Of Cloudless Climes and Starry Skies

Disclaimer: I do not own the Time Quintet.

This story takes place between A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I haven't read Many Waters, so I don't know where this is in relation to that. Please review!

Meg leaned her cheek against the window of her attic bedroom and gazed down at the garden. Rivulets of rain trickled down the glass. She looked at the twins' vegetable patch, the little gem lettuces, tomatoes, radishes and peppers that Sandy and Dennys had tended to all summer and were nearly ready to pick. Meg sighed.

She did not want to go back to school. She had had such a wonderful summer, exploring the glens and dells of the countryside surrounding the old house and the sheltered sandy beaches of the coast not far from the village with Calvin O'Keefe and her baby brother Charles Wallace.

Charles Wallace. Meg thought of her baby brother – who was not such a baby any more. He was seven, small, quiet and very intelligent. She knew that Charles was far and away the cleverest of all the children in his class, maybe even in the whole grade school. It was just… he was so different. His end-of-term report had read: "Charles Wallace is no doubt a bright boy, but he must try and work hard by himself instead of counting on others to work for him. I am sure that he would succeed if he were not so lazy."

This was a clear reminder of the way that he had learnt all the first-grade readers and arithmetic books by heart, as well as reading most of the books in the grade school library in his first year at school. This was admittedly unusual. But surely it doesn't make Charles a cheat? Meg thought angrily.

Meg remembered last year, when she had gone into one of Charles's mitochondria and defeated the Echthroi to save his life, and that he had known – known – that she was there. He could tell that kind of thing. That was one of the many things that made Charles so special. But even without his mysterious powers, he would always be her little brother. Wasn't that enough?

Meg yawned and got up from the window seat. She went downstairs, automatically skipping the seventh step on the attic steps, which not only creaked but also sometimes made a noise like a gunshot. But as she came down the stairs to the kitchen Meg slipped on a patch of worn carpet and skinned her knee as she tumbled to the bare boards. She let out a cry of pain and Sandy and Dennys came running.

"Meg! Are you all right?" Dennys asked, concerned.

"I'm fine," she mumbled. She stood up, dusted herself off and went into the kitchen.
Meg sighed as she walked into the comfortable, cluttered room where so much of her childhood had been centred. The glimmering light from the Bunsen burners in her mother's laboratory – where she was, as usual, making their dinner – was flickering on the walls and casting a warm glow on the polished wooden floor; the mismatched chairs were scattered around the table at random angles; the smell of stew was drifting in through the archway to the lab.

Why did everything seem so complicated? Why did Meg always have a problem to solve, an impassable obstacle in her way to success? When she was a child it had all been simple. A question had an answer; three to the power of four had always been 243. But now Meg was wondering if maybe three to the power of four was 562, or maybe occasionally it was 79 or 108. Calvin had been Calvin; Charles Wallace had been Charles Wallace. Yet… with these new developments, new feelings, Calvin may have become Mr Jenkins, and Charles Wallace Father, for all she knew.

"Meg," called Mother through the archway leading to the lab, "set the table, would you, darling?"

Meg just nodded and got up to start. But as she was making her way to the cutlery draw Calvin and Charles came running in, panting from the exertion of having run all the way round the orchard and back.

"Meg, Meg, you have to see this!"