THAT INTENSE, IMPENETRABLE SHADE
A Babylon 5 story
by Rachel Smith Cobleigh
Author's Note: This story is best read after watching the first four seasons of Babylon 5 and reading Kathryn Drennan's wonderful tie-in novel, "To Dream in the City of Sorrows". Oh, and just in case anybody missed it, "Valeria" is the name the Minbari religious caste has given to Kosh.
Valanev sat in the vid room, her eyes fixed on the image frozen on the screen before her. The remote control lay limply in her hand and her knees were drawn up to her chest as she sat on the edge of the conference table. She could not explain why she was drawn to him. There was something undefinable about him, something that filled her with dread and reminded her of faint hope. She could not explain it, and though she knew what this fixation of hers must look like to the others, it wasn't that. It couldn't be that. No.
She sighed and turned away from his face on the screen, pushing herself off the table. She flicked off the frozen vid feed and left the remote in its niche in the wall. Her fingers slipped in surprise when a voice spoke behind her, and the remote fell into its place with an incriminating clack
"Watching him again?" the voice said, not unkindly.
Valanev turned slowly to face the Mother Superior. The older woman stood calmly, one brow raised, just inside the entryway. Valanev sighed and looked down for a moment, faintly ashamed.
"Yes, Mother," she answered quietly. She looked up as the older woman drew near, and swallowed. They had allowed her this little obsession for a long while, ever since the war had begun and he had first stepped off the Isil'Zha with his message of hope. Their whole world had been galvanized by this hero's appearance at the critical juncture in the desperate battle to keep the darkness at bay. No caste claimed him and thus he remained a mystery. He volunteered no information about his history and no one dared demand it of him. The Vorlons had brought him, and that was enough. Minbar accepted him without reserve.
Valanev, however, found him deeply unsettling. Her sleep had never been very good—adjustment to life itself had been a struggle every day since she could remember—but now his face and his voice haunted her dreams. Perhaps her obsession only fed the sleeplessness, but she was unwilling to stop searching his face, looking for something...but what?
"Tell me," the older woman said gently, watching the emotions run across the girl's face. "What are you looking for?"
Valanev felt a rise of frustration but held it back. She had learned in her time here that outbreaks of strong emotion were viewed with distaste. She had often wondered if it were any different outside the walls of this cloister, but she suspected not. This was a world of sameness and tradition, a world where she felt a stranger. She wondered why she felt such rushes of rebellion, such unrest in a place so serene. Did no one else ever feel this way? If they did, they did not reveal it. They seemed immovable, rational, calm. She did not have the stomach to break the stillness, out of respect for those who had taken her in and cared for her all these years.
It was the same question that the sisters always asked her when they found her in this room. She tried not to visit his image too often, or too regularly, in the hopes that they would not discover her. She wanted to be alone with her questions. She had no better answer now than she did four years ago, when he first came.
Valanev shook her head and looked away.
"My daughter," the Mother Superior said. "He has united our people as no other has before us. He is a great Minbari, a gift from the Universe for which we are all grateful. Do not be ashamed of feeling something for him."
"It is not that!" Valanev said, with greater feeling than she had intended. She bit back her words and swallowed, fighting tears. Her throat was suddenly tight.
The older woman's kindly eyes fixed on Valanev's as she brought the girl's face up. "There is more than you have spoken of," she said. "Tell me."
Valanev's gaze flickered away after a moment. "I cannot."
The Mother Superior looked thoughtful. "Come." She took Valanev's hand in her own and led her across the hall and out in the open air of the cloister gardens. When they reached a secluded spot away from all the others, the older woman indicated that she was to sit, and Valanev obediently took her place beside her on the long seat carved into the smoothed crystal. They sat in silence for several minutes and Valanev tried to do as she knew was expected of her: relax into meditation in this beautiful place. The religious discipline of the convent was often a balm to her, but she dreaded the conversation that she knew would follow, and the tightness in her stomach and back never began to recede.
"Do you know what your name means?" the Mother Superior asked at last.
Valanev frowned. She had been required to learn how to speak the Sisters' language when they took her in; there was still much in the older parts of their religious vocabulary that she did not understand. So much had been foreign to her; even her body had felt unfamiliar when she had awoken that first night.
"No," she answered.
"'For Him Who Was'," the older woman translated.
Valanev was silent. The Sisters had given her a name, she remembered. When she had awoken, she had been confused and scared, with no knowledge of who she was or where she was. When she tried to remember, she had seen only a grey mist and then a great flash of blinding white light and then...nothing. She did not understand what the sisters said to her and she spoke in a language that they did not recognize. She had not spoken it in the ten years since, and the memory of it almost felt like a dream. The idea of using it was a rusty and uncertain one in her mind. It was part of her past, something that she could not explain. So much of who she had been in the beginning was buried now under the knowledge of her new life. She had worked so hard to understand them, trying to become a part of life in the cloister, part of the gardening and the daily prayers and the food preparation in the kitchen. She had found some level of peace, some level of existence in this place, until the first time that she had seen him. She had been seized with a rush of the familiar, of the conviction that he was...he was... and it always eluded her. There were moments when her frustration was so acute that she longed to cry out in rage at the Universe with the unfairness of it all.
"Curious name for a nun," the Mother Superior said into the prolonged silence, a note of humor in her tone. Valanev turned to look at her in surprise.
"But I thought it was you who named me," Valanev said.
The Mother Superior smiled and shook her head with a small motion.
"I did...and I did not."
Valanev sighed and looked down at her hands. If this was another lesson, she thought she would scream. How un-Minbari of her.
"I did give you your name, yes," the older woman continued, unaffected by Valanev's reaction. "But I did not name you. I had...a dream."
Valanev looked at her.
"Yes. It was a very long time ago."
"Before you found me?"
"Yes. I was only a little girl. It was why I decided to come here," the Mother Superior said. She looked at the gardens around them and then lifted her head to look up into the late-afternoon sky. The sun was sinking quickly, but it was the warm season of the year and the air was still comfortable. Valanev followed her gaze, marveling for a moment at the beautiful play of light reflected in the sky. The great crystal formations caught the long rays and sent prisms of refracted light against the faint clouds above them.
"What was in this dream?" Valanev asked.
"Oh, a great many things, I am sure," the older woman said, a smile in her voice. "But I remember it like the turning of a crystal, which catches the light and reflects a different pattern when it is held at different angles. The crystal has turned over time, and things that I used to see in its reflection have become...new. The pattern is always changing, a new form always coming into focus, usually when I least expect it." She paused for a moment.
"When I was young, I believed that I was meant to become a follower of Valeria—for it was he whom I saw reflected in the light. When I came to this Sisterhood, I was surprised to find that though that had been a clear belief for me at first, the image had changed into something new. Over the years, I grew, not knowing what I would see through the prism next, and yet believing that as one image faded from focus, another was assured to take its place. I learned not to be afraid when the old image blurred. There is always a moment of fear, Valanev. If one grasps too tightly to a dream, a thought, an image, and it is slipped from your grasp—you realize that it was never within your grasp at all—you become afraid, adrift in faith and belief. But it is the way of things...the future is never clear, and at certain moments, the blurred image that you have been straining to see suddenly resolves itself before you: clear again, and unexpected."
Valanev wondered what all of this had to do with her, but she remained silent. The Mother Superior had never spoken to her with such intimacy before. She tried to grasp at a meaning in the lesson, but none came to her. She felt that her life—all of it that she could remember, of course—was a blurred reflection. The older woman suddenly rose from her seat and took a few steps away to stand in the waning light. She turned and fixed her gaze on Valanev.
"What is it that you feel when you see him?" she asked. Her dark eyes glittered in the light that filtered through the treetops. Valanev looked up at the sky and sighed. It was hard to put it into words.
"I...I don't know." She looked at the Mother Superior, feeling defiant. She felt immediately chastened when the gaze between them held.
"Do you love him?"
"I am a Sister of Valeria," Valanev answered.
"That is true," the Mother Superior said. "But it is not an answer."
"I took a vow not to—"
"Daughter," the older woman said, not unkindly. Valanev pushed herself off the crystal shelf and walked towards the small pool that stood some distance away in the garden courtyard. It was fed by a series of diverted streams that ran through the garden, flowing from a waterfall at the edge of the cloister grounds. The Mother Superior followed her to the water's edge, where Valanev stood looking down at the reflection she cast in the dark mirror. The light was rapidly falling now.
"I don't know him, Mother," she said. "I only know that he seems somehow... familiar... to me. I felt as though something in me woke up when I first saw the news of him arriving from the ship. His face is just...and his voice feels so... aagh." She turned away from her reflection, her fists tightened as she struck out at the air in frustration. "I don't know!"
The older woman clasped her hands together and frowned. At first Valanev thought that she was displeased with her outburst, but then she realized that the woman's gaze was fixed on something past her. Valanev spun, embarrassed at being so loud in view of others, and her breath caught in her throat when she realized that the figure was not that of one of the sisters. The shoulders were too broad to be those of a woman. His features were in shadow.
On rare occasions, guests stayed at the convent. It was a place of peace and meditation, a retreat. To be invited to reside for a time with the Sisters of Valeria was a great honor on Minbar among those of all three castes. Valanev usually stayed away from such guests, contenting herself with kitchen and cleaning duties. She thought her language skills were rough and she preferred to stay to herself.
"You should not be here," the Mother Superior said to the figure standing at the edge of the courtyard. "It is not yet time."
He stood unmoving in the path. Valanev looked back and forth between them. No one showed the Mother Superior such disrespect, least of all the guests. With a start, Valanev realized that his gaze was fixed on her, not on the Mother Superior.
"I mean no disrespect," he said, and the timbre of his voice sent a shiver through her being. The familiar rush of inexplicable recognition flooded her. She froze in the middle of the courtyard, wanting to flee in terror and humiliation. She could not face him! How much had he heard?
He took a step closer to them, and Valanev could see his features a little better. It was the same strange feeling of almost knowing who he was, but now that she was standing only a short distance from him, it was nearly overpowering.
"I could not help hearing," he said. He had not removed his eyes from her, and she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. I've done this before, she thought, inexplicably.
He took several more steps towards her, and she could not break her eyes away from his. They were warm, familiar, intelligent. Even more beautiful in person than on the vids.
"Who are you?" she blurted out, before she could stop herself.
He smiled. "That's a good question for both of us."
He closed the remaining distance between them and she was stunned to find that there were tears in his eyes.
"You don't recognize me?" he asked softly.
She was certain that there were tears in her eyes, too. Tears of almost-relief, of frustration, of the feeling that she had been waiting for this moment for as long as she could remember, except that she hadn't known it before now. She searched his features.
"I...do...and I don't," she said brokenly. "I mean...I know who they say you are. But that's not it, is it?"
"No," he said, his voice roughened. He reached up slowly and touched her cheek, his eyes searching hers. He swallowed and whispered, "Catherine?"
Something. Something felt familiar about that name. It was different from all the others that she knew. It felt right, like something before... A tentative memory surfaced in her mind, a sound made with an unfamiliar shape in her mouth, but it came out before she quite knew she was saying it.
"Yes." It was barely a breath, as the tears spilled out of his eyes and ran down his cheeks. He knew who she was! But what was this? Who? How had she known that strange name that felt so familiar, so precious to her? His answer suddenly struck her. That word. Yes. It was not Minbari, yet she understood it! He knew her tongue! How did he know it? Who was he?!
She suddenly realized, in this rush of questions, that he had moved closer to her and that he was bringing his face towards hers. She felt a moment of fear right before his lips touched hers, and then she closed her eyes and surrendered to the overwhelming rush of feelings that filled her body, washing away all the questions. She was stunned to realize that he knew her, and that she knew him—it was, for one heartbeat, as though her body recognized him before the rest of her did...and then suddenly the grey mist faded and the white flash of light filled her vision and gave way to a rush of memories, tumbling one upon the other as though a flood had been loosed in her mind. She gasped and her legs gave way under her.
She felt him support her suddenly, his arms holding tightly to her waist. He gently lowered her to the ground as the images began to fade into place.
"Catherine!" he whispered hoarsely. "Catherine, speak to me!"
It was English, she thought. I have never been so grateful in my life to hear English.
"Oh God, please," she heard him whisper. "Catherine!"
She opened her eyes slowly. They felt gritty, and her vision was blurred with tears. She blinked, and he came into focus over her, his face the same and yet...totally different. She could feel the pebbles underneath her, and she thought of how beautiful the lines of his face were to her. Even the sandy-grey bonecrest that enveloped his head was beautiful to her. The lines arched gracefully away from his cheekbones. She marveled at him.
"I'm so sorry," he was saying. "I just thought...I was so stunned to see you..."
She lifted her finger up to still his lips and he fell silent. She placed her palm against his new face and pulled him down to her. Their lips met again, and this time his tears mingled with hers and ran down the side of her face. It was a long while before they were content enough to pull back, and he looked down at her and smiled. She was sure that her own expression matched his in sheer joy and relief.
He pulled her up to a sitting position.
"How...?" she asked, wondering if this was what reincarnation felt like.
"I don't know," he said, his face full of questions. He looked up past her, and she remembered that the Mother Superior was still behind them. Catherine turned to look at her, her mind reeling with questions.
The older woman stood watching them with a faint smile on her lips.
"Don't look to me, Valen," she said. "I only had a dream."
Jeff—Valen—looked back at Catherine, cradled in his arms. "How long have you been here?" he asked in perfect Minbari.
"About ten years, I think," she answered.
"I found her at the temple entrance one night, wet through from the rain and unconscious," the Mother Superior said, coming to stand beside them. She looked up at the darkening sky. "The clouds have moved in quickly."
"Can you stand?" he asked.
"I think so," Catherine said, feeling as though she was once again acquainting herself with this body. They lifted her to her feet, and he kept one arm around her shoulders. She wanted nothing more than to turn into his embrace and stay there forever.
"Let us go inside," the Mother Superior said, smiling. "I'm sure there is much that you wish to discuss."
Catherine looked up at him and she saw the familiar twinkle in his eye. She smiled back, and his expression warmed, becoming slightly suggestive. She suppressed the urge to giggle; their audience would not appreciate such a display.
The Mother Superior began to walk towards the cloister's guest quarters.
"There is only one question that I have," he said to the woman as she walked in front of them.
"Yes?" she prompted.
"How did you know what to name her?"
Her shoulders rose and fell with a breath. "Valeria sang the words to me when I was a little girl," she said. She turned to look at them before continuing down the path. It was the tune that I was humming when I came upon her at the temple, and it was the only thought in my mind when I saw her lying there."
"Hm," he said, walking slowly beside Catherine. There was a faraway look in his eyes.
"What does it mean?" she asked him. The name held some deeper meaning for him, she saw. He shook his head slightly.
"Only what I suspected," he answered. The Mother Superior stopped and turned to face them.
"Who are you?" she asked, her gaze fixed on him.
"'The One Who Was'," he said cryptically.
"I do not understand," she said.
He smiled. "I am not sure that I do, either."
"Only Valeria knows."
They stood regarding one another for a long moment, and then he stepped forward.
"Words cannot express my thanks to you," he said, bowing in the traditional posture. It signified both respect and an implicit request for dismissal. The Mother Superior's face reflected a moment of displeasure.
"This is a convent, Entil'Zha Valen," she said, not to be intimidated even by such a man.
A smile broke across his face.
"I quite comprehend that, Mother," he said, turning briefly to look at Catherine. "I assure you that I will deliver Valanev back to you in a few minutes' time."
Like hell, Catherine thought. I'm not letting him out of my sight.
The Mother Superior stood regarding them for a moment, and then she clasped her hands together.
"This cannot be permitted. Even for you."
"Do the Sisters recognize union?"
Jeff turned to look at Catherine, gaging her expression. He could feel acutely what they both wanted. No; they would do this right, in full view, so as to leave no questions behind. He turned back to the Mother Superior.
"Before we were separated, we were betrothed," he said, bracing himself for the older woman's continued displeasure.
Instead, her expression softened. "Thank you," she said.
"For what?" he asked.
"The truth," she answered. "I will trust you."
The Mother Superior bowed and then turned and left them in the path.
When she was out of earshot, Catherine turned on him. "Jeff?"
He shook his head and turned to her, a wry smile on his face. "There is a great deal that I need to tell you," he said in English.
"No kidding," she answered in kind. "Not the least of which is what the hell happened here?"
"The Vorlons? What do they have to do with it?"
"You sound like one of them."
"I get that a lot."
"Jeff..." she growled at him. Minbari bonecrest or not, there was hell to pay.
"C'mon," he said, putting his arm around her, his voice returning to the soothing timbre that she loved so well. "Let's walk. I'm just really enjoying English right now."
She laughed, and they started down the path.
"You tell me what happened to you first. I'll bet your story is shorter than mine," he said.
"I don't remember much of anything," she said. "I remember Sector 14 and hearing your voice on the com and then static. I was just getting ready to panic when there was this sudden jolt, a bright flash of light, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the convent on a bed that wasn't flat, with a totally unfamiliar body. It's never been right since."
"How did you know to come here?" she asked him.
"I didn't," he said. "I was invited. She contacted me and offered the convent as a retreat. I gathered that it was a great honor, and the idea of hiding away for a short while from all the fuss seemed...well...perfect."
"Then the war is truly over?"
"A reprieve for now, yes," he answered, walking slowly beside her. "But a short one, only. My work here is just beginning."
"Your work here? What are you doing here? Why are we Minbari now? Who are you to them?"
He blew out a long breath and stopped. He turned to face her and he put his hands on her arms.
"Oh, Catherine," he said. "I never thought I'd see you again."
"And I never thought I'd get a good night's sleep again."
He frowned, not understanding.
"I haven't had time to miss you, Jeff. You—Valen—have been haunting my dreams and my every waking thought since the first time I saw a vid of you. Everyone else almost worships the ground you walk on, and all I could think of was that there was something about you...something I feared was a terrible secret. I couldn't bear to tell anyone; everything you've done, saving this world by bringing the Isil'Zha—oh my God—"
Her eyes widened and she clapped a hand to her mouth. Jeff laughed. He hadn't seen that gesture in four years. Her eyes flickered back up to his and he instantly sobered. She put a hand on his chest.
"That was...Jeff, that was Babylon 4, wasn't it!"
"Oh my God...Jeff," she looked up at him. "When are we?"
A cloud passed over his features. "About a thousand years in our past," he said.
She felt her knees weaken again, but he was ready this time, and her fingers grasped his robes quickly. He pulled her against himself to steady her.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. A tinge of anger filled his voice. "I can't believe they did this to you and didn't tell you anything."
"Jeff, my sister..." she pulled back and looked up at him. He could only answer with a brief shake of his head. "They're all gone? Marcus? Susan Ivanova? Garibaldi?"
"Not gone," he said gently. "Just ahead of us."
"You know what I mean," she said, her eyes narrowing.
"I'm sorry," he said again.
"This can't be your fault," she said. He frowned and looked away from her. "What?" she asked, afraid.
"They knew who you were to me," he said, looking back at her. "That is why they did this to you."
"Then why did they do this to you?" she asked. She reached up to touch his cheek, and ran a wondering finger across the seam of the bone at his temple. He stiffened in surprise. She pulled back.
"I, ah...you probably shouldn't do that," he said.
She frowned. "Why not? Did it hurt?"
She searched his eyes for a moment, not understanding. He tilted his head to the side, a smile playing on his lips. He reached up and gently ran a finger across the seam along her temple and she gasped. Something warm and electric seemed to flow from his fingertip to a warm pool at the base of her neck. It was entirely alien and entirely unmistakable. Something else in her tightened in response.
"You see?" She heard the amusement in his voice. She opened her eyes to see his wide grin. She was starting to feel warm.
"Nice to know you've still got it," she said, feeling her muscles relax as she smiled up at him.
"This could be fun," he said. "You know, I never really stopped to think about it while I was busy fighting this war..."
"I did," she said. He raised his hairless eyebrows and fixed her in a thoughtful look. That's what it is, she thought. No eyebrows...
"What?" he asked.
"I think I'm going to miss those," she said, running her forefingers along his eyebrow ridges. He pressed his eyes shut and pulled back half a step from her.
"You have to stop that," he said, and opened his eyes. She was stunned to find that his pupils seemed to have darkened. "Or I'm going to break my promise to the V'lahshuk'Na."
Catherine took in a deep breath and stepped away from him. His eyes followed her briefly and then he closed them and stood quietly for a moment. When he opened them again, they were clear.
"The Vorlons are an ancient race, as you might imagine, given that they have the technology to do this." He indicated his appearance and then squared his shoulders. "They are not the only ancient ones in the galaxy."
"The Zh'krr," she said. The ancient Enemy that they had been fighting against.
"Yes, the Shadows," he confirmed. He nodded his head towards the path and they started walking again. He clasped his hands behind his back.
"The Vorlons knew that the Minbari needed help to fight the Shadows in this battle. Babylon 4 provided them with a mobile off-world base of operations; warships could be built in space without requiring the capability to be maneuverable in atmosphere or to carry the fuel required to escape the planet's gravity. It freed us up to build a fighting, space-worthy fleet. We forced the Shadows to retreat back to their homeworld, and in so doing, we set them back a thousand years." He looked up at the night sky, though clouds blocked most of the stars from view. "Somewhere out there, they're fighting the battle again, the Humans and the Narn and all the rest of them." He paused in the path, a frown crossing his features. "I hope they win. Otherwise, all of this is for nothing."
Catherine put her hand on his arm. "That is their battle, Jeff. Leave it to them and God."
He looked down at her and then let out a long breath, nodded. "Yes. Well." He reached up and touched her hand and then squeezed it. She laced her fingers through his and they started back down the path. "You're probably wondering why they chose me," he said.
"Because you were the Ambassador to Minbar?" she asked.
"No. It was long before that," he said. They walked together in silence for a moment. "Do you remember the Battle of the Line?" he asked.
"Of course," she answered. "I could never forget it. You fought in it. I never thought I would see you again."
"I know," he said, and she squeezed his hand.
"We have quite a history, don't we?" she murmured. He grinned down at her.
"The thing is, I don't think we'll be able to tell our grandchildren," he said.
"Children," she repeated, surprised. She turned to him. "We can have children? How do you know?"
"Have you ever seen a Minbari with a beard?"
"What?" her eyes widened, realizing for the first time that he was sporting a neatly-trimmed, dark goatee. She was still adjusting to all of this, she told herself. It was hard enough dealing with her lover looking like a Minbari, never mind figuring out just what was Minbari, and what wasn't.
"I have," he said. "And I've looked at every Minbari here and I haven't found a single one that does."
"But you saw them...in the future?"
"Yes; two such Minbari came through Babylon 5 while I was stationed there."
"But maybe it just isn't the fashion now," she said weakly.
"No," he said. "I went for several weeks after my arrival here without shaving. Then my beard started to grow in. I debated shaving it off when I realized it was there—I hadn't really had the time to stop and worry about my appearance—but the others seemed to regard it as a mark of distinction. They accepted my presence with remarkable equanimity." He looked at her for a moment and then turned away again. "It is all I have left," he said.
She understood what he meant, and she envied him. All of her long, dark hair was gone forever. She missed it so much. She walked a little closer to him. They were drawing near the guests' quarters now. He paused and stopped with her at the end of the path.
"It's even better than that," he said.
"I suspect that Ambassador Delenn is one of our descendants," he said. "She told me something, before we parted. She also told me that Dukhat, the Minbari leader that was killed during the encounter with the Prometheus, had had a beard."
"Wow," was all she could manage. He laughed softly.
He became serious again. "What she told me relates to the Battle of the Line. She told me why the Minbari surrendered."
Catherine's eyes widened. "The million-credit question," she said.
"Yes." He looked down for a moment. "I hope you don't think this sounds too megalomaniacal, but it was because of me."
"You," she repeated, when he looked back up at her.
"Yes." He sighed. "I'm sorry that I never told you about any of this. It was hard for me to talk about it."
"They brought me into one of their ships," he said. "It was the Grey Council's flagship. They...restrained me and then did something very curious."
"What was that?"
"The Vorlons have encoded a piece of my DNA in Minbari crystal," he said. He reached into a fold in his robes and pulled out a small cloth pouch held closed by a drawstring. "Open your hand."
She obeyed and held out one palm for him to empty the contents of the bag into. A single crystal tumbled out.
"There are two more," he said. "I have my instructions concerning them."
"What do they do?"
"Watch," he said, and held his hand close over hers. She gasped when she realized that the crystal was warming in her hand, and it began to pulse faintly with light.
"Don't ask me," he said, drawing his hand away. The crystal faded again. "Vorlon technology."
He held the bag out for her, and she carefully dropped the tiny crystal back in. He pulled the drawstring closed and tucked it away in his robes again.
"What does this have to do with the Battle of the Line?" she asked.
"It was what they did to me," he said. "The Grey Council had one of these, and they held it close to me and it glowed."
"But why would that make them surrender?"
"Because it meant that they believed that I—Jeffrey David Sinclair—had within me the soul of their great leader, Valen."
He watched her as the implications of that began to sink in. She blinked several times.
"Oh...my...God," she breathed, and found a nearby bench to sink onto. "You're that Valen."
A wry smile crossed his features. "You were thinking of some other Valen?"
"No, I mean, no—" she looked up at him. "This is quite a night," she said, and lapsed into silence.
"What are you thinking?" he asked, at length.
"I was just thinking of all the times that I heard a Minbari say, 'In Valen's name', or something. Their sort of generic good-wishes saying, you know?" He nodded, coming to stand beside her. She shook her head in disbelief. "I just never thought...they were talking about you."
"Well," he laughed. "If it makes you feel any better, neither did they."
"Sinclair fulfilled a prophecy," he said. "I don't suppose you could guess whose?"
"Yours?" she said weakly.
"Kind of lends new meaning to 'self-fulfilling prophecy', doesn't it?" He smiled and shook his head as he sat down beside her. "They surrendered to us because they believed that we shared their souls. And as you know..."
"...Minbari don't kill Minbari," Catherine finished, one more piece falling into place. "What a world!"
"No," he said. "What a universe."
She laughed softly and nodded.
A sister walked by across the compound, carrying a basket of laundry, and disappeared through a dark doorway.
"It's a good thing they don't understand English," she said.
"Yes," he agreed, taking her hand and exploring the contours of it with his fingers. "We'll have to use it sparingly to keep it that way."
"So," she said, after a few minutes of sitting in silence beside him. "Where do we go from here?"
"'Call me rather, silent voices, forward to the starry track...'"
"'...Glimmering up the heights beyond me, on, and always on,'" she finished, sighing contentedly. "Silent Voices."
"I couldn't bring your volume with me," he said. "There wasn't time."
"It's a good thing you memorized so much of it, hmm?"
"'O strengthen me, enlighten me! I faint in this obscurity, thou dewy dawn of memory,'" he quoted, with an air of concern.
"Don't worry," she said, smiling aside at him. "I don't think you've lost a bit of it, Jeff."
"A Minbari quoting Tennyson, more than four—no," he squinted up at the sky. "More than five hundred years before his birth."
"Two Minbari," she corrected him, following his gaze.
He laughed and leaned towards her. She felt him smile as he leaned his forehead against hers. She knew what was coming next, and she whispered the words as he spoke them, matching his smile.
"'If I were loved, as I desire to be, what is there in the great sphere of the earth, and range of evil between death and birth, that I should fear—if I were loved by thee?'" he asked.
"What a universe," she said.
"Indeed," he answered, and their lips met in a brief kiss.
But though for brief instant, he thought, I am caught in a moment that will never cease to be.
After all, they weren't going to be born for another nine hundred and fifty years.
He laughed and kissed her again.
I welcome all feedback, including critique and suggestions for improvement, so feel free to tell me what you think, and thanks for reading!
Gratia to: God, for the time to write this, and Matt, for always challenging me—and oh, for being a good sport about finding trivia and for inspiring me to go find some Tennyson. Thanks. :)
I drew on the following sources for this story:
Excerpts from the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Silent Voices, Ode to Memory, and Juvenilia, Sonnet X. The Poetical Works of Tennyson, G. Robert Stange, ed., (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.), 1974, pp. 573, 11, 26.
Drennan, Kathryn. (1997) To Dream in the City of Sorrows. New York, New York: Dell.
I do not own any Babylon 5 properties, nor do I make any money from the writing of this story.
Situation and characters are taken from the television program "Babylon 5" (1993-1998) and are the creations and property of J. Michael Straczynski, TNT, Warner Bros., and Babylonian Productions.
This story is released under the GPL/CC BY: verbatim copying and distribution of this entire work are permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided attribution is preserved.