As Morgan entered the room on the hangar deck, she saw the labyrinth pattern laid out on the floor, a few of the sheets slightly askew. Kordieh was sitting on the floor near one end, in stocking feet, back against the bulkhead. He was staring into the middle distance, one hand tapping his boot on the floor.
She watched him a few moments, then slipped her own boots off, preparing for the labyrinth. Silently, she adjusted the sheets needing it.
He looked in her direction, hesitating, then apparently made the decision to allow her a walk in peace. He folded his hands in his lap and closed his eyes.
She took the opportunity. When she finished, she went to sit near him, waiting.
“It’s really rather funny,” he said after a moment. “I think I understand a bit more why I’m so angry at Ryath. It brings up another issue that I never really resolved. And they’re a lot more related than I would have guessed.”
Here it was. Progress, but she was also afraid for him, oddly. “Ie? Tell me?”
“I told you a little while ago, about Katia and I — how she left, and didn’t even tell me herself about why.”
Morgan couldn’t stop herself – her jaw clenched at the mention of their former engineer. “I remember,” she said after a moment.
Kordieh wasn’t looking at her, and so didn’t notice Morgan’s clenched jaw. “It hurt, in a way that I still don’t entirely comprehend. I mean, I’d never … never been in love before. And this … it could have gone a lot farther. In one — timeline? reality? –” he fumbled for words to explain a phenomenon that defied conventional explanations — “we were married. We had a child.”
“Ah. The future is… fluid, they say.” Morgan fell silent, remembering that time. “I didn’t see any future,” she finally said softly.
He puzzled for a moment over this, then asked quietly, “Is this something you would want to talk about?”
She tried to redirect the conversation. “You are supposed to be the one talking.” She looked down at the deck.
Kordieh looked at her for a moment, then shrugged ever so slightly. “As you wish,” he said quietly. “I … just didn’t want to be selfish … anyway. I guess … after I thought about it for a while, I realized that there was so much similar. I was finding Ryath attractive. She even — she even joked with Toni Villiers about … well, anyway. And then she just turned her back on me, like I was nothing.” He sighed gently, staring down into his lap.
Morgan worried at her pants leg, thinking. “It’s hard to get over something like that. You want desperately to fill the hole they’ve left.” She sounded as if she understood. “But Ryath apparently has… problems. You’re certainly not nothing.”
He nodded, and sighed again, softly. “I know. I guess I must really believe it, else why would it make me angry, right?” He rubbed his forehead. “It’s been better — a lot better — since Lucius came, but even now there are times when I think I don’t deserve to be here.”
“Everyone has those doubts. When you hear ‘can’t’ so often, you do start to believe it. But please, trust me on this, as a friend. I would not lie to you.” She smiled faintly. “I think the Day of the Dead helped many people.”
“It seems to have helped quite a few of the people who experienced it,” he said. “The Phoenix was still out at Abbai then, wasn’t it? The Brakiri managed to touch even there, eh?”
“Yes. It was… unsettling.” She paused. “I had no look into the future, so I was taking it to mean I would not be around then. Between that, and still holding on to… to my late husband…. An old friend came to give me a good swift kick.”
“You were married once, then?” Kordieh’s voice had taken on an almost childlike curiosity.
Morgan smiled, but without humor. “Briefly. It was another ‘can’t’ – he was an officer, I was enlisted, in EarthForce, and on the same ship no less.”
“My memory is kind of vague about anything to do with EF protocol anymore,” Kordieh said, “but I do think I remember that sort of thing was frowned on at best.”
“It would depend on the CO, and the situation, but yes, as a rule.” She took a deep breath. “He was the Executive Officer, as I am here. Our relationship was the best-known secret on the ship.”
“Best-known, as in worst kept?”
Morgan sniffed. “How did you guess? And you know who generally gets the real punishment when that’s enforced.”
Kordieh’s mouth twitched. “Shit rolls downhill?”
It was so out of character for him, Morgan couldn’t help but laugh. “Ie, exactly.”
He laughed himself, awkwardly, for a moment, then caught his breath. “Sorry. I’m still getting used to laughing. Sech Nelier insisted I learn how.”
“He is very wise. I am afraid I forgot how to, and still do not do it often enough.”
“I’ll have to work on translating some more Minbari jokes. Some of them are just beyond me … and it’s really tricky trying to get the puns to translate, of course.”
“Those are nearly impossible, I know. I have tried to translate some from Cymraeg, without success.”
“I’d really be interested in learning that language,” he said. “I seem to have picked up a fondness for languages lately. That, and poetry.”
Morgan smiled. “Then you would like my native language, though few still speak it, outside of the homeland.”
“I could offer you French, or Brakiri, in trade.”
“Brakiri? That would be… practical. But perhaps both. If we are ever bored.” Her mouth quirked. That wasn’t likely to happen any time soon.
His returning smile suddenly became an immense yawn. “Sorry about that,” he said when he could speak again. “Maybe I should take one more walk of the labyrinth, then try to catch a nap before I have to go back on duty. Usually the overnight shift in Medlab is far too quiet.”
She nodded. “I certainly hope so.”
Shifting to prepare to rise, he stretched out both hands toward her, palms open and upward. “Thank you, Margaret. For everything. Especially for being my friend.”
She looked at him, bemused for a moment, then took them. “Croseo. It is not so hard.” She smiled faintly, even a little shyly. “And we all need friends against the darkness.”
He gave her hands one gentle squeeze, then released them and stood up. “Will you … be wanting the labyrinth when I’m done?”
“I think the one circuit is enough for tonight. You’re welcome to borrow it, if you would like.”
“I would, thank you. I can return it as soon as I get a copy made for myself.”
“At your leisure – I know where to find it, if I have need of it.” She smiled.
He nodded and smiled back at her, then turned toward the beginning of the labyrinth on the floor.
Copyright (c) 2003 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.