THE FAITHFUL II

By Leyenn

 

 

 

TITLE: The Faithful (2/9)
AUTHOR: Leyenn
E-MAIL: Leyenn@aol.com
DISCLAIMERS: in part one - as always, thanks to my beta friends and to everyone who's bothering themselves to read this. Please tell me what you think!

 

 

 

 

*****

    The morning seemed infinite: nothing seemed to distract Stephen from her for more than a few moments, and now that she was out of her quarters it seemed everyone had something important to say to her. She shifted restlessly under Megan's ministrations, trying not to give the impression that she was ready to leap from the bed at the first chance. She had managed to eat breakfast, which was something of a novelty and made her feel a little more confident about her rather reckless, definitely ridiculous plan. If she could eat, then she could stay well long enough to do what had to be done. She had listened when Stephen had doled out the drugs that morning; the tablets were what kept her from being sick, and there were plenty of those in the room. It wasn't a long trip to Z'Ha'Dum, in the kind of ship she planned on taking. If it had worked for John, then it would work for her. The trick would be in gaining access and getting enough of a head start before either Franklin, Lennier or Ivanova could come after her. They wanted John to be alive; she knew that. But if she were to tell them that she knew he was alive on the basis of a dream - given her condition and the number of drugs in her system, they would not be inclined to believe her.

    And John did not have the time for her to convince them.

    Megan flashed her a smile, looking a little less timid this morning, but still quiet. "I need to speak with Doctor Franklin," she told her charge hesitantly, as if she were asking permission; which, Delenn thought, she probably was. She smiled.

    "Of course. Take as long as you need."

    The nurse smiled back, slipping out of the door even as Delenn slipped out of the bed. She looked at the IV in her hand with some disgust: steeling herself, she worked the tubes out and tried to work out a way to remove it. After a moment she gave up; her clothes lay folded across a chair at the back of the room, and it took her only a moment to slip out of the medical gown and into the simple brown and green dress she often wore on the White Star. John liked it, she remembered; if fate was with them, he would see her in it again. Grabbing the medication Stephen had left beside the bed, she hid her hand as best she could and slipped out into the corridor.

    Getting out of MedLab wasn't difficult; she made sure she stayed well away from the main areas, cutting through numerous small, specialised corridors until she was out of the facility and into one of the main corridors of the station. She grabbed the first transport tube she could find, making sure she kept her left hand covered with her right and gritting her teeth as she jarred the IV needle. It would need to come out, but she could do that once she was assured of her plan. Right now, she needed to get to her quarters, and from there to a docking bay. If she was in luck, her private flyer would be prepped and ready to fly, as it should usually be: if not, she would need some other way of getting off the station and onto a White Star - and getting the crew to leave as John had done. It would be a difficult task... She paused. How would John have done it? Garibaldi would know, or perhaps Ivanova, but she could hardly go to them and ask.

    But perhaps she could go to John.

    "Computer, change destination. Blue one, crew quarters."

    As luck would have it, the tube was almost there anyway and opened only a few seconds later. Delenn knew the way to John's quarters almost instinctively, wherever she was: from here it was two rights and a left, and try not to bump into anyone who might know where she was really supposed to be.

    She reached the door in record time, punching in the lock code that John had taught her. Stepping inside, it was suddenly possible to believe that he really was gone; the shelves were empty, the room stark, bare except for a number of boxes stacked against the breakfast bar. Only the knowledge that this would be one of the first places they would look for her stopped Delenn from breaking down in tears at the sight.

    She went through to his bedroom, glancing around: it was as bare as the rest of the living quarters and she quickly turned back, not wanting a memory of that room like that. As she spun around, something caught her eye: a data pad that had been left out of the boxes, still sitting on a waist-high shelf. She picked it up, staring blankly at the blinking images until they suddenly made sense to her.

    'Carolyn Sanderson', one image said. Bester's lover, the telepath with the Shadow implants in her brain. But it wasn't that that caught her attention.

    'Anna Sheridan', the other image was titled. The identical image.

    Was this John's? Had he known? She had no way to be sure, but it was a glimmer of hope at least. She looked around, wondering where they had packed away his clothing and bedroom belongings. It didn't take long, rummaging through the boxes, to find a carry sac. She dropped the medication, data pad and a few other essentials inside and headed for the door. As it swung open, something caught her eye: John's identicard, lying on the kitchen counter. She smiled and picked it up, checking the corridor before heading for the docking bay.

    Getting there wasn't difficult, and as she had not mentioned her dream to anyone there was no one waiting or looking for her. With a wide-eyed and innocent smile and a firm voice, she commandeered a group of technicians to prep her flyer as she watched, scrolling through the information on the data pad, hoping to find some clue as to how she was supposed to clear a White Star of its crew.

    Finally, she gave up. Her flyer was prepped and she didn't keep it waiting, barely taking time to thank the techs before boarding. Only then did she consider how she was going to get clearance to leave.

    //Ship, link to Babylon 5 sensor grid.//

    The flyer seemed to pause, then chirped. //Link established. Request?//

    //Locate Commander Susan Ivanova.//

    A momentary pause introduced a 3D representation of the station: Ivanova was in MedLab. With luck, she hadn't thought to deny Delenn's flyer clearance yet.

    "C and C, this is the Minbari flyer Zhalen requesting emergency permission to depart."

    "Ambassador?" It was Lieutenant Corwin's voice, she recognised after a moment. She hoped she could work past him.

    "I'm not using the jumpgate, lieutenant. My destination is White Star Two."

    There was a pause: Delenn held her breath, praying silently.

    "Permission granted, Zhalen. You are cleared to depart."

    Delenn wished he could see her smile as gratitude, although she felt guilty at deceiving him so easily. She concentrated on the thought of John, of reaching him in time, and pushed her guilt to the side.

    "Acknowledged, C and C. Thank you." She all but threw the flyer into the air, hoping her sudden departure wasn't causing too many difficulties. Corwin was also likely to alert Ivanova very shortly, if she didn't get in touch with him soon herself. The sooner Delenn could get out into open space, the better.

    Meanwhile, however, she had decided on her course of action. She opened a channel to White Star Twenty, in standard orbit around the station, and acting on simple arrogance and hope - 'balls', John would have called it - simply ordered the crew to depart for other ships in the fleet. By the time she reached the docking bay, there would be no shuttles or flyers but her own.

    It was a credit to her leadership, and to the respect and awe in which they held her, that the ship was completely deserted before she even managed to align her flyer and activate the remote command to open the docking bay.

    She wasn't surprised, on reaching the bridge, that the communications relay was calling for her attention. She knew it would be Ivanova: she also knew that Franklin would have told her, if he had not told Lennier, of her pregnancy and what he probably believed had caused her rash behaviour.

    "Well, Humans are supposed to act on hunches sometimes." She settled into the captain's chair, activating her panel to begin power up of the jump engines. "I'm just trying them out." For the first time in a long while, a true smile touched her lips, and the ship seemed to agree as it powered up steadily around her.

    She called up the coordinates of the Shadow homeworld; with a deep breath, she swung the ship around and activated the jump engines. The flame-orange of the jump point enveloped her, and then she was suddenly in hyperspace.

    She tilted her head back against the chair; relief, trepidation and some regret filled her thoughts as she realised she had accomplished her goal: now all she had left to do was reach Z'Ha'Dum in time.

    "That's all." Her bemused voice made the large chamber seem hollow; she shivered suddenly, looking around, and settled deeper into the chair. //Ship, some music.//

    There was a consenting chirp. //Please state a preference.//

    //Earth...// She paused, looking out at the red eddies of hyperspace. //No, no music. Rain. Make it rain.//

    There was another chirp, and then the rumbling sound of thunder rolled across the bridge. Delenn leaned back, drawing herself up into the chair, and closed her eyes. //Alert me to any approaching vessels, and set an alarm to wake me in four hours. Estimated time to Z'Ha'Dum?//

    //Five days three hours.//

    Delenn sighed and closed her eyes. //Wake me in four hours.//

* * * * *

    The alarm vibrated throughout the bridge: Delenn let out a quiet moan and opened her eyes, shifting position to sit upright in her chair. She had been sleeping there for four days now, alternating between resting and wandering the bridge, trying to find ways to boost the ship's speed. She had already diverted power from everything on the lower decks, and everything but life support on her own. She had food and water in the captain's office just down the corridor from the bridge: she slept in her chair, or when she felt more comfortable lying down, on the low couch provided in the office. She had taken the IV from her hand, rather amateurishly but without causing too much damage, wrapping it securely from the stores in the ship's medical bay. She had arranged as much as she could in order to be ready if John were still alive: she was not much of a medic, but she would be able to keep him alive if nothing else. She had no doubt that another ship, or ships, would already be behind her - she was counting on it. Franklin would either be chasing her himself or would have sent another trusted physician to take care of her when he finally caught her, but Delenn had no intention on being caught before she found who, or at least what, she was looking for. If he was dead...

    "No." She would not think of it. John was alive - she was sure of it. She had dreamt of him again; of him calling to her, speaking her name over and over in everything from a scream to a whispered breath. She still could not see his face: it was disorienting to hear her name from her own lips, and yet to know it was John's voice that spoke so tenderly of her. Another dream had been tense, filled with agony; she had woken crying with the imagined pain, had even taken a painkilling drug to remove the residual ache that pervaded her body. She had been afraid to sleep for two days after that, spending her time meditating instead, knelt in prayer at the centre of the bridge, in front of the captain's chair with only the darkness and a lone candle for company.

    Now, she had less than an hour before she reached Z'Ha'Dum, and she spent it well: preparing her flyer to reach the surface, recording a detailed account of everything she could recall from her mind about the place she saw in her dreams. She could remember little from her latest dreams... it worried her, although she knew that in all likelihood it shouldn't. After all, this entire idea was probably ludicrous - had it not been for the recurrence of the dreams, she would likely have given in to the repeated hail from Babylon 5 and turned back by now.

    But then she dreamt, and urged the ship on faster.

    She loaded what few supplies she was taking with her into the flyer; although it could, at maximum, carry up to three people, she had refitted it as best she could in the time she had and there was now space enough - she hoped - for a medical kit and PPG rifle to be stored while still leaving room for John... in whatever state he might be. Her mind was racing as she rechecked for the third time and then swung into the pilots seat. Despite her dreams, she still had little idea of what she would find on the Shadow world; even more frighteningly, of what she would find when she reached John, if she reached him. To come all this way, and fail...

    "Stop it," she admonished herself. She had been less and less confident about this the nearer she came to Z'Ha'Dum. In a few more days, perhaps even the time it would take to find him, John would have been missing for three full weeks. Even if he had survived the jump she was sure he had made, how could he have survived on a barren, hostile planet for that long? He would have no food, no water: Minbari could fast if they had to, but John was Human. How did she expect him to have survived such an ordeal?

    She closed her eyes, pushing such thoughts from her mind. She had no way of knowing if the planet, or the Shadows remaining there, were influencing her thoughts, but she made the assumption they were and fixed her mind on John's image, on the thought of having him back with her, having him close to her again. It was all that sustained her now, all she thought of. She would know, one way or the other, what had happened to him. She needed that much. The universe owed her that much.

    There was a chirp and an alarm from outside the small craft: Delenn activated her communications relay and patched it into the White Star, acknowledging the warning and feeling the slight shift as the ship almost literally jumped out into normal space. She had programmed it to take a high orbit, watching the automatic systems through her console until she was satisfied that she was ready for launch. Both ships acknowledged her request with a string of beeps and chirps: she couldn't help smiling at the almost childlike way the flyer reacted as she lifted it from the hanger and spun around, heading for the open bay doors. Then she was outside, hovering in high orbit above the homeworld of the Shadows.

    A sudden wave of icy cold washed over her: she shuddered, her grip tightening on the edge of the console in front of her. What was she doing? This was madness. John was dead. Everyone believed it except her, and coming here would only prove it to her.

    But at least I will have proof! She fought against the inexorable tide of cold, fearful doubt that invaded the flyer, making it seem to close in around her. At least if he is dead, I will have his body and not you!

    There was a momentary lapse in the cold, dark sensation, and for a short instant she felt warm again. She recognised it now, what it was: the Shadows, trying to trick her. But if they wanted her to believe John was dead, although she knew it was a likely truth, then perhaps it wasn't true. They knew she had a chance, perhaps more than a chance, of rescuing him. They knew they would not have him for as long as Delenn could protect him. She smiled.

    "You do not have him," she said slowly to the empty space around her. "You do not have him now, and you have never had him. And you never will." She tapped in her access code for the White Star. "Authorisation: Delenn one five nine. Password: 'faith manages'." Her smile grew wider, and with a newfound confidence she swung the Zhalen toward the planet, searching for the chasm she had seen so clearly in her dream. She had faith that he was alive and that even if he was dead, the Shadows had never touched him, never made him one of their own.

    "I will find him." She was sure they were still listening, even if they did nothing now to affect her. "I will succeed where you have failed, because I have faith and you do not. You think that because you are more powerful, and more ruthless, and more persuasive, that you will always win. But you're wrong." The scanner chirped what sounded to Delenn like an almost happy note; she glanced at it and smiled confidently, changing course. "You're nothing but bullies. You frighten others, prey on their doubts and their fears to turn them against each other. You hide in darkness, thinking it makes you strong." She glanced at her readouts, outwardly nonchalant even as she poured out her anger and disdain on the invisible presence around her. "But darkness is nothing: only the absence of light, just as fear and doubt is the absence of faith." She turned the flyer down toward the ruined city. "I have faith. I have faced darkness many times, and I am not afraid of it. Or of you."

    Her words appeared to have had the desired effect: the scream that filled her ears came not so much from in front or behind as from all around her, and she could almost feel the combined fury of the remaining Shadows that she would dismiss them in such a manner. Another wave of cold blackness seemed to envelope the city before her, leaving her no choice but to go through it: taking a deep breath, she tilted the flyer almost vertical and headed in.

    She had thought it was cold before: now she could barely feel, her fingers numbed by the intensity of the cold. Her bandaged hand throbbed, but it was the only heat she knew in that moment. Her breath condensed before her: she tried to slow it down, not wanting to loose too much body heat and slowed her descent, transferring power to her life support systems. It would do no good to reach John, only to be in no condition to help him herself.

    "I will reach him," she almost snarled at the blackness around her. "You will not stop me. I will reach him, or I will die, and then you will never have either of us."

    There was no reply, but she could tell somehow that they were amused by her words. Of course, they did not want her, or they would have come for her on Babylon 5 instead of John. She was unimportant to them: her death would ensure that he would never be rescued, and he would either die or be captured by them. Either way, the Shadows would win the battle, not just here and now but for a thousand years.

    "No." She said it simply, with no hint of anger; only confidence. "That will not happen." The darkness still surrounded her, the cold penetrating her body completely, but she would not give way. Not now, so close.

    The Shadows redoubled their attack, and she felt the cold begin to seize control of her body.

    ::Quickly::

    She blinked, surprised by the sudden voice in her head, valiantly trying to hold her course.

    ::Come now::

    Delenn frowned: whether or not it was her imagination, she could see a point of light ahead in the darkness. She centred on it, holding her course to try and reach it, almost stretching out her mind to it...

    ::Here::

    The voice was almost musical: her eyes widened in amazement as she felt the palpable anger around her, the retreat from the being of light that floated on silent wings and now guided her ship. "Kosh?!"

    ::He must be saved:: It was possibly the most unambiguous thing a Vorlon had ever said, and it filled her with a sudden joy.

    "He's alive?"

    ::Alive, but not living:: Kosh had grown more direct since she had last spoken with him, Delenn noticed with a wry smile, but not much.

    "What does that mean?"

    There was no reply; she looked out of the vessel's small window and saw why. The cold and darkness no longer attacked her and her ship - instead it centred on Kosh, enveloping him in darkness like a blanket only to be pushed back by the light. It seemed to pull at him, stabbing at his wings, ripping angrily at him - and then just as she wanted to scream at them to leave him alone and take her, the darkness was gone and they were inside the abyss.

    It took Delenn a moment to realise, now the cold was gone, that she was no longer piloting her flyer. She tried to see Kosh again through the window, but he was out of her view. She spoke anyway.

    "Are you taking me to him?"

    ::Yes::

    There was a pause; she looked at the readouts as they descended, staring in amazement and then horror. John could never have survived a fall this long!

    "So far," she murmured softly. She wasn't expecting an answer, but it came anyway.

    ::Yes:: He seemed to know what he was doing, and she tried to relax. After all, he was guiding her now: it made sense that he could have guided John in the same way.

    ::Yes::

    Delenn smiled, feeling a little better at the Vorlon's ambiguous nature. It was something she had always been familiar with; she did not trust all Vorlons, by any means, but she trusted Kosh. Trusted him enough to know he would keep John safe, anyway.

    A thought suddenly hit her, and she frowned. "You called me here. You put John in my dreams to bring me here."

    ::The oracle sees only the angel, not the man::

    She had to struggle not to laugh. That he was still capable of completely maddening sentences that made no sense was somehow immensely comforting to her; as was the sudden sensation of slowing down, and then after a moment the soft thud as ground and craft connected.

    She eyed the escape hatch suspiciously, wondering if it were safe outside. Would there be atmosphere here? She had come through the Shadow cloud, yes, but no other kind of passageway. What if it were a vacuum outside?

    Then John would be dead, she reminded herself with some embarrassment. She could almost feel the Vorlon's impatience - something she hadn't thought it possible for them to possess - and snatched only her meagre medical supplies before opening the hatch.

    The light that greeted her was all but blinding. She blinked, looking quickly away from Kosh to allow her eyes to adjust slowly. It was then, after almost six days, that she finally recognised that indescribable sound from her dream - the softness of wings that flowed more than flapped in the thin darkness.

    "You rescued him." For the first time, she spoke directly to the Vorlon floating before her. She had seen him in this state before, but never...

    "'Only the angel, not the man'." She looked up at him, wide-eyed, as his words suddenly made sense. She was wrong - she had never seen this form before. "It wasn't John in my dreams... it was you. You were inside him." Her voice, to her ears, sounded somewhat calmer than she'd expected. "You didn't die on Babylon Five. You were there all the time, inside John. And when he fell..." her mind had already worked through the rest. She looked up again, almost shyly, remembering the first time she had seen him outside of his encounter suit, years before. Of course, now he had no suit to hide inside, but...

    "Is this how the Humans see you?"

    Kosh only smiled. Never, in all the time she had seen him, had she known him to smile in his Minbari form; unable to not do so, she smiled back at him. He held out a silent hand to her: she tried to ignore the fact that her own was trembling as she placed it in his. Only John and Lyta, to her knowledge, had ever truly touched a Vorlon.

    ::And now they are three::

    She hadn't thought it possible for a Vorlon to have a sense of humour, either: she winced ruefully as she... felt... Kosh's reaction to that assumption. For whatever reason, he seemed to prefer this Human image to any other he might project, and certainly to the Minbari deity -

    It struck her that he didn't represent Valeria - he was Valeria. The idea troubled her for a moment; a calming influence prevailed over her mixed emotions and she realised it was Kosh, communicating with her in that same way as the Shadow cloud had done. Without words or even images, his mind just seemed to fit to hers, replying to her thoughts even as she had them. Was this how Lyta felt when she worked for him? Was this how John had felt when the Vorlon had carried him, first to the Gardens and now to safety in the bowels of Z'Ha'Dum?

    ::Quickly:: He spoke aloud again, or what passed for aloud even if she didn't see his lips move, as they passed into a chamber that seemed hewn from the rock - and hurriedly at that. The entrance was narrow, with enough room for Delenn to pass inside but leaving Kosh on the other side of the passage, his angelic form blocking the entrance completely.

    Delenn turned back from the darkness inside, realising that that was what was intended here. The chamber wasn't large; perhaps two meters in each direction with enough room to stand straight, but nothing more, and it was dark as she stood in front of the door, keeping Kosh's glowing form from illuminating the tiny cavern. She stepped cautiously to one side, and the Human angel guarding the entrance flooded the room with light. Delenn gasped, unable to help her soft cry of fear.

    Sheridan lay on the cold stone, huddled against the back wall of the chamber, still wearing the uniform in which he had left the station almost a month ago. It was scratched and torn in any number of places, and what little she could see of his face and body suggested he was much the same.

    "John?" Unable somehow to really believe it now that she could see it, she almost fell to his side, desperately seeking a pulse at his wrist, the soft sound of breath that would prove to her that her faith had not been for nothing. She waited, one hand over his heart, the other clasping his wrist, despair and anger filling her.

    "You told me he was alive!" She spun and ran at Kosh, not caring in that moment if he were a Vorlon or not. "You brought me here to save him! You said that he had to be saved, that he was alive!" Tears streaked down her face, full of anger and regret and loss. "Kosh! Answer me, damn you!"

    It was the first time she had ever spoken so... so Humanly without thinking, and it was a fairly simple curse, so she supposed it was the emotion behind it that got his attention. She hoped so.

    ::He is alive::

    "He's dead!" She poured all her fear into those words, all her anger. "He isn't breathing, his heart is not beating. He is dead, Kosh, do you know what that means? Can you even contemplate what it is? You may have survived, but John is dead."

    ::Alive, but not of the living:: His voice was filled with an overwhelming confidence; so much so that she turned back to Sheridan, taking a tentative step to his side.

    "What does that mean?" She turned her tearful confusion back on Kosh. "What do you want me to do? I can't revive him. I'm not trained to-"

    ::Give::

    Delenn frowned helplessly as he turned his back on her again, trying hopelessly to still her tears at seeing John lying that way. Give? What did that mean?

    She laid a gentle hand on John's shoulder, meeting no resistance as she turned him onto his back. Looking down at him, he looked so peaceful that she felt sobs well in her throat. He looked as if he were asleep, an image fixed so firmly in her mind that she knew she would never forget it. There was no trace of blue in his lips; his skin not pallid in death but warm, although so very pale. Blood had not long clotted in the gashes and cuts on his face; but still he didn't breathe, and his heart refused to beat.

    A sob ripped from her throat, and she couldn't force it down again; one by one they choked her until she was kneeling over his living yet lifeless body, sobbing helplessly, her tears falling on his dust-stained uniform.

    "I'm sorry," she whispered as she touched his face, gently wiping away what dirt and dried blood she could. "I'm so sorry, John. I wasn't in time..." She closed her eyes, taking his hand in both of hers. If this was to be his deathbed, then she would at least say goodbye properly. "I didn't mean for this to happen. I never wanted to lose you..." Another sob filled her throat: she lifted his hand to her face, tears spilling onto his pale skin.

    "I love you, John. Always." She swallowed hard; her eyes squeezed shut to stop the tears, she didn't notice his eyelids flutter. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Anna... about everything..." She pressed his hand to her cheek, kissing his dusty palm; not noticing, through her tears, the sudden, slow rise and fall of his chest. "I'm sorry I didn't give you the choice, or-" she choked on the final agony. "Or the chance to see your child."

    "...what..."

    Her eyes flew open, but she saw nothing through the tears. That mattered very little, however, as a weak, dusty but somehow tender caress brushed them away.

    "J-John?"

    "I think so..." He took in another breath, and it rattled hard in his chest. "Barely." He turned his head to look at her and before she could protest, pulled her suddenly those few inches down to him, into a ravenous and not at all tender kiss. Not that she would have attempted to protest, she realised, trying only to keep her balance. The kiss lasted longer than she could remember, and it resolved a number of things that quite likely would have taken hours had they spoken of it. Right now, however, speaking was hardly a priority.

    Sheridan, however, seemed suddenly to feel differently: he pulled back out of the kiss, struggling to back up against the wall, a terrible expression on his face. Delenn sat back, pushing herself away from the look in his eyes, feeling the tears well up again. Then he spoke, quietly, so gently that she had to force down the memories again at that tone.

    "Delenn?" He sounded confused; he stared at her, and the horror on his face melted into amazement and relief. "Delenn... what are you doing here?"

    "I-" She couldn't find the words, frightened by the expression that was now gone from his face. He frowned slightly, trying to reach for her, but he could barely move more than a few inches before the pain called an abrupt halt to his movements. She went immediately to his side, reaching out to steady him, but her touch was hesitant: he frowned slightly.

    "What?"

    She shook her head, trying to loosen the collar of his uniform: he took hold of her hand and she winced as he gripped it too firmly. Only then did he notice the bandage, looking up at her in concern.

    "What happened?" He gently touched her face. "Delenn? What's wrong?"

    She looked up at him, but only for a moment before turning her head away, her voice quiet. "Why did you look at me that way?"

    He frowned. "What way?"

    "Just now. You looked at me... as if you were afraid of me." A single, lonely tear ran down her cheek. "As if you hated me."

    "What?" He sounded even more confused now. "Delenn, I could never hate you. I..." He seemed to struggle to find words: suddenly realisation seemed to arrive in his mind and he gently squeezed her fingers, taking care to stay away from the bandage. "Just now... I thought you were Anna." His voice told her what he meant by that. "The last thing I remember is her... holding out her hand to me, and then... darkness. I thought for a minute I didn't get away." He reached for her again, pleading for her touch. "Please, Delenn. I love you."

    She took a deep breath and let it out again, unable to contain the uncertain smile that touched her lips and only just holding back tears of joy. "I didn't think I would hear you say that."

    He frowned, looking surprised. "Didn't you get my message?"

    Delenn smiled. "I wanted to hear it in person." Tears filled her eyes, a joy and relief she couldn't hold back any longer as she put her arms around him and held him close. "John... I love you."

    "I know." He kissed her again, softly, wincing. She looked at him in concern, reaching behind her in the small cavern for the few medical supplies she had managed to bring with her.

    "You have to get out of here. It's not safe." He tried to hold onto her hand as she moved away, but as the pain of living began to take hold now his fingers were too weak to grasp hers. "Delenn, listen to me. You have to - you have to go."

    "I am leaving, but not without you." She saw him about to protest and for the first time, stared at him in a way that could almost be described as angry. "You have no idea what I have gone through to find you, John Sheridan. I am not about to turn around and go home alone just because you think there is the possibility that I am in danger." She pulled out an injector from her makeshift medkit and set it to the highest dose she dared use. "This should take away the pain for a little while. At least, until we can reach the ship." He raised his eyebrows - well, one of them. She shrugged, trying not to make too much of it. "I... borrowed a White Star."

    "Oh." He grinned lopsidedly. "Well, at least you might get yours back in one piece."

    Delenn laughed softly, pressing the injector to his arm. "You can tell me everything, later."

    He nodded, watching her inject the painkiller directly into his system. "You know, there is something else you could do to take the pain away." She looked up, saw his face and smiled: with a gentle caress she took his face in her hands and kissed him, warmly and slowly, the way she been longing to ever since she had seen his eyes open to look up at her. "Mmm..." He smiled into her eyes. "Do that again, I could probably fly out of here."

    "Later," she promised him. He grinned.

    "Now there's an incentive if ever I heard one. Let's go." He allowed her to support him, she noticed with some trepidation, grunting in pain as he stood, and it only reinforced how badly he was hurt that he didn't even attempt to walk on his own. There was room for them both to leave the tiny chamber together if they kept close; Delenn's hand stayed on his arm, as much to reassure herself of his presence as to support his faltering steps.

    If Sheridan was surprised to see Kosh awaiting them at the entrance to the chamber, he made nothing of it; if anything the Vorlon's presence seemed to bolster his reserves, pushing him on. Still, by the time they reached the flyer Delenn could easily see his exhaustion.

    "John." She touched his hand to get his attention, aware that he was ready to collapse with the simple effort of standing upright. "It's all right now. We will be back on the White Star soon."

    He nodded tiredly, trying to throw off the fatigue for just a few more moments. Delenn wasn't even sure he saw the flyer at all, only that he followed her guiding hands and blindly moved into the seat behind her own. She didn't need to turn around to sense that his eyes were already closed. The painkiller she had given him was powerful, but he needed proper medical care - something she prayed was less than five days away.

    She pulled the hatch shut and checked it; glancing briefly outside, she saw Kosh and smiled, saying a quiet thank you under her breath, hoping she wouldn't wake John. It didn't matter how softly she spoke, however; that enigmatic but somehow peaceful smile was answer enough for her gratitude. With no further words, perhaps feeling them unnecessary, the Vorlon started up out of the abyss. Delenn took a deep breath, called up the flight display and checked her reverse course. Above her, she could see the Shadow cloud; it seemed to be closing in on her, reaching for her.

    "No." She kept her voice low, but there was no less conviction than before. "Not now. You will not have either of us." She felt the pervasive cold again as they began the ascent: she ignored it, forcing her attention on her screens, but Sheridan had no such luxury. The cold seeping into his numerous injuries, he let out a quiet groan and shifted restlessly in his seat. Delenn began to pray under her breath; this was what they had waited for, why they had not come down to Sheridan themselves. They waited, knowing he would not withstand their final assault on his all-too-frail body, knowing he would soon be theirs or die in the attempt.

    What they didn't know, however, was that Delenn had been right in her tirade. That she had faith.

    And that she also had a guardian angel.

    The Vorlon, in Human form but seeming to grow, unfolding, surrounded the tiny vessel; then the angelic face disappeared and she saw his true form for one, single instant as a huge curl of pure light grasped her flyer and he almost bit - there was no other word for it - a hole through the deathly cloud. It stabbed at him, clawing with invisible talons, and she heard the screams of triumph echo as Kosh made no move to defend himself from the onslaught. Instead he carried the flyer, pushed it beyond the reach of the cloud, before snaking long, graceful tentacles back to snap at the missiles and claws that attacked his true form.

    ::Go. Go now!::

    "Kosh!" She didn't care right now if she did wake John: he would want to see this as well. "Kosh?!"

    ::Go!:: There was an urgency about the voice that made her suddenly fearful for him. He was Vorlon, but he was still a friend, perhaps the only one of his kind she would ever have. She couldn't leave him to die, here, alone.

    ::Now:: The tinkling of bells echoed in her head. Was it her fear, or was it fainter now? ::He must be saved. Go!::

    Whether she pulled through her concern for him and threw on all the reverse thrusters, or whether the one and only altruistic Vorlon made a last-ditch attempt to safeguard the craft and its occupants, she did not quite know. All she knew was that she was suddenly coming up on the White Star at such speed that she had no choice but to pull around and orbit the ship in order to come up on the bay doors correctly. As she swung the craft into the shadow of their ship, albeit a little awkwardly as she tried to correct for speed, there was a sudden flash of white light from the planet below. She shielded her eyes with one hand, turning away, but as luck would have it the flyer was the in the shade of the White Star and was shielded from what could only have been an explosion.

    Delenn forced down her pain and anger at the sudden, irrevocable understanding that Kosh was gone. That they had killed him, just as they had tried to kill her and the man she loved. Anger outweighed pain at those thoughts, and only the knowledge that John was relying on her stopped her from turning back to return the attack. Instead she took a deep breath, trying to calm herself, patching her comm system back into that of the larger ship to open the bay.

    "Authorisation Delenn one five nine. Password..." She glanced back at Sheridan, unable and unwilling to conceal the smile that the sight of his face brought to her lips. "'Faith manages'."

 

*****

 

 

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