What Came Next

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Sara watched ruefully as Henry clambered onto his father's knees, pulling himself up and reaching for Liam's beard. The child was cocooning himself in his father's presence, distracting Liam and keeping his attention fixed. Liam seemed amused by the whole game, chuckling as he bounced their son on his knees, miming a horse's brisk trot. 

Sara returned her gaze to her sketching journal. She was trying to sketch Liam but her eye was off, and she struggled with his dimensions, failing to capture his height and lengths to scale. He seemed dwarfed on the page for some reason, and the charcoal pencil she was using seemed to produce nothing but faulty lines. 

She watched her husband and son, her mood souring even further. What could she do to capture Liam's attention so? She couldn't very well go crawling about and scrambling unto his lap, nestling herself unto his lap and nuzzling into his chest.

Was that something she would do?

Sara swatted away the thought, bringing her fingers to her hair to smooth back an imaginary lock come loose from her pins. She would find something, some way, to bridge this divide between Liam and herself. She allowed herself the smallest of smiles as she became lost in her thoughts. She only needed the opportunity to show her husband just how much she cared for him, and how much he needed her love. 

In her musings, her fingers slipped, and the charcoal left a thick smudge through the face of her sketched figure. She frowned, her mood suddenly dark once again, and she sighed in muted frustration. How would she get any decent work done with this ruckus going about?

"Nanny", she called out, laying her drawing down in her lap. "Nanny, it's time for Henry to go upstairs."

"No!", Henry wailed, grabbing on to the lapels of his father's jacket. "No, want to stay! Papa!"

Sara rose briskly, making her way over to her husband and son, and taking the latter sharply by the arm. 

"That's enough now Henry. Give your papa and mama kisses, and then off you go with Nanny." She kept her tone firm, but light. "That's a good boy."

Henry dutifully kissed his father and then slid from his legs, making his way sullenly to his mother. Sara bent and allowed Henry to kiss her cheek. She stroked his hair and smiled, imagining herself a domestic goddess and picture of wholesome feminity in this moment. She looked up, checking to see whether Liam was watching. 

He was. 

As the nanny came forward to guide Henry from the room, Sara walked slowly towards Liam, who was still watching her intently. Sara allowed herself to glide closer, coming to stand next to the arm of his wingback chair. She paused, letting her hands trail along the upholstery. She allowed her long fingers to travel close to Liam's shoulder but ensured that they did not touch him. 

"You've been so lovely these past few days Sara", Liam told her, pride shining from his brown eyes. "It's been so wonderful being home with the two of you."

"It's been wonderful to have you home", Sara replied softly, looking down at Liam through her lashes. Liam smiled, reaching a handout and touching her wrist lightly. As he turned, he sneezed suddenly, quickly bringing his arm back to reach for a kerchief in his pocket. He sneezed loudly, once, then twice more. He groaned as he lowered the piece of fabric from his face. 

"Are you ill husband?" Sara's concern was audible, and she quickly brought a hand gently to touch Liam's forehead.

"I've been feeling tired of late. I'm sure it's just a cold", Liam assured her. 

"You're fevered", Sara replied tersely. "That's it. Up you get and into bed. I'll grab some cloth and a basin of cool water, and have the kitchen girls make you up some tea and soup. Get yourself to bed now. I'll be there shortly."

Mercifully, Liam acquiesced, rising from his chair and making his way out and into the hall. Sara heard the groan of the first step as Liam began to climb the stairs. She made herself busy, gathering the supplies she would need and passing along instruction to the servants. 

She was needed, and she would show Liam just how much he needed her. 

*  *  *

"Well I can't explain it MacNeil. Your fever has gone, but your colour is awful. And your stomach still pains you?"

The doctor held the thermometer in his hand, frowning at what he saw there. Liam lay back on his pillow, his forehead damp with perspiration, small groans escaping his cracked lips periodically. 

"I'm trying to keep him hydrated Doctor", Sara interjected, coming to her husband's side in order to wipe his brow and lips with a damp cloth. "And he sometimes feels stronger in the afternoons."

The doctor nodded, still frowning. "I suppose whatever you have must have really hooked itself into your blood. Still, it should work itself out over time. Luckily, you've quite the nurse here to help you recover."

Sara felt herself glow at the doctor's words, and leaned over her husband to once again dab at the warm forehead. 

"Yes", Liam agreed. "Sara has been a godsend."

The doctor closed up his bag and said his goodbyes to Liam, who was showing signs of fatigue. Sara set herself to work tidying up the room, cleaning up discarded tissues and books, as well as setting aside empty mugs and glasses. As she worked, she saw Liam drift back to sleep, his heavy eyes puffy and discolored. 

Sara felt for her apron pocket, touching the tiny vial she stored there. That vial held the best and most important medicine of all: the medicine that had healed her marriage. Liam had not been out of doors in weeks and had not mentioned the letters that Sara had found and damaged. He hadn't needed to mention another woman's name. Sara had been caring for him in his hour of need, and when Liam had started to recover from his grippe, she had used the contents of the vial to keep him in a position that would allow their relationship to continue to heal and grow. 

Arsenic was tasteless and odorless after all, and it blended so well with the strong teas Liam preferred. And the tiniest traces of it couldn't hurt a strong man like Liam. It was a woman's tool, a wife's tool, to help her bring her husband back to himself and, more importantly, back to her. She would stop dosing him soon. Every day he looked at her with more need and with more love than the previous day. Soon she would be able to stop giving him the medicine. 

*  *  *

"Henry's been complaining of a sore stomach", Sara told her husband as they sat in bed together, reading. 

"Oh no", Liam responded, a hint of alarm colouring his words. "I should hope he hasn't caught whatever I had. It has taken me so long to begin to feel like myself again."

"Don't worry", Sara assured her husband, stroking his arm lovingly, "I've been keeping an eye on him, and I've made sure that he take his medicine." 

"What would we do without you", Liam said softly, closing his book and bringing his face to hers. 





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