AN: This fic takes place in A Wrinkle in Time in the gap of time before Meg returns to awareness after Dr. Murry tessers.
Calvin O'Keefe had woken up exactly 5,879 times in his life. Therefore, he did not remember many of the individual instances, but he would have felt secure in stating that none had ever been like this before. He smelled smoke, felt the hairs on all of his arms standing straight up, and then realized he was cold, colder than he had ever been before in his life. As he forced his eyelids open, he saw blue-tinged fingers splayed, one hand over another, on his chest over his heart. The smoky, hot cold reminded him of holding an ice cube in his hand until his skin was so cold it burned. He eased himself up slowly, shoving his hands into his pockets, clenching his jaw to try to hold his chattering teeth together. His bones themselves seemed to be shaking, jarring his frame like a dancing skeleton on a Halloween commercial.
His thoughts were not as rattled as his body, and the strength of his concern for the Murrys made him force his feet to accept his body weight. Where was everyone else? Were they in pain like this? Did they need his help? What about Meg? He thought about Meg, doubled over, nearly vomiting, after tessering with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, and then he thought about the ripped-atom-from-atom feeling of Dr. Murry's tesser. What about Meg? His mind demanded again frantically, and it was this particular thought that spurred his brain to pick his feet up, one at a time, to begin walking. The world around him was so indescribably different from his home planet, the one writhing and fighting in the Black Thing's shadow, that his disorientation was akin to a swimmer whose equilibrium no longer allows him to discern up from down, water from air.
He moved slowly, clumsily, forcing his eyes to focus on the dull, pastels of the world around him, a world that looked like a muted watercolor painting that had been painted over and over with just water until the paint was just visible in the onlooker's memory, seemingly there one moment and gone in the next. He desperately sought out solidity, color and form that looked too familiar not to be Earthly, as he straggled forward.
It was Dr. Murry he saw first, moving in the same clumsy, too-slow manner, and Cal tried to pick up his pace to bring them together. He opened his mouth to speak, but his vocal cords hummed for several seconds before forming coherence.
"--- okay, son?"
Their words tumbled out at the same time, accompanied by matching vibration of somehow rusty throats and tongues. It seemed a lifetime ago that they had been standing before IT, suffering in ITs hypnotic brain control.
"We must find her." Cal repeated the concept of Meg doggedly, the image of her pale, nauseous face after her first tesser plaguing his mind. He looked around as if Meg would be littered at his feet if he just looked hard enough.
"I left Charles Wallace behind. I could not tear him from IT without destroying him." Dr. Murry's eyes were focused somewhere else, back on Camazotz, as if he could still physically see the child he abandoned there.
Calvin and Dr. Murry were two ships passing in the night, unable to truly see each other or share a goal, as they were lost in opposing goals. Finally, Calvin drew himself back to the moment, reaching over to touch Dr. Murry's arm. His muscles were beginning to feel normal again, the freezing burn receding to normal warmth, but his intestines still felt cold. He just attributed that to his concern about Meg.
"We have to find Meg, sir." His voice was a command, the same voice he employed at home when the other O'Keefe children were in dire need of an authoritative voice speaking for their own good. Dr. Murry's head snapped over to look at the child, and a fatherly voice spoke in its appropriate place.
"I know, Calvin. I know. Don't worry, son," the good doctor replied, focus coming back into his eyes as he looked around. "She has to be close. I just – I had to fight hard for her in the tesser. The shadow tried to take her. I do not know why it was her it wanted…"
Cal tried not to look aghast at the thought of the Black Thing sucking its pure, empirical evil onto Meg, with her impetuous, magnanimous personality and dreamy eyes hiding behind thick lenses. The thought felt so wrong that it could not actually latch itself onto his brain.
"It wanted her because of who she is," he replied seriously. "Because of what she's capable of."
Dr. Murry looked at him and nodded slowly before turning away. They started to walk, but neither of them shouted for her. It felt somehow inappropriate on the silent, still, pale planet, the seemingly uninhabited expanse of washed-out color.
Cal saw her first, and he found the strength to run to her side, with greater strength of motivation than ever drove him to make the winning shot in basketball. Her glasses were askew, her mop of brown hair was a puffball around her too-pale face, and her Cupid's bow mouth possessed blue lips, but she was beautiful just because she was there and she was her. The Black Thing had not gotten her. He knelt down just as Dr. Murry caught up.
"Oh Megaparsec…" Dr. Murry said, reaching for her pulse and feeling none. Tears filled his eyes, but Cal shook his head stubbornly.
"She's fine, sir. Can't you tell? Can't you tell she's fine?" He demanded. His voice was suddenly angry. How could her own father not see it, not see that she was okay, alive and well and coming back to them, back to him? It was so obvious; he felt it in the very marrow of his bones. As he looked at Dr. Murry, already mourning his daughter, Cal felt lifetimes older, hundreds of them, so much older that he knew that medical facts like pulse were pointless in the shadow of greater struggles. "Dr. Murry, listen to me. Meg is going to be just fine."
He touched her wrist himself and felt the sharp, sudden kick of a pulse. Her heart was beating again. "Feel her pulse!"
Dr. Murry moved like a man in a trance, dutifully putting his fingers on a pulse point, and as if the proverbial scales had fallen from his eyes, he saw exactly what Cal had seen all along. Meg Murry was gaining strength. He turned to watch the young man who had known her better than him, who had seen the life in her even when her heart was stopped.
Calvin O'Keefe would never know it, but in that moment on a planet called Ixchel, Dr. Murry knew that his daughter would one day come to him and ask his blessing to become Mrs. O'Keefee, and he already knew that he would give his blessing.