WOUNDED HEARTS

By Jennie Moore

 

 

 

Authors Note: This takes place after the events in "Face of the Enemy." This story is an Alternate Time Line, Hurt/Comfort, and everything else that goes with it kind of story. Standard disclaimers and all that too! Oh, I want to thank my mom for her help. Kleenex is recommended.

 

 

 

 

 *****

Close the Door, Shut the World Away
All the Fights Gone, From This Wounded Heart
Across the Floor, Dreams and Shadows Play
Like Windblown Refugees

   "Call The Man" From Celine Dion - Falling Into Night CD


- Earth -

   The Army of Light knew that at some time, someone would turn in, or capture, Captain John Sheridan, their leader. Knowing this made them want to protect him, but when the news of his capture was broadcast on the InterSteller News, and it mentioned that Michael Garibaldi was responsible, it hurt them all. They wanted him back, at any cost, including surrender. Not that it mattered to Earth Alliance President Morgan Clark. He was willing to destroy Earth to stop Sheridan. Now he had his chance to win.

   But would that win be a total victory? Some found that a war was never completely won.

   Sheridan was being held in a 'Re-education Center.' Regular prisoners had it bad, very bad. But the political ones had things far worse. Sleep depravation, blinding lights, loud music, and mind altering drugs were used to make them give up the things that made them strong; Memories taken from them to make them forget about family, friends, and most importantly, the people they loved. And if this didn't work, then the doctors working at the Center would place small bombs somewhere inside their bodies, in case they ever got out. Distance made no difference to these small devices, they could be detonated at any time, any where.

   Now, for the first time in the history of the Center, a prisoner was being released. The War was over, as far as those involved were concerned. Earth was still under Martial Law, would remain so, until all those involved with Sheridan had either turned themselves in, or were hunted down and killed. Most had made it to safety. There was one that Clark really wanted, but she was unreachable. She had retreated to her homeworld and Clark couldn't risk another war with the Minbari. No, she would remain out of reach, but for a short while longer. Till the time Sheridan would walk out of the Center a free man, if he would truly ever be free.

   The guards got the prisoner ready for release, making certain that he could walk on his own, but barely. Those at the Center wanted to be sure anyone on the outside, knew they meant business inside. That they never gave in, never gave the prisoner what they begged for.

   As he stood before the review board, his shoulders slumped, eyes diverted from those in charge, he knew something was up. Like so many other times they had told him he was going free, he didn't believe them. He was told that his friends were dead, but for some reason, he was told that his parents were still alive. Why? He didn't have an answer, but the news was the only thing that kept him holding on to what little sanity he had left. He had too many dreams in his dark, cold cell, of going home. But there was always someone else in his dreams. A woman that had been there for him. Was she only a dream? That question haunted him every time he dreamed of her. Like if he tried hard enough, he thought he could touch her. And once, he woke to the touch of a hand on his face.

   Then the reality of where he was would hit him and he knew it was only a dream. But it was a place he could escape to, when things got too hard to bear.

   He had been thinking too long, because someone hit him in the head, just to get his attention back on the business at hand. Snapping out of his reverie, he turned his attention back on the three men sitting behind a table. The one in the middle was talking.

   "Sheridan, you are being released as of this date, April seventeenth, twenty-two sixty-two. You are to live the remainder of your life on Earth, never to leave this planet again. Do you understand?" He made the last statement with harsh tones. Sheridan knew he had to answer. And he knew that if he didn't, he would be struck again.

   "Yes." He replied, in a voice barely above a whisper. The guard standing next to him, struck him in the back of the head again.

   "You will speak louder!" The guard said in an angry voice.

   "Yes, I understand." Sheridan replied.

   "Good, remove his manacles," As the guard removed them, Sheridan stood passive, trying not to even breath. "Now, step forward and sign this agreement."

   Sheridan shuffled his feet forward until he was standing in front of the table. With a very shaky hand, he signed the agreement. But part of him wanted to jump across the table and give the man a piece of the treatment that he had received. The mental picture of the face from his dream stopped him. He thought he was hearing things when that face said 'Not now, the time will come.' Shaking his head, he put the pen down and slowly stepped back.

   "There will be a guard to escort you out." And with that, all three men stood and exited the room.

   The guard shoved him toward a door, one that had never been opened in front of a prisoner before. When the guard opened it, sun shone in. The first real light Sheridan had seen in almost five months. Or was it longer? Sometimes he couldn't remember. But it didn't really matter, he was seeing it. And it was real. As he exited, he shielded his eyes from the brightness of the sun. But it did not stop a swarm of reporters from snapping pictures, yelling his name, or asking questions. As he shoved his way through, with what little strength he had, microphones, cameras, and other recording devices were put before his face. It was all he could do to get away from them.

   All Sheridan wanted was to be left alone, to go home to his parents, and start to heal from the months of abuse. His own body had become a torture chamber for him. He knew it would take awhile for his body to heal. His mind, well that would take a bit longer, if he would ever be like he was before.

   Sheridan wasn't sure how he made it to his parents' farm, or why it was still standing. All he knew was that he was standing in the front yard, looking up at the front door. With slow, calculated movements, he climbed up the few steps in front of him and knocked on the door. Why he had knocked and not walked in, he wasn't sure. Maybe it was because he didn't want to shock his parents or maybe it was because he was scared. Both sounded right, but wrong. He shouldn't be afraid of his parents, so he reached for the door, only to have someone open it.

   "Yes?" said the man as the door opened. The look on David Sheridan's face suddenly changed as he saw his son for the first time in almost four years. Seeing John standing there was one thing, but the way he looked, David was shocked. Slowing stepping through the door, he took his son by the shoulder and pulled him into a bear hug. John let out a soft moan. David eased his grip when he realized that he had hurt his son.

   "Dad," John said, his voice sounding like a child. "Dad." John laid his head on his father's shoulder. Wrapping his arms around his son, David felt John's body start to shake. Whether it was from shock or the torture he had endured, David wasn't sure.

   "Johnny, it's all right. You're safe now," David said, trying to comfort his son. "Let's get you inside." And both men entered the house slowly. As soon as the door closed behind them, a woman appeared in the doorway to the kitchen.

   "Who was at...." But the thought trailed off as she saw John standing there.

   "Mom." John said, as the tears started to fall. He believed he wouldn't see either of them again. As he took a tentative step toward her, he stopped himself short, 'Am I really here?' But the answer came when he felt hands touching him. Hands that didn't hurt, but helped. Now he knew he was truly out of that cell and somewhere relatively safe. That this was indeed real.

   "John! Oh Johnny, we've been so worried about you." Nancy Sheridan said, trying to come to grips with the sight of their son. The once strong, vital man, that had given Earth the only victory in the Earth/Minbari War, was not the man standing before her.

   John's eyes were sunken in, with dark circles under them, his hair was dirty and matted down in places, and his beard was about three inches long. Nancy's breath caught in her throat, when she noticed that John seemed to be aging before her eyes. 'If he's this bad on the outside, how is he on the inside?' she thought. That was one question that would have to wait.

   John was using what little strength he had to stand up on his own. He had felt like falling into her arms, but didn't want to give the impression that he was truly ill. He hadn't eaten in God-knows-how-long. Well, decent food anyway. What they fed the prisoners could barely be called food. And almost every time he ate, he got violently ill.

   Even the smell of fresh baked bread, coming from the kitchen, made his stomach tighten. At this point, he knew he was going to be sick.

   As if sensing his son's condition, David put an arm around John's waist, and headed him towards the bathroom. He knew that John had been mistreated while inside that chamber of horrors, there just wasn't anything he could do about it. But watching his son, he was just grateful he was still alive.

   Nancy was waiting for them as they exited the bathroom. After seeing how John looked, her first thought was that he might want a shower.

   "Here," Nancy said, handing John some towels and a soft flannel robe. "I'll fix you something to eat when you're done." John took the offered items, heading back into the bathroom.

   "Do you need some help?" David asked, not sure if it would be accepted or not.

   "No," came the reply, the voice almost inaudible. John closed the door behind him to block out the stares of his parents' eyes. Then he looked in the mirror and understood why they had stared at him. He almost didn't know his own face. His hair looked almost dark brown from the oils, dirt, and dried blood. The beard had blood streaks in it as well. The only thing that still looked the same, was the color of his eyes. But the haunted look that was in them made them tear up again.

   Turning away from the mirror, and the face in it, John opened the shower stall, turning the water on. How long had he gone without bathing? Somehow that question hadn't really mattered in the Center. Only staying alive was the main goal. Being hurt, hungry, and dirty were just the way things were there. Now he knew that being clean was the most important thing to him. And he didn't care how long it was going to take him to shower, he was going to savor this moment for as long as he could.

   Stripping off his clothes, he made a mental note to have them burned. He would never wear them again. Then stepping into the shower, he stood there as the warm water washed away months of dirt and filth. Leaning his head back to get his hair wet, he noticed the soap and shampoo. Slowly, he bathed himself, feeling like he was peeling off so many years of hurt and pain. Looking down at his feet, he watched the clean water turn a dull grey, and he smiled to himself.

   

   - Minbar -

   Delenn wandered around most of the time with a vacant stare, like the light in her eye's had gone out. The one man that meant more to her than her own life, was on Earth. She had spent most of the past five months planning how to rescue him, only to learn he had been released. The reports were all over InterSteller News. Delenn even got to see a picture of John, at the time he had left the Center. Seeing his face, she allowed herself the first tears since learning of his capture. She wanted to hold him, to comfort him. But he was out of her reach.

   Even the Rangers didn't want to risk her life, just to get her to Earth. One Ranger however, couldn't stand to see her this way. He had made his way to Earth, but no one had heard from him for almost three weeks. No one was even sure if he was still alive. Aaron Mitchell had served with Sheridan and some sense of duty had sent him back to help free him and bring him home to Minbar.

   Aaron's father had fought with Commander Sinclair during the Earth/Minbari War, when Earth made its final stand at the Battle of the Line. Sinclair had been the one that told Aaron, and his mother, the news of his father's death. And when Aaron had learned that Sinclair was forming the Rangers, he decided that was what he wanted to do with his life, to honor his father. And when that leadership changed to Delenn, Aaron didn't hesitate to remain with the Rangers.

   He knew of Delenn and the change she had gone through to become a bridge between Humans and Minbari. He also knew she had given equal command of the Rangers to Sheridan. Honor and loyalty held a high place with Sheridan and Delenn, and having leaders with those qualities made Aaron believe in both of them. Aaron had even heard that the two of them had become close, rumor had it, they were talking about marriage. And when Aaron had been on Babylon 5, he had seen that love for himself. But duty and loyalty had a high place with Aaron as well, duty to the Rangers, and loyalty to Sheridan.

   Now, that loyalty was driving him to succeed in his mission. It was a mission of love, the love between Delenn and Sheridan.

   

   - Sheridan Farm -

   'I will have you back, John.' He shook his head. All he saw was her face, the one from his dream. Drying off, he wrapped a towel around his waist, and stood back, looking at himself in the mirror. Reaching up with one hand, he scratched at the beard. He hated the beard and all that went with it. Opening the cabinet that was above the sink, he found everything he needed to get rid of the beard. Picking up a small pair of scissors, he slowly trimmed the beard away, making comments to himself with each snip. Snip, a punch from a guard. Snip, a well placed boot. Snip, words of distrust. Snip, a memory taken from him. When he finally had the beard short enough to shave, he put the scissors back, and picked up the shaving cream and razor. And when he finished, he was looking at a face he recognized. His own. The only difference was, he needed a hair cut. Drying his face, he cleaned up the sink., it was just something he had always done after shaving, probably always will.

   After putting the robe on, he exiting the bathroom, but smelling something cooking in the kitchen, he slowly made his way there, only to pause and look at pictures over the fireplace. John stood staring at a picture of himself with Anna, his first wife. The phrase 'I said goodbye. The goodbye I could never bring myself to say' passed through his thoughts. But who he had said it to or why, he just couldn't remember. Feeling her loss, he walked past the fireplace, and into the kitchen.

   After he had eaten a small bowl of warm soup, his mom set him in a chair on the front porch to cut his hair. John was starting to get very relaxed, with being clean and fed , he was ready to sleep. It was all he could do to make it up the stairs to his old bedroom. He only stopped long enough to put on a pair of pajamas. Once he laid down in the bed, feeling safe and warm, he fell into a fitful slumber. Nancy came in to check on him and noticed that the covers where half off. As she covered her son and bent down to kiss him on the forehead, he suddenly was wide awake.

   "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," she said. John just stared at her, a lost look on his face. "Sleep now, I'll see you in the morning." She quietly left the room, but looking back at John, she couldn't help but wonder what had gone through his mind at that moment. Not being able to get the look on his face out of her mind, she decided to leave the bedroom door open a bit, just in case he might have nightmares, or would need some help.

   John started to dream of her again. 'If I don't see you again here, I will see you in a little while. In the place where no Shadows fall.' John woke to the sound of his own crying. Scared and disoriented, John saw someone enter the room. For one brief moment, he thought he was back in his cell. But then the figure got closer and he realized it was his dad.

   "Dad?" John said, almost sobbing the word out.

   "Yes," David said. "You're safe here, go back to sleep. Your mom and I will be here for you." David couldn't remember the last time he had comforted his son after waking from a bad dream, but he had a feeling it would be the first of many times. At least for now, till John could deal with them in his own way.

   "Please, don't leave." John didn't want to be alone. Actually, he didn't really like being in the dark, but he didn't want to say anything to his dad.

   "It's all right, I'll stay with you." David replied, sitting down in a chair that he had moved closer to the bed. For the first time in a long time, he sat with his son till he went back to sleep. As David sat beside John's bed, he remembered a time long ago that he had kept vigil over his son.

   David had been in the barn, tending to the animals, when he had heard a scream coming from the river that ran behind the house. Instincts told him it was his daughter, Elizabeth. She was not one to scream unless something terrible had happened. John, ten years old, had been riding along the bank when something had spooked his horse, throwing him into the river. The water wasn't flowing too fast at the time, but he had landed on a large rock, breaking his arm.

   That night, David had sat with John at the Med Center. John had tried to be brave while they set his arm and put it in a cast, but David knew he was scared. So to ease his fears, David stayed the night, just to keep his son calm.

   Now he was doing that again. Watching John's chest rise and fall with each breath he took, David said a silent prayer for John, 'Please, God, let him be all right.'

   David stayed with him for a while, then quietly leaving John's room, he heard a knock on the front door.

   Outside the Sheridan farm stood a lone figure, clad in dark brown. He had watched as one by one, the lights went out. Hoping the dark of night would help conceal his features, he slowly walked up the steps to the front door. Listening closely, he knocked. As a light come on in the living room, he backed away from the door, letting the shadows hide his face.

   David Sheridan approached the door hesitantly, unsure of who would be there at this late hour. Looking out the window he caught a glimpse of someone standing on the porch. Slowly opening the door, he called out.

   "Hello?"

   "I mean you no harm. A friend sent me," came a voice out of the dark. "I must see John Sheridan."

   "What friend? And how did you know John was here?" asked David.

   "Please, I'll explain everything, but I must see John." replied the Ranger, in a hushed voice. He didn't know if the house was being watched or not, and he didn't want to say who the 'friend' was. Keeping that information from them, for now, was a decision Aaron had made before coming to the farm. He didn't know how the Sheridan's would react to a Minbari sending help, even though Delenn knew nothing of Aaron's plans. And he was slowly running out of time. Time. How and when did it become their enemy? Things were already in motion and the Ranger didn't want to waste a moment explaining things while standing in the open.

   David let the man in the house, but when the light hit the object pinned to his outer robe, David knew who he was.

   "You're a Ranger, right?"

   "Yes. My name is Aaron Mitchell," replied the Ranger. "I must speak with John."

   Aaron Mitchell was 26, six feet tall, with shoulder length light brown hair and dark eyes. He had a small scar under his right eye, which he received during his Ranger Training. Aaron had been onboard the White Star 2 when they had gotten the message about John's capture. Torn between what he wanted to do and what was expected of him, he stayed on the ship. But all his training told him to help get John back.

   Now his only goal was to get John, and his parents, off Earth. And somewhere away from Clark's people.

   "Please, let me talk with John," Mitchell said again. "Actually, I need to talk with all three of you."

   "All right, I'll get them." David knew it would be easier to wake his wife first, so he headed upstairs to their bedroom.

   "Nancy, wake up." David said, shaking his wife's shoulder.

   "What? What's wrong?" Nancy asked, half asleep. "Is it John?" Sudden concern for her son had her wide awake.

   "No, he's fine. We have a visitor."

   "Visitor? Who?" Nancy asked, getting out of bed and putting her robe on.

   "A Ranger," David replied. "His name is Aaron Mitchell. He wants to talk with the three of us. You go downstairs, I'll get John."

   David then headed toward John's room. Opening the door, he stopped for a moment, to watch his son sleep. A voice in his head told him not to wake him. David recognized the voice, it was the voice of a concerned father. Under normal conditions, he would have listened. But these weren't normal conditions and the Ranger was waiting.

   Walking over to the bed, David gently laid his hand on John's shoulder.

   "John," he said, as quietly as possible. "Son."

   John's eyes flew open and he backed away from David, trying to get as far away from him as possible, only to have his retreat blocked by a wall. His eyes had a wild look to them. John had been dreaming, actually nightmares was a better word for it, and it took him a minute to recognize his father. "Dad." His voice sounded a bit hollow.

   "It's all right," David said, calmly. "We have a visitor who would like to see you. He's waiting downstairs."

   "Visitor?" John asked, somewhat puzzled. "I don't want to see anyone. Tell whoever it is, to go away." And John rolled over, trying to go back to sleep. David stood there a moment as he watched John's body shake with fear.

   "I know, son. But I think he's here to help," David paused, hoping John would roll back over to face him. When he didn't, he continued. "Please, John. I won't let him hurt you. I promise."

   Still facing the wall, John replied "I can't, Dad," his voice almost pleading. "Please, I don't want anyone to see me."

   "I know," David replied, still watching John. "He's a Ranger and I really think you should talk to him. I'll be right there with you."

   John rolled over to face his father, tears in his eyes. David suddenly felt guilty for what he was doing to his son, but it couldn't be avoided. For some unknown reason, John understood, he just couldn't bring himself to admit it. And deep down, he knew what a Ranger was, and that they were there to help. The phrase 'We live for the One, We die for the One' came to mind. But who was the 'One'?

   "All right," John finally agreed. "But don't leave me alone with him, okay?"

   "Okay." David had seen the emotions played out on his face and knew that giving in had cost John. David handed John his robe, stepped away from the bed, and waited for him to stand up. John swung his feet over the side of the bed, only vaguely away that is body was shaking. David steadied John as he struggled to stand and put on the robe.

   John understood why his dad had helped him, now he had to be strong enough to talk with this Ranger. But one question kept coming into his thoughts 'Why? Why would a Ranger be looking for me?'

   John slowly made his way down the stairs, his father behind him, to the living room. Nancy was already sitting on the couch, talking with Aaron, when she noticed their arrival. Aaron looked up at them, stood, and bowed towards John. He then stepped over to him offering his hand, but John only looked at it, not returning the gesture.

   "John, I'm Aaron Mitchell," he waited for something. Anything. But John only nodded. "I've come to take you to Minbar."

   At that statement, John looked right into Aaron's eyes. "You've what! I can't leave Earth. If I do, my family will be killed." John had he wasn't going to listen to anything the Ranger had to say.

   "I have no intentions of letting that happen." Aaron replied.

   "Oh, just how do you plan on stopping that? A condition of my release, was that I never leave here. And I don't plan on leaving," John was mad and just a little scared at the idea of putting his family in danger. "So, coming here was a waste of time."

   "Please, John, hear him out. He really does want to help." David injected. He knew John was not happy about the idea of leaving, he also knew that staying was not wise.

   John's temper was starting to get the better of him. And with just a bit of anger in his voice, he turned on his dad. "Everyone wants to help! But there is nothing you can do!" Turning back to Aaron, he continued. "So, Mister Mitchell, just go! Leave me and my family alone."

   "I can't, John. I promised a friend I would help." Aaron said. But that really wasn't the truth. The truth was, Aaron had made that promise to himself. Now he had to live up to it.

   "Yea, what friend? All mine are dead." John stopped, thinking back on some of those friendships.

   "I can't tell you that, you're just going to have to trust me." Now came the hard part. Would John be willing to trust him or not? And if he did, how far would that trust carry them? Aaron had heard of some of the techniques used on political prisoners, how the drugs would make them behave irrationally. Or worse, make them forget the most important people in their lives. And since John hadn't asked about Delenn, he had a feeling that John didn't know who she was anymore.

   Aaron had a few choices to make. Continue with the angry bantering, or change the subject in order to get John to calm down, and listen. Aaron took the second option.

   "Do you know of the Rangers?" Aaron asked.

   "Yea...and I know you're one. And frankly, I don't care," John knew what Aaron was doing, and he wasn't going to fall for it. "Just leave me alone!" And John turned, heading back towards the staircase.

   "Damn it, John!" David said, letting his own frustration into his voice. "You will sit down and listen to him, even if I have to tie you to the chair!" As soon as the words were out, John turned around, anger and fear on his face.

   Shocked that his own father had said that to him, John let his temper go. "Do you think you could hurt me? I've already been hurt enough! Do you want to add to that!" Now John was really mad, but the fear he was feeling inside didn't compare to the hurt his father's words had caused.

   David walked over to John, a sadness in his posture. "I know you're scared, son, and I understand. But walking away is just plain stupid. Aaron came all this way to help. Let him."

   "John, honey, sit down with me," Nancy slipped in quietly. "Listen to what Aaron has to say. If you still don't want to leave, then we will abide by your wishes. But at least listen to him, for me." If nothing else, she wanted John just to sit down, hoping it would stop him from trying to retreat.

   John looked at his mom, walked slowly to the couch, and sat down next to her. Nancy reached over and took hold of his hand. She just wanted him to know that she was on his side.

   "All right, go ahead Mister Mitchell." John said, with just a little less anger, and a touch of defeat.

   "I know that you were mistreated in that so-called 'Re-education Center' and I'm not going to say I know what you've been through. None of us can. But we tried to get you out before you where taken from Mars." Aaron had been part of the original rescue party. The guilt he had felt over not finding him there, had almost driven him into depression, the same depression that was slowly tearing Delenn apart.

   "Too slow, huh? Figures!" John remarked, "Damn Rangers, never could depend on them to do something right." After he said that, he wondered where that had come from. 'I could always depend on them' he thought.

   "Did they take your manners too? You be polite to our guest." Nancy said and then regretted saying it. John turned suddenly to look at her, she could almost hear the bones in his neck snap. "I'm sorry, John. I shouldn't have said that."

   Calming his own temper, John looked at his mom, squeezing her hand. "No, your right. I'm sorry," and John turned to look at Aaron. "I didn't mean anything by that, Mister Mitchell."

   "Please, call me Aaron. And it's all right," Aaron just let the statement go, not wanting to dwell on something he knew John didn't actually mean. "But listen, I don't have that much time. Some of my friends are waiting and if this takes too long, it will be too late."

   "What do you have in mind?" David asked, looking at his wife and son. "I don't want to risk my wife, or son, but I know this is going to be dangerous. Isn't it?"

   "Yes and there isn't much I can do about that. Any rescue mission has its risks. You just have to be willing to take them." Aaron also knew that a mission, rescue or otherwise, could get someone killed.

   "And what if your not? What if someone else makes those decisions for you? Then what Mister Mitchell? You take that risk anyway?" John asked the questions like he was teaching a new Starfury pilot who didn't have a clue what the controls were for.

   "If you have to, yes. But I didn't come here to debate with you about risk taking. I risked my own life getting here. And I don't plan on leaving alone." Now Aaron had gotten to the point of no return, hoping he somehow had reached the commander hiding inside John.

   "Well, if my parents decide to leave, that's up to them. I'm not going anywhere."

   "So, you would rather stay here, possibly getting yourself killed, because you're afraid to take a chance? I always thought you believed in the 'Way of the Warrior.' What happened to that, John?" Nancy asked. There was no way she was going to leave her son here to die.

   "Way of the Warrior? Your going to sit here and tell ME about fighting without fear! Have you ever seen a Shadow ship? Have you ever heard the fear in peoples' voices, when they speak of them! No! So, don't talk to me about fighting without fear. I did that for far too long. And a lot of people lost their lives because of me." John said all that, almost without taking a breath of air. Now, when he finished, he was breathing hard.

   "Stop it, John! He's trying to help and you're not making it any easier." David said. He was letting John get the upper hand and he wasn't about to give in to it.

   "Fine! They why don't we just pack our things, take the risk of getting killed, just to go with someone we just met, to a place we've never been! Does that make any sense to either of you? Well it doesn't to me!" John was getting tired and it was starting to show in his voice. He tried to put the anger he had felt earlier into his words, but it was only half of what he really felt. "I want to live, damn it! Doesn't anyone understand that?" John leaned forward, elbows on his knees, head in his hands.

   Seeing this sign of defeat, Aaron sensed they were starting to reach John, and as he looked to David and Nancy, he saw they recognized it too.

   "Then let me give you a chance to live," Aaron said, no anger in his voice. "Come with me, let me take you someplace safe. And if you decide you don't want to stay there, or decide you've got a better place to be, then that's fine too."

   "John, do you want to live? Do you want to have a life, to do the things YOU want to do?" David asked. He had watched and listened to the conversation up to this point, now he wanted to give John a choice.

   Having choices was something new to John, something that had been taken from him. So many others had made decisions and choices for him the past five months, that deciding what was right for him was hard. And the one person that had given him a choice, was the one man he respected above all others. His father. "Of course I want to live."

   "Then leave Earth. Take that chance at life."

   "Will you be there with me? As much as I want to live, I don't want to be alone." John started to cry. Nancy moved closer to him, putting her arm around his shoulders.

   "John, you'll never be alone again. We love you and we want only what's best for you. But sometimes what one person thinks is best, may not be the same as what you think is best," Nancy was rubbing John's back, trying to calm him. "Let Aaron get us off Earth. If you change your mind and don't want to go to Minbar, then we will let YOU decide where you want to be. But that decision is yours and only yours. And you may find that being with your family is more important than being someplace without them, simply because you're afraid of living your life on Minbar."

   "I'm just tired of fighting," John said, the tears slowly stopping. "I'm tired of watching my friends die around me. I just don't want to make new friends, knowing that I may lose them too!" John took a deep breath. "Mom. Dad. I love you both. I just don't want anything to happen to either of you." And John then leaned over, his head falling into his mom's lap.

   "We know that. And I appreciate the concern, but that is our decision. And if it's the wrong one, well, we will have to live with that too." David replied.

   "Okay Aaron, what now?" John said, raising his head up. Somewhere in his heart, he was starting to feel a bit of the fight coming back.

   

   - Minbar -

   As time passed, some on Minbar began to wonder if the pain Delenn was feeling would ever go away. Those who where close to her worried about her, but out of respect, gave her the privacy she wanted. It was hard, most wanted to do something for her, but she would only turn them down, saying that she was fine, that they should put their concerns elsewhere. But in her heart, she knew that was not possible.

   Delenn was in the main Ranger meeting room, which somehow had turned into her official office. She didn't like it, nor did she really want it. She had, however, turned it into her personal sanctuary, a place she would go, just to stare out a window. And that was how she spent most of her days.

   She stood at the window, looking out over the Crystal Falls of Minbar. At one time, the falls would calm her, a place to meditate, and reflect on her decisions she had made in her life. Now it was nothing more than a reminder of what had been or what may never be.

   Delenn had been so lost in thought, she didn't hear Rathenn enter.

   "Respects, Entil'Zha. They have arrived." Rathenn said, watching Delenn for any reaction to the news. She didn't say or do anything, nor did she take her eyes off the Falls. Rathenn approached her. He wasn't sure if she had heard him. As he got closer, he noticed the tears falling from her eyes. 'She is in such pain.' he thought. However, there was nothing anyone could do to make it easier for her.

   And that thought was hard for any Minbari, since they believed no one should carry pain, any pain, alone.

   "Forgive me, Delenn. I do not wish to disturb you. But I thought you should know, his sister is here. She would like to speak with you."

   "Yes, Rathenn. Please have her escorted here." Delenn replied, still staring out the window.

   "What will you tell her?"

   "I don't know." She said, almost to herself.

   Bowing, Rathenn turned to leave, only looking over his shoulder one last time. 'She has lost weight, I only pray she has not lost hope.' He left her to her thoughts and sent for John's sister.

   Rathenn never understood why Delenn had fallen in love with John 'Starkiller' Sheridan, but 'the heart does, as the heart does.' That's what Delenn had once said. Sheridan was truly her other half. Rathenn had seen the two together once and in an ISN interview. There was just no denying what she felt for John. It had shown in her eyes, such love for him. Who would want to put a wall between them? Certainly not him.

   Rathenn wanted very much to see that look again. And soon.

   Delenn waited for Elizabeth to arrive. She had known that John's family would be in danger no matter were they where, so she had a few Rangers get them safely to Minbar. It was Delenn's only way to help John, since she couldn't actually be with him. 'If John knows they are safe, it might give him some peace.' she thought. However, other thoughts swept through her mind. What would she say to Elizabeth? What could she say? She was his sister, they grow up together, as only a family can. But what do you say to someone who loves the same man you do, but for other reasons?

   As Delenn turned from the window, a Ranger stopped at the doorway, a woman with blonde hair standing behind him. Delenn bowed to the Ranger, telling him to leave them alone.

   "I will send for you when we are finished."

   The Ranger bowed, turned, and left the two alone.

   "It's nice to finally met you. And to thank you for saving my family." Elizabeth said, as a way to start things off. She didn't want to make the meeting anymore uncomfortable than it already was.

   "You're welcome. I just wish it was under better circumstances." Delenn replied, gesturing to a small couch, that was under the window. As the two sat down, Delenn looked at the woman next to her. 'So much like John. I wonder if his hair was that color once' she thought.

   "So do I, but at least we are safe. And together," Elizabeth said. "Any word about John?"

   "I only know that John was released. I saw an ISN report about him," Delenn paused, thinking back on how John looked. "He did not look well."

   "Did it say where he was? Where he was going?" The concern in Elizabeth's voice was so noticeable, Delenn raised her eyes to look into hers. Unshed tears misted Elizabeth's eyes.

   "I believe he was held someplace near your parents' home," Fighting back tears, she continued. "I can only hope he made it there and that he is safe." That last part came out almost a sob.

   Watching Delenn, Elizabeth reached out to touch her hands. "I know this has been hard for you. But John is strong. And a survivor."

   "Yes, he is both of those. Elizabeth, I'm sorry. I feel responsible for what has happened to your family."

   "No, Delenn. You are not to blame for this. I'm sure John knew what he was doing," Elizabeth wanted to believe that, but was beginning to doubt it. 'How could he know what would happen.' That thought flashed through her mind. "I'm sure he'll be all right." She said that as much to comfort herself, as Delenn.

   "And please, call me Liz. As much as John has talked about you, I feel like I already know you."

   That one statement brought a smile to Delenn's face. Smiling was something she hadn't done for quite some time. But Liz made her feel at ease with that, knowing that John had shared things with Liz made what she had to say a bit easier.

   "John spoke often of his family. Especially your father." Delenn remembered how John's eyes would light up when speaking of David Sheridan. And she desperately wanted to see that look again.

   "As much as they disagreed with each other over the years, they never stopped loving each other." Liz replied, thinking back on some of those arguments.

   "I wish I had news about your parents. Since the Civil War on your homeworld, communication has been sketchy, at best. But I believe they are alive."

   "Well, if they are, and John could get to them, I'm sure they are together. I don't think John could live with himself if anything happened to mom and dad," Liz knew her brother so well. He would be willing to die to protect them. "But I get the feeling that they are together. I don't know....call it a 'family bond'...but it's just a feeling."

   "A few weeks ago, one of the Rangers left Minbar for Earth. We have not heard from him, nor do we know if he is alive. We believe he went to get John." Delenn looked down at her hands. The engagement ring didn't seem to sparkle has much as it did before.

   "John must be well respected, and liked, for someone to risk his life for him." Liz knew of the Rangers. She had heard of them from John, but she didn't know that he was co-commander, nor did she know that Delenn was considered Ranger One. "I'm sorry, was this Ranger a friend of yours?"

   "Yes, but I did not tell him to go. Aaron decided that for himself." Delenn had been angry that a Ranger would disobey an order, but a small part of her was thankful. She understood the loyalty that some of the human Rangers felt towards John and didn't want to break it.

   "I think you and John were meant to be together. Two hearts as strong as yours belong with each other." Liz liked Delenn, even before actually meeting her face-to-face. John had mentioned that they were to be married. She very much wanted to see the wedding.

   "Yes...He is the other half of my soul," Delenn now knew it was time to tell Liz. "There are still some among my people that believe we do not belong together. Some in the Warrior Cast still refer to him as 'Starkiller.' Please, be careful where you go. And make sure you have a Ranger with your sons if they should go anyplace without you."

   Liz understood the meaning. Putting yourself in a dangerous position was one thing. Putting your children in that position was worse. Liz knew the boys were excited about being on Minbar. So many new things, and places, to see. But she wanted them safe.

   "We will be careful. And thank you for telling me."

   "Excuse me, Entil'Zha." a Ranger said, standing just inside the door. He bowed respectfully and waited for Delenn to acknowledge his presence.

   "Yes."

   "I have a message."

   "What is it?" Delenn replied, raising from the sofa, to bow to the Ranger. Somehow, respect had to be maintained.

   "It is just three words, Entil'Zha. 'We have them.'" The Ranger reached out to steady Delenn. She almost collapsed at his feet.

   "John! Is he safe? Where is he?" Liz asked, getting up from the sofa. She had regained her voice and asked the questions that Delenn couldn't.

   "I'm sorry. That is all the message said." replied the Ranger. He backed away from Delenn, bowed, and left the room. He had never seen Ranger One so close to losing control. And to be honest, he didn't want to see it.

   "He said 'Them,' does that mean John and my parents?" Liz asked, almost wishing she didn't have to.

   "If he is off Earth, it will be three days before he reaches Minbar," Delenn said to herself. Then she looked up at Liz. "Forgive me, but I must make arrangements to met the White Star he is on. If you need anything, one of my aides will assist you."

   "Of course. Um...Delenn....With all due respect....Don't you think it would be safer if you waited for John here?"

   "Yes, but sometimes being safe is not the wisest thing to do. And I do not want John to come home alone. I MUST see him. To know for myself he is all right."

   "I understand and I would want nothing more than to go with you. But I suppose THAT is not the wisest thing for me to do."

   "No, you must stay here. I will not allow you to put yourself at risk again," Delenn's mind was already thinking well beyond this moment, but she tried to keep her voice level. "Liz, I will bring him home, no matter the cost."

   "Well, he is family. And sometimes all we have in life, is family."

   "Funny. John once said that life was about challenges. And he made some reference that I was his greatest challenge. I would like to find out what he actually meant by that."

   "I know what he meant. Every time he spoke of you, his eyes would light up. He really loves you and I'm very glad you have each other. Finding love when there is nothing but chaos around you, is rare. Hold onto that love, Delenn. It's a rare commodity."

   "Thank you, Liz. And when I see John, I'll let him know you're safe."

   "Let him know I love him. And tell him, if he ever does this again...he will have ME to deal with. Not just his bride-to-be," And she let herself smile at that thought. "Well, I have my boys to look after. Good luck, Delenn. Give that brother of mine a hug for me when you see him."

   "I will." And Delenn bowed to Liz, only to have Liz give her a hug instead.

   "Families hug. I guess that's something you are going to have to get used to."

   "Family. I like the sound of that. It's been along time since I've had anyone to call family. I just hope we can all be together in a few days. I think I would like to see what this 'family' is like when they are together."

   "Me too," Liz agreed. "Well, I'll let you go. Be careful. And I guess I'll see you, all of you, when you return."

   And Liz then left Delenn, to attend to her own family. She wanted very much to experience the love they had for each other in person.

   Delenn then turned to the communication console, making all the necessary arrangements to get her flyer ready, and to get the nearest White Star's location.

   "In Valen's name....Please John, don't do anything foolish." she said out loud. A small prayer, but one that she felt she needed to say.

   

   - Sheridan Farm -

   Aaron had been correct, the Sheridan Farm was being watched. As he exited, with David behind him, he caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure running from one bush to hide behind a tree. Reaching up, he tapped the side of his head, suddenly the trees and bushes around the house sprang to life. Revealing six other Rangers.

   "Get them to safety! Now!" yelled Mitchell, as the others took up defensive positions around David.

   But it was too late. The first PPG shot hit one of the Rangers, killing her instantly. Startled, David stepped back into the house, only to have his retreat blocked by John. David didn't even know he was standing that close to him. John had been trying to get out of the house, when he bumped into his dad. Not understanding what was happening, John pushed his dad out the door, right into the line of fire.

   "Get down!" yelled a Ranger, just to the right of the door. David hit the floor, but John was too slow. The shot hit John in the left shoulder, knocking him off balance, and to the ground. John grabbed his shoulder as he fell to the ground.

   'I've risked their lives. How could I have been so stupid?' was the last conscious thought John had.

   "Get them out of here Mitchell! We'll give you cover!" Mitchell heard someone yell, just as another PPG shot hit one of the support beams on the porch. He heard the beam explode beside him, sending sparks and pieces of wood flying at John.

   Mitchell reached John, just as David did, and together they turned him over. In the darkness they didn't know how bad he was hurt. John's breathing was fine, but blood splattered on his face and in his hair indicated a glancing wound. They dragged John to the edge of the porch.

   "Get them out of here!" Aaron yelled to the nearest Ranger.

   "Wait!" said David. "My wife!" David looked over his shoulder at the front door, just as Nancy was being led through it and in his direction. She ducked just as another PPG shot hit the front door.

   "Come on! We don't have much time!" The Ranger grabbed David by the arm and help him down from the porch, then the two of them reached for John, hauling him over the edge, and together they carried him to a waiting shuttle. David looked back as Nancy jumped from the porch and ran as fast has she could towards them.

   Aaron watched as the Sheridan family was being rushed towards the shuttle. Knowing they were in safe hands, he put another energy cap in his PPG, and ran after them. But as he looked back, he saw that the house was on fire. He also noticed the bodies of two Rangers. Hearing the sound of the shuttle engines, he took off after it, firing his PPG at anything that fired back. He took some small satisfaction of knowing he took out at least one of Clark's people.

   Reaching the shuttle, he quickly closed the hatch, and made his way to the cockpit.

   The shuttle lifted off the ground with as much speed as it could make. Once off the ground they headed for orbit, hoping they hadn't set off any sensor alarms.

   Turning to look over his shoulder at his passengers, Aaron saw John open his eyes. With a sigh of relief, he turned back to the controls and made for the stars. "White Star 23, I have them! Repeat, I have them!"

   Suddenly the sky had several jump points opening up and three White Stars took up defensive positions around the shuttle. Mitchell headed the shuttle to the nearest White Star. The small shuttle didn't have enough fuel to make a jump point, and what id did have had almost been used up just to make orbit. Mitchell signaled the White Star and made docking arrangements. The other two White Stars watched as the shuttle disappeared. Then as quickly as they appeared, the White Stars made jump into hyperspace, heading for a rendezvous point.

   Once onboard the White Star 23, Mitchell made arrangements for David and Nancy to be moved to another White Star vessel. They weren't too happy about being separated from John, but Mitchell told them it was for their safety.

   "We don't want the three of you together. It's too big a target for Clark's people," Aaron explained, "Besides, it will be better for John if he knows you're safe, and not with him. He knows he's a target," Aaron was trying to make sense to them, but wasn't sure if he was getting through. "Look, John knows what's at risk. Please don't fight me on this." He saw the understanding in their eyes, grateful they were willing to go along with this.

   "Can we at least say goodbye to John?" Nancy asked, her eyes almost pleading with Aaron.

   "Sure, the doctors should be done with him by now." Aaron led them towards the medical facilities, making certain they knew of his condition, and the fact that the Minbari doctor had found something just under the skin of his left arm. So while John had been knocked out, the doctors removed it, only to discover it was a small bomb. It was carefully taken to the nearest airlock and jettisoned.

   John lay on a bed, his eyes open, watching the Minbari doctors adjust the intravenous drip lines. He saw Aaron walk in and tried to sit up, only to have the doctor force him back down.

   "Aaron, my parents?" John asked. He wasn't even sure if they had made it out alive. But just as the question left his lips, his parents came into the room behind Aaron. "Mom! Dad! Are you all right?" He asked, concern in his voice, and tears in his eyes.

   "We're fine, son. Just fine." Nancy replied, as she made her way over to him. John reached out with his good arm.

   

   - Earth -

   At EarthDome, President Morgan Clark listened to the reports of the events that took place at the Sheridan farm. He just couldn't believe that Sheridan, and his family, had made it off Earth. But as the saying goes, he had an 'Ace up his sleeve.'

   "We know he had help, Mister President. The bodies of two killed, had on some kind of uniform. And this," Earth Force Captain Jerry MacPherson said, handing Clark a pin. "It was found pinned to the front of their robes."

   "What is it?" Clark asked, taking the offered item, and looking at it closely.

   "We believe it is Minbari, Sir."

   "Damn! She was this close and we missed her!" Clark said. Angry that he had missed his target, he now believed that Ambassador Delenn was with John Sheridan. "Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone, Captain. Don't miss again!"

   "Yes, Mister President," MacPherson said. Then he had another question. "Sir, with all due respect. Why is it so important to stop her?"

   "She was on the Grey Council during the Earth/Minbari War. Some say she even gave the order to attack. Is that a good enough reason?" Clark replied, standing up from behind his desk, to stand and look out the window. "They almost destroyed Earth, Captain. Doesn't that mean anything to you? It does to me." Clark had such an evil grin when he turned to face MacPherson, it made the captain regret asking the question.

   "I understand, Sir. I lost family during the War. I think I would very much like to see that Minbari bitch pay for what she did." MacPherson knew the story, but couldn't believe that a female would have enough guts to order the slaughter of an entire planet. But the female he referred to did and he hated her for it.

   Jerry MacPherson was only a Lieutenant during the war, but had seen a lot of his friends die, including his older brother. At the Battle of the Line, he had tried to protect his father's heavy destroyer, only to watch a Minbar War Ship blow it up, right in front of him. Now it was his chance to get revenge.

   "We will have her head on a platter, Captain MacPherson, if it's the last thing I see," Clark said. "Was the implant still working?"

   "As far was we know, yes."

   "Good. Now we will see if that Minbari freak will leave her planet for her lover." Clark said the last word with disgust. He was appalled at the idea that an Earther would fall in love with a Minbari.

   

   - White Star 23 -

   After Aaron got John comfortable in the captains' quarters, onboard the White Star 23, he sent for some food, and left John to have dinner alone. Aaron knew he needed some time to sort things out, so he told John he would return in half an hour.

   John sat at the small table, staring at his plate of food. He just couldn't bring himself to eat it. He picked up the fork and slowly began to push the food around the plate. It wasn't that it didn't smell good, he just was too tired to eat. Pushing the plate away from him, he stood up, making his way to the bed.

   "Slanted?" He said out loud. Suddenly the face from his dream came into his mind, and the words that followed, 'I will watch and catch you if you should fall,' shocked him. "NO!" He screamed, putting his hands to his head, and squeezing his eyes shut tightly.

   Aaron had been heading back to check on John, when he heard his screams. Rushing into the room, he saw John with his hands to his head.

   "John, are you all right?" Aaron asked, coming quickly to John's side. He grasped John's hands to pull them away from his head. "It's all right, you're safe."

   "No! Tell her to stay out of my head!" John yelled.

   "It's all right, John." Aaron replied, trying to calm John. He led John back to the table and pushed him down into one of the chairs. Sitting down in the other chair, he waited, watching John.

   "Tell her to stay out of my head!" John said again.

   "Who?" Aaron asked, keeping his voice calm.

   "I keep seeing a face. I was seeing her in my dreams, but I see her when I'm awake. She even talks to me," John was trying to get Aaron to understand, but he just couldn't get the words to come out right. "I....I see her eyes. Green eyes," John started, but something stopped him. "I don't understand. Why does she keep talking to me as if I should know her." He was getting upset again.

   "Just take it easy. Try to relax," Aaron then looked at the plate of untouched food. "You didn't eat." Aaron said, trying to change the subject.

   John looked down at the now cold food. "I just wasn't very hungry," John replied, knowing that Aaron was just trying to get him to forget about his outburst. "I thought about getting some sleep, but the bed is slanted. And I'm not sure I can sleep on it without falling off." John put his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands. To Aaron, it looked like a sign of defeat.

   "It's all right. Just sit here for a few minutes, I'll see what I can do about making the bed flat." Getting up from the table, Aaron made his way to the bed. He stuffed a blanket into one end to make it flat and turned back to look at John.

   Aaron knew who the woman was that John kept seeing, but he didn't want to say anything. Delenn was the only reason he had taken it upon himself to bring John to Minbar. But was John going to be afraid of her? Well, he would deal with that when the time comes.

   "It's late, John, try to get some sleep." Aaron left the room but instead of going to his own room, he stood outside the door quietly watching John. He didn't know how long he waited, but hearing a soft snoring sound coming from inside, he knew John was asleep. So Aaron left his ward and headed to his own room, across the hall from John's. But just as he closed the door he said to himself, 'Sleep, the Rangers will protect you.'

   It wasn't long before John's cries brought Aaron back. John's hair was matted down around his neck and forehead with sweat. His breathing was fast, like he had just run a marathon. And he acted like he wasn't sure where he was.

   "John, you all right?" Aaron asked, his voice full of concern. He knew John had been dreaming, but was now the time to get John to talk about his dreams?

   "I don't know," John replied, trying to slow his breathing. "I saw her face again, but this time I said her name." He paused. Did he really know who she was? "I said 'I love you, Delenn'... at least I think that's what I said," He looked down at his hands, which where shaking a bit. "Is that her name...Delenn?" John's eyes came up to met Aaron's, only to see understanding in them.

   "Yes." Aaron said calmly.

   Now Aaron had a place to start. He didn't want to keep things from John, but sometimes keeping the truth to protect someone was a wise thing to do. Aaron flashed on Delenn's face, at the time she had seen John's picture on ISN. He did not want to see that look again.

   "I'll try to fill-in some of the gaps." And Aaron waited for John to ask the inevitable questions.

   "I'm not sure where to start," John got off the bed and headed back to the table. As he reached it, he turned to Aaron and motioned for him to join him. 'Now I can get some answers,' he thought. "Okay, just who is she?"

   "Delenn is the Minbari Ambassador," That small piece of information made John's eyebrows raise up. "And Co-commander of the Rangers." Aaron started with small facts, so he wouldn't overwhelm John.

   "Co-commander? Did she give you the orders to get me and my family off Earth?"

   "No, I made that decision." Aaron said, his voice almost a whisper. Delenn hadn't given the order, but Aaron didn't need it. He just did what he had to, to help a friend. 'And with any luck, Delenn will still count me as her friend.' That last thought was sobering. He knew how much Delenn loved John, he also knew that bringing them together again was the most important mission he had ever been on.

   "She does know what you did?" John asked.

   "By now, yes. But it doesn't matter. I did what I thought was right," That's what Aaron kept telling himself. "I don't think I would have done anything differently. Except maybe what happened at your parents' home," Aaron looked down at his hands. "I'm sorry about that."

   "Well, I don't blame you," John said, looking Aaron in the face. "But what I want to know is, why?"

   "Let's call it a personal crusade and leave it at that." Aaron wanted to avoid his own reasons for being here, but somehow in the presence of this man, he knew that was going to be impossible.

   "I am sorry about your friend. Was she another Ranger?" John asked.

   During the fight at the ranch, one of the Rangers had been killed. John had seen her fall, right before he was struck. The last thing he remembered was the look on her face, like some kind of purpose had been fulfilled.

   "Yes, she was," Aaron replied. "Look, try to get some rest. We'll be at the rendezvous point in a few hours."

   "All right," John said, calm enough to finally feel like he could sleep. "Aaron, could you instruct the computer to dim the lights, but not all the way," He still didn't like the dark. "It might help me sleep."

   "Sure." Aaron spoke something in Minbari and the lights dimmed to a comforting level. Secure in the fact that John was okay, Aaron went back to his own room. He knew they had a long way to go. But somehow he also knew that Delenn would be meeting them. He wasn't sure when, but he knew that if Delenn found out John was no longer on Earth, she would try to meet them. And that was one reunion he wouldn't miss for anything.

   

   - Hyperspace -

   Delenn had arrived onboard White Star 15 and the ship was heading toward the rendezvous point. She was angry that the Rangers had not told her of their plans, but she also knew why. All of them, even Rathenn, had decided to protect her, to keep her out of certain meetings and inform her of only what they felt she needed to know, so she had been unaware that the others where onboard.

   Now she was going to be reunited with the one person that gave her life meaning, gave her reason to keep going and to survive. Five months away from someone you love can change your perspective on things. She had stopped eating for a short period, until one of the Healers told her it would not help John. And when she had confessed it was her fault, they did what they could to convince her otherwise.

   But when she would think of John, her eyes would mist over, and she would almost give in to the grief she was feeling. No Minbari had ever felt love for someone, like her love for John. It was almost tangible, like something you could see with your eyes, not just your heart. And Delenn's heart was beginning to heal.

   Delenn was standing on the bridge of the ship, only half interested in what was going on around her. She stared out the window, watching the black and red of hyperspace swirl around her. She never tired of looking at it or the stars.

   Her thoughts carried her to another time, another place, where she had felt John's arms around her. She had wondered when his friendship for her had changed.

   'Was it when you broke away from Earth and I came to your rescue? Or when I was taken prisoner, taking a knife in the back, that made you realize how much you cared for me? You told me later how you couldn't imagine your life without me. I've seen my life without you. I can say that I don't like it very well. Oh, John. How I miss you so. My heart aches for you. To know what they did to you and not be able to help. Do you know how hard that was for me? And then seeing your face. How I wanted to hold you, to take all the pain away. My heart belongs only to you, but our souls belong together. Always.'

   She had been so lost in the past, she didn't notice the change to normal space. So when she took notice of her surroundings, it surprised her.

   "Entil'Zha, we have arrived at the rendezvous point," said the captain of the White Star.

   "Thank you, Captain. Send the signal please." Delenn replied, just a hint of anxiety in her voice.

   "Incoming signal," replied a Minbari, who was working the communication console. "They are here."

   Delenn looked back out the window, to see a jump point opening, and three White Stars came into normal space. 'How beautiful they look. No wonder John liked to watch this,' she thought. And when John came back to her thoughts, she rushed off the bridge heading towards the meeting room that had been closed to all those onboard the ship.

   When she entered the room, she stopped short, shocked at who was standing there. All of them. They all came to welcome John home. And she truly felt that they were a family. A family that had been missing an important member. The one member that held the others together.

   

   - White Star 23 -

   "John, it's time to go." Aaron said, as he stood in the door to John's quarters.

   "All right, guess I'm ready as I'll ever be." John replied, curious as to why they were transferring him.

   After arriving onboard White Star 15, John was looking around, like he was looking for someone, someone he felt should have been there to meet him. 'But who would be here? And why do I feel like it should be her?' he thought. But as Aaron was talking to him, telling him that the journey was almost over, he hadn't really heard anything he had said.

   John was lead into another room, just off the main corridor onboard the White Star 15. He wasn't sure why they had transferred him again, but he was hoping it was the last time. Aaron knew who was waiting for John and he was glad he had the opportunity to be the one bringing him home. So he waited for John to step into the room.

   John slowly turned to look in the room. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. There, standing before him, was all his friends. But he barely registered their presence. *She* was there. 'She is real.' That thought entered his mind at the same moment her arms went around his neck. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her as close as he could.

   "You're real!" was about all he could choke out.

   Delenn looked up, through tear filled eyes, into John's, "Yes, I'm real and so is all of this." And John looked around at his friends. He just couldn't believe they where there.

   "I was told all of you were dead," John said, staring at each of them. But then it hit him, there was a few missing. "Where's Susan? Michael? Lennier?" He asked, uncertainty in his voice.

   "Susan was killed in the last battle with Clark's forces. Marcus did all he could to save her, but it was too late," Delenn told him, but that was the easy part. "Lennier and a few Rangers went looking for Michael. Unfortunately they found him." A bit of sadness had crept into her voice. Telling John that someone who had once been his best friend, was responsible for the death of someone close to you, was the hardest thing Delenn had to do. "John, Bester had control of Michael. That's what made him turn against you. It wasn't his fault. He tried to tell Susan, but her order to shoot on sight had already been given. When Lennier found him, he had a PPG aimed at his head. One of the Rangers tried to stop him and a shot was fired, killing Lennier," She paused again, a picture of Lennier coming to her thoughts. "When Michael realized what happened, he turned the PPG on himself, taking his own life." Delenn kept her hands on John's shoulders as she felt him start to shake.

   "Susan. Lennier. Michael. They're dead?" Disbelief in his voice.

   "Yes," Delenn stated. She saw John's face lose its color. "Here, sit down." Delenn lead him to a chair and forced him into it.

   "It seems that my close friends always die," John said. If Delenn hadn't been there, she was sure he would have given into the darkness that suddenly surrounded him. He looked up into her eyes, such pain in them, it was all she could do not to cry. "Why do the best people, lose their lives around me?" He was looking for answers, but there just weren't any to offer.

   Everyone watched John, waiting for him to completely give in to the fact that they were gone. John just kept repeating their names, over and over. When he looked up, he noticed he was being watched and like being in that cell, he hated it.

   "Don't! Don't you look at me!" John said, so angry he wanted to kill someone. That was when he felt Delenn's hands touching him, when he realized that she was also looking at him. Taking a deep breath, he calmed down. Being angry just didn't work anymore. Not with Delenn so close. "You, it always comes back to you. I saw you so many times, watching me, but you never helped. I cried out to you, but you were never there to hear my cries."

   "I heard them, John. Every time you cried out," Delenn said. "I heard you." And she knelt down, so she was level with him.

   John then fell forward into her, his arms going around her neck, all the anger, hatred, and fears suddenly needing to be released. But he wasn't going to start crying. Not here. Not in front of people that had once been under his command. He couldn't do it, so he buried his face in her neck, not letting anyone see his face.

   Delenn had sensed the hesitation in him. "John, would you like to go some place quieter?" Delenn quietly asked.

   John just hung onto her, afraid all this would vanish, only to be replaced with the dark, cold cell he had lived in for five months. Finally coming to a decision, he pulled his head up, and looked into her eyes. She was holding back tears herself. She took John's hand and pulled him to his feet.

   Before they reached the door, Aaron gently laid a hand on Delenn's arm. "Go slow with him."

   "I will. Thank you, Aaron. Thank you for bringing him home." And Delenn led John out the door and down the corridor to the Captain's rooms.

   Once the door closed, Delenn released John's hand, and wondered over to a small table. Lighting the candle that was on it, she turned and looked at John. He was just standing there, staring at her, a single tear rolling down his cheek.

   "I wasn't even sure you were real." He said, again. Then, taking a step towards her, Delenn opened her arms to receive him. John wrapped his arms around her, his fingers gently brushing through her hair. He took a deep breath, smelling her scent, one that was unique only to her. Then the tears came, hot and hard. Delenn just held onto him, letting him know she was there for him.

   She didn't try to stop the tears, nor did she really want to. It was the release they all had waited for. And being alone with only her, he allowed himself that release.

   John didn't want to show any weakness to his friends, but somehow in the presence of the woman from his dream, he knew it would be all right. So he cried. But the tears hadn't been for lost friends, or loved ones. They weren't for those lost in the war. The tears were for himself, all that he had endured. So, Delenn held him, letting John wash his soul clean.

   As the tears slowed and his breathing became more relaxed, Delenn felt he was holding her for her sake as well as his own. As he pulled his head back, he took possession of her lips and kissed her.

   Delenn liked being kissed by John. She didn't want to break contact when he pulled away from her.

   "I love you, Delenn." And all the feelings for her came flooding back, like a door being opened in his heart. He didn't want to let go of her, ever.

   "I love you, too," Delenn then realized that it was the first time he had actually reacted to her like the John she had fallen in love with. And what she had told Liz filled her memory. "You're the other half of my soul. How was I going to survive without you?"

   

   - Earth -

   "Mister President, we tried to activate the device, but no return signal came back. Sir, I believe they found it and destroyed it," said MacPherson. He hated bringing news like this to President Clark, but no one else would do it.

   "They'll be coming for us. You know that, don't you?" Clark said, as if he was ready to destroy Earth, again, just to make a point.

   "Yes, Sir," MacPherson replied. "I believe he will not come alone. The Minbari will be with him."

   "I know. Get the forces ready. Tell them to prepare for the Battle of the Line II." Clark said, fear in his voice. He knew that the fight would not last long. And knowing that made him long for the days without jumpgates and hyperspace.

   "Yes, Mister President." MacPherson knew it would be useless to fight the Minbari. But Earth was his homeworld and he would defend it to his death.

   

   - Minbar -

   "Well, Delenn, you're getting to see what this family is like. What do you think?" Liz asked. She smiled as they stood together, watching John playing catch with her sons.

   "I think I could get used to this," Delenn replied, not taking her eyes off John. "There was a time I didn't believe this would happen." She looked down at the engagement ring. It shined as if it was new.

   "Hey! You two. Care to join us?" John yelled, as he jogged his way over to them. "Delenn, I could always teach you how to play catch." His boyish smile was so infectious, that Delenn found herself smiling at him.

   "No, thank you John. I believe I have had enough of 'playing catch' to last a lifetime." And John knew exactly what she meant.

   Liz saw the look pass between them, so taking the glove from John, went to play with her sons. She just didn't want to be in the middle of something she didn't understand.

   "So, you going to catch me every time I fall?" John asked, putting his arms around Delenn, and pulling her close.

   "If I have to, yes. And you wouldn't want it any other way," she said, with just a hint of amusement in her voice. But putting her arms around his neck, she didn't give him the chance to reply. She pulled his head down to her level and kissed him.

   Watching them from the bench where they sat, David and Nancy couldn't have been happier for their son.

   "He's found his home," Nancy said, just a bit of sadness in her voice. "And his heart."

   "Yes, he has. But I suspect he had known that all along," David replied, putting his arm around his wife. "When he talked about his dreams, it was Delenn he was seeing."

   "True, but I never realized just how much she loved him, till I saw them together." Being a mother, she had always wanted the best for her children. Watching John with Delenn, Liz playing catch with her family, Nancy knew her children had what was best for them.

   "Well, at the rate they are going," David said, looking at John. "I get the feeling we are going to be grandparents again. And that, my love, is what makes this whole thing worth it."

   

   - Epilogue -

   A few months later, the Army of Light, led by John Sheridan, took back Earth. The fight didn't last long, but lives where lost, and that was the hardest thing for Sheridan to deal with. The New Alliance wanted him to be their President, however Sheridan turned them down, saying he just wasn't ready for that kind of responsibility. He did however tell them, that when the time was right, if they still wanted him, he would be there.

   John and Delenn where married, and had made Minbar their home. When asked why Sheridan didn't want to return to Earth, he had said it 'just didn't feel like home anymore.' The officers and crew that followed him understood his decision, and out of respect, didn't try to change his mind. They had seen how happy he was, at peace with himself, and they didn't want to spoil the life he was re-building.

   David and Nancy Sheridan went back to Earth, knowing their son was where he wanted to be, satisfied that they would see each other now and then. Their home had been destroyed, but the land was still there. So, having decided to build a new home on the land, they went back to Earth, but things for them would never be the same. All who made up their family would never feel comfortable in the new home, and the memories of the deaths that took place there, haunted Nancy every night.

   Elizabeth and her husband Dan took their boys back to their home on Proxima III. Elizabeth had seen the wedding she wanted to see. And knowing that John was happy, went back to the life she, and her family had once had. Somehow she knew that in a short while, she would be coming back to Minbar, for the birth of a child. And that thought made all the pain and suffering that her brother went through, worth it.

   Ranger Aaron Mitchell stayed on Minbar as John's personal bodyguard, a position he was very happy to fill, since it meant he would also be close enough to watch John and Delenn together, a sight he wasn't sure he would ever see. John had mentioned to him that he felt like a brother and Aaron was glad he could fill a void that was somehow missing in John's life.

   As for the others, they went their separate ways, knowing that at some point, they would all be united again. But for now, they had their own lives to live. And having fought for so long to have that right, they took it.

   And in the end, all the wounded hearts had healed.

 

 *****

 

 

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