Bedside Manner: Chapter 1

Bedside Manner: Chapter 1

A Chapter by Bad Medicine

                Nicklaus Fleischer knew that anger could be many things.  It could be loud, brash, and prideful.  It could be subtle, or seething, or even righteous.  He had never imagined, however, that it could be calm.


                His uncle was not calm.  Gunar was red in the face, hands shaking, and he very nearly knocked the bottle of scotch off the table when he made a sweeping gesture at the younger man.


                "When you said you had been promoted out of the hospital," the man started, "I thought it would be to a more useful position.  Are you an idiot, boy?"  He paused for only a moment before sneering, and adding, "don't answer that."


                Nicklaus was silent for a long moment.  The part of him that usually told him to just keep his mouth shut had, itself, gone silent.  "I am not a child," he stated.  It felt so alien to talk back.  He still tensed up a little when his uncle stood from the table.  It took the man a moment " the cold weather didn't agree with his leg.  Even standing, though, he didn't come close to his nephew's height.


                "I said you're an idiot," Gunar repeated.  "You don't know what sacrifice is " not while you're hiding from the front lines like a coward.  At least at the Charité you were working on your fellow countrymen."  He just glared at the younger man for a moment, before scoffing, and shaking his head.  "I can't believe you finally joined the Party just to patch up criminals and Jews, and you march in here showing off that new uniform like you actually earned it."


                The uniform had been hidden under Nicklaus's greatcoat, though " at least until his uncle had demanded to see it.  He had hoped it would garner some kind of approval.  Now, he just wanted it off.  It was just another thing that didn't suit his uncle.  Nothing ever suited the man for long, though.


                Even Lukas hadn't suited the man " the child Gunar had demanded he have, with the woman he had demanded he marry.  Nicklaus hadn't been ready " not to be married, and not to be a father.  Everything had felt so rushed, and any questioning " any protesting " had only led to rather ugly, disgusted accusations of deviant sexual preferences.


                There were plenty of pretty girls in town, several of which, Gunar insisted, he had seen making eyes at his nephew.  Nicklaus could never deny that a couple may have flirted with him.  It had been an awkward affair for him, though.  They were nice to look at, and polite, and flattering, and some of them seemed quite determined.  They were strangers, though, and Nicklaus had learned from experience that a willingness to flatter did not necessarily equate to any sort of meaningful love.


                Sofia had been a stranger.  Nicklaus had never seen her before his uncle had introduced them.  It had been a surprise, too, coming home from Heidelberg for the weekend to see the young woman and her parents chatting with Gunar.


                He could scarcely remember seeing his uncle look so happy " and while sober, even.  He had offered Nicklaus a smile in greeting, but, there was also a warning in his eyes.  Don't screw this up.


                Sofia's parents were there, it seemed, to ensure that their daughter would be marrying into a worthwhile family.  Nicklaus didn't say a word while the two spoke with his uncle.  He just sat at the table across from them, only answering the occasional question that came his way.


                They asked where he was working, and he told them he wasn't " he was attending university at Heidelberg, and assisting at the estate when he could.  It was only after Sofia's parents looked impressed that Gunar said, "he's going to be a doctor," practically beaming with pride.


                The man had never been proud of Nicklaus's desire to go into medicine.  He had always told him he should join the military, like he had.  That, he insisted, was what real men did.


                Nicklaus wondered how long that pride would last.  Probably not for very long.  For the moment, his academic pursuits just happened to be an unexpected and convenient selling point.


                He was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that he was being sold, too, which meant he was becoming increasingly nervous.  His uncle kept shooting him those looks, though…


                don't screw this up.


                Nicklaus was doing his best to be polite, and to stay out of the way " but, he couldn't help but fear that everyone could see how strained his smiles were becoming.  His relative silence certainly hadn't gone unnoticed.


                "Nicklaus," his uncle started, "you're being awfully quiet."  It would have seemed like a polite, concerned statement had it come from anyone else.  Gunar's meaning was clear, though " the words he would have gladly spoken out loud were they not in the company of others.  'Why can't you act normal?'


                "Sorry," the younger man said, almost wincing at how shaky his own voice sounded.  "It was a long drive home."  It had been an unexpected one, too.  His uncle had actually called the university to summon him back for the weekend, though he had offered no explanation as to why, which had just left Nicklaus in a fit of tension the whole way home.  His shoulders and hands still hurt from the drive.


                Gunar looked his nephew up and down and gave him an indulgent smile that would likely seem convincing, at least, to their guests.  "You should get some rest, then."  Go away, before you embarrass the both of us.


                Nicklaus knew better than to rush off, as much as he wanted to be away from his uncle.  He shook their guests' hands, and said it was very nice to meet them, and offered a polite farewell before he gathered up his things and started for his room.  He was exhausted, too " but he couldn't get to sleep.  In fact, he felt more awake than ever when he heard Sofia's family leave, and silence descended on the house.


                The silence terrified him.  More accurately, the thought of what might break the silence was what terrified him.  It wasn't long before Nicklaus heard exactly what he'd feared he would " the heavy sound of his uncle's boots as he started up the stairs.


                The ridiculous notion to hide under the bed struck Nicklaus.  He was far too tall for that, now and, really, when had that ever worked aside from the times his uncle had been too intoxicated to even bend over and look?  He decided to settle on pretending to be asleep, as unconvincing as it would likely be, given how tense he was.  That tension only grew when he heard those boot steps come to a halt outside his door.


                Nicklaus prayed for them to pick up, again " to keep walking down the hall.  They didn't, though, and he found himself holding his breath when he heard the door being opened.


                "I know you're awake," Gunar started, his voice low and almost dangerously calm, "and you had better listen to me very closely.  Do you understand?"


                The younger man gave a hard swallow before replying with a, "yessir."  His response was cut off when his uncle's hands fisted in his shirt, and yanked sharply upward.


                "I have set everything up for you," Gunar stated sharply.  "None of the women in town were good enough for you, apparently, so I found you one.  You are not going to avoid your duties to this family any longer, especially given your personal contributions to making it so small."


                "That was an accident," the younger man started.  His protest was quickly silenced by a sharp, open-handed slap to the side of his face " one that made him jump and even yelp a little, much to his embarrassment.


                It was a reaction that was less than endearing to his uncle.  "The military could have worked that out of you, too."


                Nicklaus hadn't noticed at the time how much trouble the man was having in holding him up " more, certainly, than he ever seemed to have before.  He was more focused, and more startled, at suddenly being dropped back to the bed.  Gunar just shot him a warning glare, before turning and walking out.


                That was it?  A slap and a stern talking-to?  He supposed he should count himself lucky.  It could have been far worse, and it frequently was.  It was nothing he didn't deserve, though.  He just hoped, silently, that the mark his uncle's hand had undoubtedly left would be gone by the time he woke up in the morning.

© 2012 Bad Medicine

Author's Note

Bad Medicine
I want to improve, so, insightful comments and critique are welcome.

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Added on February 29, 2012
Last Updated on March 12, 2012
Tags: Germany, WWII, family, violence, murder, nazi