NO GREATER LOVE

By H. Arla Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

   Delenn moved quickly down the hallway on her way to the War Room. It had only been four days since John had given her the bad news. "Twenty years." her mind screamed. "Twenty years was not enough!" She lifted her left hand to look at the engagement ring he had placed there that night. Delenn could still hear the tenderness in John's voice as he had slipped it on her finger, explaining its meaning.

   That night and the night after they had completed the final two nights of the Minbari Sleeping Ritual. And last night....

   she smiled softly. Last night they had become lovers not only in heart but body and soul.

   Delenn continued with these thoughts until she reached the lift. As the door opened and she stepped inside she was joined by Lorien.

   "Good morning." she smiled at the First One.

   "Ambassador." Lorien nodded and executed a short bow.

   As the lift descended to the War Room, Delenn turned to Lorien. "May I ask you a question?"

   "Of course." he nodded

   "I have been wondering if there were any way to extend John's life?"

   Lorien was silent for a moment. "There is but one way."

   "What is it?"

   "Someone must willingly give up their own lifeforce to restore his."

   "I see." Delenn replied softly. Just then the lift door opened.

   They stepped out onto the upper level of the War Room. From her vantage point above, Delenn could see that all the other members of the war council had arrived.

   She descended the staircase and crossed over to the council table. "I am sorry to be late." she apologized when she reached Sheridan's side.

   "Quite alright Ambassador." he replied, giving her a smile.

   His eyes twinkled with mischief and intimacy. For he knew the reason for her tardiness. The Ambassador had still been sound asleep when he had returned from his morning run, he had woken her and had shown her just how much fun showering together could be.

   Sheridan drew his eyes from hers to look at the being standing behind her. "Lorien." he addressed him.

   "Good morning Captain."

   "Well, now that everyone is here let's get started, shall we?"
 
 
 

   It was early in the day, the following morning. Lieutenant David Corwin was on duty in Command and Control. He looked down at his console and frowned when he picked up a strange signal. Before he could investigate it further the signal disappeared as though it had never been there.

   "This is too weird." he muttered to himself. "Commander?"

   Corwin called out to Susan Ivanova, who was just heading for the door.

   "Yes Corwin, what is it? I was just on my way to lunch." she said as she approached.

   "Sorry Commander but I just picked up the strangest signal coming from near Epsilon 3. Before I could check it further the signal vanished."

   Ivanova frowned slightly. "Keep an eye on the area and notify me immediately if you pick it up again."

   "Right." Corwin replied.

   "I'll be back in an hour. Think you guys can handle things alone for awhile?" Susan joked as she turned away.

   "We'll try Commander." Corwin said to her retreating back.
 
 
 

   "Hey Suz!" Ivanova turned at the call and smiled as Garabaldi stopped at her side.

   "What can I do for you Michael?"

   "Have you seen the Captain? I need to check on something with him." Garabaldi asked.

   "He's at lunch Michael?" Ivanova replied.

   "He's not in the mess hall. I was just there."

   "Ah, the Captain had lunch `catered'" Susan replied and continued on her way.

   "Catered?" Garabaldi said with a bewildered frown. "But we don't have a catering service. I swear people around here are getting stranger every day." he muttered to himself and made his way to the security office.
 

   --------------------


 

   The customs check point at the main docking bay was alive with activity. Three passenger ships had just docked and the passengers were unloading.

   A hooded figure moved from the docking bay and followed the crowd to the checkpoint. When he reached the security guard he held out his identicard.

   The security guard looked at the man as he took the card and frowned. The man's face was completely hidden within the depths of his hood. Slipping the identicard into the scanner, he checked the readout. Nothing unusual except that there was no picture of the man. Scanning the info further the guard saw that the man belonged to a small religious sect that did not believe in anyone seeing their faces or having their pictures taken. Everything else checkout, however.

   "I'll need a print scan, Mr. Martin to verify your identity since there is no picture on your identicard."

   "Of course." Martin replied and pressed his hand to the scanner.

   "You're cleared for entry Mr. Martin." the guard said after a moment and handed back his identicard. "Have a nice stay."

   "Thank you. Could you tell me where I might find Captain Sheridan?"

   "Captain Sheridan is not available at the moment."

   "Please, it is imperative that I see him. Tell him that I have a message to deliver and that there is not alot of time."

   The guard frowned. "Just a minute." he replied and activated his link. "Davis to Commander Ivanova."

   "Ivanova here. What's the problem Davis?"

   "I'm on duty at the security checkpoint in main customs. I have a man here named Joseph Martin. He says that he needs to speak to the Captain."

   "Captain's not available right now."

   "I told him that Commander but he is very insistent. He said that he has an urgent message to deliver."

   There was a moments pause and then Davis heard Ivanova sigh. "Very well Davis. Tell him to wait and I'll be right down. I'll call the Captain and inform him. Ivanova out."

   "John's gonna kill me for this!" Ivanova muttered as she put a call through to his link.
 
 
 

   The link on the bed stand purred several times but it's owner ignored it.

   "Aw hell!" Sheridan muttered after the insistent purring continued. "Susan, this had better be good or I'm gonna kill you!" he swore.

   There was a muffled giggle from beside him and a slender hand reached out from beneath the covers to grasp the offending object and pass it to its owner. Sheridan sat up and activated the link. "This had better be good Susan!" he growled.

   "I'm sorry to disturb your `lunch' Captain."

   Delenn giggled beside him. Sheridan smiled at her but gave her a nudge in the ribs. She placed a hand over her mouth to stifle her giggles.

   "What's the problem Susan?"

   "There is a man down at the customs checkpoint demanding to see you. He says he has an urgent message to deliver. Davis says that his name is Joseph Martin."

   Sheridan frowned slightly. ~Now why does that name sound so familiar?~ he thought. "Oh alright I'll be right there. My lunch hour was nearly over anyway."

   "Right." Ivanova stated and the channel closed.

   Sheridan turned to the woman next to him and saw laughter in her eyes. "See what trouble you get me into." he smiled and brushed a finger down the bridge of her nose.

   "Me?" she said innocently "I do believe that this was your idea Captain."

   "Guilty as charged Ambassador." he smiled then pulled her close for a kiss. It was a quick kiss, brief and light. "See you later." he smiled into her eyes.

   But the ambassador wasn't letting him get away so easily. Before he could slip away she pressed her body close and drew his mouth back to hers. She kissed him, bold and naughty, with tongue and teeth. Delenn smiled when she heard him moan.

   John wanted nothing more than to stay and continue this, but with the one lucid part of his mind he knew that he had to go. With effort he drew his lips from hers. "Witch!" he whispered huskily, looking down into her passion filled green eyes.

   Delenn merely smiled in that enigmatic and incredibly sexy way she had. "I do have to go, but we will finish this. Later." he added as he slipped from the bed.

   John pulled on his clothes, quite aware of her eyes following his every move. Once he had dressed Sheridan turned to face her.

   Delenn had slipped from the bed and pulled on her robe.

   "John, are you not going to kiss me goodbye?" she questioned sweetly.

   "I don't know if I trust you." he gave her a mock frown.

   "If I promise to be good?"

   Sheridan chuckled and closed the distance between them, brushing a kiss across her lips. "I'll see you tonight."

   "I will be waiting." she smiled and watched as he left.
 

   --------------------


 

   It was only a few minutes later when Sheridan arrived at his office. From the open doorway he could see that Ivanova and the stranger had already arrived.

   "Well this had better be important." Sheridan said as he strode into the room. "I was just in the middle of a very sensitive diplomatic exchange."

   Susan stifled a snicker.

   "Yes, that's what we called them too." the stranger said enigmatically.

   Ivanova and Sheridan looked at each other wearing twin frowns. "Do you wish me to stay Captain?" Susan asked.

   Before Sheridan could reply the stranger said. "What I have to say is, for the moment, for your Captain's ears only."

   Sheridan turned to face his exec. "It's alright Susan."

   "Very well. I will be in C & C if you need me Sir." she replied and left the office.
 
 
 

   Sheridan crossed the room to stand behind his desk. He turned to face the stranger and as he did so, he surreptitiously pressed a button that was hidden beneath his desk. It activated the office's recording devices. "Now would you mind telling me who you are and why you are here?" Sheridan asked.

   The Stranger slowly reached up and pushed back the hood from his face. Sheridan recoiled back in shock.

   There, infront of him was HIMSELF!

   The hair was greyer and more wrinkles lined his face. This man looked old, so very old. But it was what Sheridan saw in his eyes that shocked him the most. They were eyes that were filled with horror and anguish; with pain and death. They were eyes that were haunted and ancient.

   Now Sheridan realized the significance of the stranger's alias. `Martin' was his mother's maiden name and `Joseph' was his own middle name, after his maternal grandfather.

   "Who...." Sheridan asked barely able to force the words passed his lips.

   "No your eyes do not deceive you and I am not a twin or a clone." the other John spoke aptly reading his counterparts's mind.

   "I am you John Sheridan." he continued. "Albeit another version of you."

   "How? It's not possible!"

   "Yes it is and if you will allow me a moment I will explain it all to you."

   Sheridan nodded and sat down behind his desk. Taking his cue from John, his double did the same.

   "Have you heard of the theory of parallel universes?" the double began.

   "I've heard of it, but it's just a theory."

   "It's not a theory anymore. You see, I am from an alternate universe."

   Sheridan gave his double a sceptical look ~This man is crazy!~ he thought.

   "You think that I am crazy," he said. "But I am as sane as you are. Please allow me to explain why I am here. After you hear me out you will understand."

   Sheridan nodded and his double began his story. "I once thought as you do but proof changed my mind. Let me see, where would be a good place to start?"

   "Perhaps the beginning." Sheridan quipped.

   "Very well. Alternate or parallel universes are alike in many ways. For the most part the same people exist in each. Only the circumstances of their lives are different. This is because of the decisions that are made.

   Choose one path and one reality is created, choose the other and another reality is created.

   At first I didn't believe as you don't. It was the Great Machine who convinced me otherwise. Somehow Draal had found a way to scan these alternate realities and to view, for a few moments, what was happening in each. I was with him at the time and he showed it all to me.

   In several of the realities our lives ran much the same course. Up until one critical moment and then yours diverged from the rest."

   "What point was that?" Sheridan asked.

   "Z'ha'dum. You see I listened to Delenn." the double's voice broke slightly when he spoke the Minbari woman's name and John was left wondering why. "I listened and did not go to Z'ha'dum. You were the only one of us who chose to go."

   "What happened?"

   "In my universe?"

   "Yes." John nodded. His double took a deep breath and continued.

   "Anna returned alone to Z'ha'dum, as she said she would. We said our goodbyes. Our lives had taken different paths and I chose to stay with Delenn. Besides I had Steven's report so I knew what she was and I didn't trust her.

   Delenn and I completed the sleeping ritual and...." his voice trailed off and then picked up again seconds later.

   "For two weeks everything was unusually quiet. The Shadows did not move at all. I was worried and kept the station on high alert but...then it happened.

   I was out in the White Star. Both Marcus and Lennier were needed on the station so I had one of the other Rangers with me as a translator. Delenn.....Delenn also stayed behind as did Susan.

   While I was gone they struck. Without any warning. Hundreds of thousands of ships. The crew put up a valiant fight but they were not able to hold them off for long.

   I was too far out to be of any help. Although I red-lined the engines I arrived too late.

   Susan had commed me just prior to the attack and the comm channel was still active. All I could do was watch.

   The Shadows allies boarded the station and rounded up all those who were not already dead. The sick and the elderly the executed, with surprising mercy. A PPG shot to the head, quick and painless. Those who were healthy were...."

   "Taken to be used in the Shadow vessels." Sheridan finished for him.

   "Yes."

   "Everyone?"

   Sheridan's double nodded. "All except the members of the War Council. Once the others had been taken off the station they brought in the council for `questioning'. Susan, Marcus, G'Kar, Michael and Steven."

   John noticed that his double did not mention Delenn and Lennier but he did not press him on it, listening as the man continued.

   "And little Marissa."

   "Marissa? Who is Marissa?" John asked.

   "Marissa is....was Marcus and Susan's two-year-old daughter."

   "But Susan and Marcus don't have a child. In fact, as far as I know they aren't even involved with each other."

   "In your universe, no. But in mine. Susan and Marcus met four years ago."

   "And she knew he was a Ranger all that time?"

   "Yes. Once they had the War Council together they started with their `interrogations'. They began with Michael and then G'Kar. The others were forced to watch as one by one their friends were tortured and then executed.

   Steven, Michael and G'Kar they killed rather quickly, but Susan and Marcus. The Shadows wanted to know where I was. You see ME they wanted alive, to take back to Z'ha'dum. Susan and Marcus wouldn't tell them anything and so, and so..."

   Sheridan watched his double's eyes fill with horror as he remembered. A tear rolled silently down his cheek.

   "They pulled Marissa away from her mother. Both Susan and Marcus were fighting but their bonds were too strong. Marissa was screaming in terror. With malicious cruelty they shot her. That beautiful little girl, with her mother's delicate features and her father's laughing eyes.

   Then they tortured Marcus and Susan was forced to watch this as well. When they finally put Marcus out of his misery and turned to Susan she was catatonic. They killed her and left to go in search of me.

   When I arrived at the station the Shadows had been gone for several hours and surprisingly they didn't leave any ships behind to watch.

   I boarded the station. It was a floating tomb. The stench of death was everywhere. Nothing was left alive. But I had the hope that somehow she had managed to escape, had found a place to hide."

   ~Delenn~ Sheridan thought as the other man continued.

   "I checked my quarters first but they were empty. I went to Lennier's and finally hers."

   As tears rolled down his double's face John felt an icy fist close around his heart.

   "I don't think I want to hear anymore."

   "Yes you do!" his double turned on him. "You must hear so you will know why. Why I came."

   "The door opened." he continued "And the first thing I saw was the blood. It was everywhere. On the walls, the ceiling, the furniture. Lennier's broken and mangled body lay just inside the door. He had fought hard to save her. I could see that.

   With a growing sense of fear and anguish I stepped over his body and moved further into her quarters. I found her....I found her in the bedroom." he continued. His voice was a husky, haunted whisper.

   "Delenn lay like a shattered china doll; those exquisite green eyes staring sightless at the ceiling. Her precious life lay a pool of bright crimson all around her."

   The other John looked up and saw the tears in Sheridan's eyes. "I was like a man crazed." he continued. "I dropped to my knees, drew her shattered body close and screamed.

   That was where the two Rangers who were left found me. They had to drag me away kicking and screaming for I did not want to leave her.

   The Rangers took me to the White Star. There was only one place safe for me at that point. I went down to Epsilon 3"

   "Why didn't Draal do anything to defend the station?" Sheridan asked.

   "I asked him that question myself. Actually I attacked him with the question and got a serious reprimand that I won't soon forget. Once I had calmed down enough to listen Draal explained that at the time that the Shadows attacked he was in his sleep mode. Its a rare occurrence. Every year or so Draal has to shut himself down for about eight hours and let his mind sleep, as we do. Unfortunately this event happened to fall during the time of the Shadow attack.

   When Draal's body is sleeping the Great Machine only scans passively. By the time that Draal woke and reviewed the record it was too late.

   While I was with him, Draal showed me what he had found regarding the alternate universes. When I saw something from your universe a plan started to form in my mind.

   I spoke my intentions to Draal and he was able to formulate a way to open a doorway into your universe. A small ship was modified and I came here."

   "Why, why did you come?"

   "When Draal was scanning your universe I observed a moment between Lorien and Delenn. In it Delenn asked him if there were any way to extend your life. Lorien said that there was only one way. Someone had to willingly give up their own life force to extend yours. I have come here to offer you my life."

   "I can't!" John protested. The prospect was unthinkable.

   "You must! John I have nothing left to live for. The Shadows have destroyed everything and everyone that I hold dear. They have even conquered Earth."

   "You could stay here."

   "No, I can't. Draal said that staying here for any length of time would disrupt the balance of your universe. Even if I could stay, there is nothing here for me either.

   You are a very important person in this universe and you must survive. It would make me happy to know that in the end, my life counted for something."

   Sheridan paused in thought and then he activated his link.

   "Ivanova here."

   "Susan get Lorien, Delenn and Marcus for me and all of you report to my office ASAP."

   "Right away Captain."
 
 
 

   Sheridan's double got up from his chair and turned his back to the door. Several minutes later the quartet stepped into the office.

   "John." Delenn smiled.

   At the sound of her voice the double turned to face her.

   "In Valen's name!" Delenn whispered and recoiled in shock.

   "Delenn." the other John whispered and took a step towards her. "My Sweet Delenn." he raised his hand to touch her but stopped himself.

   "Captain?" Marcus questioned, clearly confused.

   "John, what is happening?" Delenn questioned looking across the room at her Sheridan. She moved to his side. John slipped his arm around her and pulled her close to his side. He brushed his lips across her temple in a comforting gesture.

   "Sit." he said. "I have something to show you."

   Once they all were seated on the sofa Sheridan played back his conversation with his double.
 
 
 

   The screen blanked and Delenn looked up at her Sheridan, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

   "I can do what he asks. If it is what you wish." Lorien stated.

   "I don't know. I don't know that I could live with myself knowing I took another life to extend my own."

   "John," Delenn said softly. "May I speak with you a moment please?"

   Sheridan nodded and they moved to stand in the hallway.

   "I know how you feel." Delenn said softly and raised her hand to caress his cheek. "You are a good and decent man John Sheridan and you do not relish in the taking of another's life. But he..." she nodded to the other John. "He is not living anymore. That John died when his friends, when his Delenn died. He has nothing left to live for. There is nothing but more horror and death for him back in his place.

   Tell me truthfully. If you were in his place would you want to continue on?"

   "No." John answered "No I would probably do exactly what he is doing."

   "Nothing would please me more than to grow old with you. You are the other half of my soul and we were meant to be together. But this is a decision only you can make."

   Sheridan looked down into Delenn's green eyes, so full of life and vitality and he shuddered at the thought of ever seeing them cold and lifeless. He leaned forward and brushed a light kiss on her lips before slipping his arm around her waist and leading her back into the office.

   John looked at his double. "Alright. I accept your offer."

   For the first time since his double had walked into the room Sheridan saw him smile. "Thank you."

   "How soon can we do this?" Sheridan looked at Lorien.

   "I need time to prepare myself." the First One answered "Perhaps in a half-hour." he finished.

   "Very well, a half-hour. I suppose that Medbay is the best place to do this." Sheridan stated.

   "It is." Lorien replied. "Excuse me." he added and then slipped from the room in order to prepare himself.

   Sheridan turned to face his double. "There is something we need to discuss. How would you like us to....."

   "Dispose of my remains?" the double finished with a small smile. "Nothing elaborate. Just place my body into my ship and see that both are completely destroyed. There must be no trace of me ever having been here and no way for anyone to use my vessel to travel to an alternate universe."

   "It will be done." Sheridan promised.
 

   --------------------


 

   The trio arrived in Medbay ahead of Lorien and had time to fill in Steven. At first the doctor would have no part of it, but once he viewed the recording of Sheridan's meeting with his double Franklin agreed.
 
 
 

   Lorien arrived minutes later. "I am ready." he said to both men.

   Two exam tables had been placed side by side in one of the private rooms. Both Sheridan's lay down and Lorien took his place at the head of tables.

   Delenn walked over to John's double and looked down at him. She took his hand. "Thank you." she whispered, tears misting her eyes. John reached up and tenderly caressed her cheek.

   "Just keep him safe." he said, slipping into the language of her caste. "And be happy."

   Delenn nodded and leaned down to kiss his cheek. Then she stepped away and turned to her John. She took his hand and John pulled her hand close to his chest. As he looked up at her he could read the fear in her eyes.

   "Everything will be alright." he whispered.

   "I know. I love you John." she said softly.

   "I love you Delenn." John replied. Tugging on her hand he drew her down to him and kissed her tenderly.

   Delenn squeezed John's hand as she stepped away from the bed and moved to stand at the foot so that she could watch them both.

   Lorien looked down at the two men. "Are you ready?" he asked.

   "Yes" they replied, nearly in unison.

   Lorien nodded then he placed a hand on each man's forehead. The First One's eyes drifted closed.

   Delenn watched in awe as a pale yellow glow appeared on the hand that rested on the alternate John's forehead. The glow travelled up Lorien's arm, across his chest and down the other arm into her John.

   The life sign monitor that had been placed on the double beeped quietly, its tone growing fainter and fainter as his life force was transferred.

   "Delenn." the double whispered with his last breath. His eyes closed and the monitor gave out a shrill, flat tone that told he was gone.

   "It is done." Franklin said and moved to shut of the monitor.

   Lorien stepped back from the beds and swayed. Steven pulled a chair close and pressed Lorien into it.
 
 
 

   Delenn slowly moved to stand beside the dead man. She looked down at his still face. It was now at peace and there was a smile on his lips. "Thank you." she whispered again and placed a gentle kiss on his still lips. "Valen go with you." she said in her native tongue and stepped away.

   Delenn crossed over to her fiance. He was just beginning to stir. She took his hand and held it close. Sheridan's eyes fluttered open and focussed on her anxious face.

   "See," he smiled and reached up with his free hand to caress her cheek. "Told you that everything would be alright."

   Delenn nodded.

   John sat up and moved to get up off the bed but Steven intervened.

   "Whoa, stay right there. I want to run some tests before you go anywhere."

   "Alright." Sheridan nodded.

   "Ambassador, I'll have to ask you to step outside until I'm done."

   "Very well." she nodded. "I shall be waiting in the other room." She said to John. He gave her a nod and a wink, squeezing her hand affectionately as she moved away.
 
 
 

   Twenty minutes later Franklin came out out of the exam room. "You can go back in Ambassador." the doctor smiled. "I'll be back in a few minutes with the results."

   "Thank you Steven." Delenn smiled and moved to John's side.

   It was another twenty minutes before Franklin returned.

   "Well?" Sheridan questioned as the doctor entered the room.

   "Everything seems normal."

   Sheridan sighed with relief and squeezed Delenn's hand.

   "There is one thing, however." Franklin finished.

   "What?" Delenn said with a touch of anxiety in her voice.

   Steven moved over to a monitor screen and activated it.

   "This is the medscan I took of you just before you went to Z'ha'dum. As you can see, everything is quite normal." Franklin pushed a button and a second image appeared next to the first.

   "This is the one I took after you returned. You can clearly see the difference. Here is the bio-chemical energy." he said as he pointed to the areas.

   "Go on." Sheridan urged.

   Once more Steven pushed a button and a third scan appeared.

   "This is the medscan I took just a few minutes ago."

   "But...it's exactly the same as the first one." Sheridan stated.

   "Yes. There is no difference that I can find between them. It's as though you never went to Z'ha'dum."

   "Then his life has been extended." Delenn asked softly.

   "As far a I can tell Ambassador. John has as much a chance of living to be one hundred as the rest of us do." Franklin smiled.

   "It is true." Lorien spoke for the first time. "Your life span is once again as it was. It is a great gift Sheridan. Use it wisely." The First One said and then he turned and quietly left the room.

   "Excuse me." Franklin said and followed Lorien out, leaving the couple alone.

   Delenn looked at John where he sat on the edge of the exam table. She crossed the room to stand infront of him and he pulled her close. Looking down at her face he saw the tears shining in her emerald eyes. Sheridan looked away from her for a moment, his eyes resting on the shrouded body across the room.

   "How can I ever thank him for what he has done?" Sheridan whispered, his voice husky with emotion.

   "There is but one way." Delenn whispered reaching up to touch his cheek and draw his eyes back to hers. "Live a long and happy life. It was the last thing he said to me."

   John nodded and pulled her even more tightly against him, resting his cheek against the top of her head.
 
 
 

   Sheridan did not know how long they held each other, each lost in their own thoughts over the magnitude of the gift they had been given.

   It was sometime later when Franklin stepped back into the room. When the doctor cleared his throat the couple drew apart.

   "I'm sorry to disturb you," he apologized "But we need to do something about him." Franklin nodded to the other bed. "Did he speak to you about any arrangements?"

   "Yes he did." Sheridan said as he got down from the table. "He wished to be placed in his ship and have both destroyed."

   "Alright." Steven nodded "I'll have his body brought to the docking bay."

   "Thanks Steven." John said. He slipped his hand into Delenn's and led her from Medbay.
 

   --------------------


 

   Sheridan strode from C & C after having seen his double's last wishes carried out. His mind was a jumble of thoughts. He still could not comprehend the gift that had been given to him. John Sheridan had gone to Z'Hadum knowing there would be a price to pay. That price had been his life. He had accepted the fact that he would die in twenty years. It had been a painful acceptance, yes, though not for himself. It was painful because he knew that he would be leaving Delenn and their son behind.

   Now that was not the case, John smiled. He would have the chance to grow old with Delenn at his side. He would have the opportunity to see David grow into manhood, fall in love and have a family of his own. Perhaps now there would be other children for him and Delenn. There was a new lightness to his step as Sheridan moved down the corridors to his fiancee's quarters.
 

   --------------------


 

   Ivanova sat at one of the Zocalo cafes nursing a Cappicino. Her thoughts were on John's double and the alternate universe he had spoken of. To her surprise she found her thoughts centered on one particular aspect of that universe. The knowledge that in that alternate place Marcus and her double had been married and had a child together.

   "Hello." A deep baritone rumbled close beside her, the richness of his accent caressed her ears.

   "Mind if I join you?"

   Susan looked up "Hi Marcus." she replied and flashed him a small smile. "Sure." she offered and indicated the chair opposite her.

   "Really?" he replied with a surprised but pleased tone to his voice. Before today Ivanova would probably have chased him away.

   "Really" Susan smiled.

   Marcus smiled and slipped into the chair she'd indicated. "You looked very far away. Where were you?" he inquired softly.

   "Another world, actually another universe." she replied honestly.

   "Ah." Cole nodded. "You were thinking about what the Captain's double told him about the alternate universe."

   "Yes."

   "Thinking about anything in particular?"

   "Yes. I was thinking about the other Susan and how different her life seemed from mine. She was married and had a family."

   Marcus didn't interject with the reminder that the alternate Susan had been married to his double, although he wanted to.

   "I mean, she married you of all people."

   "Well thank you very much!" Marcus replied with mock indignance.

   Ivanova smiled. "You know what I mean. I mean we haven't exactly been best buddies here, let alone in a position where we would consider having a family together."

   "No, not yet but we could be." the Ranger said softly.

   "Marcus." Susan began.

   " No please let me finish before I lose my nerve." Cole said quietly. "Do you remember when we were on the White Star and you asked me if there was anyone special in my life?"

   "Ah yah." Ivanova replied, not sure she wanted to hear the rest of what he wanted to say.

   "Well that special person is you Susan. I love you and I have from the first moment I saw you."

   "Marcus please." Susan replied almost painfully.

   "No Susan. I'm not letting you get away this time." He said softly and reached out to cover her hand with his own. To his surprise she didn't pull away. "I know you don't feel the same way about me but I can be patient." he flashed her a smile. "Give me a chance."

   Susan looked across the table and saw honesty and love shining in his brilliant blue eyes. He was wrong, she did care about him. She cared about him more than she had cared about anyone else in her life and that scared the hell out of her.

   "I'm afraid." She replied so softly that he almost didn't hear her.

   "Of what?" Marcus asked softly.

   "Of you, of us, of getting hurt again." She replied.

   "I would never hurt you Susan."

   "I'm afraid of letting myself love you and then have you go away."

   "I would never, could never leave you." he affirmed gently.

   "No?" she questioned him. "We're getting ready to fight a war tomorrow Marcus. You can't tell me that you couldn't be killed!"

   "No I can't. That is a very real possibility and one of the vows I took as a Ranger was to give up my life if it was required of me. But I can say the same thing for you. You could be killed just as easily but that hasn't stopped me from loving you. I'm willing to take the risk. Isn't it better to have a few moments of joy and risk the pain then to protect yourself from the pain and also close off the joy from your life?"

   Susan looked at the man sitting across from her. He was such a contradiction. He was the sweetest most gentle man she had ever known and yet he could be the meanest most ferocious SOB especially when someone pissed him off, and most especially when he was in battle. She had seen him fight and the sight had scared her a little. But at that moment Ivanova knew that her heart would always be safe in his hands.

   "I'll try." she told him quietly. "That's all I can promise."

   "That's enough." Marcus replied softly and took her hand in his.
 

   --------------------


 

   Sheridan paused before the door to Delenn's quarters and rang the door chime. As he waited for permission to enter he smiled secretly to himself. He had made a decision on his walk from C&C and hoped that Delenn would agree with him.

   "Yes?" Delenn's softly accented voice asked through the intercom.

   "It's me."

   The door swung open and he stepped into her quarters. Delenn smiled and rose from the sofa, meeting him as he crossed the room to her. His arms closed around her and he pulled her tiny frame close.

   "John, is everything alright?" she questioned softly.

   "Yes." he replied and pulled back a little so that he could look into her eyes. He gently grasped her left hand and toyed with her engagement ring. "Do you remember when I gave you this, I told you that I didn't know when we would get around to the married part?"

   "Yes." She nodded.

   "I don't want to wait any longer. I want to marry you before we go into battle. I want you by my side as my wife. Marry me Delenn, tonight?"

   "Yes." she replied softly.

   Sheridan smiled down into her shining green eyes. "We can get Brother Edward to perform the ceremony, if that's alright?"

   "It is."

   Sheridan grinned and activated his link. "Sheridan to Ivanova."

   "Go ahead Captain." Susan replied.

   "Suz, I need you to do a favor for me."

   "Sure, what is it?"

   "Get Michael, Steven and Marcus and you all meet in my office in an hour. Oh, and wear your dress uniforms."

   "Why?"

   "We're gonna have a wedding. Sheridan out." he finished and closed the channel.

   Sheridan smiled down at Delenn. "I have to go and speak with Brother Edward." he explained "I'll see you in an hour."

   "Okay." the ambassador smiled. Sheridan leaned down and kissed her softly. "Bye. " he whispered against her lips and stepped away. He crossed to the door and paused, turning back to look at her. Sheridan winked before he stepped out into the corridor and the door closed behind him.
 

   --------------------


 

   The haze of sleep lifted from his mind and Sheridan awoke. He opened his eyes and smiled softly when he saw his wife curled up beside him. Wife, Sheridan grinned, he liked the sound of that. Rolling over onto his side he leaned over and brushed a dark curl from her cheek. The woman stirred but did not wake. She rolled over and settled against his, her left hand coming to rest on his bare chest. Sheridan smiled and took a hold of the tiny, delicate hand and his fingers toyed with the small gold wedding band that graced her finger. He looked down at his slumbering wife and smiled. Sheridan tilted his head so that his cheek rested against the top of her head then he pulled the woman closer to him.

   So much had happened in the last few days that it was hard to believe that they had actually happened. The events of the last few days were such that both he and Delenn knew just how fragile the thread of life could be. They knew how everything could be snatched away in a heartbeat. A lot had happened to him since he had spent those brief moments in his future. That event ans the knowledge that he had brought back with him had a profound effect on his life. What had effected him the most, however, were his future Delenn's parting words to him. "Treasure the moments you have." she had said. "Savour them for as long as you can for they will never come back again."

   Oh, how true that was. Now, even though Sheridan had the prospect of a long life ahead of him, he knew that both their lives could end at anytime. His double had taught him that. That was one reason why he had wanted to marry Delenn right away. He wanted her as his wife even if it were only for the briefest span of moments.

   Their wedding night had been full of joy but it had also been bittersweet. They had come together and loved each other as though it were the last time. Tomorrow they went into battle and they both knew that it could very well be the last time they were together.

   "John?" Delenn's voice inquired softly.

   Sheridan turned his head and saw her fathomless green eyes looking up at him. "What is wrong?"

   "Nothing." he replied softly and pressed his lips to her forehead. "I was just wool-gathering."

   She gave him a puzzled look that told him she didn't understand the idiom. Sheridan chuckled. "I was just musing. Thinking about everything that has happened."

   She smiled at him and gently kissed his chin. "It's late, " she said softly. "We both must be up early. There will be time for reflection in the morning."

   "I know." John said quietly. "I just can't help thinking about him and what he's done."

   Delenn didn't have to ask what he John was referring to. "He gave us a great gift. He gave you, he gave us a second chance and we must do all we can to make the best of the new life he has given you. We must treasure every moment."

   "Savour them for they'll never come back again." Sheridan repeated softly.

   "Yes." Delenn said and gave him a quizzical look. "But..."

   John smiled and pressed his lips to her forehead "I heard it once upon a time. Someone very wise said it to me."

   Delenn smiled then reached out and tenderly brushed a hand through his hair. "Sleep now." she murmured and kissed him lightly. When he nodded she smiled and then settled her head on his shoulder, snuggling close.

   She was right Sheridan thought, there would be time for reflection later. John smiled and pulled his wife closer. She murmured softly as he pressed his lips to her forehead. With a sigh John Sheridan closed his eyes and joined his wife in dreams.

 

*****

 

 

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