Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(48) by Ilona Andrews
I sensed a big “but” coming. “But?”
“Think of me as clear-cutting the paths by force instead of allowing the natural development to take place. I will do my absolute best, but my power is limited. The pathways I create won’t match the old pathways precisely. I have done this previously on four different occasions. I’ve restored function and, in one case, memories lost during an amnesia-inducing event; however, one of my patients had a drastic personality change and two others developed severe anxiety and reported episodes of depersonalization, during which they felt unable to control themselves, as if the events they experienced were happening to someone else. They felt disconnected from reality and disconnected from their memories. One of them improved over time. The other left her family and moved out of state. She had four children, a supportive husband, and elderly parents. Nobody has heard from her in over nine years.”
“You are a bucket of cheer, Doc.”
“There is an alternative,” Doolittle said. “You could let the healing take place gradually. There is a possibility that your brain will restore itself.”
“How big a possibility?”
“A significant possibility. The only reason you are alive and have regained some minor motor function is that immediately after the trauma that caused the strokes, the blood vessels in your brain sealed themselves. The process of healing had already started before you were ever brought to me. I believe that over time, with my help, you will recover most of what you lost.”
“How long would that take?”
“I don’t know.” Doolittle’s leaned forward. “But I’ve observed it happen.”
“How long did it take in the cases you observed?”
“Three years to complete recovery for one patient and fourteen months for the other.”
“How long if you heal me now?”
“It will be miraculous,” Doolittle said. “You will walk out of here when I’m finished and no doubt run straight into another foolish fight.”
That was a given.
“I want you to know that you have a choice,” Doolittle said. “Curran is . . . Well, there is a reason we all followed him. When he wants something, he can be very persuasive.”
“You don’t say.”
“He will abide by your decision, I promise you that. His feelings, or anyone else’s feelings except your own, do not matter here. Only you can dictate the speed of your recovery. We don’t fully understand how the mind works, but everything within it is connected. There is no guarantee that after I mitigate the damage, you will experience the same emotions you once felt toward people in your life. Curran will wait for you.”
If Doolittle healed me, there was a chance I would no longer want to be me. How hard must it have been for Curran to walk out of this room and take that chance?
“He will take care of you and he won’t abandon you if you choose to take your time. Neither will Julie. I will always be here.”
There was only one thing I could say to that. “Thank you.”
He reached over and gently touched my hand. His stern medmage composure broke. “You shouldn’t have left the Keep. Look what happened.”
It made me want to cry and I didn’t know why. I squeezed his hand. “You really think Curran will wait for me?”
“He gave me his word. Trust me, he isn’t going anywhere. He is all yours, so yes, he will wait.”
“But will my father?”
“What will happen when my father finds out I can’t hold my sword? Will he wait three years or will he burn the city to the ground because I can’t stop him?”
“It shouldn’t matter,” Doolittle said gently.
“But it does.”
“You’ve made an agreement.”
“And I trust that agreement only because I’m here to enforce it. He knows that his power isn’t infinite. In a fight to the death I will hurt him and that worries him. I need to be capable of fighting him. I can’t protect the city if I am not.”
“It isn’t the time to worry about the city,” Doolittle told me. “This is the time to worry about you.”
The silence stretched between us. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that after everything we had gone through, claiming the city could cost me everyone I loved. It wasn’t fair, but life rarely was. Good people died. Bad people had happy lives. That was why someone had to take a stand, and that someone was me.
“Curran loves me,” I said. “Nobody in my past loved me that much. I see it in his eyes. I want him to stay with me. I want Julie to stay with me. I want my family. I want all of you.” I would do anything to keep my family. Anything, except betray everything I stood for. “But I am alive because the city saved me. It gave me its magic when I was dying.”
“Kate . . .” Doolittle said gently. “The technology has been up the whole time.”
“I know. But all of us, everything that is alive, produces and stores magic. We hold on to it even during the strongest tech wave. That’s why shapeshifters can still change their form. Last night, when I was dying, every living thing in the boundaries of the land I claimed surrendered a tiny fraction of that magic and offered it to me. And I took it.” My voice shook. “I took it to survive.”
Doolittle opened his mouth.
“Look into my brain. You will see progress that shouldn’t be there. I’m speaking in complete sentences.” I leaned forward. “I could’ve asked for more. I could’ve taken it all to heal myself. I could’ve drained all of you dry.”
Doolittle’s eyes widened as the meaning of my words sank in. I could’ve unleashed a blight to save myself. He recoiled.
We both knew what happened to living creatures when magic was suddenly ripped away from them. A year ago, the Lighthouse Keepers, a terrorist organization obsessed with banishing magic, unleashed a device that did precisely that at Palmetto, a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta. When we got there, Palmetto had become a mass grave.
Doolittle swallowed. “Roland can’t be allowed to claim this land.”
“He won’t as long as I live. I’ve assumed the responsibility for it. I’m meant to protect it. We are bound now by something I don’t fully understand, but I know that this land didn’t sacrifice its magic so I could lie in bed for three years taking my time. Right now there is a creature out there terrorizing the city and sending hordes of ghouls to do its dirty work. It is immune to my magic, which means its powers and mine have something in common. My father could’ve sent it here. I have to stop it. I can’t turn my back on Atlanta. It would mean turning my back on Curran, and Julie, and you. I care too much about all of you. Heal me now.”
Doolittle shook his head, rubbing his eyes. “Once I start, I will have to finish. It will take a long time, it won’t be pleasant, and you may not recall anything surrounding the moment of your injury. That I cannot heal.”
He sighed. “Everyone has a cross to bear.”
“Am I yours?”
He nodded. “I keep trying to decide if it’s a punishment or a blessing.”
“A bit of both.” I smiled. “You might as well bring him back. At least we’ll both know what we’re in for from the start.”
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