Few minutes after Harvey’s clinic opened for the day, Briseis walked up to it casually and strolled through the door, jingling the bell. It was seemingly as normal as any other day, as she would often say hello to the doctor whenever she came to town on a morning. However, on that day, Briseis wasn’t exactly sure why the doctor spat out his coffee after taking one look at her—
Alright, that may have been a lie.
“ What… what is that?” Harvey gaped, staring at the woman. She was slightly slumped over, she seemed to favour her left leg, and her hair was falling out of her bandanna wrap in wild ringlets. She looked haggard, tired, and, oddly enough, multicoloured.
“Oh,” Briseis started, stifling a yawn. She looked down onto her arms, where the hairs on her dark skin were matted with drying blobs of colour. “You know. Slime.”
It was early morning, but Briseis was ready to fall into bed. The day prior, she had set out to do some mining while she had the free time. Her free time had become hours, the lack of natural light in the caves completely distorting her sense of time.
Needless to say, with the help of the strong coffee and Harvey’s energy revitalizers that she packed for the once-short expedition, Briseis had both entered and exited the mines while the sun was shining.
Harvey paled a fraction, his upper lip twitching. It amused Briseis whenever his lip did that, because when it did, his moustache comically twitched with it. Thoroughly amused and sleep deprived, Briseis gave him a wide grin.
“Slime. As in the monsters ,” Harvey clarified.
“Yeah. You should see the caves. It’s beautiful—monster guts the colours of the rainbow, all over the walls—though I guess I brought some with me, too. Ha!” Briseis hooted, striding over to Harvey’s counter where she stopped and draped herself like a ragdoll. She sighed as she laid her head in her arms on the counter.
Furrowing his brow, Harvey instantly went into his professional physician mode. He quickly checked her once-over for any wounds, and even checked her pulse. Briseis couldn’t blame him. The woman looked half dead, covered in dirt and dust and, of course, slime guts. The tickle of Harvey pressing his fingers on her wrist made Briseis come back to attention and prop herself up on her elbows, chin in hands. She looked at him with her dark eyes half-lidded, and Harvey looked at her sternly concerned.
“Let me get this straight,” Harvey sighed, readjusting his glasses more out of nervous habit than necessity. “You stayed up all night, in the mines, fighting for your life.”
“They were fighting for theirs, ” Briseis snorted.
“And you didn’t pass out once?”
Briseis paused in thought, scrunching her nose. “Well, actually, I did find these few barrels where—”
“How are you alive?” Harvey asked, sitting down in the chair behind his counter.
He looked paler, and his complexion urged Briseis to straighten herself, standing to full height. She was lean, taller than Harvey, of which gained her a look of authority when coupled with the strong stance she stood with. She looked at her friend with seriousness, momentarily sober, and as she placed her hands on her small hips her hand brushed with the pommel of her hilted sword, glinting noticeably in Harvey’s sight.
“I appreciate the concern, Doctor Harvey,” she started chidingly, “but I’m not stupid. I prepared. I was safe. It wasn’t dangerous!”
Harvey quirked a brow. “Things trying to kill you will always be dangerous,” he said placatingly, folding his hands together stiffly.
Briseis paused before she nodded and shrugged. “Well, okay. Technically yeah… dangerous. But they weren’t exactly detrimental to my health. I’m alive, Harvey. Nobody even had to drag me out.” Her stance broke as she tore a hand away to cover a long yawn, though she still tried to keep her composure. There was a short period of silence where they stared at each other in a stubborn stalemate, waiting for the other to break.
However, Harvey’s exacerbated stare was unrelenting, and with a sigh, Briseis dramatically threw her arms up and laced her hands behind her head in defeat.
“I can feel you radiate disappointment,” she muttered, her soft speech sounding slightly slurred.
“It’s not disappointment,” Harvey gaped, standing up gently. He turned briefly, rummaging through a plastic box on the far end of his counter, before returning with what looked like a white cloth. “Bree, you were terrifyingly close to becoming a statistic. Do you know how many people are hurt, even killed by—by, monsters, and magic, and… everything!” He shook his head, adjusting his glasses again with his free hand. “Give me your arms.”
Briseis bit her bottom lip and looked away. She unlaced her fingers, but before surrendering them to the doctor, she lazily pulled her bandana hair wrap off. It was just as grimy as the rest of her, the once red cloth stained with sweat and unmentionable monster fluids. As she set her hands on the counter in front of her, she shook her head slightly, getting her tight, dark ringlets to resettle on the right side of her head, while the shaved side stayed exposed. The hair that fell in front of her eyes gave her an excuse to keep looking away.
The cloth, from what Briseis could smell, was an antiseptic wipe. The sharp smell of chemicals was persistent in Harvey’s clinic, it was familiar to her now, but the strong-smelling alcohol and disinfectant so close to her was enough to make the hairs in her nostrils burn. Yet like with most things, she powered through and leaned over just as Harvey began to, giving him freedom to her skin.
Harvey set on wiping the filth off her arms. The wipe was cool and left her cleaned skin damp. The solution on her skin in the conditioned air felt bracing. His brow was creased in concentration, giving him more wrinkles than what he usually had, or needed. Now looking at her feet, Briseis breathed in deeply. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Harvey replied as quickly as she finished. He didn’t look up. “Be thankful that you’re still here.”
The dried slime was easily being wiped off. It wasn’t bothering her while it stained her clothes, but it felt strange and uncomfortable when splattered on her exposed skin. She only then started to consider if the slime was dangerous or corrosive or some such… well, Harvey would know.
“If I’m thankful for anything… it’d be that I have the best doctor in the valley looking after me,” she smiled. “He’s kind of awesome.”
Harvey stalled, his hand halting near hers. He looked up at Briseis for a moment, but when he caught her eye and she smirked he looked away sharply, visibly starting to fluster. He muttered an excuse me before turning on his heel, discarding the wipe in a wastebin.
Briseis’ smirk fell at that and she pushed away from the counter. For a moment she stood silently, looking at Harvey and trying to determine whether he would turn back to her or not but his stance was tense. It looked like he was fiddling with some bottled prescription or drug or whatever, so Briseis ended up rolling her eyes and turning away as well.
She turned to take off the travel bag that she had hung on her shoulders. She crouched in doing so, the leather sheath of her sword hitting the tiled floor, and unzipped it to rustle through its contents. Her adventuring trip was very successful, even though she had been ramped up on a dizzying amount of energy and adrenaline. Her hand sifted through the objects, pushing a few emeralds and bat wings aside, until she finally found what she was looking for. However, before she was able to pull what she wanted out, Harvey cleared his throat behind her, bringing back her attention. She stood slightly slumped over, craning her neck to look behind her.
Harvey was looking at her curiously, brows creased once more, having brought the drug thing he was working on with him. Looking up and down at him and the meds, she looked at him just as curiously. However, upon noting the red E printed on the label, Briseis jumped up in realization. She abandoned her loot and instead picked up her whole bag, lifting it and practically throwing it onto the counter, making Harvey jump back. She unzipped one of the compartments, and a triad of empty energy tonic bottles fell onto the counter.
“I was thinking you might’ve wanted these back, right? Recycling!” She said elatedly, proud of herself for the menial accomplishment in her daze. “They’re awesome. You’re awesome. ‘swawesome.”
Briseis’ elbows fell on the counter again, yawning, while Harvey tentatively took all the bottles back—including the full one he brought to the counter.
“I, ah, I thought that maybe another revitalizer would have been helpful to you, but I can clearly see that you should definitely just sleep a while,” Harvey tried to say calmly, professionally. Unfortunately for him, his attempt at a soothing voice did nothing to make the woman complacent, and instead, Briseis swung a hand at him and grabbed his wrist before he could take the energy tonic away. She felt him tense up once more.
“Hey, woah there! Harv, please, I know I’m literally dead right now and covered in dead things and like, whatever, but please don’t leave me hanging. I need to get to my farm and farm things and do chicken things and, um. Farm things? ” Briseis looked into Harvey’s eyes, and though he could see that they were pleading, he could see the repercussions of the dark circles under her eyes more. He relaxed and put his free hand over hers, easing her off his wrist. Her hand was hot and still grimy, Harvey could only imagine how frigid she thought of his own. He didn’t know if this was an answer to his temperature or from just being stubborn about being exhausted, but Briseis groaned pitifully.
“As your doctor, I’m telling you that when your adrenaline runs out you’re going to crash into whatever crop you’re tending to and no amount of artificial energy will bring that ruined crop back to life.”
Briseis glared. “I like it more when you’re not my doctor,” she sighed, “When you take me out to coffee and pretend that everything will be okay if you just let me go fight serpents and water my stupid crops.” She rested her forehead on the table. At any other time, he would chide her for her dramatics, but he instead felt lucky, as she didn’t see his moustache twitch once more and see the red bloom from his ears to his cheeks.
“I don’t think I’ve taken you out to coffee before,” he commented quietly.
“But it’d be nice, wouldn’t it?” Briseis’ voice was muffled, but clear enough what was being said.
“That is, uh. Um. I…” a finger of his twitched and he was suddenly hyper aware of how he was still covering her hand, he retreated it as if the farmer had electrocuted him.
Briseis tipped up her head, trying to look at Harvey, though ringlets partially obscured her view. “Wait. Before you say anything else…” she trailed off, picking herself up and grabbing her bag.
She had been distracted from what she originally tried to do the first time she rummaged through her bag. That time, however, she quickly found what she needed and took it out, proudly showing it off between them, the loot dangling on a string.
It was a rabbit’s foot. And an old, dusty-looking one, too.
“I got this little baby not too long ago,” Briseis grinned, “A lucky paw. And lucky it is, holy Yoba.”
Harvey watched it swing from the string in her fingers, impressed and curious. Admittedly, he was not a superstitious man, but with his usual luck it didn’t hurt to be cautious with supposed bad omens.
“You don’t want to know where I got it,” Briseis continued, lazily swinging it.
“I probably don’t,” Harvey concurred. “Aren’t rabbit paws… rare?”
“Yeah, totally rare. I found this in the maw of a serpent! Ha! I basically punched it to death, I was so scared, but this was stuck between its teeth, and I yanked it out, like… I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.”
Harvey had to scrunch his eyes closed to prevent himself from rolling his eyes. He managed to make it look like he was repositioning his glasses again.
“That’s, uh… great.”
Briseis hummed in agreeance. “I really do think it’s lucky. I think it’s saved my life a couple of times. Like, you know, even tonight—I mean, last night, whatever.” She rubbed at her eyes with her left hand. “Anyway, you need more luck dealing with me than I do dealing with monsters. The paw is yours.”
“Wait, what?” Harvey’s eyes widened. “You’re giving me the thing that saved your life and you expect that’ll end up well for you.”
“Kind of,” Briseis shrugged.
“You’re not that dumb.”
“I kind of am, and you’re stupid for not thinking I’m stupid!” Briseis laughed at herself as if she told the funniest joke she had ever heard, even though it was both not even a joke, and cringe-worthy at best.
Harvey took the lucky foot just so she’d settle down, but as he was taking his arm away, she once more tried to take him by the wrist. She missed, however, and ended up clutching his hand, still pale and cold against her own.
“I’m not giving it away for free, silly.” She chuckled for a second. “It’s going to cost you…”
“An energy tonic, right?” Harvey frowned.
“What? No! A coffee! Honestly, it’s like you’ve never been with… nevermind.”
The doctor paused, stunned in surprise. “I… sorry. You want me to get you a coffee.”
“Take me out for a coffee,” Briseis corrected, recalling what she’d said earlier.
“Yes… err, to take you out,” he gulped.
“We have a winner,” the farmer mumbled.
After a moment of consideration, Harvey straightened himself and looked at her sternly. “I hope that wasn’t your plan coming here.”
“It wasn’t!” Briseis protested loudly, letting go of Harvey’s hand. “I’m not scamming you or anything by being nice and giving you things and offering hot drinks, duh!”
“Then talk to me when you’ve had a good night’s sleep,” Harvey said with uncertainty, taking back his arm. He refused to talk to the woman seriously when she wasn’t even completely awake. He only hoped that he wasn’t missing out on the only chance he’d get on taking her out on… well, a date.
Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how one took it, the bell above Harvey’s door jingled and it opened, Maru entering. It was one of her work days, and she had arrived in her white nurse’s uniform. Harvey looked at the clock: apparently, it was only 9:40 in the morning.
Briseis grinned. “Fancy meeting you here, gorgeous.”
Maru began to smile back, but her smile quickly turned into a grimace as she too gave Briseis a once-over. She muttered a yikes under her breath before quickly ushering herself to the taller woman’s side, landing a hand on her arm.
“What’s your name?”
“Ugh. Briseis Hawkins.”
“Do you know where we are?”
“Pelican Town, in Harv’s clinic…”
“Roughly what time is it?”
“Like, ten,” Briseis sighed.
“She’s functioning normally,” Harvey interjected smoothly, quelling Maru’s concerns. “For the most part, at least. Exhaustion. Should probably get her home.”
“Oh, no. She’s really alright?” Maru asked.
“I’m so fine, it’s insane,” Briseis drawled. “I’m fine enough to go home and do my farming things, thank you very much.”
Maru pouted, crossed her arms, and leaned on Harvey’s counter. “Bree! Not if you’re exhausted, you’re not! You can’t just do that now.”
“I… huh? I can’t?” Briseis whined.
“You need proper rest and hydration before you can think about going back into the fields. It’s important for your health, you know.”
“Well… I guess… Fine, if you really think I should.”
Harvey frowned, slightly insulted. “That’s literally what I’ve been trying to tell her,” he grumbled, fiddling with the rabbit’s foot in his hand. He might keep onto it… give it back later, probably, once they both cleared their heads.
“Oh, don’t take it too hard! She’ll be back to ignoring both our advice in no time, I’m sure.” Maru smiled brightly at Harvey, who shook his head.
Briseis huffed. “Obviously,” she muttered, zipping up her bag and lifting onto her shoulders. “Later,” she waved.
“Err—wait!" Harvey skittered from his place behind the counter, quickly coming over to the other side, stopping besides a wide-eyed Maru. Both women stared at him, making him feel awkward under their gaze. He readjusted his glasses.
“Maybe it would be in our best interests if, I, ah, escorted you home. Just… just in case?” He offered. Maru uncrossed her arms and instead settled them on her hips, judging Harvey apprehensively. Her lips quirked up. The doctor ignored her.
“What, really?” Briseis grinned. “Thank Yoba, ‘cause I’m starting to feel like I’m gonna fall over.”
“I, oh!” Harvey rushed towards her, and as he neared, Briseis allowed herself to lose her balance. She leaned over and fell into Harvey’s shoulder, his arm coming to wrap around her waist and guiding her arm around his his neck. He tried to ignore the slime and monster guts she had been stained with. She wasn’t exactly light, but Harvey found his footing and steadied them both when she started leaning all her weight on him.
“Maru,” he grunted, trying to shift himself and the farmer into a comfortable position without falling. “Maru, would you mind…”
“I can hold down the fort,” Maru said while trying not to smile, finding her way behind the counter.
Closing her eyes Briseis set her head on Harvey’s, his wispy hair tickling her cheekbones. Although her crash was starting to hit, she sighed contently.
“Harvey?” She asked. “Do me a favour?”
“Hm? Of course. What do you need?”
“I’d be nice if you could fill the cat’s water bowl,” she muttered.
“Of course I can do that.”
“And… would you open the hutch on my coop for the birds?”
“Yes, if you want.” He patted her side, starting to move towards the door.
“Could you maybe also water all my crops and gather eggs and repair my fences—”
Harvey stopped. “No.”
Briseis frowned, dipping her head. “There goes my hopes…” she muttered, punctuating with a yawn.
Harvey laughed quietly, though through the shake of his shoulders Briseis was able to figure out he was amused.
Harvey opened the clinic’s door, bell jingling once more. Before they could exit fully, however, Maru spoke up behind them.
“Oh, Doctor Harvey,” she started, prompting him to look back. She was leaning on the counter, looking amused, as in between her fingers hung—
Harvey patted his jacket pocket. He thought he brought the rabbit’s foot with him! But then… Maru…
“I don’t suppose you’re feeling lucky,” Maru smirked, teasing.
Harvey felt his face heat up, thankful that Briseis’ eyes had closed. “I’ll be back soon,” he quietly assured.
“And I won’t say anything if you’re not,” Maru winked with an innocent smile.
Harvey pulled Briseis and himself out of the clinic, shutting the door as fast as he could, and a little harder than he needed to. As they stepped into the fresh air and daylight, Harvey could hardly hear Maru’s laughter resonating from the clinic over the sound of his own heart beating, reverberating loudly in his chest.
He could only imagine why his heart beat so soundly.