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Love’s Distance Preview

1

A Few Years Ago

I felt it before I saw or heard anything—that gut-wrenching empathy that tore through me when someone hurt near me. It was my gift, or curse, depending on how people looked at it. I glanced up from the book I was reading as I walked from the main building to the warriors’ dorms in time to see a flash of blond hair before the figure was gone again, the pain definitely coming from them.

As always I was like a moth to a flame, their pain almost a compulsion I couldn’t avoid. I followed it, wanting to help, needing to the moment I felt it.

How could I not?

I jogged in the direction the figure had headed, picking up its scent and then realizing it had to be a guy, of course, there were only men at this camp. So where was he headed? It took me a few minutes to track him down in the woods. I found the pre-trans huddled against a tree, crying softly as he shivered from the fast chilling night.

It didn’t help he wasn’t wearing a shirt, his blond hair was soaked, and he was only in running shorts and flip-flops.

What the hell is going on? “You shouldn’t be out here all alone,” I said gently, letting him know I was there. He gasped as his head snapped up, his golden eyes wide as saucers when he recognized me. The pre-trans took a step away and tripped over something in the brush. I darted forward and caught him with one arm around his waist before he landed, swallowing loudly as I stared into his still tear-filled eyes.

It just had to be this pre-trans—the one I couldn’t get out of my head since I’d met him a few weeks ago when I’d given him his arrival-day physical… If it could even be called that.

“Bowie, right?” He nodded. “Bowie, what happened?” His cheeks flushed so fast I thought he might pass out, so I gave him an understanding smile. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me. Let’s get you back to the dorms.”

“No, I don’t want to go back there,” he whimpered, his soft voice sending shivers through my body. “Please don’t make me go back.”

I thought about it a moment and nodded. “Okay, but only if you tell me what happened. I can’t help you otherwise.”

He nibbled on his plump lower lip, and I felt my body go hard in all the most inappropriate places. “Some of the other pre-trans caught me jerking off in the shower so they decided to teach me a lesson.”

“What kind of lesson?” I growled, my heart racing even as my skin went cold. “I know they hurt you. I can feel it.”

“They cut me, that’s all,” he muttered, looking away so fast that I was shocked his nose didn’t grow he was so obviously lying.

“Where? Let me see.”

“No, please,” Bowie whispered as he reached down and covered one side of his ass, telling me exactly where they’d cut him. “It’s humiliating.”

“Why? If it’s just a cut, Bowie…” I trailed off, letting him understand there was no way out of telling me the truth at this point.

He hung his head in shame and took in a shaky breath. “I was saying a name, I guess. I didn’t realize it, but they heard me. They cut the name into me. Please. It will heal. Don’t look or tell.”

“Oh, Bowie,” I breathed, hugging him and kissing his hair. He was so little compared to me. That would change of course, after his transition, but at the five-four he was then to my six-three, he was a shrimp.

Which made it so weird that I was drawn to him. I never went for such small men. I think that was why he confounded me so much.

“I won’t tell, but I can’t leave you hurting,” I murmured as I knelt down. “For one, it hurts me because of my gift. Two, I’m not just the camp’s medic, I’m a full human doctor, Bowie, and as such, I know, because you heal human slow until you transition, it could get infected and all kinds of things. I won’t tell, okay? I swear I’ll keep this between us.”

“No, please,” he whispered, shaking as I reached for the bottoms of his shorts, thinking it was better to push up the leg than to pull them down. “Sam, please, don’t.” His hands shoved at mine desperately, but I was easily able to grab both in my one.

“Bowie, it’s okay. This isn’t your fault.” I realized I’d better just get this over with or he was going to fight me healing him and make this worse. Sure enough, he tried to get away so I hurried to yank up and see the name just so he’d stop… And froze.

“Sam? Sam, let me go,” Bowie begged, and I realized he’d been talking for a while, that it wasn’t the first time he’d asked.

I released his wrists and moved my hand to his hip so he couldn’t run. “Bowie, they carved Sam into your butt.”

“I know, I was there,” he snapped, trying to get away. I moved my other hand to his hip and kept him still.

“You were thinking about me?” I rasped, staring up at him. He wouldn’t answer, his cheeks flushed as tears soaked his lashes. I caught on to how embarrassed he was and that we wouldn’t settle anything like this so I made a snap decision. I swooped him up into my arms, grabbed my stuff I’d dropped, and carried him off.

He was freezing after all. I should have done it sooner.

“What are you doing?” Bowie whispered, his eyes wide again, no longer struggling.

“Taking you back to my room.” His breath hitched and I realized how bad that sounded. “I want to heal you properly and you asked me not to send you back to the dorms. You can’t stay out in the woods all night, Bowie.”

“Are you mad at me?” he asked after a few moments.

“No, of course not,” I assured him gently and kissed his cheek. The little imp turned his head when I pulled away and planted one on my lips. “Bowie, don’t.”

His face fell. “Of course. Right, sorry, who wants a scrawny pre-trans?”

“If that scrawny pre-trans is you, I do,” I admitted, his eyes lighting up. “But I won’t get involved with a pre-trans. Not ever. We change too much after our transition, become completely different people sometimes. I did. So no matter how much I want to take you to my bed and do all kinds of things to you, I won’t, because it could break both our hearts in the end. Do you understand?”

He nodded, nibbling on his lower lip again. We were both quiet the rest of the trip to my room, but once we were inside and I set him on my bed, he took my hand. “Is it normal for pre-trans to keep fantasizing about you after you examine them?”

I swallowed loudly, hating to admit how many lines I’d crossed. “Bowie, I didn’t give you a normal exam.” It was my turn to hang my head as shame filled me. “What I did was wrong. I was supposed to give you a normal prostate exam, but when you responded the way you did, I kept going for a bit.”

“I wish you had kept going until I’d come,” he giggled. “That’s what I fantasize about. It was awesome.”

I shook my head. “All the years I’ve been examining pre-trans never have I behaved like that. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It just happened and then—”

“You stopped. It’s okay, Sam. I was willing,” Bowie whispered, getting I was seriously upset about it. “I won’t bring it up again or ever tell anyone. It was just a fantasy.”

I smiled at him as I leaned up and kissed his cheek. “You should come knock on my door after you transition.”

“I promise.” He shivered.

I pulled up his shorts again, hating that he was hurt but loving my name on his ass all at the same time. How twisted and wrong was that? Was I going to have a nice stay in hell or what?

It was so much worse licking the wound, my hands on his soft skin, listening to his moans. I’m not sure how, but it took every ounce of self-control I had to tuck him into my bed when it was over and sleep on the other side from him, making sure I didn’t wrap myself around him like I wanted to.

And god did I want to.

When I woke the next morning, he was gone as if the whole thing had been a dream. Sometimes I still wondered if it had been, because Bowie was so perfect he didn’t even seem real.