THE JOURNEY HOME (II)

By Lyned

 

 

 

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 *****

Over the next week it seemed to John as if some diplomatic crisis or another had been filling up his schedule. Practically every Ambassador was requesting a meeting to discuss some mundane point or another. Everyone except the one he most wanted to see. Every time he had seen Delenn she was having a conversation with either Lennier or Marcus, even Michael. She was always on the move, never slowing down. He had called several times to try and get a lunch date with her, only to have her turn him down. And every night was pretty much the same conversation -

   "I'm sorry John, I try to get away but something seems to require my attention. I'm sure you can appreciate that."

   That was usually the end of it.

   But she was feeling pensive over the last couple of days and he knew it. He had even cornered Michael and gave him the third degree.

   "Look Cap'n, it's just been routine issues concerning security. I'm sure if you go back and re-read my reports, I've noted such conversations with her in my log."

   But it still didn't ease his mind. So after work he convinced Susan to go with him to Earhart's for a drink. She always knew what was happening on the station even though it was his command. He figured if anyone knew why Delenn was so busy, she would. He asked about her and Marcus, mentioning how busy he seemed lately. Susan seemed to slough it off. "Nah, no more than usual, but maybe I'm just used to it. Being there, not being there. I guess that's what prevents me from making a commitment. I want someone who'll be there - always.

   "Well, I think he's there for you-"

   "C&C to Commander Ivanova," Corwin linked in, "Commander you wanted to be notified when the package you requested arrived. It has and I placed it in your office."

   "Thank you, Lt Cdr., I'll be right up. Ivanova out. Sorry John, duty calls!"

   He waved his hand in mock dismissal as she left. So there he was drink in hand, Delenn in some meeting tonight, Michael on patrol, and no one in Earharts he really hangs out with. Throwing back the drink then placing the glass on the table he started to rise -

   "Don't leave yet, I was just coming to see you. Even brought you another drink."

   "Lyta, I didn't even see you come in. Sit, sit down. Thanks." as he reached for the glass. "What are you doing here, you usually don't hang out here?"

   "Well neither do you anymore!" she smiled back at him. "No I was just in the neighborhood, saw Susan leave and she suggested you might want some company - so here I am."

   "Let me ask you a question - is it me or is something happening that I'm not supposed to know about?"

   "Not that I'm aware of, and I won't scan anyone to find out, not even for you."

   "And I wouldn't ask," putting his hands up in surrender, "I just thought you might know something that's all."

   "Nope, don't know a thing. How's David, haven't seen him lurking about lately?"

   John, figuring he couldn't pry any information out of Lyta, proceeded in regaling her with the latest exploits of the now infamous David Sheridan. If he hadn't been the Captains kid he'd probably be in the brig. But she listened intently, laughing at his stories. As he relaxed he thought 'maybe I am feeling a little self conscience about having to share Delenn's time with everyone else.' Lyta smiled in his direction, sometimes he wonder whether she was scanning him or if he were just all too transparent. They parted company a hour later. He was in a much better mood as he meandered towards the day care center to pick David up. On his way his link beeped.

   "Sheridan, go!"

   "Captain, I have a message from Delenn, she'd like to see you in her office. She's made arrangements for David to have dinner over Greg's house tonight."

   "Thanks Corwin! Sheridan out!" Maybe he hadn't been wrong after all. At least he was going to find out. He made his way through the station, into her building, and down the hall to her office. Turning the corner he came to a dead stop and felt his heart hit the ground. There at the conference table were: Lennier, Marcus, Susan, Michael, G'Kar, Lyta, and Delenn. Around the wall were several Rangers.

   "Please John, come in and sit down, we don't have much time." Her face spoke volumes.

   "Time? Time for what? What the hell is going on here?

   "John," she spoke in soft tones, "after receiving Elizabeth's message about your father and watching your discomfort, I... we," she took a deep breath, "we have made arrangements to get you on to Earth. But we must move quickly. A ship is in place to take us along a chosen route, Valen willing, to Earth and back without incident."

   John stood there mouth agape. Then it seemed to hit him all at once. "How long have you been planning this and what exactly are your plans?"

   "We can discuss it on the way!" Marcus stated as he stood up.

   "No, I'm not going anywhere until I get some answers! And who the hell is us?" Almost knowing the answer without it being spoken, he shook his head, "No way, no way in hell am I putting you or David in jeopardy."

   "John," Michael interrupted, "we have a plan already in effect. Only Marcus, Delenn and myself know all the pieces of the puzzle. We, and I mean all of us here and those who have participated in this operation, would not put you or your family at risk if we didn't feel we had a high success rate. None of us are willing to put you on the line. Jesus, John you know everyone in this room would lay down their life for you but are hoping we won't have to. But we have to get going and we have to do it now."

   "Why now?"

   "The package I received, the call from Corwin, it was a call from Lizzy. Your Dad's taken a turn for the worse." Susan whispered. "I'm sorry John."

   "And you were in on this too!" he pointed over to Lyta. She could only nod as he sunk in the chair and buried his head in his hands. He looked up, across the table at his wife who was having less success at holding back the tears.

   "We have to go, John, now. We are packed and ready to go." She stood and walked over to him as his eyes followed her. She extended her hand to him and he took it. Not saying a word, he backed away from the table, stood, and took her in his grasp.

   "All right, let's go!"

   -----

   Zack met them in the terminal with David. Though the boy looked unsure, he knew this was not the time for questions. John reached down and scooped him up in his arms and proceeded into the shuttle.

   Once outside B5, the shuttle moved to dock with a White Star class vessel. They were met in the docking area by its Captain, Drew Campbell. Drew tried to hand over command to John, but both John and Delenn waived him off. Knowing the seriousness of the situation, Drew bowed deeply and followed behind them. Once settled in their quarters, Delenn arranged a meeting to discuss the events as they were scheduled to unfold.

   Marcus got up, plugged in a data crystal and images started to appear on the screen. As the slide show progressed those responsible for their part of the mission imparted to John their plan. Marcus related the results of the surveillance and recon. Michael explained security around the perimeters of all possible places they may be. Susan had used her cunning to obtain false documents for entrance into customs areas and for the purchase of those items needed to complete the mission. Zack spoke of communications and tracking - how they were to be wired together so they were in constant contact. G'Kar had used his influence to obtain a ship, escort and access codes needed once entering Earth space. Delenn had finished by saying that once they landed on Earth, John, Lyta and David were to pose as a family. When John started to object - she put forth her hand and continued -

   "Lyta will be able to detect problems as well as influence the customs officials' thoughts. Michael and Susan will proceed you, with Marcus and myself disguised as monks from Brother Theo's order following you. Those human Rangers flying with us will also pose as couples entering through customs, for our protection. We have secured several routes in and out. Are there any questions you'd like to ask?"

   "No, I think you all have covered just about everything. But I swear on everything I hold dear, if anything happens to any of you, I will personally kill whatever is left. Thank you, everyone for making this possible."

   Passing through hyperspace, they had encountered several White Stars and Minbari battle cruisers. When John looked questioningly at Delenn she recalled her conversation with Neroon to him. He was stunned, but thankful. All along this journey he was finding out just how exceptional those he called friends really were. During the flight they had time to go over the details, to work on their covers, get their stories straight, David seemed to enjoy the role playing. As they approached the transfer point at Io they hooked up with the shuttle they were to use to get to and from Earth.

   As they prepared to depart the White Star, Lennier and Delenn exchanged concerned looks. John knew Lennier wanted go to Earth with her, to protect her. As they left John gave Delenn a hug and she closed herself further into his embrace, silently praying everything would be okay.

   They had passed through the transfer point on Io, gone past Mars and had navigated the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars when Delenn caught sight of Earth. John could hear her gasp as she turned to him. She had never seen anything so vibrant in color, the blues of the oceans and the whites of the clouds. He stood beside her to point out North America and about where they were going. Moving behind the terminator into darkness he told her that down there was where Stephan and Michael were from. Continuing their orbit he was able to point out to her where Susan was from as they moved back into the light. She was amazed at the distance her friends had come from each other only to find themselves bound inextricably together. David was just waking up, John went to pick him up so he could look out the view port at his fathers' home world.

   -----

   As the shuttle executed docking maneuvers, everyone had gotten into their 'costumes' and prepared for debarkation. John leaned over to Delenn and gave her a kiss, telling her he'd see her on the other side. He leaned down to David and reminded him how important it was that he not deviate from the plan. He could see that David was trying to put on a brave front as he nodded his head in understanding. John adjusted the British racing cap David used to cover his tiny bonecrest then scooped him up in his arms. John then turned to Lyta, with a comforting smile, "Are you ready to go 'Mrs. Nelson'?" She returned his smile and nodded.

   All 'couples' left the Corrigidor, each executing the plan. Several broke to the left, several to the right. John and his "family" followed the straight path. Michael and Susan were at the checkpoint. Feeling his tension almost scream in her head Lyta reached out and touched John's arm. He smiled knowingly at her then put his arm around her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. When it was their turn he handed the attendant their papers and held his breath. Lyta went to work making sure he noticed nothing unusual. The agent smiled at them, asked if there were here to visit family for the holidays. John shook his head in confirmation. The agent stamped their papers and told them to have a pleasant stay. John could sense Delenn behind him as she handed the agent her passport, he lingered closely to the exit as if looking for something. He knew she was in good hands with Marcus. He had taken care of her before on missions that were fraught with more danger than this, but he knew they were in the open, vulnerable. He saw her pass but wait for her 'companion'. John looked around and saw Susan and Michael at a comm panel scanning the area. Several of the Rangers had passed through and had taken up positions just in case...

   Departing the terminal, several cars approached and came to a complete stop in front of them. In a moment of anxiety Michael and two rangers came and stood between John and the vehicle. The passenger exiting the first car quickly flashed her ranger symbol as the doors to the other cars opened to allow access. With some trepidation, Zack and three others entered the first vehicle. John, David, Lyta, Michael and Susan were in the next car. Marcus, Delenn and four other Rangers were in the last. John was not at all comfortable with Delenn being out of his grasp, and he chided himself about being talked into this. He knew the danger, he could feel it; like a hand choking the breath right out of his throat. But it was David who broke the silence by reaching up to touch his dad's face.

   "It's gonna be okay Dad." He smiled at John then put his little arms around his father's neck. "I love you Daddy!"

   "Thanks, David, I think I needed that." God he was so much like his mother. His son - only in his build and coloring, maybe his stubbornness - no he got that from both equally. Through the comm unit they all now wore, John could hear Michael talking to the other cars. They discussed routes, making sure security set up, roads were clear, comm traffic in the local area was nothing out of the ordinary. John knew he should relax, he figured the President didn't even have this tight of a security detail. When Marcus had mentioned that 270 human Rangers were in the surrounding area, John was shocked. He knew they'd follow his orders into battle but to put themselves on the line for him so he could see his father, no shock was probably too mild a word. He turned to stare out the tinted window to look at the landscape. It seemed familiar but at the same time it was also strange to him. How long had it been since he'd been here, 'Anna was alive then. God where did the time go?' He knew the answer to the question though - 'the grief, reassignment, the war - twelve years, it seemed another lifetime ago.' Susan leaned forward to touch his shoulder, he didn't have to turn around to know it was her, he reached up absently and placed his hand on hers. 'She may not quite be a P1...'

   When they had left the terminal it was early in the evening. Arrangements had been made for them to stay at a hotel in a small town about 100 miles from terminal. According to the schedule they would reach the Sheridan farm by mid-morning. John had remarked to Michael about how he was glad they were entering the town under the veil of darkness. This way they were less conspicuous. The closer they came to the town, voices became more evident in the earpieces. John could hear Marcus and Michael and some of the local Rangers stationed in the town coordinating travel routes, surveillance details... Quarters had already been obtained, all they had to do was enter the parking lot from the south side, go up the stairs and into the rooms. Several rangers had met them to help with luggage and other equipment. David had fallen asleep in the car and slept through the move. John had carried him up the stairs and placed him on the bed.

   Once everyone was settled, John, Michael and Susan met in Michael's room to go over the details for the rest of the evening and tomorrow's departure. Delenn stayed with David. All the rooms were adjoining so the door between Michael's and John's was slightly ajar... just in case. Marcus and Lyta had gone to talk to the other rangers and to "scope-out" the hotel.

   "Well so far everything has gone according to schedule, which I have to tell you scares me a little. I mean I know how good the Rangers are but I've heard of commando units that don't have this success rate." Michael reported.

   "Are you trying to cheer me up Mister Garibaldi?" John snapped back.

   "Would you two take a deep breath, God I'm the one who's supposed to be the pessimist here!" Susan countered with a laugh.

   "Okay, okay. So I'm overly cautious - shoot me!"

   "Motherly, would be more like it and don't tempt me I just might if anything happens," John grinned back at the two of them. However the laughter died in their throats as a knock came at the door.

   Relief was quick in coming as the recognition signal was given and received. Susan open the door and Marcus and Lyta slipped in.

   "Well everything's in place, Captain. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm starving - all this cloak and dagger you know!"

   "Marcus, isn't it dangerous for you to get hungry every time you go on a mission.? Michael asked.

   "Nope - never came up as a problem before - don't know why it should be one now!"

   Susan and John could only look at each other.

   "Maybe you're right," John sighed, "Just tell me we have options."

   Lyta looked at Marcus then at the rest of them. "We can either order room service, or there is a restaurant in the lobby that looks pretty secure. We can send in some teams in advance just to have our own people in there. They can rotate in and out. That way everyone gets a chance to eat."

   "Even in her 'monks' robe I don't think Delenn ought to go and I think I'd like to stay with her and David." John confessed.

   Delenn had appeared in the doorway as the conversation was going on - "John, I'd want you to go with them. This is your home, you should be with your own people, be with your friends. David and I will be all right, if someone could just bring us something back to eat."

   John started to reject her offer but Marcus piped in - "Look Captain, I'm sworn to protect Entil'Zha. Even if you did stay I'd have to be here anyway. This way at least one of us can relax - sort of. I'll order room service, have it delivered to my room and then bring it into your room, that way Delenn and I can eat and David can sleep."

   John got up and walked over to Delenn - taking her hands in his she reiterated, "Please John, go! I want you to go! Marcus and I will be fine."

   "Are you sure?"

   'Yes, John I'm sure!"

   "Okay but we won't be long."

   -----

   Michael, Susan, Lyta and John made their way across the lobby. They had left their rooms shortly after three teams had been dispatched. Michael insisted on leading however.

   As they entered the restaurant the Maitre'D met them with his hands raised, preventing them entry. "I'm sorry I can't let you go any further - House rules."

   "Why not," Michael barked back.

   The man just pointed up. All four followed his hand. There in the doorway above them hung - Mistletoe. With sudden realization they all looked at each other incredulously.

   "House rules - spirit of Christmas and all," the man repeated.

   Michael turned to Susan with a huge smile on his face - if she hadn't know better she'd a thought he put it there himself. Michael took her in his embrace and gave her a long lingering sensuous kiss - then let her go abruptly with a snicker, then turned to look at John. As John approached the door, he looked up again at the mistletoe then back at Lyta. He gave her a small smile, leaned forward and kissed her.

   'Christmas! Bah Humbug' came reeling into her head. She smiled at the thought.

   "Scrooge!" she whispered to him. He looked at her sheepishly.

   As they were being led to their table Susan commented, "I hope we don't have to repeat that on the way out!"

   "Oh, come on you enjoyed yourself, admit it," Michael teased back, reaching out for her.

   Dinner may have started out tensely but after a while everyone seemed to relax and the conversation flowed easily. The food was wonderful, the atmosphere warm, and it did feel good to be here with friends, laughing and just enjoying the moment. The only pause in the reverie was when Michael, who was still plugged into his comm unit, reported on the comings and goings of the other teams as well as what was happening upstairs.

   "I'll just be glad when this is all over - I feel like I'm aging by leaps and abounds." John said absently as they started to leave the restaurant.

   Fortunately 'House rules' only applied to entrances not exits - Michael had tried to suggest they switch partners on the way out.

   "I'm not kissing Lyta!" Susan chuckled back at him.

   "That's not what I meant!" Michael countered.

   "You know Michael, I really think you need to go on R&R. Remind me when we get back to send you far, far away for a long rest." John laughed. Michael could only look chagrined.

   However as they exited the dining room, John reached up and plucked a sprig of mistletoe. Michael looked at him.

   "Don't ever talk about me!" he said shaking his head

   -----

   "Delenn," he slid up behind her wrapping his arms around her waist as they looked at David sleeping. "I have something for you." She turned to him and a wide grin came over his face as he pulled the plant from his pocket.

   "What is that?"

   "Around this time of year - Christmas time we have a tradition. People hang a plant called mistletoe from the top of door jams or other high places, and if a couple - or two people who care about each other - find themselves under it they're suppose to kiss." His grin was getting bigger, "And this is mistletoe!" as he moved his hand above her head. She looked up as knowing smile found its way to the corners of her mouth.

   She laughed in understanding, "Who am I to stand in the way of tradition!" she put her arms around him and kissed him passionately.

   "I love you, Delenn," he smiled into her neck.

   "I love you too, John!"

   Knowing that David was in the room with them they resigned themselves to getting ready for the next day's journey, though with much regret. John was already under the covers when she came back from the bathroom. She turned out the lights and slid under the sheet. He rolled up behind her, wrapped his arm around her and whispered in her ear, "Good night, sweetheart."

   "Good night John!" she cooed as she moved closer to him.

   -----

   The next morning they were on the move again. The drive seemed longer than John had remembered. They had driven mostly in silence only David asking the occasional question, or how much longer until they got there. Along the way John had explained to David and the others about the history of this part of the world. How they were not unlike the people who has settled here 400 years ago. How those people had come from far and wide, from many different countries, differing cultures, survived many hardships to tame the land. He told them about cowboys and Indians, cattle drives, how the buffalo had almost become extinct but was now protected. He told David the story of the white buffalo and how it was foretold that it would come back when it was needed to bring peace to the world. David was enthralled.

   "Do you think we will see a white buffalo, Dad? Will we see cowboys and Indians?"

   "Well there are still cowboys and Indians, but they don't fight anymore like they used to. As for the white buffalo - there hasn't been one seen in almost 300 years."

   "Oh Dad, I can't wait to get there." David exclaimed.

   "I'll feel much better when we get there too, short stuff," Michael told him.

   Not long after they had reach their turnoff.

   "Alright, we're turning onto the road to the farm, everyone get in position," came the voice through John's earpiece. Marcus had told John that they would tell his parents just before their arrival so it wouldn't be too much of a shock when he walked through the door. But as they neared the farmhouse the butterflies in John's stomach almost made him sick.

   David on the other hand couldn't contain his excitement. This was a lot to take in at once. Never before had he been on a planet, much less one with what his Dad called 'snow', he was certain of one thing, it was cold here. However he couldn't wait to see Grandma and Granddad. He remembered what his parents said about his needing to be quiet and good. He made a promise to Valen that he would do his very best.

   Delenn had been following the progress of Michael's reports from her car. She had asked Marcus several questions about Earth, about the area surrounding the farm. She was amazed when he told her that shortly after they had turned on this road, starting with the black split rail fence - pointing out the window - that was the beginning of the Sheridan's property.

   "But we've been traveling 5 kilometers already! How much further until we get there?" she remarked with awe in her voice. Never before had she know anyone with so much land in their control. On Minbar, because it was covered mostly with polar caps and crystalline structures, no one owned more than was necessary. Only the publicly held parks and places of meditation were larger.

   Marcus snickered in remembrance, how many times as a kid did he ask his parents - 'How much further?' But before he could continue down memory lane the car was turning into the long driveway. He pointed to the house that sat atop the hill. "That is 'Brigadoon', and for the next little while we will try and make it disappear, only to have it reappear after we leave."

   "Their house has a name?"

   "Yes, most farms have names," Marcus said with a smile. "I understand that Brigadoon was a story about a magical place in the Scottish Highlands that only appeared for one day every 100 years, then disappears again into the mist. Apparently when Mr. and Mrs. Sheridan moved here permanently they changed the name. They felt this was their magical place from which they could disappear from the world only to appear when they chose to, so they named it. I hope they know something..."

   "It is a beautiful place, calming, peaceful... yes magical would be a word I would use to describe it too." As the cars came to a halt outside the farmhouse a shiver came over her and Marcus took her hand.

   "Are you okay?"

   "Yes, I'm fine - it's just... this may sound odd... but I feel... at home." It was the only way she could describe what she was feeling, but even to her own ears it sounded... absurd.

 

 *****

 

 

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