FINDING PEACE (II)

By Lara Nicosia

 

 

 

 

 *****

Later that night, I rose from the bed and wandered out into the living area. My father had arranged for quarters of his own not too far away. His earlier comment rang in my mind. What had he been talking about? Who had maybe been wrong? Dad had been cryptic about some things in the past; however, he had never been like this. I knew he hadn't been the same since he had lost Mother, but this was strange. I just hoped that everything was all right.

   The journal was sitting on the shelf where I had left it. I picked it up and held it for a moment, just studying it. Then I went over to the human-made papasan chair by the window. Aaron had brought it with him from Earth when he had first come here. He said that having it with some of the Minbari furniture that decorated the living area reflected our lives -- a mixture of the two races.

   Curling up in the chair, I opened my mother's journal and began reading.

   /John gave me this journal today. He was grinning like a *Cheshire Cat*, I believe the human term is, and had his hands behind his back . . ./

   -----

   Delenn looked up from the paperwork that laid spread out in front of her when she heard the door slide open. John came in, a smile on his face and his hands behind him. She studied her husband as he walked over to kiss her. He was making sure that she couldn't see whatever he was holding behind his back.

   "How are you feeling?" he asked.

   "Better. Are you sure that I'm supposed to be . . . queasy like I have been?"

   "Yes," John answered with a laugh. "It's normal for human women, at least, and since you are . . ."

   Delenn wrinkled her nose. "Don't remind me, please. And there is nothing normal about finding yourself in that undignified position every morning for a month and . . . I believe the term is *retching* . . ."

   She could see John trying hard to suppress another laugh, even though she was being quite serious. "Just give it some time," he told her. "Morning sickness doesn't last the entire pregnancy."

   "Good." She looked up at him. "You haven't taken your hands out from behind your back since you came in. Are you hiding something back there?"

   "Something for you."

   With a flourish, John brought out the box he was holding and placed it in Delenn's lap.

   "What is this?" she asked.

   The box was covered in brightly colored paper and tied with a pretty blue ribbon. She ran her hand along the satiny material, thinking about the last time John had given her a box. That one had been black and much smaller, covered with velvet that had been soft to touch. At first, she had thought he meant the box as a gift until he opened it up to reveal the engagement ring. It had been such a beautiful and precious gift; it had made her happy despite all the pain she had been feeling mere moments before. He had said something about replacing it, but she had refused to let him. That ring was far too special to her. She looked down at the box now in her lap, wondering what this contained.

   "Open it."

   Delenn looked at the box, unsure of how to do that. She had never seen wrapping paper before. John must have seen her confusion because he reached down and began sliding the ribbon off the box as he said, "You have to tear the paper off. It's just a way to decorate an otherwise plain box."

   "But you destroy the paper!" Delenn responded. "It's such a shame to do that to something that beautiful."

   "Human tradition," he answered with a shrug. "We've been destroying wrapping paper for hundreds of years. Some people try to save it when they unwrap presents, but it usually gets torn anyway."

   Delenn looked at her husband for a moment, then tore the paper off with his help. John crumpled it up into a ball and threw it up in the air before batting it toward the refuse collector. He missed. Delenn shook her head, laughing as she pulled the top off the box and set it aside. She parted the tissue paper to reveal a soft, blue baby blanket.

   "John . . . where did you get this? It's beautiful."

   "It was my blanket when I was a baby. My grandmother knit one in blue for me and one in pink for my sister Liz after each of us was born. My mother made me keep it in case I ever had a child of my own. I'm glad she did." His voice sounded sad.

   Delenn suddenly noticed that he was staring at the blanket with a far away look in his eyes. "John? Is something wrong?"

   "Huh? Oh . . . I was looking at the blanket, thinking of my parents. I want them to know about the baby. But with the communications blackout with Earth that Clark's ordered . . ." He sighed, "I don't even know what's happened to them . . . whether that broadcast about their farm was true. It's hard not having any idea if your own parents are all right."

   She reached up and gently brushed away a tear that was forming in the corner of his eye. "I wish there was something I could do."

   John smiled wanly, catching her hand in his. "I know. You just being with me every day is more than enough. But this was supposed to be a happy surprise, not something to bring us down."

   Delenn could tell this was painful for her husband, so she decided to change the subject. "Blue baby blankets are customarily meant for male children in human tradition, aren't they?"

   John nodded.

   "Then you think we're going to have a boy?"

   "Pretty sure."

   "How? Stephen Franklin hasn't been able to determine our child's gender yet. How are you so certain?"

   "Let's just say I had a vision . . . and it came from a very reliable source." He drew her attention back to the box. "By the way, that's not all that's in there."

   Delenn looked down. She placed her hand on top of the blanket, and sure enough, there was something else. Carefully pulling the blanket out, she found a small book nestled in its folds. The cover was purple with gold gilt trim. The lined pages within were blank. She held it up, smiling as the light reflected off the gold.

   "I thought you might like a journal," John explained. "I know everything that's happening to you is new and sometimes frightening. And while I plan to be here for you every step of the way, there may be some things you would feel more comfortable writing about than talking about. Or maybe you'll just want to record events for our child. It's up to you."

   Delenn was overwhelmed. "Thank you, John," she whispered as she reached up, drawing him down into her embrace. "I love you."

   /I love you, Delenn . . . you and our child,/ he told her in Minbari. He kissed her gently, then sat down next to her on the couch, putting his arms around her. He let his hand rest on her abdomen as she tucked her head into the crook of his neck.

   In the midst of all the craziness that was happening on Babylon 5, Delenn felt safe and at peace.

   -----

   / . . . John has done so much for me. A while later, I realized that there was something I could do for him. Marcus has agreed to help me make sure it is done. If John's parents are still alive, they are going to know our news./

   I smiled as I finished the first entry. I wondered if my father had ever read the journal. The love they had for each other came through even in my mother's writing . . . especially in her writing.

   Looking at the clock, I realized I needed to get some sleep; I had school to teach the next morning. But I desperately wanted to read some more, though I knew it was late. Finally, I decided to read one more entry before going to bed.

   /Something happened today that made me fear for the safety of our child. While there are many on Babylon 5 who are willing to lay down their lives for all we believe in, there are some in the universe who wish us great harm . . ./

   -----

   Ranger Hall was unusually busy. New Rangers were being processed through the station, and Delenn was there to meet them. She wondered if there was going to be a chance for a break. She wanted to go to the War Room and see what John was up to, maybe see if they could get lunch together. They hadn't been able to find enough time for themselves lately.

   Marcus came into the Hall. "I just got word, Delenn. They're with some Rangers on Earth. Your package has been delivered."

   Delenn smiled. "They got it? Thank Valen. Oh, Marcus, that's wonderful news. Thank you for your help. It means so much."

   "Anything I can do for you," he responded with a slight bow.

   He sat down next her and began helping her. Everyone on the station had been busy lately. John had been pulling long shifts in C&C and the War Room, dealing with the continuing aftermath of the Vorlon/Shadow offensives. The new Rangers were part of the help the group was offering wherever it could -- acquiring supplies, helping settle any newly-arrived survivors on Epsilon 3, rebuilding ships and colonies. John had asked Delenn to rest, but she couldn't. The Rangers needed their leader; she wouldn't let them down.

   A human Ranger came running into the hall. "Marcus!"

   The dark-haired man looked over at the woman. "What is it, Chase?"

   "Turn on ISN! Clark is threatening to launch an offensive against Babylon 5!"

   Marcus reached over and hit the button, turning on the BabCom viewer. Delenn watched it as a group of Rangers began gathering around them.

   "-- time has come to take back that which rightfully belongs to Earth," Clark was pompously declaring, safely ensconced behind his desk at Earth Dome in Geneva. "We can no longer allow the traitor John Sheridan to thumb his nose at Earth Alliance. This man has not only entered into an unholy union with the Minbari, but he has also shown how deep his treachery runs by marrying one of them -- Delenn, a former Satai on the Minbari Grey Council, which was responsible for ordering the start of the Earth-Minbari War . . ."

   Delenn stopped breathing as her hands clenched into tight balls at her side. Those horrible memories had already been dredged up. She had finally faced up to what had happened, the terrible mistake she had allowed. She would never be able to erase the pain that war had brought, but it was long ago -- a different lifetime. Now she was trying to put it behind her as she built her life with John.

   "And as if this *marriage* wasn't enough, we have learned from sources who have been on the station that Delenn is pregnant with Sheridan's child. First, this alien underwent a questionable transformation to look more human, which dishonors the memory of every human who gave his or her life in the war . . ."

   John came running into Ranger Hall, looking like he would have strangled Clark if he had been anywhere in the same solar system with him. The Rangers let him through. Delenn reached up and gripped his hand tightly in hers as he joined her. His other hand came to rest protectively on her shoulder.

   "Now," Clark continued, "she continues her quest to dilute and pollute the human gene pool by mating with that traitor. Her goal is to weaken the entire human race! This child is an abomination and should not be allowed to live!"

   Delenn's heart cried out in anguish. ~NO!~ Her goal was to bring the two people together, not to weaken one! But she would never let those people harm her child. She felt her husband's hand tighten on her shoulder. Looking up into his eyes, she saw resolve burning in them and knew that he would do the same.

   John reached over and hit the button, cutting off the ISN feed. He drew Delenn up into his arms, then together they turned to the gathered Rangers. The collective eyes of human and Minbari were on them, waiting, wondering what their response to this personal attack would be.

   "Ladies and gentleman," John said, "it appears that President Clark has decided to go from mere propaganda attacks to all-out war on my family . . . and by extension, Babylon 5. I know all of you are sworn to serve the Rangers and the station. But I cannot ask you to risk your lives for us. If this attack does come, I want you to protect Babylon 5, protect its inhabitants and the people down on Epsilon 3. That is your duty --"

   "With respect, Captain Sheridan," Marcus interrupted, "our duty is to protect Entil'Zha, you, and your unborn child as well as others. You are our leaders. We fight because of you. We will also fight *for* you."

   The rest of the Rangers yelled their agreement. Delenn and John looked at each other. In that moment, they realized the humans and Minbari had truly been united.

   -----

   /. . . It is times like this where I feel a conflict tearing me in two directions. I love John, and having his child means more to me than I can ever say, even to him. We have fought together to build something that will last -- "for our children and our children's children," he once said. It pleases me to know that one is *our own* child, one conceived in love. A child that is truly our joy in this dark time.

   /But it also scares me to know that such hatred exists as that which Clark bears for our child. I don't know if John and I will be able to protect him or her from people like Clark. Can we? It is knowing that there are uncertainties like this that makes me ask other questions. I don't have all the answers to these . . . to motherhood itself. Will I do what is right for our child? Will I be able to fulfill his or her needs? Will we give him or her the right background to protect himself or herself when the need arises? Will we be around to see him or her grow up?

   /It sometimes seems that these questions loom more ominous than the threats that Clark has made. But somehow I know, with John by my side, we will do the right thing; though we may make mistakes as all people do. I feel this child -- and any other children we may have -- will have a future because humans and Minbari have learned to work together and put our differences behind us./

   I put the journal down, staring out the window. I knew about my mother's role in the Earth-Minbari War, had known for years. The regret, the atonement -- everything she had gone through. It had been difficult for her to come to terms with what she had allowed to happen. Others hadn't needed to make her feel guilty about it. She had done that herself.

   Yawning, I went into the bedroom. Aaron slept soundly, looking much as he had during our watching ceremony. What would his father say, I wondered, if he knew that his son was helping to "dilute and pollute the human gene pool?" I put my hand down on my abdomen. What would Clark have to say about his own grandchild?

   Not that he would ever have a chance to know. Morgan Clark had died years before.

   How had Aaron grown up to be so different from his parents? The son of the man who had hated my father and my mother, who had wanted my brother dead -- here he was. He had come to Minbar. He shared my life, my bed, my heart. He loved me, and he loved our unborn child. I knew that much, no matter what other doubts I may have had.

   Aaron turned over, his eyes fluttering open. He noticed me in the doorway. "What are you doing?" he murmured tiredly. "Is everything okay?"

   "Everything's fine," I said quietly. But I kept thinking about my mother's journal entry. Going over to the bed, I knelt down and put my chin up on it so I could see Aaron's face. I ran my hand back and forth over the bed covers, smoothing the fabric. "Can I ask you a question?"

   "Hmm . . . go ahead . . ." he said, looking at me through half-closed eyes.

   "Do you ever have regrets . . . about coming to Minbar?"

   "What?" His eyes opened all the way as he propped himself up on his elbow. "What kind of question is that?"

   "A very important one. You gave up so much to come here -- your family, your friends, your life. Do you ever regret it? Wonder what would have happened if you had stayed?"

   He put his hand over mine, stilling its persistent motion. "Jay, if I had stayed, I would have been miserable. My mother wanted me to go into the Diplomatic Core. She wanted me to follow in my father's footsteps. I couldn't do that -- that wasn't what *I* wanted. I could never be my father . . . don't ever want to be him." He shook his head. "Besides, I would never have met you."

   I couldn't help but smile at him before continuing, "But what about your family . . . your friends?"

   "Before I joined the Rangers, I never had any really good friends. Acquaintances, people I knew at school, but no one I could talk to. Marcus was the first person I ever really considered a friend -- and you're my best friend. As for my family . . . well, you've met my mother. My aunts and uncles think along the same lines. And with no brothers or sisters . . ."

   I knew. That had been why Mrs. Clark had been so determined for Aaron to go home. She had originally thought Aaron's coming to Minbar would be a phase he would grow out of. When five years had gone by and he hadn't returned, she had finally realized it wasn't. I gently touched the area of my side where the knife scar was, remembering the painful way she had tried to convince him to go home.

   "Why are you asking this, Jay?"

   "I . . . was reading the journal my father gave me, the one my mother kept. It made me think about family. It made me wonder about yours. I know you're an outcast because of what you've done . . ."

   Aaron leaned over, putting his finger to my lips. "You and the baby *are* my family, Jay. Sometimes, it does hurt to know I can never return to Earth because of the choices I've made. But they are my choices -- not my mother's, not someone else's. And that little twinge doesn't compare to the joy the choices have brought me. I love working with Marcus and the Rangers. I live on a beautiful planet . . ." He moved closer, his voice dropping down to a conspiratorial whisper, "And don't tell anyone I said this, but I have the most beautiful wife in the universe."

   I blushed. "Well," I answered in a similar tone, "my husband isn't too bad himself."

   Aaron put his hand to my face, bringing it up and gently kissing me. Then he moved over, and I slipped back under the covers. Aaron kissed the top of my head as I laid it on his shoulder and cuddled up against him. Reaching up, he ran his hand through my hair before pulling me more closely to him.

   "I love you, Jay," he said as he drifted off to sleep.

   With my husband's arm around me, I soon fell asleep myself -- with a safe, contented feeling.

   -----

   "Jaylen, Dr. Gibson got an unexpected call from the Ranger camp and had to go take care of something," said her Minbari assistant Timenn. "She called in to say she should be back in about twenty minutes. Do you want to wait or reschedule your appointment?"

   "I'll wait."

   "Then you can have a seat over there until she returns."

   I nodded and went over to the chair in the corner of the Ranger's Medlab. Zoe Gibson was the Ranger doctor I had been seeing as my pregnancy progressed. There were some other Ranger doctors, but I liked Dr. Gibson the best. She was straightforward and very nice. She had also been the one who told us the news.

   Sitting down, I opened my mother's journal. I had been carrying it around with me lately, hoping to read it when I had a chance during breaks at school or on my lunch hour. She had written so much. Some of it was upsetting -- my parents' life hadn't been easy by any stretch of the imagination. But there always seemed to be a note of hope, both in their love for each and in their work on Babylon 5.

   /Today, I was finally able to give John the gift he wanted. With the situation with Earth so tenuous, I wasn't sure that it would work, but it did. I couldn't have done it without Marcus and some of the other Rangers. They are so wonderful. The look on John's face told me more than anything he could have said . . ./

   -----

   "You look very pleased with yourself," John observed as he came into the main room, buttoning his shirt. He had just gotten home and had gone to change into off-duty clothes.

   Delenn held a small package out to her husband. "I have something for you."

   "What's this?"

   "Open it," she said, grinning at the way this echoed their earlier exchange.

   John took the package, examining it carefully. Marcus had helped her wrap it. She had decided to forego the ribbon, feeling that would have been too much for such a small gift. He ripped off the paper while giving her a confused smile. Delenn had to fight to keep from helping him, she was so excited. Finally, he had the paper off.

   "A data crystal?" he asked, turning it over in his hand.

   "Why don't you look at it?"

   He went over and inserted it in the viewer, looking back at her like he was not sure what to make of this. A moment later, the viewer blinked on, showing an elderly couple. The man was tall and thin with silver hair. The woman had hair about the same color as John's and kind, brown eyes. They looked tired, but otherwise all right. John's mouth fell open.

   "Hello, son. We hope this gets to you," David Sheridan said.

   "How?" John whispered as Delenn went over to him. He put her arm around her, drawing her close to him.

   His father continued, "First, we want to tell you that we're all right. The farm is gone, but we got away without either of us getting hurt. Some Rangers took us in and are hiding us here on Earth. We can't go anywhere because it's too risky. Clark has a whole security force out looking for us. A little too much for a couple of old fogies like us, but I guess he's not taking chances."

   John shook his head. "You are not old fogies," he said wryly.

   "We weren't sure we would ever hear from you again, what with everything that's been going on. But another Ranger managed to bring us the message from your wife. Delenn told us everything --"

   "Congratulations, you two," his mother interjected. "With everything that's happened, it's nice to know that there's something you can be happy about. I hope that some day we'll be able to see the baby."

   "You have quite a wife there, John," his father said. "She obviously loves you, and no matter what's been said about her, we can see that she's a good person. Never thought I would ever say that about a Minbari, but even an old fogy can learn new tricks. We wish you two the best. Hold on to what you have; enjoy it. And don't worry about us. We're with good people, and we can take care of ourselves if we have to. If we don't get a chance to see you again, make sure that grandkid of ours gets the other data crystal we're sending. That also goes for any other grandchildren that may come along. Delenn, welcome to the family. We know you'll watch over our son and grandchild. We love you, John. Take care, you two." The viewer blinked off.

   John looked down at her, his eyes shining with tears. "I . . . uh . . ." he said hoarsely, pulling her into a hug. He drew back slightly, running his hand through her hair. Delenn could see the thanks in his eyes, in his smile. He didn't have to say anything. She just knew.

   -----

   / . . . John's parents sent three data crystals. The one I saw with John, one for me to tell me what to do with the others, and one for our child . . . or children, if we ever have more. I have put that data crystal away and will see that our child gets it when he or she is old enough to understand. I do hope that someday David and Rachel Sheridan will meet their grandchild./

   Tears were forming in my eyes. David and I had never gotten the chance to meet our grandparents like my mother had hoped. I had seen the data crystal for the first time when I was about seven. They had seemed like good people. David had the crystal now. He had been named after Grandpa, and the message had originally been recorded because of him. It didn't belong anywhere else but with him.

   I looked up and saw Timenn staring at me strangely. Wiping the tears away, I smiled. /What?/ I asked the Minbari. /Never read a book that made you cry?/

   Zoe Gibson came running into Medlab. "Jaylen, I'm so sorry I kept you waiting."

   "It's all right."

   "Go on and wait for me in the exam room. I'll be in as soon as I get gussied up."

   Dr. Gibson did a quick cleanup job, then gave me my monthly checkup. "Have the dizzy spells subsided?"

   "Yes, finally."

   "You following all my instructions?"

   "To the letter. I have a husband who won't let me slip for a minute."

   She laughed. "I always thought that having a partner was good. Do you want to know the baby's gender? I can tell you now."

   I shook my head. "Aaron and I discussed this already. We want to be surprised."

   "Doing things the old-fashioned way? Well, then, I can tell you that everything's fine. The baby's development is right on schedule for a fetus in the fifth month. You're looking good."

   I smiled, letting my hands rest on my belly. "You hear that, kid? You're doing all right."

 

 *****

 

 

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