SOUL TO TAKE

By Walter Kingston

 

 

 

 

*****

"I still don't understand, John," began Delenn. "Now why is this man stopping the others from crossing the bridge?"

   John Sheridan continued to watch the video monitor closely from his position seated next to her on the sofa in his quarters. They had made a date of the evening and John decided to do the old fashioned "movie and dinner" bit, but with a twist. The movie would be an old vid, played at his place, and the dinner would be take-out. Without looking away from the movie, which seemed to capture his full attention, he replied to her question. "Because he's Lancelot. Arthur and he aren't friends yet. Lancelot is trying to find someone better than he is, and this is his test. He wants to fight the King."

   "And Arthur is the King, right?"

   "Right." John took another mouthful of popcorn and then offered the bowl to Delenn, again without moving his eyes from the screen.

   Delenn looked down at the offering and thought back to her experience with popcorn a few years earlier. "No, thank you, John. The last time I ate popcorn, I was picking things out of my teeth for days."

   John chuckled and smiled. "That's the whole point, honey. What good is hot, buttered popcorn if you aren't picking it from your teeth afterward?"

   "Well . . . still . . . I'd rather not. I'm pretty full from the meal." She watched in a combination of awe and disgust as he took another handful and shoved it in his mouth. "Are you still that hungry?"

   "Huh? A little. Popcorn isn't that filling, though. I can eat tons of this stuff and never get tired of it."

   "Wonderful," Delenn muttered under her breath.

   "What was that," John asked.

   "Nothing," Delenn replied with a slight smile, and John grinned briefly.

   "Oh, oh, here's the good part . . . Arthur's about to call on the power of Excalibur to help him defeat Lancelot."

   "Isn't that the name of the sword I accepted from David McIntyre?"

   "Huh," he turned to her with a questioning look. Almost immediately, he realized that he was missing the best part of the movie. With a guttural sound he turned back to the monitor. "Shh! I wanna see this part."

   Delenn sighed heavily and looked about the room for anything to distract her. When she could find nothing, she reluctantly sat back and resumed watching the vid.

   She found herself nearly falling asleep at a few points in the movie, but managed to follow most of it as best she could. When a wedding was being depicted on-screen, her interest was piqued, and she sat up to get a closer look. The flowing white dress of the bride fascinated her, and she spoke while still staring at the monitor.

   "Is this a traditional human wedding?"

   John thought for a moment, tilted his head back and forth and responded, "Hmm . . . sort of. It's a lot like a traditional Western wedding, but there are some major differences here. First of all, it's set over a thousand years ago. And it's also fantasy, so you can't really trust it to be accurate."

   "Does the bride always wear such flowing, white garments?"

   Fascinated by Delenn's curiosity, John turned to her and smiled when he saw how she was leaning as far forward as she could while still remaining on the sofa. Her rear was barely on the cushion and her body was bent and stretched to give her the best possible look at the display.

   "Well, mostly. It used to be a tradition for a bride to wear a nice, white gown. The white signified the purity of the woman."

   "Purity?"

   "Umm . . . virginity, actually." His smile faded slightly as he watched her studying the fictional ceremony on the screen.

   When the movie finished with the wedding and moved on, she slid herself back on the sofa and exhaled deeply. As she sat back, she did a double take, noticing for the first time that John was staring at her. She smiled and placed her hand on his knee. "Are you looking for something," she asked lightly.

   "I was just thinking."

   "About what?"

   "About our wedding." The words made her smile grow larger and her heart rate increase. "I mean, how are we gonna do this? Are we going to have one ceremony? Two? A mixture of what you're used to and what I'm used to?"

   "Used to? I've never been married before, John."

   He groaned slightly and rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean, Delenn."

   She laughed. "Yes, I know what you mean." She took a deep breath and thought for a few seconds. "I think a combination would suit us best, don't you? Something to highlight the coming together of our two people."

   John nodded his agreement and smiled. "Well, when are we gonna do it? I mean, *I* wanna do it now."

   "Right this *minute*," she asked in sudden near shock.

   "No, no, not right this minute. But very soon." He got deadly serious and took her hand from his knee and placed it between his. "Delenn, we've both been through a lot to get to this point. But two things keep coming back to me: My father once told me that if I loved, I should love without reservation. And you once told me that I should treasure the moments, because they will never come again."

   Delenn wrinkled her face in thought and looked away for a moment before turning back to face him. "I don't recall ever saying that to you."

   "No, you didn't. At least, not yet. You told it to me in the future, when I was unstuck in time."

   "Uh huh," she replied, clearly not believing his statement.

   "But, anyway, the point is that we don't have all that much time left in this life. Either one of us could die tomorrow, for all we know. I . . . I just want us to be together. Not just on evenings like this, but forever. I want to be able to come home and find you here. I want to be able to roll over in my bed and meet your warmth instead of the cold of the sheets. Aw, damnit, Delenn, I wanna get married as quickly as we can." He paused and studied her glowing face before he continued cautiously. "Do you want to?"

   "Yes," was all she said with her voice, but her eyes spoke volumes of affirmatives that only his heart could decipher. As if drawn by a magnet, they moved in on each other slowly, their eyes closing just as their lips touched. Their kisses had become second nature, but they were never second rate.

    ----------

   TWO WEEKS LATER

   When John learned that the traditional Minbari wedding Delenn had selected to mingle with the human ceremony did not include a custom of kissing the bride, he insisted that the mixed ceremony end on that very pleasant human custom. She didn't object.

   Before they could be married, Delenn had to rush to complete the final three rituals of permanent bonding. Well, the last three before the wedding, that was. In addition to the last rituals, the planning took virtually all of the two weeks since they agreed to "just do it." John had managed to get Brother Theo to perform the human portion of the wedding. The Minbari portion did not require a holy figure to preside, just several ceremonial positions, standards bearers, chants and exchanges of little bits of red fruit. While this wasn't the less traditional Rebirth variant of the wedding ceremony, it did share the fruit as a symbol of new life.

   "You know, I haven't had much luck with red fruits, Delenn. We just don't get along," he had told her upon learning that bit of information.

   "You will eat this red fruit, John Sheridan, or I will not be your wife," she replied with mock sternness which quickly melted into a smile. "Besides, what's a little upset stomach between lovers?"

   Delenn had lost herself in the preparations and took great care with the merging of the two cultures. She worked closely with John and Brother Theo in finding the best fit. Theo had been excited by the challenge and the promise it held for the future of the galaxy and all of God's people.

   All of them came together in the largest open place they could find on the station: the central docking bay. It could hold the largest number of people, and they had invited everyone on the station and anyone who wished to visit to attend. But even that large space couldn't hold the number of people who came to see the union of the two who freed them from the grips of the First Ones. There were legions of station personnel and businessmen, Rangers, visiting Minbari, Drazi, Narn, Vree, Pak'ma'ra, Gaim, and more. It seemed that every known race had sent a large contingent to view the joining. There were even a few free-thinking Centauri in presence. And John had made sure to extend the invitation to those Lurkers in Down Below who wished to witness the event.

   The ceremony was being broadcast on station-wide Babcom, and had progressed very well until, finally, they were nearing the end. The few words of Minbari John had to learn for his part of the ceremony met with only a few smiles on the faces of the gathered Minbari and Rangers. All that remained were the human exchange of vows and Theo's declaration of marriage -- and, of course, the kiss.

   As John and Delenn held hands, each now bearing a wedding ring that they had just exchanged, Theo asked them to promise their undying love to one another.

   "Do you, John Sheridan, take this woman, Delenn, to be your wedded wife, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, from this day forward for as long as you both shall live?"

   John was looking deeply into Delenn's eyes. It seemed as if neither one of them blinked. Carefully, slowly and with profound meaning, he spoke. "I do."

   Delenn's smile increased as Theo turned slightly to face her. It wasn't as if she noticed. Their entire worlds consisted of each other and no one else.

   "Do you, Delenn, take this man, John Sheridan, to be your wedded husband, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, from this day forward for as long as you both shall live?"

   Her smiling face turned serious. "Forever, I do." It was John's turn to brighten the scene with his pearly white teeth.

   With a smile at that last minute addition, Theo turned back to face the both of them, now standing so close together that the crowd could barely see him. He spoke loudly and confidently now, as if to the entire universe. "Then I pronounce you man and wife. May your love shine as a beacon in the foggy mists of God's creation. May you experience only joy and happiness in your journey together." Then he paused to look upon each of them individually. They were still holding hands and their eyes locked as if their souls were merging.

   "Captain," he said with a smile. "You may now kiss the bride."

   They didn't have to be told twice. No feeble force of nature could keep their lips apart at that moment. Their eyes still open and locked, they comfortably closed the gap and pressed their partially open lips together in a tender, but firm and loving kiss.

   The audience remained deathly silent, but smiles and expressions of joy were everywhere. Theo was beginning to wonder how they could continue to breathe with such a long kiss. Finally, and difficulty, they parted and again gazed upon each other with indescribable love and affection. Theo took each by the arm and turned them to face the crowd. When each of them finally saw something other than their mate, they realized with a tinge of embarrassment, that they weren't alone up there. A hint of blush could be seen in each of them as Theo presented them to the universe.

   "Kind peoples of the galaxy, I present to you mister and missus John Sheridan."

   A sound like that which the assembled crowd emitted, John had never heard before. Applause, laughter, shouts of joy, whistles, and other unrecognized sounds filled the vacuum of silence that had emptied every corner of the bay just moments before. Their blush gave way to immense pride and joy as they turned again to face each other and embraced.

   While the wedding had been a public event, the reception was much smaller and included only members of family and close friends. Minbari worker caste and human workers were busy catering the function as John and Delenn sat at the center of a long table. They were flanked by those who served them closely in the wedding.

   Seated next to John was Ta'Lon, who served as his Best Man. Along the row to his side sat Susan Ivanova, his sister, Liz, her husband, and her children, and Stephen Franklin.

   By Delenn were her friend Mayan, Lennier, her teacher Draal, Marcus Cole, and a representative of her clan, Colenn, who, unlike most of the clan, still held her in high regard.

   John made a mental note to thank whoever was responsible for orchestrating the reception, as it had gone off wonderfully. The food -- samples from both cultures -- was delicious; The introductions were very well received; The jokes and general warmth of the place was evident in every face and voice. But, finally, the moment had come.

   When John asked Ta'Lon to be his best man, he was very honored and, even though he didn't have a clue what it entailed, immediately accepted. Only later did he find that he would be required, not only to stand with Sheridan (which he was glad to do), but to deliver a speech to the collected friends and relatives at the reception. While others thought of him as a good speaker, he did not have such a high opinion of his talents. Fortunately, he had well over a week to prepare something.

   So, when he felt the time was right, he stood and rapped gently on a water glass with his knife, causing the room to fall silent. John and Delenn looked up at him with their ever-present smiles. Ta'Lon looked around the room and finally took a look at the bride and groom, which caused a lump to grow in his throat. These people were looking to him to give them words to send them on their way as mates. But these weren't just ordinary people. The lump was gulped down, a deep breath taken, and the proud warrior began to speak.

   "Friends, relatives, and faithful companions: We have gathered here today to witness and wish well the joining of two we hold dear to our hearts. When this great place was built five years ago, who would have thought that the goal of bringing together people from all races and all cultures would culminate in such a perfect pairing of souls forever destined for one another?"

   He paused to look at the couple, who had taken each others hands and were staring comfortably through their spouse's soul portal. With a smile, he continued. "I have known John Sheridan since he was my savior." John glanced up from Delenn and now locked eyes with Ta'Lon. "All alone in the night, I was convinced that all hope had left me. But this man," he said, pointing to John, "This man refused to accept that. I fought him against my will, and as I lay, defeated by his hand, he had every right to end my life. Indeed, I begged him to end it. But he would not. He would never give up hope. No matter how badly the odds were stacked against us, he refused to accept defeat."

   The Narn warrior glanced at Delenn and winked, causing her to blush suddenly. Then he turned back to the audience of friends and family. "Just as that spirit drove him to stay alive and find a way for us to escape, it has found a way for all of us to stay alive and we have all benefited from the escape he has given to us with the help of his lovely bride."

   "Delenn, I do not know well yet. But I hope, if I am so honored, to get to know her. At which point, I'm certain that the universe will confirm to me the wisdom of Sheridan's choice of her as his life mate. Even though I do not know her, I can see the fire which burns within her -- the passion to life and liberty which can never be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism and tyranny."

   "It is with this knowledge in my heart that I ask all of you to extend your warmest blessing to this holiest of unions. For these two truly represent the galaxy itself finally beginning to understand itself."

   "Please, rise with me and raise your glasses in a toast to the love and happiness of John and Delenn Sheridan." Ta'Lon raised his glass of wine and turned to John and Delenn, raising it in tribute. "May they and those who come after them forever sleep in the glow of Light."

    ----------

   Three hooded figures, draped in white robes, slowly, but purposefully, made their way down the tall, narrow hall. Their destination was the Vault of Valen, located secretly at the convent of the Sisters of Valeria for over nine hundred years.

   Arriving at the ornate silver door, the middle Sister stepped forward and placed the palm of her hand on the triangular device mounted in the middle of the portal. As she neared, a soft, white glow grew brighter until it flashed when she made contact.

   Slowly, the door began to slide down into the floor. As it gapped from the wall, a hiss of air could be heard entering the chamber beyond. When the door had disappeared beneath her, the Sister entered the room and walked directly to a small table containing a decorated box. She lifted it reverently and walked back out to the hall and her waiting sisters. Once passed the door, it began to rise out of the floor and soon re-sealed with another hiss of air. With a sense of urgency, the Sisters strode back down the hall.

    ----------

   SEVEN MONTHS LATER

   Delenn sat uncomfortably and awkwardly on the high table. She let out a deep sigh as she watched John speaking with Doctor Stephen Franklin in his office area of Medlab One. She strained to hear what they were saying, but the sounds of other activity nearby made it impossible to discern the content of their exchange.

   When John happened to glance in her direction, she glared at him angrily, causing him to miss what Stephen had just said. He looked back to her apologetically and nodded quickly before indicating to the doctor that they should return to the examination table where his visibly pregnant and now equally visibly perturbed wife sat.

   "And what were you two discussing that was so important that you had to leave me stranded on this island," she asked in a huff.

   Stephen couldn't resist smiling as he watched John try to calm her. "I'm sorry, hon. It wasn't anything important. I just wanted to know if Stephen could tell the sex of the baby yet."

   Her face turned curious. "Why would you want to know that?"

   "Well, I think it'd be neat. I mean, that way we can better plan for his arrival. Why? Don't you wanna know?"

   Delenn thought for a moment and then replied, "No. I'd much rather appreciate the wonder of the universe with its surprise." John grinned and she became suspicious. "Did he tell you the gender, John?"

   "No," Franklin injected. "He wanted to know, but I tried to convince him that he should check with you first."

   Delenn smiled at Stephen and then looked smugly at her husband. "Thank you, Doctor. But, by the way John is carrying on about his new 'son,' I doubt he'd believe you if you told him it was a girl. He'd probably be convinced that we were having twins."

   "Ah. Now that is something I wanted to talk to you about. I can respect your wishes about not wanting to know the gender, Delenn, but as your doctor, I have to clue you in on one very important thing I did discover."

   Both John and Delenn turned serious and looked at Stephen. "What is it, Doc," asked John.

   Seeing their expressions, Franklin quickly reassured them. "No, no, it's nothing bad. It's just that you're not expecting just one child, Delenn."

   The realization dawned on their faces almost simultaneously.

   "Twins," they both asked simultaneously, to the amusement of Franklin and the intern that was organizing a tray of instruments nearby.

   "God, I wish I had a camera right now," Franklin murmured. "Yes! I'm afraid to tell you that there won't be just one, but two little Sheridans running around and getting in your hair soon."

   "Well, at least one of them's a boy," John said confidently as Delenn just rolled her eyes.

    ----------

   She sat against the back corner of the sofa, her legs partially curled under her as she tried to read a human volume from their library. But for every sentence she read, she had to readjust herself slightly. It became almost rhythmic. Read, shift. Read, shift. But it was wearing very thin on her patience.

   "<If only you two would stop fighting for the better seat, I might be able to actually enjoy this story>," she admonished them while gently stroking her swollen belly with one hand. After a few moments of that, she let out a breath and reached up to steady the book in front of her again. "<Thank you>," she said softly as she resumed her reading.

   Bleep, bleep.

   The Babcom console chimed just as she had managed to get in an entire paragraph. She set the book down on her chest, stared emptily at the distance and sighed. "Yes?"

   "Ambassador, we have a call for you from Minbar," came the terse female voice from the other side of the connection.

   "I'm supposed to be avoiding work," she told the voice. "<Not to mention, I'd like to actually finish a page of this story before the day is through>," she muttered under her breath.

   "Yes, Ambassador, we've been instructed. But this is a personal call."

   That got her attention. Who on Minbar could be calling her on a personal matter? "Rathenn," she thought. "Who is it," she asked aloud.

   "She says her name is Malenn."

   Delenn's face went ashen and she tried to mouth some words, but no sounds escaped her lips. She gulped and set the book down on the coffee table. As she carefully pivoted her body awkwardly to stand, she instructed the woman, "Please connect me."

   She made her way to the monitor just as the image of an older Minbari female appeared on the screen. Delenn's eyes opened wide and a surprised smile formed on her face. She tried to speak, but nothing came out. Instead, Malenn spoke. "Hello, Delenn," she said as she was obviously taking in Delenn's new form for the first time. "It has been a long time since I have spoken with you."

   Finally, Delenn found her voice. "Mother? Wh . . . Why have you chosen this time to contact me?"

   Malenn smiled broadly. "Does a mother need a reason to want to speak with her daughter?"

   "No, of course not," Delenn replied in near shame. "But why now?"

   "There is something I must share with you, Delenn. You must come to Minbar at once. We are faced with a question of extreme importance and only you can provide the answer."

   "But I cannot, Mother. I'm in no condition to travel," she said, feeling her abdomen. The act of stroking the home of her unborn children forced a realization that startled her. "Oh, Mother," she began with a growing smile. "I have some news for you as well. You are to be a grandmother soon."

   Malenn smiled knowingly. "I can see that." Delenn let out a small laugh. "But you still must come. I cannot explain here, in this way. You must trust me, Delenn. The future of Minbar depends on you. In Valen's name, please come."

    ----------

   "I don't like it," John said with a grumble.

   "I know, John. But I must go. My mother would never ask me to come if it were not terribly important that I do so."

   "Besides," she added as she gently rubbed her hands up his stiff arms, "you could always come with me if you feared for my safety." She looked up at him with longing eyes.

   He looked back at her and nearly melted before catching himself and straightening. "Oh, hell, Delenn, you know I can't leave right now. We're pretty deep into planning the next move. If I leave, the whole struggle will be in jeopardy."

   She looked down with a dejected, puppy-dog expression. "I know. But there may never be another time for you to meet my mother, and I so want you two to meet. You are the two most important people in my life now, and I would feel so horrible if you never had a chance to speak. I know that she would love you as I do, John. A good soul shines through no matter what, and she will be able to see that as I did."

   John reached down and tenderly grabbed her hands, which had fallen in front of her. He lifted them to his mouth and kissed them gently. "I know, honey. I'm so sorry the timing of this is so damned rotten. I really wanna meet her too. But if it's destined to happen, then we'll get another chance eventually."

   He moved his right hand to lift her chin slightly and they exchanged a soft, warm kiss. "Give her my love and tell her I'm sorry I couldn't be with you and the little guys this time."

   Delenn smiled. "I will."

   

   

   Mother and daughter walked slowly down a great hall in the convent of the Sisters of Valeria.

   "Do you know why the Sisters of Valeria were formed, Delenn?"

   "They protect and preserve the memory of Valen and all his teachings."

   Malenn nodded. "Yes. But there is more. There is a greater purpose, known only to those in the Order. Even the Grey Council was not aware of our greater purpose in being." She eyed her daughter, almost as if urging her to ask for more information.

   "If it is a secret known only to those in the Order, then why are you telling me?"

   "Because things have changed." Malenn walked slowly to a bench and sat. "Come, sit," she asked of her daughter as she gently patted the place next to her. Delenn sat beside her mother, staring at her curiously.

   Malenn looked forward, took a deep breath and continued. "In the last years of Valen's life, he became very ill. Our people tried everything we could to prolong his life . . ." She turned to her daughter with sadness in her eyes. "He was the greatest of us all, Delenn. We did not want to see him go." Delenn nodded sympathetically. Malenn returned to staring straight ahead and continued, "But when we could do no more, Valen knew that his time in this world was drawing to a close. He expressed great sadness that he would never again see his home, his people and the dear friends he had to leave behind. So, one day, he was approached by Bothon, one of the original Nine. She asked Valen if he would trust her. And he said, 'Yes.' She then told him that she could see to it that he would be able to see his people and his world and his friends once more."

   Delenn looked puzzled. "But how?"

   Malenn smiled slightly. "That is our true purpose, Delenn. We not only protect and preserve the memory of Valen. We protect and preserve Valen himself." Delenn's puzzlement turned to shock and her mother continued. "Valen was placed in suspension. He has been kept safe, in this place, asleep for nine hundred years."

   "Valen lives?!"

   "Yes," Malenn replied with a smile. She was excited by the mixed look of surprise and complete wonder in her daughter's eyes. "When Valen entered the Sleeping, he left instructions for a letter to be opened once the Darkness had come and gone again. After you drove the Darkness away, we decided that the time had come to read his letter." Now she looked upon her daughter with nearly reverent eyes. "It mentioned you by name, my daughter."

   Delenn's face snapped back to normal and she gulped before speaking. "Is he awake?"

   Malenn shook her head. "No. The letter asked us to seek you and ask for your counsel. It is up to you to awaken him from his long slumber, Delenn." Then she lowered her eyes in shame. "The letter was opened many months ago, my child. But we debated for a long time the meaning of his words. Some in the Order refused to accept that the letter asked you to make the decision. Others even believed that you were not the 'Delenn' mentioned in his final instructions."

   The sheer impact of her mother's words settled down on her shoulders like a two ton weight.

    ----------

   Malenn led her daughter to the door of the Vault of Valen, stood before it and waited. Delenn stood patiently at first, but then began to wonder why they had stopped there, of all places. After several minutes, she could take no more and spoke.

   "Why have we come here, Mother?"

   "Here is where Valen rests," she said, causing Delenn to look carefully at the door as if trying to imagine what lay beyond. In awe, she looked through the metal and stone and could almost see Jeffrey Sinclair as he appeared on the deck of Babylon Four when she said goodbye to him forever.

   Noticing her daughter's distraction, Malenn offered some advice. "Touch it," she said.

   The simple command threw Delenn, who turned with a start to her mother. "What?"

   "The shape on the door. Touch it," she urged, pointing to the triangle on the Vault door.

   Delenn studied the structure, which bore a remarkable resemblance to one of the Triluminaries. Slowly, she lifted the palm of her hand to the device and, gradually, it began to glow -- dimly at first, but brighter and brighter the closer her hand got. When she made contact with it, she heard a hum and the door unsealed, sliding down into the floor.

   When the door had cleared the entry, Delenn cautiously stepped inside. They stood just inside the chamber and her mother raised an arm to point to one side of the Vault. "There."

   Delenn turned to look at the spot where her mother was pointing. A tube stood there, mounted at an angle against the far wall. It was clear from the outside that it was some sort of cryogenic suspension device. Delenn staggered forward, as if drawn by some unseen force. She made her way to the tube and touched it uncertainly. Near the top, at her eye level, there was a small window that had been iced-over. She rubbed it, slowly and unsure at first, then more quickly and impatiently. When she had warmed enough of a section to see inside, she leaned forward to get a closer look.

   There, separated by the cold plastic of the cryo tube and a thousand years, Delenn set eyes for the first time on the figure she had been raised to admire, respect and nearly worship: Valen. But it wasn't the first time she had seen this person. She had known him for well over a dozen years, since she picked him out of a group at the final battle of the Earth-Minbari War. She had sensed in him something special. She believed he was the One spoken of in the prophecies. She believed then that they had finally found the other half of their soul and that the man before her was it. His rest seemed so peaceful to her. He had aged, and he had changed, but he was still Jeffrey Sinclair.

   "Hello, Old Friend," she spoke at a whisper.

    ----------

   "Well, Delenn," her mother asked. "You have seen the One. We await your guidance. Shall we awaken him from his slumber now?"

   "No," Delenn replied confidently. "The purpose of his sleep was to say goodbye to his friends, family and comrades. While he could say goodbye to us, his world and his people are still not free." She looked at the floor for a moment and then back up at her mother. "No, we will wait for now. Once Earth is free -- once John has restored liberty to his people -- then, and only then, will we awaken Valen from his sleep."

   "As you wish," said Mallen, disappointment evident in her voice.

   "I'm sorry, Mother, but I know it's for the best. Besides, I would very much like for him to see . . . " She stopped and looked at her mother questioningly. "Do you know of our family connection to Valen?"

   Malenn smiled. "Yes, dear, of course I do. Why do you think we are selected to the Sisterhood?"

   "You are all descendants of Valen," Delenn asked, pleasantly surprised.

   "Yes."

   "Then, as I was saying, I would very much like for him to meet his newest descendants, and they are not due to arrive in this world for a few more months." Delenn nodded confidently and struggled to stand, prompting her mother to assist her. "No, we will return once John has completed his work. I will bring as many of Valen's friends as I can and we will awaken him as he should be awoken."

   She looked at her mother with love and respect in her eyes. "You will like John, Mother. He is a good soul," she said as she awkwardly embraced the elder Minbari. It seemed that not even a simple embrace could be performed easily with the large mass of flesh protruding from her.

    ----------

   SIX WEEKS LATER

   "She what?!"

   "I said she's gone into labor, Captain," replied Franklin over the video monitor that connected him to the distant Sheridan. "Now, it's nothing to worry about at this stage. Even if we decide to go ahead with the delivery, the babies will be fine. She's only a little over a month early, and that's nothing to get worried about."

   John closed his eyes and tried to calm his breathing. He opened them again, slowly and addressed the head of his medical facility. "Take care of her, Stephen. I couldn't bear to let anything happen to her, understand?"

   Franklin nodded. "Yes, sir. I promise that I'll take care of them -- all of them."

   "Damnit, I wish I was there." John exhaled and looked off to the distance. "Is she there? Can I speak to her," he asked after returning his attention to the monitor.

   "Umm," Franklin started, looking off in the distance to something out of John's view. "Maybe. Hang on a minute." He got up from his chair and walked off camera, giving John the opportunity to take in the news.

   He was away, in hyperspace with the assembled rebel fleet, preparing for the battle he dreaded, but the one he hoped would finally topple Clark's evil empire. Delenn, he thought, would be back on the station, safely snuggled up with one of the books she'd been devouring since they were married and she began perusing his small library of collected titles.

   Never, even in his wildest dreams, did he expect this. He had said his good-byes to her before he left. They knew the risks. They also both knew the reasons why it had to be done. But they never anticipated this. Not this.

   "John," came Delenn's soft voice, calling him out of his funk and back to reality. He turned to see the face of his wife, lying on her side in one of the rooms of the Medlab facility. Her hair and makeup were a mess, but he didn't notice. He looked for the thing which had always homed him with her: her eyes.

   "Oh, John, please don't worry," she said upon seeing the distress on his face. "I'm going to be all right. Stephen tells me that we may be able to postpone the labor until a more convenient time. I certainly hope so, as . . ." Her voice trailed off as her face tightened and her eyes closed in reaction to the building pain she felt in her lower reaches.

   "Delenn?!" She groaned and let out a slow breath before opening her eyes to see John nearly up against the video display on his side of the transmission. It was clear to her that if he could travel on the comm signal to be with her at that moment, he would.

   "I'm okay, John," she gasped out in the middle of the contraction. "It comes every so often and goes away fairly quickly." Her breathing improved. "See? It's gone again." Her face loosened into a smile. John smiled a little as well.

   "Good." His attention was called for by someone off camera, and Delenn watched as he conversed. He turned back to her and, with a broad smile, resumed. "I have to get going, hon. It's almost time. You keep our children in the warmth of that oven of yours, you understand?"

   Delenn couldn't suppress a small laugh. "I'll do my best, my love." Her smile faded. "Be careful, John. Please."

   Seriousness came to him as well. "I'll do my best. Goodbye. I love you."

   "I love you too." The comm channel closed with a beep.

    ----------

   "You're almost there, Delenn," spoke the calming voice of Doctor Franklin, as he sat between the spread legs of the new mother, who was breathing heavily after several hours of painful labor. Her unique biology had caused the efforts to prevent the delivery to fail, so Franklin decided to let nature take its course. "Just a few more and we should have the first little one out."

   "<I certainly hope so>," she exclaimed in her native tongue.

   "Shh..." Marcus Cole tried to calm her as he held her hand in comfort. Well, actually, she more or less held his hand. Actually, she was most certainly squeezing the blood out of it as the event progressed. "<They will come when they are ready, Delenn.>"

   "<I want them to come NOW!>" Marcus couldn't help but smile. Seeing the strong and proud Entil'Zha in such an unglamorous, and uncontrollable situation was just short of high comedy to him. He couldn't keep the small laugh from escaping his lips.

   Delenn, now between contractions, heard the chuckle and turned with an angry face at her closest Ranger. "<If you do not stop laughing, I will find something that is equally unpleasant for human males and take pleasure in watching YOU suffer like this.>"

   Nothing could stop the smile that was now fixed on Marcus' face. "<It is a beautiful thing that you do now, Delenn. Nothing, no matter how painful, could match the wonder and joy of bringing new life into the world.>"

   Before she could respond, she was distracted by another strong contraction. She followed the direction of Doctor Franklin as best as she could and pushed for all her worth. Marcus cringed as she squeezed even harder, threatening to break every bone in his hand. But still, he managed to offer words of encouragement. "<Good. Good. Keep it up, Delenn. Push.>"

   "It looks like just one more, Delenn. Just one more and this baby's coming out." He stood up just slightly so that he could clearly look at his patient. "Do you have one more strong push in you?"

   "Never," she replied between quick breaths, "have I had to struggle . . . so hard. Even the Vorlon Inquisitor . . . was less painful . . . than these two little creatures. Please let it be over with quickly!"

   As soon as the next contraction started, they were back in action. Marcus had managed to switch hands during the downtime, so he was good for another few minutes. Delenn began the pushing yet again, even though she was certain that she would simply burst if she had to keep this up for long. As Franklin carefully eased the head of the newborn from its mother's womb, he continued to guide her with his voice.

   "Excellent. I've got its head out now, Delenn. Just a little more and it'll pop right out. That's a girl, come on . . . come on . . . Yes!" The child slipped completely from its mother, and Franklin quickly assessed its condition.

   He looked up with a smile and met Delenn's concerned and curious eyes as she leaned up as best as she could on her elbows to get a look. "You're the mother of a beautiful little girl, Delenn." He wrapped the baby girl in a blanket and lifted her up to present her to her mother, the umbilical cord still attached and the second child still inside.

   Delenn smiled and tears flowed from her eyes as she cautiously embraced the newborn. The child was still mostly covered in the blood and other fluids common after birth. And she was smaller than Delenn had expected, and much pinker. But it didn't matter. This was a living, thinking being, created out of her love for John, and nothing in the universe could be more beautiful. "<Hello, little girl>," the proud mother whispered to her daughter.

   But she was soon reminded by events that another child still remained inside her. "We have a few minutes while he comes to plate," Franklin explained. "We need to take care of this one first. Okay, Delenn," he asked as he snipped the little girl's umbilical cord and a nurse came to take her from her mother's arms.

   Delenn was reluctant to let her go, but knew it was for the best. "Besides," she thought, "your sibling wants out too. Excuse me," she laughed silently, "your brother -- according to your father."

    ----------

   John exited the lift before the doors could even finish opening. As he virtually flew down the corridor like a man possessed, his second in command, Susan Ivanova, spotted him and gave chase. "Captain!"

   "If you wanna talk to me, Susan, you better keep up," he called back without even turning to greet her.

   She jogged the few dozen feet needed to catch up to him and smiled. "Going to see Delenn, I take it?"

   His faced lit up into a bright smile. "Damn straight."

   "Mind if I tag along? I just got in a few minutes before you, so I'm dying to see them myself."

   "Not at all."

   "There's something about little kids that just makes the whole universe seem right somehow. It makes all the struggle worthwhile."

   "I'll take your word for it. I just wanna see my family . . ." He stopped dead in his tracks, surprising Ivanova, who stopped a few steps beyond and turned with a curious look. John was still smiling, but he was looking at her with strange eyes.

   "Captain? What's up?"

   "It just hit me: I have a family now, Susan. Not a family like my parents and my sister, but a family of my own. My own children. I . . . I never really thought I'd have that," he looked down at the floor and shook his head before raising it again. "And to think I'd get two kids at once." He was distant in thought for just a moment before grinning and resuming his quick pace. "I gotta see 'em."

   In Medlab One, Delenn was sitting between the two special bassinets set up for the care of her children. It had been five days since they were born, but Doctor Franklin wanted to keep them around for at least a full week before considering them well enough to take home. She actually welcomed that, as she wanted John to be there when they entered their new home for the first time. She knew that John was due back at any moment, so she kept looking in the direction of the entrance, hoping that he would walk through the door. As she waited, she sat in a human rocking chair, reading a book on childcare that had been given to her by Susan as a gift some months earlier. These were, for the most part, human children, so she would not only have to adjust to the new duties of being a mother, but she would have to adjust to the different needs of humans. "Not so different," she thought. "At least, not at this age."

   She began re-reading a chapter on the first month, when she heard his voice call to her. "Delenn?" She looked up and saw him quickly moving to the open door. Setting the book down hastily, she flew up from the chair and into his arms.

   "John! Oh, how I've missed you."

   "Me too, honey. Me too." They embraced, eyes closed and hugging each other for whatever comfort they could exchange between their souls.

   After a few moments, Ivanova cleared her throat rather loudly and they carefully broke the embrace, choosing instead to just stare into each other's eyes.

   "I'm so glad you're okay," John said as he ran his hand through her hair.

   "I'm fine, John. The important thing is that you're home, and you're safe."

   Ivanova cleared her throat again, causing John to turn and look at her in mock anger. "Yes, Commander?"

   Ivanova motioned with her head toward the newborns. "Well, are you going to let me see them or do I have to call security?"

   Delenn smiled, and, as if suddenly reminded that he was a father, John turned in her arms and looked at his children. "Of course, Susan. Please, come, look," Delenn offered.

   John first looked at the sweet little girl, all warmly wrapped in her pink blanket and sleeping for all she was worth. He reached out to gently touch her pink face with one finger. He traced down her tiny arm and ran his finger over her little fingers. "Yes, they're all there. I already checked," Delenn kidded.

   "Oh, he's so cute!" Susan's excited voice again reminded John that he not only had one child, he had two. He slowly turned from his little girl and looked in on a baby boy, wrapped in his blue blanket, but definitely awake and trying to take in the world with his dark eyes.

   "Pink and blue blankets," asked John of his wife.

   "I was told that those were traditional colors for human girls and boys." She suddenly felt nervous. "Did I reverse them," she asked, concerned.

   "No, no. You got 'em right," he replied, smiling and rubbing her back gently. "God, Delenn. I never would have thought that I'd be so blessed to be a father once in my life. But you . . ." He turned to her and again took her in his arms. "You're so wonderful that you've given me twice, . . . something I never dreamed I could have once. I love you."

   Before she could reciprocate, he enveloped her mouth in a deep, passionate kiss that went unnoticed by Ivanova, who had moved over to the little girl and was busy touching what little of her soft hair was present.

   The three of them enjoyed viewing and talking about the children for several more minutes before they were interrupted by a woman, in business attire, carrying a data pad. "Excuse me, Captain? Missus Sheridan?" When they both looked at her with warm eyes, she stepped into the room and introduced herself. "Hi, my name's Patty. I work for the station department of records. I'm in charge of filling out the birth certificates for the children. I have all the information I need, except their names. I thought I'd wait until you'd returned, Captain. Now that you have, do you have their names for the records?"

   They looked at each other, a total blank on each of their faces. Names were something they hadn't thought about much. It was trouble and worry enough just getting these kids into the world. Naming them wasn't at the top of their priority list.

   "I don't know. What do we name them, Delenn," John asked.

   "I don't know, either." She paused for a moment and then continued. "Among Minbari, it is traditional for the father to name all daughters, and the mother to name all sons. We could each pick a name that way," she said questioningly.

   "That sounds fine. How do Minbari names work anyway? I thought you just had the one name."

   "We do, but it is made from a given name and a family name. For instance, while my family is known as 'Mir,' my family name is 'lenn.' My given name is 'de'. But we would never refer to another Minbari by just one name or the other, as your people do. We always treat the name as a single unit."

   "Okay, fine. You name our son, and I'll name our daughter. Hmm . . ." They thought hard for a while. Delenn seemed to find her answer fairly quickly, and smiled at the thought of her son's name. But John was another matter entirely.

   "Okay, I'm stuck. I like your name, but is it appropriate to name a daughter after her mother in your culture?"

   "It's not common, but it's not unheard of either. But surely you can think of a nice human name for her. She is, after all, mostly human."

   "Yes, but she should never forget her Minbari blood." He turned to look at the little girl, still soundly sleeping in her bed. "If her name will always remind her, then that'll be one less worry for me." He turned back to his wife and asked her, "Have you decided on a name yet?"

   "Yes."

   "Well?"

   She smiled mischievously. "David." John's smile went blank as the name sank in. "Of course," he thought. "David. She told me that already. I knew that would be his name." The smile returned almost as quickly as it left.

   "David what," Ivanova asked from the corner of the room.

   "David . . . Sheridan," Delenn asked, unsure of the nature of the question.

   "Yeah, but doesn't he have a middle name? Humans usually have a middle name, or two or three," she added.

   "Oh." Delenn thought for a moment. "Then he will be David John Sheridan."

   John nodded. "Good name. Good, solid name."

   "And our daughter," Delenn asked of her husband. "Will we be forever calling her 'little one' or 'our daughter'?"

   John laughed. "No, no, I think I have her name as well. What do you think of 'Chrystal Delenn Sheridan'?"

   "Why 'Chrystal'," Ivanova asked.

   John reached down and held Delenn's hands as he answered Susan's question. "Because Chrystal reminds me of 'Chrysalis,' and that's the thing that allowed all of this to happen. That's what brought her mother to this place and allowed Chrystal to be born. Hearing her name will always remind me of the precious gift I was given when I met and fell in love with her mother."

   Delenn was crying now -- crying tears of joy. And so was John. They stood there, eyes locked and tears falling as they absorbed each other's love.

   "'David John Sheridan' and 'Chrystal Delenn Sheridan.' Got it. I'll double check the spelling with you two before the records are final. Good day to you, Captain and Missus Sheridan."

   John and Delenn were unaware of anything that was happening around them, so they didn't hear the clerk and couldn't respond. Ivanova stepped out of the room, and escorted the clerk out with her by the arm. "They're a little busy right now," she said. "I'll let them know. Let's give them a little peace and quiet right now."

   

   

   TWO MONTHS LATER

   "Why do you insist on dressing them alike," Delenn asked of her husband as he helped prepare them for their day out.

   "Because it's cute," he replied with a grin.

   "They are separate and unique souls, John. They shouldn't be made to appear the same."

   "That's a funny comment coming from a Minbari, dear," he commented with a wry look. "I mean, all of your people tend to wear the same style and color of clothes, don't they?"

   "It's not quite that simple, but I see your point. Still, these are not Minbari children." She sighed. "Your race's individuality is what appeals the most to me, and it is your strength. I really wish you wouldn't do that to them."

   John stood up straight and raised his chin as he spoke in a pretend arrogant tone. "It's a father's duty."

   Delenn rolled her eyes. "Very well." She wrapped the blanket around her daughter and handed her to John. Then, wrapping David tenderly, she picked him up and slung the diaper bag onto her shoulder. As John made his way to the door, Delenn stopped him.

   "John? I need to discuss something with you. It's been bothering me for a few weeks . . . now that our children are here and are healthy and happy."

   What she was speaking were words that should have evoked joy, but John could see that she was distressed. He stepped closer and rubbed his free hand up and down her arm and shoulder. "What's the matter?"

   Delenn took a moment, as if some heavy decision was being debated in her mind. And then she spoke to the far wall, not to John. "About four months ago, I made a trip to Minbar. Do you remember? To see my mother?"

   John nodded, "Un-huh."

   "Well, there was a purpose for my trip, beyond visiting her. Let's sit down for a minute," she said while walking to the sofa. She took a seat and John sat beside her. The children were still in their arms, and tiny David began getting cranky and crying. Delenn sighed and shook her head. "<Just like his father>," she said.

   "He is not," John replied in English. Delenn looked up at him, momentarily surprised by his comprehension. She smiled and began to loosen her specially designed robe, to allow David to eat. "I knew I shouldn't have agreed to teach your father," she said just loud enough for John to hear.

   As David ate, Delenn continued. "As I told you a long time ago, my mother is with the Sisters of Valeria. What I didn't tell you, because I didn't know until my last trip, is that the Sisters are an even more special group than I had known. I always knew that the order accepted very few new members and that they pledged their lives to preserving and protecting the words and memory of Valen."

   John nodded as he listened to her speak. He could tell that she was leading to something very big, as she rarely looked at him in the eyes, which was always the key to understanding Delenn. He could also sense that she was a little ashamed that she hadn't told him earlier. The curiosity was about to kill him as she seemed to drag and drag with a history of Valen and her people. He tried to pay close attention, but when the almost rehearsed history carried on into seemingly useless bits of information, he would drift from concentration on her voice. Often, he'd study his son, suckling consistently and tenderly on Delenn's breast. During the course of her narrative, she unconsciously and carefully switched sides after a burp and David began to enjoy the second half of his meal. Until, finally, she seemed to get to the meat of the matter.

   ". . . which is why my mother summoned me. The note they opened, which was written by Valen, himself, asked that I be called in to make an important decision." She now looked up at John, as if to gauge his mental state. "You see, John, the Sisters of Valeria have been preserving not only the memory of Valen, but Valen, himself."

   It took a second, but when it finally did sink in, John's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. "You mean . . ."

   Delenn nodded. "Yes. Valen . . . Sinclair . . . is alive. He is being kept in suspended animation in the Great Vault of Valen, located in the convent of the Sisters of Valeria. And his note asked me to determine when he should be awakened."

   John was clearly confused as he shook his head and mouthed some words that finally formed a sentence. "But why?"

   David was finished now, so Delenn lifted him onto her shoulder and began burping him as she answered. "He was . . . he is dying. He wants to say goodbye to his friends and family. At the time, Earth was still not free, and you and Susan were still busy with trying to free it. So I decided to wait until we had a victory, so that he could die knowing his people were free."

   John closed his eyes and nodded. He opened them and looked at his daughter, her eyes open in a rare exhibition of consciousness. He smiled at the sight of her big, bright eyes. "Well," he said, not taking his eyes from his daughter as he played with her hair and rubbed her cheeks, "what are you gonna do about it?"

   "I want to awaken him now. Now that we can greet him in peace and love, . . . for the most part."

   He looked up at her. "You sound unsure. What's wrong?"

   She was unsure. David finally burped and she eased him back into her arms and closed her robe. She sighed before she spoke. "Your world is free again and it looks as if you will again know peace, but my world -- Valen's other world, is still very fragile. I do not know what would happen if others were to learn that Valen was alive. And, I don't know how he will react to a Minbar that is no longer united."

   "Maybe we should wait until everything settles down there, before we wake him up."

   "No. I fear that Minbar will never recover from this. We have been a race that has been at each other's throats for ages before Valen's time, John. The peace he brought us was a miracle, but it is not the natural order of things for my people. They have always fought and they will always fight -- if not each other, then someone else."

   "Well," John spoke up after the long silent pause, "we have to get going. We're late. Again," he added with a soft laugh. Delenn smiled and they rose from the sofa. "We can talk about this later tonight."

   As they walked to the door, he looked down at his little girl. "Right, kiddo?" She was sound asleep again. "Oh, well. You missed it, Delenn. She was awake. She has the prettiest eyes."

   "I know, John. I see them every time I feed her."

   John seemed jealous. "Oh, yeah? How come you're so lucky?"

   "Because I'm the mother, John. You're welcome to feed her, if you feel up to it," she added with a smile as the door closed behind them.

    ----------

   ONE WEEK LATER

   They stood in the high, well lit hallway and waited. John was cradling one child in each arm as Delenn paced back and forth. Just as John was going to say something to try to calm her, a door at the far end of the hallway opened and a hooded figure strode in. From external appearances, it was a Sister of Valeria. She walked down to the location of the family and stopped. Removing her hood, she revealed herself to be Malenn.

   Delenn smiled and bowed reverently. "<Hello, Mother.>"

   Malenn returned the bow. "<Hello, Delenn.>" She smiled and turned to look upon her son-in-law for the first time. "<He is tall, like your father>," she said. John smiled and bowed slightly, trying not to lose control of his charge, which brought the two small bundles to Malenn's attention. She opened her mouth slightly and widened her eyes as she slowly approached. Then she stopped and looked back at her daughter. "<Is this . . . ?>"

   "<Yes>," Delenn replied with the smile of a proud mother.

   John shifted slightly to give her a better look, which managed to draw her closer, as if a magnet were pulling her in. She could see part of the face of tiny David, and most of the face of little Chrystal, who had decided to awaken for her grandmother. A glow brightened Malenn's face as she caught a good glimpse of Chrystal and she spoke to her daughter without moving her gaze away from the precious little girl. "<Her eyes are so full of light, Delenn.>"

   "Would you like to hold her," John asked. Malenn looked up at him with a look of slight confusion.

   "She doesn't speak English, John," Delenn offered. "You'll just have to use what I have taught you."

   John gulped. "Oh, wonderful. Of all the people to try out my Minbari with." He took a deep breath and uttered his choppy and accent-filled Minbari. "<Will like you hold her?>"

   Malenn smiled and laughed slightly. "<Yes, I would>," she said. "<Thank you, Captain.>" John extended his daughter to her grandmother and Malenn accepted her carefully and lovingly. While she hadn't had much experience holding infants, she seemed very comfortable with little Chrystal. She placed her in the crook of her elbow and stared down at her with a smile, which Chrystal seemed to return.

   "That's just gas," John said sarcastically.

   "John," Delenn shouted. Malenn looked up at her daughter in confusion. "<Ignore him. He's just attempting to be humorous.>" Malenn looked back at John and smiled, before returning her eyes to her little granddaughter. She touched the skin of her face and arms, and delighted in her smiles and other reactions.

   She was taken off-guard when she heard a baby's cry. It took a moment for her to realize that it wasn't coming from Chrystal, but, rather, from her little brother. Delenn stepped forward and offered to take Chrystal from Malenn, who willingly complied and then moved to see tiny baby David, whose face had just been uncovered by his dad. John offered David to her, but she raised her hands and shook her head. "<One is enough for this old lady>," she said. "<Besides, he seems to be the noisy one. I'd much rather have him in his father's arms, thank you.>" Delenn giggled.

   After Malenn introduced herself to her cranky grandson, she turned to Delenn with pride evident in her face. "<You did very well, Delenn. I am very proud of you.>" A tear formed in Delenn's eye and rolled down her cheek. Malenn walked up to her and caught it with her finger. "<Do not cry, my love. It is a joy that you bring into the world. And . . .>," she turned her head to John and whispered, "<you have also chosen well with your mate.>"

   Delenn smiled and nodded. "<I know.>"

   "<I thank you very much for allowing me to see them all, Delenn. But>," she became serious, "<I must ask if you have reached a decision regarding the One.>"

   Delenn too became serious as she shifted her daughter to her other arm. "<Yes. We would like to awaken him now that his world is free and his friends can come to see him.>"

   Malenn nodded. "<Very well. I will summon the Sisters, and we will prepare for the Awakening. You will be shown to quarters. We will begin tomorrow morning.>"

   "<Thank you, Mother.>"

   "<No, Delenn>," Malenn choked, "<Thank you.>"

    ----------

   "<Thank you>," Delenn said to the young Sister who had shown them to their small quarters. The Order had arranged for small sleeping cribs for the children and a bed chamber for John and Delenn. But nothing much more than that.

   Upon seeing the bed chamber, John's faced dropped. "That's what I figured. One of THOSE beds." He sighed.

   Delenn laughed. "Of course, dear. I'm afraid you will just have to suffer tonight, as I have suffered since sleeping in your bed."

   With a shocked face, John responded, "'Suffer'? Is that what you call it?"

   "Well, with that non-stop snoring, yes, I'd call it suffering, even if it wasn't in a flat bed."

   John got a little angry. "I *don't* snore."

   "Yes you *do*," Delenn replied with that steely confidence that demanded obedience.

   He grumbled. "I'm tired. It must be past midnight, station time. Let's say we get these two to bed and catch some shut eye?"

   "Good idea."

   The children had already been fed and changed, so they placed them in their cribs and bid them goodnight before entering the bed chamber and preparing for their own slumber.

   Once in the Minbari bed, Delenn kissed John goodnight and then rolled onto her side, closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep. But all she could hear was John moving around in an effort to get comfortable. Occasional mumbled curses could be heard and she couldn't resist a slight smile at the thought of him rolling to and fro and sliding up and down on the gently sloped sleeping surface.

   Finally, the movements and noise stopped and she felt herself slipping into the inviting embrace of sleep. But she was brought back to the waking world by the uninvited hands of her husband as he gently rubbed her arm and back. This was one of his many cues for affection, and she couldn't believe he was in such a mood in their current situation. Without turning around, she scolded him. "John Sheridan, this is neither the time nor the place for such things."

   "Hey," he answered as if hurt by the accusation. "I just wanted to cuddle with my wife. Is that such a crime?"

   "I know what you want. How could you think of doing that here?"

   His sad face turned to a big grin. "Making love to a Minbari woman, on Minbar, in a convent, surrounded by nuns . . . It's been my dream since I was a little boy!"

   "Liar," she said with a laugh. "I thought you were tired? Go to sleep."

   John sniffed a couple of times, pretending to cry. Delenn took a deep breath and rolled over. "All right. But I won't enjoy it."

   John smiled broadly. "Oh, yes you will," he proclaimed confidently.

    ----------

   THE NEXT DAY

   The large hall had been prepared throughout the night by the lower ranking Sisters. Valen's cryogenic suspension unit had been moved from the Vault and now stood in the centerpiece of the hall, surrounded by drapes and banners of gray, black and white. Surrounding the centerpiece were the most senior of the Sisters, including Malenn, all dressed in white, hooded robes.

   At the back, to the side of the white carpet which led from the main entrance to the centerpiece, were Delenn, also in a white robe, and John, in his black dress uniform. To their side were Susan Ivanova and Stephen Franklin, who had also come from Babylon Five for the ceremony. David and Chrystal were in the safe keeping of some of the younger Sisters. Around the circumference of the room were Rangers, in their black and gray uniforms, standing guard over the proceedings.

   When all looked set, Malenn walked carefully back to her daughter's position and turned to face her. "<Do you have it?>"

   "<Yes>," Delenn responded, as she removed a Triluminary from underneath her robes. She held it up in the manner which caused it to activate, and then her mother raised her palm to it, causing it to glow and hum. Turning her hands over, Malenn accepted it as Delenn laid it in her palms.

   She returned to the other Sisters and they used the Triluminary to commence the Awakening process of Valen's sleep chamber. The Sisters then stepped back from the chamber and formed a circle. They raised their hands in the form of a triangle, bowed their heads and began to softly chant.

   "What happens next," John asked of his wife in a whisper.

   "We will meditate and wait until he wakes."

   "How long does that take?"

   "I believe she said it takes about fifteen hours."

   John's face lit up with disbelief. "You mean we have to stand here for fifteen hours?!" Susan and Stephen both added their looks of amazement as they overheard the discussion.

   "Yes," she replied calmly, but with an inner smile. She knew full well how restless John could be. This would be a real test of his patience and she knew it. Somewhere, deep inside, she feared his head might actually implode before this was over.

    ----------

   SIX HOURS LATER

   John tried not to disturb the meditation of those in attendance, including his wife, as he moved silently back to the entrance to find Marcus Cole. When he spotted the Ranger, he walked up to him and whispered. "Marcus?"

   Without opening his eyes or moving, Marcus responded. "Yes, Captain?"

   "What, uhh . . . what are we supposed to do if we . . . well, you know, if we have to go?"

   No amount of training and discipline could keep Marcus from laughing silently at the Captain's predicament. "You're allowed to use the facilities, Captain. It's only the Sisters who are required to stand vigil until the One wakes."

   "Oh," John said with a smile. "Good." He looked around the room and then leaned back toward Marcus. "Umm . . . where is it?"

   Marcus mumbled a few words in Minbari, released his hands, opened his eyes and looked up. "Come on, I'll show you. I have to go too."

    ----------

   A soft beep sounded from Valen's sleeping chamber, causing the Sisters to quickly move in and surround the unit closely. A few soft, muffled voices could be heard from where the party of friends stood. Delenn would have given anything to hear and see what was happening, but her place was where she was and she would not violate the ceremony by rushing in to greet him, no matter how much she wanted to.

   Valen lay at an angle on the ornate cushions of the Sleeping Chamber as the Sisters, who had been specially trained in the medical skills required for successfully retrieving someone from cold sleep, took readings and carefully examined their holiest of leaders.

   He was breathing now, and his sleep seemed that of a peaceful and tired man after a hard day's work. When suddenly, his eyes flickered open and he stared blankly up at the light, blinking from time to time as he tried to adjust to the unfamiliar sensation. He swallowed and made a sound in his throat as he tested his body's functions.

   "<Am . . . I . . . alive>," he spoke in a wisp of a voice.

   Malenn had to lean close to hear him, but smiled when he asked his question. She leaned back and looked upon him as she answered. "<Yes, Entil'Zha. You are alive. We have awoken you as was your wish.>"

   He swallowed again and blinked rapidly. "<I . . . cannot see but a dim light before my eyes.>"

   "<It is because of the Sleep. It will pass soon. You must rest now.>"

   He took a deep breath. "<De . . . Delenn. Is Delenn here?">

   "<Yes. She has come to see you.>"

   "<I must speak with her. Bring her to me.>"

   "<But, Entil'Zha, you must . . . >," Malenn began before being cut off by an insistent Valen.

   "<Bring her to me!>"

   "<Yes, Entil'Zha>," Malenn responded as she bowed her head in respect, pivoted, and walked quickly to her daughter.

   Delenn saw her mother fast approaching and her heart raced. "What has gone wrong," she worried in thought. "Oh, please let him be all right."

   "<Delenn, he wishes to speak to you.>"

   For a moment, Delenn smiled at the thought of speaking with Jeffrey Sinclair once again. But then the joy turned to trepidation, as she worried about whether or not she could bring herself to speak with Valen. Yes, this was the man she called friend, but he was now so much more. She had always suspected that he could have been Valen reborn, but it wasn't until she received her note from him that morning aboard Babylon Five that she knew for certain that he would become Valen. This man, this Minbari, had been and still was their greatest spiritual leader. Would she . . . could she face him as an equal?

   She gave John a look of concern and then followed her mother to the centerpiece. As she squeezed in through the wall of nuns, she could see his body, lying peacefully on the bed. His eyes were closed and he was breathing slowly. He looked so peaceful to her. She tried to picture this person as Jeffrey Sinclair, but the image wasn't matching perfectly in her brain. She stood beside him and looked down upon his face as his eyes popped open.

   Now. Yes, now she could see it. They were his eyes. This person was Jeffrey Sinclair. He had returned from the dead, as he prophesied. The warmth in her heart and the great joy that she felt as she looked upon him nearly caused her to ignite. She reached down to take his cool hand warmly into hers. And then he spoke.

   "Delenn?"

   "<I am here.>"

   He smiled at the sound of her voice, a sound he had not heard for many, many years. But it was all too familiar to him. He was flooded with memories of all they had gone through together, and it brought happiness to his heart. "<It is so good to hear your voice, Delenn. I am afraid I cannot see you yet. Everything is a blur right now, but I am told it will improve."> He stopped in mid-thought for a moment. "<You are trembling. Why?>"

   "<Because I thought I would never see you again>," she cried. Tears were welling up inside her now and the touch of a feather could have set them off.

   "<Nonsense. Do you think I would leave you without saying goodbye?>"

   She gave in to the pressure and the tears fell. He could hear her joyful sobs. "<Do not cry, Delenn. I must sleep for a while longer, as I am very tired. But I will see you again when I wake.>"

   

   

   Valen continued his rest, uninterrupted, for another ten hours, with the entire congregation in attendance. When he did begin to stir again, the Sisters closed ranks and attended to him once more. Delenn, brought out of her deep meditation by the gentle nudge of her husband, who, himself, had just awoken from a brief nap, looked on as the Sisters appeared to struggle with the elder leader.

   "<I am not so old and frail that I cannot stand on my own, my good woman>," came the now strong voice of Valen through the circle of bodies. The woman he was apparently addressing bowed and backed away from him slowly. Delenn could barely see his form now, through the cracks between robes and hoods.

   He sat up and carefully swung his legs around to plant them on the ground. As he stood, the Sisters backed away and watched. When he let go of the Sleeping table and tried to put his weight on his legs, they gave way and he began to fall. With unparalleled speed, three Sisters ran up to him and caught him before he hit the ground. They lifted and steadied him, and he continued to use two of them as braces when he began to walk from the centerpiece and toward the open doors of the hall.

   As he exited the circle of nuns, all in attendance, Rangers and acolytes alike, bowed their heads in respect. Only his close friends kept their heads up to see him walking toward them. Susan's face was aglow with a combination of great joy and great apprehension. Franklin looked upon the event with the same curious eye that had served him well as a doctor specializing in the seemingly strange and unusual races that occupied the galaxy. And Delenn again had tears in her eyes and a smile on her face as she watched him walking toward her. She didn't even notice that he was only walking with the aid of others. Her eyes simply locked onto his and a fire of pride and respect burned in her heart and on her face.

   "My God," John whispered, "he looks just like Sinclair as a Minbari." Delenn let out a soft laugh.

   "I don't care what he looks like," Ivanova added, "he's Jeff. And I missed him." With that, Ivanova began to cry tears of joy as well.

   When he made his way to his friends, he came to a stop. He looked at Delenn and spoke. "<I'm so very glad you are here, Delenn. All of you>," he added as he scanned the group of friends. "<You are just as I remember you. It is as if I just left you, yet a hundred years have passed in my life. Are you real?>"

   "<We are very real, . . .>" Delenn appeared confused for a moment. She had no clue how she should address him. But she quickly decided that her title -- the title he was the first to bear -- would be the correct choice, so she appended it. "<Entil'Zha.>"

   "My God, Jeff," Ivanova began in near disbelief, tears still streaming down her face, "I can't believe it's really you."

   Valen turned to face his dear friend, and he formed a broad smile as he laughed ever so slightly. "My God, Susan, it's been so long since I've heard my own language. And it's been so long since I've seen you." He looked at her now with a coy eye. "Come here," he suggested.

   Ivanova approached and the two Sisters escorting him eased back as best they could. When she reached him, she didn't hesitate to reach around him and apply a gentle and caring hug. As she laid her head on his chest and cried more openly than before, he gently patted her on the back and offered reassurances. "I promise, Susan, I won't leave you again. Not before the end, at least."

   "Don't you dare die on me, Jeffrey David Sinclair, or I'll rip your lungs out, do you hear," she asked, still hugging him closely.

   He laughed softly. "Ah, same old Susan. If I have anything to say about it, Commander, I'll remain immortal, just for you. I promise."

   She broke away and leaned back to get a good look into his eyes. Her tears had stopped flowing, but her face was red and wet in their wake. "Thank you." She stepped back and allowed him to carry on with the reunion.

   "Stephen. It's good to see you again. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye before I left. I'm sorry about that."

   "It's okay. I was a little preoccupied at the time anyway. The important thing is that you're here now."

   "That is, as you say, the important thing." He smiled and turned his attention to the man who replaced him in command of Babylon Five.

   "I'm glad you could come, Captain."

   John smiled and reached up to hold Delenn by the shoulders from behind. "What, and let my wife have all the fun?"

   Valen's eyes widened and his mouth opened just slightly in surprise. "Wife," he asked, looking down at Delenn.

   She nodded and he noticed, for the first time, the two rings she wore on her left ring finger. He looked back up at the two of them and smiled. "Congratulations, you two. I wish I could have been there. I'd've loved a good party." His face went serious for a moment. "You know, no matter what Delenn tells you, Minbari aren't much for a good time, Captain."

   "Tell me about it," Sheridan snorted just before he felt an elbow jab him in his gut.

   Upon seeing this, Valen couldn't resist a chuckle. But when his legs began to give out again, and the two Sisters had to move back in to balance him, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. And then he resumed. "Well, it appears that I'm not fully recovered yet. I'm told that I'll be given a room to sleep in until I feel better. So, everyone, I better be off." He looked at the assembled group one last time. "I'll see you all again shortly." They nodded, he smiled, and he was led off toward the open door.

   As he neared the door, he noticed Marcus standing next to the it, his head bowed in respect. He urged his escort to stop and he spoke to the Ranger. "Marcus?"

   "Respects, Entil'Zha," came the eventoned response.

   "I was Entil'Zha, Marcus, but I come here now as your friend." Valen paused and studied the dark-haired man, his head still down. "Look up at me, Marcus. Please."

   He hesitated for a moment and then lifted his head to stare at his friend and mentor. His chin quivered as he searched for the proper words to say. Valen could sense his trouble and quickly offered a solution. "We'll talk more later, Marcus. It's good to see you again, my friend."

   "And you," was all Marcus could utter as Valen and his escort departed the hall.

    ----------

   "<You may enter now>," spoke the young Sister. John, Delenn, David and Chrystal made their way through the narrow door and into the well lit chamber beyond. As they entered, they noted the spartan room, with a table, two chairs, a dresser of sorts, and a traditional Minbari bed. On that bed rested the awake father of all that Minbar held dear until recently: Valen.

   Delenn smiled cheerfully as she approached his side, and he returned the expression of happiness. His eyes, however, quickly darted down to the unexpected bundle nestled in Delenn's arms. Delenn noticed the curious look and felt a wave of pride wash over her. However, she didn't immediately reveal her precious cargo to him. She loved the idea of having a secret to keep from Valen.

   "<We came to see how you were doing>," she stated, the smile still large on her face.

   He looked up from her bundle with a grin. "<Fine. I am getting much stronger."> He looked back down at the bundle and then back at her. "<Well?>"

   Delenn feigned ignorance. "<Well, what?>"

   He looked back down at the bundle, all wrapped in white cloth, balanced tenderly in her arms. Without looking up at her, he continued. "<The bundle in your arms. When are you going to tell me what it is?>"

   She grinned madly and let out those little uncontrolled puffs of breath that tend to escape your nose when you're overly excited. However, she forced herself to acquire a more serious demeanor as she adjusted the bundle and reached for the fold of cloth that had hidden its contents from his view until that moment. "<Entil'Zha>," she began, as she started to lift the cloth from the child's face, "<I would like you to meet Chrystal Delenn Sheridan.>" As she pulled back the last portion of fabric, his eyes lit up and he smiled once more at the sight of the little girl sleeping soundly in the comfort of her mother's embrace.

   "<She's beautiful, Delenn.>" He looked up at her nervously as he reached out for the child. "<May I?>"

   Delenn nodded. "<Yes. Please.>"

   He reached over and gently touched her face and head as her mother glanced down at the two of them. "<Chrystal, why are you still sleeping? All you do is sleep, young lady. You should wake and meet a very special person.>"

   "<It's all right. Let her sleep. I haven't been this close to a young one since my own children. If I recall correctly, they tend to make much more noise when awake.">

   As if on cue, David began to squeal from his father's arms in the back of the room. Valen, surprised, looked over in his direction. Then he looked back at Delenn with amazement. "<Two of them, Delenn?">"

   "<Yes, they are twins.>" She looked to her husband and lifted her chin a bit. "Bring him here, John." Sheridan, trying in vain to quiet his son, moved quickly to Delenn's side and, at her urging, exchanged children.

   Valen waved softly after little Chrystal as she was tucked away in her father's arms. He looked up at Sheridan and nodded. "You did good work, Captain."

   "Thanks, but I just brought some of the ingredients. Delenn did all the cooking." The two men laughed softly before Valen looked back at David, who was now completely quiet thanks to the breast that had been provided to him for nourishment. He looked upon the infant boy and his mother with amazement and wonder.

   "<He is constantly eating, it seems>," Delenn offered. "<He is either screaming, sleeping or eating. It never stops with this one.>"

   "<Like father, like son, I take it?>" Delenn giggled at the comment.

   "Hey, now," John started in defense, which made the two of them laugh even harder.

   "<I am forgetting my manners>," Delenn said apologetically. "<Entil'Zha, this is David John Sheridan. David>," she continued, looking down at her son, "<this is Valen, your great, great, great, . . . great, . . . great grandfather. Or something like that.>"

   Valen looked up from David to Delenn again. His face was full of thought and furious reasoning. "<Of course>," he said softly as if the whole world had come into sharp focus. He lowered his gaze back down and reached out to rub the arm of the young child in front of him. "<Hello, David.>"

   He stared at the young, nursing child and let himself be lost in thought -- thought of his family long gone, his friends lost to time, and his home far away.

   "What's wrong?" Delenn's pleasant voice yanked him back from the distance. He blinked and looked up at her with no expression at all.

   "Huh," he grunted.

   "You were thinking about something. What's troubling you?"

   "English, Delenn," he asked with a smile.

   Delenn motioned toward John with her head. "He has trouble keeping up."

   "I heard that," came the amused response from the corner of the room.

   They all three exchanged a little laugh before Delenn grew serious again. "But you are avoiding the question. What's troubling you?"

   He grinned as only someone who knew Delenn well could. But it soon faded. "I was just thinking of the past. I was thinking of all those things I can never see again and those things that I may never see again." He paused for a moment in thought. "How is Minbar, Delenn? If I recall correctly, the Nine have been disbanded, correct?"

   "Yes," Delenn nodded sadly. "And Minbar is in unrest. We are quickly slipping into our past. We are becoming once again what you found a thousand years ago."

   He looked toward the floor and nodded slowly. "As I feared." With a sudden burst of resolve, his head popped up and he stared Delenn directly in the eyes. "I will speak to them."

   Delenn's face brightened at the thought, but she soon grew somber. "That may not even be enough . . ." She stumbled for a word and looked at him awkwardly. With a confused and subordinate face she asked, "I'm not even sure what I should call you. It is very awkward," she added with an short, embarrassed laugh.

   He laughed gently. "You have always been one for titles, Ambassador. But you can just call me 'Jeff.' I'd like that."

   "Jeff," she practiced before resuming with her worry. "As I was saying, I doubt even your words can stop what has begun here."

   "Perhaps. They can choose to ignore me, but when someone does something wrong, you must tell them that it is wrong. Then the truth will attend to itself." He took a deep breath in order to calm down. "But there is still time for that. This is a time for reunion."

    ----------

   ONE WEEK LATER

   The large auditorium was filled with thousands: all the leaders of the various clans and castes from around the Minbari Federation. They had come, some with disbelief in their minds, others with defiance in their hearts, but all had come to hear him speak. All had come to hear The One.

   The Sisters had urged a video announcement, to spare him the strain of a public appearance, but he would have none of it. "I called them together in person before," he had said. "I will do it again." Delenn agreed with the Sisters, but even she could not convince him to do it the easy way. When she told him that they probably wouldn't even all come to the same place to listen, he countered simply with, "They will come."

   And they had come. It was unclear exactly why they all agreed to come to the same place together, but they were there and they were awaiting his entrance. A low murmur could be heard throughout the large chamber as the time neared for his arrival. And then, suddenly, the auditorium fell silent.

   Valen entered from a lower door and made his way to the central dais. He was able to walk on his own, but it was clear that his age was quickly catching up to him. His gate was much less than it had been in his prime and it took a couple of minutes to walk the distance. Reactions in the audience were mixed. Some were staring, agape at this figure straight from history. Others smiling at the thought. But most just stared.

   When he finally made it to the place of speaking, he stood tall and turned in a slow semi-circle to take in the vision before him. When he was satisfied, he nodded three times and took a deep breath.

   "As you once were, you are again. As I once was, I am again. And as I once did for you, I shall do again.

   We cannot allow the darkness of hatred and fear to blind us from the truth in our hearts. We are Minbari. We are of the same blood and spirit. We must prevent the veil of night from falling upon us once again."

   For thirty minutes he continued in a non-stop, impassioned speech asking the leaders of Minbar to once again form the bonds which made them strong and united. Not another sound was heard during that time, as the crowd remained fixed to every word he spoke.

   When he was finished, he bowed to the crowd and slowly departed. But before he could reach the exit, one and then another and another in attendance rose and bowed deeply to him. Until, soon, every one of the Minbari in the voluminous chamber was paying his or her respects to their greatest. He stopped near the exit to look back at them and smiled. He bowed once more and departed into the proud arms of Delenn.

   "Do you think they will do as I ask?"

   "They must," she replied, as she helped steady him. "No one could look upon you and hear your words and not be moved to action."

   He smiled in amusement. "What happened to your skepticism?"

   "Vanished. Like the wind," she said with a smile and a bow.

    ----------

   THREE DAYS LATER

   "Are you all packed," Delenn asked of her old friend.

   "What is there to pack, Delenn?" He seemed somehow very tired to her. Perhaps it was just the strain of the work he was forced to do so soon after waking up from his long sleep. "But, yes, I'm ready."

   Delenn looked toward the door as she heard footsteps approaching. Valen slowly sat on a nearby chair and closed his eyes. She smiled when she saw her husband enter the room.

   "John. Is everything ready?"

   "Yeah," he started, as he met her and took her by the hands. "The shuttle's ready to go. The kids are on board already. We'll meet up with the White Star in orbit and then make our way to B Five." He smiled as he looked deep into her bright eyes. After a few moments, he turned to look at Valen, who appeared to be resting in the chair. "How is he," he whispered.

   "Tired," she replied just as quietly as she too looked upon his fragile form. She broke away gently from John's embrace and floated over to Valen's side. Reverently, she gently nudged his shoulder.

   "Jeff? Jeff, it's time to go." He let out a low groan and shook his head slowly as his eyes popped open. After a moment of disorientation, he found Delenn and smiled. "It's time to go," she repeated.

   "Good. I've missed her." He turned his attention to Sheridan. "And you say that Earth and Mars are free again, Captain?"

   Sheridan nodded. "That they are. And they're waiting for you."

   He smiled, closed his eyes for a moment and then took a deep breath before forcing himself to his feet. "Then we shouldn't keep them waiting."

   "After you," Sheridan said as he pointed toward the door with his outstretched hand. Valen picked up a small bag from the table and made his way out of the room which had been his for the start of his new life.

   As he walked down the hall, Sheridan and Delenn followed behind, arm in arm. They watched with concern as he walked, slowly and uneasily. And when he lost his balance and fell against one wall, they rushed up to brace him.

   "You all right," Sheridan asked him urgently.

   Valen caught his breath before responding. "Just a little dizzy. Must be all the activity." He shakily stood as straight as he could and took another deep breath. "I'll be fine." He turned his head to Delenn. "Let's go see those young ones again, okay?"

   She smiled in response. "All right."

    ----------

   They were twelve hours into the flight to Babylon Five. Delenn had convinced Valen to rest on one of the crew bunks for the duration of the voyage. He didn't want to stay idle, but he sensed that his body hadn't fully recovered from his sleep. Or had it? Had it returned to that state which prompted his long sleep? Of course it had. He was dying and he knew it. Nothing could stop it now. Nothing. He only hoped he could live long enough to see the places of home; to smell the recycled air of his beloved space station; to see the red landscape of Mars; to hear the birds chirping on Earth.

   "Day dreaming again?"

   He heard the warm voice of his friend and descendant as she announced her presence. Without turning to greet her, he smiled and asked, "How long have you been there?"

   "We came in a few minutes ago and just decided to watch."

   Curious, he turned his head. "We?" He saw his answer. Delenn was carrying the two bundles containing her children. His smile widened. "Bring them here," be begged of her.

   She smiled in return and walked the little packages to their elder. "David is sleeping for now, which is the only way I was able to remain quiet by the door," she remarked.

   "Let me see him."

   She repositioned and offered David to him. He gently took the young boy in his arms and rested him in the crook of his shoulder. With a tenderness Delenn never knew in him, he studied the child and gently caressed his soft face, arms and feet.

   "We named him after you," Delenn found herself saying as she watched.

   He looked up in surprise and soon a tear fell from his eye. "Thank you." Indeed, she had chosen the name in part because of him. It was also to honor John's father, but she decided not to mention that given the situation at hand.

   He gently traced the young one's head and absently asked, "Do you think he'll grow a crest?"

   "Doctor Franklin believes not. He is a mirror of myself. I was born as a Minbari, but had a trace of human DNA. He is born as a human with a trace of Minbari DNA. As I appeared to be completely Minbari during my life prior to the Chrysalis, he will appear to be completely human."

   He had been paying close attention to her words. "I see." He turned back to David and held his tiny hand in his. "The universe is remarkable in its symmetry. Isn't it, little one?" His smile faded suddenly and he stared off to the distance. "Delenn," he spoke urgently. "Take him, please. Quickly!"

   She was shocked by the sudden shift in his demeanor, but she did as he said and quickly scooped up her son. As soon as he was safely in his mother's hands, Valen collapsed back onto the bunk and stared straight ahead.

   "What's wrong?!"

   "I . . . I'm afraid I must . . be going now."

   "No," she cried as she frantically placed her children at the foot of the bunk next to his and moved to his side. Grasping his hand in hers, tears falling, she begged him to stay. "Please. Oh, please, Jeff. Don't leave us now. Please?!"

   "It's okay, Delenn. To everything there . . . there is a proper time." He quickly gasped for air and seemed to have trouble breathing. "This . . . this is simply mine."

   She searched for words but could find none. Her jaw flicked open and closed as if she wanted to speak, but no sounds came out. Instead she sniffed and sucked in a breath and began to cry openly as his breaths came farther apart and each was less than the last and more difficult.

   Finally, before the end, words did come to her. In the middle of tears, she spoke, "I will see you again, Jeff, where no shadows fall. I promise you." He was in pain and barely alive, but she saw a slight smile form on his lips. And then he was silent. His eyes stared blankly ahead, but the fire behind them was gone. She collapsed to her knees and wept.

   For several minutes, all she heard was the sound of her own sobbing. But soon she heard another sound. A familiar sound. David was awake and crying for attention. Her tears slowly stopped and she took another long look at the lifeless body beside her. She stood slowly, David still crying, and reached up to gently close Valen's eyes. And then she let go of his hand and moved to her children. She picked up David and tried to comfort him as she turned to gaze upon her old friend one more time.

    ----------

   TEN YEARS LATER

   The winds swept across the face of the mountain even more than was normal for that time of year. This had been a favorite spot of Delenn's when she was young and had the time for things such as enjoying a beautiful view. But she had never known that it was also his favorite spot. Somehow it just seemed right to her. He had left specific instructions with the Sisters that this would be his final resting place.

   All of his friends attended as he was laid to rest. In addition, the leaders of the Minbari people came to pay their respects. It was truly a uniting event for Minbar. And it sealed the fate of the peace that he had started before the end. No one would dare go against his dying wishes. No one would be accused of such a horrible thing. Peace, as fundamentally uneasy as it had always been, once again reigned throughout the Federation.

   She had never returned to this spot since that day. She couldn't bear the emotions which threatened to tear her heart apart. But she was there this day at the urging of her husband, lover and best friend in the universe. John knew that she needed to heal from that terrible day when she held the dying Valen in her arms.

   Delenn, young David and Chrystal, and their father all walked up the now holy trail to the most sacred place on Minbar.

   "Mom, it's very cold up here," Chrystal complained as she clutched at her coat to keep warm.

   "Yes, it is. But we'll be done soon and then you can be warm and cozy again."

   "Why do I have to come up here anyway? I mean, I didn't even know Valen like you and Dad." Delenn looked at her daughter as they continued up the hill. She felt disappointed, but not angry at her words. But then a memory came to her and she smiled slightly.

   "Oh, you did know Valen, child. He even commented on how beautiful you were."

   Chrystal perked up and looked at her mother as they continued the long hike up the gentle grade. "Really?"

   "Really."

   "You mean Valen thought I was pretty?"

   "Yes," Delenn said with a smile born of a mother's pride and satisfaction.

   Chrystal smiled and drifted away in thought for a moment before starting to jog up the hill ahead of her family. She turned, continuing to jog backwards and yelled, "Come on, slow pokes! Valen's waiting for us!" David shot off after her and they raced up the hillside. John wandered over and, with a happy smile, wrapped an arm around Delenn as they continued their pace.

   When they reached the crest of the rise and looked down upon the resting place, they saw their two children, kneeling before the monument in the fashion of Minbari in prayer. They had their hands in the form of a triangle and their heads were bowed. The image caught Delenn off guard and she broke down in tears. "Oh, John. Oh . . ." She buried herself in his embrace, unable to control the flush of pride and joy she felt upon seeing her children -- Valen's children -- the children that were the result of the joining of humans and Minbari -- paying respects to he who began it all.

   When she had regained some of her composure, she eased away from John, looked him the eyes and saw that he too had been weeping. They locked their eyes for a long while and then kissed tenderly before turning to walk down the short trail, hand in hand to join their children.

   "<Oh, Mother, it's beautiful>," David said. "<Here we are, the children of what he created, paying respect to him.>" David had always seemed somehow wise beyond his years, and his words mesmerized his mother as he spoke. His voice was somehow very calming. "<He began the cycle by becoming Minbari and fathering a line that resulted in you becoming human and mothering us.>" He smiled and took his mother's hands as he stared her squarely in the eye. "<The universe is remarkable in its symmetry. Isn't it, Mother?>"

   "<Yes, it is>," she replied as she reached forward and pulled her son into a tight embrace. "<It certainly is.>"

 

*****

 

 

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