Erhart could feel every joint in his body. They pulsed with every ragged breath he managed to drag into his broken lungs. A shiver racked his body, and he started to cough. It was rough and sent his body flying to his side. Curling up, he tried in vain to take in some much-needed air. All he could do was gasp for air like a fish out of water. Closing his eyes, he wished for this fit to pass.
“Erhart!” Hard, heavy steps ran toward him. Without opening his eyes, he knew it was his dad. Back from his visit with the local witch. Who was more of a recluse than they were, and they lived in a cabin in the middle of the woods. “Breathe for me,” firm hands took hold of him by his shoulders. Cradling Erhart in his arms like a toddler, instead of the adult he was. Erhart took in the water that he found on his lips. The cool water soothed his aching throat enough that he could take a breath. Opening his eyes, he saw the deep blue eyes of his worried dad.
“Thanks,” Erhart rasped, his dad eased him into sitting position. His dad blond head grunted with a nod as he fixed, and fluffed the nest of pillows around him. Strength emitting in his every move, his arms were three times the size of Erhart's tiny arms. He watched the muscle in his dad's arms flex, while he fussed about Erhart's nest of blankets. Earhart was an envious that he didn't share his dad's broad shoulders, or any of his husky build. Instead, he took after his slender, frailer mother. Still, he wouldn't have made it this far without him.
“I have a new concoction from the witch.” His gruff voice sounded rough, but it held a great deal of care. “Brush your hair after you drink the brew,” His eyes closed a moment, memory of a lecture, Erhart bet. “I mean potion.” His hand pulled his dark red hair away from his face, and tucked his behind Erhart ear. His lips lifting into a half smile, his eyes turned a dark blue. Erhart knew that look, he wasn't who his dad was seeing right then. It was his mother. The woman he had lost when Erhart was born.
“Do I look that much like her?” Erhart asked for the thousandth time. Siting in the worn armchair that was always at his bedside. His dad sat down heavy, rubbing the blond stubble that was a constant companion to his face. Without it or his army fatigues. Erhart might not recognize his own dad, he couldn't remember a day that his dad was without either.
“Yes, from the roots of your red hair to the tip of your pale toes.” He smiled, and his blue eyes fogged over as he drifted as his mind went into the past. “If she was here...”
“She would tell you to shave.” Erhart crack the same joke he did when his dad travelled down the sadder side of his memories. His health would be no different, even with his mother. The burden on his dad's shoulders would be different, if he had someone by his side. If only mom had made it. Erhart never voice that thought out loud, in fear of hurting his dad. The truth was, that thought hurt him too.
“For that, no sweet-herb after this.” Pulling a thin purple bottle from his pockets. He popped the top and passed him the witches newest creation. Every single one of them tasted vile. Erhart was only fooled by the lack of scent the first time.
“You wouldn't.” Erhart knew his dad, he wouldn't withhold the only thing that nullified the nasty witches brew. Taking the bottle, he sniffed it out of habit, there was no scent. “Think this will be the one?” Erhart asked, he had taken so many of these brews, he had lost count, but it never gave up hope. Keeping it was one of the few things he could do, weak as he was.
“She had some rarer ingredients this time, she's hopeful.” Erhart noticed that his dad didn't say he was hopeful; but he hadn't said that in the last few months. When his symptoms started getting worse. Erhart did, once again, one of the few things he could do; hope.
“I'm sure this one will do something,” Erhart grinned, and winked at his dad. “I bet some sweet herb would help things along...” Sweet herb wasn't that sweet, it was a herb that was a bit bitter. Still, he liked it a lot. He imagined it tasted a lot like coffee, but his body couldn't handle the caffeine. His body couldn't handle much of anything.
“Brush your hair first, then we'll talk.” Arms folded across his chest, even seated, his dad was unbreakable.
“Yes, Sir.” Erhart saluted him with the bottle and slugged it back, hand shaking. His own vomit tasted better, but he forced it down like the old pro that he was. “Nothing to it,” Erhart joked shaking the empty bottle in his dad's face. “ACK!” Erhart covered his mouth with his hands, his lungs burned with a fiery heat he wished his body could share.
“Erhart!” Erhart tried to speak up and reassure his dad that he was fine. Instead, he felt a thick liquid bubble out of his mouth. His vision blurred, but not before he saw the blood coat his hands. Damn it, once again the pain rose up and ravaged his body. He couldn't be grateful when his mind started to black out, because the pure fear that paled his dad's tanned face. Haunted him more, in those few seconds, than all the pain he could feel. Sorry Dad, another thought he could never say, but felt to his bones. I’m sorry.