“So we are both beginning this new stage of our lives … starting a new journey, one might say. We might as well make it together.” Kordieh smiled. “Just before I set out on the Phoenix, this time, I asked for and was permitted to undertake the Minbari rebirth ceremony.”
Morgan hadn’t expected that, but nodded. It was usual for new Rangers to undertake it, but also not uncommon for it to be done other times. “I think that was a good thing.”
“It helped a lot, in many ways,” he said. He shifted slightly in his chair, allowing their linked hands to rest on the console. “So tell me, cherie … what can I tell you about myself? Ask me anything.”
“Oh, ah.” Her mouth quirked. “There are many things, and I… like the sound of your voice. You could tell anything you wished, I would listen.”
He thought for a moment. “Well, since I don’t have a phone book close by … let’s try this. I will tell you a story about my childhood. Then you can tell me a story about yours, eh?”
She fought back a laugh. “Ie.”
“I think this happened when I was about twelve, perhaps thirteen, but no older.
“We lived in a large house … it was near a very old football stadium that had been all but falling down for years. About the only things that lived there were the rats … and the feral cats that hunted them. Lucius and I had been feeding the cats for a few years when someone decided to rebuild and reopen the stadium. The construction people, at first, just wanted to round up all the cats and kill them.”
Margaret watched him, but didn’t comment. Animals had been rare in her childhood, and she still wasn’t used to them.
“We convinced them that things would be much better — for the cats, but also for the stadium — if the cats were allowed to stay. Before long, they came to believe us. We helped make shelters for the cats, and they kept the rats and mice down to almost nothing. Everyone was happy.” He smiled a little wistfully. “Since they were ferals, it was very rare we ever got very close to them, save maybe for a kitten or two. I’ve heard Anla’shok Yoshino has a cat … do you know if that’s true?”
“I think so, but I do not know for sure.” She shook her head. “I grew up on mining stations, mostly. Animals were practically unheard of.”
“But I imagine there were other remarkable things there,” he said, the prompt gentle but impossible to miss.
“Well, ie. I do not have many stories as such, but some of the sights were incredible. Europa was one of my favorites.”
“Yes? I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time anywhere in the Sol system, except of course for Earth itself. What was Europa like?”
“Very hard to live there – many of the workers, if they even had families, didn’t take them there. But oh, so beautiful. Used to go out, under Pwyll Crater – Pwyll, there’s a story, one of our old ones – and look up. The starlight and reflected sunlight, coming through the ice….” She shook her head, losing words for it.
His eyes lost their focus as he tried to imagine it. “Mon Dieu, that must have been incredible …” he said softly.
“Ie. I wish now I had thought to take pictures.”
“I was never good at that sort of thing, myself.”
“I am capable enough, when I remember. Which I do not, even if I have a camera with me.”
“I didn’t bring one this time. Just a few books … my credit chip, in case we have time for shopping, not that I’m counting on it.”
She smiled. “You pack as I do.”
He smiled, then leaned back in his seat, slowly letting go of her hand.
“What now?” he asked, after several minutes of silence. “There’s still about an hour until the Tarallen jumpgate … do you want me to check over the engines or something?”
“Only if you think they need it. From here, they seem to be running smoothly. Or, as smoothly as can be expected.”
“To be honest, they seem in fine condition. I’m not sure what the Shipmaster was on about … he made it sound almost as if the ship was cursed or something.”
“Cursed? That’s… interesting.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to study Minbari religion and spirituality — not much of a distinction for them, really. You wouldn’t know it on a casual look, but there are plenty of them who are just as superstitious as humans. Maybe more, if you consider how important all kinds of ritual are for them.”
“Very true – I had not considered that. And I see similarities with my people, and my sister’s patients, on Earth.” She only hesitated over naming her slightly.
“She was a medical doctor, family practitioner. She had a semi-rural practice on Earth.”
He nodded, then paused, weighing carefully whether to say the next words at all. Finally he asked, “What happened to her?”
“Clark.” She couldn’t keep the bitterness out. “He created widows and orphans on a whim, just for people having a differing opinion, and then didn’t have the balls to stand trial for it.”
“Ah, cherie ….” He got up and moved to stand behind her seat, leaning over to wrap his arms around her shoulders. “I’m so sorry.”
Morgan stiffened, not expecting, then slowly forced herself to relax. “Diolch.”
“I wish I knew something more I could say, or do,” he said softly.
“No, it is fine. Just knowing that you….” She stopped and waved a hand, losing words for what she meant.
“And I do,” he said, lowering his head until his chin rested on the top of her head.
She was expecting something this time, so she didn’t startle. She did, however, take a couple of steadying breaths, had forgotten what this felt like.
“So …” he said after a minute or two. “Only about an hour until we transit the Tarallen gate, eh?”
“About that, ie.”
He sighed, a gesture she could feel almost as much as hear. “Quel dommage,” he murmured. “Perhaps I will go check on the engines.”
“Wait, what?” She turned, but trying not to dislodge him.
He straightened up, but otherwise didn’t move. A faint blush had colored his cheeks. “What a pity,” he said. “An hour … it is not much time. And I … ” He chuckled, and offered her a wry smile. “You will think I am playing on some kind of old, old cliche, but it’s true … if I stay here, I will not be able to resist much longer, short on time or not.”
She flushed a little too and looked down a moment. “Resisting is not required, but… Longer than an hour would be better.”
“I’ve … gotten that impression.”
“Not mandatory, certainly. But we can wait until a longer span of time.”
After a moment’s silence, he started to laugh, then dropped to sit on the deck, cross-legged, at her feet. Still laughing, he rested his head against her knee and said, “I have so much to learn. I imagine you never thought you’d take a 35-year-old boy for a lover.”
“You’re not a boy,” she said immediately, mouth quirking. “And I know I haven’t learned everything there is to know yet.” Margaret lifted a hand, hesitated, then touched his hair.