By My Hands

“Milk thistle, please Harra.” I watch as she rustles through the medicine bag. “The side pocket, Harra, just there.” I point from across the room, warming a tea pot in the hearth. “Yes, that’s it. Bring it here please. Thank you.” Uncorking the vial, I find myself overwhelmingly thankful that there are leaves left. Just enough for a single brew. Even so, it’s just another reminder of our dwindling supplies. Why do I make this harder on myself than what's necessary? I could easily... no.

The patient leans over his cot and empties the contents of his stomach into the bedside bucket. Harra rushes over with a wet cloth and dabs that young child’s mouth. Her hand cupping the back of his fevered neck as he settles himself back into bed. Harra looks to me with concern, then back to the child. She begins speaking softly to the concerned mother, who grips the boy's hand.

Harra's eyes are questioning me. I can feel it, I’ve seen it on her face many times over the past month. I stir the leaves into the pot, grateful my assistant has yet to put voice to her thoughts. For I don’t quite have an answer, even for myself, not yet at least. She’s one of the few who knows what I can do. It’s no wonder she’s unnerved by my sudden change in tactics. There are even moments when I wonder at my own reasoning. I’m overthinking again; I’ve convinced myself of it more times than not. Even so, I have to be sure. I do my best to put it out of mind for now. Reminding myself that time will yet tell if my fears are warranted.

We emerged into the mid-morning sun after having received thanks and goods for our services. The boy rests now, but the tea will help, and time will heal him fit again for childish things. Harra follows close behind, a delicate smile spared on her face.

“The boy will live, and I believe he has even learned a lesson regarding death caps.” I say this to Harra, hoping to instill her confidence in the good we’ve done using this method. She nods as we take to the street, taking care to avoid the horse and buggy that rolls past us.

“For this, I’m thankful.” She says, shouldering my medical bag.

We don’t speak much along our travels back to the shop. The streets were much too busy for idol conversation, and I much rather not risk a confrontation just yet. The shop sign indicates our departure and planned short return.

Already, I see someone familiar standing by the front door. His back leans against the window, obscuring the carefully placed soap bar display I’ve put out. He couldn’t be back already?

“Another successful healing venture?” He removes his hat at our approach and bows.

“Lovely to see you again, Liam.” Harra curtsys, fanning her skirt out and bowing her head in return. I move straight to the door. Unlocking it immediately as I attempt to ignore the blatant display of attraction, or has this moved now to courtship?

“Liam, please see me in my office, will you?” He helps me with my coat, and I slip my hat on a hook by the door, and he does the same with our coats. “Harra, will you bring tea to the front desk and watch over the shop while Liam and I have a moment?”

“Yes, of course.” She’s smiling brightly now. It’s a precious thing, new love. I find I enjoy its company; it’s a refreshing escape from the worries of my mind.

Liam dispatches with the pleasantries when the door closes behind him. Immediately, I notice his change in demeanor. Shit.

“Please sit, Liam.” He moves towards the chair opposite my desk and sits leading forward with his head held low.

“I know the road must have been a harsh one this time of year.” I take care, easing into the subject of his travels. For goddess sake, this is harder than I thought it would be. “I want you to know I appreciate your haste.”

“You were right.” I feel myself jump at his words. He doesn’t look up at me. He stares at his feet and continues. “Every single one, every single person listed on that parchment you gave me, is dead. Right down to the bumps and scrapes.” A shoulder-bearing sigh escapes him, and I know how much this pains him to say. “Every person you heal dies by your hands... eventually.”

“How does it happen?” I turn away; my skin feels raw and exposed, and I pull at my sleeves, trying to shield myself.

“It seems to be the same for everyone. One day they go to sleep and just... never wake up again.” I hear the leather groan as Liam shifts in his seat. “But the timing of it all seems to vary by person. As short as a few months for some, years for others.”

I flick away a silent tear and clear my throat. “Thank you, Liam. I… needed to know for sure. Let us —“

“I want you to do it to me.” He says.

I turn around, tears welling at the corners of my eyes again as I frantically search his for answers. “Please.” Is all he says.

“Liam…” I want to ask why but then I see it. I’ve seen it more times than I can count. His eyes are heavy and dark. Not from travel, I can see that now. He’s thinner than the last time I saw him as well. Liam isn’t well, and I realize now why he was so willing to help me find the answers I so badly wanted. Answers, it turns out, he wanted as well.

“How long?” I say as I pull back and collapse into my chair.

“No long.” His eyes water as he pulls a small black box from his pocket and fingers it’s edges. “Not long enough.”

Harra calls and taps at the office door. Liam jumps and quickly puts the box away.

“Okay.” I say, “I’ll do it.”

It’s then I realize that even in times of darkness love can shine so very bright. “New love,” I say to Liam and he smiles at me regardless of our conversation. “I find I enjoy its company very much indeed.”

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