Pain radiated off him in waves; my empathic abilities couldn’t block it and my healing gift urged me to help him. I was reluctant to get involved. I didn’t know Patrick well; we’d met a couple times at parties and he was my girlfriend’s best friend but the two of us never had an actual conversation. Going up to a near stranger and offering to help ease his pain was never a good way to introduce oneself, mystic or not.

As the evening progressed his physical pain became obvious to everyone; he was doubled over with it, beads of sweat dotting his already pallid complexion. After awhile I couldn’t ignore the beseeching look in Hildy’s eyes and the constant pressure in my mind to help. I pulled a polished stone from my pocket and Hildy nodded in understanding. She sat down beside Patrick, wrapping an arm around his waist. She leaned close and whispered in his ear. He listened carefully, emotions I couldn’t read dancing swiftly across his face. Finally he nodded, giving me the permission I needed to proceed.

Hildy curled up next to him and held his hand as I sat down on the other side of him. “This won’t hurt, I promise.” As discretely as possible I wrapped my left hand around the back of his neck. The touch of flesh on flesh was as necessary to the healing process as breathing.

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, slowly, using breath to transport me into in a trance state. I wasn’t accustomed to doing magick in a room full of people who didn’t know who I was or my capabilities. I needed extra time to block out the chatter around me. I dug my bare toes into the soft carpet, pulling energy up from the Earth, through my spine, grounding me in this world before I started working in another. I clutched the bloodstone in my right hand, using it as another anchor.

Patrick was still beneath my hand, his skin fevered and his own breathing irregular as he tried to ride out the pain though clenched teeth. I was aware of this on a subconscious level, just as I could feel Hildy beside him, her breathing calm and steady. She had faith in me and some of that faith was transferred to Patrick, easing his fears.

I sank deeper into the trance; I could see the dark mass of physical pain in Patrick’s abdomen but that wasn’t all that I saw. I recognized his spirit from lives lived before; our meeting in this life was destined. He was a part of my soul, a piece I didn’t know was missing until I touched him. Now that I found him I didn’t know what to do with the knowledge. In the meantime, I had to do what I could to bring him a measure of relief.

I hummed under my breath as I reached out with my mind and started pulling the darkness out of Patrick and taking it into myself. It didn’t want to move, the pain stubbornly entwined in Patrick’s intestines and soul. I tugged harder, siphoning energy from the Earth to supplement my own. It took more effort than I expecting to pull the pain from him to me. The dark energy had a sticky quality to it, as if it wasn’t just physical pain I’d grasped, but spiritual as well. Once it was within me I transferred it from my left hand into the stone in my right, at least in theory. Darkness filled me, threatened to overwhelm me, and it took all I had to focus to into the chalcedony. The deep green stone with blood red spots heated up in my hand as the pain filled it.

After more than an hour he came out of the healing session stronger, more alive; his spirit strengthened by my power and his pain eased by my gift. I came back with knowledge of his soul and a weariness that went deeper than my bones.

His emotional pain was as great as his physical pain and my gift urged me to heal him, to make him whole again. And I tried; for years, I tired. He couldn’t see past his wounds to the brightness inside, the beautiful soul buried beneath the physical illness and the emotional agony. He couldn’t see his self-worth that was as clear as crystal to me.

I let him see the love in my heart, the reflection of who he was and who he had been. It wasn’t enough. He was lost in the issues of the past, both in this life and the last, doomed to repeat patterns imprinted on his soul and I wasn’t strong enough to heal wounds that deep, even for the man who had once been my brother.

In the end I could do nothing but let him go.

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