THE FAITHFUL IV
TITLE: The Faithful (4/9)
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!
"What do you mean you can't FIND her?!"
Lennier stood stoically in the middle of Delenn's quarters, and Marcus marvelled at how he could face that tone of voice without flinching. Susan Ivanova was anything but stoic: she was irate. Fury built in her eyes, smouldering in her enraged expression, her body actually trembling with the effort it took to restrain herself from leaping on the young Minbari and beating him senseless for his impassive reaction to the news. She took a long, shuddering breath, turning sharply away to avoid punching him and tugging a rough hand through her hair.
"Lennier, it's been nearly a week." A week during which she had slept for maybe half a day, in total, and had consumed most of her vodka supply plus everything Marcus could find for her in those seedy bars of his. She turned on the Ranger, knowing that for once - unlike Lennier - the sight of his expression might not fill her with the desire to break his face. "Are you telling me we know exactly where she went, we have every ship we can spare looking for her, and we still have no sign of her?"
"Most of the League ships are refusing to help. They say no one comes back from Z'Ha'Dum." He shook his head in helpless frustration. "They won't even try, after all she did for them."
"All they did," Ivanova corrected. Marcus nodded, looking down, tossing his pike restlessly between his hands. "We all know why she's gone. And where." She appealed desperately, growing past anger now. "We still have the White Stars. Surely-"
"Many of the White Stars were destroyed during the last battle," Lennier reminded her quietly. There was something infuriatingly subdued about his tone, and he didn't look at her: just stared at the floor. "Most others are still undergoing repairs."
Ivanova reined in a scream of frustration at his emotionless voice. "How many do we have?"
"Five completely operational, that we can spare." Marcus matched her incredulous expression helplessly. "The League are demanding we keep enough back to protect the station and the ships that are coming here. And as much as I hate it, they're right." He didn't often stand up to her fury, knowing much better than to cross her, but they had no other option. "Susan, for every ship being repaired we need something to protect them. Until the repairs are done there's nothing else to spare. We're doing our best." He tried in vain to console her, knowing explicitly the emotions she was feeling. He hadn't slept last night either, or much the night before. He was on the edge of hysteria whenever he stopped to think, desperate to just go Down Below and get blindingly drunk to wipe this whole sorry situation from his mind for a few blissful hours.
"Our best isn't good enough!" She tugged angrily at a knot in her hair, only having swept a brush through it that morning. "It's five days to Z'Ha'Dum. She'd have to either still be there or be heading back by now."
"We've got White Stars Sixteen and Thirty patrolling the most direct routes through hyperspace. Nothing so far, but it's not exactly an easy job."
"Can't we hail her? She'd know we were looking for her, for God's sake, she knows what she's doing." She shook her head. "With the ship at least."
Marcus reached across and put a hand tentatively on her arm. "Did Stephen tell you..."
"Yeah." When she looked up, tilting her head back, he was surprised to see her eyes fill with tightly held tears. "I don't blame her for doing this. I just wish she'd said something." She put her hands briefly on her face, and when she turned back the tears were gone, swallowed again by her famed Russian reserve. "Did he know, do you think?"
"No." Marcus shook his head, seeing Lennier shift uncomfortably, staring at the lone candle that still stood in the centre of the room. "She didn't tell anyone. Swore Stephen to secrecy."
Ivanova forced a wry smile. "He's gonna get it in the neck when she gets back."
"If she returns." Lennier's voice was quiet, oddly downcast. Ivanova bristled, rounding on him.
"What do you mean, 'IF she returns'? You of all people, Lennier-"
"Leave him alone, Susan." Marcus' voice was reluctantly gentle. "The Minbari have different ways of dealing with this kind of thing." He sighed and lowered his voice. "Stephen told him this morning."
"About- Oh." For once, she closed her mouth and gave the Minbari a look of sympathy. Marcus had explained to her, in detail, the Minbari edict on what Delenn had done - what she had risked to be with Sheridan, to carry his child even unintentionally. Part of her still didn't understand the dreadful sin it seemed to be, but Lennier at least seemed to take it exceptionally seriously. She coughed uncomfortably, trying to find something supportive to say. "Well, um..." She looked at Marcus for support. "At least she knew. I mean, she wouldn't do anything to harm John's child."
"She did not know," Lennier muttered under his breath. Ivanova blinked in surprise.
He still didn't look up, staring at Delenn's unlit candle. "She did not know until I sent him to see her." He glanced at her, a horrible guilt in his eyes. "I feared for her. She would not eat - she hardly slept. Her grief was..." He looked away, shame on his face. "I could not see her that way any longer. So I sent for Doctor Franklin, and he told her-" He couldn't finish the confession, his voice filling with remorse. "I should not have disobeyed her order, but I feared she would..."
Ivanova let out a stunned breath. "You're telling me... Whoa." She shook her head. "Well, I guess it makes sense. I'd probably have run after him too if I'd found out-" She coughed uncomfortably, feeling Marcus' speculative glance. "Well."
"You do not understand."
She was becoming impatient with that self-pitying resignation now. "Well, then, go on. Enlighten me as to the Minbari way."
He looked up, straight into her eyes, and for a moment anger blazed at her. "You believe Delenn has gone to find him." He couldn't say that name, even though he inwardly doubted the Captain could have known how badly his Human desire had defiled his lover. "You believe she wants to find him. To bring him home."
Even Marcus looked surprised at the scepticism in his tone. "Lennier?"
"You were trained by Minbari. You have been to our world." He stared at the Ranger. "We have discussed this before, Marcus. We may look like you - Delenn may look like you, but we are never you. Delenn knows what she has done." Disgust thickened his voice. "What Sheridan has done to her."
Marcus raised a hesitant hand, looking apprehensive. "Uh, Lennier, I agree with you all the way there, but, well..."
"It takes two to tango," Ivanova cut in with a hint of impatience. She shrugged off Marcus' swift glance. "I hate to spring it on you right now, but Delenn's obviously a little more Human than you think."
"She is Minbari." Lennier's voice was tense. "And now she is mal'cra."
Ivanova raised her eyebrows at Marcus. "'Malchrah'?"
"Outcast. Exile," he added reluctantly. "If not her then the child. The Minbari won't recognise a child born out of wedlock, and with an alien?" He shook his head hopelessly. "Besides the fact that it's Sheridan. That just about scuppers her chances altogether."
"After what he's done for them?" Her voice was incredulous, bordering on anger.
"He's still Starkiller. And the Warrior caste are just waiting for a chance to disown her completely." He shook his head again. "They can be violently xenophobic, Susan. Earth has firsthand experience of that, and Sheridan represents everything they still hate about Humans. They've hidden it well but it's still there. You see it occasionally, particularly on Minbar. Add to that their dependence on tradition and their pretty extreme obsession with keeping the race pure, and I don't think Delenn's going home any time soon."
Ivanova stared at him in disbelief, all the more horrified because she could see the truth of his explanation. Even if she didn't understand their attitude, she knew how the Minbari would feel about Sheridan taking one of their own as a lover. A Human lover, in every way that mattered. Had Delenn loved him - did she love him that much? Deeply sympathetic as she was, her heart ached for a moment to be able to feel that kind of emotion for someone. Since Talia...
"All the more reason to find him, I guess." She pulled her mind back to Delenn, intense compassion for her friend echoing in her voice. "If she'd just said something..."
"She will not want to find him." There was something mentally wrong with Lennier, she decided now.
"She knows what he has done to her. What he has brought on her and her child." A strained sound of loss trickled through his stiff words. "She is mal'cra now. Sheridan is dead, and she has nothing left to live for."
"Oh God." Ivanova stared at him in horror, whirling on Marcus. "No. She wouldn't want - It's his child!"
"I don't know." Marcus put his hand comfortingly on her arm: she didn't even pull away, frozen in disbelief. "She's not completely Minbari. She'd have a chance of a decent life among Humans, but... Well, she's not Human either." His eyes were haunted with the truth. "She might not want to live without him."
"She wouldn't kill herself. Not if she knew she was carrying his child."
"She wouldn't have to if she wasn't. No one would know."
Ivanova yanked away from him as if he were the Devil incarnate. "You believe this?!"
"I don't know. No one does." His tone was filled with escaping despair. "Except Delenn, and when we find out it might be too late."
Ivanova's hands clamped claw-like onto his arms, her eyes spitting fury as she snarled at him. "Find her, Marcus. NOW!"
The console sputtered and whined, lights flickering out. Delenn let out a soft sob of frustration, only narrowly avoiding burying her face in her hands. The left was still bandaged, albeit inexpertly and hardly clean now, and her fingers ached with the effort of trying to repair the communications console. She had finally discovered the reason why they were still alone in hyperspace: the ship she had so hurriedly taken had still been undergoing repairs. It was no wonder the crew had evacuated so smoothly - they had probably believed something had gone wrong with the ship during repair. The communications array was erratic and when she had powered down the systems to reach John all the faster, a number of connections had failed where she hadn't noticed them before. Power had not been fully returned to the console and now she was reduced to working haphazardly to reconnect it while keeping an open channel to the medical bay, praying constantly under her breath that she would be in time. John's fever had worsened, and the discovery of her omission had made her suddenly wary of anything else that might be as yet unrepaired. Were the guidance systems functioning properly? Were they even on the right course? What if the jump engines failed before they could emerge into normal space - or worse, mid-jump? She knew how to control a ship, but she was not a technician. She knew only what the systems told her, and if one could lie then others could do the same.
John made a restless sound, and she glanced at the screen to assure herself that it was nothing more than the heat and pain of the fever that made him call to her. He had not been coherent for a day and a half now, only waking briefly to perhaps hold onto her hand, if she was lucky; letting her know he was still with her, somehow. But he was slipping away, terrifyingly slowly, and she did not know what she could do to keep him with her if help didn't come soon.
She leaned into the console again, pushing her hair back from her face and redoubling her efforts of repair. If she could get the console online, she at least stood a chance of reaching someone who might help her; if not, there was a very real possibility that John would die before they reached Babylon 5.
He groaned again: she looked up, unable to ignore that pained sound, and hurriedly finished the connection she thought - this time - might be the correct one. She closed the console and stood up, wiping her hands on her dress and punching in the emergency hail. There was an angry, defiant whine from the console; Delenn swore in a decidedly Human fashion and went for the door.
"*...is... Five. Please... your position.*"
She halted in mid-step, her heart stopping in fearful hope as she turned around. "What?"
"*...repeat... Please state...*" There was a rush of static and then the console gave up, the lights dead. She ran back to check it, ripping off the plating and flicking on the repair lighting. It had been the right connection - in her rush to finish she had not linked it properly and the wiring was burnt through. Delenn sighed heavily, fighting the hysterical frustration at being so close. She had no idea where the proper wiring would be kept. Evidently the crew had not noticed the malfunction either, for their repair tools were nowhere on the bridge. How could she repair this?
She sat up, despairingly glancing around. Another wire caught her hand as she pulled it from the innards of the console: she stared at it. What was she thinking? There was wiring here, everywhere. All she needed was an unnecessary system - but would it be enough? It had to be the correct type of wiring, capable of carrying communications, not just anything she could find...
The viewer. An internal communication system, if she could find the right wiring to remove and use as a patch, would be easy to use... but it would mean she would have to turn off the link to the medical bay - she had no time to be delicate.
She looked back at John. He was sleeping, but not peacefully. The decision was made. She located what she hoped and prayed was the right connection, took it firmly in her hand and yanked.
It came free, and the screen rippled into blackness. Delenn wasted little time in removing the burnt wires, roughly pushing her makeshift link into the casing and tugging to make sure it would hold. The console flickered back on above her, almost warily, but she took only enough notice to patch it through to the internal net before closing the console and leaving the bridge. She had cannibalised the viewer, but with some luck the audio would still work. She would soon find out.
John was quiet as she ran into the medical bay, catching hold of the door as the floor shifted under her, sensing something was wrong.
//Ship?// Her voice was tentative, but there were no further movements. //What's happening?//
//Automated jump to Babylon Five in progress.//
And then another voice echoed in the room. "*White Star, this is Babylon Control. Please identify yourself.*"
Delenn opened her mouth to answer, moving quickly over to the bed: what she saw made her gasp, all thought of finally, suddenly being home fleeing her mind. "Oh, Valen - John!"
"*Ambassador Delenn?*" The voice was strange - she couldn't picture their face.
"No." Her voice shook, pain welling in her throat and burning behind her eyes. "No... John, NO..."
"*White Star, this is Babylon Control. Please respond.*"
She didn't hear the puzzled insistence in that unfamiliar tone, didn't hear the words, heard nothing but the dreadful silence from the bed. No! She couldn't have come this far, have been so close to bringing him back to her just to lose him now! She put her hand on his clammy skin, on his wrist, checking the pulse under his jaw and laying her hand on his heart. A sob jerked from her throat before she could stop it, dimly aware of voices surrounding her as she contained those that sought to follow. John's skin was warm under her hands, but his lips were silent and his chest no long heaved with the effort of breathing. Even his heart had stopped, lying still and lifeless under her shaking hand.
"I need to speak with Stephen." Her voice was breaking, frustrated and terrified. "Please..."
"*He's on his way over now,*" Ivanova's voice assured her.
Susan. She thanked Valen for that voice. "He's not breathing." She didn't care who else was listening. "Susan, help me. I don't know what to do..."
"*John?*" There was surprise in that tone that couldn't be held back. "*He's alive?*"
"He isn't breathing!"
"*Oh God.*" Ivanova took a deep, heavy breath, and was it Delenn's imagination or could she hear other voices? "*Okay, just hang on. Marcus is gonna talk to you while I get a docking bay ready. He'll tell you what to do, okay?*"
"Yes..." Her voice trembled, her hands moving restlessly over John's motionless chest. "Oh, Valen, help me."
"*Delenn.*" Marcus' voice filled the room, no hint of the anxiety or helplessness she felt or had heard in Ivanova's tone. //*Delenn, listen and do exactly what I tell you.*//
//Anything!// She choked back a shaking breath. //He's not breathing, Marcus. His heart isn't beating! I thought I'd lost him on Z'Ha'Dum, but this-//
//*Put your hands on his chest. Over his heart. You have to get it started again.*// She shook her head, dubiously doing as he asked. //How?//
//*Lace your fingers together and press hard. You have to imitate his heartbeat.*// That wasn't difficult, she thought with relief. She knew the sound of John's heartbeat better than her own.
//How long do I-//
//*Until I tell you to stop,*// he cut in firmly. //*Then I want you to breathe into his mouth, hold onto his nose so that you breathe for him. Count that for a minute, then change over again.*// He paused for a moment. //*Got all that?*//
//Yes.// She tried not to let him hear her uncertainty.
//*Change over. Keep doing that until Stephen gets to you.*//
//Marcus?// She was suddenly afraid he was leaving her to cope alone.
//*We're listening, Delenn. Just keep doing what I told you.*//
//All right...// The primitive technique only intensified her concern. This was going to bring life back to her lover, to drive away the sudden reality of her nightmares?
//*Susan's talking with Stephen. They're coming up on the docking bay now.*// His tone was calm, soothing her desperate anxiety. //*He'll be all right, Delenn.*//
Did he really believe that? She found it hard to summon up that faith herself right now, with John's lifeless body under her inexperienced hands. If they took much longer, nothing would bring him back. He needed a miracle as it was, and even with all the love in her heart she could not provide that.
//*They're docking now, Delenn.*// He kept using her name, trying to stay with her even over such a distance. //*You just have to hold it together a bit longer.*//
Her breath tore in her throat, begging to be let free in great, gasping sobs at such a gentle reassurance. He'd heard it, then; the desperation and loneliness in her voice that she had tried to hide, the fear that had filled her mind and slowly built since that last, tender 'I love you'.
//I'm frightened, Marcus.// In her own language, private amongst whoever else might be listening. //I'm going to lose him...//
And then there was the most wonderful sound in the world, the most beautiful, glorious echo of her own uneven breathing as John's chest stirred under her hands. She gasped, touching his lips, feeling the warmth start to return. "Oh, Valen..."
"John." She slipped her hand under his head, leaning towards him, ignoring Marcus' concerned voice. "John?" His eyelids flickered briefly, not even fully open before they drifted shut again, but it was enough to make her smile desperately through her tears. "John, please, stay with me..."
"Ambassador Delenn?" The voice was closer suddenly, and it wasn't the jovial accent of her faithful Ranger. A hand touched her arm, pulling her back, and suddenly the room was filled with people, surrounding the bed as Stephen Franklin came into view.
She collapsed then, in the sudden realisation that she had achieved her goal - her impossible task of bringing John home alive. She felt a dull stab of pain at the thought of Kosh, dying so coldly in the Shadow cloud; at the memories of the past few desperate days; at the image of John, lying still and bloody on the cold rock of Z'Ha'Dum. A wave of sorrow and relief and pain washed over her, and she was only vaguely aware of Megan's face in front of her as she collapsed completely and gentle hands lowered her to the deck.
The JumpNow FanFiction Archive
To submit a story, questions, or removal of your story please mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.