The Gift, Part 3

Steven Bergom

"I don't care what caused it just fix it!" Tanya growled.

"These things must be done in a certain order," Marc calmly told her. "We must first ascertain the cause of the wound and then find if any poison was used before we can even think of healing it. For all we know the basic remedy I may apply could exacerbate the damage and kill you!"

"Fine," Tanya muttered after wrestling her emotions back under control. "Do what you need to do but do it quickly; it's starting to throb."

"In that case, get out of the tub."

Sighing at the indignity of having to leave the confines of the hot bath but saw the necessity; the bathtub they had installed in their home was precisely the right size for an eight-hundred pound werewolf but was ill-suited for Marc's diagnosing once she reverted to her normal human form. Tanya was honest with herself and reminded herself — almost daily and with some asperity — that she was short. The change had given her a far more fit body than she ever had no matter how hard she worked. Now what once was fat was lean muscle and all those little imperfections that she had catalogued over the years were gone. She could lift twice as much as any dedicated weightlifter and her hearing and smell put a bloodhound to shame. But what the change didn't do was affect the basic fact that she had a below average height and would always be in need of a good step- ladder when accessing only moderately-high shelves in the pantry.

Marc patted her with a towel, gently but impersonally. Tanya wished at times that he would add a caress or gentle kiss during these times but she admitted that it was this professional and detail-oriented attitude that made him as good a mage as he was a network administrator. When he was done he led her to their bedroom and motioned her to lay on her stomach on the bed.

Pulling on a pair of latex gloves Marc proceeded to poke, prod and generally examine her back. After some time he announced his findings. "It's a particularly benign poison," he said after retrieving a jar of something from another room, "but rather tenacious. I'm going to clean it out with this salve and then close it with a few sutures. Oh, and it might sting a little."

Of course the last bit was an understatement. To change into her wolfen form Tanya needed to become angry or frightened. Any situation which prodded her instinct for self-preservation would cause her to transform and the searing pain that the salve ignited kept her fighting off her instincts and keep herself from tearing her husband apart. The pillow she was clutching wasn't quite so fortunate.

It was still dark when Tanya roused herself to the throb of an aching back. In the midst of battle, and even shortly afterwards, she never felt the little aches and pains. Given time to rest, though, every little scratch and strain would scream for attention making sleep an impossibility. A wandering hand told her that Marc had not settled to rest beside her and briefly considered trying to get back to sleep un-aided until a rather vindicitive throb convinced her to seek out her husband and whatever sleeping draught he could give her.

She found him in his basement workshop, calmly soldering hair-thin wires with nothing more than a whispered incantation and a thought. In the beginning he used a soldering iron and miles of solder but as his skill grew his reliance on the more mundane tools of electronics disappearend. It frightened her, but at least she worried less about Marc's accidentally burning down the house with a carelessly placed iron.

"Did you really need to re-build him?" Tany asked quietly fingering a metal arm suspended from the ceiling. "You've been at him for ten years now. I thought he was finished long ago."

Marc straightened from his perch atop a high stool. "No, I didnt have everything quite right, last time," he said and caressed the metal head that sat next to him. "The skin sensors set up a feedback loop more often than not and the joints would stick at inappropriate times."

"It really was quite annoying, Mom," the head spoke. "In the construction business it's not a good thing when your knees stop bending and you're trying to carry a load of bricks up five stories."

"Well, David, you never would have been in this if you just followed my advice and stayed out of the Air Force."

If yellow, glowing eyes could be said to roll, David's did. "Mo-o-om! We've had this discussion a thousand times: no one could have predicted that a dragon would explode at the precise moment I was doing a fly- over and no one—"

"Enough, you two," Marc interrupted. "There's no need to re-hash old arguments and you," he pointed to Tanya, "should be resting."

Tanya sniffed. "I would have but a certain someone decided to use my back to practice their cross-stitch."

"What did you expect from a nine-inch gash?"

"What!?" David gasped. "You got hurt today? When? How? Who did it?"

"It's just a little cut, is all."

"And it's hurting like the dickens right now, isn't it?" Tanya nodded. "How about you go back to bed and I'll be right up with a nice hot toddy just as soon as I clean up down here."

Tanya almost told her husband to leave it until morning but stopped at the last minute. She had said that once and found that his dedication to order was, to put it in the nicest terms possible, severely anal retentive. Instead she kissed her son on the head, gave her husband a bit more meaningful kiss and then climbed the stairs to her bedroom to await eventual sleep.