By Coucher de Soleil




   Author's note: I began writing this one shortly after "Falling Towards Apotheosis" aired in North America. Real life intruded for a long while so that I haven't finished it yet. I am currently writing more parts to finish it off, and thought various and sundry J&D'ers might enjoy it. :)

   Disclaimers: B5 belongs to JMS and some suits at WB, I'm told. I sure don't mean to trespass!!! :)

   And I know I'm one of the few who do this in fanficworld, but I'd like to dedicate this story to my best friend Leslie, who is *such* a good friend, with constant support and encouragement. (She'll be getting a cc of this. :)

   This one contains major spoilers for 'Falling Towards Apotheosis'. So put this aside if you still haven't seen it and don't want to be spoiled. :) And it also contains a spoiler for 'The Long Night'. (Ep after FtA which hadn't aired when I wrote this.)

   Now to hop into the world of Shadows and make believe... ;)






"Then she, with earnest kiss, sufficiently did prove
That more than by the fear of death she was attaint
by love."

'The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet', by Arthur Brooke.


   "I told you I was afraid that I would get you back, only to lose you. And that's what this is...twenty years."

   "It's a long time. And at least, I can spend most of them with you."

   (Delenn and John Sheridan, FtA.)

   A short time afterwards...



   Delenn stood waiting for the Brakiri ambassador. The Brakiri had undergone an attack by the Vorlons only twenty-two hours before, an attack which had, by all appearances, cost them the three worlds outlying their solar system. Only one loss had been confirmed, with planetary rubble strewn for several light years, but contact with the other two had been lost for more than twelve hours, and considering Vorlon methods, the conclusion was a logical one. The Brakiri had asked for help, for protection, for *anything* they could get, as strange reports from hyperspace in their sector gave rise to the fear that the Vorlons meant to erase all traces of Brakiri existence.

   And so Delenn was waiting for the Brakiri ambassador, waiting to escort him to the war room... waiting patiently, despite the terror gripping her heart.

   And Delenn of the Minbari had very rarely been afraid.



   "We *must* have your assistance or we are done for!" The poor man was shouting, beyond all attempts at reason. "Do you not understand? I am here to beg you -beg you!- to save us! We are at this very moment faced with the extinction of our very civilisation! Please..." He broke off, unable to continue.

   John Sheridan had his head in his hands. This was not the first such request he had received. And it would probably not be the last. But there was very little he could do at the moment. They were simply not ready. Not ready! He forced himself to stand and walk towards the man. Looking first towards Delenn at his side, he answered.

   "I'm sorry." The other looked at him aghast. Sheridan held up a hand. "I wish to God it were otherwise! But there is very little we can do for you at this point. We will continue to assist you in the evacuation of your people. But we can't risk an all-out attack. Not yet!"

   "But we have given you ships! To build your fleet! You promised us..." The other broke off.

   "I know. And your contribution was -and is- essential. But war is as much strategy as it is clout. And we need to plan this carefully, or they'll just destroy us *all*!" He gripped the desk he had begun to lean on even harder. He could not even be completely truthful...Couldn't let the other know, or remind him, exactly *how* desperate their odds were.

   There was a moment of silence, as the Brakiri ambassador sat, trying to grasp the enormity of what was happening. Finally, he looked up. "And this is your final word on this matter." It was not question.

   Sheridan nodded silently, and the other walked out, quietly.



   He was sitting in the dark when the doorchime to his quarters rang. "Come." He said softly. Delenn entered, and sat beside him, taking him in her arms. He buried his face in her shoulder.

   By sheer force of will, he forced himself to raise his head. Touching a hand to the softness of her cheek he brought them back to the day-to-day. "Any news from Ivanova?" he asked. He had sent her and Marcus on another search for First Ones, which had so far been fruitless. Lorien had gone along as well, to help, the day before. And with them, lay their only hope of survival.

   She shook her head, the sadness in her eyes mirroring his own. Taking that beloved face in his hands, he said softly, smiling, "So, are you sure you still want to marry me?" She moved onto his lap, putting her arms about him. "More than ever...my love," she said with strangled emotion in her voice. And kissed him with all the love she could muster.



   *Relax,* he thought to himself. *Making yourself crazy isn't going to do anybody any good.*

   Sheridan faced the view of the stars in C&C, his mind was oblivious to the glory. There had been no news from Ivanova for more than thirteen hours, and after ten hours off-shift spent staring at the ceiling in his quarters he had gotten himself to C&C, though he suspected he looked like Death's bride.

   "Captain! Something's coming through the jumpgate!" Corwin said. It was Ivanova.



   "So. Did you find anything?" Marcus and Ivanova stood before him, with Lorien somewhat off to the side. Ivanova nodded.

   "We're in business," she said.



   The Vorlons were at less than two days from Babylon 5, destroying what they pleased along their path. The Shadows had not, as of yet, made their presence known, and this fact puzzled even the most informed.

   They had managed to contact one other race of First Ones, who had agreed to help them. According to Ivanova, Lorien had told them where to go, what to do when they got there, had instructed her as to what she needed to say, and had in fact done most of the talking himself.

   It had been very easy... she had said to her Captain in her report, but he could see that she had more to say than that.

   The aliens at Sigma 957 had also been successfully contacted. Both First Ones stood ready to help them.

   And such was, aside from planning for Armageddon, the state of things.



   John Sheridan sat contemplating these facts when he realized the doorchime to his quarters had rung several times.

   Sighing, he spoke, "Come," and he looked up to see Delenn. Without speaking, she walked to him and sat down beside him. She looked at him silently, and handed him a data sheet. He looked down at it, and felt her slip her arms around his neck.

   The Vorlons had changed course, a new course which put them on a direct heading for Earth.



   The only thought which was able to penetrate the haze in which his mind found itself was that it was now spring back home. He heard a whisper in his ear, but the words did not make sense. He listened to them again.

   "Are you all right?" They finally made sense. He saw tears in her eyes.

   Gripping her shoulders and leaning on her he asked, "Do we know anything else?"

   She shook her head.

   "Then we don't have any news," he said stiffly, rising. He had work to do.



   He found everyone assembled in the war room. Entering, he looked at each of them in turn. They stared back at him. Their faces asked him for his decision. Shaking the daze, he spoke.

   "You all know what's happened." It was not a question.

   "By all appearances, the Vorlons are heading for Earth. And knowing what we know about recent Earth politics, it appears likely that Earth would be a target." He paused before continuing.

   "Some days ago I called for a fleet to be assembled here, a fleet such as our galaxy has never seen. Until now, we have stood waiting because the time was not right. Until now, we did not have everything we needed to stand against the Vorlons. Now we do. And, our planning is complete. We are now ready to strike."

   There was some sneering at his statement, and the Brakiri ambassador spoke, "*Now*, we are ready to strike," he said simply.

   Sheridan looked him straight in the eye.

   "Yes." And he continued, "There are some things you did not know, things you still do not know, which prevented us from helping many of you. But we can end the Vorlon threat *now*."

   He let them mull it over.

   When he came back, they had decided to fight.



   They had decided to fight.

   And so, for several hours, ships which had previously massed in Babylon 5 space now vacated it, after planning had been altered to fit a new battlefield.

   Sheridan arrived at a door and asked for entrance. The door promptly slid aside to admit him.

   There were only a few hours remaining before their departure, and for the first time in one hell of a long time, there was time. They had all agreed that, as not everyone at once was required for the arranging of certain more minor details which were left, shifts would alternate, so as to give everyone the opportunity of some hours down time prior to the battle.

   And now, Delenn stood before him. Taking her in his arms, he kissed her.

   Still holding her, he spoke into her hair, "I... wanted to ask you something." He paused a moment before continuing.

   "I...We have only a few hours before..." He put her away from him a bit, so that he could see her better. "I wanted to ask if... You said you would marry me, Delenn." He looked down, then back at her before continuing.

   "Will you marry me now? We may not live to see more than tommorow, and before I die, I want to be able to call you my wife."

   She had tears in her eyes. But she was smiling.

   Nodding, she said, "Yes."



   He had been to talk to Ivanova, and after some frantic arranging of the right documents, they had been able to arrange for the marriage to be performed by an ombudsman on the station. There had been no time to arrange for the ceremony they would have chosen. There was not even a best man or best person, as the only one he could think of for the role, namely Ivanova, was the one holding the place together while he was off duty. Indeed, no one besides the two of them and the ombudsman was present at the ceremony, all being consumed by what awaited.

   But it had been enough. And when he had looked into her eyes after vowing to spend his life with her, and seen her frown slightly at the unfamiliar vows -particularly at the 'til death do us part' bit- he had been happy.

   When it was over, he had kissed her.



   [The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. A self-contained world five miles long, located in neutral territory. A place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and aliens. A shining beacon in space, all alone in the night. It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind...the year the Great War came upon us all. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2259. The name of the place is Babylon 5. - Captain Sheridan (taken from 'The Lurker's Guide')...]



   Delenn stood on the bridge of the Whitestar ship, in silence. Occasionally her eyes would drift to her husband...

   Her husband. There had not been time for anything, except what was beyond them. Once they had been married, they had had to leave, very possibly never to return.

   She regretted many things in her life, but now, oddly perhaps, she felt peace. They would die together, doing what had to be done. And at least now, at the end, they had taken the time to be.

   And they would die together.


   "Yes, John?" She turned to smile up at him.

   "We've got less than an hour left before we get to the rendez-vous point." The ships which they commanded were to meet outside Earth's solar system. If the First Ones they had contacted intended to keep their promises, they would appear when the attack began.

   If they did not, there would be no one left to care.

   The two of them walked off the bridge to the tactical center of the ship.



   "All ships report ready," Delenn said to Sheridan, as the last communication was received from the Whitestar fleet -from Ivanova, who was to coordinate things at that end.

   He looked at her, taking her hand to his lips.

   "Let's give the signal," he said simply.



   Their instruments perceived nothing unusual as they entered Earth's solar system. There was a wait, some minutes long, before the ennemy was detected.

   Then the darkness was lit with ships. Vorlons... In sizes of monstrous immensity. The Vorlons fired first, making short work of the front lines: tearing them to shreds in mere seconds.

   And still there was no sign of promised reinforcements.



   "They have destroyed our front lines," Was all Delenn said as they stood together.

   He nodded. If you're falling off a cliff...

   "All ships, attack. Fire at will."

   As all ships broke formation and opened fire, there were no First Ones with them.







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