"Talia has a mother?" Susan said as they followed the coffin down the hallway. The Mimbari generally sent their dead home for cremation, but Delenn had made the arrangements for Talia to be handled there.
"Most people do have them." The Mimbari moving the coffin entered the room where the cremation equipment had been set up, and moved the coffin into place before exiting, leaving Michael and Susan to say their final goodbyes in private.
"I know that, but…. How did you find her?"
"It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be especially when I found out the Corps changed her last name when they took her." He took the lid off the coffin so he could see Talia properly one last time. "Over twenty years and her mother had never given up seeing her again. She always hoped that Talia would come home again some day."
"She would have. You know she was finally seeing the Corps for what it really was. If this hadn't happened, she would have wanted to know. She would have wanted to go home. You told her mother what happened?" Susan asked as the tears she had held back started to flow partially at the thought of another mother and daughter being torn apart courtesy of the Psi-Corps and partially at the damage she knew having to make that call had done to her friend. She wished she had known Garibaldi was going to try tracking down Talia's family. She could have at least been there to offer moral support.
"As much as I could. Apparently she's part of some group, for family who had kids taken by the Corps. When I told her, you know what she said? That at least she knew, that she was the only one who knew what happened to their kid. The Corps doesn't even bother to notify normal families if there's a death. She loved her, Susan. She loved her, and she isn't even going to get to see Talia and say goodbye thanks to them."
"We'll have to say goodbye for her, then." Susan said as she reached into the coffin and took Talia's hand. "Talia, I have to believe that there's some part of you out there that can hear this, and I want you to know how much you were loved. You had a family who loved you and would have given anything for you to come home, and you have friends who love you and would have given anything for this to have been different. You were loved, and you'll be missed forever. Goodbye, Talia."
"Talia…" He didn't know what he could say. Talia was dead because of him. He had done the right thing, he knew, she wouldn't have wanted to live as a Corps puppet, but still, she was dead because of what he had done. How was he supposed to live with that? Michael leaned over the coffin as Susan backed away, tears streaming down her cheeks just as they were starting to fall down his. "Talia…" He slipped a pink ribbon between her fingers, wrapping it around the stem of the rose. "Your mother said that the day the Corps took you away, that you had a pink ribbon in your hair. Every year on your birthday, she's tied ribbons like that on the door and prayed for you to come home. She loved you so much. No matter what the Corps might have told you, she was never afraid of you or what you could do. She loved you and wanted you more than anything. I promise that we'll get you home to her, even if it isn't the homecoming it should be. I'm so sorry. Talia…. I love you." And then his lips were on hers, kissing her softly, a touch that would surely have let her read his mind, would have shown her how sincere his words were if she had been capable of anything. He closed his eyes to try to block the tears, wanting to freeze this moment forever in his mind.
There was a light, or what he thought was a light, flashing against his eyelids, and then just as he blinked his eyes open and moved slightly back, there was a gasp.
It couldn't be, but he made himself look down again and there were two pale, eyes, wide with confusion, staring up at him. "Talia?" Had he lost his mind? Dead, she was dead. Bester had stabbed her and there hadn't been any blood. She was dead! "Susan!"
"What am I doing in a coffin?" Her head was swimming, and all she wanted to do was drift back to sleep, but Talia couldn't help but notice where she was currently resting. A coffin?
"What in…." Susan stopped, at a loss for words when she saw Talia, her eyes open. Her jaw dropped and she stared in shock for a moment before getting hold of herself and rushing over. "Talia?"
"Michael? Susan?" Talia whispered. "Why am I in a coffin?" And why did both of them look like they had been crying? Talia wanted to ask that, but she was so tired, although she wasn't sure why.
"No, don't close your eyes. You just stay awake for us." Garibaldi reached over and patted her cheek to try to get her attention as her eyelids started to flutter closed. She was practically a block of ice and her shoulder… "Susan?"
"No blankets. This might help a little. At least to get her out of there." Susan said as she jumped up and drug a tarp off some of the machinery that had been crowded in the room. "Talia? Hey, we're going to get you taken care of. You just stay awake, okay? Don't go to sleep."
"A coffin? Is this prank a telepath day?" Talia murmured as she felt herself being lifted and laid on the ground.
"More like prank the entire station, but the telepath who slept though everything and missed it. You're going to be fine." Susan and Michael shared a look as they got one edge of the tarp wrapped around Talia's damaged shoulder and then tugged the rest around her to try to at least keep her from getting any colder. What in the world were they going to do? Four days, Talia had been in cold storage in the medlab for four days. She was ice cold, and then there was the damage to her shoulder. There was blood, although the cold was slowing it slightly, already starting to soak through the makeshift dressing.
"My quarters. It's closer." Michael said after a moment's thought. "But if we run into anyone in the halls…."
"I'll take care of that. You just take care of her. Talia, you have no idea how glad the two of us are to see you. You just relax and we're going to get you fixed up in just a minute, alright?" Panic washed over her as Garibaldi lifted Talia up. She was so cold, and the potential for serious damage from the stab wound…. No, don't think, stay calm and for goodness sakes don't think or Talia would hear it and would panic too. "Give me a minute to get anyone out of the way before you come out." She ordered Garibaldi before easing out into the corridor.
"Well, I think Corwin is going to need therapy, and possibly a new pair of pants." Somehow, thanks to the Fear of Ivanova, they had managed to make it to his quarters without being spotted, although he wasn't sure what people would think if they did spot them. Talia was still deathly pale and seemed too cold to move at all. They would probably be mistaken for bodysnatchers or necrophiliacs.
"I think Corwin needs therapy most of the time." Susan grumbled as Michael carried Talia into his bedroom and laid her on the bed. Her eyes were closed, but they flickered open when she patted her cheek. "Do you have a robe or something and towels? We need to get that shoulder fixed before we can try to get her warm."
"Robe. Towels. Hot packs, right?" Michael asked as he hurried into the bathroom and gathered the requested items.
"Right. Talia? Stay awake, okay? Don't close your eyes." Susan called as the telepath started to drift off again. At least the dress Garibaldi picked was easy to get off. The wound in her shoulder, though, it was deep and Susan winced as she looked at it. Even with the cold slowing things, there was blood everywhere.
"Bester's dead." Michael said as he came in with the bottle of liquor and caught sight of the wound. "We arranged for the Mimbari to do a cremation. I would hate to disappoint them. We can have them do Bester instead. This was the only thing I could think of that might work as a disinfectant, but…" He had actually used alcohol for that before but he cringed at the thought of using it on Talia.
Susan cringed too, but what choice did they have? Pain or potential infection. As long as Bester was on the loose, they weren't going to be able to get Stephen to help them. "Talia, I'm sorry if this hurts." She said as she poured some of the alcohol onto a washcloth and pressed it against the wound.
"What? Why was I in a coffin?" Talia murmured as her eyes started to slip shut again. She didn't even notice the horrified looks that Susan and Michael exchanged when she didn't react to the alcohol soaked cloth was pressed to her injury.
"The cold. It's the cold." Michael murmured. "My aunt sent me a bunch of these things that are supposed to keep dishes warm. She must have thought I would be cooking twenty course meals or something. Those should work as hot packs, right?"
Susan nodded. "Get her warm, she'll be fine." But if it wasn't the cold… The knife had gone high, missing the lung, but what if it had damaged something else, nerves or worse? No, don't think. Don't think anything but that they were going to be able to fix this. "Just stay awake a little longer, okay?" She called to Talia as she finished cleaning the wound, and bandaged it as tightly as she could with the towels to try to control the bleeding. "You just stay awake, and we're going to have this fixed in a few minutes." She tugged the robe around her, and looked up as Michael came in, his arms full of hot packs wrapped in any cloths he could find.
They tucked the packs around Talia, against her neck and beneath her arms, and in any other places they could think of that might force some warmth into her, before swaddling her in blankets and settling in on either side of her, reaching under the cocoon of blankets to hold one of her hands in both of theirs and to wait.