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Stolen Innocence

Part One of Doctor’s Training


Beverly L. Anderson

Kenyon Y. Hunt


Smashwords Edition License Notes


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



Dedication

Acknowledgements

Foreword

Preface

Introduction

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue

Notes

Resources – Hotlines

Resources – Education

About the Authors

About the Artist

Dedication

For the Misfits


On the Training of Doctors is dedicated to everyone in the world that defies conventions. It is dedicated to those that take the chance to be themselves in a world that demands compliance to norms. We dedicate this book to everyone in the queer, BDSM Lifestyler/kinkster, geek/nerd, neurodivergent, pagan, autistic, writing, transgender communities, and any other community that dares to defy the “norms”. There is nothing that takes more courage than to stand up and be yourself when those around us demand that we conform.

We refuse to conform. We refuse to comply. We are beautiful and unique. We are never going to go away, and we are going to change the world.


Acknowledgements

For You


We would like to extend acknowledgements to the following people:

  • Our Amazing Kickstarter Backers

  • Our Amazing Goodreads Giveaway Winners

  • Our Amazing Pre-Readers

• Our Amazing Friends and Family


Foreword

Simon Bransby


When I first saw this project on Kickstarter, I was curious.

Who wouldn’t be interested in the tale of a young neurosurgeon getting involved in a gritty, sexy crime story!? As I followed it, and got to know one of the authors, it became something more.

It became personal in a way I never expected. Not simply because of our communication, but because of who these characters are. I can’t tell you the last time I saw anyone like me in fiction, much less the erotic type, that wasn’t used as either a plot point or a cardboard victim for the others to save.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen anyone different or with mental/emotional issues being held up as an automatic villain or a literal excuse to abandon/kill them. Not only is this work a refreshing departure from that legacy of misery and laziness, it does something I’m profoundly happy to see in my lifetime…it presents a funny, sweet, and gripping story through their/our eyes. It treats these things in a compassionate, human way, and all of them flourish because of it.

All of us know someone who is Bi-Polar, Bi-sexual, Asexual, Genderfluid, Trans, Gay, or Autistic, and that’s exactly who is here in this story. Not freaks, not pitiful broken souls in need of “fixing”. Here, as they do in real life, they fight, they fall in love, they break down, they hurt, they heal and start all over again.

This is more than a tale of ropes and leather, this is about finding Family among those who were told it would never happen. It’s about what happens when labels are understood and accepted, not simply talked around and pushed into a corner when it’s not funny anymore.

This is what I know many of us have been looking for, what we’ve desperately needed to see…ourselves, as regular people. And with that, I extend my hope that you will enjoy this story as much as I have. Even if you don’t see yourself, you WILL see Us, and that’s a precious thing.


Simon Bransby is a Sybaritic Press Author.


http://sybpress.com


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Preface

From Beverly


I suppose a preface means that as one of your authors, I should have something to say, right? I’ve given a bit of personal information in the author bio, but really, when you’re about to begin a journey this intense and that spans over three books, you probably want to hear a bit more than an author blurb.

About four years ago, I was busy investigating BDSM and D/s culture for a little fanfiction story I was writing. That story, though very rough around the edges, caught the attention of my co-author, Kenyon. She ended up messaging me to tell me that she thought I’d actually approached the subject well, but as a person involved in the Lifestyle I was writing about, she had some tips for me. Well, readers, that was the beginning of this story, because as we became friends despite the distance between Missouri and California. Then, the idea became, you know, this would make an amazing original story.

Here we are, four years later, one successful Kickstarter, and one book done. What started out as a gritty, violent thriller with an erotic edge became so much more to us. This story has gone from being one book, to the first book of a trilogy, to the current form of a trilogy unto itself.

Here, you will find characters that are bits and pieces of your authors. For me, my four main characters all reflect parts of myself. Kieran is my autistic nature, my scholarly leanings, and my submissive nature. Devan is my bigender and pansexual self, as an idealized version. Devan also has my pagan roots, and all my insecurities. Carmine represents my problems with impulse control and bipolar disorder and all my body image issues. Varick reveals my Dominant and protective nature, as well as my demi-sexual traits.

These characters may seem unnecessarily diverse at first glance, but in the real world, people are far more diverse than portrayed in media. This book and all those that follow are meant to represent that. Kenyon’s characters also contain bits and pieces of her, as I’m sure you’ll see.

So on to the technical bit about the story you’re about to embark upon. This book features a lot of things from the world of BDSM (Bondage and Domination, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism). This is considered a Lifestyle by those in it, but there are plenty people that simply engage in kinky behavior.

Situations presented may mimic real life situations of one or both the authors, and may be based on experiences of others interviewed and worked with by the authors. The world of BDSM is a wide and varied one. There is no one right method, and we hope that in this work we can introduce the reader to the various possibilities. At the end of the novel, you will find a few pages with author recommended reading and a handful of links to some helpful places online.

Many background characters are based on real life individuals. These people have granted permission to the authors to use a character in their likeness. Names and features have been altered for the purpose of anonymity of those involved. The dungeon mentioned is created as an idealized dungeon based on experience of the writers, and features many things that may or may not found in real life dungeons. Many aspects of the dungeon are realistic, and may be found across the world. Please note, a dungeon exactly like Strawberry’s Black does not exist. Dungeons have a variety of rules. Some places do not allow nudity, others do not allow penetration of any kind (even with toys), and others have even stricter restrictions on activities. Private dungeons are a different matter, and should be approached with caution if you are not familiar with the owner.

If you are interested in the BDSM community, contact a local group or use social media to visit verified safe BDSM sites. Do not engage in activities that seem to you to be unsafe. BDSM should never feel like abuse, and it is always completely consensual. Kink culture is varied and expansive, and there are many more things out there than detailed in the one novel you’ve picked up. There are many people in the world that would take advantage of new members of the BDSM community, or those looking to become involved in the BDSM community. More than one submissive has found themselves the victim of abuse because they did not understand the way this community works. The same can be said for fledgling Dominants who are brought in with a manipulative “submissive” who is using them for their own gratification. We use words like slave, pet, and humiliation. We engage in things like ownership contracts, consensual non-consent role play, age play, and other relationship types. This is a very real game we engage in. It is always, always, with the permission and consent of all parties.

You, in the end, are responsible for your own safety and security.



Introduction

From the Authors


Welcome, dear readers, to the first part in the Doctor’s Training Trilogy, which is also the first trilogy in the Chains of Fate Series. This novel is a work of fiction based in and around St. Louis, Missouri. Many of the places are real, but many are not. Please see the Chains of Fate notes at the end of this novel for brief descriptions of the fictional places that are used in our works.

The characters you are about to meet are unique and varied, and we hope that you will enjoy joining them in their lives. Doctor’s Training is a prequel to the future Dawnstar Trilogy, and is an introduction to the main characters that form the basis for the Chains of Fate universe. This book is not erotica, though there are erotic scenes presented.

The situations presented are quite possible, and are something often seen in this lifestyle. We, as the authors, want to make sure that you, as the reader, understands that this is a fictional work about learning alongside our dear doctor and about the various methods of entrance into this world.

This book and other Chains of Fate books attempt to show the good, bad, and sometimes unusual sides of the BDSM community. This novel is an attempt to bring you on the doctor’s journey and recovery through submission. We hope you join him as he moves through rape recovery and learning to deal with his mental health concerns. The storms that Dr. Sung’s navigates are very real events for many people. In the end, he finds comfort and love in bondage, the way so many in our community have.

Before you journey with Kieran, we need to remind you that the following story is a work of fiction, and like any work of fiction, requires some degree of suspension of disbelief. We have strived to make the work both realistic and entertaining. In the real world, there are very real implications of the activities presented in these pages. Characters make choices, and those choices will eventually have consequences later on. Please keep in mind, engaging in casual sexual relations, casual D/s play, and having multiple partners requires a degree of caution and self-protection. Throughout the stories, there will be chances to see consequences of various poor choices made by individuals. Since this book has a high degree of sexual relations, we advise readers to keep safe sex in mind. The characters in this story have histories with each other and understand the risks of engaging in sexual activities with or without condom use. Some agreements take place off screen, before the reader meets the characters, so please keep that in mind. There are also some possible effects related to some of the activities the characters engage in, which they may seem to avoid. Again, this is fiction after all.

Please be aware, this work features graphic and detailed scenes of violence and graphic sexual acts, both consensual and non-consensual. This work also features heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and characters that are at various points on the sexuality spectrum. You will also see many different genders and depictions of various polyamorous situations. There are many intersections with the kink community and other lifestyles that many consider alternative. Several individuals are neurodiverse, including characters with bipolar disorder, autism, and PTSD. Because of the diversity of the individuals presented, there will also be depictions of ableism, ageism, racism, homophobia, transphobia/antagonism, kink/lifestyle shaming, and discrimination based on religion and/or polyamory.

There is a scene in which a character engages in oral sex with another without more than verbally being told his new partner is “clean”. We do not recommend this, but the character has his reasons for being willing to engage in risky activities like this. Another character engages in disturbing fantasies of others, and one character goes through stages of anger that almost turn to abuse. Characters say and do things that they should not do and have to deal with consequences of. These individuals are human, and they go through and learn throughout the stories we write. None of them will be perfect.

Remember, the actions of characters, even protagonists, are not supposed to represent right or correct actions. These actions also do not reflect the moral standpoints of the authors. In the end, these books are about imperfect humans trying to make their way in the world. They will make mistakes, and they will hurt others and be hurt by others.

Thanks, again, for giving this novel a read. It is our hearts and souls on these pages.


Love,

Beverly and Kenyon


Chapter One

The Doctor and the Hospital


Dr. Kieran Sung sat at his desk with a look of frustration across his dark brows. He was in the middle of a confrontation with a frustrated and distraught parent to his new patient. She was causing the comfortable location of his office to become decidedly uncomfortable. He adjusted in the large chair behind his desk, flinching as it made an awful squeaking noise. His nose wrinkled as it made a puff of air from the cushions exuded the smell of leather. The chair was well over three years old, yet it still exuded that new. He tolerated it, even enjoyed the scent in small doses, but the creaking sound the stiff material made was why he rarely sat in this chair. It also had the unfortunate effect of making him look even smaller than he already was, and he seriously considered asking to have the thing replaced with one made of cloth. A second person could easily sit beside him due to his thin, small stature.

The atmosphere of his office had become heavy with his anxiety as she continued to complain. He glanced over toward the two large windows in the corner of the room which looked out onto the busy streets around him. The city of St. Louis was known for having much of the medical community based on North and South New Ballas Road, and McKellar hospital was one of the many hospitals and medical facilities along the northernmost portion. His office sat at the back north east corner of the medium sized private hospital. From here, he could see the main road on the far-left side already busy with lunchtime traffic. Directly outside, he could see the pharmacy across Magna Carta Drive, and the other buildings sitting behind them to the right. If he opened the draperies, of course. Right now, as always, they were closed. He kept the dark brown curtains pulled tight against the sunlight because it caused such a glare. It was not terrible today, as it had turned cloudy after the rain they had the day before. Somehow, it made him feel dreary with the current situation.

He pulled his attention from the dull afternoon light filtering through the heavy drapes and returned it to the woman sitting across from him. His deep blue eyes tried to focus on her, but he was having much more difficulty with his attention today than usual.

“I requested a doctor to do the surgery on my daughter, not a student. Why am I sitting across from a child?”

This woman, with her hard, hazel eyes, and her ash blonde hair tied up in a tight bun on top of her head, was being completely obtuse about the fact Kieran was trying to save her daughter’s life. He noted the wrinkles spreading out around her eyes, colloquially called “crows’ feet,” and thought perhaps this woman stressed a lot over things she should not. He dragged his short fingers across the dark surface of the desk and wondered why she could not seem to understand his young age was not a concern. He understood the woman’s problem with him. He knew his age had initiated this particular confrontation. At twenty-five, Kieran was well aware of the perception others often had. Kieran had never let these situations bother him for too long; once he got past the initial anxiety attack caused by confrontation, he was able to cope with it. At least, he used to be able to cope with them easily.

Lately, Kieran was having a great deal of difficulty moving on from these types of situations. Kieran knew he did not fit well in the world, but he never minded it before. He had always taken care not to care. If people did not like him for who he was, he would move on. In recent months, the little things separating him from the rest of world were growing considerably, and he was beginning to be bothered by this fact. Those like the woman sitting across from him had always been in his life, but he had only recently become more and more irritated by them.

His focus landed on the things on his desk despite the fact he knew this woman was waiting for him to come up with some sort of response. He noted his pen cup was too far to the right, and the cords coming up from the plastic rimmed hole in the wood were disorganized. He gave a slight shake of his head to remove his focus from the disorder on his desk. It was not a large desk, as Kieran did not need a lot of space. It was a plain desk with three two smaller drawers and a file drawer on either side of it. His focus shifted to the fact one of the file drawers was askew.

He turned his attention back to the woman. How could he respond to her displeasure to the fact he was young? It was not like he could change his age, or change the fact he was the only doctor who would even attempt removal of her daughter’s brain tumor. Upon entering the office, she had been antagonistic. She had pushed open the dark wooden door with more force than necessary then glared at Kieran as though he were someone who should not be in his desk. It was early afternoon and he had not even taken out his laptop after returning from an early lunch.

Gritting his teeth, he knew he had to get himself under control. Impulse control, echoed in his mind. Emotional control. Those are your biggest deficits, Kieran. He frowned because he did not need to be hearing his therapist’s voice in his head right now. This week Kieran had been trying to do all the things he was expected to do. He was trying so hard to be normal. Normal is the goal, Kieran. You can do it.

He turned and looked at the patient’s mother again, his hand drumming rhythmically along his right thigh. This self-stimulation was quiet, and only he could hear the slight patting against the smooth cotton of his scrubs. He felt the slight rise where the embossed fabric made a pattern of interlocking diamonds of blue.

Hearing a light knock on the door, he saw his mentor Dr. Thomas McKellar was looking in. He was leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed over his chest and a bemused grin on his face. The old doctor’s dark brown eyes were centered on Kieran as the younger doctor nodded to him. Thomas was in a pristine deep gray suit, as always. He was the current Director of Medical Services for McKellar Hospital as well as Kieran’s long-time therapist and teacher. Thomas had a way with patients; Kieran was never able to copy it appropriately.

Mary Jameson, Kieran’s personal nurse and childhood friend, had told Kieran this one was going to be difficult, and then had gone to summon Thomas. Usually, the fact Mary would assume these things would not bother him in the least. Yet today, the thoughts racing through his mind revolved around why she thought she had to intercede all the time. Even if he could not handle a situation, he wondered why she felt it was her place to make the call and not his.

Kieran knew Thomas would intercede. Kieran would attempt to deal with this woman without his assistance and fail. Several times, Thomas had informed Kieran of the fact he was unable to tell when he needed help. He also informed him how all of this was a part of his deficits in the social areas.

Thomas spoke as he walked into the room toward Kieran’s desk. “Ma’am, you requested Dr. Kieran Sung. Dr. Sung is the world-renowned neurologist and neurosurgeon. He is also the head of our elite Neurosurgery department here at McKellar Hospital.”

He dropped a hand on the back of the slight young doctor’s neck. At the motion, Kieran’s attention shifted on the dark-grained wood of his desk. He took one of his trim nails and began to dig it into the grain of the wood on the edge facing him. The hand on his neck felt good, despite feeling as though he were being reprimanded for not doing a good enough job.

“I requested a doctor.” Mrs. Edison glared at Kieran. “This is a child. He’s barely older than my daughter!”

Thomas squeezed his hand on Kieran’s neck. Kieran could imagine the older doctor’s face turning into the gentle and comforting look he used with patients. It was something Kieran would never master. Kieran knew Thomas had already looked over the files on this patient. Thomas always looked over the files on Kieran’s patients. Well, he always seemed to know everything about the patients like this. He knew all about surgeries.

“Mrs. Edison, correct me if I’m wrong, but you took your daughter to St. Luke’s a month ago. She was having seizures and migraines which led you to the emergency admittance. They showed a stage two tumor. Their neurology department determined it was a stage two cancerous tumor. They had defined it as inoperable. The neurosurgeon referred you to Dr. Kieran Sung.” The voice Thomas used must have soothed patients, but it grated on Kieran’s nerves. It sounded too fake, almost condescending, to his ears. It was not sincere. “I believe you consulted several other private doctors who refused to help. Her file shows four referrals for hospice end of life care. You want to save your daughter’s life, so you brought her here to see Dr. Sung. Dr. Sung has agreed to this surgery based on the scans alone when others refused.”

Mrs. Edison nodded. “Yes. They said to try and operate on the tumor would only shorten her life. Dr. Shyrock from St. Luke’s said Dr. Sung was the only one who would even attempt the surgery.”

“Yes,” Thomas commented. “The reason is because Dr. Sung’s specialty is in micro laser surgery. He uses some innovative techniques to do this. He also has equipment of his own design; no one else had been able to achieve such innovative technology for neurosurgery before. There is a very good reason you were referred here by Dr. Shyrock. She is one of the people who worked with Dr. Sung during his internship days.”

When Mrs. Edison turned to look at Kieran, her eyes were still hard. “How do you expect me to allow a man this young to operate on my only child.”

“I understand your trepidation. Considering the nature of Janet’s tumor, Dr. Sung has already begun the process of setting up this surgery for next week,” Thomas affirmed. “I assure you, you want Dr. Sung to do this surgery.”

Kieran stared at her in annoyance; the young woman was nineteen, so the hospital did not have to work with her mother. He did not have to work with her mother. Janet worked full time and had her own insurance. Yet, here they sat arguing over what to do anyway as if she were twelve years old. If Thomas had not told him it was essential he speak with this woman, he would have simply gone to speak with Janet without having this meeting.

This reminded him why he put off speaking to patients and families until the last possible moment. If he never had to deal with another human being, he could have lived out his life with happiness. Still, being a doctor meant he had to have some interactions with others. He could not avoid patients and their families all the time, though he did a decent job of doing it on a regular basis. This was the hardest parts of his job. He knew other doctors who simply did not care about not being good with patients; he always did care. He had just never been good at it.

Thomas was constantly telling him he had to be more ‘normal’ with his patients. He always needed to be normal. He always needed to act like everyone else and not act weird. He put his head in his hands and began to comb through the black hair at his temples. The hair at his temples always appeared thinner because of this nervous tick.

Kieran was coming close to the end of his control. He could feel the need to put himself in a small space swelling. The room around him was far too big to be comfortable. Thomas spoke up. “Um, Mrs. Edison, might I inquire about if you have researched Dr. Sung?”

She turned her dull green gaze on the taller man who moved to stand behind Kieran. Thomas moved his hands onto Kieran’s shoulders and squeezed. Kieran appreciated the pressure since it helped the tension in his shoulders. His nose crinkled slightly at the smell coming off Thomas. He never told him, but he hated whatever deodorant or after shave he used. It smelled like wet socks.

“Of course,” Mrs. Edison answered with a roll of her eyes. “His credentials seemed impressive. But he is far too young!”

Thomas continued to rub Kieran’s shoulders, and Kieran felt a bit of the tension in ebb from the strong pressure. In any other person, it would be quite painful. Kieran craved deep pressure sensation. It was one of the few things which could curb his anxiety. In fact, the more pressure Thomas applied, the quicker Kieran relaxed. With the reduction of anxiety, his perception of the room as growing in size began to fade.

Thomas smiled sweetly at her. “I assure you, Kieran has more than enough experience in his twenty-five years to deal with this. He is quite frankly the best and only option you have for your daughter. Dr. Sung here is one of the few doctors in the state, country even, who specializes in both neurosurgery and neurology. He is widely published, and has done more innovative work with brain surgery than anyone in the last fifteen years.”

Giving Kieran a harsh glare, she nearly snarled. “Even if this is the doctor I was looking for, how in the world am I supposed to allow a child barely older than my daughter to open up her brain?”

Kieran let out a breath with a small degree of satisfaction. He supposed it was a step in the right direction, even if the entire statement was not logical at all; age did not play into ability. In fact, Kieran knew surgeons in their fifties still unable to suture a wound closed properly. Lack of logic always annoyed him to no end. Despite his youth, he had far more quality of experience than doctors twice his age. He covered his face with his hands and then looked up at the woman in front of him. Thomas was massaging his shoulders still and he felt like he could run the script now.

“I graduated the medical doctor program in four years, a full year sooner than they generally allow. I then took a residency at Washington University. I dual specialized in neurology and neurosurgery. No one had ever succeeded in this before at Washington University, or any major medical program. During residency, I completed a master’s of science in biostatistics. I then completed a master's in clinical investigation. The year after my residency, I finished with a Ph.D. in neuroscience. My research and dissertation centered on using the same micro-laser surgery I will use on your daughter. I also finished the Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy program. I took the head of neurosurgery position here at the age of twenty-three,” he stated, eyes focused on the bridge of the woman’s nose. Always the bridge of the person’s nose. Years of therapy taught him to “look people in the eye” had only taught him to stare at the bridge of someone’s nose would make people think he was looking in their eyes.

“I am your daughter’s greatest chance of survival. I specialize in impossible operations. Almost exclusively, my patients are those other neurosurgeons will not touch. I have yet to lose a patient due to my inability to perform a procedure. The chances of success, I deem, are about 10 percent when performed by any other doctor. I estimate a 75 percent likelihood of success. I have done some much more difficult surgeries in my time here. I succeeded. The surgery will take approximately fourteen hours, assuming no complications. As far as my experience, while I do not have the age you expected, I do have the training and experience suitable to this work.”

He paused and closed his eyes, finishing the script in almost one breath. “I cannot put a bookshelf together to save my own life, but I can cut into a person’s brain with almost a .08 percent miscalculation risk on my part. I understand I appear to be incapable of what I am quite capable of doing. I have given you everything you need to know and more.”

He took a deep breath because he was running off the predefined script. He swallowed hard against the anxiety welling in the back of his throat. He hated being off script but the woman stared at him with a blank look. The surge of anxiety made Kieran uncomfortable now as his practiced speech had completed. Once more, his perception of the room began to alter. He needed to find a small space and get rid of this feeling.

“If we have things settled, I have rounds. I also must see your daughter. Thank you,” he finished, standing and walking out the door.

Kieran just barely registered the smirk on Thomas’s face and the shocked and disbelieving face of the woman he left. He did not care what either of them thought now. He was quiet as he ducked into one of his hiding places to collect himself. This spot was one of the smaller linen closets. He breathed in and out a few more times, using the anxiety coping skills he had been using since he was a child. Breathe in, count to five, breathe out. Repeat. The breathing and the close confines of the linen closet helped. He’d rather be wrapped up in his weighted blanket at home, but his blanket was not something he had here.

This happened too often for his liking. Rarely did anyone believe someone with his youth could handle this job. He was not a child. He had finally relented to Thomas’s pleading and let him have a writer do a biography. It had taken time to compile all the data. Since then Thomas had been begging him to start making public appearances. Thomas seemed to think if he appeared in public, people would be less likely to question him. If people stopped questioning, then Kieran would not have as much anxiety around families and patients. Kieran seriously doubted his anxiety would lessen, but he would humor Thomas. Aside from his best friends Artemis and Mary, and his father, Thomas meant more to him than anyone else in the world. He would do the things he hated for him.

Even so, he was needing someone like Artemis to soothe him. Artemis did not tell him what to do and he let him be himself.

Right now, he was wishing Thomas had not sent Artemis to another floor to help prep a patient for Dr. Santos. It annoyed him; even as the head nurse on the neurology floor, Artemis ended up having to go do things like this. Thomas had insisted Artemis handle the situation, something about the patient being in a delicate condition and needing the best nurse they had on the floor. Kieran let out a sigh. He supposed Artemis was the best nurse on the floor. It seemed to him there were often instances where the best nurse on the neurology floor had to go somewhere else.

A last deep breath and Kieran opened the door. He stepped back into the empty hallway. Thomas had made sure Kieran’s office was set somewhat apart from the busier parts of the floor. The subtle shade of blue the walls were painted here always calmed him. Before he headed to Janet Edison’s room, he had to go down to radiology and grab her file. At least there would be no one there since it was lunch time; he did not even want to deal with the radiology staff right now. He kept his head down and watched his feet on the slightly pinkish tan colored carpeting leading to the elevator. He entered it, and was happy to ride it uneventfully down to the basement.

Kieran stepped off the empty elevator and walked up to the door to the radiology records room. This hallway always sounded so empty and echoed. The blank white walls were featureless for the most part except for a couple doors. He walked down halfway to one of the featureless doors with a punch code lock on it. The only feature revealing this was the radiology records department was the small plaque beside the door. Of course, because of restrictions on patient file access, not just anyone had access to these rooms. Only doctors and the head nurse of each floor could open the records’ offices throughout the hospital. He grabbed the file waiting for him. The record’s receptionist was on lunch at this hour, so he had asked her to leave it there for him. He paused, getting ready to head back down the hall toward the elevator again.

He went back over his script for his qualifications once more in his mind. He hated having to tell people the same information. If he wanted to have access to his singular obsession, he had to make his qualifications apparent. Of course, the list of his degrees was only one of the idiosyncrasies that made him stand out. His interpersonal relationships were rather rudimentary. As a child, he had struggled to even make friendships with other students his age. Truthfully, he never tried. He found others his own age dull, boring even. Such small-minded thinking, and they seemed to be unable to keep up with him when he did choose to speak to them. Instead, he found the medical journals far more interesting. He found people’s bodies and biology fascinating, especially their brains. He had no real interest in relationships with those inside the bodies he studied. Each surgery was a challenge and a new opportunity to hone his exacting skills.

Lost in thought, Kieran almost did not notice the family was heading down the hallway toward him. He froze for a second and stepped to the side to look over the films. He tried to act like he was ignoring them completely. Kieran just wanted them to hurry past him. He concentrated hard on looking at the films. But honestly his attention was fully focused on the group passing him. He heard every word even though they spoke quietly. They were talking about their cousin having a mammogram later today. Sometimes, there simply was too much noise and information for him, especially since he took it all in even when it was unnecessary.

Kieran moved on and took a series of long breaths as he headed the rest of the way to the elevator. At least they were not going there. His anxiety made it impossible for him to deal with so many people. They would get close to him and touch him, and people touching him irritated him to no end. As usual, his mind wandered to his problems when he had issues with a patient. It had been nice Thomas had given him a shoulder rub. When he was the most stressed, he craved pressure sensations and proprioceptive input. The brief shoulder pressure had been a good short-term fix, but he wanted more than just a brief shoulder rub. He really needed to see about finding out if there were compression vests slim enough to would work under his scrubs without being obvious. He chewed his lip. Thomas would say normal people did not need to use things like compression vests. He would worry on it later, he guessed as he stepped into the elevator.

As he entered, he stumbled a bit. Steadying himself on the wall, he cursed under his breath in Korean as he pushed the button for the seventh floor. He realized the light for the ground floor was lit. He had hoped to make it to the seventh before dealing with people, but it seemed someone was getting on the elevator soon. He stood to the side of the door as it stopped and opened at the ground floor. He had one last hope: maybe no one would get on.

His luck seemed to be nothing if not consistent because someone was getting on. He looked up and hid a grimace. She was a slender and buxom woman, mid-twenties it appeared, with platinum blonde hair in a bun. He noted she had a set of clear blue eyes accented with neutral makeup. She smiled down at him slightly. Most irritatingly, she stood quite a bit taller than him with her heels. Of course, at five foot three, most people were taller than Kieran. He smiled back, then immediately realized she had not pushed another button. The lack of another button meant she was getting off at the seventh floor and he was going to be in the elevator with her until then.

“Hey!” She smiled at him with far too many teeth for his liking.

“H-hey,” Kieran responded, glancing at her. His face turned pink immediately before he could think about anything else to say.

Unfortunately, when he blushed at speaking with women they assumed it meant attraction. It did not mean any sort of interest at all. He just hated interpersonal relations that had nothing to do with his job. Granted, he hated interpersonal relations that did have to do with his job. He always lacked the correct script for a situation dealing with others in social situations. Operating on brains was so much easier. His continual state of embarrassment tended to encourage those trying to make sexual advances. They seemed to perceive his discomfort as some sort of inane mating ritual. He didn’t know how to stop this sort of thing from happening, but it was quite frustrating.

“Are you a doctor here?” she continued and tilted her head toward him. He did wear his usual white coat over his scrubs, but he refrained from making the comment he was obviously a doctor.

The woman kept trying to make eye contact. Not only did he found it uncomfortable but her mere presence seems to exude some sort of…something. He felt almost compelled to answer when she spoke. It was strange. He supposed most would consider her attractive. He made note of her dress, though. She wore a short black skirt with a black blazer over a lowcut red camisole revealing her ample cleavage. Again, his brain insisted on taking in all the information possible, even when it was not needed.

“Um, yes,” he answered, turning once again to stare at the numbers above the elevator door. Why did they move so slow? When was this elevator going to get to the floor he wanted?

“Oh, you’re so young, are you an intern? Or resident is what they call it?” She moved a bit closer, making Kieran back away into the side of the elevator. She was not intending to try and crowd him, he knew. He was already on the other side of the elevator and people tended to get closer to individuals they were speaking with. Now he was pressed against the mirrored side.

“N-no,” he stammered while glancing up at her, then back up to the lit numbers of the elevator. One more floor. One more floor.

“Oh, really? What do you do?” She peered down her nose at him with that smile again. She was inside his comfort zone and he felt boxed in.

“I-I am Head of neurosurgery, but I must see to a patient waiting, nice talking to you.” He gasped, almost tripping since he could not get out of the elevator fast enough.

After he was out, he checked behind him to see the woman walking in the same direction. She appeared to be searching for a room. He shook the encounter off and wound his way around the seventh floor until he saw the room he was looking for, 756, and knocked gently before opening it. In the bed sat a pretty girl with long dark auburn hair, and wide grayish green eyes.

The room she was in was not much different than the average hospital room. There was not a lot of equipment out since she was only admitted for evaluation for surgery. The bed dominated the center of the room, and there were two windows to the left of the bed. The windows had a seat under them that turned down into a sleeping surface for any family members if they should stay with a patient. The only other furnishing in the room was the TV along the east wall and a recliner next to the plain hospital bed. The bathroom sat behind and to the right of the bed. All the neurosurgery rooms were single occupant rooms, which was one thing Kieran was grateful for.

He gave her his best “nice doctor” smile he practiced so much in front of the mirror. He picked up her chart from the end of the bed, and flipped through it even though he already knew every detail in it. It seemed to comfort patients to have the doctor skimming over their charts in front of them.

“Um, hello, who are you?” she asked timidly, glancing around the otherwise empty room.

His distracted state had led him to mess up the script already. He was supposed to begin the script as soon as he came in before he picked up the chart. This was one of the main reasons he did not like to meet with patients’ family members independent of the patient. It threw off his routine and the scripts he used when dealing with patients.

“I am Dr. Sung. Assuming you sign for the surgery, I will be taking the tumor out of your brain first thing on Monday morning.” He smiled again, trying to get onto the script as quickly as he could. “Then I am afraid you shall be stuck here for a couple weeks with our hospital food. For that I must apologize in advance.”

He felt the strain on his facial muscles from holding the fake smile. Granted, it worked, because the anxious look on Janet’s face faded a bit. She gazed at him with a nod. He thanked all the psychology texts he had read over the years for his ability to manipulate his actions in front of his patients. Happy patients asked fewer questions and caused him less stress, after all. He placed the new films on the counter to examine for the patient’s benefit. He did not really need to look at them again; he had them memorized already.

Just as he was about to continue, he heard speaking behind him as the door opened. He glanced behind him to see Janet’s mother and he blonde woman from the elevator coming into the room. She must have stopped in the main waiting room to meet with Mrs. Edison. Great, more people made his anxiety spike higher. It was hard enough dealing with his patients, but family and friends such were a nightmare.

“Dr. Sung, you beat me here.” The older woman looked anywhere but his face. It appeared Thomas had taken a bit to give her a talk. “Dr. McKellar said you’d come to speak to Janet once you’d picked up her films from radiology.”

“Hum, yes, I was just telling your daughter I would be performing the surgery Monday morning if she agrees to it.” He nodded at them, focusing his eyes on their noses to avoid their piercing gazes.

The blonde-haired woman was openly gaping at him. “You…you were serious? You’re like twenty!”

Kieran arched a brow, turning back to the chart in his hands. “I turned twenty-five this year. But my age does not change the fact I need a decision on the surgery today so I can confirm the staff for Monday morning. I also need to set up pre-surgery tests and preparation. I have already put the staff on alert for the surgery as of last week, when Janet came in. Janet’s surgery would take top priority as one step down from emergency. The mass is large enough to start interfering with her bodily functions, and if it is not removed soon, her estimated time to live is around six to ten months, depending on results of chemotherapy. My experience with this type of tumor is it does not respond well, and chemo is not a fun experience to go through, especially when the results are debatable.”

He received blinking eyes from all those in the room as a response. “You are cold,” the busty blonde-haired woman hissed. “Do you not have any bedside manner?”

“Clair!” Janet chided, slapping the blonde woman on the arm. “Enough. He’s just giving me the information. Don’t treat me like I don’t know I’m dying, Clair. I’m well aware of the fact. I would much rather hear it straight out rather than someone trying to sugar-coat it.”

Clair started to say something then nodded. “I’m sorry, Janet, I just worry about you, you’re like the kid sister I never had. I don’t like to think about the fact you’re so close to leaving me.”

Frowning, Kieran ran through what he had said. Smile at the patient, check. Joke with the patient about bad hospital food post-surgery, check. Explain place of priority of surgery compared to others, check… He paused. That was when she had interrupted. And he could not be sure he had done it properly. Had he done the risk and benefit part wrong again? Explaining the risks of the surgery and the potential benefits was the hardest for him. He tended to get technical and provide more information than the patient wanted from him. Why a patient would not want the most complete information, he did not understand. They always wanted good news and never the truth. He had found the less information they had, the better things went. All those things were in the social area of dealing with patients, of course. It made no sense whatsoever to him. No logic at all.

Kieran arched a brow for a moment before scowling. Without another word, he quickly stepped into the hallway. He flagged down a nurse from the nurses’ station nearby. A short woman headed over toward him.

Mary Jameson had grown up next door to Kieran’s family in Chesterfield. She sighed, running a hand through her short, brown hair. Kieran shrugged, staring at her blue paisley scrub top intently. He was avoiding her hazel eyes. She put her hands on her hips for a second and sighed again. Mary was much shorter than the blonde woman from the elevator. She was perhaps five feet in height, and rather plump about the middle.

“Need some intervention with them?” she asked and put a hand on his shoulder. Of course, Kieran noticed the extra pressure she exerted. It did not make any impact on him. He liked pressure sensations, after all.

“Perhaps,” he responded, looking up a bit and smiling at her.

Nodding, Mary went back into the room with him. She snatched the chart out of his hands, startling him before she smiled at the three women in the room. Kieran stepped back to stand back against the glass door. He stared at the ground with his arms crossed over his chest. He hated the fact he had to be in the room for this because he knew Mary would say annoying things. He grabbed the tablet from his pocket and started a new game of Angry Birds on silent.

“So, we have Miss Janet Edison? How are you today? I see you met Dr. Sung, and he said he was perhaps…ah, well, his normal self. I’m here to clarify and answer any questions. My name is Mary Jameson, so I’ll take any questions about the procedure. I’ll be assisting the doctor during the surgery. I’ll also be the liaison to the family during the procedure.” She glanced back and saw Kieran busy on the tablet and the turned back to the family. Kieran was watching her even if she did not realize it. “I’ll apologize for Dr. Sung’s…ah manner. He tends to be somewhat abrasive with patients.”

Kieran cut his eyes up and felt a pang of annoyance. She always “apologized” for him. Not only did she make some sort of apology, she always did it in such a way she seemed to think he was not paying attention. He did not appreciate some of the things she said when she felt certain his attention was diverted. He was fully capable of listening to her and playing a game on the tablet. Why could she not be more like Artemis and accept him as he was? She generally aligned with Thomas and his beliefs about what was best for him. Artemis, on the other hand, was fine with Kieran’s thoughts on things no matter what they were. Perhaps he should rethink how he felt about the people in his life.

“I told him he didn’t have much of a bedside manner.” Clair stared at her friend in the bed. “He doesn’t seem to care much for the impact of his words on someone who is facing…facing what she is.”

Mary ran a hand over her short brown hair. “Ah, I know, I know, but you know what they say about the best doctors, they tend to be terrible at the bedside. His is rather clinical.”

“Is he really the best?” Janet spoke with a tone just over a whisper. “I mean, he’s going to do surgery on my brain, so…”

Kieran smirked at the tablet. No matter what else came out of this debacle, the choice about the surgery had already been made. Janet would sign the paperwork, and then Monday would see the long and strenuous surgery. He felt the surging sensation of excitement in his stomach at the prospect of the challenging surgery. This was what made all the frustrating parts of the job worth it. Monday, he would go into the surgery theater and open her skull. He would see the tumor that was teasing him from the films with the seemingly inoperable problem it presented. He would solve the problem.

“Ah, he’s a genius at surgery, there is little doubt,” Mary answered. “I would ask you ignore his terrible bedside manner. Please understand, he is definitely not good with people.” Mary handed Janet the clipboard with the paperwork on it. She lowered her voice a bit, “He’s just…socially awkward, you see. He doesn’t do well with people anytime.”

Kieran felt somewhat betrayed by Mary now. The comment was outside the realm of his bedside manner with patients. She had been more and more aggressive with telling him what he should do, as though he could not make the choices for himself. He ground his teeth and shifted his weight to his other hip. He wanted this over. He needed to talk to someone else besides Mary before he had another

episode with the tics.

Janet took the clipboard and looked over the paperwork. She scribbled a few times on the pages and then handed it back. Kieran knew the sound by heart. She had signed the paperwork for the surgery. He swallowed a thick lump in his throat, hoping Mary deemed his presence finished soon. He wanted to get out of the room and see if he could find Artemis. He needed to be with someone who was not judging him for a little bit. Mary’s words left him with a feeling of deep irritation and he had to get away from her.

“Alright, Dr. Sung,” she said as she looked over the paperwork. She looked at Kieran. “Everything here seems to be in order.” Kieran snapped the tablet case closed and stood up straight. He glanced at Mary.

“I shall see you Monday morning.” Kieran gave Janet and her visitors a curt nod. He then quickly escaped out the door.

He heard Mary continuing to speak behind him but he had to get out of the room immediately. His eye had already started twitching just standing there and listening. Completely unaware of where he was he nearly ran into someone in a set of scrubs. He stopped, apologized without thinking and cursed his constant motor issues. If Mary had been around, she would have chided him for being clumsy, as though he had control over it. He had to get to Artemis right away or he was going to say something to Mary he would have to apologize for later. It did not strike him as odd to fear such a thing, though Artemis told him again and again he should never feel bad for being himself. He really hoped Artemis was back from the Long-Term Care floor, because he needed to talk to him.

* * * * *

As Artemis Seath made his way through the Long-Term Care ward to the patient’s room, no one bothered to approach him. He was an unassuming looking person who wasn’t quite five and half feet tall, typically easily looked over. He was not in the best mood as he navigated the hallways with practiced ease. He found the room he was looking for, and tucked his dark brown hair behind his ear. His hair tended to fall into his face on the right side but he preferred it in his face most the time, but with patients like Ms. Dankin, he pushed it back. He pushed open the door and went into the dimly lit room.

The elderly woman turned and gave him a wide toothless grin. Artemis had visited her yesterday after she had finished the testing on seventh. They had found a “berry” aneurysm causing some troublesome symptoms for the septuagenarian. It was a common type of aneurism, and Dr. Santos had been confident he could successfully clip it without much trouble.

“Ms. Dankin, how are you today, beautiful?” he asked with a broad smile. His bright greenish blue eyes took in her vitals with a practiced glance. He saw she was doing relatively well today.

“Oh, sweetie,” she nodded. “I’m feeling better, I think. I slept last night! Am I moving to the seventh floor today?”

“I think we might be able to bring you upstairs and figure out what to do about the little blood vessel in your noggin who is misbehavin’.” He looked over her chart. He knew all about her case at Thomas’s request. Dr. Santos should have come down himself, or his primary nurse. Instead, Thomas had sent Artemis, saying something about wanting his best nurse on Ms. Dankin’s case. Artemis was sure the real reason had more to do with keeping him off the seventh floor as much as possible.

“Is this doctor good? Dr. Santos?” she asked as her face turned a bit concerned. “I know all you here at this hospital are good, but…”

“Dr. Santos specializes in vascular neurosurgery, so he is very good at what he does,” Artemis told her as he checked to make sure everything was ready for the transfer. “All seems in order, lovely. The orderlies will be down in about an hour to move up upstairs. They’ll bring Dr. Santos’s regular nurse with you, her name’s Deana. She’s a lovely lady, and she’ll get you situated in a nice room upstairs. I’ll come by and check in to make sure everything’s going well and just to say hi.” Artemis smiled at her again as he put the chart back down.

Artemis moved up to the head of the bed and checked over the IV. Anna Dankin had a hip replacement several days ago. Unfortunately, she had developed a series of worrisome symptoms so close to surgery. Headaches, dizziness, and occasional blind spots had started occurring, leading them to have her sent for MRI. Luckily, they’d found the aneurysm and it was a very good candidate for clipping, or a surgery where the little bubble on the artery was simply clipped off, and the artery repaired. She was good health for her age, and was only staying on Long Term Care long enough to go through physical therapy.

“Aren’t you the head nurse up there?” she asked as he patted her shoulder after making sure all the lines were still in place.

“Everyone was a bit busy today, so I thought I’d come down and see to this myself,” he commented, not wanting to tell her it hadn’t been his idea to do this today. It was true he hadn’t been otherwise occupied, at least. “I don’t mind because I get to talk to lovely people like you.” As he spoke, he squeezed her shoulder.

“Oh, honey, if you don’t mind me asking, how in the world did you get such a scar on your face? It looks like an old one too!” She seemed to focus on the scar running down his face.

Artemis put his hand against the scar without thinking, feeling the ridge running from the corner of his eye down to his chin. He smiled, though, because he didn’t mind so much when people like this asked him about it.


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