ANNIVERSARY

By Travis Gillis

 

 

 

   Welcome! This is my first full-length story (OK, its only a couple of pages, but what the hell). This one has been in the back of my head for a while and went through several different versions before I came up with this one. Hopefully, I'll have two other stories following this one sooner or later.provided I can stay still long enough to write them! Thanks for reading this - I hope you like it!

   Any comments or criticism about this story that you care to make will be gratefully received at: voyager1@ktsnet.com

 

 

 

 

*****

   The morning began unusually: Horny.

   For once in a long while the man and woman had a nice, quiet day off. They were no meetings, schedules, planning, or constant headaches over the state of the Grand Alliance that couldn't be taken care of by their friends. Their son was in another part of the complex staying with his best friend, so they did what most couples couldn't do on most mornings: they made slow, passionate love to each other. They had the time. Or so they thought.

   After looking at one another for what seemed like hours both of them got up, took a shower together (saves on the water and energy, you know), and dressed in casual clothing. The man went to the kitchen to fix up a special 'eggs, bacon, and toast' breakfast for the both of them while the woman checked their messages - those messages that were worth their attention, anyway - that had been screened by her aide. It was, more or less, the same type of bureaucratic tripe that all governments had to deal with at one time or another. She closed the connection and went to the living area, already savoring the smell of one of her favorite meals.

   They ate breakfast together while they discussed what they would do today, if anything. A walk through the gardens. Perhaps some sort of concert or play, or just a long walk together. And, of course, their anniversary party at eighteen thirty hours that evening. The woman stared across the table at the man she loved, drinking in his features for perhaps the millionth time -- each time just like the first time she saw him. He looked at her emerald green eyes as he returned her gaze, seeing her soul in them -- her loving soul.

   After they were finished, he took the plates back into the kitchen as she excused herself for a few minutes. She proceeded to her bedroom, pulled open a drawer in her bedside table, and withdrew a small box from it -- her present to him. Technically, she was supposed to give it to him tonight but a surprise never hurt anyone, she thought. She started humming a tune when she entered the kitchen and stopped dead in her tracks.

   He wasn't moving.

   His back was to her as he stood over the sink caught in the act of cleaning the plates. His entire body had frozen like a human version of a marble statue, with a faint grin played out across his face. Unfortunately, he was now the organic form of one of those statues. Forever.

   The woman stood in the doorway, in shock. She was dimly aware of the box slipping from her fingers and landing with a small thud on the floor, mirroring how she felt. A distant part of her brain told her that Lorien had warned her of this, that the man would stop someday and now he had. Her mouth moved reflexively, calling out his name while hoping that it was some sort of dream, and then moved towards him, not wanting to believe that the man she loved for twenty years was gone. She pressed her face to his chest as the hot tears flowed down her cheeks.

   Thirty two hours. Fourteen minutes. "Remember to take all carry-on luggage with you when you leave. The time now is fifteen thirty four hours Eastern American Time, and the current Terran date is May seventeenth, twenty three oh three. On behalf of the captain and crew we would like to thank you for flying with InterWorld." The overhead intercom clicked off.

   Delenn woke up from her nightmare and looked out the side window. Earth. So she was finally here. Shaking off the last of the cobwebs in her mind, the former Minbari Ambassador reached into the overhead compartment for her bag - a small black tote - and joined the line of passengers waiting to get off the transport. After clearing customs and immigration (the officer there had taken a double look at her headbone, but said nothing), and retrieving a mid-sized suitcase from the luggage area, she heard her name called over the intercom. The message that was waiting for her at the information desk informed her that her transportation would be unavailable that night due to a line of rather nasty thunderstorms in the area she was going to. She sighed, realizing that she was going to be stuck in the city for at least one night, and made arrangements to stay in one of the city's hotels, unaware that a pair of eyes watched her from the second level.

   The man behind those eyes casually watched his target make her arrangements and leave the spaceport. He smiled and wondered, for the infinite time, whether he would be able to get to her in time or not. Time. And he didn't have enough of it to do his task. An eyeblink, really, from his point of view. As if by a silent call he looked down at a nearby cafe‚ and saw a man - if one wanted to call him that - holding up a glass of wine in a silent toast to the both of them. His counterpart - not that, the man reflected, a hundred times worse - on the other side of things looked up at him with piercing dark eyes and grinned a smile more appropriate for a death mask. Damn. He's here, the man thought. And the race began.

   Twenty four hours. Fifty three minutes. Delenn couldn't sleep.

   The most that she could do was to lay back on her hotel bed and stare at the ceiling. Each time that she closed her eyes she saw the relentless march of death passing before her. Her friends. Her enemies. Her victims. They passed before her in one long ceaseless procession, some staring at her with accusing eyes, others with a look that seemed to go through her like a blast of cold air. And she remembered all of them. Garibaldi, who betrayed the fledging Army of Light, then redeemed himself for the good cause at the end. Ivanova and Marcus, whose love flared ever so briefly before being snuffed out forever by Marcus's death at the end of the War. The faces of the Rangers that she had sent out against hopeless odds. The faces of the humans she had come so close to exterminating. Thank Valen that her son wasn't among them. He was leading the Alliance now, in his parent's place, determined that the horrors that befell the Galaxy would never happen again. And yet, the faces marched on.

   "Why always now," she silently cried. "Why on this day?" Her questions scattered like dust on the winds of her mind, and the Gods of Fate chose not to answer. She crossed her fingers and attempted to relax with a Minbari meditation ritual, saying a short prayer in the process for their souls and her mind.

   Politics. There was always that, the man thought, even where he was. The Committee, he sourly reflected, was totally useless about staying with a decision. You might as well expect the Centauri and the Narn to perform a dance number -- complete with tophats and walking sticks -- before these jokers decided which wind they wanted to blow with. At first the committee had given the man the go ahead for the mission, then turned around the next day and scrapped it. Screams and shouts (mostly his own) followed that one, and now the Record Keeper was busy reviewing the particulars of the case. It was so infuriating to him being so close to the Goal and then losing it because of an administrative fuckup. But he had no choice. Or did he? There were ways of working around the system for those who knew how, didn't give a damn, and didn't mind, ahem, *reassignments*. First, he'd have to contact some of his friends.

   Thirteen hours. Twenty one minutes. Delenn stared out at the countryside below as the aircar sped on the way to its destination. The ground was mostly green with trees and vegetation, punctuated with areas of light to dark tan and the occasional river or lake. Sam Morris, the car's driver and the caretaker of the farm they were going to, informed Delenn that they would be arriving at their destination in twenty minutes, then proceeded to inform her about various landmarks and sights in the area. One part of her mind feigned interest in what he was saying while the rest of her churned with tension and sadness. Satai. Entil'zha. Leader. All of the titles that she had held in her life were meaningless now except one.

   Wife.

   They arrived at a beautifully crafted house ten kilometers from the nearest town. The two story brick and wood house had been built in the late twentieth century and had been lovingly preserved as it had appeared three hundred years ago with some minor exceptions. The farm on which it sat was not a working farm anymore - no one had worked it for a little more than a century - however, there was a small garden situated at the back of the house. The farm had been in John's family for several hundred years; when his father and mother had passed on he had inherited it even though, of course, he couldn't come home to see it due to his role in Earth's civil war. After John had died she had wanted to take him back to Earth for burial; unfortunately, Earth didn't see it the same way. Despite the two generations that had passed since Babylon 5 succeeded from the Earth Alliance there were still a lot of people around who thought of Sheridan as a traitor to his own people. Delenn had informed Earth that refusing her 'request' might just annoy the Army of Light and they might just happen to drop by Earth and pay their 'respects' to the planetary government. Her request was granted immediately after that.

   Sam took Delenn's bags into the house while she headed down a small path towards John's family cemetery. The leaves on the trees vibrated in the late morning breeze, sending their light grassy scent into her nostrils. So similar, she thought. As a child on Minbar she had gotten lost in a forest at one time for several hours. She remembered how scared she was at being alone until she realized that she wasn't. The trees towered over her, spreading their protective arms and keeping her, in her mind, safe. The animals and insects weren't the only things alive in the forest - so were the trees. From that point on, whenever she felt like she was alone or afraid she thought of that forest.

   She came out into a small clearing. The cemetery was located a short distance from a dirt road and was a fenced in area filled with nearly a dozen slate gray monuments. Only the chirping of the occasional bird and the whispering of the wind through the trees reminded her that life was around her. She walked hesitantly down a row of headstones until she reached the last one. The inscription read:

JOHN SHERIDAN
Born August 20, 2218
Died May 18, 2281
The hand of light and my hand in life

   Her name was inscribed next to his on the same headstone, without any dates. Long ago she had decided to be buried here next to him. It was fitting end to her life, being buried next to her love on the same world she had nearly destroyed as a belated apology to its inhabitants. She knelt down next to his grave and began to speak to the open air, telling her husband about his son, her life and whatever else came to mind. Any feelings of foolishness she had once had about speaking to a lifeless stone had disappeared long ago; Now, it was, along with her memories and her son, an anchor in her life. She needed it to calm her soul - especially today. Had John lived, today would have been their 42nd wedding anniversary.

   Night. Twenty three forty one. Seven minutes remaining. She slept on the couch in the living room, mostly dozing, but mostly not. Delenn twisted and turned every so often, dreaming of wars won and battles lost. The only light in the room came from several small night lights set into the wall at various places so someone could see their way through the dark. She didn't, of course, notice that several of the shadows on the walls began changing, oozing their way down the wall and across the floor towards her. And she most certainly didn't notice the relentless ticking of the clock as it wound its way down to silence.

   Zero hour. The shadows on the floor moved their way up the couch, oily flowing until they covered her body in their grasp. One of the shadows placed itself on her head and induced a deep sleep within her brain. The rest of the shadows began the process of absorbing her soul into their evil collective. In Delenn's dreamworld, her nightmares she had been having turned out to be a picnic. Under the shadows direction they found her worst fears and magnified them. Her mind soundlessly screamed as she was hacked apart by her victims and friends again and again and again, while her soul was being torn apart. Painfully. A remote corner of her mind finally realized what it thought was happening, and tried to fight back. Too late.

   Without warning a shaft of light appeared in the center of the room, steadily growing wider as the rift around it expanded. The light grew brighter and brighter until it was as bright as a nuclear star -- without the heat -- and would have blinded any mortal who looked at it. That is, of course, if you were mortal. The shadows tried to hang on to Delenn and continue to claim their prize but it was no use. One by one the shadows dissipated off of her form until there was nothing left of them. A figure appeared in the light.

   A hand was on Delenn's shoulder, gently shaking her awake. Delenn's body involuntarily shook as she sleepily looked around for several minutes in confusion, then looked up straight into John Sheridan's eyes. She sat in shock for a few seconds, looking at him, then her aged body did what her mind couldn't: leap straight up into his open arms, feeling the warmth of his embrace as he held her, the feel of him. Then her mind kicked in. Unfortunately.

   Very reluctantly, she stepped back from her love. "You . . . this can't . . . it isn't possible. You're . . . gone", she said, unable to say the word.

    <"I know, my love.">, he said in Minbari. A uncontrollable grin spread out over his handsome face. She wanted to believe, to throw herself in his arms again and never leave, to gaze into those eyes that had held so much love for her before fading like a sunset, but she couldn't. Not when the man that she had loved and still loved died over twenty years ago. Her mind reeled, and she briefly wondered if she was losing it. His hand came up to caress her face, his touch playing over her delicate skin like a warm breeze before bringing her chin up.

   "I promised that I would wait for you, Delenn. Remember," he asked.

   She silently nodded her head. He had made the promise to her so long ago, after they were married, that it seemed like another lifetime.

   He took her hands into his and stared into her disbelieving emerald eyes. "Take a look behind you."

   She -- no, her body -- was slumped back on the couch, her eyes fixed sightlessly in death. Despite her being unafraid of death it was still a shock to see herself just lying there. She turned back to John.

   "I'm dead," she asked.

   "Yeah. Ah . . . well . . . you've crossed over, Delenn. I know there's a better way of putting it, but damned if I know how to say it," he explained.

   She took a final glance at her body before facing him again. "Then you've . . ."

   <Been waiting all of these years? Of course>, the words leapt silently into her brain. <Of course, if I . . .> The light flickered once, then twice. Sheridan glanced toward it. <We have to go.>

   "Where?"

   "Back there." He gestured towards the light. "I broke some of . . ." He grinned an infectious grin. "Well, a lot of rules to come get you. I'll probably have a lot of explaining to do and more unpleasant work ahead of me, but it was worth it." He looked deeply into her eyes. "I love you."

   She hesitated for a second, then pressed her body, then her lips, to his. The light expanded, covering both of them in its radiance before all of them faded from sight.

   Almost.

   A thin tendril of light escaped from the rift and raced its way toward the cemetery. It covered John and Delenn's headstone for a brief moment in a blue-white glow, then scattered itself into nothingness, leaving behind a cold, gray headstone.with one difference. Underneath Delenn's name a epitaph was written:

   She was never alone.

   [END]

 

*****

 

 

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