confession;the fosters

To Seek a Newer World, Part IX

“I want a furlough for two weeks’ time,” Jed said, without any greeting or preamble.

McBurney sat at the desk that had been his only a few weeks ago, a position he had yearned to be free of and now regretted losing. If he had remained chief, Mary would be lying upstairs in her bed, Sister Isabella watching over her until he could come up, an empty bowl of broth on the bedside table. He would be hurrying through the paperwork because she was waiting for him and if she were sleeping when he found her, she would be turned to the chair he occupied, her plaited hair revealing her pale face, looking like the young girl she had once been, her sleep untroubled. But a letter had come with Summers’s promotion and he had blessed it, unwise enough to rejoice at the prospect of only practicing medicine and sorting out the separation from Eliza. Now, McBurney was the chief and had used his power to deceive Jed, to send Mary away, resorting to subterfuge since he could not succeed in challenging Jed directly. Why McBurney had been so insistent in forcing Mary to leave was a mystery, one Jed frankly didn’t care about solving; he only wanted to get to Mary as quickly as possible and to make sure she was safe and properly cared for. There were limitations to what he could accomplish without being her husband, but he was willing to use every other resource at his disposal and he had several.

“I believe you forget yourself, Captain Foster. You have not made a report about your visit to the General, nor have you inquired about the state of Mansion House in your absence,” McBurney replied, stroking a finger along his jaw. “Nurse Hastings has been back for hours—I might consider your late arrival consistent with you abandoning your duty…desertion, if you will.”

“I want the furlough,” Jed repeated, his left hand in a fist. He would not be drawn into any irrelevant discussion about the pox-ridden General, whether Byron Hale had managed to complete two or three amputations today, anything that derailed him from his only purpose.

“You want? It is not your place to make demands of me! I am your superior officer, though you might prefer to forget it, shamed to be commanded by a man younger than yourself,” McBurney exclaimed, his left eye twitching as he slapped his hand down on the desk’s blotter, making the inkwell shake.

“I don’t give a damn about any of that. You will give me that furlough or you’ll have my signed resignation from my commission within the hour and only one surgeon left in this God-forsaken place!”

“This is about that woman, isn’t it? Mariya—the Baroness? Shall you tell me again how she is only your patient? How your concern is simply that of any physician?” McBurney said. His color was up and his eyes were shining with some malicious glee, as if he savored impugning the reputation of woman uniformly known to value honesty, goodness and principles.

“I see. I’ll have my resignation on your desk within the hour then. Dr. Hale will have to decide which of my surgeries he’s prepared to take on tomorrow,” Jed declared. He wouldn’t waste any more time when it was better spent planning his departure, packing up and meeting with Samuel and Miss Jenkins, as Mary would want him to. Mrs. Garland had agreed to stay with Mary in Washington City for a few days but she could not tarry longer than that.

“Come now, you’re not going to throw over everything for her, Foster. It’s pointless, in any case—it’s out of our hands, your and mine. If she dies, it’s God’s will and there’s nothing you can do about it,” McBurney answered, beginning with some pathetic attempt at manly conciliation, devolving to a tired platitude about God that had never been a comfort to anyone and could not obscure the man’s expectation of Mary’s death. Jed had been making every effort to keep his temper in check, to complete his interview with his savage fury banked, but the airy way McBurney said it if she dies undid all dams. She had been getting better, perhaps more slowly than he wanted to see, but it was the abrupt expulsion into the night, with only a tired, inexperienced woman to try and keep her alive until the dawn, that endangered her so; McBurney’s action might be a death sentence for the sweetest, best woman Jed had ever met, the only woman he’d ever love. If she died—Jed could not allow himself to peer into that abyss but he knew he would follow her, though he would let the needle take him and not a bullet like that Rebel. He would take his chances that it was only death that was needed to unite them or death then would swiftly, helpfully, blessedly end the desperate hurt of being without her.

“If she dies, I’ll kill you,” he said.

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Oh my god, I love you! I love you too.

Jude supposes they probably shouldn’t have painted their nails in the backyard. He also probably shouldn’t have made fun of Connor for being completely incapable of painting with his left hand. How does Connor always manage to pin him?

Hopefully Mariana forgives him for spilling all of her blue nail polish…

He’ll probably just end up buying her a new one.

Tomorrow. He’ll do that tomorrow.