Magic. What else could you call it?

To be honest, I've never really believed in magic before now. What phenomenon could possibly be so impossible to explain that we have to resort to such an antiquated concept to attempt comprehending it? How could anyone allow themselves to believe that something wasn't worth explaining?

And yet... it seems I was fated to find out.

My full name is Timothy Alexander Harding. Doctor Harding, if you want to be formal about it. I'm a thirty-two-year-old medical practitioner in a small coastal village by the name of Mineral Town. And, if you wish to listen, I'd like to tell you my story.

--

As far as family goes, I couldn't have asked for much better or worse. My father was a tax attorney for a large corporation when he was a young man, and went on to a career in politics after marrying my mother, an heiress whom he'd met while taking a vacation in Vienna. The entirety of my college tuition was put in a trust fund the day I was born.

And even from that point, it was made clear to me that I was bound for medical school. My toys were all chosen to give me an interest in the human body; the one board game I was given to play with was Operation. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up in kindergarten, my response was automatic. I never questioned it, I never looked at other options. I was to become a doctor.

When I finally did get to college, it turned out I had an aptitude for the work. One of my professors told me that I was 'the most gifted student he'd ever had the pleasure of teaching biology to,' and sent his personal recommendation to one of the top medical schools in the country. I had no trouble at all when I chose to apply there a year later.

It was around this time that my parents died in an automobile accident. At the funeral, I was often complimented for being 'so strong after such a horrible tragedy.' I simply smiled and nodded, letting them believe I felt anything at all.

As far as family goes, I couldn't have asked for much better or worse. I never knew hunger or want, had been placed on a path that I would follow for the rest of my life, and had been left a not-so-humble fortune to use however I saw fit before I was old enough to drink. Physically and mentally, my parents saw to my every need.

But then again, it was my parents who never allowed me to believe in magic.

--

When I was ten, I had a birthday party. My parents had a parlor magician do a show for myself and my friends.

After the party, they had him show me how all of the tricks had been done. And even then, it was hardly a necessary measure. My parents believed in 'the real world,' and forbade me from ever believing in any sort of fiction. My toys and games were all based on medicine. My books were all about science and technology, and the shows I was allowed to watch were always strictly factual.

In their passing, they managed to remove the last layer of belief I'd really had.

After my parents died, I started to assess what their lives had been about. My father had dedicated his life to law, but had used his knowledge merely for his own profit. He didn't believe in helping anyone but himself, and many of the policies he'd helped pass into law reflected that. My mother had never lived for anything but the pursuit of her own pleasure, and I never had more solid evidence of how far this went than when I was liquidating the family estate. Her shoe closet alone could have funded a modest disaster relief charity, and most of the shoes she'd bought she'd only worn once after she bought them.

They had done what they could to ensure my future, but neither of them had led anything close to what I would consider a fulfilling life.

I suppose it's disrespectful, but I really have to thank them for dying when they did. It was in the aftermath of their deaths that my path became my own.

It was then that I decided to become a small-town practitioner.

--

Med school was easy for me. I dove into my work wholeheartedly, taking courses and internships that I knew would help me along my path. My classmates probably thought I was cold or arrogant, but I never really paid any attention to them. My focus was on the work, and the work was all I needed.

I graduated as a prodigy, with most of the people who had taught me praising my achievements and 'unique genius.' I couldn't care less. I was a licensed M.D. at twenty-two, I had a modest personal fortune, and more importantly, I had a place to go.

--

It seems poetic now, that the very biology professor who'd complimented my work in his classes was the same one who first told me about Mineral Town...

When I chose to visit the place during an internship, I found a small farming community with a sparse population, an easy-going atmosphere, and a desperate need for a new doctor. The previous one had died shortly before I arrived, and there were precious few who would be willing to work in such a backwater area. Fewer still could afford to.

In Mineral Town, I found a place where I could change the world. It was to Mineral Town that I would return when I finally earned my M.D.

And it would be in Mineral Town where I would find much more than I had ever hoped to.

--

Elli Jameson applied to become my assistant the day I arrived. She was the daughter of the previous doctor, had already received some training as an herbalist and midwife from her grandmother, and genuinely wanted to continue the family traditions.

More to the point, she genuinely wanted to save lives as best as she could. I hired her without hesitation, and began her education the very next day.

Now, I believed in maintaining a professional work atmosphere. Remain aloof, hold your head up. Be polite, but don't get too personal with either your patients or your co-workers. In particular, don't get too attached to your employees.

As far as patients went, that lasted about all of two weeks. I quickly found that a smaller practice was expected to have a looser atmosphere than a hospital or a larger office, and that the townsfolk were all unique and interesting characters. Each had a story to tell and a specific series of health problems, and I quickly learned them all; from Lillia Hunter's anemic complications, to Duke Johnson needing hangover medications every Saturday morning. Remaining aloof with Mineral Town's citizenry was, thankfully, impossible.

Remaining aloof with Elli was, unfortunately, much easier.

--

Years passed, and I did the best I could with my job. There were always things that tested the limits of my skills, both professionally and personally, and I always did the best I could with what I had. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. I'll always wonder if I could have done more to keep Mr. Smythe alive longer, but I did what I could when I could. As it was, he died in comfort.

Oddly though, it was Joseph Smythe's grandson who helped me find what I was really missing...

--

Admittedly, I was a little doubtful of Magnus when he first came to town. He seemed aimless, lackadaisical, and foolish, and I seriously doubted that he had the strength of will necessary to run his grandfather's property. As I got to know him though (both as a frequent patient, and later as a friend), I found a much greater depth to him. He had a vision of what he wanted his home to be, and was willing to part Heaven and Earth to accomplish his goals.

In short, he was as bound to his path as I was.

As I watched him struggle in that first year, I asked him about whether he felt he was going to survive rebuilding his family's farm. His reply was simple, but I hope never to forget what it meant to me.

"The work's not a problem," he told me, "It's surviving the loneliness I'm really worried about..."

I would have asked him what he meant by that, but suddenly... I found that I understood. After all, hadn't I pushed everyone who might have cared about my life away a long time ago? I had never really cared about my personal life, my career had always come first.

Well, now I had my career, and it was time for other priorities.

Of course, knowing you want a family life is one thing. Actually finding someone to start a family with is another matter altogether. Mineral Town isn't a large place, and most of the women here were already married, out of my age-range, or both.

For a while, I chose to look at dating services. After doing the research on them, however, I ultimately decided that they didn't suit me. Leaving town to look for a relationship felt like an option to me, but I dismissed it quickly. I only had one day off in a week, and I wanted to be available in case of emergencies.

And then, while I was weighing each option over in my mind one evening... Magnus provided the solution yet again; albeit indirectly this time. I had been watching Magnus discreetly from the moment he arrived in town, and it was clear that there was a woman he was attracted to. However, for some reason he never made a move. I often wondered why.

That night, I finally understood. Magnus Smythe is an intelligent man, but like many geniuses often missed what was in front of his own face.

Perhaps, I thought, it was time to look at what was in front of me...

--

I took over the Mineral Town Clinic on my twenty-third birthday. Elli, only eighteen years old at the time, applied to become my assistant that very day.

At the time, I assumed that trying to become too personal with her would simply cause trouble. After all, even if I was looking to date someone five years my junior, I assumed that she already had a boyfriend somewhere in town. I didn't know her, and didn't want to interfere with her personal life.

By the time I had my epiphany, I had known and worked with Elli for a little over five years. She had proven herself to be an efficient assistant, a caring nurse, and every damn bit as capable in a crunch as I was. She'd learned everything I could teach her, and had even managed to teach me a thing or two in our time together.

When I finally thought about it, I realized that the person I needed the most was already beside me. From there, it took me very little time to ask her to marry me.

To my own surprise, she accepted my proposal without hesitation.

--

I never believed in magic. I thought that everything in the world could be explained, and that anyone who believed otherwise was a fool.

But as I look at the face of my daughter, who at all of three has already chosen to become a doctor like her parents... I think I have to amend my beliefs.

Without even realizing it, I have the career of my dreams. I have a beautiful and capable wife, a precocious daughter, and even more family to come in the near future.

Magic. What else could you call it?