Gentle Tale

Sneezefreak & Cath UK

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Nadia Levon was walking briskly down one of St-Helen’s Hospital’s pristine white corridors, carrying a clipboard in one of her slender hands and a stethoscope in the other. Many of her colleagues liked to walk around with the latter object stuck in their ears even between patients – anything to drown out the combined drone of wailing of young children, gossipy laughter of nurses and spastic coughing of waiting patients – but for some reason, the instrument always annoyed Nadia. Perhaps it made her feel like too much of a doctor and not enough like a person. She glanced at her watch and rolled her eyes, pushing back a lock of blond hair that had come loose from her tight ponytail.

“God I’m falling behind!” she thought, her tongue flicking against her palate, producing an impatient and almost inaudible clucking sound.

Things had been crazy all day, patients popping into the emergency room and squeezing in between her regular appointments. The last had been especially tedious; an obese woman in her mid-forties had been convinced she was ‘coming down with cancer again’ even though Nadia had reassured her time and time again that she was perfectly healthy. The real problem lay either with her uncaring husband, the job she hated and was desperate to get away from or her hyperactive children, but though Nadia had been at pains to suggest that perhaps counselling would be a better outlet for her pent up feelings and rage than cancer development, the woman refused to hear it. She was consistently amazed at how many people sublimated their problems into fictitious illnesses.

On her way to the nurses’ desk to pick up the file for her next appointment, Nadia spotted a stout figure waddling towards her with a manila folder clutched its portly hands.

“Your patient is ready in room five, Dr. Levon,” the chubby nurse smiled as she approached Nadia in the hallway, clipboard and stethoscope in hand.

“Thanks, Sherry,” Nadia replied as she exchanged the clipboard for the folder Sherry handed her.

“Really cute little girl, too!” Sherry exclaimed with the cheerful, motherly enthusiasm that always shone through whenever a young child made it’s way to the clinic. “Shy as all get out, though. She wouldn’t even let me touch her to take her temperature... Poor thing just kept on clinging to her dad. Maybe you'll have better luck. I’m surprised she was scared of me, though. You should see her daddy!” Sherry shook her head, the picture of a disappointed mother figure, and her eyes flicked towards the ceiling.

Nadia arched one beautifully defined blond eyebrow as she narrowed her ice blue eyes, quickly thumbed through the chart. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, you’ll see,” Sherry extended an accomplice’s hand to brush Nadia’s arm, a gesture that screamed intimacy even though Nadia had to steel herself not to withdraw from her touch. “He’s one of those weird rocker types... you know, all tattooed everywhere and got plenty of earrings. Got one in his nose too, if you can believe that. I’m sure that’s completely unhygienic, and it sure as heck sets a bad example for the kid. Doesn’t look like any daddy I’ve ever seen,” Sherry pushed her thick spectacles back up on her pug nose with one chubby finger before adding: “those types don’t usually even acknowledge their kids, much less take them to the doctor! We all know what those boys are like, we do, hmmm?”

Those boys?” Sherry repeated before she could stop herself.

Nadia bit her tongue and, though she felt heat rising to her cheeks, did an excellent imitation of someone who wasn’t fussed about hearing such statements. Though she usually got on well with Sherry, it had been a long day and she’d already had her fill of whiny, close-minded individuals. Nadia just barely managed to resist the urge to tell the nurse that counselling – or even developing a non existent cancer - might be a better way to deal with her insecurities than voicing such utterly dim-witted, stereotypically judgmental opinions.

At times like these, she longed for San Francisco, the city in which she’d been brought up. Living in a small town seemed to not only cramp one’s style, but seemed to dull the mind as well. She had dated a few of “those boys” before she moved here, and they had time and time again proven that appearances were deceiving. Whereas her friends had sometimes gone out with lawyers, engineers and even doctors, Nadia had found that her boyfriends, “those boys” were more often than not far more gentle and considerate, not to mention interesting. Their open mind, creativity, genuineness and sense of humour made up for what they so often unfortunately lacked in terms of money.

“Thank you, Sherry,” Nadia said in her most professional and detached tone, emphasizing it in such way as to indicate that this conversation had reached its end.

Oblivious, Sherry acknowledged this dismissal with a cheerful smile, insensible to the fact that her standing had been tarnished in Dr. Levon’s eyes because of her glibly judgmental comments.

With a sigh, Nadia glanced at the name on the chart once more before reaching for the doorknob. “Talia Sahren”. That sounded normal enough... even a little on the sophisticated side, she reckoned. Nadia turned the knob, pushed the heavy door and walked into the little examination room.

Her first glance at the people waiting in the impersonally white, ostensibly sterile room confirmed that Sherry had been right about one thing: the man holding the child certainly wasn’t a local. He was standing near the examination table, cradling a small child, presumably his daughter, against his chest. The man was crooning in a low, soft voice to the child as he stroked her dark mess of waves with one hand, the arm of which was covered completely in an array of brilliant designs. Nadia recognized some of these as Celtic in origin, but others were too detailed to make out from a distance. She couldn’t make out much else about him, since his face was tilted down as he spoke in calming tones to his daughter, a rosy, bright looking little creature that was clinging tenaciously to the snug black tank top hugging her father’s well-defined pectorals. Nadia smiled broadly. She couldn’t quite help herself; the man immediately caught her fancy.

She was lost in her observation of him when all of a sudden, she saw him lean away from his daughter and do his best to hold back a sneeze with both his hands busy. Nadia watched him inhale sharply, a torturous sneezy expression creeping over his face as he leaned back slightly, chest inflating. With the number of patients she saw day in and day out, she’d come to know this unmistakable expression only too well. The sneeze seemed to inflate like a balloon, spreading from his nose down to his chest as he gulped in air desperately before jerking sharply to the side, features contorting definitively:

“Huh... Huh-hhh... Huh-chissssh!... Chisshoo!... Uh...”

He paused, as if uncertain whether more would follow, but the tickle had apparently disappeared. He tossed his head, looking slightly dazed, and then noticed Nadia standing near him.

“Hello there, and bless you,” Nadia greeted them, replacing what had bordered on a leer with a friendly smile.

The man certainly had a delicious sneeze. Funny how even after a few years working in the medical profession, for some reason, she never tired of hearing those.

“Oh, hey,” the man said, looking up at her at last, returning her smile as he rubbed his nose delicately with a hand he had managed to disentangle from his daughter.

Nadia was slightly taken aback by his unusual, yet nonetheless handsome features. His coarse ebon hair was styled into a thick mass of layers, the back of which reached his shoulders while the front framed the sharply angular lines of his face, highlighting almost pitch black eyes which would probably be intense enough to set things on fire. Before she could stop herself, she wondered what he would look like in bed, when the situation was truly intense; those eyes alone would definitely be enough to put fire in her blood. She wondered how much the man’s superb sneezes had to do with her sudden upsurge in desire; for some reason, a sexy sneeze always made her heart beat faster and her cheeks acquire the distinct beginnings of a bedroom flush. And this man... Oh, he had a sexy sneeze if she’d ever heard one.

Nadia swallowed hard, chastising herself for having such naughty thoughts in a medical clinic. Could there be a more inappropriate setting?

“You’re the one sneezing, but I’m sure your name isn’t Talia,” she began, her eyes flicking down towards the nervous looking little girl the man held in his strong arms. “So this must be our patient,” Nadia continued pleasantly, her tone dripping with sweetness and professionalism as she set down the folder on the examination table. “What seems to be going on with her?”

“Well,” the man began, trying to unhook the child’s hands from his shirt, “she’s had this really bad cough for a few days now and last night I think she might have been running a little fever, maybe... I don’t know for sure though. Sounds like she’s got a cold or something.”

God he was gorgeous; the concern that flicked over his face as he described his daughter’s symptoms made something inside Nadia give a dangerous lurch - and it wasn’t her stomach. His plum dark eyes were looking concerned now, and though she knew it was for his daughter, at that moment, she wondered what it would feel like to have this attractive man feel this type of concern for her. She breathed deeply and turned her gaze towards his daughter. This was totally unlike her, and she knew she had better try and keep a tight rein on her thoughts if she wanted to actually be of any help to him.

“Think you can get her to let go of you long enough for me to take a look?” Nadia said almost teasingly.

His daughter clutched at his chain link necklace, pulling incessantly on the thick metal links as he continually pried her small fingers away so that he could set her down.

“Talia, let go of daddy,” he coaxed gently. Turning to Nadia, he cast her a helpless look before breaking into a smile. "I can’t get her to let go of me!”

It was Nadia’s turn to smile wide. If she were in Talia’s position, she wouldn’t let go either! She would have loved to be the one sitting in his lap, gazing into his coal dark eyes with her bright blue ones, clasping his firm torso against her own while her slender arms ran up and down his body, exploring each and every muscle that lay beneath that flattering tank top. She’d press in even closer, her eyes softly shutting as her lips parted and...

“Oh, that’s okay. You can hold her if she’s scared, Mr. Sahren,” Nadia told him, getting a grip on herself. “Let me ask you a few questions first and that might give her time calm down.” And me too, she thought wryly.

“Call me Chris. That Mr. Sahren business makes me feel old,” the man replied with an easy laugh.

Nadia eyed him with an amused smile as Talia grabbed his necklace and jerked it, nearly choking him. She really was an attractive child; though she was very young, she already had her father’s intense eyes. The rest of her seemed a lot softer though; it could be her youth, or it could just be her mother’s legacy.

“So, Chris,” Nadia paused, savouring the name and gripping her pen tightly. “That’s a gorgeous little girl you’ve got there. How old is she?”

“She’s... Aaaaahh!” Chris winced as his daughter lost interest in the necklace and reached for one of the hoops in his ears. “No!” he said sharply to her, swatting her hand away gently.

Talia giggled, blissfully ignoring his command, her small fingers outstretched again towards Chris’s ear. He ducked her advance on his jewellery and she seized a fistful of his thick hair instead.

“She’s eighteen months,” Chris finally managed to say as she gave his hair a good yank.

“Ouch!” he yelped, grabbing her tiny wrist and shaking it a little to loosen her hold.

With this yelp of pain, Nadia noticed something shimmering in his mouth; a small metallic stud. She quite liked piercings, but putting metal through one’s tongue had always seemed painful to her. Nonetheless, on him, she found it appealingly exotic.

“Talia, Daddy said no!” he said a little more forcefully this time, catching her gaze. “No,” he repeated sternly, in a low, serious voice.

Talia seemed momentarily convinced of his seriousness - with those eyes, who wouldn’t be? - and let go of his hair long enough for him to finish talking to Nadia. The latter waited patiently for the child to calm down, even as she continued looking at her striking father. She knew she had other patients to see, but for some reason Nadia had no urge to hurry this appointment up in the least. The women coming down with psychosomatic cancer epidemics could wait.

“I’m so sorry doctor, she’s just fascinated with me and my jewellery today for some reason,” he said with a light laugh. His tone was positively bursting with love for his lively, inquisitive daughter.

“Not a problem,” Nadia assured him, smiling. Though it was on the tip of her tongue to say, “She’s not the only one!” what came out instead was,

“So, how long would you say she’s been having these symptoms?”

Chris opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out. He suddenly got a faraway look of intense concentration, which Nadia immediately recognized as another fast approaching sneeze. She observed avidly as his jet-black brows met and his nostrils began flaring. Chris’s beautiful, lush upper lip curled oh-so-slowly as the tickle tortured him, seeming to wind it’s way from one nostril to the other, leaving him sitting there helpless as he waited for it to force it’s way out. It didn’t stay in for long.

“Hah-cheaaaah! Oh... Huh... Sorry, I just... huh... Huh-uh...Huh-CHIshooo!... Issshoo!”

They were strong, explosive sneezes that echoed in the small space, sounding unnaturally loud. Nadia practically jumped in her seat with each one, her eyes positively alight with excitement. He was so sexy, especially when he sneezed, that had he not been with his daughter, she just might have considered laying him down on the examination table and ravishing him there and then. She longed to go up to him, sit down on his lap and hold him tight as he sneezed, feeling the powerful explosions rock his body and hers, perhaps a light bit of spray landing on her cheek as her hand slowly strayed down to...

Doing her best to keep her voice neutral, she blessed him with a small smile. Chris cast Nadia a sheepish look when she did it, as if slightly embarrassed by this sudden outburst that had gotten the better of him.

Trying to regain his composure, Chris shrugged and answered her question."About two days, I guess. Started at her mom’s house the other day, but I didn’t think much of it because Cathy smokes around her.” He shook his head as if disgusted.

“And you don’t smoke around her, then?” Nadia asked.

“I don’t smoke around anybody because I don’t smoke,” Chris replied, smiling at her.

He had a nice, warm smile, she noted, the kind that made his eyes crinkle at the corners. They lost some of their power when that happened, serious intensity melting away to be replaced by vivacious warmth. She couldn’t help once again wondering what he was like between the sheets. Would he be all business, making love with a furious intensity that would drive her to the brink of insanity as he pleasured her, strong and solemn, those dark eyes boring into her and driving her wild as he frantically thrust in and out with increasing speed? Or rather, would he be a light, teasing, gentle lover who took his time, making her laugh along with him as they stayed in the bed for hours on end, their lovemaking sweet and fun and slow... Or perhaps, a combination of both?

“Good to hear,” she said, swallowing dryly and making a few notes on the chart beside her. Was it her imagination or was her writing beginning to look a little bit wobbly? “Well, what’s say we have a look at her now. She doesn’t seem so scared anymore, do you babe?” Nadia smiled encouragingly at Talia.

“Sounds good,” Chris agreed, setting Talia in his lap as Nadia pulled up a stool, thermometer in hand.

“Hey there, Talia,” Nadia greeted the child in her best pleasant, soothingly musical voice. “Can I have a look in that pretty lil’ ear of yours for a second?”

To her surprise, the child reached for her with a trusting grin. Nadia looked to Chris, who shrugged with a smile as she offered her hand to Talia. The child’s dark eyes, carbon copies of her father’s, regarded her without fear as she brushed the baby fine waves away from her ear. As Talia grasped Nadia’s finger with one small hand, Nadia inserted the Thermoscan into her ear. Before the little girl had a chance to react, the instrument indicated a reading with a short beep.

“Wow, that was quick! You used to need thermometers stuck into your mouth for hours when I was a kid. Those new ones are really cool!” His smile made him look like a twelve year old who’s just made a fabulous discovery. This promptly faded as concern for his daughter welled up again. “Well?” Chris asked Nadia, eyebrows raised in an anxious manner.

“She’s got a little bit of fever,” Nadia noted. “Probably just enough to make her feel bad. Has she been cranky?”

“Has she been cranky? Hah!” Chris chuckled. “She’s been a holy terror. I swear, I haven’t slept in two days.”

“Well, maybe mommy will take care of you so daddy can get some rest, huh?” Nadia playfully said to Talia, who giggled at the sound of her voice.

“I doubt it,” Chris said. “Mommy lives an hour and a half from here. Daddy has her for the week.”

“I see,” Nadia replied as nonchalantly as possible.

So he was single. Interesting.

“Yeah. Wish I had her more often,” Chris remarked wistfully as Nadia continued her examination. “Cathy wouldn’t have even thought to bring the kid to the doctor.”

“Well, she’s lucky she’s got a good daddy, then,” Nadia said, tweaking Talia’s arm affectionately as she laid her stethoscope against the child’s pink Disney print sweater.

She loved seeing this caring side of him, and before she could quell the thoughts, images of Chris under the bed covers surfaced yet again, unbidden, in her mind. He would definitely be a considerate, caring type, she decided, taking her gently and asking about her status regularly. Most likely, he would be slow and sensual, taking his time, stroking her body into full arousal before he allowed himself any pleasure. She loved it when men were like that. He would run his large, soft, capable hands all over her smooth skin, making her quiver as he took in her naked form with those intense eyes that would roam over her body with effects almost as palpable as those of his fingers.

Nadia looked at his body again and decided he would probably be quite fit, ropy muscle flexing smoothly as he had his way with her, climbing on top of her and oh-so-slowly entering her, eyes soothing her and reassuring her. As if she’d need it; she would probably have to coax him to throw caution and delicacy to the wind, to enter her, penetrate her, ride her into a sweet oblivion of limbs, friction and pure, unadulterated pleasure until they both collapsed together into a sweet, contented, sweaty mess on top of the bed. Afterwards, they would cuddle up in bed, nestled warmly against each other, until one of them decided it was time and reach a hand out to...

“I can tell you take very good care of her, Chris.” Nadia flashed him a look of intense blue adulation, giving him a subdued smile, which she hoped didn’t betray the intensity of the emotional and hormonal upheaval she was going through.

Her comment both embarrassed and pleased Chris. He lowered his gaze a moment so she wouldn’t see him blush, his dark hair falling to partially hide his expression. He hadn’t been expecting a female doctor, must less such an attractive one. With her petite frame, blue eyes and head full of long, straw coloured curls, Nadia was not only gorgeous; she had a uniquely youthful appeal as well. She presented an impression of freshness and vitality that betrayed what her true age probably was. Her skin, looking soft as that of a peach, was clean and free of makeup, save a hint of lipstick and a whisk of a neutral coloured shadow across her eyelids that highlighted the fierce cobalt blue intelligence of the orbs beneath. Chris tried not to stare at her as she competently examined his small daughter with a gentle, practiced ease.

“She’s pretty congested,” Nadia noted with concern. “If it wasn’t for the fever, I wouldn’t be worried, but that usually means there’s some kind of infection. If it were up to me, I’d say the best thing to do would be to give her a shot of penicillin and some antibiotics for few days. But the shot’s your call,” she said to Chris as she rose again to her feet.

“Well, I’m not needle shy obviously,” he said with a smile, indicating his tattooed arms with a laughing glance, “so if it will make her better faster, then go ahead. I trust you.”

“Alright,” Nadia agreed, feeling warmth bloom inside her at the candid way he’d admitted to having full confidence in her. “You’ll have to set her on the table for this, though. Do you mind?”

“Sure thing.” Chris hefted Talia into his arms as he stood up and walked over to the examination table where he set her down with infinite care.

Nadia walked over one of the cabinets and began to prepare the shot, her back to Chris and his daughter, although she sensed that he was still watching her closely for some reason. Not that she minded, really; she had certainly been doing a lot of watching – and fantasizing – ever since she had first spied him. Body art not withstanding, he was truly a stunning man. The multiple tattoos and piercings really were quite becoming to him... But then again, she’d always had a weakness for those things.

He was thinking along similar lines; her casual attire of snug black pants and a white button down shirt flatteringly outlined Nadia’s slender figure. Though they were partially obscured by the immaculate white lab coat she wore, they were nonetheless appealing. Pity he didn’t have more time to get to know her a bit better before he left, really. Of course, there was always the chance he would catch his daughter’s illness and have to return. As if the thought had jinxed him, he suddenly leaned away from the table with yet another sharp inhalation.

“Huuh. . . huh-chhh! Chsssh!” he sneezed, stifling them into the crook of his elbow as softly as he could manage.

“Do we need to have a look at you too, Chris?” Nadia asked as she turned around, the shot carefully concealed from the child’s view in the palm of her hand. Even though he tried to act nonchalant about it, he had been sneezing quite a lot ever since he’d come in.

“Hah, and here I was hoping you wouldn’t notice,” he admitted with a laugh.

“I’m a doctor. It’s my job to notice those kinds of things, and it’s not like you’ve got the world’s most discreet sneeze y’know,” she teased him, approaching the table with a smile. “Can you distract her for a minute?”

“Yeah,” Chris said, unhooking his necklace and dangling it in front of his daughter, a ploy that never failed. “Talia, look,” he crooned, snapping his fingers to get her attention away from Nadia... And the needle.

The child’s focus instantly shifted from the doctor to the jingling links of the heavy necklace. Her dark eyes grew wide with delight as Chris held it out to her and she reached for it with innocent fascination. Nadia took the opportunity to roll up herd downy pink sleeve and administer the shot as quickly and painlessly as possible. Talia didn’t even flinch. The little girl was too busy happily gurgling and chewing on her daddy’s necklace.

“That’s a good girl,” Nadia said, rubbing Talia’s shoulder with a piece of alcohol soaked cotton and quickly digging a lollipop out of her pocket, a trick she always used to placate children when they’d just been through a similar experience.

“She takes after her old man,” Chris told Nadia proudly as he saw Talia reach out for the bright green sweet.

“She’s a star. I hope she waits a few years to get her first tattoo, though,” Nadia teased him with a wink.

Though they looked interesting on grownups, there was something disquieting about children who sported tattoos. Not that she’d seen many, but still...

Chris laughed, and then the laughter turned into a bit of a cough. “She’s already got her ears pierced,” he told her proudly, clearing his throat.

The cough hadn’t escaped Nadia. She saw a vaguely sneezy expression drift across Chris’s handsome features, but it promptly left, to her disappointment. Still, her heart went out to him and she decided on the spur of the moment to give him a quick check-up. A proper one, of course. Though perhaps if she discovered something even vaguely alarming, she could consider using that as an excuse to get him to strip down to his underwear. Ostensibly just to give him a more thorough examination in the name of medicine, obviously.

“Okay, you hop up here now,” Nadia said, patting the table softly with one white slender hand.

“What?” Chris eyed her, eyebrows raised, not getting her intent.

“Let’s have a look at you now,” Nadia told him.

“At me?” Chris said, sounding slightly incredulous.

Had her tone sounded too hopeful? Was the desire she felt that obvious? For some strange reason, part of Nadia hoped it was. However, she was fully conscious of the inappropriate nature of such feelings and promptly put on her sternest, most professional doctor-of-medicine-in-charge expression.

“Yeah, you. Now get up here,” Nadia repeated, going so far as to put a hand on one hip.

“Damn it,” Chris said, shaking his head with a smile, but did as she requested while Talia continued to feast on both his necklace and the lollipop, coating the former with green sticky saliva. Chris shuddered, thinking he wouldn’t be in any particular hurry to put that piece of jewellery back around his neck!

“Want me to take off my shirt?” he asked.     

Did she?

Nadia shrugged as she turned to retrieve the Thermoscan, the faintest blush rising to her cheeks. “If you’re not shy. I can manage with or without it.”

She smiled faintly, congratulating herself wryly on having successfully resisted the temptation of asking him to take off his trousers as well

He pulled his skin-tight black tank top over his head and dropped it onto the table, sitting there unexpectedly shirtless when she turned back around. As she had expected, the man’s well-muscled chest was extremely appealing; muscles began near the top and rippled downward in a gorgeous fashion until they reached the cut-off line of his trousers. Tattoos were scattered here and there across Chris’s smooth gold tinted skin, darkly appealing motifs that Nadia longed to explore with her fingertips. Or her tongue...

She raised one eyebrow, saying in as mild a tone as she could muster, “Well then... let me stick this in your ear a sec and see how you’re doing temperature-wise, okay?”

He brushed his hair aside, tucking it behind one ear so she could tend to her task.

“Hmmm,” she noted as it beeped.

“What?” he asked, sounding both vaguely worried and rather amused.

Ignoring his question, she rubbed her stethoscope on her pants leg to warm it a bit before placing it on his chest. Though she was sure he’d look fabulous even with goose bumps, she didn’t want to make the man any more uncomfortable than was strictly necessary. Her eyes were drifting across his chest when she noticed for the first time that his left nipple was pierced. The stud’s two metallic spikes protruded from both sides of Chris’s nipple and caught the light as he moved, sending a reflected wink of light Nadia’s way.

“Did that hurt?” she asked in a small voice, nodding towards his chest.

For an experienced doctor, there was something naïve and vaguely childlike in her tone that unexpectedly made Chris go tender.

“Hell yes,” he replied with a sly smile. “Not as bad as my... Uhh...” his voice trailed off and he laughed as if embarrassed. He really wasn’t; the wink he gave Nadia when he dodged her questioning glance before continuing was enough to convince her of that. “Um, never mind. But yes, it hurt."

A slow smile curved her lips as she set the stethoscope on his bare skin. “Breath in for me and let it out slowly, okay?"

He did as she asked while she listened to his chest and then checked his pulse.

“Do you work out?” she asked, timing his heartbeat to her wristwatch.

“I play drums,” he replied, “Does that count?”

“It must,” she said. “You’ve got a low resting heart rate. That’s good.”

Nadia wondered exactly how much activity it would take to get that heart beating to a fevered pitch. Strangely enough, she felt her own heartbeat accelerating, just standing this close to the shirtless man. She wondered just how fast this same heart would beat if she were actually sitting on top of him, straddling his naked form with her own... And what if he sneezed while in such a position? Was it actually possible to go into cardiac arrest from a single sneeze, if a very sexually stimulating one? Surely not, but what a way to go that would be...

“I knew it was good for something,” he said as she brushed his hair aside and looked in his ears with a small, lighted instrument.

Somehow, this part of his anatomy wasn’t quite as interesting as the rest of him. He was definitely cuter outside than in.

“Do your ears hurt?” she asked.

“Only when Talia pulls them,” he said with a grin.

She eyed him with a smirk. She had seldom been able to resist a man that combined such alternative good looks with a sense of humour compatible with her own, and Chris most definitely had a combination fit to make her melt if he kept this up. For once, Nadia wished she was a nurse, or even an orderly, someone who wouldn’t have such professional standards and obligations, putting a definite hurdle in the way of getting to know patients on a more, shall we say, personal level.

“No, they don’t,” he said at last, another sudden intake of air shaking him. He turned away from her, holding his hands in front of his face. “Hitcheeah! Hitchooo!” he sneezed softly yet forcefully into his cupped hands. “Excuse me,” he said with a sniff, beginning to sound a bit congested for the first time since he’d entered the room.

“Have you been doing a lot of that?” she asked, handing him a tissue from her coat pocket, striving to appear professional despite the wave of desire she felt rushing into her anew.

“Actually... yeah,” he admitted, taking the tissue with a grateful nod and wiping at his nose with it. “But I thought it was just the change in the weather or something."

“Nope. Sorry, it’s not the weather. You’re sick, I’m afraid,” she said, patting his knee. “I’m gonna stick you in the arm, too.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Chris said as she walked back towards the cabinet. “You can just give me some pills or something.”

She glanced over her shoulder with a smile. “I thought you weren’t needle shy.”

“I’m not,” Chris replied a bit indignantly. “I just don’t like to be stuck unless it’s for a design or an aesthetic purpose.”

“Oh, I can leave a mark if you want, that’s really not a problem. I think a nice scar would be just gorgeous right around there” she teased him, looking at his arm and pointing to the middle of a Celtic design resembling a rose that could have been painted by a cubist Picasso on acid.

“Hah, no thanks. That’s okay.” Chris waved his hand at her as she approached him, shot in hand, the menacingly sharp needle glinting in the light.

She laid a steady, reassuring hand on his well-muscled arm. “Are you a man or a mouse? Ready?”

He squeaked and a pulled a face, making Nadia giggle lightly, before squaring his broad shoulders as he sat up a bit straighter. “Lay it on me, babe.”

As the needle pierced his flesh, he winced, even going so far as to grind his teeth and uttering a hissing gasp for air.

“All done,” Nadia said after a few seconds, patting his wrist. “You did that almost as well as Talia did. Unfortunately, I’m all out of lollipops.”

He rubbed his arm gingerly. “Man, that hurt! What was in that thing?”

“It was the same thing I gave to Talia. Your daughter didn’t even flinch when I gave it to her,” Nadia teased him, knowing it would get his ire up a bit.

“That’s because I distracted her. She didn’t know what was going on,” Chris told her almost petulantly, pursing his lips in a mock sulk as he rubbed his shoulder. “You should have done something to distract me.”

About a million images flared up in Nadia’s mind as soon as Chris was done uttering that sentence. Had she had her way, she would have distracted him senseless in more ways then one. Unfortunately, she was a doctor, he was her patient, there was a little girl present and a well-meaning nurse or just a confused patient knocking on the wrong door could interrupt them at any time.

“Oh? Like what?” Nadia asked him, giving him an arch grin, writing something down on the chart, tearing off the top sheet and handing it to him. “Here then. This ought to distract you.”

“What’s this?” he asked, examining the paper as if he expected her to have written some sort of revelation on it. Or maybe just her home phone number.

“The bill,” she told him with a sweet smile. “Nice to have met you and your little one, Chris. Call us if you need something.” Or even if you don’t, she thought.

Talia climbed into Chris’s lap and pulled demandingly on his shirt, smacking him with the gooey necklace and uttering a shriek of joy.

“Ouch!” He winced as the cold, sticky metal popped him again. “Give me that, you...” he said, wrenching the necklace from his daughter’s clammy grasp.

Shaking her head with a subdued, slightly wistful smile that was absolutely lovely, Nadia walked towards the door. She would have kept him longer if she’d had any valid pretext to do so, but she did have another patient to see and besides, it just wouldn’t be right.

“Have a nice day, Chris,” she said softly.

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughed, not catching her expression, as Talia reached for the now folded bill in his other hand and swatted her fingers away. “You too,” he added, giving her one last, long look as she made her way out the door.

She walked to nurses’ station to drop off the chart just as Sherry, the podgy nurse who had directed her to Chris in the first place, passed her in the hallway again. She was extending chubby arms in Nadia’s direction, handing her the file for her next appointment.

“So, how did it go?”Sherry asked.

“Very well. He was a very nice person,” Nadia informed her almost curtly.“Even with the tattoos.” She still hadn’t quite digested her previous disparaging remarks.

Sherry eyed her dubiously before gamely trying again. “I meant with the little girl. She was just the cutest lil’ thing I’ve seen all day."

Instead of replying, Nadia handed her Talia’s chart and flipped through the new one, suddenly feeling exhausted. She was in no mood to deal with Sherry’s tedious enthusiasm at the moment. In fact, all she wanted to do was go home... And think about Chris

“File this for me, will you? I have another kid to see before I go home.”

“Dr. Levon, is everything all right?” Sherry asked, her tired eyes crinkling up around the corners in a worried manner.

“Thank you, Sherry,” Nadia said wanly, walking away before the matronly nurse could question her further.

* * *

The apartment was a mess. Nadia's three hyperactive kittens had made short work of everything they could find while she had been away that day: bits of shredded paper and various clumps of garbage littered the floor along with several choice chunks of an unidentifiable fabric. Sighing and rolling her eyes, she scanned the room for the culprits, all three of which were lurking beneath the coffee table, staring defiantly at her out of unblinking amber eyes.

She glared at them darkly for a few moments, and then remembered no one had ever won a staring contest with any cat, let alone three. She could almost hear them sChrisering with feline delight as she looked away disgusted.

"You little bastards," she said to the three balls of fur, kicking a partially shredded magazine in their direction.

The terrible trio scattered with a startled hiss, each darting off in a different direction, presumably to stir up more mischief. Or maybe just to sulk. Nadia hissed back in turn, the sound remarkably genuine, watching them scamper to opposite ends of the room. Then, a wry smile spread across her lips and she turned away. She loved her kittens as much as if they had been her own children; no matter how naughty, they always managed to cheer her up. Watching their antics was as entertaining as any television show. If only she could have said the same of cleaning up the resulting mess...

She glanced at the vintage 50's formica clock on her wall and saw that it was nearly seven. Though part of her felt exhausted, Nadia resisted the urge to strip off her clothes and stretch out on the couch to munch on junk food in front of the television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer might be on, followed by the equally entertaining Angel (she had a thing for David Boreanaz - his dark nature and shady good looks secretly thrilled her), but it was Friday night after all. Although Nadia was a professional, she was still a young professional.

Television, cleaning up the mess and even tempting sleep could wait, she decided, as she considered what options were available to her in terms of entertainment. She could go and see a movie, perhaps something at the nearby Casbah Theatre... She was lost in thoughts of velvet curtains and comfortable seats when the very idea of popcorn made her stomach rumble loudly, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since twelve.

Nadia licked her plush lips as her thoughts turned to food. She could cook herself a nice meal, but glancing at the shredded array of paper and fabric her kittens had left behind, she decided that she didn't want to wash dishes on top of busying herself with the vacuum cleaner. Going out to dinner alone wasn't the most appealing option, but it was certainly the most convenient one. Perhaps she could call up her best friend, Jennifer, and see if the girl felt up to an evening on the town. Nadia smiled - there was little doubt in her mind as to her friend's answer; Jennifer was always up for a night on the town.

She shed her work clothes in favor of classy black chinos and a comfortable low-cut black velvet top and dabbed on a bit of her favourite spicy perfume. Feeling more at ease and in the mood for a proper Friday night out, Nadia performed a brief search for the phone - which was buried under a pile of shredded paper, courtesy of the naughty kittens - before dialling Jennifer's number. It took all of thirty seconds worth of coaxing to convince her friend to come out, much to Nadia's delight. There was no other girlfriend Nadia would rather have been spending Friday night with.

After applying an elegant touch of makeup to her sparkling blue eyes and brushing her blond hair into an eye-catching mass of stunning curls, she left the kittens some food (they did tend to expend a lot of energy when destroying her home, so they would need it), grabbed her coat, and stepped into the chilly night air.

* * *

"This place is really crowded tonight. I wonder who's playing?" Nadia noted as they took a seat at one of the tables away from the stage.

"I want to say Slide Line, but I'm not sure," Jennifer told her, smiling slyly.

"Oh boy... This ought to nice and quiet. What a relief after a day of screaming children," Nadia deadpanned, not blinking, as she took a sip of her after-dinner drink. Bailey's. Yum.

Jennifer just rolled her eyes.

"Come on... you said you would go wherever I wanted after we finished dinner and I wanted to come here, so get over it."

Nadia waved her hand at Jennifer dismissively. "Yeah, I did say that, didn't I?"

Jennifer smiled at her friend's obvious teasing.

"It won't be that rowdy, I promise. I don't know why they're even playing here, really. Kind of a tame room for a hard rock band," Jennifer shrugged as a small army of technicians bustled about onstage, preparing various pieces of equipment for the band.

Jennifer and Nadia made small talk about their week's work, trading humorous anecdotes and outrageous stories until the lights dimmed, indicating the show was about to begin. Lights flared dramatically across the stage as they relaxed in their seats, content to watch from a distance. The small crowd was tightly packed in what Jennifer liked to call "the mosh pit" - even though the place was way too small for a proper one - and cheered loudly as the first of the band members, bearing an impressive mammoth of a red guitar, sauntered onto the stage. As the crowd went wild and began to frantically applaud, jumping up and down, the rest of the band followed him out.

Nadia watched with only mild interest until the drummer walked out, carrying a pair of fine whittled sticks. She sucked in her breath and grabbed Jennifer's wrist to get her attention, her blue eyes widening as Nadia extended her hand in his direction.

"I know that guy," she exclaimed, tipping her sharp chin towards the stage.

"What guy?" Jennifer looked confused as her eyes swam over the crowd of fans.

"No, not down there," Nadia tossed her hair, annoyed for no good reason. "I mean that drummer! I know him! He came into the office today with his little girl."

"Shut up!" Jennifer exclaimed, her brown eyes opened as wide as they would go in disbelief.

"Yeah," Nadia continued. "His name is Christopher something... Chris... Ummm..."

She hated when this happened. The name was on the tip of her tongue, and yet it just wouldn't come out.

"Sahren?" Jennifer helpfully supplied, her eyes narrowed.

"Yeah, that's it. Chris Sahren." Nadia stood up for a better view as the singer razed the crowd. "That's him, alright. Can't miss all those tattoos."

"And you didn't tell me about this interesting little fact?" Jennifer shot at her in a mock accusing tone, pulling on her friend's sleeve.

"Well, I didn't know who he was!" Nadia said, shaking off Jennifer's hand. "I thought he was just some nice guy with a cold, lots of body art and a cute little girl."

"You have to tell me all about it after this. Every single detail. I want all of it," Jennifer eyes were still wide with amazement, and Nadia wondered if the girl would start to hyperventilate if she didn't get what she sought within the next three seconds.

Nadia smiled and shrugged. "Not much to tell, really. He came in with his kid because she had a chest cold. He had the same thing, but I had a hell of a time getting him to admit it."

Jennifer smiled mischievously. "Was he sneezing a lot?"

Nadia shot her an annoyed look. One night around two years ago, the pair of them had been overdoing the southern comfort in her apartment while playing an adolescent truth or dare game. On the brink of collapsing with giggles, Jennifer had asked her whether she had any fetishes. Before pausing to think twice about it, Nadia had blurted out that she had a "thing" for sneezing. Though Jennifer had been able to remember nothing else through the alcoholic fog that had surrounded her memories of that evening, she had fully retained that interesting little item. Nadia wasn't really sorry that her friend knew; there was no secret she couldn't trust Jennifer with... She only wished Jennifer wouldn't bring up her fetish every time Nadia encountered an even vaguely interesting guy.

"No," she said, sliding deeper into her seat. And then, a sly smile made its way across her smooth features. "Well, not that much, anyway."

"So, did you like it?" Jennifer asked her, leaning closer, shooting her friend a conspiratorial look.

"Would you quit grilling me and watch the band!" Nadia rolled her eyes.

"You liked it," Jennifer surmised in a smug tone.

Nadia took a shallow sip of her drink while casually flipping her friend a well-concealed two-finger bird, English style. It might have been just as rude, but it looked a tad classier.

The band was already playing some song she didn't recognize, but most people in the crowd, including Jennifer, seemed to. The cheering was reaching an astounding volume; it was really a wonder any music could be heard above it.

"Let's get closer," Jennifer suggested suddenly, rising to her feet.

"What for? I'm fine right here," Nadia casually replied, setting her glass down as she looked expectantly at her friend.

"Oh come on, Nadia. Don't be a stick in the mud. It'll be fun," Jennifer coaxed, grabbing her friend's wrist and pulling her out of the chair she was sunk into before the latter could protest.

Nadia had just enough time to grab her drink before they wove their way through the crowd until they were near the stage, pressed against the backs of several individuals.

"Whoo-hooo!" Jennifer shouted at top volume, trying to be heard above the deafening roar of the band's music and the crowd's frenetic cheering. "Is this fun or what?"

Nadia stuck out her tongue and rubbed at her temples, simulating a headache.

"I'll go with 'or what'," she yelled back, but Jennifer ignored her.

Nadia sighed, unheard, and tried to get into the music, even though it was a bit loud for her tastes. Instead, she found herself focusing on Chris' maniacal drumming technique. The sticks he held were a white blur as he wielded them, beating at the drums in a crazed frenzy. She knew enough about music to know that he was being unusually tasteful for a rock drummer, but he was beating the bloody Hell out of the kit none the less. Watching him was at least something she could focus on in order to block out the rest of the experience - it made the whole incident a lot more palatable. Oh, but the man was stunning!

Did he have that much energy in bed, Nadia wondered, or was his style between the sheets the opposite of that which he demonstrated onstage? Nadia suppressed a smile as a number of tasteless jokes about a drummer and his stick flashed through her mind, instead taking in the way his muscles flexed smoothly under the roving spotlights, the ink patterns beneath his skin flaring up when the light hit them. The would be much softer in the glow of candles, and she longed to trace their contours lavishly with her fingers as she lay on top of him. Would they begin to swirl and melt together towards the end, when she was reaching high peaks of excitement, riding him, both of them tired and exhilarated as they made their way over the edge?

Nadia licked her lips.

The song ended and the singer began to taunt the crowd with some stage prattle about rock and roll while Nadia took advantage of the respite and finished the rest of her drink before it got knocked out of her hand by an excited fan. No sooner had this happened that the guitarist resumed playing by himself and the crowd began jostling her about once more. To Nadia's uneducated ear, this song was much the same as the last one except for one thing... Chris Sahren was staring right at her. Well, at least she was pretty sure he was staring at her. He waved with a smile, and Nadia looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was waving back. At least eight people were.

"He's waving at you, idiot!" Jennifer shouted over the din, nudging her with a less than gentle shove.

"No he's not. He must know somebody else," Nadia assured her friend, pointing to the mass of frantically waving fans behind her.

"Bullshit," Jennifer shot back with her customary tact. "That gorgeous rock God is looking right over here. Wave back, for fuck's sake!"

Before Nadia could object, Jennifer grabbed her wrist with an adulation-infused smile and held up her arm, forcing her to give the drummer an overdone, limp-wristed wave.

"Jeez, Jen... Let go of me!"

Nadia ripped her arm away from Jennifer's grasp, rubbing her wrist a little to coax blood back into her hand. She looked down and saw the red traces of her friend's fingers on her pale skin; her grip had been that desperately hard.

Pulling her sleeve down a bit to cover the mark, she glanced back at the stage. Sure enough, the man was still staring at her in that same intent way with those incredibly intense, coal-dark eyes. His head was cocked slightly to one side, as if he were studying her for some odd reason.

Thoughts of her three wide-eyed kittens and the staring contests she held with them sprung up in her mind. Countless ocular combat sessions had made her an expert at this little game: Chris Sahren stared at her, and she stared back just as hard, unblinking.


* * *

"You lucky bitch!" Jennifer was practically having an orgasm as they wandered back through the crowd after the band's set was over. "I wish some gorgeous rock God would stare at me like that!"

"He wasn't staring," Nadia lied as they made their way back to the bar. "He just recognized me for second, that's all."

"That was a damn long second," Jennifer countered, standing her ground.

Nadia bother replying, knowing no amount of arguing would convince her friend. The girl had a knack for picking up on the deeper undercurrents of unfolding situations; it was one of the things Nadia loved about her. There was no such thing as keeping secrets from Jennifer.

Her friend ordered couple of drinks, forcing Nadia to have yet another one with her before they left. The next band, a hard-core, heavy-metal type, would certainly whip the crowd into a frenzy and neither she nor Jennifer wanted to be there when that happened.

"So, tell me about this doctor's visit deal," Jennifer prodded with all the subtlety of a bulldozer occupying the centre lane in rush hour traffic.

"Babe, you know doctor's visits are supposed to be confidential," Nadia admonished her friend sternly, rolling her eyes in exasperation.

There was no one more determined than Jennifer when it came to gossip. Especially not rock star related gossip.

"Oh come on, I don't want to know the details of his diseases and medical history. Just... You know, the good stuff! Come on..." her eyes were opened wide once more as she pleased.

"I told you about it already," Nadia told her, knowing she would get pestered until she gave her friend a least part of what she was looking for "There's really not that much to tell, Jen. His little girl was sick, he was sick... I gave them both shots and then I left. That's it."

"Oh, so what... You didn't like, talk to him at all. You just walked right on in there and stuck him?" Jennifer asked, obviously not believing Nadia's Spartan story.

"Well of course I talked to the man. I mean, you don't just walk in and stick needles into people without trying to get them to relax first! Oh, come on Jen..." Nadia tossed her hair and gave her friend a pleading smile. "Do I really have to tell you the whole story?"

"Yes," Jennifer said bluntly, propping her elbows up on the bar and leaning towards Nadia with great interest. Her avidity reminded Nadia of the way her kittens looked when she laid small bits of leftover fish before them.

Rolling her eyes at her friend, Nadia relayed the story as best she could, surprising even herself with her vivid recollection. Leaving out all the fantasizing she had done about Chris as well as his delicious sneezing, Nadia took Jennifer through the initial dialogue about Chris's daughter, how considerate and genuine he had been throughout their encounter and even their humorous banter near the end when she had finally given him an injection. Jennifer listened to her, wide eyed and smiling as she took in every bit of gossip and filed it away in the section of her mind that was specifically reserved for "true life rock star related anecdotes".

"So, you were flirting with him," Jen surmised after the tale was finished.

"No, I was not flirting with him," her friend staunchly replied. "I was being friendly. There is a difference, y'know. And besides, he's not my type."

This was a blatant lie and Nadia hoped that Jennifer, picking up on it, would understand that the discussion was over. Jennifer didn't buy it for a second; she had been friends with Nadia long enough to know exactly what "her type" was.

"Oh yeah, I forget. You're totally into those squeaky clean fraternity graduate types," Jennifer said making a gagging noise. Her expression suddenly changed to one of mild shock as she set the drink down with a clink.

"So," Jennifer began again quickly, "what would you say right now if Chris was... Say... I don't know... Walking this way smiling like he wanted to talk to you and not to me because that would be totally ridiculous like something out of one of my crazy fantasies or something?"

"Jesus Christ, girl... What are you babbling about? You're always coming up with these crazy scenarios. What do you think the man wants to do to me, anyway? Take me back to his bus and shag me until I pass out?" Nadia asked in exasperation.

Jennifer only giggled and shrugged, staring over Nadia's shoulder.

"What?" Nadia was definitely confused.

Jennifer motioned with her little finger so as to not blatantly point. A shiver of dread wormed its way through Nadia as she turned to find Christopher Sahren himself standing behind her, a crafty smile gracing his curvaceous lips. She blushed three different shades of red and felt her mouth become dry enough to shame any desert.

"Hi there," he jovially greeted her, winking.

"Shit," was Nadia's inspired reply.

Chris laughed. "Don't you just hate it when you're talking about somebody and they happen to be standing right behind you?"

"Shit," Nadia said again.

"What I like about you is the way you have with words," Chris laughed heartily, patting her on the shoulder. "It's cool, not like you said anything I'd disagree with," he added complacently.

Nadia forced herself to smile back, hoping she didn't appear as tense as she suddenly felt. Had she heard him right?

"Would never have pegged you for a Slide Line fan," he went on, changing the subject and leaning casually against the bar. A rogue beam of light caught his right arm and his tattoos flared up, exquisite in their red and black complexity.

Nadia couldn't help but notice that he had changed since the set. Tight, stonewashed jeans that rode low on his hips now replaced the loose fitting shorts he had walked out in earlier along with an equally clingy white shirt that was nearly see through. The darker parts of the tattoos adorning his chest were visible through the thin material as were the curves of the lithe muscles on his arms. The sharp, defined angles of his shoulder blades and back stood out sharply in that position and Nadia couldn't help caressing them again and again with her eyes. She thought for a moment how amazing it was that the simple act of playing an instrument had honed his body into such lean perfection.

"Well, I'm not really," she admitted almost shyly, nodding towards Jennifer. "She kind of dragged me in here." Then realizing she had just all but insulted him again, she quickly gave him a winning smile, adding, "You were really good, though!"

"You think so, huh?" Chris was saying as he motioned to the bartender to fill his glass with more drink. "Don't worry; it's Coke," he told her.

"Good boy. Never mix medication and alcohol or you'll be completely off your head." Pausing, feeling as if she'd finally managed to get her leather-clad foot out of her mouth, she looked around casually and asked, "So where's that cute little girl of yours?"

"With my mom," Chris replied easily, taking a long sip of his drink. "It's cool to have parents that love their grandkids like that. Don't know if she's feeling any better yet."

"Yes, well... It's really too early to tell really," Nadia replied. Almost without realizing it, she'd slipped back into her doctor's role. She felt safe there, totally in her element and totally in control. "And how about you, then, feeling better?"

"Me? Oh, I don't feel so bad," he told her, smiling shyly. "Took a load of Dayquil before I went on." He rubbed his nose with the palm of one hand. "But it's wearing off fast. I'm starting to feel sneezy again."

Nadia pretended she hadn't heard that last remark. The last thing she needed to see was a repeat performance of his office visit - especially with Jennifer eagerly watching. Fantasizing about this gorgeous man, especially about seeing him sneeze, was fine and well when she was on her own, but with her friend by her side, it would just be too embarrassing.

"There's stuff better than that you can take," Nadia replied in her best neutral doctor's tone. "If I would have known you had something like this to do tonight, I could have given you a prescription for something stronger."

"Ah, it's no big deal," he said, waving his hand dismissively. "I've performed when I was feeling a lot worse than this. Besides, I don't like taking too much stuff before I go on. Makes my head fuzzy and then I suck," he laughed.

"Oh, I could have given you something that wouldn't have done that," Nadia assured him, pausing before elaborating in her mind, "Like for example a shag like those you've only ever dreamed of right before you hopped onstage. A mind-blowing orgasm is a wonderful decongestant dontcha know, sweetheart."

She wondered what his reaction would have been if she'd said that out loud.

"Nah. I'd almost rather suffer than take that stuff," he told her, obviously not having heard the latter part of her proposal. Nonetheless, the man's eyes still narrowed and he indicated her pale peach cocktail napkin with his chin. "Hey, can I have that?"

"Yeah... Sure," she said uncertainly, sliding it across the bar to him. She really hadn't said that out loud, had she?

Her doubts melted away a few seconds later as she saw his expression twist from playful confidence to expectant agony. Chris deftly unfolded the napkin with a flourish, snapping his wrist in a practiced manner as he did it - Nadia couldn't help but recognise an element of drummer's technique in his movement, and fleetingly wondered in what other interesting situations his hyper dexterity could come in handy.

"Tha-thanks... huuuh... Hehcheeaah!... Hitchooo!" he sneezed suddenly, harsh wet sneezes that held Nadia's attention even as he grasped the napkin in front of him to avoid sneezing on her.

He paused then and looked up, seemingly frozen in that helpless presneeze stance Nadia knew so well. The impending tickle appeared to tease him mercilessly as his chest heaved with a deep, quivering breath that brought goose bumps to the fascinated Nadia's arms.

"Hehchooo!... Hitchooo!" he sneezed at last, bending at the waist a bit as his dark hair fell to hide his expression.

How incredibly sexy, Nadia couldn't help thinking. It was all she could do not to reach out and clasp him to her as he sneezed. What would it feel like if he did that whilst lying next to her, naked? Heat rose to her cheeks and between her legs. She could imagine it only too well in her mind as she watched Chris sneeze before her: keep the facial expressions, erase the clothes, add in a few tattoos and, of course, interesting body parts not readily available to her roving eyes... Perfect. Delightful. And extremely horny, Nadia couldn't help adding with a slight smile. Thinking about it, incredibly enough, Nadia suddenly realized she'd never seen a naked man sneeze. She fleetingly wondered whether it was any different from watching a fully clothed one doing it.

She snapped back to reality as she saw Chris pause and inhale for a final, massive "Heeatchooo!" that rang out loud and clear even above the din of the crowd. This one appeared to alleviate the pressure in his abused sinuses and he sighed before turning away from her and Jennifer, using the napkin to blow his nose.

"Bless," Nadia said, exhaling slowly as she watched the man crumple the dampened napkin before tossing it into the rubbish bin behind the bar.

"Damn!" he exclaimed, shaking his head ruefully as he turned towards them once more, suddenly embarrassed. "Sorry about that. But thank you."

Abruptly unable to meet his gaze, Nadia toyed with the little red straw in her drink, stirring the rapidly melting ice with it. Perhaps he wouldn't notice her discomfort or would mistake it for mild disinterest. Pondering this, she realized she didn't like either of those interpretations. At that moment, drink probably helping, she wanted Chris to recognise the exact meaning of her averted eyes and flushed cheeks: wanting, longing and lust for his magnetic personality, his captivatingly intense eyes and his beautiful tattoo covered body. Even with Jennifer present.

Then, she chastised herself: what was this man doing to her? She had only spent an hour with him in total since they'd met that afternoon. He was her patient and had a child, and more importantly he probably wasn't the least bit interested in some lame doctor gal that didn't even like the group he played in. But really, was it her fault she'd rather have those expert fingers drumming along her firm skin rather than that of his percussion set?

"For crying out loud," Nadia stopped her train of thought, discouraging even herself with the purposefulness of her one track mind.

Steeling herself, she forced herself to look into his dark eyes without betraying her suddenly monstrous case of nerves. She felt like a homely debutante staring up into the eyes of her entire homeroom's prince charming. And yet, though she expected to see nothing there beyond mild amusement or perhaps curiosity, his gaze was warm and even inviting as he cocked his head to one side in that curiously intent look which, apparently, was fast becoming his standard for her.

Awkward silence lingered for a moment as he averted his eyes first, almost shyly, and took another sip of his Coke.

"Wish I would quit sneezing," he remarked, desperate for something to say.

His illness provided a handy excuse for conversation, and though he felt it was becoming a little bit tired, the woman was a doctor (if a remarkably friendly and pretty one) and talking about such things probably made her feel at ease. Or maybe this remark would bore her, making her see him as whiny and unimaginative? Damn, but he wished he could think of something to say, anything really, which could lead to one thing or maybe the other. It didn't matter, so long as they got to know each other a bit better. In truth, he couldn't quite explain why this spurious connection with a virtual stranger seemed so important to him, but it was. Why couldn't he seem to play his cards right with her, he wondered, frustrated as he ran his fingers through his dark hair to tousle it a bit.

Offhanded though it was, Nadia couldn't help but wonder if the comment was directed at her in some way. "Ridiculous", she thought, shaking her head. How could he know what was suddenly causing her silence? Jennifer couldn't possibly have leaked any crucial fetish-related information already, could she? The girl was good, but not that good.

As if on cue, her friend's voice was heard again for the first time since she had more or less introduced Chris and Nadia.

"Hey," she began, amiably, spying a break in the conversation. "I hate to break up your cosy little chat here, but I've got to work tomorrow and I gotta go. Some of us proletariat members don't have weekends off, y'know."

Looking to Chris, Nadia smiled apologetically, feeling a curious mixture of relief and tremendous disappointment rush through her. "Sorry to cut this short, but she's my ride and-"

"I can bring you home," Chris interrupted casually, surprising even himself with this spontaneous yet nonetheless genuine offer.

The thought of being alone with him made Nadia excitedly nervous, but she maintained a cool stance while consulting her friend. She knew it probably looked completely adolescent, a spur-of-the-moment girl talk moment like something out of The Facts of Life, but she turned her back to Chris and kept her voice as low as she possibly could while confronting Jennifer in order to be heard over the background noise of the crowd and the band.

"Jen, I know what you're thinking. Don't you dare leave me alone with him - he's practically a stranger for Christ's sake!"

"He's a gorgeous, sweet, famous stranger and he's even got a cold. Plus he's interested in you. Nadia Levon, you're totally crazy if you can't recognise a good thing when it's standing right in front of you and sneezing in your face!"

Nadia had all but stopped listening after her friend's second sentence. "You think he's interested in me?"

"None so blind as those who don't want to see. Do it, you lucky bitch," Jennifer said in a voice low enough for only Nadia to hear. "Get you a piece. For once in your life, stop being such a goddamned responsible ice queen of a doctor!"

"Good lord, Jennifer," Nadia said, rolling her eyes. "I don't even know-"

"Okay. That's it. Thanks... Hah... Chris," Jennifer cut her off, grabbing her purse from the bar as she slid off the stool she had previously been sat on.

"Jen, don't you dare..."Nadia vainly tried again to get her friend to act sensibly.

Jennifer completely ignored her, kissing her cheek.

"Bye now! Call you tomorrow Nadia. And 'twas SO nice to meet you, Chris, a real pleasure," Jennifer waved at her as she hurried away.

Nadia didn't have time to utter another word, be it of protest or gratitude, before her friend was out the door, leaving her alone with the - in Jennifer's words - gorgeous, sweet, famous and apparently interested-in-her Chris Sahren.

Now thoroughly stuck, Nadia turned to Chris with what she hoped was a friendly smile that she hoped didn't in the least betray the inner hunger she suddenly felt. "So, how long have you been playing drums?"

* * *

The ride back in the car was a bit of a blur. Nadia was definitely tipsy. Just how much Bailey's had she downed? In truth, the taste of it lingered in the back of her mouth and made her feel a bit queasy; the caramel sweetness of it got to be a bit much after a few glasses, no matter how much she liked the stuff.

Music had been on Chris' stereo, something fast and harsh that had pounded away in the rear of the car. They'd made light conversation about nothing important and then more important things. There had been connections on both sides, spoken and unspoken, looks exchanged, a hand on her thigh. His hand. There had been flickers of fantasies all-too sexual where she imagined him in bed with her, hot and passionate. Meaningful looks were exchanged during a red light that had lasted an eternity five minutes from her apartment.

She had felt more drunk than she really was, on Bailey's, on music, on Chris. God she wanted him. And then, the car had jolted to a halt in front of her home and she'd thanked him for the ride, not sure what to do next. Not sure what she wanted to do with him, with herself, with the strange tension that blossomed between them.

He'd leant over to give her a peck on the cheek. She'd gotten close enough to accept it. Then, his hand had cupped her chin. She'd turned her face a little bit, not too much, just enough to look into his eyes.

She'd felt as if she were drowning in their midnight depths.

It had been her who had tried to initiate the kiss, really. She had closed her eyes, leaning slightly forward, openly inviting. Chris had looked at her and sighed. Her eyes had fluttered open, inquisitive, and she'd seen him looking at her in the same way as he had before, head cocked to the side, as if contemplating her. Contemplating the possibilities.

Chris had sneezed, unexpectedly, a hushed "Hah-essh!" that had nonetheless sounded preternaturally loud in the small confines of his car, even with the remains of a song fading away on the stereo.

Nadia had smiled, feeling both aroused and completely sober all at once. She'd blessed him, put a hand on his thigh. He'd been won over.

By then, they'd both known what was to follow.


"I can't believe you're here," Nadia breathed, at a loss for words all of a sudden.

Never in a million years would she have guessed that she would end up spending Friday night, really Saturday morning by now, sitting in her living room having a drink with Slide Line's drummer, the same Christopher Sahren that she had been giving an antibiotic shot to less than twelve hours ago. And yet, against all odds, here he was sitting next to her, staring with those mesmerizing dark eyes, giving her a sly smile that was, in her mind, filled with promise.

"Well, I am," he said, reaching out to brush away a curl that had strayed across her eyes.

"I know," she giggled before abruptly stopping.

Nadia blushed and wondered if she sounded like a star struck adolescent. In truth, she didn't care that much for his music and didn't even know whether his band was that famous. Jennifer had thought so, but then again, Jennifer tended to blow anything music-related way out of proportion. All Nadia saw when she looked at Chris was an exquisite creature radiating sex appeal, a genuine person who could make her laugh and make her thoughts run wild just by being there with her.

Chris drew back, that strange look creeping over his chiselled features once again. Nadia tensed, knowing what would follow.

She wasn't disappointed.

"Huh-eshhoo!... Chisshoo! Damn, woman, you really should have told me you were running the local SPCA branch!"

Nadia giggled. She'd had no idea Chris was allergic to cats when she'd invited him in. The kittens had left a bit of rubbish strewn about when they'd walked in, and Nadia had immediately apologized for the mess. The culprits were snuggled together in a fuzzy heap, plunged deep into sleepy oblivion, on the very sofa where they now sat. She'd explained that she'd gotten the kittens about a month ago from a friend and they tended to be rather hyperactive. Chris had given her a thoughtful look, and then explained that he had 'a light allergy to cats'.

Then, he'd sneezed twice, and said "Fuck it. I'm just plain allergic to cats. Umm..."

His eyes had flickered toward the door just as Nadia broke out in a wide smile, not being able to believe her luck. This sexy guy not only had a cold, but had an allergy to cats on top of it? This was definitely too good to be true. She told a white lie, telling him she'd just vacuumed the entire apartment earlier in the day and there really wouldn't be much hair lying around to make him sneeze. She'd put an hand on her arm, keeping her touch light and playful, and invited him to sit down with her. He'd looked at her, indecisive for a minute and licking his lips. Nadia had looked back, slipping into stare-me-down-game mode once more, and waited, giving him her most winning smile.

It had worked. Here he was, not only sitting with her, but also sneezing in the bargain. Nadia wasn't sure how much more of this she could take. She watched him pull out a tissue from the box she'd laid out on a nearby coffee table to take care of his sniffles and sneezes. He brought it up to his nose, blowing it forcefully.

"Ugh, these cats are so not helping my cold. I'm really sorry about this - I know how repulsive I probably look, and I-"

"Shut up Chris. It's not like I'm not used to seeing people sneeze. And it's not like you could look repulsive if you tried," she cut him off, her tone infused with meaning she knew he probably wouldn't understand.

Before she knew it, she reached out and caught the hand that was withdrawing from his nose. Nadia looked as surprised as Chris did as she looked at her hand, which was firmly holding his, which was firmly holding the used tissue.

She saw Chris begin to smile and suddenly, she didn't care. Nadia casually reached over to take the sodden tissue away from it, carelessly dropping it onto a floor that was already dirty with kitten-induced litter, and did something she thought only movie characters were capable of. Gently, with infinite slowness, she reclined on the sofa, pulling Chris closer to her until finally she was reclining with him on top of her. Still not satisfied, she draped her hands on the small of his neck and brought his lips to hers.

Chris was hesitant at first, as if not certain which was the best course of action to adopt, but when Nadia's lips parted and her hot tongue darted through them to reach his, he couldn't help but smile and reciprocate. He had admired her very much in the sterile examination room that afternoon, but hadn't really thought anything would come of it. And now, the stunning blonde was beneath him, pulling him close and glowing with lust in a way he found impressive even though he had been in situations like this countless times before. There was something special about her, an indefinable aura of finesse and self-control that had surrounded her ever since they had met. That was changing now, melting into a fiery need and competent seduction that Chris found irresistibly appealing.

"Am I crazy?" this cool, controlled woman whispered beneath him.

"Maybe," he teased, the corner of his eyes crinkling even though their dark depths remained completely sober. "And if so, then that's two of us."

Then, he paused as if considering what he had just said. Nadia was just about to add something when she watched him turn considerately to one side to let out a pair of thrillingly wet sneezes; "hah-esshoo!... essshuh!"

Nadia smiled at him, shyly even though she could feel herself literally warming up. Her actions belied her expression, however, as her hand darted under his well-muscled body to unfasten his tight-fitting jeans. Her competent fingers, so deft and calculating, had no trouble and in no more than five seconds, they had stolen into the soft fabric of Chris' underwear. He touch fleetingly explored what lay beneath. Warmth. Softness. Flesh. And warm metal.

"What the-?" Nadia cried before she could stop herself as her fingers seized upon the foreign object.

Chris promptly burst out laughing, ruining the intensity of the moment.

"It's called a Prince Albert, doctor. Are you telling me you've never happened across one of those babies?"

"A Prince Albert?" Nadia repeated, puzzled.

The look she gave him got Chris laughing again as she explained. "Well, you saw my nipple earlier on today, and I thought I'd sort of let you on to my other little jewellery item here. It's just another piercing, really."

Chris paused, regained his composure, and cheekily added, "wanna see?"

Against all odds, Nadia felt a sort of clinical curiosity well up inside her. She was at that moment more curious to see the piercing than her conquest's genitals.

"Yeah. Show me?"

Chris disentangled his limber body from her soft one and drew back, pushing his jeans down and exhibiting a superb erection... crowned by a small silver hoop that entered his flesh at the base of his glans and emerged at his urethra's opening.

"That, my dear, is a Prince Albert."

Nadia forgot seven years of medical training in one swoop. In an amazed little girl voice, she asked a question Chris had heard dozens of times before, both from women and from men.

"Didn't that hurt?"

"Hell yeah!" he answered good-naturedly, suddenly wondering where this whole conversation would lead. "The nipple and the tongue did, too, but this was something else. I thought my dick would fall off after they did it, but it's fine now. Doesn't hurt at all; quite the contrary actually."

The piercing repelled some women, but others found it sexy in a kinky, exotic kind of way. He'd done it on a whim one day, after having heard all kinds of reports of enhanced sensitivity resulted from getting a hoop put through the head of a man's penis. Plus, he just plain liked piercings... and he thought this one looked especially cool. The reports of added sensitivity were far from rubbish - the quality of sensations he'd enjoyed after having had the Prince Albert put in had been incomparable.

Nadia extended one long, cool finger and traced the silver hoop's smooth curve, her finger ending up on the tip of Chris' warm flesh, making his erection give an involuntary twitch.

"Are you trying to tell me it actually feels good to have that thing in there?" she asked, still amazed.


It was on the tip of his tongue to add "and not just for me," but Nadia's expression didn't reveal her intentions as to the way the evening would turn out between them. Was this controlled little woman freaked out, or was her curiosity piqued? He decided to find out.

Chris gently took Nadia's hand and pulled it on top of his rigid sex, manipulating her fingers so that they encircled his erection. She looked away from his eyes, down at her hand, and then back at him, a slow smile spreading across her finely curved lips.

The smiled widened into a grin as she watched his expression change from what she thought looked like intense seduction to irritation. A moment later, his hand tightened around hers as his body jerked lightly forward.

"Huh-atchoo!... Hah-shooo!..." Chris paused, unsure whether the tickle was gone or not, and then looked relieved that it was. "Damn, I can't stop sneezing, can I? Between my cold and your cats, I'm a total mess."

He looked back at Nadia, arching an eyebrow in her direction.

"I gather you're not repulsed?" Chris enquired, his mouth twitching lightly at the corners.

Was he referring to those two uncovered sneezes or to the Prince Albert? "Probably the latter," Nadia thought, as she sweetly smiled and said,

"No. I find it... interesting."

"I swear, it doesn't hurt. Really."

"I believe you," Nadia said shyly, her hand gliding back from his shaft onto the tip of his member, giving it and the ring a light squeeze.

"And it won't break if you squeeze," Chris teased, rubbing lightly at his irritated nose in a way Nadia found totally adorable.

"It might if I pulled hard enough," Nadia shot back, still grinning.

"I don't advise you to try, doctor, or else you'll have to drive me to the emergency room, and I'd just love to see you try and explain what's wrong with me."

This got them both laughing, and before Nadia could catch her breath, Chris was on top of her again, kissing her deeply, his smooth tongue tentatively exploring the inside of her mouth. His hand traced their way along her arms and then onto her smooth, velvet covered stomach, pulling her top up slowly. Seeing that she didn't protest, he became a bit more adventurous and slid his hands all the way under, reaching to cup her breasts.

He was holding them when he felt the need to sneeze again. Before he could let go, the explosions rushed out of him and he sneezed, twice, only having time to turn his head away before the two resounding "Chisshoo"'s sprang out.

Nadia moaned appreciatively, as much at Chris' exploration of her body as the fact that he'd sneezed, and draped her own arms around the small of his back, pressing her pelvis to his.

"Bless you."

She was by now quite aroused and wanted Chris more than ever. She kissed him deeply, all the fantasies she'd been having all day swirling away in her brain, fuelling her lust for him. She wanted him, and that intriguing loop of shiny metal, deep inside her.

Then, Nadia paused, breaking off the kiss, and took the initiative of removing her shirt. It was a bit awkward in the position they were in, but she managed to do it swiftly, revealing twin orbs of smooth, soft flesh that drew an appreciative sigh from Chris.

"I hope you don't mind my saying this but... You really have a gorgeous body."

Chris immediately leant down and traced the contours of Nadia's wide pale pink aureoles with his tongue. He had always considered breasts to be one of the most attractive features of the female anatomy, and Nadia definitely had a most appealing pair.

"Thank you. Even if I don't have any piercings?" Nadia quipped, watching Chris, amazed that he was actually here doing this to her.

"Don't you dare put anything in those. They are quite lovely au naturel."

Nadia closed her eyes and relaxed, enjoying Chris' attentions. She loved the way his tongue swirled around her nipples; hot, moist, proficient... That little spike inside it made the whole experience even more erotic. If only he would use it somewhere else... What would that metal stud feel like down there? But as much as she wanted to, she felt too shy to ask.

A moment later, Nadia wondered whether she'd spoken those wishes aloud when she heard Chris softly ask,

"Would you mind if I explored further south?"

"Would I?" Nadia breathed, surprised yet pleased.

She smiled and pushed him away playfully. His warm tongue on her sex, especially with that small metallic stud, was definitely an appealing prospect. She stood up unsteadily, unzipped her flattering black chinos and pushed them down along with her black lace underwear. Totally naked, she turned to face Chris, suddenly uncertain. Was she jumping into things too quickly? The answer was a most definite and resounding 'yes', but oh, she wanted him so...

"You," he said in an even, hushed tone, "are stunning. Come here."

She came to him and he embraced her middle for a moment, breathing in her fresh clean scent before pulling her down next to him so that she sat there with her legs slightly apart. Slowly, he got down on the floor and kneeled in front of her, gently parting her thighs. He gave her a slow, easy smile.

"You really are gorgeous. I mean that."

Nadia smiled back, somewhat embarrassed by all his complements. She knew she was far from ugly, but she wasn't used to having praise showered on her thus.

"Thank you," she replied politely, resisting the urge to tell him she thought he was a million times better looking. That would just be too girly.

Chris' smile faded and a business-like look stole over his sharp features, he drew closer and brought his lips to her sex, kissing it gently a few times, enjoying the feel of her silken curls on his face. He was preparing to dive deeper when all of a sudden, he felt Nadia's soft curls make the lingering ticklish feeling in the back of his nose expand into a distinct urge to sneeze. He paused, bringing one soft finger up in a "wait-a-second" gesture before leaning asides, his whole body speaking of expectation.

Nadia watched him, just as lost in anticipation of the sneeze as he was. She longed to quickly pounce on him and turn his face towards her hungry sex, but she didn't quite dare. He wouldn't understand and no doubt find it very strange to say the least. She observed as his eyes squinted shut and his head drew back sharply as he inhaled before letting loose with a hearty "Huh-ESHH-oo!"

"Bless you," she breathed, feeling herself becoming even wetter than she already was as a result of that powerful sneeze.

Chris couldn't help laughing. "Talk about sneezing in awkward situations. Sorry 'bout that!"

"No problem, I didn't mind," Nadia replied mildly.

What an understatement.

"You don't mind? Hah - first time I've heard a girl say she wouldn't mind having me sneeze all over her naked glory! So next time I need to sneeze, I should just stay put and let you enjoy it, yeah?"

Nadia tensed when she heard him saying that. Had he caught on to the fact that she found his sneezing utterly exciting? She felt a furious blush rise to her cheeks and before she could stop it, with more emotion than she knew was proper, she blurted,

"Why do you say that?"

"What?" Chris looked at her nonplussed.

He had only been teasing and wondered if he'd said something he shouldn't have. Why was Nadia's face getting so red all of a sudden; had he made her angry for some reason? He saw that she looked flustered, but had no inkling as to what the problem might be. Strangely enough, any lingering urge to sneeze was completely gone at the moment.

"Why did you say that about sneezing?"

Nadia knew she was putting her foot in her mouth, but she couldn't seem to stop herself.

"Are you angry or something?" Chris shot back.

Silent, Nadia's face was beet red and she was all of a sudden looking extremely uncomfortable, crossing her arms protectively and trying to get her thighs back together. Chris immediately felt his own excitement ebb in turn.

"Look, I'm really sorry. Whatever the problem is, I'll go right now, if you want me to."

She felt herself icing over. Why was she being so paranoid? Maybe Chris didn't have a clue what was going on, and now, she'd just made him uncomfortable as she felt. Maybe he'd been poking fun at her, though, in which case she felt he deserved to share in her discomfort. He was suddenly looking chagrined, however. So much so, in fact, that he was thinking about leaving. Which was, in truth, the last thing she wanted at this point , no matter how strange she suddenly felt.

"No, wait. It's okay," Nadia swallowed hard, still blushing furiously. "I don't want you to go. Please," she extended an arm and put it on his bare, bony shoulder. "Stay. Please. I want you to."

"Well, what's wrong then?" he asked softly, looking right at her in his now familiar considering manner, head cocked to one side.

He could tell that something had gone very wrong and he was now determined to find out what it was, lest the whole magic of their evening be marred by this incident.

"Nothing," Nadia quickly replied, wondering if she was now looking purple with the intensity of her blush. How on earth had they arrived at this point?

"Nadia, tell me. I was having a great time, honestly, and I don't want things to go sour. Not now. You can trust me, you know. I know I might look like some kind of freak to you, and I realize we barely know each other," he gave her a small smile, "but I know how to listen. And... And I like you."

For some reason, this clumsy little speech moved her. It was her turn to cock her head at him, considering. The man was as open and genuine as they came, friendly, approachable and caring. And used to unusual things; playing with a band like Slide Line, meeting hundreds of people, what could he not have seen or heard? A fetish for sneezing suddenly seemed piddling to her.

Click here to read on!