In Absentia Title: In Absentia
Author: DebC
E-mail: debchilson@yahoo.com
Rating: PG-something Keywords: Miranda, Peggy
Spoilers: The Greater Good, Wonderful
Disclaimers: "Mysterious Ways" is the property of Binder, O'Fallon and Lions Gate. I don't own much, so please don't sue me. Summary: Miranda talks to Peggy after her recovery

The knock at her door was so faint that Peggy Fowler barely heard it over the tappity-tap of her fingers running over the keyboard in front of her. Nevertheless, she did hear it, and looked up just in time to see the back of Miranda's head as she was turning to leave.

"Miranda! Wait!" she called out, stopping the ever-quiet physics student in her tracks.

"I didn't mean to interrupt you," Miranda said in her softly gruff voice.

"You weren't interrupting. In fact, I was kind of hoping you'd stop by before you left the hospital. That is what you're doing, right? Leaving?"

"Yeah."

Peggy motioned Miranda to sit down on the couch. Then she sat down beside her.

"Was there something you wanted to talk about, Miranda?" she asked tentatively.

"Yeah. There was," came Miranda's response. Then she stared down at her hands folded neatly in lap.

"Miranda…" Peggy began, slipping easily into the role of comforter that she often had to play for the hospital's patients. "If there's anything I can do for you…" Peggy briefly wondered why Miranda was coming to her instead of Declan. They were closer, after all. It could have been simply because she was a psychiatrist that Miranda knew, but Peggy suspected that Miranda still would have gone to Declan instead. Unless… Could Miranda be shy about seeing Declan because he'd gone against her wishes to save her life?

"My parents called today." The brusquely spoken words cut off the rest of Peggy's sentence.

"Oh."

"Someone left a message for them at the front desk of the hotel where they were staying."

"So, they called to find out if you were okay," Peggy said, starting to smile. The smile, however, was a false one, as she vividly recalled how Miranda had nearly died without her parents there to comfort her.

"They called to find out if I wanted to sue the university for allowing me to come in contact with a deadly virus. I spent the last hour talking them out of it." Miranda's voice was pained.

Peggy was floored. Several emotions bombarded her all at once-anger, indignation and outrage were the first, then sorrow and pity for Miranda's sake, and lastly-understanding. Had it been her lying in a hospital bed on the brink of death, would her own father have come to see her?

"I'm sorry, Miranda," she said at last. Instinctively, she reached out, her hand covering Miranda's in a gesture of friendship and concern.

It was then that Miranda crumbled for the first time since this whole thing began. She'd been a rock of strength and determination even in what could very well have been her last moments on earth, and now she wept openly, throwing herself into Peggy's arms.

Most of what she said in between sobs was too garbled to make out, except for snatches of "how could they" and "why didn't they?"

Peggy held her, stroking her short dark hair in a motherly fashion and feeling her own tears threatening to break through. They remained this way until Miranda's tears subsided.

"Sorry," Miranda said as she pushed herself out of Peggy' arms.

"Don't be," the psychiatrist replied as she reached for a box of tissues, which she set between them on the couch. There was an awkward silence in which Miranda reached for a tissue and wiped the tears away from her eyes.

"I just…" the young woman began, then stopped as her voice choked with raw emotion. "I just thought they-"

"You thought they would come," Peggy supplied for her. Miranda nodded. "You thought that they would care enough about your life to be there when you needed them the most." Again, Miranda nodded. "You felt helpless and sacred and all you wanted was for your daddy to hug you and make it better." Whoa! Where did that come from?

Miranda stopped in mid nod. "Are we still talking about me?" she asked.

"No, I… I guess not." Peggy admitted. "My father wasn't there for me when I needed him either," she said.

"Declan said you were looking for him."

"Yeah, I was. For a long time, in fact."

"Do you think you'll find him?" Miranda asked.

"I don't know, Miranda. I don't know." It was strange how quickly their roles had reversed. Miranda was suddenly comforting Peggy with her own brand of empathy. And somehow, Peggy sensed that the two of them had finally found some common ground.