... And In Health


Author's note: This wrap-up story is a sequel to the vignette, "In Sickness..."; and if you did not read that, this story will probably make no sense whatsoever.

One thing that probably was not obvious from the previous vignette was that Marcus and Susan had a little girl who was a little less than four years old at the time of _Crusade_'s opening, in addition to the baby on the way - That girl was the "child" that Marcus was speaking of, and why he referred to a safe place for their "children". Up to a little before _Crusade_'s opening, Captain/Major Ivanova-Cole commanded Babylon 5, and Marcus lived with her on the station, with him taking occasional excursions away on Ranger business. He was on one of those excursions, wrapping up last business before moving semi-permanently to Earth to join his wife and child in Geneva, when the Drakh plague hit. This wrap-up story is set about two and a half years after the original vignette.

Marcus disembarked from the Whitestar transport onto the just re-operational L-5 transfer station as fast as could be accomplished without proclaiming himself a security risk. He knew, on a level lower than consciousness, that the people for whom he awaited had already arrived.

Questing about mentally, he could feel his love drawing closer, and his soul was starting to burble and sing with joy, and his body trembled with the excitement of it.

"Daddy!" A little girl, looking almost neutral-gendered in shortened hair and unisex playclothes; who had somehow, in a trait that Marcus remembered from his childhood, picked up smudges of dirt in the newly-sterilized transfer station and ship; broke away from the woman who had been holding her hand and fairly leaped into Marcus's arms.

"Oh, Sophie, my love, it is so good to see you again!" He buried his face in the child's hair as she jumped at him, and he swept her up in his arms.

He looked up towards his wife, and their eyes flared and mingled. And, temporarily, the surroundings around them faded.

The occasional talks with each other when Susan had been able to wrangle Gold Channel frequencies (in the perpetual "State of Emergency") had just not been the same. Fire flared between them, and their universe shrunk down to just two people; even, for a brief moment, their children forgotten.

They slowly faded back into themselves, and both took deeper breaths to compensate for the shallowness their breathing had had.

Susan's eyes continued their flaring, and she turned to the toddler held in her arms. "Will? Would you like to meet your daddy face to face? You've seen him on the screen in Mommy's quarters." She raised her face, and her eyes delicately caressed her husband's. "Marcus, may I present to you your son, William Marcus."

"William *Marcus*? I thought we had settled on 'William Jeffrey'?"

Her eyes twinkled, and a devilish look that Marcus was afraid, in some far-off corner of his mind, was indeed payback for the times he had done the same crossed her face. "Well, you weren't here, and I had to make the best decision that I could..." her eyes danced.


She met his eyes, her face having taken a sudden sober turn. "Marcus. I missed you so, and I had no idea if I was ever going to see you again." And her mind whispered to his, probably of a wish to spare their children, {*... And I didn't know if any of us were going to live out the decade. If Will died, I wanted him to do it bearing the name of the best man I knew.*}

She again spoke aloud, "Be grateful I didn't name him 'Marcus Cole, Jr.' -- I came very close."

Their gazes again met and mingled, and the force unwittingly unleashed had started to literally pull them physically towards each other, when Sophie broke in with a question towards her daddy about the ship he had been on and did he meet any of those nasty Drakh.

While her daughter continued asking - almost pumping - her father for information about the Drakh and what they looked like, Susan turned to the child in her arms.

She looked at Will, and he seemed calm as was his normal wont (wherever he had gotten that from, considering his parents...), studying the man before him quietly. His eyes shifted up to his mother's, paused, and then said with calm assurance, "Daddy."

Susan's face, of its own will, issued a smile that resembled a breaking of day, with a silent freeing release of worry that she had not even known that she had held. "Yes, _Dushenko maya_. Daddy," as her smile grew even wider and she radiated happiness.

Will looked up at her, his face beginning to reflect some of her own happiness, and then opened his arms wide in his signal for a request for a hug. Susan - If she smiled much wider, the top of her head would fall off, she thought - gave a mental nudge, {*Marcus,*} and walked forward slowly until both she and her son had wrapped their arms around the two chatting figures.

They stood there, in a parent-child sandwich, with words of love murmured both aloud and psychically, until Marcus leaned his forehead forward to Susan's, eyes glistening.

He spoke softly to her. "I've missed so much. I've missed Will's pregnancy and birth; Sophie losing her first tooth; Will growing his first ones..."

"They're both young, and Will may not even remember later on that Daddy was anything but always here. We've got the future now -- Your worst problem is probably going to be being recognized as a Hero wherever you go." She grinned irreverently, in response to the discomfort she could feel from the man in front of her at the subject.

They released, each still holding a child, while Marcus's cheeks flushed slightly.

"Well, my dear Lt. Colonel Ivanova-Cole," he said, valiantly trying to recover from his embarrassment.

"Ah, ah. A little bird tells me that within two weeks or so it is going to become 'Colonel Ivanova-Cole' - You're not the only hero in the area, you know," she winked; and as a reward, felt some of his tension easing in response to her joking.

"Come on, Love." She took his hand, and luxuriated in the glow of the fire and energy flowing between them. "Let's go home."


Author's Note: _Dushenka maya_ is a Russian idiom used to mean "Darling child"; its literal meaning is "A little piece of my soul". Susan's father used to call her that; it seemed appropriate that she would also do so to her own children.