This is the first piece of fan fiction I've written, although I've been lurking out there for some time and thoroughly enjoying what other people have been contributing. Now that I finally have my new computer and can communicate directly, rather than through the generosity of clients of mine, and have finally finished this piece, I thought I'd share it with the rest of you.
The events on the station are set between "Atonement" and "Racing Mars".
Standard disclaimers - these are JMS's characters etc. He and Warner Bros. have all rights etc. etc. etc.
Posted to the J&D Storybook 7 Jun 1997
Sheridan was late, he'd promised to meet Delenn in the Zocalo for dinner at their favorite little restaurant and he was late. Not a lot late, just a minute or two, but he hated to keep her waiting, hated that it was a minute or two that he wouldn't be able to spend with her. 'Always some crisis or another', he thought. He rounded the corner just in time to see the man draw the knife and realize that the intended victim was the woman he was meeting. While the others in the Zocalo froze, he reached for his PPG and saw the knife find its mark. There was a spurt of bright red blood as he saw Delenn crumple towards the floor, and as the man raised the knife to finish the job, a blinding flash of white light. The woman he loved and her assailant vanished. Had it not been for the astonished looks on the faces of those around him, John would have doubted his own senses. He carefully sheathed his unfired weapon and walked towards where the two had been, and then kneeling down dipped his fingers into the pool of her blood on the floor.
Delenn felt the blade tear through her, and as her legs turned to rubber beneath her, found herself in an explosion of light that stung her eyes as the Zocalo vanished. Suddenly, she was somewhere else. She did not see the face that belonged to the strong arms that lifted her up and out and away, she felt the coolness of the floor beneath her and turning slightly she was aware of a young woman in a baseball cap who had grabbed her attacker and snapped his neck as though it were a twig. 'She's killed before.' Delenn thought 'she doesn't enjoy it, but she's killed before and she'll do it again, if needs must..... And she has just saved my life.'
"Son-of-a..., " the young woman addressed the face behind the arms that still held Delenn. "We can't have been more than a minute late, damn these things are hard to control."
"Especially when we're jumping in and jumping right back out again. You're getting real good at it though," the young man replied, "with the span that we're dealing with to turn up within a minute is bloody close."
"Close, ha! Close only counts in horseshoes and grenade throwing. I couldn't have been a minute early?"
'Timeflash.' thought Delenn 'It was a timeflash. Well, at least that explained the light, but where was she, who were these people and more importantly, when was she?.'
The woman moved across and knelt down to get a closer look at Delenn and saw the spreading pool of blood on the cockpit floor. "Damn it Ivan, she's hurt bad. Somebody tell Dr. Franklin to get his ass up here on the double."
"Stephen's here?" Delenn's voice was a mere whisper.
From under the baseball cap the voice was suddenly gentle. "Umm, well, not exactly. But close enough..." were the last words that registered as the world went black.
"Damn it, Zack." John Sheridan held his young Chief of Security by the shoulders. "If I'd been on time, if I'd only been on time, or better yet, a minute or two early.... I'd have been waiting for her, not the other way around. Maybe I could have..." His voice trailed off, unsure of what he could have, and even more unsure of exactly what had happened.
"You can't blame yourself, Captain. There's no way you could have prevented," Zack Allan looked around nervously and lowered his voice "what just happened here, whatever the hell it was that just happened here."
"Well whatever it is that just happened here, I want her found. Even if it means tearing this whole damn station apart, every last frigging nut, bolt and girder. If she's losing blood as fast as that pool on the floor would indicate, she's not going to last long without medical treatment. And I want the bastard that did this to her found too, because I'm going to personally space the son-of-bitch when we do!"
The pain in her side slammed Delenn back into consciousness. One measured glance told her that the body of her assailant was no longer on the flight deck. A young man with who resembled Stephen Franklin was dressing her wound, with the practiced hands of a physician who had done this many times before. "Could be worse, Alex." she heard him saying calmly "She's lost a lot of blood, but I can replace that as soon as we get her down to the facilities. The really good news is I don't think he hit anything vital, but I'll be able to tell better later. However, I think we'd better keep her here for a few weeks until she heals." The young woman stared to protest, but he cut her short. "Yeah, I know it wasn't part of the original plan but in light of her injury, I think it's best."
"You're not Stephen." Delenn's voice was faint. The doctor and the baseball cap exchanged an uneasy glance.
"I think we better tell her, Alex." he said "Things have changed, she is going to be with us for some time and right now I think she could really use a reason to trust us."
Alex sighed and shifted her position on the floor to get closer to Delenn. "He's Stephen's grandson, Marshall." Delenn's eyes grew wide. Alex took one of Delenn's hands in her own and looked deep into her eyes. "You're going to have to trust me on this one, En'til'zha." she said lifting the lapel of her jacket to reveal the pin that marked her as a Ranger. "I can't tell you much more than that without running the risk of altering the future. Just believe me when I tell you, that all of our lives depend on the task I have to finish here."
The room had started to swim again as Delenn looked into the young woman's eyes. 'I have seen those eyes before,' thought Delenn, 'but where? So familiar and yet ....' As the waves of blackness enveloped her again, she remembered. 'John's eyes, they are John's eyes....'
"You're absolutely sure you don't sense her at all, Lyta?"
"If she's here, Captain, I don't have a clue as to where she might be. I have no awareness of her presence."
"But, aren't you sensitive to her, after what happened when you and she and Ivanova went looking for me at Za'Ha'Dum? She let you in completely. The two of you were linked."
The young woman looked him straight in the eyes. "Usually, yes, Captain, but... well, if you want my opinion I don't think she's on the station at all."
"Not good enough!" he barked at her and then his shoulders suddenly sagged. "I'm sorry, Lyta, that was uncalled for, it's just that she means so very much to me..."
"I don't have to be a telepath to sense that, Captain. I'll take my sidekick," she jerked her head towards the young security guard who was standing awkwardly in their presence "and keep looking for her, I can't do less than that for the two of you."
Time was wasting, Alex knew that. It was important that she get back to Babylon 5 very soon, find the other two members of the Neo-Nightwatch group and destroy them and the time-shifting device they had somehow acquired. She had to do it before she was no longer a part of the galaxy. It was difficult enough to put time right when you had the luxury of being able to make a mistake and then jump back into the past and make a second run at it, but when a mistake meant that you didn't exist at all, there were no second chances. The fact that the Minbari Ambassador had virtually disappeared into thin air and the ensuing confusion that occurrence must have generated, had quite likely bought her some time, as the place would be crawling with security, but she still couldn't take too many chances. Her preparations for the trip to the station were now complete, and all her crew had been briefed on what to do if any one of a number of things that could go wrong, did go wrong. But before she went to change into her disguise she needed to reassure herself that the En'til'zha would really be alright.
He stood in the middle of C. & C. almost shouting. "And I don't want any vessel of any description leaving the station until she's found! For any reason! No damn diplomatic emergencies, no damn nothing! Do you all understand?"
In all the ten years Ivanova had known John she had never seen him this rattled. Not that he didn't have good reason. It would have been hard enough to watch the lady he loved disappear in front of his eyes, but knowing that she was badly injured, as well, it must be unbearable. What hurt Susan was that she couldn't think of anything more she could do to help her friends. "Understood, Captain. Absolutely nothing leaves."
"Thanks, Susan." He ran his fingers straight back through his hair, his voice quiet. "I don't know what to do next, I'm completely at a loss. If I lose her now... Hell, I don't even want to think about that possibility. If you get any ideas... Well, let me know, will you?"
She nodded. "Goes without saying. Delenn's a good friend, John. I'm concerned for her safety too."
He nodded. "I do know, however, that every minute makes a difference to her condition. Time's wasting. I have to go and do something even if I don't quite know what the hell it is that I'm going to do next." He turned on his heel and walked off the Observation Deck.
Alex was pleased to see when she walked into the medical facilities on her ship that the color had returned to the En'til'zha's face. The question the woman posed her did not please her at all.
"Who are you?"
"Damn, I was hoping you wouldn't go Vorlon on me"
"Who are you?" the question was more insistent this time.
"I'm afraid, En'til'zha, that the answer to that will raise more questions than it will answer."
"Now who's being Vorlon?" There was a pause as Delenn took a deep breath. "Who are you?"
Alex had heard that voice before, all her life she had heard that voice, heard it often enough to know when she was beaten. She sank into the chair next to the bed and rested her arms on the mattress. "My name is Alexandra Delenn Sheridan. I am your granddaughter." Alex read the flicker of doubt in her grandmother's eyes, and taking off the baseball cap, she reached for Delenn's hand, guiding the other woman's fingers up to the spot where she knew her bone crest was the most prominent.
With that, any doubts Delenn might have had vanished. The presence of the bone crest was the last piece of the puzzle. Slighter than hers, yes, and almost completely hidden by Alex's long hair, but it was there. That, and John's eyes....
Delenn shook her head in wonder. "Yes, you most certainly are."
Alex headed her grandmother off before she could think of another question. "Yes, I am, and right now I'm going to lay down a couple of ground rules. You may be En'til'zha, both in your time and mine, but right here and right now at this moment in time, I'm in charge. I've got a couple of crazies running around out there with a time shifting device they got from Valen knows where, trying to change the Universe in ways that it shouldn't be changed. I've got to find them, stop them, and destroy the device. And if it's any consolation I'm just as confused about the whole thing as you are, this time shifting stuff is pretty new to me too. When I get back, from the station, that is, if I do make it back from the station, you have to promise me you won't ask me about anything that hasn't already happened in your life so far. In other words, if it's after your return from the Dreaming on Minbar it doesn't exist. Okay?"
"Okay." As curious as she was, Delenn knew on some level that Alex was right. The more knowledge she had of the future, the greater the risk that she could alter the future, even if unintentionally. 'What was that human phrase about a little knowledge...?'
"And now I have to go, because if I'm late for this particular appointment with destiny, I won't have the opportunity to make another one."
David Sheridan stood in his mother's office and watched her read the report that had crossed his desk some two hours earlier. When she finished she turned the papers face down, and stared out the window for a long moment. He knew she was considering her words carefully.
"There are no easy decisions in this matter, President Sheridan"
"No, En'til'zha." They were not speaking now as mother and son, but as two of the most powerful people in the galaxy.
"Especially when we are not possessed of all the facts."
"I admit the report is sketchy, but in light of this new information I believe we now must amend our original plan of action."
"I do not disagree with you, however all of the choices are hard ones. If we choose to do what I think you are proposing we will be putting one of our most valuable assets and her crew up against even greater risks than they now already face."
"Unfortunately, I am sure that if we do not take this course of action, none of us will be here to debate that point. Alexandra must find out where, when and how these conspirators initially acquired the device and return to that point in time to prevent it from happening."
"I am not okay with this."
"Neither am I, but I don't see what other choice we have."
Delenn sighed, "You are right, Mr. President. And now we must get a message through to her as expeditiously as possible."
"Vanished? Vanished, how?" John heard the subtle note of panic in Lennier's voice that echoed the terror in his own heart.
"Like I said, I don't know, one instant she was there, and there was this guy with a knife and then they were both gone."
The Ambassadors Aide stared at him in disbelief. "We have to find her. But how?"
"That's why I'm here, I was hoping you'd have some idea."
Alex put the finishing touches on her disguise, and pulled the hood up over her head. A young Minbari Acolyte would be virtually invisible on Babylon 5 in 2261, invisible and non-threatening. The last thing Alex needed was to draw any attention to herself. From what she knew of her grandfather, and she knew a lot, Alex was sure John Sheridan was by now tearing the station apart to find the love of his life. Her grandfather did not take no for an answer, especially when it came to the safety of the woman he adored.
The Comm-Link in her cabin buzzed and she hit the switch.
"What?" she asked. "I was just about to step off."
"Cool disguise," said Ivan, "if I didn't know it was you, I wouldn't have known it was you. Uh, we just uploaded a message from the President of the Earth Alliance, and I think you better see it." Knowing her father would not try to contact her unless it was something of importance she sighed and addressed the face on the wall.
"Fine Ivan, put it through." Her father's face appeared on the screen.
"Miss Sheridan, I have just come from a meeting with the En'til'zha. Approximately two hours ago we received information from one of my sources which revealed that the group we are concerned with, immediately upon obtaining the device in question jumped into a point in the future where, for lack of a better description, they 'planted a time bomb'. From that point in the future they will return to the past and destroy the universe as we know it. It is imperative therefore, that you discover from one of the individuals you are involved with, where, when and how they came to possess the device in question, and return to that point in time to prevent that from happening.... May God stand between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk."
Alex stared at the now blank screen. "Right Dad," she said, "the difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer."
Setting the time device to place her into a dark obscure area of Down Below, some two minutes after their initial flash through the Zocalo, she said a silent 'Thank you' to Zack Allan. The old man had been most helpful when she'd gone to him and explained what was happening and what they needed. The fact that he'd actually kept all the schematics for the station was an added blessing. She'd been studying them every chance she got, and her grandmother had filled in a lot of the other details. Alex knew Babylon 5 as though she'd lived there all her life.
The passageway was blessedly deserted. 'One less thing to explain' she thought, resetting the device to the co-ordinates where she intended to dispose of the evidence after she'd found the men and retrieved the information she needed. Her initial thought when she removed the body of the guy with the knife from her flight deck had been to drop him onto President Clark's front lawn in Geneva, sometime in the middle of the summer of 2261. As much as she enjoyed the potential of the joke, she knew that the ensuing changes to the timeline could quite possibly be more than the entire family could fix, in any of their lifetimes. She chose instead a rather explosive moment on Zha'ha'dum. Making sure everything she needed was in place, she walked slowly down the corridor and into the market place.
Here there were people. Enough of a crowd to blend with, to give her time to observe, and to wait unnoticed for the men she was tracking. They would come here, she knew that from the information she'd been given. Like rats in a maze. One of the vendors reached towards her with a piece of not particularly appetizing fruit, she bowed slightly and continued, not meeting his eyes. Security had a particularly nasty specimen pinned up against one of the walls, she tried not to appear interested as she checked to see if it was one of the scum she sought. He was not. There was the sudden pressure of a hand on her shoulder, instinctively her grip tightened around her pike and she turned towards the person who had touched her.
John saw the Minbari Acolyte cross the market place in front of him. Something about the posture and the gait made him sure it was Delenn, even if logic told him that was impossible. It had not, however, been a particularly logical evening. He put his hand on the robed shoulder and as the young female turned towards him he realized with disappointment that she was not who he desperately wanted her to be. Two sets of nearly identical eyes met for an instant before hers dropped downward as befitted her station in life.
"I'm sorry." he said, "I didn't mean to startle you, it's just that I thought... I'd hoped you were someone else."
She placed her hands together in the Minbari gesture of respect and bowed to him. He returned the salutation.
Delenn lay as still as she possibly could. As bad as the pain was, it was bearable, as long as she didn't move. She slowed her breathing and tried to relax, tried to slip into blessed sleep, but her heart was too full, and her mind racing too fast to afford her that luxury. 'My granddaughter,' she thought, 'our granddaughter.' She suddenly felt as though a great weight had been lifted from her soul. Up until that moment she had not even dared to hope that the great change she had undergone had altered her enough to allow her to give him children. That she would be barren had been her greatest fear, and now it was gone, blown away like a piece of fluff. 'I will feel life inside me,' she felt the single tear roll down her cheek 'I will hold our child in my arms, we will be one.'
'That was my grandfather!' was the thought that charged through her mind. She had not expected, although she'd hoped, that she would encounter the Captain. And for one wildly disorienting moment she'd thought he was her father, the physical resemblance did not surprise her, she'd known about that, it was some other quality. Alex used one of her grandmother's techniques to slow her breathing down and calm her racing heart. It would not help at all if she could not control her emotions. She took a deep breath and resumed her watch.
It did not take long before her vigilance was rewarded. There was Lennox, sidling along the edge of the marketplace. He was trying to look inconspicuous, and strangely that was what had first alerted Alex to the fact that he might be one of the men she sought. Ostensibly examining a small carved box, she watched as he turned and disappeared into one of the corridors to her left. She bowed respectfully to the vendor, paid him for her purchase and followed her prey unhurriedly into the depths of Down Below.
There was no need to keep him in sight. The heavy tread of his boots on the metal decking told Alex exactly where he was at all times, it also made her quite sure that he was unaware he was being followed. There were few living beings down here, and fewer still who would notice or care that a young Minbari Acolyte was stalking someone. A Pak'ma'ra scuttling up from the depths was more intent on her not taking any particular interest in him, than he was in her movements. Some five minutes later, she quickened her pace to catch up with the Neo-Nightwatch member. Coming up on their left was a dead end passageway, L-shaped, the end therefore hidden from the through corridor. An ideal spot for Alex to do what she needed to do with little risk of being observed.
Now less than a foot behind him, she tightened her hands around the grip of her staff and gently squeezed the release point. She heard the familiar 'click whoosh' as her fighting pike shot out to it's full length. He heard it too, and as he turned towards the sound, she caught him square under his chin with the pike, lifting him up and back about six feet before he slammed hard into the wall. As he reached for his knife the end of her pike shot out, knocking the blade from his hand and sending it skittering far down the corridor.
"Surprise!" she hissed, and saw the shock register on his face as he realized who he was facing. The pike shot out again catching him square on the left temple and slamming the right side of his face against the wall. He accordioned like a house of cards.
Dragging him off into the back of the L, Alex was thankful that the altercation had gone unnoticed. Working quickly she tied his hands behind him and bound his feet and legs. She then propped him up in the corner, and took out the small leather case that held her collection of syringes. The first drug would jolt him back to awareness in fairly short order, and she injected it into one of the veins in his neck that would find his heart quickly. The second needle was still in the vein as he started to come to. She finished administering the full dose and waved the syringe under his nose.
"It's a poison," she hissed in the rat's ear, "more importantly it's a truth drug. Start talking. Where did you guys get the time shifter?"
"I don't know. I wasn't there."
"Wrong answer, scumbag, try again." Her voice was calm and unhurried. She knew it would take some five minutes for the truth serum to begin to work, and a full hour for the poison to do its job.
John slipped into the chair directly across from Marcus Cole and leaned across the table.
"Anything?" he asked the Ranger.
"Nothing", Marcus shook his head. "Well, a really wild story from some drunk about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost materializing in a flash of light somewhere deep in Down Below. However, considering his state of inebriation and the fact that his drink of choice has been known to fry brain cells rather quickly, I wouldn't put too much stock in it. By the way, he also thinks he's a Zarg"
"There are no coincidences." John said slowly, painfully aware that he was trying to hang an anvil on a spider web.
"Even if he did see something, Captain, what does it tell us? You saw Delenn and a guy with a knife disappear in a flash of light, he saw three beings materialize. Even if the two events are linked, we are no closer to knowing where the En'til'zha is."
Problem was he really hadn't known exactly where, when and how his cell had gotten their hands on the device. He had eventually given up the location in Down Below where they had stashed the shifter, and contributed a couple of reasonably sound, if obscene ideas as to how she could find his buddy Tyler. The first priority, Alex decided, was to get her hands on the machine. Once she had it, she could go looking for Tyler secure in the knowledge that she had him trapped at this point in time, with no way off the station.
Lennox's instructions were not hard to follow. It took Alex only a few minutes to get to where the device was and extricate it from its hiding place. She hugged it gratefully, and stashed it deep in one of the inner pockets of her robe. Time enough to deal with its disposal once she found Tyler and got the information she needed from him.
By the time she arrived back in the market it was buzzing with rumors of a big arrest. Scraps of conversation drifted out of the general hubbub and she strained to listen.
".... think it's the guy who got her....."
".... heard it was in Grey Sector...."
".... not only that, he had no Identicard...."
".... got him half an hour ago in the Zocalo..."
".... looked guilty to me...."
".... fit Sheridan's description...."
".... been an hour they been keeping him on ice...."
".... dressed the same way...."
"There he is, on the screen, there's the guy they got."
Alex turned in the direction of the outstretched finger and caught the image of him on the Comm-Screen just long enough to be really sure it was Tyler they were holding. "Shit," she said, "oh, shit." And then added a couple of really choice words under her breath in Feek for good measure. There was only one man in the Universe who could help her now, and only one way she could think of to get to him.
John took a very good look at the man in the cell. He was not Delenn's attacker, John was positive of that. The clothes were similar, but this one was stockier, heavier. 'No coincidences' he thought.
"It's not him, Zack," he said. "but I don't want him going anywhere for a while."
"I agree Captain. He has no Identicard, his fingerprints are not in any database, and he won't tell us who he is, where he's from, or how he got here."
Ivan Cole did not look up from the book he was reading when Alex flashed back onto the flight deck. He was getting used to this.
"So, fill me in." he said.
"The good news is that I found Lennox, removed him, and recovered the device from 2261." She tossed it onto the floor in front of him.
"And the bad news?"
"Lennox didn't know how, where, or when they'd acquired the damn thing in the first place. And Tyler, who, from what I got from Lennox, does know, is in the Brig."
Ivan's head came up fast. "You can't jump back in and grab him before Security gets him I suppose?"
"Have no idea when or where they got him, the market's buzzing with a dozen different rumors, and I can't exactly walk up to Zack Allan and say 'Hi, remember me?'"
"Crap," he said "oh, crap." She leaned across the control panel and got right in his face.
"Now remind me why the hell I can't simply jump in there, grab him, and jump back out, and spare me the techno-jargon."
"The energy involved with even a single jump is phenomenal, to jump in and out generates not twice but four times the energy of just jumping. That coupled with the alloy used in the walls of the cells and their confined space is, well, explosive. One of two things could happen, either you'll blow a hole through the station the size of a small house, or both you and Tyler will fry in the backflash."
"Then the way I see it we've only got two choices. One - we wait until they let him out, which won't be soon. He has no Identicard and he's dressed the same way Baker was, so they probably think he's got something to do with the Ambassador's disappearance. I don't think we have the luxury of that much time, and we don't know what he's going to say to them. Two - we go to the man in charge, the only guy who can overrule Security, and ask for his help."
"What are you, nuts?!" exclaimed Ivan. "What the Hell are you going to do, walk into his office and say, 'Hello, I'm your granddaughter, I live sixty years in the future and I need to get someone out of your Brig.' There's no way in a thousand years he'd listen to you."
"No, but he'll listen to her. And I believe I just might be able to get her to listen to me. Faith manages."
"I do not want to hear this." John said. "I will not hear this. I will not accept that she is gone forever."
Alex breezed into the medical facilities on her ship and stopped beside her grandmother's bed.
"I need your help." she said breathlessly. It took Delenn a moment to realize that the female garbed as an Acolyte was her granddaughter.
"Mine? How and for what?"'
"Because you may be the one person who can convince John Sheridan that I am who I say I am, and to give me what I need. And you're already inside the loop, so to speak, so we won't have to drag anyone else into this little mess." She sank into the chair next to the bed. "It doesn't matter what I tell you now, if I succeed in doing what must be done, you won't remember any of it because this conversation will have never taken place. If I fail, none of what I tell you will matter a rat's ass, because it will never happen."
"Three weeks ago my father, your eldest son, received a report from one of his sources that a small cell within the Neo-Nightwatch organization had managed to secure a time shifting device, with the intention of coming back to 2261, and making sure that you and John Sheridan would never marry. A source within the Ranger Organization reported the same thing two days later. He also filled in the details of exactly where and how they planned to kill you."
"Needless to say, this bothered Dad and the rest of the family a lot, because if the plan succeeded none of us would have ever existed, but more importantly because all the timelines in the Universe would have been corrupted in ways that they should not have been."
"The rest of the family?"
"I'll get to that later, I promise. Okay?"
"The original plan was that we were supposed to come in and scoop you out of the Zocalo, before Baker, the guy with the knife, got to you. As you know now I was a little late, that was the first problem. The devices are tricky to calibrate especially when you're jumping in and out and I didn't feel I could try another run at it, because I didn't want to take the chance of coming in even later and not being able to save you. We would have kept you with us for a few hours our time, and once we'd dealt with the other two men, popped you back into the Zocalo about thirty seconds after you left."
"And the second problem?"
"I got word from Dad that these people had, before they'd jumped into 2261, gone somewhere in the future and for lack of a better idiom a 'planted a timebomb'. He wasn't real specific, I'm not sure he's got a lot of details himself, but he and the En'til'zha have decided I have to find out where and when the crazies got the device and go there and stop that from happening."
"No doubt, a difficult task."
"Yeah, well, I found the second guy in the group, Lennox, and he doesn't know, where or when. Tyler, the jerk who apparently does know, is now in the brig, which brings us to the big problem. We can't jump into the brig, grab him, and jump back out, I don't understand all the rules of the game myself, but it has to do with the amount of energy generated with a double jump, the confined space and the stuff the walls are made of. And I can't grab him before security gets him because I don't know where or when they got him."
"So you need John to get you past Security in order that you can remove Tyler from his cell and find out what he knows."
"Got it in one."
"And the rest of the family?" Alex knew the minute Delenn asked that question that her grandmother had made up her mind and that there was no doubt she would have the help with John Sheridan that she needed.
"You have three sons and two daughters. Your eldest, David, my father is the elected President of the Earth Alliance, your middle son, your third child is one of the nine who reinstated the Grey Council on Minbar. You also have fifteen grandchildren, scattered across the galaxy, all told we're a pretty impressive lot. Which, people keep telling me, is not surprising considering the genetic legacy we carry."
"So, how did this task come to fall on your shoulders?'
"I fight with a pike better than anyone else in the family," she paused and looked at the woman who would become her grandmother, "and it is generally accepted that I will be En'til'zha after you." Delenn's eyes widened. "I guess I'm following in your footsteps and not Dad's."
"I need to know one thing. Did I make that choice for you? Did I push you into becoming a Ranger?"
"You never pushed me into anything. You just loved me, and set a good example by always trying to do the right thing, even when those choices were hard. You..., she..., oh hell. She's been the single biggest influence on my life. I've always lived with her, well at least as long as I can remember. Mother was killed when I was barely two, and Dad and I went home to live with her. He remarried when I was nine and I chose to stay with her. Not that I don't love Janet, I do, it's just that, as Dad says, you and I are linked in some strange way that no one quite understands."
"Okay," said Ivan "let's run this through one more time to make sure we've all got everything straight. Can't afford any screw ups."
"No sir," said one of the young crewmen.
"Franklin and his assistant will take the Ambassador directly from the facilities on the ship to her quarters on the station. They'll make sure she's okay and comfortable and then jump back here to the flight deck." He looked at Franklin who nodded. "We'll pass the device to Alex who will then jump back to the Minbari Ambassadorial quarters on the station."
"That's the easy part." said the doctor.
"What's critical," said Ivan, "is making sure we grab Tyler when our illustrious leader gets him back here. The device will be set to return them here, to the flight deck, in exactly two hours. I want every last one of you back here at least twenty minutes before that happens. Got it?"
John felt the hand on his arm and turned to see the same young Acolyte he had encountered in Down Below earlier. Her hands together in the Minbari gesture of respect she bowed to him gracefully, then reached into her sleeve and extracted a folded piece of paper which she held out for him. He took it from her, she bowed again, and was gone.
Unfolding the piece of paper his heart leapt with hope. The flowing scroll was most certainly Delenn's; he'd have known it anywhere.
You must trust me now as you have never trusted me before. Please be assured that I am safe and in no danger. The light you saw in the Zocalo was a timeflash.
Wait a few minutes and then join me in my quarters. Tell no one that you have heard from me. I will explain all when you get here. It is imperative that you come alone, much depends on this.
The possibility certainly existed that this was a trap, but his gut feelings were telling him that it wasn't. Timeflash...., suddenly some of the things that had happened this evening were starting to make sense. There would be no need to set a trap for him, if someone who wanted to harm him possessed those capabilities. He read the note again slowly, trying to see if she had tried in any way to tip him off to waiting danger. No alarm bells rang in his head.
He spoke into his link. "This is Captain John Sheridan. I want to record a time delayed message for Security Chief Allan.....
Lennier did not recognize the Acolyte who passed him in the hallway of the Green Sector. 'Strange,' he thought to himself 'I wonder where she could be going.' He thought to follow her, but he himself was late.
The door chimed as it opened and John stepped warily into the dimly lit room. As his eyes began to grow accustomed to the twilight he heard her voice and his heart soared with the relief that she was truly alright.
"Are you alone?" she asked.
"And no one knows that you and I are here?"
"Not yet, but I've left a delayed message for Zack...."
"Cancel it." She said in that voice he knew would accept no argument. He hit the button on his link and did as she asked, then crossed to where she lay and knelt beside the couch.
"You're hurt. Oh my darling." He said, his heart breaking. She reached out and took his hand to reassure him.
"I am all right, John. Just believe me when I say that there are bigger things at stake than my health at this moment...."
"What could possibly be more important..."
"Listen to me John, simply listen, there are things we must tell you before we enlist your help in this."
"We?" He turned as Alex opened the sliding doors from the sleeping area and entered the room. The young woman in the baseball cap did not, at that moment, seen menacing.
"John Sheridan, I would like to introduce you to our granddaughter Alexandra." His evening had just progressed from illogical to insane. Well aware that Minbari did not lie, except to save another, he had no reason to doubt Delenn's words, but his own mind simply could not grasp how this could be possible. John looked at Delenn, astonished.
"I need to know how you are sure that she is who she says she is."
"Many things John - the baseball cap neatly hides a bone crest, slighter than mine, but there nonetheless. More importantly she has your eyes, I saw that before I knew who she was. And she knows things that she could not possibly know unless she was who she is." Alex crossed her hands in the Minbari gesture of respect and bowed to him.
"And walks like her grandmother," he said recognizing her as the Acolyte he'd seen earlier. She nodded.
"Well that explains why you stopped me."
"So tell me, why do you need my help?"
"There's a gentleman in your brig I need to have a conversation with. He's one of three men, assigned to travel from my time to 2261 to, among other things, kill your wife before she can become your wife." Something about the look on his face prompted Delenn to speak.
"She saved my life, John. She jumped in and grabbed me and jumped back out again before Baker could finish what he was sent to do."
"And Baker is now where?"
"Uh, well," Alex paused, thinking about the best way to phrase it, "he isn't. He didn't belong in this time, so I removed him, and also Lennox who was the second member of the group."
"Assuming you can jump in, grab someone, and jump back out again, why don't you do this with the man we're holding? Why come to me?"
"Security on Babylon 5 is apparently one of the few places we can't do that, something to do with the size of the cells, the material in the walls and the energy generated in a double jump. I can get in, or I can get out, but I can't do both without blowing a hole through the station."
"We couldn't have held him forever; why not wait?"
"Because, I need to know as soon as possible, exactly when and where they got their time-shifter so I can prevent that from happening. Between that moment and now they've done something else so that if this plan failed they'd have a jump-in point from the future, but we don't know how far in the future, or how much time we're playing with. All I know for sure is that I'm fighting for the existence of myself and everyone in my family."
"Are you sure of this?" he asked.
"The information's good, Captain. So far everything has happened exactly as the informant said. Dad's sources....
"David." John murmured. Delenn looked up at him stunned.
"In Valen's name, how....?!"
"Did I know." he finished for her. "When I was unstuck in time on Babylon 4...."
"John Sheridan, you have never mentioned to me that we will have children".
"Child," he said, "mentioned it to you, yet."
"Children." said Delenn.
"Uh, actually, you didn't ever mention it to her, she found out that you knew when she told you, meaning 'the you' who was unstuck in time, in your cell on Centauri Prime." She paused as they both looked at her. "Getting a little difficult to tell all the players without a program, isn't it?"
"Children?" said John.
"Children." said Delenn. "Five."
Tyler cursed his luck. It had to have been at least an hour since he had missed the rendezvous with Lennox. Surely by now the little asshole would have had the time to find out where he was - his arrest hadn't exactly been a big secret - and to have used the device to get him out of this hole. All the little shit had to do was jump in, grab him, and jump back out. He'd spent enough time in his life cooling his heels in places like this.
"Well," John said, "despite the fact that this has to be the most utterly unbelievable story I have even heard, I'll go clear it with Zack. How we're ever going to explain all this...."
"You won't have to." He looked at Alex quizzically. "If I prevent them from getting the device, then none of this will ever happen. You will have no memories that I have ever been here, because I won't have been."
"She's right, John." He thought about it for a moment and nodded.
"Tricky stuff, this. How you ever keep it all straight..." Bending down, he kissed Delenn gently on the forehead. "I'll be back before you know it, my love." He looked at Alex. "Fifteen minutes give you enough time to get back into your disguise?" Alex nodded. "Good, then meet me in my office as soon as you're ready."
"Thank you." Alex said to his departing form. "I guess I'd better go change." By now, the skullcap was almost second nature and it only took a moment for her to resume her alter-ego. She went and sat on the floor beside where her grandmother lay. "You'll be okay until your Captain gets back?" she asked softly.
"I think you both worry too much, I'll be fine. I am concerned about you and what you must do next."
"You'll have time enough to worry about that in sixty years, or not, if I succeed. No need to borrow trouble."
"I have faith that you will. I'm truly beginning to understand why you were chosen for this mission." Alex leaned against the couch, shut her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Smells like home." she said and suddenly home seemed very far away, there was so much to do if she had any hope of ever getting back there. "I think the time has come for me to go. Hopefully, the next time you see me I'll be less than twelve hours old," she said as she stood up and headed for the door.
Delenn smiled. "I'm looking forward to that."
"Well you might not be, if you had any idea what kinds of hell I'll put you through, between then and now." She turned at the door and paused. "May God stand between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk."
"That's John's blessing."
"It's the family's." And she was gone.
Zack looked at Marcus and shook his head.
"The captain's up to something. He's bringing someone down who he says knows who this jerk is and exactly what to do with him. And he wants a minimum of my staff here at the time. I don't get it, I don't get it at all.... unless he's gone mad like the rest of the universe."
Alex met her grandfather in his office and they walked together down to Security.
"If you succeed in what you need to do, will you remember what has happened here?" he asked.
"I will, I'll be the only one."
"Would you give her a message for me?" he asked, showing her the datacrystal in his hand.
"Of course, it will mean a lot to her. Oh, she'll give me what for, I'm sure; I'm probably breaking some rule about transporting things across time barriers."
"If it's a problem...."
"Captain," she said smiling, her hand outstretched, "I have never lived my life by other people's rules." He dropped the data crystal into her palm.
"I'm sorry I won't live long enough to know you."
"Me too, Captain, me too. Thanks to her you've been a part of my life, all of my life, and I am so glad I got this chance to meet you, even if my memories will be of something that never happened."
"Strange position to be in."
"Goes with the territory, I suppose."
They continued in silence into Security.
"Mr. Allan," he said "this is the young female I was telling you about, if you could let her in to our John Doe's cell."
"Certainly, Captain." he opened the door and she stepped through. Tyler looked up as the door closed and saw the young Minbari.
"Alien freak," he spat at her. She put her hand on his shoulder and activated the device. The blinding flash of white light drew both of the men's eyes up to the screen of the View-Cam. The cell was now empty.
"What the hell???" Zack wrenched the door back open.
"Don't ask," John said to his Chief of Security "you don't want to know."
"Yes Captain. I'm quite sure I don't."
"Incoming." yelled Ivan as the flash began on the flight deck. Alex's crew grabbed Tyler and slammed him onto the metal decking.
"Hello," she said as she stood over him and removed her hood and skullcap. "I'm your worst nightmare."
"I really think it would be for the best if I had Stephen come and get you and take you to Med-Lab." He was trying to be firm, but the look on her face was breaking his heart.
"Truly John, I wish to remain here. I do not feel inclined at this moment to explain anything to anyone. There would be so many questions... too many questions. I would feel so much more comfortable if I could sleep here, in my own bed. I promise you I will be all right."
"I'm still really concerned, you've been badly wounded...."
"I am fine John, I have been given excellent medical attention on Alex's ship. I need only some time to heal, and I will be more at peace here."
He shook his head "Delenn..."
"Please John, humor me in this."
"Very well..." he sighed, and then added as an afterthought, "you have me at a great disadvantage."
"Which is?" she asked. He reached across and ran his fingers gently through her hair.
"I love you too much to refuse you anything."
"Then perhaps this is also the moment to ask you to help me to my bed."
"I am at your service." He was as gentle as possible when he lifted her, but she cried out in pain, and the sound she made tore his heart in two. He would not have hurt her for anything in the world.
"Oh my darling, I am so sorry." Somehow he had imagined that the first time her carried off to bed it would be under vastly different circumstances.
"It could not be helped."
He laid her gingerly on the mattress and tucked a throw around her for warmth. He could still see the distress in her eyes from the strain of being moved.
"Are you alright? Is there anything at all I can do?"
"I will be fine, if I can lie still for a while, the pain will subside."
"I'll go then, and let you get some rest."
"Stay with me," she whispered "stay with me, tonight. I need to know that you are close."
"I'll never leave you, Delenn," he smiled as he remembered the last time he'd said that to her, "not if the whole universe stood between us."
John sat in the quiet, fragrant darkness and watched his love sleep. As beautiful and serene as she was in her waking hours, in slumber she was luminescent. 'Her true face revealed' he thought. He yearned to reach out and caress the velvet softness of her cheek, but did not wish to wake her.
Tyler, when he finished screaming, had been most helpful. By the end of their little talk, she even knew his mother's maiden name and what he'd had for breakfast, not to mention a few dozen things about the Neo-Nightwatch group that were going to come in really handy when she got back. Most importantly, Alex now knew where they had acquired the device, and when, and this time she was going to make sure she got there early.
Sometime in the early morning he had dozed off in the chair, and when he came to it took him a moment to realize where he was. He stood up and looked at Delenn who was still sleeping peacefully.
"We need to set a date, my love." He said, even though he knew she would not hear him. "I have the feeling it's past time....."
'Man', Ivan thought to himself 'I get all the fun jobs.' He was some three weeks in the past, sitting at a terminal in a secure area of the Earthgov offices. It was a particularly ungodly hour in the middle of the night, and he was planting the message for the President that he and Alex had carefully composed. 'Tricky stuff, timelines. Damn tricky stuff making sure you were in the right place at the right time.'
The possibility existed that if they managed to prevent the Tyler and the others from getting their hands on the shifter in the first place, David Sheridan would not receive the intelligence report which had prompted the mission. In itself, this would not be a problem, except that, as the timeline came right the crew of the ship would suddenly find themselves back on earth, the ship having never been dispatched. For the senior members of the crew who had been fully briefed on the mission and all the possible outcomes, this would come as a shock, but at least they would have some understanding of what had just happened to them.
For the others, the trauma would be devastating, possibly mind destroying. The shock of suddenly being somewhere, light years from where you were a moment ago, coupled with no one around you being aware that anything untoward had happened and everything you remembered from the past few days having never occurred, would snap all but the strongest psyche. Of course, only those who had actually crossed one or more of the time barriers would remember anything of the events, because for the rest none of it would ever have taken place.
The message had also been carefully constructed so that the President of the Earth Alliance would have a complete briefing of the original mission.
With Alex's final instruction to the crew ringing in their ears, "and leave the agent of darkness for me..." they jumped in to a point in time some twenty minutes before the rendezvous was to take place and waited, hidden and silent.
There was a flash of light and suddenly the perpetrator was there. Tyler had not known who the man was who had made the deal and delivered the time-shifter, but Alex knew him the minute he appeared. From the En'til'zha's description she'd have recognized this man anywhere, and his appearance made her blood run cold. A dark servant of the Shadows, his heart blacker than midnight. Delenn's persecutor from those dark times when the Sheridan's were imprisoned on Centauri Prime. This demon from hell who had hurt her grandmother more deeply than anyone else in the galaxy, and somehow, the universe with one of its strange twists had just put this malevolent being into her hands. The time had come.
The crew acted as if one. Tyler and the other members of his group went down in a hail of PPG fire. Alex took certain aim and blasted the device out of the fiend's hands, as Ivan ran to recover it she saw the man start to reach for his pocket, where she was sure the other device must be secreted.
"Don't even think about it," she heard herself say in that voice of her grandmother's that was all steel and ice, "you have hurt my family enough, you will not do it again!" He froze as much with what she said, as the realization of who she must be.
"Sheridan," he hissed at her "for this you will die."
"Better choice than not being here in the first place." she retorted. "Ivan, he's got the other device in the left inside pocket of his jacket. And be careful, he moves quick. The rest of you cover him."
"Gotcha, Alex." And with one fluid motion her second slammed the dark servant flat on his back to the ground. Then bending down he retrieved the shifter from exactly where Alex had said it would be. She took a deep breath and looked straight into the man's eyes.
"I am a Ranger, we walk in the dark places no others will enter. We stand on the bridge and no one may pass. We live for the One, we die for the One. Isil'Zha vini. In Valen's name." Then she lowered her PPG towards his head and fired.
The message to the En'til'zha had been as carefully constructed as the one to The President of the Earth Alliance. It included the name of the dark servant Alex had just eliminated; their path in time was now ensured.
Things had gone off without a hitch for a change. 'So lovely having the element of surprise in your favor,' Alex thought. Marshall Franklin's voice broke her reverie.
"So now that we've got four of these things, what do we do with them?"
"We don't," said Alex, "if you take a look there should be only three of them."
"Three? No way. We had one to start with, we took one from Lennox on Babylon 5 and we just picked up two here."
"Except that because we picked up the two here, before our friends went to the station, and one of those was the one they used to get to 2261; they never got there, so there was never one there."
"Okay," he said slowly, still trying to work it all out.
"Don't think about it too much, Marshall, or it will drive you mad. We are now in the strange position of being able to remember things that have never happened. Now, if you will excuse me, I have one last thing I need to do, before we head for Epsilon 3. And, to answer your question, leave these little gadgets with Draal."
Back in her cabin Alex prepared to do something she knew she really shouldn't be doing. But, more than anything she wanted to make sure that everything really had turned out all right. She carefully set the device to the time in question, straightened her baseball cap, and with her fighting pike full out in front of her, waited for the brilliant flash of light to flare and die away.
They came out of hyperspace at the Euphrates gate. The vast deserted shell of the station hung before them, like an apparition. A derelict, floating desolate in space, a ghostly legend of what might have been. Abandoned, but not unloved, discarded, but not forgotten. Alex thought of the two of them as they had been then, of her father as a young boy running down the corridors, of she herself walking those passages in a different time.
"Our last best hope." Alex said softly, and walked off the flight deck to prepare for her trip to the planet.
Ivan was contemplating the possibility of there being a substance whose dynamic reflective value was great enough to cause an explosion with a single jump in a confined space. He was already working on a scale to quantify DRV and a graph which would indicate at what level of DRV, square area became a factor.
Alex had never met Draal, but he was no stranger to her. Between the Vid-images she had seen, and the stories her grandmother had told her about the custodian of the Great Machine, he seemed like a old friend. She handed the three devices over to him, thankful that the shifters would no longer be her responsibility.
"How is your grandmother?" Draal asked her.
"Which one?" Draal looked confused for a moment before he answered her.
"Oh, I see what you mean. The one who occupies your time in the Universe."
"She's fine. She's pretty amazing really."
"Always was. And now that I've met you, I know your Dad's right."
"About?" It was Alex's turn to be confused.
"He's always maintained that you have more of that 'If-you-value-your-lives-you-will-be-elsewhere' quality of hers than anyone else in the family." She looked at him wondering how he could know that after so brief a meeting. "Ah well," he said "I've been bouncing around out there keeping an eye on what was going on."
Back on the ship, Alex stared out into the familiar red and black spectral light of hyperspace for a long time. So very much had happened, or hadn't, depending on your perspective of the Universe. So many revelations about all the little moments that occurred in her life that she'd long taken for granted. The total understanding of what Dad meant when he talked about the magic in the way his parents looked at one another. The realization of why her grandmother would sometimes catch her breath when Dad walked in a room unexpectedly. Pieces of the puzzle of her life - the Universe trying to understand itself.
"I'm going to my quarters." She said to the young crewman on the flight deck. "Buzz me if anything happens." What she needed most right now was some sleep. By late morning they'd be home.
"President Sheridan," his Aide's face came up on Comm-Screen, "we've just received word from the Space Port Authority that your daughter's ship has docked. I thought you might like to know."
"Thank you, I appreciate the information."
"If that's all, sir?"
"Just one thing. Has the En'til'zha been notified?"
"Yes sir, when I spoke to them they promised to call her right away."
Home, she was finally home. Alex closed the door behind her gently and leaned against the frame drinking in the familiar mingled aroma of incense and tea. All of her life this was what home had smelled like. She knew now how much of it was the scent of her grandmother, her quarters on the station had been heavy with the same perfume.
"Alexandra? Darling, is that you?" the voice asked, that same softly accented lilting voice, that voice capable of steel or velvet, the voice of her grandmother.
"Yeah, it's me. I'm home, and more importantly, we are all still here." Suddenly she was very tired.
As her grandmother entered the hallway, Alex looked at her almost as if she'd never really seen her before. The green-grey eyes were perhaps wiser than the last time she'd seen this woman, but there was the same upright bearing, the same deep serenity, the same long hair, though now almost completely white. 'She's still beautiful, I don't think I was ever truly aware of that until now' Alex thought, 'No mystery why he was so much in love with her.' She put her bag down at the bottom of the stairs and walked into Delenn's waiting arms.
"You okay?" Delenn asked softly in her granddaughter's ear.
Alex nodded, "I'm okay, tired that's all, but most definitely okay. Listen, I'm going to go upstairs, call Dad and get him up to speed, have a hot shower, and then do the one thing that I most want to do."
"Have a cup of tea and some conversation with my grandmother."
Delenn laughed, "That can be arranged."
"Good." The younger woman picked up her bag and started up the stairs.
"What?" she turned to look.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Nana." she said reverting to her old childhood form of endearment. "But right at this moment in time, I don't think you have any idea how very much."
David Sheridan paced across his office in the Capital, turned on his heel and tracked back in the other direction. His daughter's ship had docked fully an hour ago, surely by now she'd had time to get home and place a call to him.
"Damn, the girl," he said into thin air "Does she have no sense of time at all?" and then laughed softly at the irony of what he'd just said. He was more concerned than angry, more curious than alarmed. When the Comm-unit on his wall beeped he jumped at it, pounding the button hard. "Yes."
"Your eldest daughter's on the second channel," his Aide informed him.
"Good, I've been waiting for her call, put her through." He was not, however, prepared for the first words out of Alex's mouth.
"Anybody ever tell you you're a dead ringer for your father?" she'd asked.
Caught completely off guard, there was a long pause, before he answered her softly. "Yeah, my mother, all the time, especially when I catch her unaware." He paused again. "Am I to infer from that question that you actually saw him?"
"Talked to him too." Alex saw her father's raised eyebrow. "Yeah, well, things didn't come off exactly as we'd planned so I had to improvise a little, but it all came out right in the end."
"I know that. I'm still here. If it had not, we would not be having this conversation."
"I would very much like to hear all the details, but in light of the events of the past few weeks, I don't feel real comfortable with you sharing them on a Comm-link. Can you come in tomorrow and meet me?"
"Buy me lunch?" She smiled at him.
"Sometimes...." he said. "Yeah, of course."
"Good, I'll be there. How's the rest the family?"
"Fine, just fine." He stopped short as the full impact of what she had done hit him. There was awe in his voice when he spoke, "Are you aware of just how much we all owe you?"
"Nobody owes me anything, Dad. I only did what I had to do, and I did it, as much because I wanted to as because I had to."
"You will make one hell of an En'til'zha when it's time," he said. "Don't ever doubt that."
"Hopefully that will not be for a very long while. We've always been close, but I don't think I've ever felt closer to her than I do right at this moment." Alex paused. "She's right, you know, faith does manage. I have just returned from a most stunning life lesson on that point. And, I'll explain that tomorrow too. Right now, I'm signing off, and heading for the shower. I love you, Dad."
"I love you too, Alex. And tell that indomitable spirit who you live with that I love her for a multiplicity of reasons, not the least of which being the absolutely stunning job she's done of raising you."
"I will Dad. Give my love to Janet and the rest of the family. May God stand between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk." The Comm-screen blinked and she was gone.
David shook his head. He had to admit that his mother and his daughter were quite the pair, inexplicably linked in a way that even he did not fully understand. The sudden memory of the first meeting between the two made him smile. As Delenn reached down into Alexandra's crib, the baby had reached up and grasped onto his mother's little finger with her tiny fist.
"This one will be En'til'zha after me," she had said, and meant it.
"Mother! She's not even twelve hours old. She might not want to have anything to do with the Rangers. You can't possibly know at this time of her life."
"On this point, trust me," she had replied "I know."
"Star-stuff," he said to no one, "star-stuff, both of them."
The shower and the clean clothes made Alex feel considerably better. She walked down the stairs, into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around her grandmothers waist from behind. "I have a message for you from the President of the Earth Alliance."
"And what does the President want with me?"
"He said, and I quote 'tell that indomitable spirit who you live with that I love her for a multiplicity of reasons, not the least of which being the absolutely stunning job she's done of raising you.'"
"Yes, that. And I would like to take this moment to add my thanks to his message. You have been wonderful, all my life, and I remember times when that can't have been easy. I was a pretty rotten kid at points. I'm sorry."
"You had quite the time out there, didn't you?"
"It's that obvious?"
"To me, yes, it's that obvious. Now, go sit down, I will make some tea and we will talk about it."
"Satai." David Sheridan addressed his brother formally. He had used the diplomatic link to Minbar as it was more secure, and it only seemed appropriate.
"President Sheridan, much time has passed since we last spoke." David smiled at his brother's little joke.
"Much time. I thought you would like to be informed that we are all still here."
"She has returned, then?"
"Yes, she has."
"I trust you will brief me further when next we meet."
"As soon as the En'til'zha and I have all the details we will send you a full report."
"Thank you. Isil'Zha vini. In Valen's name."
"In Valen's name."
"I brought you something back, Nana. I left it on your vanity upstairs."
"You should not have done that."
"No, perhaps I should not, but don't give me holy hell until you've seen it."
"By transporting any item across time you've taken the risk of altering the timelines, even if only slightly."
"I know that, probably better than anyone. But when have I ever played by the rules?"
"True," Delenn sighed, "very true."
"Things did not go exactly as we had planned and I got to meet your Captain, as well as you. He loved you so much.... It shone in his eyes. You two truly were soul-mates." She looked up, her eyes dancing. "He was one handsome dude."
"He was at that." Delenn took a deep breath. Forty years, more than forty years since he had simply stopped, since he had been taken from her, and it still hurt as much now as it had at the moment it happened. The thought of his face, his hands, his eyes.... She reached out and lovingly stroked her granddaughters cheek, "You have his eyes, little one."
"You always say that." Alex smiled at the memories. "She said that too."
"She..., well you." Alex looked up and their eyes met, "Strange how you never really see your family, the people closest to you, the ones you love the most, as they really are. I'd truly not noticed until that instant when I retrieved her..., you..., from the Zocalo just how incredibly beautiful you were..., are....
David wondered if his mother was right, if what she and his father had created would last a thousand years. All they had worked for, all they had fought for could be so easily destroyed, as it nearly had been this time. As long as there was life in the galaxy, there would be dark servants who would try to extinguish the light of hope his parents had lit so many years ago. 'Only time would tell,' he thought to himself, 'only time will tell.'
The small carved box that was Alex's present rattled as she picked it up from her dressing table. 'Sometimes the box is not the whole gift', Delenn thought, remembering the small soft black velvet box that had held her engagement ring. She lifted the lid and stared at the data crystal inside. It was a long minute before she summoned the courage to remove it from where it had been secreted and place it in the viewer.
When his face appeared she let out a small strangled gasp and as she heard him say her name reached out with trembling fingers to touch the cool smooth surface of the View-Screen.
Sheridan was late, he'd promised to meet Delenn in the Zocalo for dinner at their favorite little restaurant and he was late. Not a lot late, just a minute or two, but he hated to keep her waiting, hated that it was a minute or two that he wouldn't be able to spend with her. Always some crisis or another, he thought. He rounded the corner just in time to see Delenn turn towards him.
As she turned to face him she had a sudden bright vision of a young human woman in a baseball cap, with a Minbari fighting pike in her hands. She would have dismissed the sensation out of hand, but for one thing, the girl had John's eyes. Smiling to herself, her heart light, she walked towards the man she loved with every fibre of her being.
"You're late." she said softly. There was no reproof in her voice.
He sighed, "I know my love, I'm sorry, we had a....."
"It is of no matter, you are here now." She looked up into his eyes. And there, at that instant in time, for two people standing in the middle of the Zocalo, time was suddenly irrelevant.
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