FINDING PEACE (IV)

By Lara Nicosia

 

 

 

 

 *****

I was definitely ready for this baby to be born, although the baby was not. There was still about two weeks to go in the pregnancy.

   "I feel so big," I complained while looking in the mirror one morning. "How large does this kid need to be?"

   "Jay, you are not that big," Aaron said. He was still lying in our bed, his arm thrown across his face to block out the sunlight that streamed in the window.

   "I feel like it. I miss being able to see my feet."

   "Oh, come on. You can still see them."

   "Hardly."

   "Fine. Then could you move a little to the left? I'd like a total solar eclipse."

   I picked up my pillow and lobbed it at him. He grinned impishly at me, causing me to start giggling. Then, suddenly, he sat up and pulled me down onto the bed.

   "So what are you doing today?" he asked as he began kissing me.

   "Um . . ." I couldn't remember. What was I doing? I knew I had something planned for the day, but Aaron was making it hard for me to think as he moved down to my neck. Classes had let out for a month to observe the Commemoration of the Coming of Valen. So I was effectively on "maternity leave" because I wouldn't be returning to teaching once the baby was born -- at least not for a while.

   "Hmm?" he murmured.

   "I . . . uh . . . thought I'd . . . go to the market, then maybe . . . up to Crystal Falls for . . . a while."

   He suddenly stopped. "Is that a good idea? Going up there by yourself?"

   "I can manage. It's not like I'm going to take part in a martial arts competition or something. I'm just walking up to Crystal Falls. I'm pregnant, not disabled."

   "I think that's the rallying cry of pregnant women everywhere," Aaron said. "Okay. I promised I wouldn't be the hovering husband. Just be careful."

   "I always am."

   -----

   It was unusually cool up at Crystal Falls that day, even though the sun was shining. I shivered a little as I pulled my cloak more closely around me.

   I was almost done with the journal. There were two more entries left to read. It was unbelievable how detailed a record my mother had kept. The emotions, the events all seemed so real when I read her words.

   /Everything exploded today as Clark's forces stopped their threats and actually carried them out . . ./

   -----

   Delenn looked around Ranger Hall. The activity that buzzed around her could seem like chaos to the casual observer -- people running in and out of the hall, orders and questions being yelled across the room, boxes and other things being moved here and there. But the Rangers knew exactly what they were doing.

   "Those go to Medlab!" Delenn called out as medical supplies were brought in. "Have the others been taken to Epsilon 3?"

   "They were delivered an hour ago," Marcus answered as he came in with the last of the supplies. He stopped next her and lowered his voice so the others wouldn't hear, "There've been some unconfirmed reports that Clark is moving the Earth Force fleet."

   "To attack?" she asked.

   "No one knows."

   Delenn immediately rose to her feet. "I'm going to the War Room. Take over here. Get everyone out to their positions. And make sure those supplies get to Medlab!"

   She left the hall before Marcus could say other word. It wasn't so much that she felt she could be of any help in the War Room, but if the attack was coming, her place was with John. She went to the nearest tube and called it. While she was waiting for it to arrive, the station lights suddenly went red.

   Battle alert. Something *was* going on.

   The tube arrived. Delenn stepped in to find Zack Allan already in there. The security chief looked slightly nervous.

   "Mr. Allan, have you heard anything?"

   "The Earth Force fleet is heading this way. We got confirmation a few minutes ago."

   Delenn sucked in a deep breath. It was happening. She tried to will the tube to go faster when suddenly an explosion knocked the station. The tube lurched sharply and momentarily stopped.

   "It's started," Zack said, looking up at the ceiling as the tube began to move again. Then it suddenly halted, and the doors opened, even though it hadn't reached its destination.

   "Emergency stop. The tube has detected a computer error," the computer said.

   "That hit must have knocked the tube circuits for a loop," Zack commented as they stepped out of it. They were in Green Sector, near the living quarters, but no one was there. "Guess we walk from here."

   Another hit rocked the station, this time causing the tube's computer access panel to Zack's left to explode in a shower of sparks. The entire corridor plunged into total darkness. A moment later, Delenn saw a small light coming from Zack's direction.

   "Standard issue lantern," he said. "Never leave home without it."

   "I wonder if the entire station is affected?" Delenn asked.

   "Hope not. Otherwise, we're in real trouble," he said, looking at the remains of the panel. "This tube isn't going anywhere for a while." He hit his handlink and held it up to his face. "Allan to C&C."

   No answer.

   "Dead. Damn. Intrastation communications must be down."

   "They must be hitting other areas of the station, too, for that to happen," Delenn observed. "That means they're not attacking in any methodic fashion."

   "You're right. There's nothing in this sector that can disable the station, and that hit had to be pretty close to cause that panel to overload." He glanced down the corridor, then looked back at the tube. "Do you want to stay put or keep moving and hope we can find our way in the dark without falling over anything?"

   Delenn wanted to get to the War Room, not sit idly by in the middle of a dark hallway. "Let's go."

   Another blast hit the station as they moved down the hall. Delenn and Zack were sent careening into the wall with this one. As they regained their bearings, she saw that he looked very pale, even in the dim lantern light. He was cradling his right arm, and his eyes were closed, as if he was trying to shut out pain.

   "Mr. Allan, are you all right?"

   "I, uh . . . I think I wrenched my shoulder out its socket when I hit the wall."

   There was another explosion, this one very close. Delenn heard the sound of twisting metal. She looked around, trying to pinpoint the source. It became louder. She suddenly made the gut-wrenching realization that the sound was coming from almost right above them!

   "Look out!" she cried. She pulled Zack back as the ceiling came crashing down in front of them. They fell back, trying to shield themselves from the falling debris. When everything had settled, Zack shined his light in the direction of the collapsed area.

   "Well, Ambassador," he said, surveying the wreckage, "it looks like we stay put."

   They were trapped between the dead tube and the cave-in.

   Delenn pulled herself up against the wall. "There's no way out?"

   Zack got up and went over to inspect the area more closely. His right arm hung limply at his side as he held the lantern aloft in his left hand. Delenn could tell that he was in pain, but he seemed to shake it off. "It's completely sealed off. No way over or around. I can't move any of this with this shoulder, and I don't think you can either."

   "That, Mr. Allan . . . is probably more true than you know."

   Zack turned around, illuminating her swollen form in the light. "Why?"

   "Because . . ." she said, looking down at the floor, "as human women say in those vids I've been watching, My water just broke.'"

   Zack aimed the light down at the floor, then up at Delenn again. "Uh oh."

   -----

   I continued reading the entry. I had heard some stories about the circumstances that led to my brother's birth, but nothing this detailed before.

   It was getting colder. I put down the journal, almost near the end of the entry, and looked up. Why was it so cold? There was no wind and the sun was shining. My teeth started to chatter as I pulled my cloak closer around me and started to get up.

   Suddenly, pain hit me right in my abdomen. Labor? I doubled over and held still as it faded. No, this wasn't right. It didn't feel right. I tried to move. The pain started again along with an overwhelming feeling of nausea. I fell onto my hands and knees and vomited. ~What's happening?!~ my mind cried. I tried to get up, but the pain drove me down onto my knees again. I gasped, feeling like someone was driving a pick right through my gut.

   Tears were streaming down my face. *My baby!* What was happening to me?! Oh, Valen, I hurt. I sobbed for help as I tried to get up again.

   "Mother! Mother, help me!"

   -----

   "I think it's safe to say it's over," Zack observed, looking around. Hits on the station had been coming less and less frequently until it had finally stopped a little while before.

   "John and the others must have driven them off," Delenn said. She didn't allow herself to think that anything else had occurred. She wouldn't believe that they *hadn't* won the battle. Wearily, she sat back against the wall, breathing in and out slowly. Her initial shock at her water breaking had been forgotten when the contractions started soon after. She tried to relax, though a part of her was scared. The baby wasn't supposed to be due for another three weeks. Could he stand being born early? Would he be all right? He had to be all right. She didn't think she would be able to handle it if anything happened to her child. But she couldn't let herself think about that, so instead she prayed that they were found before the contractions started coming too close together.

   "I hope so," Zack sighed

   "How long have we been down here?"

   "I'm not sure. Maybe an hour, an hour and a half. If the attack is over, they should be looking for us soon."

   Delenn nodded and moved into another position, trying to get comfortable.

   "Ambassador, is there anything I need to do?" Zack asked, sitting down next to her with his back also against the wall. He let his right arm rest in his lap.

   "No. At least, not yet. If we're down here too long, then you might have to do something. But it should take awhile. I don't know why so many of those entertainment vids I watched made it seem like childbirth happens so quickly. *So many of them.* The woman says she's having the baby and then does a few minutes later. There are hardly any contractions, little waiting; they make it seem like almost nothing. But the medical files all say it takes hours."

   "I guess it wasn't glamorous enough to see a woman sitting around, waiting for her baby to be born."

   "I will never understand why humans found it necessary to *glamorize* things."

   "Our nature."

   "That seems to be the answer to a great many things in your culture, Mr. Allan."

   Another contraction started, causing Delenn to shift uncomfortably as she bit down on her lip. Looking over at Zack, she could tell that he felt like he was an uninvited guest in something she should be sharing with her husband, not him. She wondered if he could tell how scared she was. Silently, she called out to John, praying for him to find them.

   Suddenly, without a word, Zack reached over and took her hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. Delenn smiled and felt a little bit better.

   -----

   I had to get home. I had to get to the doctor. Something was wrong with my baby. The pain coursed through me without stopping.

   Putting my hand on top of my mother's stone, I used it to get up from my kneeling position on the ground. I staggered a few meters and fell to my knees again. I curled up into a tight ball, just wishing the pain would go away.

   I couldn't do it.

   ~Aaron!~ my heart cried.

   -----

   Delenn leaned her head back against the wall as yet another contraction subsided. They were starting to come closer together. How long had they been there? She had lost track long ago. Where was John? He had to know that they were missing. ~John, please hurry,~ she thought. ~Please. The baby is coming, and I don't want to give birth here.~

   She glanced over at the security chief. His eyes were closed, making her wonder about his shoulder. "Mr. Allan . . ."

   He opened his eyes groggily, blinking them a few times in quick succession. "Huh? What is it? Are you all right? Do you need something?"

   "Actually, I was just going to ask you if you were okay," she told him. "Is your shoulder hurting you?"

   "It's not too bad. Kinda like a dull thud, though I don't think I could use it if I tried." He paused. "And please, Ambassador, call me Zack."

   "Zack . . . then you may call me Delenn. I think ambassador is too formal in a setting like this." She waved her arm out in a wide circle, taking in the pile of debris that separated them from the rest of the station.

   "That may take some getting used to."

   "Zack, I think there is something you could do for me."

   "What? Just name it."

   "Talk with me. Tell me about yourself, tell me a story; anything to keep me occupied so I won't think about the next contraction."

   ~So I won't worry,~ she thought to herself.

   "Well, I never was very good at telling stories, so I guess I'll tell you 'bout myself." He paused. "Um . . . what do you wanna know?"

   "Anything. Why did you come to Babylon 5? What did you do before?"

   "I was an MP during the . . . war. Stationed at one of the staging bases. You know, there to make sure the GroPos stayed in line, that sort of thing. When the war was over, I resigned my commission and went home to Earth. I ended up starting a business with a friend of mine who had also been an MP. Contract security. Rent-a-Cop,' they used to call it."

   "Rent-a-Cop'?" she asked, pronouncing the strange name carefully. The human words she kept stumbling across never ceased to amaze her.

   "Yeah. It's sorta a joke name. I won't try to explain why because that would take awhile. Anyway . . . businesses would hire out our company to fulfill their security purposes, kinda like B5 does. We would provide guards, systems, stuff like that to protect the business grounds."

   "What happened?"

   "The company went under a few years back. We weren't getting enough contracts to stay afloat. My friend also decided he wanted out of the security bit all together. We closed down." He sighed. Obviously, he had liked the work he had been doing with his own company. "But I liked doin' security work, so I re-signed with Earth Force and joined the station staff here."

   "And now you're the security chief," she commented

   "Yeah . . . never would have thought . . ." Zack shook his head sadly, then turned the conversation in another direction before the touchy subject of Michael Garibaldi came up. "Never would have thought that coming here would land me smack dab in the middle of the biggest galactic war in the last thousand years either."

   Delenn nodded. The war had caused many people to take roles they never would have thought they could do. She had felt long ago that she would have a role in the war and had been able to prepare, but many had been taken unaware -- and they had risen to the challenge. Her husband had originally come to Babylon 5 thinking it a diplomatic assignment and had become a leader far beyond that of a typical career military man.

   *John.* He had given so much for their fight. ~Too much,~ Delenn often thought. She hated that she was so selfish in that regard, but she couldn't help it. She had never expected to love someone as much as she loved him. It made it hard when it came to sharing him with his role in the war.

   "I guess things happen for a reason," Zack said. He looked straight ahead, seemingly lost in thought.

   "I didn't know you were a spiritual man."

   "Well, not really spiritual . . . I'm what they call a lapsed Catholic," he told her, inclining his head thoughtfully as he spoke. "But this whole thing, the stuff with the captain . . . it's made me start wondering about who runs the universe."

   "Have you come to any conclusions?"

   He shrugged noncommittally. "I'm not sure. Every time I think I have it figured out, something happens that turns it all upside down."

   "Just give it time and keep trying, Zack," she said. "You'll find your answer someday."

   Another contraction began, catching her off guard. The severity of this one made her gasp. They were getting sharper.

   "Am . . . Delenn, are you all right?" Zack asked, putting his hand on her shoulder.

   "I . . . I'm okay." She reached up the wall and placed her palm flat against it, using it to pull herself up from her sitting position.

   "Should you be getting up?" Zack asked. He rose as well, almost as awkwardly as Delenn herself had, and helped steady her with his good arm.

   "I have to get up. I need to walk around. It's getting to me just sitting there and waiting."

   "Here," he said, putting her arm around his shoulder and his around her waist to support her. "I'll help you."

   -----

   ~I have to get up.~

   Those words rang through my mind as I laid curled up on the ground. The pain wouldn't let up.

   ~But I can't. The pain,~ another part of me cried. ~I'm not strong enough! I can't do it. Just leave me alone. Let me die. Mother . . .~

   *You're one of the strongest people I know.* My mother's words from long ago came back to me.

   ~I have to get up. I have to save my baby.~

   Slowly, I stretched out, grabbing the tree I had collapsed next to. I pulled myself to my feet, trying to ignore the pain that wanted to drive me back down. My home was visible from the hill. I kept thinking of my child, who depended on me. I couldn't let the baby down.

   I began walking despite the agonizing pain.

   -----

   Delenn was starting to get frightened. The contractions were coming closer together, and they were still trapped in Green Sector. She didn't want to give birth down here. She wanted to be with John. She wanted to be in Medlab. Dr. Franklin would be able to tell her if the baby would be okay. He would be able to help the baby. But if he was born down here . . .

   She didn't even realize until later that she had started thinking of the baby as a he' -- like John had been doing.

   "What are we going to do if they don't get here in time?" Zack asked.

   "I don't know. Dr. Franklin tried to explain what he would do, but . . . I don't remember." Pain shot through the small of her back as she sat down, causing her to moan softly.

   "What's wrong?"

   "My back hurts."

   "I can fix that." Sitting down behind her, he had her lean forward a little. Then he began gently needing the lower part of her back with his fingertips. Almost immediately, she began feeling better.

   "You're as good as John, and he's had a lot of practice these last few months. Where did you learn to do this?"

   "I picked it up from my mother. She's a physical therapist. Specializes in the back and knees . . . gives the best massages in the galaxy. It's like she can work magic, just by placing her fingertips on your back. I used to beg her for back rubs when I was younger, especially after baseball practice. I kinda learned it through touch. She used to say massages were good for the mind as well as the body."

   "I agree," Delenn murmured, closing her eyes. She began forgetting her fears as she relaxed. "I must . . . thank her . . . for teaching you."

   Suddenly, a noise on the other side of the wall startled them. Small bands of light appeared through the debris.

   "Hello?" a voice called. "Hello, is someone back there?"

   Delenn glanced back at Zack and saw a smile spreading across his face. "Lou!" he called as he clumsily got to his feet.

   "Chief!"

   "Zack!" another voice called -- one that Delenn had never been more happy in her life to hear.

   "John!" she cried out as she rose. "John!"

   "Captain Sheridan!" Zack answered.

   "Delenn!" John yelled back, relief plain in the sound of his voice. "Come on, get them outta there!"

   There were clanging sounds as pieces of metal were thrown aside.

   "Hurry, John! The baby's coming!" Delenn called as another contraction started.

   "What?!" There was a clamor on the other side. "I knew something was happening with her! Hurry up! And someone get a medical team down here!"

   Soon, enough of the debris had been moved to create a passage. John was the first one through.

   "Delenn!" he cried, rushing over to her. She collapsed into his arms, just happy that he was finally there. "Where's that med team?"

   -----

   ~I have to get home. I have to save my baby. I have to get home. I have to save my baby. I have to . . .~

   I kept repeating that to myself over and over again. Each step hurt, but I couldn't stop. I couldn't give up.

   Then I heard someone calling, "Jaylen!"

   ~Aaron?~

   He was there, coming up the hill toward me.

   "Aaron, help me!" I cried, falling to my knees.

   Suddenly, he was there, pulling me into his arms. "Jay? Jay?!"

   "Something's wrong . . . I hurt," I gasped.

   "In Valen's name, I knew something wasn't right. Hold on, Jay, just hold on." He picked me up and carried me back down as quickly as he could.

   "The baby . . ." I cried.

   "The baby's going to be all right, Jay. I promise you. I'm not going to let anything happen to either of you."

   -----

   Delenn gazed down at the newborn baby sleeping in her arms, wrapped in John's baby blanket. He was perfect. He was three weeks early, but he was perfect. He was going to look so much like John -- she could tell, even though he was so small. She looked up at her husband, who sat next to her on the bed.

   "He's great, Delenn," he said, putting his hand up and brushing it lovingly across her forehead. "You did good."

   "We did good," she responded.

   He pulled the blue blanket gently aside so he could look at their son. "We certainly did. You know you scared me there when you said the baby was coming. I thought you meant right then and there. You didn't tell me that it was going to be another two hours."

   "I didn't know. I was so worried that the baby was going to come, and we were still going to be trapped down there. And even though I told myself at first that those vids we saw with the women giving birth while trapped were silly and unrealistic, I was actually starting to think I would be like them."

   John had told her the entire story of what had happened while they had waited out the rest of her labor in Medlab. The swiftness with which the Earth Force attack had come had taken them by surprise, but the fact that they had been prepared long before had saved them. The ships had jumped to alert mode as soon as confirmation had come -- just moments before the fleet had come out of hyperspace. There were more ships than they had bargained for, but the Babylon 5 fleet had more than held its own. Most of the damage to the station had been done in the first few minutes of the attack. The battle had been long, but in the end the Earth Force fleet had tucked its tail between its legs and run back to Earth. John bet that Clark hadn't even left Earth Dome during the whole thing.

   So they had won this battle. But they knew that the war with Earth wasn't finished by any stretch of the imagination.

   However, it was going to be a while before Babylon 5 was completely back up to specs again. Computer function in the residential areas had been knocked out of service, and with it, lift operation. Luckily, C&C and the War Room had sustained only some minor knocking around. Green Sector hadn't been quite so fortunate. There had been a lot of debris to dig through in the area Zack and Delenn had been trapped in, especially around the collapsed section. That was why it taken it so long for them to reach the two of them. John had joined the search parties once he had learned that Delenn had left Ranger Hall before the battle and had never made it to the War Room like she had told Marcus.

   "Well, you weren't the only one worrying," John told her. "I nearly went crazy when I found out you were missing. We didn't know where you guys were. And I kept thinking about you and the baby . . . I had the strangest feeling you were calling for help . . ."

   "Shhh," she said, putting a finger to his lip. "Such thoughts are unimportant now. You found us. I'm safe. And our son is fine."

   "That he is," the new father said with a smile.

   "You were right after all . . . about him being a boy."

   "I told you, I had a vision."

   "Well, we can't call him 'the baby' or 'our son' for the rest of his life. He needs a name."

   John gave her a strange look. "What would you like to call him?"

   Delenn smiled shyly. "I've been thinking about this for a while . . . I know your father is important to you and was a big influence in your life. You always speak so highly of him. And he seems like a good man. So, if you agree, I'd like to name our son David."

   Tears came to his eyes. "I'd like nothing more. But I think we should have your father's name as a middle name. That is, if you agree."

   "I was going to ask if it could be Zachary. Mr. Allan . . . Zack . . . was so wonderful to me while we were trapped down there, and after you found us, he stayed around to make sure I was all right even though he was injured. I want to honor him for that."

   "There's nothing that says we can't give him two middle names."

   "David Caynier Zachary Sheridan?" she asked, trying it out.

   "It's a mouthful, but I think it suits him perfectly." He leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. "I love you, Delenn Sheridan. And I love you, David. Welcome to Babylon 5. It's going to be an interesting ride."

   -----

   Closing the journal, I leaned back against the pillows in my bed, taking care not to aggravate my tender belly. Aaron had gone back and retrieved it after I had been taken care of at the Ranger Medlab.

   I looked over at my infant daughter, who was sleeping next to me. She was so beautiful with lots of dark hair and a cute, button nose. She seemed so tiny, but she was healthy. That was the most important thing.

   It had turned out that I had appendicitis. That was why I had been so cold and vomited. It hadn't been the baby, but since the pain had been in my abdominal area, I had automatically assumed that it was. But it had affected our daughter's delivery anyway. Dr. Gibson couldn't perform surgery on my appendix without possibly hurting the baby. So she had had to do a Caesarean before removing my appendix. It had been rough -- and Aaron had stayed with me through it all.

   *Aaron.* I had told him that I was lucky he had decided to come up to the Falls when he did. He had said that it wasn't luck. While he was with Marcus, he had suddenly had the feeling that something was wrong. That I was crying out for him. So he had taken off for the falls as fast as he could.

   It sounded so strange, but I had learned long ago from my parents not to question such things.

   Aaron stuck his head in. "Hey, are you up to some company? Your father is here."

   "Of course."

   My father came in. He leaned over and kissed my forehead. "How are you doing, kiddo? Or should I say, Mom?"

   I smiled. "Like a Minbari heavy cruiser decided to use me as target practice."

   He laughed.

   "I'm doing okay," I told him. "Dr. Gibson told me I'm not to get up for a week."

   "You know, you have to stop scaring us like this."

   "Hey, I have to keep life interesting."

   "Well, you certainly have been good at doing that, ever since you were a little girl. And speaking of little girls . . ." he glanced down at his granddaughter.

   "Would you like to hold her, Grandpa?"

   His eyes lit up. "Please."

   I picked her up -- being careful not to wake her -- and gently placed her in his arms. He cradled her to his chest, looking very much like the proud grandfather.

   "Did Aaron tell you what we decided to name her?"

   "No. He said you should tell me," he responded, his head bent down as he traced his finger along her small arm. Her hand reflexively closed around it.

   "We've named her Delenn Sheridan Clark."

   He looked up, speechless.

   "We decided that those three names belong together. It brings together what was once at odds." My hand rested gently on my mother's journal as I said this.

   His eyes spoke his approval more than anything he could have said as he held his granddaughter close to him.

   "Thank you," he whispered -- I didn't know to whom. "Thank you for letting me be here."

 

 *****

 

 

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