Perarre nodded and dropped into her chair at the work table. What had she been expecting, that he would see how sick she was, feel sorry for her, and give her the day off? She shuffled her book and papers and pens around, not quite able to focus her foggy, feverish mind on her work. When she opened the book and tried to read its archaic script, her eyes watered and ached. She dropped her head to the table and covered it with her arms to block out the light.
“Miss Tabrano!” The Professor sounded genuinely alarmed. Perarre heard him come around from behind his desk, then she felt a light touch on her face. “You have a fever! Why didn’t you tell me you were ill?”
“Can I have the day off so I can die in peace, sir?” she mumbled. “And please don’t fire me.”
To her astonishment, instead of firing her, he started gently massaging her temples. Gradually, the pain in her head ebbed away, along with the feverish feeling. The comfort spread to her watery eyes, stuffed-up nose, and burning throat. The Professor’s hands moved to her shoulders, still keeping the same light, slow, rhythmic touch. Then the touch faltered and he stopped. “I apologize for not realizing sooner that you were in distress, and for being unable to provide more relief,” he said. His voice had gone quiet and slightly husky.
Perarre raised her head and looked at him. “You can Heal.”
“I only achieved an Adequate ranking in Healing. I have some… difficulty with the Balance.” His face was covered with a light sheen of sweat, like it had been the day she stepped on his foot.
Of course. Healing was Balanced by pain for the Healer; the Healer had to filter the discomfort and distress taken from the patient out of the magica he had used before allowing the magica to return to its place. Even the small amount of pain that would be brought on by giving mild relief to cold symptoms was probably almost unbearable for the Professor. “Will you be all right, Professor?”
He nodded. “It usually passes before very long. I think I’ll go lie down for a bit. You are excused from work until you are well again. Only, Miss Tabrano —”
“You do not have my permission to die.”