There wasn't supposed to be a Voices, parts four and five. I didn't want to do fourth season because I didn't want to get into the whole sex thing: did they or didn't they, and if they did, when did they. And I certainly didn't want to get into the Shan Fal ritual! For one thing, my take on it is quite different from anything I've read. So is my view of when and why John said 'woo hoo.' Then there was the whole problem of the change in John in season four, and all the political stuff. Not to mention that Joe left so much out because of time constraints when he didn't know if he would be able to do a season five. I would have to try to fill in those gaps as best I could.
But - there's always a but, isn't there? - my beta readers, especially Lynne and Gwyn, nagged and nagged until it was easier to write than to tell them why I didn't want to. (Just kidding, guys, the nagging wasn't that bad, I think!) And John kept telling me he had more to say. (I really have to start charging him rent for the space he's taking up in my head.) So, I started to write again, and ran smack into another time problem in the story.
There is no way the events of Rising Star could possibly take place in three days' time. For one thing, it would take at least two or three weeks for the League ambassadors to present Delenn's proposal to their governments and get an answer. And what about EarthDome? They would need at least a month before they would even schedule a vote on joining the Alliance. So, I have John and Delenn on earth until near the end of December. Besides, every other season to date has ended at the end of December. So I assumed season four ended then too. But, for artistic reasons (if I may use that term loosely), I ended this story between the end of No Compromises and the beginning of The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari. As for the dates after 3 November 2261, I used a very accurate system to determine what happened when. It's called SWAG - Scientific Wild-Assed Guess! I learned it from friends in the Navy. ;-)
As usual, I'd like to thank all my beta readers: Lynne, Gwyn, Penny, Chris, Mary Lou, Debbie, Kim, Mary R., and Pat. They catch all my mistakes and let me know about them. Boy, do they let me know about them! ;-)
And, as usual, all feedback, positive or negative is welcome.
(For those of you who want to know before you decide to read any further, I believe they did, and the first time was the night Anna returned.)
Captain John Sheridan, Personal Log: 10 January 2261:
...I'm better now. That's what I told them. Am I? I don't know. Only time will tell. Time! I've never thought much about time before. It was always there, ahead of me, waiting for me to spend it as I please: profligately or sparingly, foolishly or wisely. Now everything has changed, in ways I have yet to come to terms with, or even understand, and I don't have the time to do that. I don't want to think about that now.
I want to think about Delenn's face shining up at me, her eyes bright. The way she felt in my arms when neither of us could quite believe the other was real; how she nuzzled my neck as we stood on the gallery. I didn't really believe I was back among the living until she touched me. As soon as we can have a moment alone, I'm going to give her the ring.
Meanwhile, there is still the war. The League worlds will follow me, at least for now. For a time, my return from the dead will be enough to hold them. But I can't fool myself into believing we can win, not against both the Shadows and the Vorlons. If Lorien is correct, there is a way that may work. It will take time. That word again. And while we plan and prepare, the Vorlons are destroying whole worlds and the Shadows are on the offensive.... The first priority is to get rid of the Vorlon ambassador on station.
...Stephen has run every test imaginable. He will have the results in a few days. I don't know whether to be afraid. I don't feel any different; I don't look any different, a few pounds lighter maybe, but that's all. Did I really die? I must have. No one could survive that plunge. It's now seventeen days since I jumped into the depths. The trip back to the station took about four days. What happened to the rest of the time? I remember Lorien asking me if I had something to live for. I called out to Delenn. After that, nothing until we boarded his ship. Was I unconscious? It doesn't matter, I suppose.
I haven't been able to see Delenn alone since I got back. Is she avoiding me? She can't still be angry at me for the way we parted. I know she received my message. She knows I love her. She knows I had to go to Z'Ha'Dum. I should never have let her leave my quarters after that thing that looked like Anna came. I should have gone after her, insisted she stay, faced Anna together. I guess I felt guilty. Delenn did too, probably. It was such a cliché situation. Yet I'm sure she felt the horror, just as I did. I knew that couldn't be Anna, not the Anna I loved and married. I didn't need confirmation from Stephen. I didn't stop to think how Delenn felt.
I was right to be angry, I just picked the wrong target. Delenn really didn't know. She might have suspected, but she had no proof one way or another. Kosh is the one I should have blamed. Delenn received her information from him. I wasn't thinking clearly. It had taken so long to put my life back together, to be able to love again, to love Delenn. Just a few short hours ago, she had been in my arms, in my bed. And then, for that one moment, it all seemed a waste. I was hurting so bad, I had to walk out on her, even as she was telling me she loved me. That hurt her deeply, I know. I'm sorry now. If I could change things, go back to that moment, I would. But the past is the past. What's important is now. I have a second chance.
I don't know how much to tell Delenn, if anything. For the first time I understand the Minbari way of only giving out information that is absolutely necessary, and no more. Which would hurt her most, to know or not to know? To live with the knowledge that my time with her is limited, or to regret missed opportunities? I could make sure she'll have nothing to regret at the end, even without telling her. That would spare her a lot of pain. I can do that for her. Maybe I'm just kidding myself; trying to rationalize to avoid telling her. I admit I don't want to tell her. I don't want to see her cry for me, which she will. Or worse. I don't want to risk her deciding to leave me. Oh, Delenn. This is one decision you can't help me make....
Delenn knows. Not the actual time, not yet, but I have no choice now. I have to tell her. I still don't know how. She'll be here in a little while. Call me a coward, but I've asked Lorien to come too, to help me explain. After what happened this morning, I really thought I could avoid telling her. When she came to my quarters this morning, she was so nervous, as though she had never been here before. When she turned away from me like that, I thought she was about to tell me that she regretted what had happened between us in my quarters. That we had violated some Minbari taboo about making love during the sleep watching ritual. I should have asked her then, but I fell asleep afterward.
When she told me she was sorry about not telling me about Anna, I was so relieved that was all that was bothering her. Then she started talking about losing me. I think I was angry with her for a brief moment. How could she think that? She will never be able to lose me, unless she wants to, and then I'll be the one who is lost. I tried to tell her there was nothing to forgive, she acted as she thought best, even though in typical Delenn fashion she refused to spare herself anything. I told her more than I intended to, to let her know how much I love her. Finally, she believed me. I could have held her like that forever.
Damn this war! Today I lost Kosh for good, and now I have to hurt Delenn. I'm going to spend the rest of my life making it up to her. I swear. I'll make sure she never regrets loving me. She'll be here soon, where did I put that ring....
0300 hours...It's official. We're engaged. Delenn said the Minbari equivalent means something like a pair who have started the rituals and will be joined if everything works out and their clans approve. At least I think that's what she said. She was a bit indistinct since she was nibbling on my neck at the time. Delenn left a few minutes ago. She said we both needed to rest; we have a lot to do tomorrow. She's right. I should sleep, I know. I can't, not just now.
After I gave her the ring, and she kissed me without saying anything; after we came up for air, we talked. Mostly about what we wanted to do after the war, what our life together would be. She wanted to know what happened on Z'Ha'Dum. I told her I didn't want to talk about it, not yet anyway. I finally told her about the time flash on Babylon Four, the part about our having a son. She didn't believe me at first, said I was telling a story to cheer her up. When she finally believed, her eyes grew larger than I've ever seen.
She smiled that smile of hers and hugged me tight. Then she burst into tears! I held her and let her cry as long as she needed. Afterward, she started to tell me a little how she felt about children, and how she didn't think she would ever have any. I guessed as much.
We didn't talk much after that. We're using birth control, just in case. It's funny. This was only the second time we'd made love, we're still learning about each other. Yet I knew what she wanted almost before she did, and she knew what I needed, without prompting. Maybe there is something to this 'old souls' business. I wish she'd stayed the night. She wouldn't even let me walk her to her quarters. At least the station is secure enough now that she's in no danger. She's having breakfast with me to discuss our battle plans before the meeting with the others.
Before she left, Delenn told me she had something that belonged to me, that Stephen found when he was packing my stuff. I joked that at least that's one item whose whereabouts I know. I'm still trying to get everything back where it belongs. She turned shy as she told me it was my log entry from last May, the one where I talked about falling off a cliff. When she placed the crystal on the counter, I put it into her hand and said she should keep it, as a reminder of how much I love her. For a moment, I thought she was going to cry again. So did she. Then she just kissed me and left without saying anything.
...I should try to get some sleep now. Maybe I'll sleep on her side of the bed, where I can still smell her on the pillows. That reminds me, I'll have to get some more pillows so she can sleep closer to how she's accustomed to.
2300 hours...We cannot allow any more deaths. Delenn, Lorien and I have agreed to implement our plan immediately. Tomorrow, Lorien and Susan will take a White Star to seek out those first ones who are left and willing to aid us. The fleet will move soon after, as soon as I can figure out a way to issue an invitation to the Shadows and the Vorlons that they can't refuse. And then, as Delenn says, we'll have to believe that the universe put us in the right place at the right time. This time, I won't try to talk Delenn into remaining on the station. I want her beside me, on the bridge of the command ship, where she belongs.
...Stephen wants to run some more tests on me. He said that except for those 'things' in my system, I'm in better shape than before. Well, there had to be an upside to dying. I told him if we were all still alive next week, to see me then. Stephen also started to apologize for going through my log entries. He said he just wanted to separate out any that were personal, that my family - and others - might like to have. He didn't really read any, just quickly scanned. I told him to forget about it. As far as everyone knew, I was dead, and someone had to do it. Besides, if you can't trust your doctor to keep his mouth shut, who can you trust?
Afterward, he told me about the way Minbari mourn, by fasting and praying, sometimes for more than is healthy. I understood what he was telling me. I thought Delenn had lost some weight. Even dressed, she looks thinner, thinner than I like to see her. She blamed herself when I was presumed dead. Was she trying to starve to death out of some crazy idea that only her death would be sufficient redress? We're going to have to talk about this. She should have told me about her suspicions about what happened to the Icarus crew. She didn't, and I can understand why she didn't. Still, my decision to go really had nothing to do with her. Even if I had died, or stayed dead, it wouldn't have been her fault. I've got to make sure she understands that. We're both going to have to make decisions, take actions in the future that can have fatal consequences. How can either of us do our jobs if she's going to feel guilty if anything happens to me? I guess this will have to wait until later. When we have more time. If we have more time.
1800 hours...I am waiting to hear that a White Star and its crew have been destroyed, on my orders. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in all my years as a soldier. I have ordered those under my command to face death before. This time is different. This time, there is no chance of survival, however slight. Their death is necessary for our success. How can I deal with that? Ericsson and his crew understood what we were asking, what was required of them. Yet he, and they, carried on as though they were going on a milk run. I cannot praise them highly enough. Their sacrifice may well ensure the future of the galaxy. Every world that survives the coming battle should raise a monument to these brave warriors.
Delenn has stopped by several times, with one excuse or another, to check on me. To see that I'm okay. I know this waiting is just as hard, if not harder, on her. These are her Rangers, after all. She knows most of them from the time they joined and swore to give their lives for her. She will always have problems with that under the best of circumstances. I don't think she ever envisioned anything like this. No one in the war room will ever forget the way the Ranger captain saluted his leader for the last time, or the way Entil'Zha returned that salute.
...Susan and Lorien have started on their search. I wonder how they're getting along. I promised her that she would be able to return in time for the coming battle. I owe her at least that much. I'm honored that she trusts me to keep that promise. I should have told her earlier how much I appreciate her and how proud I am of all she has achieved. Well, if we get through this, I'll be sure to tell her more often.
...Only a little while longer now, and then Delenn and I will join the rest of the fleet where history or death awaits us.
It's the beginning of a new age now. We are on our own with no one but ourselves to blame when things go wrong. That is a very frightening prospect, sort of like discovering God really doesn't exist. The Minbari view of the universe is more comforting, somehow. To believe that whatever you are doing is what is necessary and right, no matter that you cannot see why or how. But even so, you can still doubt, still not know for sure.
There is so much still to do, beside the obvious need to care for the wounded and to repair the considerable damage to the fleet. The refugee problem won't go away now that the war is over. Some will need help to return to their homes; some have no homes to return to. And everyone will look to Babylon Five for help. I'll have to call a meeting of the League worlds when the celebrations die down. We won't be able to do anything before then anyway. Meanwhile I can discuss options with Delenn.
Delenn surprised me again, although I should have expected it. It's just that I never thought of her as a warrior before, not even after she brought the Minbari fleet to save the station, not even after she became Entil'Zha. Watching her fighting beside me, manning weapons, taking out that listening post so efficiently, I could hardly believe it. I guess I like to think of her as gentle and soft, capable of great passion, but not of destruction. I keep forgetting she was a leader of her people, Satai is the term, I think, and that she is well trained in the use of weapons. She's a formidable diplomat and a formidable commander. And very soon, she'll be my wife....
6 February 2261:
1930 hours...I should make an appearance at the official victory celebration. After all, I'm the man of the hour. I don't feel much like celebrating. All I can think of is how much we've lost. Nothing will ever be the same. I've been worrying what to do about the refugees. But we're all refugees here. None of us can go home until Clark is out of office. I don't think that will happen without the use of force. Clark hasn't made any overt moves against the station in over nine months. I can't believe he means to leave us alone. The war against the Shadows had to be my first priority. Now, I can turn to the problems of Earth. Listen to me! I sound like some kind of savior of the universe.... I'm so tired. All I want to do is marry Delenn and live out what's left of my life with her.
...I miss Kosh. I didn't always understand him, or what he tried to teach me; okay, I rarely understood. Still, he was my friend, as much as a Vorlon could be anyone's friend.
Lorien was much more approachable, more open, and I owe him my life, but I still didn't really consider him a friend in the same way as Kosh. If Kosh had lived, I don't think the Vorlons would have destroyed all those innocent worlds, or at least it wouldn't have been so easy for them. I think Kosh would have fought against such a policy.
...I never knew a part of him was inside my head until Lorien told me. I felt nothing. Lyta knew, I think. She had some sort of special bond with Kosh. I wonder what the Vorlon ambassador thought when Kosh appeared. I suspect Vorlons don't normally kill Vorlons. When Kosh finally left me, I think, for a few moments, I believed he would become whole again. But I knew that was impossible. There was no one who could catch him when he fell. I wish there was still a piece of Kosh around somewhere, anywhere. Who knows? Perhaps there is, maybe beyond the rim, where the magic may still exist.
It's time to go to the party. Funny, I feel better, more in the mood for celebrating. I'll
put in an appearance for a while. Then, I'm going to find Delenn and see if we can make some magic of our own.
The refugee problem is not as bad as I feared, but it will be with us for a long time yet. The Vorlons did more damage, but the Shadows created the most problems. There is no refugee problem when a planet is totally destroyed. Those who had the means have already returned home. I'm giving priority on repairs to those ships that offer free transportation to those who can't afford to go home. As for the homeless and stateless, we are doing what we can. Delenn is meeting with various ambassadors to try to resettle some of the most pressing cases immediately. I've barely seen her since the night of the official victory celebration.
...I don't know what to do about Michael. I thought with Lorien gone, he would be less hostile. I realize Michael must have been disappointed that I couldn't confide in him, but surely he had to know I couldn't chance revealing our plans to anyone. Not even Delenn knew all the details. And yet, Michael has pulled away even more. He seems to be abandoning his old friends, one by one. Only Zack Allen still tries to stay close to him. Fortunately, there's no major problem at the moment. I don't know if I can still count on my security chief when a crisis does occur.
I was wondering what Clark was going to do. Now I know. We were lucky this time. We were able to turn a certain disaster to an advantage, thanks to Bester. Even though Clark will do his best to deny what happened, the squadrons involved know the truth, and will tell others. Maybe next time, at least a bit of Earthforce won't be so quick to believe the official line.
Bester is still helping us, and I still don't trust him. Now that the best chance to help his lover is gone, I don't expect him to continue to aid us. We'll have to be even more careful whenever he's around. I know he's up to something, but what?
I'm sure Lyta set off the destruction of Z'Ha'Dum. The Vorlons have changed her in some way, enhanced her abilities. Bester is suspicious. I don't think he was able to scan her. He seemed to flinch, almost like he'd been slapped, when he looked at Lyta during the meeting. Lyta has been very helpful to us, especially against the Shadows. She can be very helpful in the future, if she doesn't take matters into her own hands again. She made a mistake not telling me she wanted to destroy the Shadow homeworld. I hope she knows that now. I can't allow a wild card in my command.
Michael finally resigned. I can't honestly say I'm sorry. He's changed a lot in the last few months. He's always been a bit paranoid. That's a good trait in a security chief. It makes him more careful. But he's gone beyond that. I don't know what is wrong. I can't read him at all. He's even ignoring Delenn and they've been friends since he arrived back
in '58. Zack Allen is now chief of security. He's been a good second in command. He deserves his chance. He doesn't know the station as well as Michael, nobody does. Still, Zack knows what he doesn't know and when to ask for help, two important qualities. He's upset about Garibaldi's resignation, but I don't think that will affect his performance.
He should do fine.
The only good thing to happen in the last week was being able to spend some time with Delenn. We managed a little time for ourselves on the trip. She's right about me. I get restless if I have nothing to do for too long. She knows me too well sometimes. Though it would have been nice for the lull to last a little longer....
I can't help worrying when we're going to run into, as Delenn calls them, the dark servants of the Shadows. It's only a matter of time....
The embargo is hurting us badly. We're running short of everything. We were just getting to the point where the station could finally support itself. Now, most of what we need will have to be smuggled in, at great cost, if we can even find any smugglers willing to take the risk. Spare parts for recycling pumps and hydroponic filters are not very high profit items. Even information has become a scarce commodity.
That's why I've decided to allow the ISN news crew full access to the station. Only weapons systems are off limits. Maybe if the people back on Earth can see we're not the devils Clark has painted us, just maybe there'll be some pressure on him to ease the embargo. I don't expect Clark to capitulate, of course, but any amelioration of our problem will help. I don't particularly like that reporter Randall and I don't particularly trust him either. I'm not naive enough to believe he really plans to do an objective report.
If everyone is careful and watches what they say and do, so he doesn't have much to work with, I don't think Randall can do us any harm.
I've asked Lennier to show the ISN people around the station so that it won't seem as though I'm trying to control the contents of Randall's report. I don't think Lennier is very happy about that. I don't think he understands the human desire to get as much information as possible to as many people as possible. Or, maybe he just doesn't like Randall. That wouldn't surprise me in the least.
Randall wants Delenn and me to do a joint interview. Delenn has some qualms, but she's agreed. We're going to meet with the ISN team tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, I still have a ton of paperwork to deal with before I can go to bed.
...I've had no news of my folks in months. I'm pretty sure Liz and her family are okay. Proxima didn't suffer very much when it broke with Earth. Clark's been too busy with Mars and with us to bother much about them. Even so, I wish I could get a message through. I'm mostly worried about my dad, though. He's the most likely target for Clark's vengeance. If they can, they'll try to use him to get to me. I don't think even the farm is safe for him any more. The last time I spoke to him was when we declared independence. I miss him. I hope he and mom had enough sense to split up. Of course they did. My dad's no fool. He's been through rough times before. If only I could talk to him....
I was wrong. The ISN report has done more harm than a fleet of Shadow warships. I should have known. I got a preview of how Clark's forces can twist everything from the political advisor they tried to foist on me last year. Not even in the worst case did I think they could be so successful in making me out to be some sort of twisted, sick, puppet bent on destroying humanity. And Delenn. My God! That interview two years ago was bad enough. But this! And I talked her into allowing it. She really didn't want to do it. But she trusted my judgement. They've painted her as a whore, selling herself to me, doing whatever is necessary to get me to betray the human race. They weren't even subtle about it. How could I let them use her like that?
How could Michael betray us all like that? I knew he disagreed with me, thought I'm becoming some sort of dictator...how could he work with Clark like that? Michael's voice is the most credible. Anyone who watches this report can dismiss some of what they see and hear as obviously doctored. ISN made no real effort to match the clips they spliced together. Until they see and hear Michael. That part is real. No one can accuse ISN of putting it together from bits and pieces. Michael's sincerity and distress is evident. How, why did he do it?
Minbari War Syndrome! Do they truly think I was brainwashed or something? I engineered the only victory of that war. I proved I wasn't inferior. Doesn't anyone remember that?
The farm burned down. No word about my parents. Dad, are you all right? Did you and mom get away? They had to. That's not just wishful thinking. If Clark were holding Dad or anyone else in the family, they'd use that against me. Offer to trade their lives for mine. Or is that what they want me to think? No. Clark couldn't resist anything that would get me that easily. My family is still safe, at least for the time being.
We have to do something, try to counteract this. God, I'm so tired. I can't think right now. Delenn stopped by a little while ago. To offer a shoulder to cry on or a face to yell at, which ever would do me the most good. I sent her away. I can't even talk to her yet, not after what I let them do. She says I'm not to blame. She would. And maybe later, tomorrow or another day, I'll be able to agree with her that all I'm guilty of is innocence....
ISN keeps running that damned report. You'd think even they would be sick of it by now. I've had to depend entirely on Ranger reports for news of what's happening on Mars and the other colonies. News from Earth - except for what ISN broadcasts - is almost impossible to get. Even Rangers can't get in and out without a great deal of difficulty and risk, and at this point, the risks are not worth it. What little I can learn comes from other races who come in contact with humans outside of Earth. I'm going to have to find some way to keep current. I'm also going to have to find a way to get our side of the story out.
We're going to need allies in the fight against Clark. The most effective resistance, beside our own, is on Mars. We have to make contact with them and try to convince them to follow my lead. I'm sending a few Rangers to Mars to set up a meeting with the resistance. Once the details have been worked out, I'm going to send Stephen to represent me, and Marcus to protect him. I don't think they'll have too much trouble getting along. I won't tell them until everything is in place. The less people that know my plans, the more secure we'll be....
...The meeting with the Mars resistance is set. Stephen and Marcus will leave for Mars in about two weeks. It will take at least that long to arrange for their cover identities and other small details. I'm not going to tell them who they'll be traveling as, or what. It's the perfect cover, but I don't think either one will appreciate it. If they learn en route, they won't be able to complain, at least not to me.
The Ranger who brought me the news, also brought me news of another kind. I suspect Delenn had a hand in it. When he finished the debriefing, he handed me a message crystal. Much to my surprise it was from Liz and her family. It was great to see and hear them. My nephews have grown so much since the last time I saw them. Liz is just the same; she'll never change. I'm a little worried about her husband. He's been activated from reserve status and is flying a star fury again. He's a good pilot though, and can take care of himself. Even Liz realizes that. Liz said Dad contacted her before he went into hiding. That's a great relief. She also confirmed the farm really burned down. I didn't think ISN was lying about that. I'm sorry I wasn't wrong. I should reprimand the Ranger who contacted Liz for going beyond his mission, but I'm so happy, I don't have the heart.
I will, though, make it clear that I never want anyone to do anything like this again.
Tomorrow, I'm going to yell at Delenn for authorizing the contact with Liz. Afterward, we'll have fun making up....
1830 hours...I've just finished briefing Stephen and Marcus. They start for Mars in the morning. We're finally moving again. If their trip is successful, we can coordinate the campaign against Clark. A united opposition will have greater moral authority, as well as greater strength.
I've canceled the rest of my meetings tonight. There's just time to take a quick shower and change before I take Delenn to dinner. I'm not sure I should take her in that dress. She's liable to cause a riot among the male population of the station. I thought she was stunning the first time we had dinner together, but that dress she's wearing tonight...I'm surprised I was coherent enough to say anything. I just wanted to take her to bed right then and there. And never mind the bed! After this evening, no one can doubt that I'm marrying the most beautiful and desirable woman in this - or any other - part of the galaxy.
I wish she would tell me what's wrong. I wanted to take her in my arms, she looked so lost when I left for my meeting. Whatever this 'old business' on Minbar is has her very upset. I think she's afraid of something. And, as usual, she won't let me help. All I can do is offer her my love and support and hope that it's enough.
I'd better go shower now or I'll be late. Whatever happens afterward, I'll make sure tonight is going to be one to remember....
0415 hours...Delenn left a few minutes ago. She thought I was asleep. The way she caressed my face and hands in farewell scares me. I had to force myself to lay still, to let her leave. I don't know when I'll see her again. I don't think she knows either. When we made love tonight before she watched me sleep - she said it had become a ritual for us and she always followed ritual - I sensed a desperation behind her passion, as though she wanted to feel and touch as much as possible. Almost as though it would be the last time.
Afterward, she lay quietly in my arms, not saying anything, until I started to fall asleep. I don't know what woke me just before she left. A sixth sense that lovers sometimes have, maybe....
2330 hours...Delenn has been gone less than a day, and I miss her already. Even when we have no time to see each other, as long as I know she's somewhere on the station, I'm okay. Just knowing she's nearby is comforting. Delenn once told me she feels the same way about me. She said that even before we became engaged, before we broke with Earth, she used to feel secure at the thought that she could see me whenever she wanted. If I had only known that earlier, we wouldn't have wasted so much time apart. We could have been married by now. And I could be going with her to Minbar.
I just found out Lennier is probably with her. I saw his name on the departures list. At least she is not alone. If I can't be with her, he's the next best one. Lennier would die before he would let any harm befall her. He thinks it's a secret that he's in love with her. Delenn is the only one who doesn't seem to know. Or perhaps she doesn't want to know. Someday, maybe sooner than expected, Delenn is going to be hurt over this. Meanwhile, though, I'm grateful Lennier is around to look after her when I can't.
I realize that's a dumb thing to say. Delenn is quite capable of looking after herself. Still, I can't help wanting to protect her, to shield her from heartache as well as physical danger. I hope she's not gone long. The station is dark and empty without her.
...Delenn will be home in a few days. I asked one of the Rangers on the station who was returning to Minbar at the same time to let me know when her ship left. I know I shouldn't have checked up on her this way, but I couldn't stand not knowing when, or if, she was coming home. At least now, I can get a good night's sleep. Something I haven't been able to do since she left.
Delenn came home last night. Everything seems to be all right. Whatever the problem was, it appears to be resolved. Delenn looked radiant. And happy. She was practically giggling in my arms when I met her at the docking bay. The dignified Ambassador from Minbar never giggles, at least not in public! We had dinner at my place. Takeout from that new Drazi place in the Zocalo. It's not bad. Of course, the way we were feeling last night, even my cooking would have been 'not bad.' Afterward, well...I still can't get her to stay for breakfast. She said she had a lot of work ahead of her today - which is true - and she needed more sleep than she would get with me. Which is also true. I'm beginning to think it's some sort of Minbari thing. That lovemaking is all right, but actually sleeping together isn't. I'd ask her, but she probably wouldn't tell me.
Delenn still won't tell me about the 'old business' that took her to Minbar. Whenever I asked, she changed the subject or found other ways to distract me. I have a feeling that whatever it was had something to do with me, or at least our marriage. When I asked her, the way she didn't answer makes me think I'm right. I hate it when she won't talk to me about her problems. She's so damned self reliant. I've tried to explain to her that she doesn't have to be. That it's okay to share your problems with someone who loves you. I don't think she really understands that. Probably she never will. I'm learning to live with that. I have no choice really. If I press her too much, she closes up even more. There's only one thing I can do. Keep reminding her that I'm here whenever she needs me. And that I love her more than my life.
Delenn did tell me one thing, though. I can hardly believe it. She told me that her family is descended from Valen. She was reviewing some old records when she came across the information. It seems so incredible. I actually served with her great however many times grandfather on Mars. In fact, we saved each other's lives during the food riots. Now there's a mind-blowing thought. If I hadn't helped Jeffrey Sinclair fight off the gang in that alley, I wouldn't be able to love Valen's descendent today. Delenn is very proud of her ancestry. She's always felt close to Valen, ever since she had a vision of him as a small child. And Sinclair was her good friend. The first human friend she ever had. Delenn told me that her descent from Valen is not known on Minbar. After Valen's children were forced to leave, the succeeding generations hid their lineage, even when the danger had passed. Only Lennier, who helped her find the information, and I know, outside the family and a few members of her clan. I don't think she needs to keep it a secret any longer. But she's Minbari and customs and family mean everything to her.
Finally, we've heard from Stephen and Marcus. The leaders of the Mars resistance have agreed to a meeting. I have full confidence in both of them. I'm sure they'll return with a workable agreement. Meanwhile, I have to decide how to proceed. I don't want to attack Earthforce directly. For one thing, I don't think we have the manpower. I'd rather win over as many as I can through other means. But I'm afraid we're going to have to fight Clark's forces eventually...
We've made some progress in re-supplying the station. Susan has contacted the leaders of the most successful smuggling operations. They've agreed to meet under a promise of immunity. We're going to offer to refit and repair their ships and to protect them against raiders in return for bringing in supplies and foodstuff. They arrive tomorrow....
1630 hours...Susan suggested I take the day off and let her deal with the smugglers. I
agreed. I always agree when she threatens me. She's probably right. I could use some time away from the office. Unfortunately, I can't get away from my problems that easily. I just had another go around with Michael. I can't reach him at all. And ISN keeps playing that damned interview with him. Every other channel is blocked. So I can't even find some mindless vid or something to relax with.... Delenn found me in the garden. Maybe she's right. Maybe Michael and I are now on divergent paths that will never cross again. I'll have to accept that.
Delenn wants to perform another of those endless rituals which we have to complete before we can marry. This one sounds like fun, though. Something about 'centers of pleasure'....
Woo Hoo...What a night! Every muscle, every nerve, every bit of skin and bone on my body is exhausted. And satiated. Discovering our centers of pleasure, she said. I thought I knew them all. Boy, was I wrong. Even dull, non-sexual areas like knees and elbows suddenly seemed sensual and erotic. Just what do they teach them in temple anyway? I don't usually kiss and tell, but...last night was so incredible.
I didn't know what to expect when I went to Delenn's quarters. Certainly not Lennier and a gaggle of Minbari females. I almost walked out. But Delenn persuaded me to stay.
I can never resist her when she looks at me like that. It's a good thing I didn't stumble when she pulled me into her bedroom. I would have started a fire, the room was so full of candles. Strange, I'd only been in her bedroom once before, when she was recovering from that stab in the back. She always comes to my place. Last night the bed was pushed into a corner, along with the rest of the furniture. Most of the floor space was covered by what looked like the quilted bottom of a giant playpen. And that was scattered with multicolored cushions. The candles were around three sides of it. Delenn grinned mischievously as she explained the rules. Every time we found a center of pleasure, we'd blow out a candle. Anything and everything was permitted, with one exception. Finally, when only one candle was lit, we could make love the old fashioned way. The peanut gallery would pray for our success, until only the one candle remained. Then they would leave. Since she had already said all the required prayers and completed all the preliminary rituals, we could start right away.
Delenn insisted on going first to show me how it worked. After we undressed each other, she pushed me down on the mat and proceeded to take me in hand...and tongue...and mouth...and teeth.... God, where did she learn to do those things? I guess I really don't want to know. But whoever taught her was a master of his craft! When she finally finished, I was a quivering mass of Jell-O. After a brief rest and some fizzy red juice and what looked like raisin cookies but weren't, it was my turn. I think I showed her a new trick or two. Finally, there was only one candle left. By that time we were lying side by side, sweaty and exhausted. Delenn gave me that wide eyed innocent gaze and said sweetly, "You may enter me now." I looked at her and said "Woo Hoo!" We were still laughing when we fell asleep.
Lennier must have heard that just before he left. I don't remember ever being so embarrassed as when he joined me in the lift and asked "woo hoo?" in that condescending tone. I decided not to say anything. I couldn't possibly explain.
But Delenn and I did manage to extinguish that last candle in the morning before I left....
I've been thinking about this Shan Fal ritual all day. There's more involved than just having a good time. I think it's really about control: maintaining it and relinquishing it, and knowing when to do which. When you're the one giving pleasure, you have to be aware of your partner's smallest response. How what you are doing is affecting her. You have to be unselfish and wait your turn, no matter how hard. When you're on the receiving end, you give over control of your most intimate parts. You have to trust your partner. Trust that she will respond to your needs without doing anything to hurt you or shame you. Whether giving or receiving, you learn an awful lot about yourself and her.
Delenn took a flight of White Stars to check out the reports of raiders along the borders of a Minbari protectorate. She was right, of course. I have to remember who she is and what she can do. I've always fallen for confident, powerful women, and Delenn is all that and more. There's no one I'd rather have protecting my back or guarding my flank. She's had a good theoretical grounding in battle tactics and she's certainly gotten quite
a bit of hands on experience lately. So why do I become queasy with worry whenever she's away? I guess I must feel like any spouse left at home. Delenn probably feels the same way when I'm gone...I just realized what I said. My spouse. It's true. I feel Delenn is my wife in all but name. I've felt that way for a long time, even before we shared a bed. The wedding will be a formality.
We've had other reports of raiders lately. If we're lucky, they'll just be bands taking advantage of unsettled conditions and fleets that are not yet up to full strength after the war. But I have a bad feeling....
The most pressing problem now is how to counteract Clark's propaganda. I can't send envoys to every potential ally out there. We have to make our voice heard. Unite and coordinate the resistance. Mars is only a start.
I'd better try to get some sleep now....Wait a minute. Yes! I've got it. I know what we can do. Why didn't I think of this earlier? It's so obvious. And Susan is the one to do it. I'll sound her out on it now. I'm sure she'll be just as enthusiastic. It's perfect, just perfect.
Delenn should be in Minbari space by now. Right in the middle of a civil war. Why did I let her go? Because I had to, that's why. She has her own responsibilities, separate from the station and from me. I love and respect her too much to interfere. But that's not going to stop me from worrying about her safety every waking moment, and probably in my sleep too. Damn! Just once, for a little while, why can't we be a man and woman in love with time for ourselves! Delenn says I have to face that I was touched by destiny at Z'Ha'Dum. Well, she's been marked out by destiny too, and for a longer time. All we can do is hope that our respective destinies include each other. I cannot bear the thought of going on without her. Yet, she will have to go on without me in a future that is much closer than either of us would like. Delenn's right. I haven't really dealt with that, with Lorien's gift. Or why I was chosen. I like to think the universe brought me here so that Delenn and I could love each other. If only it were as simple as that.
I told Delenn we're in a third age now, an age where we have to make our own future. What that future will be depends on what we do here on Babylon Five. If I can hold the League together without a common enemy, get the members to work with each other, that's the key. And Earth will eventually have to join with the League worlds. If I can't bring down Clark, there is no hope of Earth cooperating...Maybe Garibaldi is right, maybe I've got a god complex thinking I'm central to all this...
I should have died at Z'Ha'Dum. I did die. And I will die again in about twenty years. And no one will be there to catch me next time. Until then, the only way I can repay the universe for this extra time, time to love Delenn and maybe be a father, is to do what is right. To use what talents I have. To be dangerous - in Delenn's terms.
The Voice of the Resistance broadcast for the first time today. Thanks to Draal and Zathras (my God, nine of them!), we can reach as far as Earth itself. Susan was magnificent. I knew she would be. She was sincere, unpolished, entirely credible - the perfect spokesman. That sounds cynical, I know. I mean it as a compliment. Susan's participation is vital to our campaign. The broadcast has already improved morale. It's given everyone on station a real feeling of fighting back, of taking the offensive. And not only here. An hour after Susan went off the air, we received a message from the Mars resistance. Their people were beginning to have doubts that we - that I - could fight Clark effectively. Hearing Susan's voice tell of defections to our side, of those fighting back, gave them new hope and new confidence.
I don't know why I didn't think of something like this sooner. After all, I did do my junior honor's thesis on twentieth century resistance movements. If my old professor ever hears of this, he'll make me give back the A. I can still hear him saying, 'and then what, Mr. Sheridan? You are not thinking through the implications of your solutions.' Well, Professor Jameson would be pleased to know I've finally learned that lesson.
We still have so much to do. But we have to move carefully. We can't afford a mistake now. I wish Delenn were here. My thinking is always sharper when I can talk to her. Her mind is the whetstone for mine.
I miss her so bad. She's been gone two weeks now. And only one brief message in all that time. Just to say she had arrived at her destination, and that she loves me. I can't even reply. I don't know where to reach her. What news we have been able to get from Minbar is not good. Fighting has broken out between the warrior and the religious castes.
Minbari are actually killing Minbari for the first time in one thousand years. And Delenn has taken herself right into the middle of it....
If anyone heard me earlier in the lift, they must think I've completely lost my mind. The Captain of Babylon Five shouting 'yes' at the top of his lungs and pumping his arms and legs! I couldn't help it. My plan worked perfectly. Not even Londo caught on. The White Star Fleet can now patrol the borders of the League worlds - at the insistence of the League. Beautiful, just beautiful.
If our plans work out, this will be the first step in building a true alliance of worlds that will endure and grow to the benefit of all its members. Delenn and I have discussed this so many times, even before the end of the Shadow War. It's the best way to ensure a lasting peace....
...another squadron came over to our side, this time at Proxima Three. That makes three in the last two weeks. Finally, my former Earthforce comrades are beginning to understand what's at stake. If enough ships and personnel join us, we won't have to rely so heavily on aid from other worlds. I don't want to lead an alien fleet to attack Earth. The symbolism alone would be enough to discredit our resistance.
Still no word from Delenn. It's over a month now. We've had no further news about the civil war. Is she safe? I've been having nightmares about her being trapped forever on Minbar. If I could only get some news, a message, something....
0100 hours...We have to act now. We cannot allow Clark to continue to massacre helpless civilians. Susan is sending messages to all our allies. We are finally going to reclaim Earth and its colonies for its people. I don't understand the officers who carried out the orders to fire on unarmed civilian vessels. Not only fired on, but completely destroyed them. Didn't they take the same oath I did? How could they follow such an illegal and immoral order? I have no qualms about fighting against such commanders, with whatever forces I have on hand.
We have finally received news from Minbar. The civil war is over. What was she thinking? How could she sacrifice herself like that? Stupid questions. I understand very well. She did what she believed was necessary and right to end the war among her people and ensure their future. I can see myself doing the same thing in similar circumstances. That doesn't make it easier to bear. When I saw the broadcast the Rangers monitored, I couldn't breathe. It was like something clutched my heart and lungs and squeezed. I still feel a constriction in my chest. I came so close to losing her. I know she believes we will meet in the place where no shadows fall; I'm beginning to believe that too. But it's poor compensation for the loss of her now, in this life. I don't want to go on without her. She knows that and she still walked into that inferno. I guess I would too, if I felt it was necessary. Thank God for Neroon. After what happened last year, he's the last one I would have thought would save her. I don't know what prompted him, but I shall always be grateful to him for giving me back my life when he saved hers.
I will always honor his memory.
Aboard White Star Two...Proxima III is now free. Most of the blockading ships have joined us, or promised to remain out of the conflict. I'm happy to say that most of their crews were very uneasy about following their orders. Only a small group is really loyal to Clark. Damn! It was good to see Mackie again. He hasn't changed. I knew I could count on him. I've given him command of a group of Earthforce ships. They're going to take out some outposts that stand between us and Mars. Meanwhile, I'm going on to Beta Durani. By the end of the month, if all goes well, we'll be ready for Mars, and then, Earth.
I've received some further good news. The League has agreed to abrogate any treaties with Earth until Clark is brought to justice. All trade, including military supplies will stop immediately. I can finally see the end.
I'm going to take advantage of our position here and go and see Liz and her family. There's just enough time for a quick visit before we leave for our next target....
Aboard White Star Two...I explained to Stephen today why I need him to find a way to revive and control some of the telepaths implanted with the Shadow technology. He's horrified, but agrees it's the only way. The only way we can end this quickly with a minimum of casualties. I don't want to leave Earth defenseless, or create a situation that will make it difficult for reconciliation of both sides afterward.
...The station received a message from Minbar today. Delenn is on her way home. I'll ask her to join me as soon as possible. From now on, we stay together. We go into battle together, and, if the universe demands it, we die together.
My own people have confirmed Garibaldi's information. My dad is Clark's prisoner. I have to do whatever it takes to free him, even if that means walking with my eyes wide open into a trap. I'm sure it's a trap. Still, I can't take the chance - even if it's one in a million - that Garibaldi is really trying to help. I have to go to Mars. Captain James is giving me his fastest Thunderbolt and a small escort until we're inside Earth defenses. After that, I'll go in alone. I can't ask anyone else to risk coming with me.
I've left Susan in charge of the fleet. She should be here about the time I get to Mars. Delenn will take charge on the station. It's not the chain of command, but I don't care.
She is the best one for the job. She commanded Babylon Five once before, before I returned with Lorien. And she will be safe there. She can't be at my side in this. I have to go alone. I don't want her in harm's way without me. I've left a message for her at the station, in case I don't make it back.
Goodbye Delenn, my love, my life. Be well, be safe. I love you.
[end part 4]
Aboard Minbari Flyer Na'Zha...They didn't break me. They came close, especially when they offered me the sun. But they didn't break me. Whenever the torture and the questions stopped, even for just a few moments, I thought of Delenn. I would picture her standing in front of me, urging me to hold on, to draw strength from her. After a while, I only had to say her name and she would appear. She is so much a part of me, like my bones and sinews. Nothing can part us, not even death. I really believe now that we will be together forever in that place where no shadows fall. Still, I'm glad we won't go there for a while yet. She's meeting me on her cruiser. The pilot of this flyer says we have about another two hours of travel time before we make the final jump. I'll never leave her again.
...I don't know if it was the drugs they kept pumping into me, or the lack of food and sleep. But when the cavalry arrived, it seemed right and proper that Michael was the first one through the door. He brought me here and he was going to take me out. I didn't even realize I was being rescued. Not until I shot the guard. Only then did I know I was free. While he was working on me, before I boarded the flyer, Stephen told me what happened to Michael. What Bester did. I knew it had to be something like that. I knew Michael couldn't just change, go against his friends and everything we're working for. Michael's always stubborn, but he could usually see the other guy's point of view, even if he didn't agree.
And yet...and yet there's a part of me that wants to get even. Do to him what he did to me. I won't, of course. I can't. You don't blame someone for something they had no control over. Michael is probably worrying that I can't forgive him. We're going to have to try to put our friendship back together as best we can. It's not going to be so easy. He just sat in that bar and watched as they beat me senseless. He didn't say a word, just watched, expressionlessly....
I went to Mars prepared to die, knowing it was almost surely a trap. I thought it would be like when I went to Z'Ha'Dum. I knew what I was giving up, what it would cost me. I was wrong. When I went to the Shadow world, I gave up all hope of a life with Delenn, but then it was only a promise, only a glimpse of what our future together could be. This time, it was much worse. This time I was giving up the start of that future. I was giving up the feel of her body next to mine, the sight of her smile in the morning, even the sound of her cursing in all three Minbari tongues when she can't get the tangles out of her hair. The way she teases me out of a bad mood and worries when I miss too many meals; the way she can be a proper Minbari one minute and then a giggling girl the next.... And my sacrifice would have been useless. At least at Z'Ha'Dum I took their major city with me when I died. This time, I couldn't even save my dad. They weren't going to release him, trade my life for his. After they killed me, they would have killed him anyway. It would have been all for nothing. And no Lorien to catch me again.
I thought about Lorien during my ordeal. When I had the time and energy to think. Michael never trusted him. But I did. Right from the beginning. I never doubted that he was not what he said, or could do what he did. I'm still not sure why. Or why he was so certain I was worth saving. Was it only because I was the first one to find him? If that's why, then it wasn't me at all. I wouldn't have jumped if Kosh hadn't urged me to and if there were another choice. I'd like to think Lorien - and Kosh too - saw something in me that was worth helping. Was it accident or destiny that brought me to Lorien? Was Lorien the destiny that touched me? Damned if I know. It's hard to think of yourself as touched by destiny when you're lying in your own piss and shit.
I thought about that time flash on Babylon Four, about being in Londo's palace with Delenn. She told me we paid a terrible price for what we achieved. And then she begged me not to go to Z'Ha'Dum. While I lay there, sick on the floor of that cell, I kept thinking I should have listened to her. That I wouldn't be a prisoner now if I had. But that's not true. The confrontation with Clark was inevitable, no matter what I did. And so was my going to Z'Ha'Dum. Delenn is right. I was touched by destiny, for whatever reason, and the universe isn't through with me yet.
Aboard Earth Alliance Destroyer Agamemnon...Tomorrow, we take back Mars, and
then, finally, Earth. It is fitting that I command from the bridge of this ship. Susan is right about that. Susan...I can't believe she's dying. To see her lying there with all those tubes and contraptions holding her body together...and remembering how nothing could stop her when she set her mind to it...like the time she busted her foot dealing with the Drazi and still defused the situation...or when she bailed out during the battle to free the station...or that time on Io.... She's been my friend since we first met on Io. She was the best wingman I ever had. No one even came close. I was so glad to see her when I first came aboard Babylon Five. She smoothed the way for me in the beginning until I could get my bearings. And her loyalty to me never wavered, even when she thought I was wrong. She'd just give me a piece of her mind, like after I was captured by the Streibs. Boy, did she bawl me out then. I'm going to miss that. I'm going to miss talking to her, miss teasing her, miss her trying to protect me...miss everything. God, Susan, why did it have to be you?
Marcus is taking her death very hard. I'm afraid he's going to do something reckless in the upcoming battles, risk his life needlessly to try to follow her. I know he's in love with her. I hope that comforts her in whatever time she has left. I wish I could be there with her till the end. Delenn had her transferred to the station where at least she can be comfortable until.... Damn! It's not fair! This will be her victory as much as anyone's. She deserves to be there. If she hadn't taken out those new cruisers - the Shadows must have been closer to Earthgov than anyone of us suspected - we would have been destroyed.
Delenn is spending what little spare time she has praying for Susan in the Minbari fashion, praying that her soul will be happier in its later incarnations. Delenn draws comfort from her rituals, especially at a time like this. I envy her that. I can find no comfort in anything connected with Susan's death. Life is unfair, but death is even less unfair....
Delenn and I are getting married once this is over. Both of us wanted Susan to be there, to act as witness for the Minbari ceremony. I wanted my best friend to stand up with me at my wedding. I teased Susan that she was going to be the 'best man' at my wedding. She said I better believe it! She was looking forward to throwing the bachelor party as part of her duties, even though I didn't want one. Damn! Delenn told me that almost the last thing Susan said before they took her back was she was sorry she couldn't be there to watch us make it legal.
Presidential Suite, Earthdome...It went about as I expected. My crew is safe from retaliation. Even though President Luchenko is a politician, she'll keep her word. I'll resign my commission as soon as Delenn gets here. I'm tired. I want to go home. Home to Babylon Five. The president couldn't know, but resigning is no hardship. I've known for a long time there's no place for me in Earthforce anymore. I belong with Delenn and with the League. My only regret is Clark won't face trial.
Still, it's been quite a day. I even had a visit from my favorite psi cop. I was tempted to let him worry about his lover to pay him back a little for what he did to Michael and me. I couldn't do it, at least not that way. I couldn't let even Bester suffer like that. Now that Earth is free, we no longer need each other. We're both relieved.
Stephen called. Susan is fine, at least physically. I'm happy she's alive. I only wish the price weren't so high. Maybe Delenn is right, maybe Marcus couldn't find any peace for his soul in this life. I hope he's found peace now. We'll all miss him. I've pushed through the paperwork with the aid of a few favors I could still call in. Susan's promotion to captain will take effect immediately. Stephen says she wants to get away for a while, sort out her life. I've asked General Lefcourt to back her request for a warlock class ship. Maybe on the rim she'll find herself again.
I've spoken to Michael It wasn't as bad as I feared. He kept apologizing. I could barely get a word in. I told him I didn't blame him. I think he believes me. He's going to stay on Mars for a while. He too has to decide what to do, but I think it will be much easier for him than for Susan. Somehow, I can't see him going to an office every day, even for all that money. I told him he's welcome to come work for me any time. I meant it.
Delenn called. The League ambassadors will meet her in three days. If all goes well, I'll see her in about two weeks. At least this separation should be a peaceful one for both of us. The only danger she faces is being bored to tears by dull speeches.
Lennier sent a message on behalf of Delenn since she's very busy with the League ambassadors at the moment. The League worlds agreed. The Interstellar Alliance is a reality. They're already chosen the first president. Now all we have to do is convince Earth to join. I'll leave that job to Delenn. She's better at that sort of thing. Going into battle is more my style. Maybe now that will change. I've had more than my fill of war this year. I never thought Clark would turn the defense grid on Earth. He must have really been crazy at the end. I couldn't let half of Earth be destroyed, let Clark win like that. If General Lefcourt hadn't arrived....
Strange, after I gave the order for ramming speed, while I was silently saying goodbye to her, I thought I heard Delenn call out my name. The night before I boarded the Agamemnon when we were just lying quietly holding each other, Delenn told me that she woke up calling my name moments before Lennier told her I was Clark's prisoner. I'm beginning to think there some sort of link between us that lets us know if the other is in trouble. When she was on Minbar, I couldn't sleep one night because I had a feeling something was terribly wrong. It was different from when I couldn't sleep other nights during that time. I called C and C to ask if they had any news. Later, when I saw that broadcast and then worked out the time differences, I realized she must have entered that fire wheel around the time I couldn't sleep.
Maybe now that things have calmed down, we won't have to test that link so often. Civilian life has got to be less hazardous, I hope. I'm actually looking forward to leaving the military. But it's going to seem odd not wearing a uniform after all these years. I need some more clothes. At least with a uniform, you don't have to worry about what you're going to wear. Anna always bought my civvies. She said I had no fashion sense at all. I wonder how Delenn is at picking out men's suits.
I've rambled on long enough for one evening. I'm going for a walk outside before I go to bed. I can't remember the last time I breathed unrecycled air. Before we leave, I want to walk in the garden with Delenn, show her the stars of Earth....
Delenn arrives tomorrow. At least my appearance this time won't scare her. She didn't believe me when I told her I was fine, but she didn't press it. I was grateful for that. I didn't want to talk about being tortured then, and I still don't. Maybe someday when the memories have faded and the nightmares stop completely. Delenn understands. She's had her own nightmares to overcome.
When I saw her standing there, in the passageway of her cruiser, for a moment I thought I had conjured her image again. Until she ran toward me. It felt so good to hold her. I didn't want to stop kissing her. Her arms around my neck, her hands caressing my face did me more good than any of Stephen's medicines. That first day back, we were never more than a palm's span away from each other. We kept touching each other every few minutes, even at Susan's bedside. I guess we both needed the reassurance that the other was real and whole.
We slept in each other's arms that night. We didn't make love. I barely had the strength to kiss her goodnight. And she wasn't as strong as she seemed. There were still some residual effects from the fire wheel. The heat had turned the fasteners of her robes into branding irons. The worst was the heavy buckle of her belt. It melted through the layers of her clothing. There's still a faint ring around her naval, like the remnants of a bad sunburn. She said the doctors told her it would disappear completely in a few weeks. I don't know how she withstood the pain.
...I know it was childish of me, but I couldn't resist. He's such a jerk and it was so satisfying when the general opened the door for me. I'm glad there aren't too many jackasses like him in Earthforce. I hate to think I suffered through three wars just to keep him in power.
The rest of the day was even more satisfying. So was last night after Delenn finally arrived. She was magnificent today: the way she voiced the principles of the Alliance, while seemingly the living embodiment of those values. The over-flight of White Stars while she talked about the Rangers was perfect timing. Now that she's reminded them of the strength of the Alliance, Earthdome will give even more thought to joining. And the offer of artificial gravity technology for their ships should tip the balance.
I expected the Alliance to vote me in as president. I'd have to be an idiot not to. Now, I have to live up to their expectations. The transition from soldier to statesmen won't be easy. I won't be able to cut through problems with a flight of White Stars or a squadron of groundpounders. I'm going to need all the help I can get from the Advisory Board, especially from its leader. Delenn and I will probably be even busier than before, but at least we'll be busy together, in the same place.
That reminds me. We still haven't decided where to live on the station. I prefer my place because of the bed. If she wants me to move in with her, I can live with that too. As long as we end up in the same bed at the same time. I don't want us to spend any more nights apart. That's probably wishful thinking. I know we'll have duties that separate us from time to time, including those in her role of the Minbari ambassador. Neither of us would want to avoid our obligations. But we can try to minimize the separations as much as possible.
Dad is okay. He's more than okay. So is mom. She was never in any danger. Dad told me they split up when the embargo started. He figured they were too tempting a target, especially together. He wasn't treated too badly, even before I escaped. Afterward, he said his jailers kept reminding him that even though they had to follow orders, they did everything they could to make him comfortable under the circumstances. Dad found it all very amusing.
It was so good to see him. I've been so afraid for him for so long. I didn't think I'd see him, at least not now. Delenn - of course, who else? - arranged his trip. She 'casually' mentioned to a few high ranking politicians that bringing dad here would be good public relations now that everyone was on the same side. And it can't hurt to have the new President of the Interstellar Alliance owe you one. Dad got a kick out of that. He said he's glad to see another diplomat in the family. Delenn smiled happily. They're going to get along just fine. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if dad takes her side in any family arguments.
The three of us had dinner together. I could barely get a word in, dad and Delenn were so busy telling each other stories about me. I think they were trying to see who could embarrass me the most. It's a good thing Liz wasn't there too, or I would have really been in trouble! By the end of the meal, they were chatting like old friends and trading diplomatic horror stories. I know Delenn was worried about his reaction to her and to our marriage. She was afraid he wouldn't approve or something. She didn't believe me when I told her dad would be crazy about her. Not until he welcomed her into the family with open arms. I don't think I've ever loved him more than at that moment.
After dinner, Delenn left to take care of some last minute details, she said. I think she wanted to give us some time alone. Dad and I had a long talk about what had happened and where I'm going now. He told me how proud he was of me and what I've become, what I've done and what I planned to do in the future. I told him everything I was or will be I owed to him. We were both on the verge of crying when dad slapped me on the back and said he'd never congratulated me on my election as president of the new alliance. Before I could thank him, he said now that he'd met Delenn, he wouldn't have to stay up nights worrying about how I'd do. He trusted her to see I didn't get into too much trouble. He is definitely going to take her side!
Dad is going to join mom tomorrow and then they're going to spend some time on Proxima with Liz and her family. With the farm destroyed, they have to decide what to do now. I bet they'll rebuild. Mom will insist. She didn't want to retire there in the first place, but now she loves it even more than he does. He won't stand a chance against her.
The Sheridan men have long had a habit of marrying strong women.
I've got another full day ahead of me tomorrow. I should get some sleep now, and Delenn is waiting....
Susan's promotion to captain is official. She's coming to Earth to take command of a warlock class ship in the next few weeks. I hope I get a chance to see her before we leave. I want to see what she looks like with captain's insignia.
I'm going to give her the command bars I wore when I first took over the Agamemnon. I wore them for the last time when I resigned my commission. As I dressed that morning in my Earthforce uniform, I felt an unexpected twinge of regret at the thought that this would be the last time I would ever wear it. That uniform had been my life for so long. But that life ended about two years ago. My resignation was the official funeral.
We're still waiting for the Senate to schedule the vote on joining the Alliance. Meanwhile, we're negotiating to use Babylon Five as the temporary headquarters for the Alliance until the new facilities at Tuzanor are ready. Delenn and I are going from meeting to meeting, with barely a pause in between.
The evenings aren't much better. No diplomatic reception, no gala, no charity ball is considered a complete success now without the appearance of the leader of the Rangers and the President of the Interstellar Alliance. And I thought the paperwork would be the worst thing about this new job. Fortunately, Delenn knows which ones we can skip and which ones we have to attend. There is one bonus. Delenn is learning to dance and she wants to practice every chance we get. I'd forgotten how sensual it can be to move in time to the music with the woman you love in your arms....
...Mars, as expected, voted for independence. The new provisional government has asked to join the Alliance, probably as insurance against any attempt by Earthgov to retaliate. We are going to postpone a decision until the political situation there is stable. Proxima will probably remain with Earth, but as an autonomous colony. They don't have the resources for a complete break. The other colonies are talking of forming some sort of confederation. Without Mars and Proxima, I don't think that can succeed. I've always hated politics and here I am ass deep in the muck. It's a good thing I've picked up some pointers from my dad and Delenn along the way.
The Senate is voting tomorrow - finally - on joining the Alliance. Delenn thinks the yes votes outnumber the nays by about a third. I agree. Earth can't afford to pass up the offer of artificial gravity. Not if they want to compete successfully. The Shadow technology was eliminated along with the fleet. All the specs were destroyed, either by Clark before he killed himself, or more likely by psi corps.
Meanwhile, we've come to an interim agreement about Babylon Five. Earthforce will man the station under a commander of my choosing. I'm going to have to give a lot of thought to who I pick. Anyone too closely identified with me will have problems working with Earthgov, and anyone too close to Clark will antagonize station personnel.
Only one name comes readily to mind. And I'm not sure I should go with that.
Delenn and I are taking a day off tomorrow, at least until the vote. She thinks it is better that we are not around so as to avoid the appearance of trying to influence the outcome. That's fine with me. Too bad it's too cold for a picnic in the mountains....
Now that Earth has joined the Alliance, our work here is finished. We'll be leaving in a week or so. Before we do, I want to show Delenn some of my favorite places, especially the Great Barrier Reef and the high plains of North America. I want to show her sunrise in Wyoming and sunset in the deserts of New Mexico. There are no mountains anywhere like those on Earth. So far, I've only shown her the stars.
I'd never seen Delenn in anything but artificial light before. I hadn't thought about that, not until we walked in the garden in the light of the moon and stars. She seemed to shimmer as she walked. For the first time I fully understood that line about the envious moon. She was enchanted by the night sky. On Minbar, the stars tend to be obscured by the brightness of the two moons. I showed her how to find the north star and told her some of the legends of the constellations.
I explained about making a wish on a shooting star. Right on cue, one streaked across the sky. When I asked her what she wished for, she smiled and kissed me. I think we made the same wish. The cold finally drove us inside, but we left the curtains open so Delenn could still see the stars as we fell asleep.
I spoke to Captain Lochley about commanding the station. I've promised her complete autonomy in its daily running. I've also promised her that I wouldn't tell anyone about our past. Not very many people knew at the time, and virtually everyone who did was killed in the war with the Minbari. Elizabeth doesn't want anyone on the station finding out because she feels it would undermine her authority. I'm not sure about that, but it's her call.
I've never told Delenn. It never seemed important. It was so far in the past that I'd almost forgotten. If I tell her now, now that Elizabeth is coming to Babylon Five, Delenn will wonder why I never told her before, why I've kept it a secret. I haven't, not deliberately anyway. I really did put it out of my mind. I don't suppose it matters. The subject very likely will never come up.
The Advisory Board is preparing for my inauguration as soon as we return home. They've hired Michael as a special security consultant, just in case. He knows all the places on the station where a potential assassin can hide. I think they're being overcautious. No one's going to try to kill me, at least not yet. Still, it will give me the opportunity to talk face to face with Michael. I'd like him to become head of covert operations for the Alliance. He has the right contacts and right attitude for the job.
Barring any last minute snags, we leave for home at the end of the week....
...Susan got her ship. She'll be here in a few days to take command. A good part of her new crew will come from the Agamemnon, which will be in dry-dock for a long while. She took quite a beating, first from General Lefcourt's ships and then from the defense grid. Someone in Earthforce has his head screwed on straight. If Susan had been given a crew that fought for Clark, she'd have a lot of trouble maintaining her authority. With a mixed crew, she'll be able to concentrate on her mission.
She's agreed to meet us at the transfer point on Io in a few days for a last hail and farewell. I'm going to miss her.
We leave tomorrow and I still haven't been able to show Delenn the sights of Earth. Maybe on our next trip. We did some last minute shopping. It will be a while before the effects of the embargo are reversed and normal shipments resume to the station. We bought things like teas and hard to find fruit juices. We also bought two plain gold rings.
We'll be married on the trip home. If we keep waiting for the right time, we'll never have the wedding.
We've decided where we're going to live, or rather, how we're going to live. Delenn feels that both our quarters are too small for two people. So, until the facilities on Tuzanor are ready, she suggests we spend part of the time in her quarters and part in mine, alternating nightly. I don't know how that will work out, but I'm willing to try. Although I'm not sure I like the idea of sleeping, or anything else, on a Minbari bed every other night. I am getting better at it, though. I don't slide down nearly as much.
Aboard White Star 2...My wife is asleep. My wife. I've waited so long to say that. I still don't quite believe it. I keep looking at the gold bands on our fingers for reassurance.
My wife. I just want to keep saying that over and over. As I sit here, where I can see her without disturbing her, I am so filled with love and joy beyond my powers to express.
We were married in a private Minbari ceremony in the small meditation chamber off the mess deck. Just the two of us, with Lennier and Susan as witnesses. Delenn was so beautiful. She wore the traditional white of her caste with an over-vest of what looked like gold brocade. Her robe was also edged in gold. The only jewelry she wore was her Ranger insignia. The sparkle of the stone was no match for the brilliance of her eyes. I wore a white robe over the new suit she helped me pick out before we left Earth. Susan and Lennier were also robed in white.
The chamber was filled with candles and crystals that reflected the flames. Delenn and I sat side by side at one side of a low, triangular table. The witnesses sat opposite, Susan on my left and Lennier on Delenn's right. Before we began, Lennier in Minbari and Susan in English, asked both of us if this joining was of our own choosing, with no coercion or threats. We answered yes. The questions and answers were repeated twice more. Then the actual ceremony began.
The Na'Fak'Cha doubles as a marriage ceremony with a few changes. There are no secrets revealed. What we give up is our old lives as single, solitary beings. Where there were two, now there is one. The gifts we exchanged were our wedding bands, even though Minbari don't wear them. Delenn agreed because it is important to me.
We also gave gifts to the witnesses. Traditionally, these gifts have a greater sentimental than monetary value. Delenn gave Lennier her favorite meditation crystal, the one that reflects the colors of the rainbow by candlelight. I gave Susan my command bars and my first captain's insignia. That's the second time I rendered her speechless.
Delenn said several prayers, which I carefully repeated. She'd written them out phonetically for me, but I was able to follow her. We asked for the blessings of our families and clans for this joining and declared we were following the calling of our hearts. Then Lennier called for Valen's blessings upon our joining. He stumbled a little on the words. I guess he was nervous his first time as chief witness at such an event.
At his direction, Susan handed each a small red fruit. As we ate it, Lennier told us this was the death of our old lives and the beginning of a new one. We then drank from a single cup. It contained a very rare juice used only during betrothals and joinings. Finally, Lennier placed a parchment scroll with elaborate and intricate brushwork on the table. Delenn and I signed it and then the witnesses signed below. The scroll will be kept with the records of Delenn's clan.
The ceremony ended when Delenn and I placed our right hands over each other's hearts and touched our foreheads together. We declared in Minbari and English that we were now of one heart, one mind, one soul. Then we took off our white outer robes and blew out the candles.
As Susan opened the door to the mess deck, she barked out an order I didn't quite catch.
Then she stepped aside to let us pass. Much to my surprise and Delenn's astonished delight, a double line of black clad Rangers formed an arch with their extended pikes crossed overhead. We walked arm in arm through the arch. When we were deciding what kind of wedding to have, human or Minbari, I told Delenn about the ancient military tradition of the bride and groom exiting the chapel underneath the crossed swords of fellow officers. Delenn regretted that we wouldn't be able to do that. I don't know how or why Susan came up with the idea of substituting pikes, but it was inspired.
Minbari also have a wedding feast after the ceremony. Londo, with G'Kar's help, insisted on taking charge of that. Centauri are good at parties. And Londo is no exception. The food was plentiful and good, and the water flowed like wine. It was a Minbari feast after all. I didn't even mind the speeches. Delenn thought the one Londo gave about all the pitfalls of marriage very amusing. Susan, as best man, gave the traditional toast. She looked splendid in her new captain's uniform. I was able to find a moment to thank her for coming. And for pleasing Delenn. Susan promised to visit us when we were settled and she's in the neighborhood. I don't know when we'll meet again.
Not for a very long time, I think.
We left the party early. There are just so many newlywed jokes you can sit through. On our way out, the humans started throwing rice. After a moment of bemusement, the Minbari joined in with enthusiasm. Before we could get out the door, we were covered in the stuff. I'm still finding bits of grains in my hair.
We've been lovers for a year now, so I didn't expect tonight to be any different or special. Every time we make love is special anyway. And yet...I don't know how to describe it. It was different, somehow. I felt a connection between us, stronger than before. We've always known instinctively how to please each other, but tonight we were even clearer and surer. I could almost 'see' the connection between us. I'm not saying this very well. The closest I can come is to say that it felt like we really had become one.
...I'm going back to bed now. Delenn just woke up and she's smiling at me.
Delenn was right. We should have gone to Minbar first!
It was all Stephen's doing, with a lot of help from Michael. I suppose it was inevitable, after everything that's happened, that the station would want some kind of celebration and our marriage does provide an excuse. Still, I will get both of them for this, eventually, and when they least expect it.
During the party, complete with music and lots of food and drink, Stephen announced that he wanted to introduce Delenn to a custom at Earth weddings. With a broad grin on his face, he put his arms around her and kissed her soundly. As she started to sputter in protest, Stephen told her it was tradition for the guests to kiss the bride. She looked at me in surprise and I nodded. The expression on her face was priceless! I've never seen such a combination of embarrassment, bemusement and exasperation. Before she could say anything, Michael came over and said it was his turn next. Delenn threw up her hands in resignation and surrendered to the inevitable.
Londo declared this was one human custom of which he thoroughly approved and kissed my blushing bride with enthusiasm. So did G'Kar. Even Brother Theo and Zack Allen kissed Delenn: the former planted chaste kisses on both cheeks, while the latter blushed furiously as he gently brushed her lips.
Lyta and some of the female command staff decided to start a new tradition. Delenn laughed at my discomfort as the women proceeded to kiss the groom. Finally, Brother Theo came to my rescue. He called for a toast to the newlyweds and gave us his blessings. That was our cue. We thanked everyone present, told them to keep the party going, and left to the sound of whistles and hoots.
On the way to my - our - quarters, Delenn said that acknowledgment of our marriage by her clan on Minbar would be much more decorous.
I carried her over the threshold. Delenn said this was one Earth ritual of which she fully approved.
Delenn finally asked about the wet socks in the bathroom. I don't think she really understood. I'm not sure I understand either, why I still continue. I told her I'd only wash them in my place, so she doesn't have to worry about wet socks all over her bathroom. Which means that our future home in Tuzanor will need more than one bathroom. It's going to take us a while to get used to living together. We both have habits and customs that probably irritate the other.
The new commander of the station has arrived. I'm afraid she may have some trouble adjusting. Babylon Five is unlike any other post. She'll just have to get used to the place, I guess. We've agreed that the political jurisdiction is mine. Everything else is hers. Of course there will be situations that overlap, but we'll deal with them as they occur. I don't anticipate too many problems.
I promised Delenn we would go to Minbar after my swearing in, before we both get too busy with Alliance matters. She wants to introduce me to her family and clan in the traditional manner, whatever that is. She hasn't told me much about it. Just that we'll go to the main temple of her clan where she'll present me to the clan elders and then there'll be a ceremony to welcome me. Whether they really mean it, I'll have to wait and see. At least Delenn knows my family accepts her without any reservations.
She was really worried about that. Even after dad told her how happy he was to have her in the family. She didn't know if my sister would be as glad. After all, Liz was Anna's best friend. When we got to Liz's place on Proxima, Delenn was as nervous as I've ever seen her. I was afraid she would bolt as Liz opened the door and hugged me. Before I could say anything or introduce them, my nephews came running. They ignored me completely. They were only interested in meeting the head of the Rangers who helped their uncle John beat the bad guys. Liz and I dissolved into helpless laughter as the boys dragged the venerated and awesome Entil'Zha off to their playroom to show her their White Star models.
When we went to rescue my wife from my nephews, we found Delenn on the floor with the boys, deploying miniature ships of all kinds in a faithful recreation of the relief of Proxima. Liz announced that dinner was almost ready. Delenn rose and bowed formally to the boys, who returned her bow with the same formality. Then my nephews ran off calling for their grandfather to tell him that Aunt Delenn had made them honorary Ranger cadets. As Liz tried to apologize for her sons and my wife protested that they were delightful children, any nervousness either of them may have felt completely disappeared.
They were chatting happily by the time we all sat down to eat.
I was a bit worried about mom's reaction though. She had always treated Anna more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law. All through dinner, I could feel a certain reserve, almost a coldness between mom and Delenn. Dad sensed it too. He tried to reassure me that it would be okay. In all the fuss of cleaning up and then sending the boys to bed, we never noticed that mom and Delenn had disappeared. Before we could start to worry, they came out of the study, arm in arm and smiling, with eyes suspiciously moist. Neither woman explained, but all constraint between them was gone. The rest of our visit, I would often catch my wife and my mother look at me and exchange a knowing smile.
I'm doomed! First my father and now my mother. Not to mention Liz and Dan. Liz says since they've become honorary Rangers, the boys are even cleaning up their rooms without too much complaint. She wants to know when Aunt Delenn is coming to visit again, and could she persuade them to study more.
...Michael wants to call a meeting to discuss security for the inaugural. If I know Michael, he'll want to surround me with bodyguards three deep and then keep everyone so far away they'll need long range cambots to see my swearing in. And Delenn will want to provide a battalion of Rangers, just in case. I appreciate their concern, but I can't function like that.
Delenn is still upset. She can't understand why I'm refusing even a bodyguard, especially now that there appears to be an actual threat. I've tried to make her understand that if someone is determined to kill me and doesn't care if he dies too, then nothing and no one can protect me. An assassin who cares about his own safety can be stopped by station security.
She also can't understand why I won't at least accept a ceremonial guard for formal occasions. She thinks it's undignified for the President of the Interstellar Alliance to appear with so little ceremony. She's more experienced in matters of protocol and such, I know. But I feel I'm right about this. I don't want to be seen as some sort of remote symbol of authority. I don't want or need pomp and ceremony to do my job. Delenn says I'm reacting to what happened when I came back from Z'Ha'Dum, when some saw me as a kind of god or something. She says I'm trying too hard to persuade everyone I'm just an ordinary man doing an ordinary job. That I haven't fully accepted that I was touched by destiny; that my life will never be ordinary. Maybe she's right.
Even so, I have to think about the future. If I start off remote from those who chose me, if I emulate the Grey Council as Delenn wants me to, those who will hold this office after me will inevitably build on my example until the president becomes enclosed in a forbidden city like the old emperors of China. Everything I do will set a precedent. Even having G'Kar administer the oath to me will probably establish a tradition of having future presidents sworn in by a Narn, or at least a member of the Advisory Board. Perhaps, if I start off simple, the meaningless rituals that attach themselves like barnacles to high office will not be as thick.
I've tried to make Delenn understand how I feel. She doesn't like it, but she accepts that it is my choice. I've promised her that I would at least take reasonable precautions and let the security staff do their job. I'll even allow an unobtrusive guard at the reception.
I hope the events of my inaugural are not a portent of what is to come. I really misread the situation. I assumed any threat to me would come from within the Alliance, from members that thought I was a threat to their interests. I disregarded the danger from those who fought with Clark. I assumed that everyone allied with Clark did so out of fear or intimidation. I never thought that anyone would blame me for taking away their jobs or way of life. My blindness resulted in the deaths of the Gaim ambassador and that poor boy. Only the prompt actions of Mr. Garibaldi and the security team prevented more deaths. I owe Michael one.
Delenn didn't leave with the others. I didn't think she would. She stood at my side as she has so many times when danger threatened. Perhaps it was selfish of me, but I wanted her there with me, if I were really going to die this time. I don't think either of us really thought we would get out of that room alive....
...I never did get to give my speech. It's probably just as well. After that unusual oath, Delenn and I couldn't stop laughing. I suppose it was a natural reaction to the end of the danger. I did say I want my presidency to be free of useless formality and meaningless ceremony.
There was one positive result. Michael and I finally had that overdue talk to clear the air. Both of us accepted, intellectually, the fact that I've forgiven him. Yet, emotionally, we both have to come to terms with what happened. I want to trust him, I do trust him, but the very qualities that make him such a good security man are those that Bester used to turn him against me. I can't quite forget that. And Michael knows it.
Michael gave me the report on the assassin this morning in my quarters. When I thanked him again, he kept protesting that he should be thanking me for giving him another chance. Somehow, I don't remember exactly what started it, we started to argue over my not telling Michael about Lorien, even though Stephen had checked Michael out for any Shadow tampering. When I said it was a good thing considering that Bester was controlling him, Michael said we didn't know that at the time and not telling him about Lorien showed that I never trusted him in the first place. Things deteriorated from there until Michael said that he didn't need psi corps programming to mistrust anyone who was grabbing for power the way I was. I told him I owed him a punch on the jaw from the last time we had this conversation and landed one right on his chin.
We were going at it pretty good when Delenn walked in. We must have been quite a sight, clothes torn and faces bruised and bloody. Delenn started to say something as I yelled at her to go away and leave us alone. She looked at me, face expressionless, wheeled about and left. That's when Michael held up his hands and asked if I'd had enough. When I nodded, Michael looked around at the mess we'd made and said Delenn
would kill us if we didn't clean the place up. We both started laughing.
As we righted overturned furniture and swept up broken bits, Michael acknowledged that part of his guilt was caused by knowing that Bester only accentuated certain traits, that the seeds of betrayal were in him all along. I told him that perhaps some of my actions were open to misinterpretation. I was willing to start over if he was. When Delenn came back a few minutes later, Michael and I were standing in the middle of the room hugging and laughing again. We turned to face her, like two schoolboys caught in the act of some mischief. She looked around the room and said at least we had cleaned up our mess. Then, putting one hand under Michael's chin, she pulled a soft cloth out of a pocket and gently wiped away some of the blood on his face. She said his injuries were not life threatening, patted his cheek and told him to go home.
As he left, she pointed in the direction of the bathroom and told me to go clean up. I protested I wanted some tender, loving care too. She told me I didn't deserve any. I should know better than to brawl in my own quarters. She pointed again. What could I say? She was right. While I was cleaning up, though, Delenn came in to help. As she gently applied antiseptic to a cut near my eye, she told me she would never understand human males. Then she smiled and kissed me.
Our friendship is still not back to where it was before Z'Ha'Dum. It may never be. Perhaps too much has happened, perhaps we've both been too hurt, I don't know. I do know that Michael is willing to go on from here and so am I.
...Elizabeth disagrees with me. She thinks the telepath colony will cause problems, with psi corps at the least. And as commander of the station, she'll be the one who has to deal with those problems. She doesn't understand that Babylon Five has always been a sanctuary for those who have no where else to go. I hope that in time she will learn. Still, I can provide a refuge for only a limited time. A permanent solution will have to be found, not only for the colony, but for the telepath situation in general. I really don't understand why humans have a problem with telepaths. Other races don't. No, that's not entirely true. Most humans are uneasy around someone who can invade their minds. Whatever the reasons, the problem is increasing. There are those who think we're headed for a war. I hope they're wrong. But, if a war does break out and Byron's group is still on the station, they are in danger of being viewed as a fifth column, even if they are not. Given their fear and hatred of psi corps, I think it more likely that they won't join either side.
I'm going to have to make Byron understand that although I made the decision to allow his people to stay, they will have to answer to Captain Lochley. He can't go over her head to me. Maybe it's a good thing Delenn and I are leaving for Minbar tomorrow.
Aboard White Star Two...We'll be back home on Babylon Five in a few hours. It wasn't as bad as I feared. I didn't make a complete fool of myself and embarrass Delenn. Some of her family have even accepted me. Most of the rest are resigned to our marriage. Only one, Callenn I think his name is, was openly hostile. Delenn said to ignore him; his opinion is of no account. It's her clan, so she should know.
We didn't go right to the clan temple, as I expected. We stopped in the capital first, to visit the main temple where we met her friend, Rathenn. They were acolytes together until Delenn left to serve Dukhat and the Grey Council. Rathenn was also Sinclair's friend and still misses him. When I asked her why she didn't tell Rathenn about Valen, Delenn said it was best now that no other Minbari know. Someday she will tell him, even if it is still a secret.
The temple personnel went in awe of Delenn. I forget sometimes how powerful and venerated she has become on her own world. She accepts their adulation matter-of-factly. False modesty has never been one of her vices. It amused her, though, to see my reactions. I'll never be as easy as she is with this kind of thing. That's what made Michael's accusations so hard to understand. When we finally left, we were showered with gifts. I told Delenn if this happens at every stop, we're going to need another White Star just for the wedding presents.
On the way to the meeting with her clan elders, Delenn drilled me as to what I should say and do. I didn't know what she was so worried about. Basically, all I had to do was stand there and bow on cue. It wasn't as if I was expected to make a speech. I grew up a diplomat's kid. I could always pick up a few words and phrases of whatever language was spoken wherever dad was posted. I know the standard Minbari greetings and which rank gets which. And I learned the responses to the prayers. Still, Delenn insisted I take along the idiot cards she made for me. When we arrived, I understood why she was so nervous.
Nine elders, robed and hooded, stood on a raised platform in the center of the main chamber. Although the place was full of Minbari, the only sound was our footsteps as we walked through the narrow aisle that opened in the crowd to let us pass. At the foot of the platform, we stood with heads lowered and hands pressed to chests until one of the
elders said something that sounded like a question. Delenn pushed back her hood. Still looking at the floor, she gave her name and asked permission to introduce her mate to the clan. After a pause, which may or may not have been part of the ritual, the elder who had spoken held out his hand and Delenn, eyes downcast, handed him the scroll we signed at our wedding. He briefly inspected it, nodded, and passed it to a robed figure who came hurrying at his signal.
The elder pointed at us and then turned to the others, saying our names and why we had come. The eight assented with one voice. Delenn and I bowed low and climbed up. Pushing back my own hood, I faced the elders to greet them as Delenn had taught me. They seemed surprised I spoke in their language. Most looked thoughtful then. They took turns asking us questions, mostly variations of were we sure this joining was the calling of our hearts and not our loins, Delenn told me later. I was a little surprised at that until I remembered these people held Shan Fal to be one of their most sacred rituals. Delenn blushed and ducked her head when the oldest female on the platform spoke to her. When I asked Delenn what that was all about afterwards, she giggled. She said the old woman thought I looked like I had a lot of stamina in bed. I asked Delenn if she answered. Delenn said of course, one could not refuse to answer any question asked by an elder on such an occasion. But she refused to tell me what she said.
After the questioning, the leader spoke to the clan members gathered in the chamber. He motioned us to stand on either side of him and placed our hands together. Putting his hand atop ours, he said our names and blessed us in Valen's name. We descended the platform to walk down an aisle that ended in a circle surrounded by unlit candles on crystal pillars. Delenn told me this part of the ceremony comes from a time before Valen.
One by one, the head of each family in the clan approached the circle and lit a candle to signify acceptance of our joining and my entrance into the protection of the clan.
If the elders approve, this part is usually just a formality. But not in my case. I think Delenn was concerned that we would not get a majority of families to agree. As the first candles were lit, she visibly relaxed. Then, Callenn approached. He looked at me with disdain and deliberately turning his back on Delenn, he removed one of the candles. That was the first no vote. The next five votes were also no. Delenn's face carefully revealed nothing, but her hands were trembling. Finally, it was over. I am now an official member of one of Minbar's most influential clans.
We stepped out of the circle into a crowd of well wishers congratulating us on our joining and wishing us a fruitful union. I recognized some slang phrases for reproduction I learned from Marcus. When I gave the proper response, Delenn was startled. Then she said something and everyone within earshot started to laugh. I'm going to have to greatly accelerate my acquisition of Minbari dialects! The rest of our stay was an endless round of visits with clan members and ceremonial meals. Fortunately, Delenn is the head of her family, so we were spared a whole other set of rituals.
I think I understand Minbari better now. No wonder they place such emphasis on honor and integrity. Their every action reflects on everyone in their clan. The shame of letting so many down must be unbearable. And the knowledge that they will back you up always must be very empowering. I wonder how I'll fit into all this, and how much they'll let me fit in.
When we finally left, full of food and good advice and loaded down with more gifts, Delenn was very quiet. She told me we had one more visit to make before we could go home, one that would be most difficult. She wouldn't tell me anything else until we arrived at a large walled compound high in the crystal mountains near Tuzanor. It was the home of the Sisters of Valeria, and then I understood. We were going to see her mother. I had mixed feelings about this. I know Delenn wanted her mother's approval of our marriage, but her mother had never been part of her life before, so why should Delenn want to go to her now. Since it was not my decision, I said nothing.
Seen from below, the house of the Sisters appears to be carved out of the cliff face. Close to, you can see it's actually built of crystal blocks. It reminded me of European monasteries, except for the light. The whole compound shimmered in the sun. Instead of windows, translucent walls and great skylights illuminated every corner and refracted vibrant colors. We waited in a lofty entrance hall while Delenn's request to see her mother was relayed through the proper channels. The crystal walls were decorated with carvings that resembled stained glass. Candles on small altars were scattered everywhere.
Delenn was as curious as I. She had never been in this hall. The few times she visited, she saw her mother in the small sitting room off the main temple. But male visitors are not permitted there. The other thing that impressed me was the silence. The only sound was the footsteps of the messenger sent to fetch Delenn. The soft slap of sandals on the crystal floors echoed throughout. As she left me there to wait further, Delenn reminded me to speak to no one unless asked a direct question, and to remain in the entry hall. No male was permitted beyond the far door. As I examined the carvings, which depicted icons and events associated with the order, I got the feeling I was being watched. Delenn told me later I probably was. She thinks I was the first human visitor. It's a good thing the military teaches you how to wait without fidgeting.
After an eternity that lasted about an hour, Delenn returned with the news that her mother wanted to see me. Delenn didn't sound too happy about that. While we waited side by side, she kept reminding me not to speak first and to keep my eyes downcast at all times to show respect. I tried to give her hand a reassuring squeeze, but she drew away. Before I could say anything, the far door opened.
Hooded and robed in white, she stood for a moment in the doorway. She was barely as tall as her daughter, but she had a presence about her that could be felt clear across the lofty hall. When she came closer, she had to look up to see me, which - I think - did not please her. As she raised her head, I saw Delenn's eyes in a totally alien face. Those eyes raked over me. I wanted to hide, I felt so naked. I took a step back involuntarily and thought I caught a hint of a smile on that cold, pale face then. Finally, after the longest minute in recorded history, Delenn's mother turned to her and said just one word: yes. Then she left the room as suddenly as she appeared.
Delenn and I turned to each other. Before I could say anything, she placed a finger to her lips, took my hand and led me out of the compound. She wouldn't say anything until we were halfway down the path to our flyer. Then she only sighed and said she was glad it had gone well. We returned to the White Star immediately. Delenn hasn't mentioned her mother at all since we left Minbar. I asked her what would have happened if her mother hadn't approved. She told me nothing would have happened. We would still be married. Since her mother was a Sister of Valeria, and thus, outside the caste and clan system, her approval was not necessary to validate our joining. Then, with a wistful smile and a slight hesitation in her voice, Delenn said she just wanted her mother's blessing on our union....
...Delenn is sleeping and I should be too. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. There's so much still to do before the Alliance becomes a self-perpetuating institution. We haven't even agreed on a general statement of principles; in fact we don't even have one to disagree on. I'm going to ask G'Kar to write one. Delenn agrees he's the best one to do it. And that's only the beginning. We have to set up mechanisms to deal with routine squabbles among Alliance members and work out a method of enforcement of compliance with any agreements. And, then there's the problem of how to handle not so routine difficulties. What do we do to defuse old animosities between members so that war is not an option? On Babylon Four, the Delenn of the future told me we created something that will endure for a thousand years. Right now, I hope we can survive the next six months.
There is so much to do and so little time. Less than twenty years is left to me. I've accepted that. I've had to. I've tried to accept that I won't grow old with Delenn, or see my grandchildren, or even see my son grow to full manhood. My life was the price we paid for victory against the Shadows. I paid that price willingly and would do so again. But now I want something in return. I want what time I have left to mean something. I don't want to waste it fighting futile battles against entrenched political interests and bureaucracies. And I certainly don't want to establish ones that will soon become as bad.
I want to leave a better world for my son. I want that so much and I'm afraid I won't be able to; afraid I won't know how.
Sebastian said that Delenn and I are the right people in the right place at the right time. I've tried to believe that. I do believe it about Delenn. But in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep, the doubts creep in. Delenn keeps saying I was touched by destiny. But to what end? I still don't have her faith in the rightness of the universe. I don't know if I ever will. Or can. If I had that time-flash now, the older Delenn would no longer see the innocence in my eyes. This past year I've seen too much, done too much, endured too much. I've lost too many friends, too many people I cared about: Kosh, Marcus, Sinclair...even Susan is lost to me, though she's still alive. And those friends who are left to me are not as close as they once were. After I returned from Z'Ha'Dum, I felt a sense of urgency, a sense that time was running out. I suppose that's not unexpected, but it was more than just the time I have left. I felt driven to complete what we'd started, defeat the Shadows and then Clark. All my focus was on that. I only let Delenn remain close to me. Now my position as president of the Alliance makes everyone more formal around me. My ex wife, for God's sake, calls me 'Mr. President' even in private! Maybe that will change in time, maybe I'll be able to revive the old camaraderie. I doubt it....
I should go back to bed. Try to sleep. Funny. Lately I sleep better when we're in Delenn's quarters, even with that damned bed. There's something calming about the atmosphere there. I had a similar feeling while I was waiting in the entry hall of the Sisters of Valeria. It's not so much a feeling that everything is all right. It's more that whatever happened, whatever had to be done, I would endure. That I was part of something that always was and always will be. I don't really understand. I'll have to ask Delenn. There's a lot I want to ask her. She's tried to teach me a little of her beliefs before, but I wasn't ready then. I think I am now.
There's so much to do, so much to learn, and tock is so close....
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