery in his brain.  Seeing that Grams was not budging from the conversation, Nathan explained about meeting Dr. Garrett.

"Well, the doctor part is nice," Grams laughed, "but I think a 28 year old is a bit unsuitable for a young man such as yourself.  Now, this Trace is a fine young man." Grams said pointedly.  "Lord is he ever handsome, too.  I swan, what a body that fellow has."

"I-I know Grams."  Nathan sighed, totally embarrassed by her candidness.

Grams laughed heartily.  "Honey, I might be old, but my vision is still rather good.  Things like that never escape a woman, no matter what they might tell you."

Nathan was assaulted with a visual image of Grams feeling up Dr. Kersey and Trace, just then.  He shook his head to clear the thoughts.  "Gee, Th-th-thanks f-for sharing that, Grams."  He said flatly.

Grams gave Nathan a soft smile, then patted his knee.  "I love you, son, and I only want what is best for you.  Just give it time, and the right man will come along."

'But what am I supposed to do until then?' Nathan wondered, knowing how charged his hormones had become lately.  "Y-yeah, you're right Grams." He replied.

She went on to tell Nathan the same story about Ethan, Kanawha, and his Moma meeting the men of their dreams.  He had heard that story so many times, he could practically recite it by heart.  Still, Nathan had to smile at Grams.  She loved him, he knew that.  But, she was also very inspiring when she wanted to be. 

And, in all honesty, he had to admit that it was a romantic tale.  His Uncle Ethan had found his Uncle Shaft, Uncle Kanawha had found Uncle Kal, and his Moma had found his Papa.  Nathan just hoped he would be so lucky.

As Nathan started to get out of the car, Grams hugged him firmly.  "Now you be careful, honey, and if it starts getting bad, call the house.  One of us will come and get you.  Cindy and Aaron are nice for giving you a ride home, but if the weather gets as bad as they are saying, I want someone with more driving experience bringing you home."

Nathan thought a moment, as terror took over his mind.  "J-just don't s-send Nana."  He pleaded.

Grams shook with laughter.  "Perhaps experience was not such a good choice of words.  I promise, son, Nana is only a last resort driver for the family.  And, poor Chance, too."

Nathan giggled and hugged her tightly.  "I-I'll see you l-later, Grams.  I l-love you."

"Bye, honey.  I love you, too."  Grams called out before Nathan shut the door.  He waved as she drove off.

As he walked towards the front door, Nathan shuddered from the cold winds.  He pulled his jacket firmly around him.  He couldn't help but wonder if those who were homeless had found warm shelter out of the bitter winds. There were so many of them, he knew, and his heart went out to them all.  At the same time, he quietly gave thanks that he was not out on the streets this year like he had been.

"Well, how did your day go, Nathan?"  Max called out as soon as he entered.

"I-it was p-pretty good."  Nathan smiled.  "I-I think I'm g-gonna get t-t-to work p-private duty shifts."

The smile on Max's face warmed Nathan's heart.  Max was a good friend, Nathan had decided long ago.  To be in his 50's, he was also a handsome man. 

Max had dark brown eyes and hair that was near white.  It was closely cut and well groomed, never seeming to actually
grow.  But, that was because Max went to the barber every two weeks.  He had well tanned skin and a prominent nose, not obtrusive or anything, just distinguishing.  Max stood about 5'11" tall, and had a broad, stocky frame.  He was in fair shape, too, not well defined, but definitely not flabby in any way.  He had the body of a man who worked hard but was not devoted to the gym.  At any rate, Nathan liked Max quite a bit.

"This private duty sounds kind of exciting!"  Max grinned, seeming to be enthused.  "So, tell me about it."

Nathan explained all the details Nurse Channing had gone over with him.  The actual wage Nathan kept to himself, however.  Max paid him pretty well, but nothing near the $10.50 per hour.  Nathan did not want to offend him in any way, especially after Max had hired him.  After all, it was difficult for one with Nathan's stuttering problem to find work.  For that, Nathan felt he owed Max a great deal.

"Well, I hope you will stay on here, but I understand if you want to do something else with your time after school."  Max said neutrally, which caused Nathan a hard time figuring out what to say next.

He decided being honest was the best route.  "N-no, I'm not q-quitting, Max."  Nathan replied.  "I'm s-saving my m-money for N-natalie."

Max chuckled lightly.  "Planning to send her to college already, are we?"

"No."  Nathan laughed.  "I-I want t-to f-f-f-fix up her room f-for Moma and Papa." 

"Oh, like a surprise?"  Max asked, his eyebrows raising somewhat.

"Y-yeah."  Nathan sighed.  "I've b-been looking, a-a-and that s-s-stuff is high." 

Max squeezed Nathan's shoulder lightly, giving him a dazzling smile.  "I think your parents will be very surprised, Nathan.  I'm sure it will mean a great deal to them, and to Natalie, too, when she gets older."

Nathan grinned at Max, then started straightening things up as he told him about his ideas.  With his Uncle Kal's help, Nathan had found a really nice crib that also made into a toddler bed.  That would last the baby for a few years at least.  He had even found a dresser with a changing table built on top of it, along with a matching rocking chair.  He had made a down payment on the furniture, and had been making small payments every other week when he was paid. 

At one of the department stores, he had put bumper pads, sheets, curtains, rolls of border paper, blankets, and quilts on lay-away.  They were filled with colorful bears, and were mostly pastel pink and purple.  Nathan thought for sure his Moma would love them, as did his Uncle Kal.  He had even put four matching stuffed bears and a mobile on lay-away, too.  All together, everything was going to cost a little less than two thousand dollars.  But, it would be money well spent, as far as Nathan was concerned.

As Nathan was cleaning off the tables, he felt a hand gently brush down his side.  "Hey beautiful."  An all too familiar voice called.

"H-hey Aaron."  He laughed, turning to hug his dear friend.  Nathan still could not believe Aaron called him beautiful all of the time, simply because Cindy had stated she found Nathan attractive.  "I-I was w-wonering when you w-would get here." 

"Cindy was late, as usual, getting out of class."  Aaron smiled.  "Otherwise, we would have been here sooner."

"W-where is she?"  Nathan asked, looking around the restaurant.

"In the can getting changed."  Aaron responded dryly.  "I don't know why she can't just wear something to school that she can work in, too, but you know Cindy."

Nathan grinned in agreement, as he looked over his friend.  Aaron had a thick head of light brown hair, spiking out every which way.  His soft green eyes sparkled when he laughed, which was pretty often.  He had a small cleft in his chin that was charming in Nathan's opinion.  Aaron also had dimples which set off his high cheeks and tiny little nose.  The light tan of his skin only seemed to further enhance his looks

Aaron was around 5'8" and possessed a slender frame.  But, Aaron was wiry and strong, Nathan had discovered from their wrestling around together.  On that particular day, Nathan noticed that Aaron had a really cute butt.

Aaron put his hand to Nathan's face, giving it a light shove.  "Quit perving on the ass, freak!"  He said in that same dry manner.

Nathan just laughed.  "I n-never even n-noticed it before."

Aaron turned around and raised his shirt slightly, wiggling his butt for Nathan.  Then, he looked over his shoulder smiling.  "Well, does it pass inspection?"

"I-I've seen better."  Nathan shot.  Honestly, though, he did find Aaron's ass to be quite nice.

Aaron grabbed Nathan's hand and brought it to his butt cheek.  "Maybe you need to feel how firm it is."  He replied, without cracking a single smile.  Even so, Nathan knew his friend was only jesting.   "Bet you never felt an ass like this before."

"Hmm.  I-it k-kinda feels like j-jello."  Nathan grinned, pinching it lightly.  "I-I th-think you need to w-work out s-s-some more."

"If you're feeling up his ass, I think you have your hands on the wrong set of cheeks."  Cindy jabbed, walking gracefully into the room.  "But, then again, Aaron is all ass, so I guess you could touch any part of him."

Aaron glanced at Nathan, giving him a wink.  "Well, I guess someone wants to spend Saturday at home alone.  I guess Nathan will go out with me, though.  You will, won't you beautiful?"  Aaron smiled.

Nathan laughed to himself at Cindy's theatrical way of wrapping her arms around Aaron.  "Watching mold grow would be more interesting than a date with you, Aaron."  She smiled, kissing him lightly.  "God, I love you." 

Cindy Blankenship, Nathan figured, was a very attractive girl, if you were into them.  She was shapely and fairly tall, standing at 5'10".  She had a slender waist and nicely formed hips, leading to a long set of sleek legs.  Her dark brown hair was cut into an angular bob, touching her colar bone along the front.  Thick lashes lined her deep brown eyes.  Her full lips were always outlined and covered with a warm brown lipstick.  Nathan had never seen her without her makeup, which she flawlessly applied throughout the day. 

She and Aaron seemed to complement each other fully, Nathan believed.  They both possessed a sharp wit, with a cunning way of besting the other.  They both were good-hearted people, too, and were two of Nathan's dearest friends.  He could never imagine one without the other, though, for they were almost completely inseparable.  And, in their eyes, the love they held for one another was evident for all the world to see.

Nathan just wished he would some day find a love like that.  But, he seriously doubted that would ever happen.  He wasn't exactly a great catch, in his eyes.  His stuttering problem, combined with his past experiences as a homeless teen, made him far from desirable to most people.  Still, Nathan could only dream.

At least, Nathan thought, he had friends and a family who loved him.  That gave him some comfort and helped to ease the loneliness he found plaguing him the last few months.  He and Trace were going out with Cindy and Aaron, along with Chance and Aisa on Saturday, but Nathan didn't believe anything would ever come of that relationship besides friendship.  He just didn't have those feelings for Trace.  Sure he was very handsome, but there was no spark there, not like Nathan was wanting, anyway.

The phone rang, and Cindy soon handed Nathan a large order to prepare.  She went to work on the salads as Nathan began putting the meats on the grill.  Aaron sat at the bar, gazing off into space.

Nathan began to chuckle lightly just thinking about that.  From 3:30 to 9:30, Monday through Friday, Aaron spent almost the entire time at Max's... and he didn't even work there!  He just hung out with Cindy and Nathan, though he would gladly pitch in when Max would allow it.  Otherwise, he would do his homework and restlessly try to entertain himself for hours on end.  Aaron was truly devoted, Nathan determined, both as Cindy's boyfriend and as Nathan's buddy.

Just as they were boxing the order, the snow began to fly like crazy.  By the time the customer arrived to pick it up, almost an inch had already accumulated.  The radio and weather station were flashing warnings of the coming storm.

"I hope we make it home."  Aaron stated, staring out the front door. 

"If it gets much worse, we are shutting down."  Max replied, joining Aaron.  "I don't want you kids in any kind of accident."

Despite the weather, though, the diner was quite busy, as orders continued to come in.  After the rush, everyone stood around haggard, which brought a smile to Nathan's face.  Aaron, whom Max had allowed to help Nathan at the grill, was leaning his head on Nathan's shoulder in utter exhaustion.

"I don't see how you keep up with all those orders.  It's too much to focus on."  He sighed.

"Y-you just have t-to have a system."  Nathan replied, lightly rubbing his tired friend's shoulder. 

Just then, Nathan's pocket began to vibrate.  He pulled out his cell phone, seeing that it was the mission number calling him.  "Hello." 

"Nathan, honey, it is getting terrible outside."  His Mama said in somewhat of a panic.  "Your Papa and I will be there to pick you up just as soon as we can, OK."

Nathan was worried about this.  With bad weather, any sort of accident could happen.  "N-no, Moma.  Y-you shouldn't be out i-in weather l-like this.  J-just go on home.  M-maybe Uncle Kal can p-pick me up."  He replied after careful thought.

"He is going to pick up Kanawha.  It could be a while before he can get there, Nathan.  By then, it might be too bad to make it home."  She replied.

"I-I can just s-s-stay here i-if it's that bad.  You j-just go on home where i-it's safe."  Nathan was determined that his parents were not going to risk their lives or that of his unborn sister on his account.

Max motioned to Nathan for the phone.

"Jena... Hey, this is Max... Yeah, I was getting ready to close down... No, I think Nathan is right.  You should go straight home.  I will bring them home myself.  I have the van out back.  That will get us through this snow, so don't you worry... No, Jena, I don't mind at all.  Actually, I should have sent them home already, so it's my fault they are here in the first place... Yeah, I'll be careful, and you both be too... Ok, here's Nathan."  Max grinned at him as he handed him the phone.  "I'll go get the van cleared off and warmed up.  You guys get everything turned off and shut down."

"Hey, Moma."  Nathan said, putting his phone to his ear.  "I'll be h-home soon.  I-if there is t-t-trouble, I'll call, OK?"

"All right, Son, but please be careful.  I love you."  Jena said in a worried tone.

"L-love you too, Moma."  Nathan smiled as he put his phone back into his pocket.  He didn't like her to worry so much, but it made him feel good knowing that there was someone out there who did care about what happened to him.  Even after almost a year of having his new family, the idea of someone loving him so much was still new to him.  It filled him with warm feelings and a fondness he only hoped they knew he felt for them.

Cindy and Aaron both called their parents on the shop phone, as Nathan finished shutting down the grill.  Cindy closed the register, while Aaron made sure everything was turned off.  Soon, the van pulled up out front.  After double checking everything, Nathan and his friends exited the diner.  Nathan withdrew his key to lock the door.

He had been so surprised when Max had given him the key.  It had meant that Max trusted Nathan, and he felt greatly indebted to Max for placing that level of faith in him.  As he turned to get into the van, Nathan reminded himself of what a special man his boss truly was.

Max drove very slowly, as the roads were quite slick.  Nathan bantered lightly with Aaron in the second row of seats in the van.  They also spent a great deal of time looking out the windows at the quickly accumulating snow.  Once the sun had went down, Nathan couldn't help but feel a sullen mood taking over him.  Something worried him deeply, down in the pit of his stomach, bringing to surface a strong sense of dismay.

"You still remodeling?"  Aaron asked, and Nathan looked to see several boards and building materials stacked in the back of the van behind their seat.  The other two seats had been removed, he realized, so that the lumber could be hauled.

"Yes.  We're working on the guest room."  Max smiled, looking at the two of them in the rear view mirror.  "I hear you boys are decent with a hammer, but Cindy is a real pro.  Maybe I should hire you to help us?"

"I wouldn't mind it a bit."  Aaron replied.  "Cindy eats a lot when we go out, and she never pays for anything."  He joked.

Nathan tuned out as Cindy shot a rebuttal.  He only hoped his parents made it home safely, as did his Uncle Kal and his family.  He just didn't want to even think of anything happening to them.  Nathan's family and friends had become the cornerstone of his new life, and he would be lost if any one of them would meet with some unfortunate fate.

His thoughts continued to reach out to his family, as he stared blankly out the side window.  Taking a slight notice, Nathan realized that Max was heading towards Cindy's house first.  Aaron's home was not far from there, so he assumed that would be where they would head next.  Then, it was across town to Nathan's home.  He just hoped the roads remained clear enough to allow them safe passage, though he noticed the snow was already piling up.

A few minutes down the road, Nathan spied the tail lights of a pickup truck.  As they passed by, he noticed the door was ajar, but no one seemed to be around.  That sinking feeling again knotted the pit of his stomach.

"S-stop!"  He shouted. 

Max brought the van to a halt, then turned to see what was wrong.

Nathan shook his head slowly.  "I-I think th-they might need s-s-some help."  He said softly.  "I-I just have a b-b-bad feeling about it."

Max regarded him a moment, then sighed.  "Well, all right then.  Let's go check it out."

The snow was already several inches deep on the road, and it was pouring down at an alarming rate.  As Nathan neared the truck, he saw no signs of anyone.  Then, he noticed a large lump in the snow just a few feet in front of the truck, right were the truck's headlights were shining.  As he started towards the mound, his heart began to race.

"Oh, G-god!" He shouted.  "M-max, i-it's a p-p-person!"

Clearing some of the snow, Nathan found a young man.  His body was extremely cold, but there was still a faint pulse.  As he removed more of the snow, Nathan was startled to find that the young man was naked.  The marks on his body were unmistakable, for Nathan knew them all too well.

"H-h-he's b-been b-b-beaten!"  He called to Max.  "G-get Cindy and Aaron."

As Max returned to the van, Nathan removed his coat, covering the young man as best he could.  He checked the body carefully, particularly the extremities.  The skin did not look whitish or gray, and it was still somewhat supple.

'At least there doesn't appear to be frostbite.'  Nathan sighed to himself.   Nathan called out to the young man, gently tapping his shoulder so as not to jar the body.  The unresponsive nature and the bluing of his skin told Nathan much. 

'Think, Nathan, think!'  He mentally chided himself.  'What do you do for severe hypothermia?' 

 As his senses took hold, Nathan continued checking the body.  The way the marks seemed to be placed, Nathan worried about possible head injury or even brain trauma.  From his looks and mature development, Nathan guessed the guy was close to his own age.  He brushed the snow gently from his hair, thinking to himself what a handsome young man he was.  He wondered what horrible events led the young man to his current state.

"Oh, shit!"  Aaron shouted, then rushed to kneel beside Nathan.  "Here, I'll help you get him in the van."  He started to reach for the young man.

"No.  W-we have t-to make sure h-his body doesn't m-move when we l-l-lift him."  Nathan explained.  He thought a moment.  "Get s-some boards and c-c-cloth of s-some kind."

As Aaron took off to the van, Nathan pulled out his cell phone.  Dialing 911, he waited for a response.  "Y-yeah, w-w-we... I-i-i... H-h-h-he..."  Nathan hung his head dejectedly, realizing his nerves were just too rattled to get anything out.  He looked up pleadingly to Cindy and gave her his phone.

"It will be OK, babe."  She said softly, patting his shoulder.  Taking his phone, she began to explain their location and what had happened.

Nathan stood up and paced around, trying to clear his head.  As his fingers raked through his hair, he noticed a second mound near the open door.

Nothing would come out of his mouth, so he grabbed Cindy and pointed, holding up two fingers.  When she turned, her face went almost white for a moment.  "There are two persons injured."  She explained.

Nathan rushed to the second mound, carefully removing the snow.  He was startled to find a rather large cat resting upon the second person's throat area.  Nathan reached to remove the cat, but his hands stopped abruptly. 

'Red snow.'  He noted.  That meant that the guys throat area was bleeding.  As he cleared more of the snow, he found a considerable amount of red snow.  However, it wasn't as much as it could have been, so Nathan felt almost certain that the jugular veins and carotid arteries were still intact.  Still, the weight of the cat was obviously controlling the bleeding.

Nathan grabbed the man's wrist, sighing in relief that there was still a pulse.  He finished digging him out of the snow, then carefully brushed the snow from around his face and neck.  Something about this man called out to Nathan.  He was very attractive, that was certain.  But, that wasn't it at all.  Nathan couldn't place what it was exactly, but there was a connection between them.  Of that much, he was sure.

Ever so gently, Nathan removed the small amounts of snow that were trapped in the cat's fur.  A faint heartbeat was present, and again Nathan sighed in relief.  Nathan stood back up and looked in the truck for any possible signs as to what might have happened.  He found a throw blanket wrapped in almost a nest-like formation in the passenger seat. 

A scene played through Nathan's mind, bringing him to tears.  He figured that whatever tragedy had befallen the man, the cat had witnessed it.  He could visualize the cat racing to its master, checking him over with great concern.  Nathan did realize one thing that was certain.  The cat had risked its own life in the bitter cold to save the man, for without the weight of that cat to slow the bleeding, Nathan was pretty sure he would have lost too much blood and died.

"Nathan."  Cindy called.  He turned and walked back her way.  "They say it will be a while before an ambulance can get here.  There have been several accidents, and the snow is making their response time much slower."

"W-we have t-to get them th-there a-as s-s-s-soon as we can."  Nathan replied.  "W-we'll t-t-take them."

Cindy explained this to the operator, then asked about the truck.  Nathan looked at her questioningly, but she smiled at him.  "Hey, it has to be that guy's truck.  No sense in someone stealing it." 

After another moment or two, Cindy handed Nathan back his cell.  She then walked to the truck and climbed in and turned it off.  Taking the keys from the ignition, she slid back out.  Before she shut and locked the door, though, she grabbed the throw blanket, figuring it would be needed.  She then handed Nathan the keys.

Aaron and Max returned with some boards, painting rags, and drop cloths.  Nathan took a couple of boards to one side of the young man.  As he began tying the rags together, he looked at Aaron.

"Think y-you can c-clear s-space to put th-them both?"  He asked.

"I'm on it."  Aaron replied, racing back to the van.

Nathan placed one of the boards along the young man's left side.  Carefully tunneling under, he pushed several strips of the rags underneath the guy.  Then, he firmly tied them to the board on the left side, placing it securely beneath the young man's shoulder and hip.

Nathan moved to the right side, pulling the rags gently, but tightly.  Tying the rags to the right board, he had completed his first homemade body-board.  Nathan then quickly moved to the other victim, repeating the process.  This time, though, he ripped one of the canvas drop cloths for steadying the man.  Now, both bodies were safe to transport.

When Aaron had finished moving things around, he returned to Nathan's side where Cindy and Max also stood.  Together, the four of them lifted the young boy and carried him carefully to the van.  Nathan provided directions on what to do as they went along.  It was tough maneuvering the young guy into the back, but they managed without really jarring him.  They were  able to even get a couple of drop clothes underneath him to start warming his body back up. 

Nathan was pleased with this.  However, he figured the larger man would be a much more difficult transport.  And, it was.  He was much heavier, and the added length proved to be a challenge.  Still, they managed to get him loaded without any real cause for alarm.

 The seat Nathan and Aaron had been using had to be removed and placed along the side wall of the van.  That wasn't a real problem though.  As Nathan and Aaron sat between the two guys, they both checked over them, patting them gently as if to reassure them. 

Max slowly started driving the van, turning to head to the hospital.  Nathan stroked the man's hair.  Then, he petted the cat carefully.  He turned his attention to the young man, again wondering what had happened to the two of them. 

Aaron took off his coat, putting it across the young man.  He then turned to Cindy, asking for hers.  That jacket was added to his lower legs and feet. 

Nathan really wished he could have gotten the man out of his wet clothes and into dry ones, but that wasn't a possibility at the moment.  He just wrapped the drop cloth more snugly around him, hoping it would be enough to help.

The trip to the hospital seemed like it was taking forever, and the dead quiet was mind numbing.  Then, Nathan remembered his family.  He handed his cell phone to Cindy and asked her to call their families and let them know what had happened. 

As she made the calls, Aaron wrapped his arms around Nathan firmly.  "You were amazing out there, beautiful.  You kept your head and knew what to do for them.  I found that impressive."

Nathan sighed, leaning his head on Aaron's shoulder.  "I h-hope I did it right."  He admitted.  Nathan was tired, and he couldn't swear that his mind was working properly anymore.  He began to relax as he felt Aaron's hand rubbing the back of his scalp.

"Nathan, it'll be all right.  We've done all we can for them, so don't start beating yourself up now."  Aaron soothed.

"I-I just feel b-bad for them."  Nathan sighed, melting himself into his friend's embrace.  In his mind, he again thought about how much all of his family meant to him and all he had gone through in his former life.  He pulled himself from Aaron's hold, smiling at his dear friend.  Then, he went to checking the two victims once more.

As he looked over the young man, Nathan couldn't help but wonder.  Did he have a family?  Did he have a loved one, a girlfriend or boyfriend, who would be worried about him?  Was he a street kid like Nathan had been?  As he remembered the nakedness of the poor guy, Nathan had a terrible thought.  Had this poor kid been raped? 

He gently caressed his face, again looking at the beautiful form that lay near lifeless before him.  Nathan knew all about the horrors of rape, and his heart ached for the young man.  He determined then that he would gladly take his place if it could mean sparing him even a few of the agonies Nathan had gone through during his life.

Nathan then turned his attention to the man.  He was so very handsome.  Surely he had a loved one, Nathan figured.  By the devoted nature of the cat, Nathan guessed the man to be caring and loving.  What will his family do, if he even has a family?  Were his injuries too severe? 
What about his poor cat? 

Nathan was simply overloaded with questions.  However, his last thought brought tears to his eyes.  Such a devoted creature would be lonely without its master.  He also figured its master would be lonely without the cat. 
Again, he knew he would willingly trade places with the man or even the cat, if it were only possible.  Ever so carefully, Nathan lovingly caressed them both, his heart bursting with empathy.  But, what could he do? 

A strong desire rushed through Nathan, and he did something he had never before done in front of another living soul.  In fact, Nathan had never done this before, period.  At least, he had never done it in the way he did.

It wasn't in the Jewish way of Nathan's natural father, which Max and Aaron had been teaching him more about.  Nor was it in the Christian way of Nathan's natural maternal grandmother, of which his new family was teaching him.  No, it wasn't in any way that could be identified like that.  It was in Nathan's own unique way, a way that connected his heart and spirit to God.

His prayer was soft and simple, yet it voiced the deep concerns and love he felt within his very being for the two men, his family, and his friends.  Nathan did not speak his prayer, for his stuttering hindered what he tried to say.  He had such a desire for there to be nothing standing between him and God, so his prayer was somehow vocalized in song.  His words had been thought in English, yet they came out his mouth in Hebrew.  His hands rested on each of the two injured men, as his spirit cried out on their behalf.

Nathan felt arms snaking around his back, firmly holding him as Aaron's chin rested on his shoulder.  There, Aaron's own words of prayer whispered into Nathan's ear.  His presence seemed to help Nathan open up further, as he found himself more focused.

As the prayer was finished, Nathan opened his eyes to find Aaron smiling at him.  He leaned forward and kissed Nathan lightly.  "See, beautiful.  I told you that you would eventually figure it out.  Now, you have found your own way."

Nathan grinned, then turned to check the two men again.  Though it seemed like they had been traveling for hours, the van finally came to a halt in front of the emergency room.  Nathan dashed into the hospital, quickly followed by Aaron.  There, he started to explain what was going on.

"W-w-we f-found t-t-two g-g-guys o-on the s-s-s-side of the r-road."  He expelled nervously.

The nurse looked at him scornfully, raising her eyebrow in distaste.  Then, she looked at Aaron.  "Can you get it out any better, kid?"  She said in a rude manner.

Nathan's heart sank, as he wondered if Nurse Proctor were not correct.  Would he ever be able to get his stuttering under control enough to be able to give an oral report?  He seriously doubted it, which caused his heart to break even more.

"Why you BITCH!"  Aaron yelled.

That seemed to gather attention, Nathan noticed, and he flushed with embarrassment.  He felt certain he would get in trouble for this, somehow.  Several others approached as Aaron lashed back out.

"How dare you be so rude!  What the hell is wrong with you, anyway?"  He screamed.

"What seems to be the problem here?"  A deep male voice stated calmly.  Nathan turned to see Garrett Kersey standing there.  He looked worn to a frazzle, but he was a sight to behold none the less.

"We just brought two guys here we found injured on the side of the road.  Nathan was trying to explain what was going on, when this bitch copped an attitude with him."  Aaron explained gruffly.  Nathan noticed the hateful look the nurse shot the two of them, so he expected retribution at some point.

"Nathan, what's going on?"  Dr. Kersey asked gently, placing his hand on Nathan's shoulder.

A whirlwind of hormones welled up within Nathan, and he found it hard to find his voice.  He breathed deeply, closing his eyes and focusing.  Humming to himself, he began to form his thoughts.  "Th-they are o-out in the van.  T-two of them.  One h-has p-p-probable l-lacerations to the th-throat.  The other h-has s-s-severe h-hypothermia.  P-possible h-head or brain t-t-t-trauma."  He slowly stated.

Dr. Kersey rubbed Nathan's shoulder softly.  "Any other injuries for the first?"

"N-not that I n-noticed."  Nathan admitted.

Garrett smiled at him.  "What about the second?"

Nathan shook his head.  "I th-think he was b-beaten."

"Gentlemen."  The doctor stated, and a few orderlies followed Aaron out to the van.  He looked at Nathan, grinning fondly.  "Seems like you have a desire to be in the ER, aye Nathan?"

"N-not r-really."  Nathan chuckled.  He again felt an attraction for Garrett.

"You know Hospice is a fine thing, Nathan, and I wouldn't want to discourage you from following that path.  But, you might find you have talents leading in the other direction.  You know, saving lives can be just as rewarding." He said, patting Nathan on the back.  "Well, let's see what we have."

Nathan walked with Dr. Kersey towards the two men.  Garrett seemed impressed by the makeshift body-boards.   Then, he pointed to  the cat resting on the man's throat questioningly.

"S-s-slowed the b-bleeding."  Nathan stated, finding a smirk on Garrett's face as a response.

"Let's get going team."  He ordered.  Then, Garrett turned to Nathan.  "You did a pretty good job, buddy.  Just sit tight and I'll get your statements later."  He winked.

As Garrett disappeared through the swinging doors, Nathan felt his energy crash.  He looked around and found his three friends seated in the waiting area.  Joining them, Nathan tried his best to relax.  However, he couldn't.  That same sullen feeling that he had felt since sundown was plaguing his mind.  He only prayed everything would turn out OK for the two young men.

I suppose that puts a finish to chapter two.  The next installment should be out shortly.  Again, if you have any comments, suggestions, etc., I would love to hear them.  Please contact me via