FINDING PEACE (V)

By Lara Nicosia

 

 

 

 

 *****

"Hey, slow down, Speed Demon," my father called as he chased a laughing baby Delenn around the living room area. She was nine months old and moved like a starfury across the carpet. "I'm not as young as I used to be."

   I watched them as I sat on the couch, my legs tucked up beneath me. Dad had been coming to our house almost every day to see his granddaughter. They played games; he read to her and told her stories. It was hard not to grin when I saw the two of them together. He obviously adored her to no end. And Delenn always seemed to know when her grandfather was coming over. She would crawl to the door just as he was coming up the walk and look at me expectantly. There was a special bond between the two of them.

   "You're not that old, Dad. And you do a better job of keeping up with her than I do," I told him.

   "I guess all that diplomatic nonsense I had to deal with while I commanded Babylon 5 was a good training ground for grandfatherhood. Had to learn to keep up with all the ambassadors and their needs . . . actually, I had to stay one step ahead of them."

   "Oh, you enjoyed it, and you know it," I teased.

   "Yeah, I did," he replied with a smile. Delenn was pulling at his pants leg, so he picked her up and began bouncing her up and down.

   "I'm thirsty. How about you?" I asked, getting up from the couch.

   "I could go for something to drink," he replied as he set Delenn down. She had already tired of the game and had been squirming in his grasp.

   "I'll get the orange juice."

   "You're definitely my daughter," he chuckled.

   I went into the kitchen and opened the refrigeration unit, getting the container of juice out. While I was pouring, I heard something strange from the other room.

   "Delenn," my father said.

   I immediately knew he wasn't speaking to my daughter. The tone he used was one he had reserved only for my mother.

   "Dad?" I called, putting the container down on the counter. He didn't answer. I went out into the living room area. "Dad, are you all right?"

   He was sitting down on the floor, his head drooping slightly. Delenn sat next to him, looking up at him with wide brown eyes.

   "Oh, Dad, don't tell me you fell asleep." I went over to shake him, but he didn't respond. Dropping down to my knees, I put my hand to his face. "Come on, Dad, wake up. Please."

   But he didn't wake up. Delenn started crying plaintively. I picked her up, holding her close as the tears started running down my cheeks.

   It was like he had just . . . stopped.

   -----

   The sun was shining bright at Crystal Falls, but I hardly noticed as I sat up there. Holding baby Delenn on my lap, I stared out at the rushing water. I felt so numb. I couldn't even bring myself to look at the new stone that had joined my mother's. Was this what he had known about? Was this why he acted the way he did?

   Footsteps came up behind me. "Jay?" my brother asked.

   "Hi, David," I answered quietly, staring straight ahead.

   "I thought I'd find you up here," he said as he sat down next me. "You want to talk?"

   As I looked over at him, I started crying again. "It . . . it's not right, David. How could it have . . . have happened like that? He was so happy. He was playing with Delenn . . . having a good time and laughing."

   "It was his time."

   "His time? He was only in his sixties! He was healthy. He wasn't sick like Mother was. Do you know that Delenn keeps expecting him to come to see her every day? She goes over and sits by the door and gives me this look that says, Where's Grandpa? Why isn't he here yet?'" I shook my head. "Why? Why did it have to happen now?"

   "He knew it was going to happen. He's known for a long time, Jay."

   "What do you mean?"

   David reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. My name was written on it in Dad's handwriting. Holding it out to me, he said, "Here. Dad wrote this to you." I took it from him, staring at it in confusion. "Let me take Delenn while you read it."

   I allowed him to take his niece. He moved away with her to give me some privacy as I opened the letter and read it.

   Jaylen --

   I know you probably have a lot of questions, especially after that day up at Crystal Falls. It's hard to explain this, but I'll try so you can understand why things happened the way I think they will have happened.

   More than twenty-three years ago, I had to make a difficult decision. One I knew would have lasting repercussions on the Shadow War and my life as I knew it. There would be a horrible price to pay no matter what I did. So I made what I thought was the best choice. I went to Z'Ha'Dum to confront the Shadows, even though I knew that they had probably set a trap that was going to lead to my death. I loved your mother and wanted to stay with her, but at the time, it wasn't about what we wanted.

   I know it sounds strange, but I did die at Z'Ha'Dum. I jumped into a chasm as I used the Ranger ship *White Star* to set off thermonuclear devices in the planet's main city. However, someone named Lorien 'caught' me and was able to extend my life. He said it was through the application of energies. I didn't totally understand it -- all I knew was that I was alive.

   But there *was* a price. Lorien told me that he could not extend my life to the length I might have originally had. He was only able to give me back a portion of it. He told your mother and me that I would have no more than twenty years, then I would just simply stop. It was hard, but we came to accept this price. There would be little time together, but at least we could spend it with each other. I wanted to be with her until my time came. I swore I would never leave her again . . . not if the whole universe came between us.

   I always knew I would be the first to go. But then your mother got sick over three years ago with that horrible disease and died. I couldn't understand why she was taken away when it should have been my time. My reprieve period had ended, but I was still around. I had so many questions. I didn't understand why.

   When we were on Euphrates, I told your brother about what had happened. I needed answers, and I felt there was only one place to find it. You and David had your own lives to lead -- David had Ranger training and you had Aaron and your life here on Minbar. I had to find peace in mine.

   So when I left Euphrates after your wedding, I went to Z'Ha'Dum. The planet is dead and deserted now, but I was hoping that I might find something to answer my questions. I roamed the ruins of the city and the caves below it. I called out to Lorien, your mother, someone to come and help me.

   But I didn't find any answers there, so I finally left. I thought about coming to Minbar, but I still needed some time to sort everything out. I ended up at the Ranger encampment on Epsilon 3, where I stayed for a while like I told you. Then your message came through Aaron and Marcus to me. I knew I had to come.

   The reason I went out to Crystal Falls every day was that I wanted to be with your mother. I hoped that I would be around long enough to see your child, but I knew that might not have happened. If my end came, I wanted to be with her.

   I actually found my peace after your Delenn was born and I held her for the first time when I came to visit you. Finally, I had the answer to my questions. When I first died on Z'Ha'Dum, I realized that your mother was my reason for living, the reason Lorien was able to bring me back. I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life. When she died, it seemed that my reason for living was gone. But then, when I saw our granddaughter -- something she was not able to do -- I realized that she was *still* my reason for living. I had to live because of her. I had to make sure you and David were all right and set in life -- for her, because she could not do it herself. You still needed us, so one of us had to be here. Somehow, the universe knew this, and my reprieve was longer than expected so I could make sure that was done. Once I had completed that, my reason for living was fulfilled. It was just a matter of time. And I wanted to spend it with our granddaughter, so that when my end finally did come, I could tell your mother all about her when I saw her.

   Don't grieve for me, Jay. I had a full life, far more than I expected to have after I went to Z'Ha'Dum. And now I'll be seeing your mother again. We promised each other long ago that we would be together -- and we are -- in the place where no Shadows fall.

   I love you, Jaylen Susan Sheridan. I know that Aaron will take care of you and your daughter, just as I took care of you. You will always be my little girl. And your mother and I will always be with you.

   Love Always, Dad

   I looked up from the letter. "You knew about this?" I asked David, not sure whether to cry or feel angry. "Why didn't you tell me?"

   David held Delenn to him, rocking her gently. "Dad didn't want to make you sad when you had just found happiness with Aaron. He knew that you would have to learn someday, but not then. And it wasn't my place to tell you."

   I didn't know what to say. It was almost too much to handle. David put his arm around me and drew me into a brotherly hug. I put my head on his shoulder.

   "I miss him . . ." I finally said. "I miss both of them."

   -----

   Delenn was two years old now and getting into all sorts of mischief. She loved to explore and discover, especially the outdoors. Her favorite spot was up at Crystal Falls. I never had to worry about her getting into trouble there. I knew that Dad and Mother would keep her safe.

   Aaron and I loved her dearly. I had been right. She possibly was the most spoiled child in the universe, what with all the love and attention she got not only from us and her Uncle David, but also from Marcus, Susan, and the other Rangers. They all thought she was the sweetest little girl in the galaxy. And she loved them -- loved being with them and watching them train. This Delenn was going to be a Ranger like her grandmother and uncle. I just knew it.

   One night, Aaron was with Delenn in her bedroom telling her a bedtime story. She had wanted to him to read her an old Earth book called "The Cat in The Hat." It was her favorite and she knew the whole thing -- every word -- by heart, so she wouldn't let him skip anything. I peeked in to see how he was doing and smiled at what I saw. They were both sound asleep, Delenn curled up in her father's arms. *My family.* I decided to leave them alone for the time being. As I went into the living room area, a wave of dizziness swept over me. Some things never changed . . .

   My mother's journal sat on the shelf in there. There was still one entry left that I hadn't read. With everything that had happened since the birth of my daughter, I had never gone back to it. I decided it was finally time.

   /It has been a long time since I have written in this journal that John gave me. So much has happened, I never had time. But today I write, for I don't think I will ever have the chance again. We have won the war, done all that we set out to do, but nothing will ever be the same again. My family has paid a price for our role in the war.

   /We had to leave Babylon 5 -- we all had to. Marcus and Susan have gone to Minbar with Zack Allan, who has decided to join the Rangers. I think Zack has finally found what he was looking for. They can never return to Earth, but they will find a home on Minbar. However, my family cannot stay in any one place. Though the Shadows have been stopped, their colleagues, the races that helped them are still out there. And if they were to ever find us . . . We cannot allow this to happen and we will not.

   /I am thankful for every day that my family is together. I cannot imagine my life without John or our son. They *are* my life. And we recently learned that we are going to have another child. John and I are happy, despite the fact that we know we cannot give our children a normal life.

   /John was sure that our first child would be a boy. I wasn't so sure until later, but I never told him why. When we were on Babylon 4 -- when I traded places with him after his time stabilizer had broken -- I was propelled into the future. While there, I met a little girl -- my little girl. So when I became pregnant, I thought that we would have a girl. Now, I know that the child I carry is that girl I saw. When I told John that we will have a daughter this time, he asked how I could be so certain. I answered that I had a vision, which is true. He gave me a very strange look in return. But he must believe me because we have already decided on her name. She will be called Jaylen Susan Sheridan. Both John and I wanted to honor Jeffrey Sinclair, so we came up with Jaylen as a combination of Jeffrey and Valen, which embraces both his lives. And we choose Susan to honor Susan Ivanova-Cole, who was such a wonderful friend to the both of us. I know our daughter will be as strong and intelligent as these two people after whom she will be named. Like her brother, she will have the best traits of both our people. And they will both do wonderful things.

   /I do not know where our future will take us. All that matters is that I am with my husband and my children, for whatever time is left to us. I have made peace with my life./

   As the journal fell close, I got up and went over to the window. I gazed out toward Crystal Falls, where two lights now glimmered together, keeping watch over the countryside. Time had eased the pain that had come with my father's passing. I knew that they were together, as they were always supposed to be. I couldn't dwell on the past; though I would never forget what they had taught me. I had my own family to take care of now.

   Aaron came out of Delenn's bedroom. He wrapped his arms around me, holding me close as I leaned back against him.

   I had to look to the future . . . no matter where it took us. Like my mother, I found my peace.

 

 *****

 

 

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