THE PATH HOME (I)

By Jennie Moore

 

 

 

Babylon 5 and all the characters belong to JMS.

   This story contains possible spoilers for the end of Season 4. High slush factor and Kleenex needed. Sorry folks.

 

 

 

 

 *****

   Three words.

   Three words that would change the course of the War. Words that would turn everyone around and make the fight worth fighting again.

   "We have him."

   -----

   The ship was streaking though hyper-space as fast as it could go on its way to Mars. And the woman in command was willing the ship to go faster, because she knew who was waiting for her when she got there.

   -----

   Delenn was sitting in the command seat aboard White Star 40. She was told that the Mars Resistance had found him. Now it was just a matter of time before they would have him off the planet, and back aboard the ship. About two hours later the shuttle docked.

   It had taken a few minutes for her to make it off the bridge and down to the docking area. Now she stood, somewhat impatiently, as the airlock pressurized. Through the small window she could make out movement. Then the airlock opened and two Rangers where practically carrying another man through the door. He could barely hold his head up.

   But there was no question in Delenn's mind...it was John.

   As if sensing her standing there, John slowly lifted his head. His eyes had a glazed look until they met hers. Then they focused and he breathed one word, "Delenn."

   "John!" Delenn cried, running to him. One of the Rangers removed John's arm from around his neck. Being half supported by the other, John put his arm around Delenn. He was trying to get his other arm free, when he started to fall, his legs unable to support him. And he was taking Delenn down with him.

   While they where sitting on the floor, John's head cradled in Delenn's lap, he reached up and wiped away the tears that had fallen from her eyes. She didn't even know she was crying. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to calm her beating heart. When she opened them again, John's eyes where slowly drifting shut.

   "Get some help. And contact the rest of the fleet. Tell them that John is with me," Delenn said to the Rangers. They bowed quickly and headed off in two directions...one to the bridge, the other towards the medical facilities...leaving them alone in the hall.

   "John? Please, John, open your eyes?" Delenn pleaded. But John didn't respond. He had finally closed his eyes, for the first time in days.

   When help arrived, John was moved to a room and placed on a bed - a standard bed, not one of the slanted Minbari beds. When the new White Star ships had been constructed, the human Rangers suggested they have standard beds installed. Now Delenn was glad for it.

   The Minbari healer was telling Delenn that John needed to rest. "Delenn, he is exhausted and needs to sleep in order for his body to heal. He's dehydrated. When he wakes, see if you can get some fluids in him - warm broth or tea."

   "Thank you. I will see that he rests and that he gets something to eat when he wakes," Delenn replied, but her eyes never left John's sleeping form.

   Delenn took a seat in the chair next to John's bed. She took his hand in hers, feeling how warm it was. And as she sat there, she remembered the first time she had seen him.

   - Flashback -

   She had met Captain John Sheridan shortly after coming out of the Chrysalis. She was almost in shock when she met him. Asking herself how someone so young had made the rank of Captain. But then she remembered that this was 'Starkiller Sheridan' and wondered if she should be afraid of him. After a short visit, she no longer feared him, for she felt she had found an ally. Someone to work with in the coming darkness.

   In time she had come to have respect for Captain Sheridan. She even found herself welcoming the opportunities to talk with him. She found him to be polite, but mostly he was friendly to her. That was something even her own people didn't do anymore. It seemed that after her change, her people didn't believe her to be wholly Minbari and had almost come to a point of rejecting her. Even when others had despised her, Captain Sheridan had been there to listen, somehow understanding how she felt. But she had discovered that he was someone she could talk with.

   During the long and sometimes endless council meetings, she found herself the recipient of his eyes. Sometimes it made her self-conscience, other times it was welcome. She had surprised herself when she discovered that she was watching him as well.

   Captain Sheridan had come to find the Zen Garden a place of solitude - somewhere he could sit and think. But it was also a place where she would go to meditate. And sometimes they would find each other there.

   She had found him to be interested in her culture. So she told him a little about her people's ways. As it turned out, they had more in common than they thought. And somewhere in the conversation, she had put her hand over his.

   As he glanced down at their hands, then back at her, she thought she saw something in his eyes. She removed her hand quickly and stared at the ground, embarrassment shinning on her face.

   -----

   The gentle squeeze of her fingers brought her back to the present and looking down, she noticed John was awake. His eyes were blood shot, he needed a shave, but his smile was a welcome site. He slowly brought their hands to his chest, holding hers tighter.

   "Delenn," he managed to say, as a single tear slowly rolled down the side of his face. Delenn, reaching up, gently wiped it away.

   "How do you feel," she asked, running her fingers up the side of his face and through his hair. She could tell he didn't want her to do that even though he really wanted to feel her touch.

   "I've been better." 'Right John, like she couldn't tell,' he thought to himself with amusement.

   John had three things on his mind:

   First and foremost, Delenn. He could see the stress in her eyes and knowing he had caused it didn't make him feel any better. Now he understood better what she had gone through thinking he had died at Z'ha'dum. He had almost believed he wouldn't see her again, except in his dreams and visions.

   Second, a shower. He hadn't had one in at least four days and he felt like it. Now he was lying there, almost wishing Delenn would leave him alone. But he knew she wouldn't.

   And last, what was happening with the war.

   "I'm sorry, Delenn. If I had listened to Susan," he began, but she cut him off.

   "It's all right, John. You did what you had to." No one had mentioned to John that they didn't get his father. Now it was up to her to tell him and be there to help him get through it. "I didn't want anyone else to tell you for fear of what you might do. I'm sorry, John. We didn't get your father out." She saw him shut his eyes and a tear slipped out the corner following the same path as the first.

   As he laid there, his breathing became ragged. Then letting go of her hand, he rolled onto his side away from her. Delenn could tell he was close to loosing control of his emotions. Everything that had happened to his family, broke her heart. Now, all she could do was be there for him. Even knowing there wasn't anything she could do.

   John had told her about his dad. How he had been a diplomat, but to John, he was his hero - a role model that John wanted to be just like. He thought his dad was the wisest man he had known - always there for him and his sister. But John had learned a lot from his dad - lessons that would forever be with him. And John had done everything he thought his dad would want him to do, right down to his military career.

   Now all John could do was hope his dad was still alive.

   "It will be all right, John. We will find him and bring him back." And as she watched him she had to let him know she was there for him. "I will be here, John. I'm not going to leave you, not matter what," she said, as she reached out her hand to touch his shoulder. But Delenn felt it wasn't enough. She wanted so much to take his pain away. After a few minutes, his breathing evened out, and he rolled back over to face her.

   "I love you, Delenn." John said through tear filled eyes.

   "I love you too," and with that she turned to more important issues, like taking care of John. "You should rest, John. Close your eyes. I will be here when you wake up." But he knew she would be there, because she had never left him alone.

   John fought it all the way, but soon he was sound asleep. And somewhere in his dreams, she thought he had said, 'Michael,' and something about 'being sorry'.

   Delenn sat with him for awhile, then decided she wanted to speak with Michael Garibaldi. So she headed to the bridge after finding someone to sit with John and sent a message to Mars. As she waited for a response, she started thinking about the first time she had a real conversation with Michael.

   - Flashback -

   It was at Ambassador Mollari's party. She was standing next to Michael and he had made the comment that she looked lovely that evening. She had wondered if others had thoughts of her like that, but then let the thought disappear.

   She had made the remark that Michael looked 'soul sick' and asked if there was anything she could do to help. After hearing what his problem was, she decided it was better left to him. She had no intentions of interfering with others private lives - especially their love lives.

   Shortly after the party, she had found Michael wondering the halls of the station. He had a lost and frustrated look on his face. She thought it was strange how most of the Command staff had found the Zen Garden a place to go. Now she found herself there with Michael. He seemed to want to talk with someone that wasn't directly involved with his problem. She understood and didn't pry into his personal life with questions she felt she shouldn't ask.

   Michael had other thoughts. He told her about someone that he almost married back on Mars. And how he vowed never to return there, no matter what the cost.

   -----

   Her thoughts where interrupted by the sound of an incoming call. It was Michael. And as if breaking that vow, he was calling from Mars.

   "Mister Garibaldi, I just wanted to thank you for helping get John back," Delenn began, but she had a sense that something else was wrong. She could see dark circles under Michael's eyes and felt that he was almost embarrassed to talk with her.

   "It's okay...I'm....I'm sorry, Delenn. I couldn't stop what was happening. He should have never been captured." Michael's voice was filled with guilt.

   "No, it wasn't your fault. You didn't know this would happen. And I think John knows that too. He was saying something about 'being sorry' in his sleep. Michael, please come aboard the ship and talk with John," Delenn pleaded. She had to get the two of them together. They needed to work things out between them.

   "I can't, not right now. I have to find someone," Michael told her. "Please, tell the Captain I'll see him as soon as I can." And with that, he cut the communication.

   She sat, staring at the screen. 'How am I going to explain to John that Michael is blaming himself for what happened?' she thought. Delenn got up and headed back to John's room.

   As she entered the room, she excused the Ranger that was keeping an eye on him. She noticed that John was still sleeping, but that most of the covers where off the bed and on the floor. She reached down, picked up the covers, and put them over John. Delenn knew he was having nightmares. And as she sat back down in the chair, he opened his eyes.

   "Still watching me sleep?" He said with a half-hearted smile.

   "Yes, I never tire of watching you," she said with a smile. "Drink this, you need fluids." And Delenn handed him a glass of water from the pitcher that was on the table next to the bed. John slowly sipped the water, resisting the urge to gulp it down. Somewhere in the back of his mind the Interrogators words rang, 'I recommend that you drink it in small sips until your body adjusts. We don't want a repeat of what happened last night, do we?'

   Delenn saw him shudder. "Are you all right?" she inquired. She had no idea of what he had been through. But looking at him, she knew that it had been unpleasant.

   "Yea, I think so. " But he knew Delenn wouldn't accept that answer completely. "Is there anyway I can get a shower and a change of clothes?" He felt like hell and he really wanted a shower.

   "John, I don't think you are strong enough to stand on your own." Delenn was afraid if he got up, he would hurt himself. He had only slept a few hours, but she didn't feel it was long enough. "Just lie here and try to rest. We will be back on Babylon Five in a few hours, then we can get you cleaned up. I don't want you to move around too much. We don't know if there is anything seriously wrong. And I don't want to find out...how do you put it...'the hard way.'"

   "We're headed back to Babylon Five?" John asked, somewhat surprised.

   "Yes." Delenn responded, puzzled.

   "No! I can't go back! I have a job to complete here!" He was trying to get up.

   "What are you doing? Don't get up, you need to rest." Delenn pleaded, but to no avail. John had his feet over the side of the bed and was trying to stand up. Delenn realized that short of tying him down, he wasn't going to stay in bed. "You're going to hurt yourself. Is that what you want? Have you become that self destructive? Do you not care about yourself? And what about me? Do you know what this has done to me?"

   The whole time she was ranting, John was making his way to the door while using the furniture for support. But when he heard that last statement, he stopped, and turned to look at Delenn.

   "Damn it, Delenn. You know how I feel about you. But I have a war to fight and its not easy. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Do you think I want to go out there and kill my own people? I love you, but I can't sit by and let things get out of control. I've lost too much already."

   "And I almost lost you again!" her voice breaking on that last word. "John, I love you. But if you keep this up, I might not be here when you get back." And then Delenn stood up and stormed out of the room, walking right past him. John just stood with his mouth open. He didn't think she would walk out, just leaving him standing there, but she had.

   "Great. That's just great John. See what you did," he chastised himself out loud. John knew she was mad, he also knew that given time, they would work things out. If nothing else, they were always willing to talk with each other, even if it meant that the words might hurt.

   Once out in the hall, Delenn leaned against the wall. 'How could I walk out on him? He means everything to me and I walked out. Oh John, can you forgive me?' she thought. And as if her legs could no longer support her, she slid down the wall, crying.

   John made it to the door and looking out in the hall noticed Delenn sitting on the floor, her face buried in her hands. Ignoring the Ranger standing at the door, he went over to her and slowly lowered himself down. She never looked up. John reached out to put a hand on her shoulder, while trying to find the right words to say. He figured it was best just to apologize.

   "Delenn...I'm sorry," he whispered to her. While he had been held captive by EarthGov forces, he never stopped thinking about her. At one point, he even had a vision of what Delenn would look like pregnant with his child. And somehow those visions got him through.

   Now, the first thing he did was hurt her.

   Slowly lifting her head, she looked at John. "No, I'm the one who is sorry. I should have never walked out on you. You have been through so much for all of us. I think you have paid a higher price than any other, including myself." Delenn had gotten control over her emotions. She had to get John to understand that his actions affected everyone around him.

   Delenn had gotten herself to her feet, but John was having trouble. He was struggling to stand. The Ranger that was standing outside the door was motioned by Delenn for him to help get John back to bed. Delenn knew that the Ranger would not speak of what had taken place in the hall, if for no other reason than respect for her.

   After John was back in bed, Delenn had sent for tea. She was not about to let him up again. And John had a feeling that Delenn would tie him down just to keep him in bed. A few minutes later, a member of the Worker Caste came in carrying a tray. He handed it to Delenn, bowed politely, and exited the room. Delenn settled the tray on John's lap.

   He started to sip the tea, but Delenn noticed that he was having trouble getting it down.

   "John, is the tea all right?" she asked noting that his face had paled.

   "Yes, its fine, but I think I'm going to be sick." And then he turned his head sideways, right before he lost what little was in his stomach on the floor next to the bed. Delenn was in shock. She had never seen anyone get sick like that before.

   "John, are you all right? Do you want me to get the Healer?"

   "No, I'll be all right," John said, slightly embarrassed. "Just point me in the direction of the bathroom before I get sick again." Delenn helped him up and to the bathroom. She cleaned up the floor, then waited outside the door for him. When John exited, he looked even more drawn than he had. He was leaning on the door frame for support.

   "What made you sick? You have had that tea before, so it must be something else," Delenn inquired. She was sure that the tea was safe for humans, but a reaction like his made her wonder. Delenn helped get him settled back in bed, but as she ran her hand over his forehead she noticed how warm he was.

   "After I was captured, the Interrogator gave me something to eat. I hadn't had anything for two days, so I ate it. Afterwards he told me there was a toxin in it. I got sick just like I did a few minutes ago."

   "But that was almost a four days ago. Why would it still make you sick?" Delenn was getting worried. If he was still reacting to this toxin, then what else might happen.

   "I don't know. And I never had the chance to tell Stephen about it before I was taken to a shuttle and brought here." John had a feeling that eating was something he wasn't going to be able to do for awhile. 'How can I tell her about what happened? How do I tell her the rest?' John thought.

   He was watching Delenn. Seeing her eyes tear up made him really want to hold her in his arms. He reached a hand out to her and she took it.

   "Delenn, I didn't want to tell you. I thought that by now I would be over this. Guess I was wrong, huh?" John said trying to lighten the mood. He hadn't taken his eyes off Delenn. He could tell that the idea of him being fed a toxin had really upset her.

   Delenn was slowly working through what he had said, knowing that she would have to keep a closer eye on him. She was scared. And she was trying to hide it from him, apparently not doing a good job.

   "Just rest, John. We aren't that far from Babylon Five. Get some sleep. I'll send word ahead to Doctor Hobbs. Hopefully she will know what to do." As she was saying this, she was tucking the covers around him. She leaned down to kiss him on the forehead, as if kissing a child goodnight. But she noticed again how warm he felt. She didn't say anything to him.

   As she sat back down in the chair, she noticed he was lying there staring at the ceiling. Then she remembered something from a time long ago when he had trouble falling asleep. She instructed the computer to make it sound like a gentle rain storm. She smiled at him, as recognition showed in his eyes.

   John couldn't believe what he was hearing. He then closed his eyes, and fell asleep. Delenn watched him for a short time. He didn't seem to be really sleeping. He tossed and turned, reliving nightmares. She just couldn't sit and watch because it broke her heart to see him like this. She was trying not to cry, for fear of disturbing him. So she got up and quietly left the room, leaving instructions with the Ranger at the door that no one was to disturb him.

   Delenn needed to get away from John long enough to get word to Doctor Hobbs. She didn't want to worry him. He had enough on his mind as it was. She hadn't told him that she had spoken to Michael and decided that maybe this wasn't the best time. She would wait till John was feeling better. And something in the back of her mind frightened her, 'would he ever be better?' But she knew she had to hold on to the idea that he would be fine.

   She went back to the bridge to contact Doctor Hobbs.

   "Doctor, John said something about being fed a toxin. The only thing he had since coming aboard was water, but when I gave him tea he got sick. Also, I think he has a fever as he feels very warm to the touch." Delenn could almost hear the fear in her voice.

   "Ambassador, get the Captain to drink as much water has you can. At the moment, that's all we can do. And get him to stay in bed. The less he moves around the better off he will be." Doctor Hobbs instructed.

   "All right, Doctor."

   "Do you know when you'll be arriving here?"

   "We'll be there in about one standard hour."

   "All right. As soon as you dock I'll have a medical team standing by. Don't worry, we'll take care of him." The Doctor reassured Delenn.

   "Thank you, Doctor. We'll see you then." And Delenn cut communication. As she turned to leave the bridge, she noticed everyone looking at her. 'They need to know he's going to be okay,' she thought. So putting on her best Diplomatic air, she turned to speak to the crew.

   "Captain Sheridan is resting. Please, pass the word along to the others. Tell them that he will be all right." But as she turned to exit the bridge, a young human Ranger stopped her.

   "Entil'zha, excuse me, but is he really all right?"

   "I don't know," she told him, "but have faith in the Universe that he will be okay." And the Ranger could see tears in her eyes.

   "Valen will protect him."

   "Thank you," she said, tapping the young Ranger on the arm. Delenn had no idea just how important John had became, especially among the Rangers. She had a feeling that John was going to be well watched, so he wouldn't go running off on his own again.

 

 *****

 

 

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