Irreplaceable [Vignette]

Heard but unseen, the door closed softly to the Weyrwoman’s office leaving her alone. The minutes ticked by as she’d sat in her chair, eyes fixed numbly on the knot in her hands, fingers tracing the braided blue and gold with its distinctive silver cord, the single silver tassel lying in her palm.

He hadn’t been wearing it when he’d entered. He’d closed the door and locked it before sinking into the chair opposite her desk, settling back with his hands in his jacket pockets, and stretching out his long legs all without answering her “What’s up?” Obviously he had something he needed to say to her alone as the Weyrleader wasn’t in yet, but he’d regarded her somberly, silent for several moments. She’d known something was on his mind for awhile now. Quieter of late, the man of few words had spoken even fewer. More often she’d caught him picking at his food or eating it without really seeming to taste it. He’d taken to walking the beach more frequently, eyes out to sea. Restless.

“I’m tired Babe.”

The words were spoken after what seemed like a long wait for him to say something. She’d nodded. Who didn’t get tired once in awhile? She’d replied lightly, her words reassuring, offering something about a vacation that Faranth knows he’d always had to coerce her to take. It had brought a firm headshake from him. Wordlessly he’d pulled his Weyrsecond’s knot from his jacket pocket and placed it on the desk, leaning forward to slide it across to her.

Really she shouldn’t be stunned. But she was.

“Have you seen the Healers? They did check your heart, didn’t they?” Her words were tinged with alarm.

He’d growled with a snort of offended vitality, “I’m fine, Babe. I ain’t gonna check out on ya anytime soon!”

Her sea green eyes had lifted, searched his face and she knew. There wasn’t anything she could say to change his mind, though her mouth opened to argue anyway. He’d held up his hand, forestalling her.

“Yer strong, Babe. You can do this without me. An’ ya know where to find me when yer not workin’.”

He rose then, gave her a jaunty salute while that smirk of a smile that was oh-so-typical of him tipped his lips. Then he’d walked out with that familiar swagger which Muir had carefully imitated and mastered.

His words echoed in her mind while she fought down the panic rising in her, denied the urge to run after him and demand he take it back, to shake him and tell him that no one could replace him, she wouldn’t have it! The knot blurred as a single tear dripped silently on the shiny surface of that desk. He wanted to retire, but how could she let him? He’d been her rock, her port in storm, her compass, her friend.

The corners of her lips twitched in sudden memory, a reminiscent smile forced its way to erase the sad line of her mouth. How she’d teased D’had about his ambivalence over accepting the knot! Gave him such a hard time as he’d carried her sprained ankle’d self ‘cross weyr in spite of her laughing at his growling denial that he was going to take it, then turning around and asking her if she thought he should anyway. In spite of his self-doubts, the man had done a fine job. She hated losing him…

Sun-warmed rain, rising in a mist curled about her in a comforting caress, bringing with it the scent of damp rock, « My friend Siebith is tired too. He shares his rider’s mind. It wears on him as well. They want the beaches, the sun, the water. They will always be there for us. They aren’t leaving Xanadu. »

Seryth! I’m not sure…

« Oh, but Siebith says his is. » the queen’s words whispered through her mind in a cooling eddy of pine-scented mist. « We’ll be fine. And Siebith and his will be better. You’ll see. »

Thea had remained still for a seemingly endless span of time before she had lifted that knot, brushed her lips to it, then opened a tiny side-drawer in her desk, deposited the knot inside and closed it firmly with an air of finality. No one would be wearing that particular knot again.

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