(continued from part 1)
"Shitshitshit!" shouted the doctor, as if the obscenity were a mystical ward against danger, spitting the burning pen out of his mouth and jumping backwards in that odd little bunny-hop people do to avoid having something hot fall on them.
Teresa just watched the pen, fascinated. It wasn't melting or smoldering like she would have expected. It was actually on fire, burning just as merrily-as-you-please, like it was a candle or a match.
Or a cigarette, she thought. She hadn't deliberately ignited the doctor's pen. In fact, she wouldn't have even thought to do so, let alone consider it a possibility. Then she began to remember what she had done in the restaurant earlier, how she had reached out with her magic to dissipate the effects of the stun grenade on everyone else around her. How Tommy had somehow brought her back from the brink of death.
Like calls to like. Cancer wants to spread. Path of least resistance.
"So doc," she mused as he yanked the fire extinguisher from the wall and doused the flaming pen with CO2, "I'm guessing you used to smoke?"
He looked up at her, blinking in confusion. "Y-yes. Started in med school. Only stopped about a year ago." He set the extinguisher down, nudging the pen with his toe. Now it just looked like a charred piece of plastic, covered in a layer of dry ice. "Why are we talking about this?"
She laughed. "Netty never told you what I do, huh? 'Course not. Bitch. Anyway, the Amazing Broken Nose out there calls me cancer's Typhoid Mary. Only I do it with magic."
"Carcinosurgist," he offered.
"You just sneeze?" Teresa asked.
Dr. Rauche shook his head. "No. I said carcinosurgist. It means one who uses cancer in Latin." He turned to her with a quirky grin. "Sorry. I analyze and catalog things when I'm nervous. It's why I went into medicine in the first place."
Teresa simply shrugged. "I just smoke."
He nodded. "Yes, and I can see why. This certainly explains a lot." He picked her chart up from the floor and studied it again.
"Okay, honesty time," he said after a few moments of uncomfortable silence. "I need to look at your hand, but before I can do that I need to know what's going on with this magic of yours." He held up a finger to forestall an already-forming objection on her lips. "I'm not going to lecture you on lifestyle. We both know it's unhealthy and probably killing you. That's your business. What I want to ensure is that it doesn't end up killing me."
He sat down on the stool again and looked her in the eyes. "Irritability. Aggressive behavior. Destructive impulses. Ms. Reyes, you are a raging nicotine addict and, according to Netty, it makes you unbearable to be around. Add to that your propensity for setting things like computer monitors and pens on fire, and you present a very real threat to me. Now, I could just anesthetize you until you aren't dangerous anymore, but I'd rather avoid that. Instead, what I would like to do, with your permission, is placate your craving without letting you smoke anywhere near me."
She gave him a wicked, tobacco-stained grin. "How're you gonna do that?"
He smiled and pulled a foil-backed sheet out of his coat pocket. "Nicotine gum. Chew on this until the cravings go away," he instructed as he handed the package.
"What if the cravings don't go away?"
"Chew another piece."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"For other people? Yes. For you? To paraphrase a movie, you've spent the last twenty years building up an immunity to nicotine. I suspect you could chew the entire box and it would only give you a slight buzz."
"Gimme," she cackled, almost witch-like, as she tore into the foil, tossing two pieces into her mouth and chewing voraciously. The thick squares had a minty flavor at first, but as she chewed a hot, peppery sensation developed on her tongue. It burned pleasantly, like an ointment on sore muscles.
"Thish ish soo good," she mumbled around the thick wads, like a child with a jawbreaker.
For the first time in what felt like ages, she began to un-tense her muscles.
"Excellent," said Dr. Rauche. "I'll go take care of your friend's nose while you bliss out. Then we can treat your hand, and I'll show you how to administer nicotine patches."
"Take… your time…" she said to the closing door as she lay back on the exam table. Deep inside her, Tommy nursed contentedly.