Bright Shards

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan

The immediate emergencies past and the Phoenix safely on course to Minbar through hyperspace, night’s hush finally quieted the ship. All but a determined few had or were about to find beds for their first safe chance to catch some sleep since the first explosion touched off.

The late hour found Margaret carrying a folded cot toward the lift to the bridge. It was already more tiring than she would have expected, with only one good arm to carry the load and trying to keep any weight from her newly set wrist. She was only partially successful.

As luck would have it, good or bad, she soon had a witness. Carrying a small bundle of supplies under one arm, Kim came striding up the corridor, her long stride cutting down the distance in moments. Distracted as she was, she didn’t notice Margaret until she was nearly on top of her.

Cyfeilles,” Margaret acknowledged Kim stopped short and blinked in momentary astonishment, but when she found her words, they weren’t usual greetings. “What on earth are you doing up? Or doing that, for that matter,” she demanded, looking most of all at Margaret’s wrist — which shouldn’t have been stressed for anything.

Meg replied automatically, a little startled. “They’ve run out of room, and my quarters are gone.”

“You could have called.” Kim snatched the cot right out of her hands. “Come on, where have they assigned you then?”

Margaret shrugged. “Isn’t anywhere else. I was going to my office.”

“And you were going to sleep there.”

Ie, of course…”

“Right. What, two, three hours, at best? I know you, Meg.” Margaret looked away sheepishly and Kim snorted. “What I thought. Forget that idea, I’ve got room at my place.”

“No, Cyfeilles–”

“If positions were reversed, what would you do? Give me some credit.”

With a sigh, Margaret gave in. She didn’t have much choice as Kim made off down the corridors and up one more deck to her own door. It was standing open, but at least it still existed. Just a few meters down the hall the corridor ended at a sealed emergency bulkhead.

Margaret went quietly until they stepped inside, and she reached again for her cot to set it up. “Diolch.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Kim said, refusing the gesture as she set up the cot herself.

“Not a cripple,” Margaret growled.

Kim shot a glance at her, unbudging and a little angry. “You’ll make yourself one if you don’t watch it. Friends are allowed to help, you know.”

Margaret gave in, but not quietly. Kim’s ears were not good enough to catch it, but she caught the thought all right.

“I guess if this is the point I get ‘Yes, mother’, I should also tell you to stop mumbling, stand up straight,” Kim recited as she dropped down the cot with a good snap, “and generally complain about the lack of respect in kids these days.”

Margaret stared at her for a long moment in disbelief at the strange tirade, then started to chuckle. It was almost impossible not to, and just as Kim had intended.

Kim glanced up with a brief grin. “I’ve got some extra blankets here. Bathroom still works, but don’t try the computer. The best it does is imitate a horror vid, even after someone came to look at it.”

Margaret shook her head, mood lightening. “Diolch,” she repeated, sincerely.

“Welcome.” Kim left her there as she went for the promised blankets. Margaret surveyed the damage as she waited. Kim had gotten the furniture straightened and much of the debris swept away.

Everything looked replaceable until Margaret’s eyes came upon a shattered pile of pottery. It took her a moment to recognize the tea set Kim used with every visit. One set of shards she recognized as the fine pale china of the teapot. The other the colorful glazed fragments of the ancient Phoenix and Dragon that had twined together around the old teajar. Margaret scowled at the reminder of what hat happened.

Kim returned with blankets in had to find her like that.

“I’m sorry,” Margaret said softly. She knew it was foolish, it was ‘just’ and object, but…

“What?” Kim looked to where Margaret’s attention was focused and nodded sadly with understanding. “I usually tucked them away, but this time… Just my luck, I guess.”

There was nothing else to say, so Margaret left it in silence. She held her hands out for the blankets. Kim gave them over and went to the front door, propping one of the papery sliding doors over the jammed entrance for some privacy. Margaret shook the blankets out on to the cot, then moved to the bathroom, the old life to her step absent. Kim could only watch with a worried glance until she was out of sight. Shaking her head, she took a seat at the table with the shards. Finally the little bundle she had been carrying was opened, revealing jars of adhesives, cleaners and the delicate tools of archeology. After the chaos of the past while, with the wars, this was the first time in nearly two years she’d held them. It was strange, even as it was also comforting amongst the confusion.

Margaret was back out shortly, washed, but it had failed to make her feel significantly better. Her head still pounded in counterpoint to her aching wrist, but she refused to take any of the medicine that had been offered her. It would have been too easy…. and too tempting not to stop.

Kim glanced up from her pottery and Margaret offered a weak smile. “Just don’t poison us, Cyfeilles.”

She gave a faint chuckle. “I’m only putting the tea jar back together. Dry tea will be no problem with these particular adhesives.”

“If you say,” Margaret said dubiously. Sitting on the cot she pulled off her boots. The cape that was part of her uniform had been long lost.

“I’m the archeologist here, remember?” Kim chided with an amused smile.

Margaret grinned. “Ie.” As she stretched out on her cot, Kim turned the light shade toward herself, throwing the sitting area back into shadow. “Let me know if you have any trouble with the light. I’d already gotten some sleep.”

“Neh. I only need to… ‘wind down’.” It took a moment for Margaret to find the colloquialism from her jumbled memory.

Kim nodded and reset her magnifier again to work. The slow sorting of pieces had a calming effect that unfortunately couldn’t be shared. Margaret’s body had relaxed, but her mind was still running in circles, difficult to control recently. To the background lilt of Kim humming to some old tune, Margaret took the opportunity of comfort to sort through the memories. Slowly, some things began to fall back into place. Faces, places, names… she took one image and rolled it around in her mind. It was still sharp edged with loss, but she looked at it anyway, missing the moment — and the person — badly.

Oblivious at first, the rhythm of the song helped keep the barrier between her mind and Margaret’s, but some things couldn’t be blocked. For an instant, strong enough to blot her own sight for a time, Kim saw a man. Tallish, black hair cut to military regs, dark skin above the collar of a commander’s uniform. He was smiling … and then the image was gone, leaving only the lingering emotions. Kim lifted her gaze to the other room, and the cot. Margaret’s eyes were closed, but obviously not asleep. Kim held her tongue, offering only a sad glance the other wouldn’t see before bowing back to the work.

Eventually Margaret curled onto her side, pulling the blankets up.

“Sleep well,” Kim said quietly.

Nos da, Cyfeilles.”

The quiet clicks and scrapes of a treasure being rebuilt followed Margaret into sleep.

Copyright (C) 1998 Alida Saxon and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.

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