AU, late S2
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
Things kept fading in and out of focus, like she was seeing them underwater. With scenes wavering and changing, it was hard to walk; her balance was constantly shifting. People would come into view, then pass by, with a gesture or words she couldn't catch. Noises were either muted, or suddenly loud. It was like living in a dream.
Then suddenly everything snapped into place; the view solidified and stabilized into a corridor in green sector, near her quarters. She was walking, her robes swirling around her legs, it was all quite normal, except for the continuing strong feeling of something being wrong.
She stiffened at the voice, one that she had thought she would not hear again, not in this place. Turning, her heart pounding, she just managed to say his name. "Jeffrey?"
"Wait up! I wanted to ask you something about tonight!"
She stared in shock as her old friend walked swiftly towards her. He was wearing his old EarthForce uniform, and looked as comfortable in it as if he'd never worn Valen's robes. She missed his first few words, but then her attention turned sharply fixed on him when she heard, "Sheridan's due to arrive within the hour. I've got to get a welcoming committee of staff officers together to meet his party."
"John? I mean, Captain Sheridan, is coming here?" She clung to the thought of seeing him. Surely he could help her make sense of this.
Jeffrey Sinclair looked at her with a puzzled expression, "You mean General Sheridan, don't you? It's been over a year since his promotion, and his appointment to lead the allied forces against the Shadow Consortium." He noticed the stricken look on his friend's face, and taking her arm, led her further down the hallway. "Are you feeling ill? If you're not up to the reception tonight, I can make your apologies. I'm sure the General and his wife will understand. Let me walk you to your quarters."
Delenn found her voice as Commander Sinclair escorted her slowly down the hallway. "This reception…it is tonight then?" Her mind had frozen on the thought of Anna being here. This must be some sort of trick. Anna was dead. Wasn't she? They had assumed she was dead.
Jeffrey looked at her oddly, "We've been planning it for weeks. I hope you can make it. You deserve the recognition for your efforts. The General's military campaign was brilliant, but the Shadows would have never agreed to cease hostilities without your diplomatic maneuvering. The two of you made quite a team." He smiled at her proudly. "
She managed a weak smile in return. "Thank you. That means a good deal, coming from you."
He stopped in front of her door, and pushed a few buttons for entry. "It is an honor for the station to host the final signing of the peace treaty. Good of the General to come all this way, since the Shadows insisted on both the military and diplomatic representatives of the Alliance be present."
Delenn turned in the doorway and asked carefully, "Have you seen Lennier?"
Jeff's brow creased in concern again, "He'll be coming along with the General, Delenn. Ever since you appointed him as liaison between the Rangers and Sheridan, he's been working side by side with the man. He's got a chestful of medals to prove it."
"Of course," Delenn bowed her head to Jeff, and said, "I will be there tonight. I am sure this feeling will pass. Perhaps I will rest for a while."
"You want me to send Dr. Franklin along to check you out?" asked Jeffrey, obviously still a little worried.
"No, that will not be necessary. Till tonight then."
Sinclair put his hands together and bowed slightly to her, then turned and left.
Once safely inside, she shakily headed towards the bathroom, hoping some cold water would ease the pounding in her head. Turning on the tap, she looked down at the water swirling in the basin, wondering if she was going mad. Perhaps she was dreaming? The humans said there was such a thing as lucid dreaming; perhaps this was it. It was certainly real enough. She put her hands in the chill liquid, then immersed a cloth in it. Leaning over the sink, she laid the cloth over her eyes, then reached up to push her hair out of the way of the wet fabric…and froze. Lowering the cloth, she slowly raised her head to look in the small mirror over the basin. Water streamed down her face like tears. Hesitantly, she reached up with one hand to touch her bone crest; the fluted edges of the full crest of a religious caste Minbari.
After the shock wore off, or at least lessened, she realized that she had more urgent problems than figuring out what was happening to her. Jeff had mentioned a treaty with the Shadows, or rather the Shadow Consortium, which must be the Shadows and their allies. Unless things were radically different in this place, a treaty would be a very bad idea. Apparently she had negotiated it herself, so there must be records of the terms, notes she had taken during the talks, somewhere in her quarters. Hopefully her personal codes would be the same so she could access the private files. She had to discover the truth of this place before she was forced to sign something with which she did not agree. If the Shadows or their representatives were arriving soon, she might have very little time to educate herself. She headed for the comstation with determination, sequestering her personal questions and concerns for later examination.
After a few hours, she sat back in despair. The treaty was definitely not to the advantage of the Alliance. They were giving the Shadows free reign in half of League space, and trusting them to stay within their new 'borders'. They were abandoning dozens of governments, and hundreds of worlds to Shadow rule. What had she…her other self, and John been thinking? Looking over General Sheridan's dispatches from the war, she realized his view had probably been one of a military commander facing stalemate at best, and annihilation at worst. It seemed she had been the main driving force behind the negotiations. What had been her excuse? And what was she going to do about it?
She checked her calendar again; only thirty minutes remained before the reception where she would come face to face with John and his wife. Presumably this was Anna Sheridan, although in the upside-down world this was, she supposed it might be someone else entirely. She started to check in the computer records, but was startled to hear the door chime. Her first thought was that she wasn't expecting anyone, but then she realized that maybe she was, and just didn't know it.
"Open," she called out, and almost gasped when Lennier entered the room.
He gave her the proper bow, then grinned widely, and grasped her hand in the human gesture, saying, "It is good to see you again, Delenn."
"And you, Lennier," she responded, trying to take in the changes in her friend without staring. He was wearing the black uniform and cape of the Anla'Shok, and his face was worn and lined. He looked older. She couldn't keep herself from saying, "Your eye…"
He shook his head, "You will never get over that, will you?" Raising the dark patch he wore, he revealed a recently healed indentation. "Franklin has the replacement ready; I am to have it fitted tomorrow. There just hasn't been time to get it replaced before now." He smiled grimly, "It certainly gave me another reason to hunt down our Centauri friends with avidity."
She smiled, glad to see him, even with the disorientation his words only accentuated. Conversations were going to be a minefield until she got time to research thoroughly the events of recent history. She had already come across Emperor Mollari's name in the files on the treaty. Shaking her head, she wondered whether it was worth the risk to confide her situation to Lennier. He would believe her if she told him…or perhaps he would think she had gone mad. Fighting to keep from hysteria, she wondered if it was true.
"Will you be attending the reception tonight?" She sighed inwardly, as she received another odd look.
"That is why I am here. You asked me to be your escort. It is an honour, but if you have reconsidered…"
"No! No, that is, the honour is mine alone. Thank you for being so prompt. I am afraid I am not quite ready however." She smiled warmly, trying to reassure him.
"Of course. Shall I wait, or do you wish me to return at a later time? I believe the General and his wife may be a little late as well. Our shuttle was delayed, and Mrs. Sheridan remarked that she would need some time to 'freshen up' as the humans say."
"You should definitely wait! It will not take me long." So saying she disappeared into the bedroom to look, with some trepidation, at what might be in her wardrobe. When she reappeared, she found Lennier sitting on the couch, in front of the papers on the treaty that she had spread over the low table. He looked up at her and smiled, saying, "You look wonderful."
She blushed; she had found her old formal robes hanging in the wardrobe. They had been re-fitted after her transformation, but these were the originals. The white and gold one had always been one of her favorites.
Lennier pointed to the papers on the table. "You have been going over the treaty again. Is there a problem?"
She couldn't quite identify the tone in his voice. "Why would you think so?"
"I do not know; that is why I asked. You know my opinion. We have discussed it often enough."
"I…have doubts." She watched his eyes carefully; cautious interest flickered in them.
"What sort of doubts?" he asked, his voice non-committal.
She took a deep breath and said bluntly, "Serious doubts. Serious enough that I am re-considering my position."
Lennier sat completely still, then let his breath out in a sigh. "That's interesting. Surprising…even disturbing. What has led you to this epiphany?"
"If I said I was not the same person as I was when that agreement was put together…" She paused at his look of confusion. "You did not approve of this treaty, did you?"
"You should know. I told you when you started down this path that I believed it to be a mistake. It was difficult to say, and you make it clear that you found it difficult to hear. It is your area of expertise, Delenn. I follow the Anla'Shok traditions now. We obey Entil'zha, and trust her decisions."
Delenn lowered her head to hide her feelings. Lennier was loyal as ever. She wondered again if she should tell him her predicament, but her thoughts were interrupted.
"We had best go. It would not do for all the guests of honor to be absent. We can discuss this later if you wish." Lennier stood, and indicated that she should precede him.
What else could she do? Feeling as if she was going to her own execution, she walked down the hall with her head held high. Doing what was right was her goal; the only problem was deciding what was the right thing to do.
"What's wrong with her?" Sheridan was in the waiting area of MedLab, all suppressed anxiety and impatience, and his eyes pinned Franklin like twin javelins as he entered the anteroom.
"I don't know. She collapsed in her quarters. Lennier called us and I had a team bring her in. She's unconscious and unresponsive to outside stimuli." The doctor looked as frustrated as he sounded. "She's breathing, her pulse and blood pressure are fine, brain activity is normal for someone in REM stage sleep…we just can't seem to wake her up. I'm reluctant to use the standard stimulants for either human or Minbari; her blood chemistry is just too different. I'm working on a hybrid drug, but it'll take a little while. Do you know what happened to her down there?"
"That cold-hearted bastard tortured her; that's what happened. The bracelets he used on her looked like they were designed to deliver some kind of electric shock. But she was fine, Stephen, afterwards! I walked her to her quarters, then left for C&C to check something out. By the time I got done seeing our 'visitor' off the station, I got your call and came straight here. Surely if this is some response to Kosh's test, it would have happened right away?"
"I would have thought so. Delayed reaction to electric shock doesn't seem likely. I don't suppose you still have those bracelets, do you?" asked the doctor. "It would help if I could examine them."
"No, Sebastian took them with him, and he's long gone." The captain paced the room a little, then stopped, and said grimly, "I know someone who might be able to help."
"Who?" Stephen asked.
"Kosh. I'll be right back. Take care of her, Stephen."
The doctor stared after his superior officer. That sounded suspiciously more like a plea than an order.
Delenn walked into the large reception area just outside the gardens with Lennier at her side. It had taken some delicate maneuvering to keep the conversation general, when what she wanted to do was ask thousands of questions. If anyone would have accepted her unusual interest in recent affairs, it would have been Lennier, but until she was more certain of her position, she could not take the risk. That treaty must not be signed, but all indications were that if it was not, the universe would be plunged back into all-out war. It was a war that her side had not been winning. She had read some of the military dispatches, enough to gather that Minbari and human were fighting alongside each other. The Rangers were being used both as information gatherers, and an expeditionary force. The Shadows had enlisted the Centauri, and about a third of the League of Unaligned Worlds into their Consortium. One thing that had shocked her was that the Narn were fighting on the same side as the Centauri. That is something she would have never expected. It seemed to have happened after G'Kar's death in the bombardment of their homeworld, but she couldn't imagine what had prompted the Kha'ri to make alliance with their old enemies.
In the main confrontation, Earth had led the way. She had been right about that at least; the humans were vitally important. In this place, it seemed that the assassination of their president had been revealed as such, and this had led to President Clark's impeachment. During the course of the trial, his association with the Shadows had been revealed. The shock of that knowledge had led the Minbari to become involved with the humans' investigations, at her instigation, but with the approval of the Grey Council. After the Shadows attacked and destroyed the human colony at Proxima, Acting President Lushenko had appointed John to lead a task force of Earth Federation ships, and with her help, he had built a fighting force out of troops from a hundred worlds.
Then, something had happened. It was unclear what it was; there was no indication in her files. She had begun negotiating with the Shadows; first, with a Centauri intermediary, a Lord Refa, then with the Shadow emissary Morden. They had somehow arrived at this misbegotten agreement, and then she had convinced John. That in itself disturbed her greatly; from the back and forth in her records, he had been vehemently opposed at first, only gradually giving way to her point of view.
And now she was to see him, in the flesh. It felt like someone had caught hold of her heart, and was squeezing it painfully hard. Her mouth was dry, and her eyes felt damp. For a moment, she forgot where she was, and raised her hand to smooth her hair. It quickly dropped to her side, but she observed Lennier's thoughtful look. She knew her behavior was odd, but she didn't see how she could avoid making mistakes.
"Lennier?" she said, deliberately accentuating the tremor already present in her voice.
"Yes, Delenn?" he answered, pausing to look at her.
She put one hand to her head, and said, "I was feeling unwell earlier, when I spoke to Commander Sinclair. I believe I will have to cut this evening short."
He looked at her with concern now, and said, "Should I make your apologies to the General and the Commander? Would you like me to call a healer?"
"No, I will greet the General before I retire. I would like to speak with him…about what we were discussing before. There is not much time left for these discussions, is there?"
"No, that is true." They approached the room where the reception was being held, and he guided her to a quiet spot by the wall. "I will bring the General over to you. Wait here." As he walked away, he looked back at his mentor. She was pale, even more than was usual, and her eyes were tired. He wondered when she had last slept, and even more, wondered what was behind her change of heart.
Standing quietly out of the main area of the reception, Delenn took a moment to regroup. It was all happening so fast; so many changes and alterations from her universe. She still had no idea how she had gotten here, or whether this was all a dream. Perhaps the life she remembered after her transformation was the dream. Or maybe, and this thought sent the sensation of ice water coursing through her veins, she had never left the Chrysalis. Maybe she had been trapped, somewhere between Minbari and Human, and had never emerged, lost in a twilight world of her own fears and doubts.
She barely kept herself from visibly jumping at the sound of his familiar and welcome voice. Raising her eyes to his, she bit the inside of her cheek to ground herself in the reality with which she had to deal. "General Sheridan. It is good of you to take the time to speak with me." His face was grim and scarred; fine white lines criss-crossed his temple and one cheek, culminating in an deep gouge that twisted one side of his mouth upwards. She couldn't take her eyes from his, wary and yet friendly underneath. She knew she was looking too hard and too long, but she couldn't seem to break away, seeking a depth of connection that was not there.
Delenn did start at that voice. Although she had never heard it before, she knew at once who it was. Turning, she smiled graciously and bowed slightly in the direction from whence it came. The slim woman, with red hair caught up in an ornate knot on the top of her head, smiled back. "You must be Ambassador Delenn." She bowed her head towards Delenn, and continued, "It's an honour to finally meet you." She twined her fingers in John's, and said, "You are supposed to introduce us, you know. It's in all the etiquette books."
John looked down at his wife fondly, and said, "I should know better; my father would be ashamed of me." Turning his attention to Delenn, he said, "May I introduce my wife, Anna Sheridan? Anna, this is Ambassador Delenn. Delenn, this is my wife Anna."
Anna said, with warm concern, "Lennier tells us you're not feeling well. I am sorry to hear that; I had hoped that we could talk. Perhaps get to know one another. You've worked so closely with John, and he's told me so much about you; I feel I know you, too. I would like to make that feeling more of a reality."
"I would like that as well, but perhaps another time would be best." Trying to keep her voice steady and her feelings in check, she addressed John directly, "I do, however, need to speak with you. Something has come up, in connection with the treaty."
John's face hardened in an instant, and her heart quailed for a moment at this sign of displeasure. Then her dignity reasserted itself; she was Minbari, and a former Satai, and present Ambassador. She had every right to question diplomatic decisions, even her own; perhaps especially her own.
"What is there to discuss? Haven't we gone over every point in that damned document a hundred times already? You convinced me. I'll sign it. I don't see that we have much choice in any case." His voice was stiff and uncompromising.
She answered slowly, trying to think out each word before it passed her lips. "I am seeing things from a…different perspective now. I would like the chance to explain what I mean, but this is not the time or the place."
He stared at her, his jaw clenched, and said, "There isn't much time left, Delenn. The treaty is due to be signed tomorrow afternoon. I don't think the Shadows will stand for re-negotiations at this point!"
Anna put her hand on his forearm, and said, "John, you've had reservations about this treaty all along. You should hear her out." Then, turning to Delenn, she said, "You two should leave. Go ahead; I'll speak to Commander Sinclair. Lennier and I can make your excuses to the people here. This is just a social function; it's not important in the grand scheme of things." She smiled at John, "I'll see you later, in our quarters."
His face softened as he looked at her, "All right. But wait up for me. It's been too long since we've been in the same place at the same time."
"I will," she looked at him with eyes full of promises. "Now go, before someone corrals either or both of you into making a speech!"
Both Delenn and John laughed. They looked at each other in surprise at first, but then smiled. John nodded to Anna, then offered Delenn his arm. She took it, with only a momentary hesitation, and they left together.
As they walked down the corridor, together yet apart, Delenn wondered what she could say to this man, so like and so unlike the one she knew. The Delenn of his world had worked with him to fight their enemies, much as she was trying to do back in her world. Here, however, her counterpart had less chance to become close to this grim general. She had often wondered how John would have reacted to her if she had not undergone her transformation; this might well be a case of 'be careful what you wonder'. The childhood Minbari warning against idle curiosity seemed apropos for her situation.
She keyed in her code, luckily the same sequence of letters and numbers as before, and entered her quarters. Calling out for lights, she looked around at the utterly familiar surroundings, and experienced another wave of unease. What if this was to be her reality from now on?
She went over to the couch, and settled down on one end, watching in sadness as Sheridan sat in the chair opposite her. In her world, he would have sat closer to her.
"Well, what's the problem? Another world begging us not to abandon them to the Shadows' tender mercies?" John spoke with bitterness, and she flinched at his implication.
"No, at least, not to my knowledge," she began, wondering again how to even begin this conversation. Finally, she decided on honesty. If she was to be judged mad, at least it would be in a good cause. "John," she began, then stopped as he looked at her, his eyes narrowed.
"You've never called me by my first name before." He sat forward, his hands clasped lightly in front of him, elbows resting on his knees. "You've been looking at me oddly all night. We've known each other a while now, Delenn, talked directly and over the com a hundred times. Something's up; what is it?"
The suspicion and sympathy in his tone almost undid her. "It is difficult to explain…"
He smiled at that, and his eyes crinkled at the corners. "It always is. You've done more to further the cause of human-Minbari relations than anyone else in the Universe. You'll find a way to get it through my thick head, whatever it is."
"I, that is, John…"
"It can't be that bad, can it? Are the Shadows converging on the station to destroy it? Is Emperor Mollari demanding more tribute? Are the Narns revolting?" As she began to lose her tense expression, he added, "Don't answer that!" She laughed, and he continued, "Tell me. I'll listen. You've earned my trust, and my friendship. I would have never expected that of a Minbari in a thousand years. After the war I never wanted to deal with your people again, and now I count three of you among my closest friends."
"Three of us?" she asked.
"You, and Lennier, and of course War Leader Neroon, the old scoundrel. He's sarcastic and unforgiving, but I wouldn't ask for a better back-up in a fight than Neroon."
Delenn shook her head in amazement. It would take her years to figure out all the differences between her world and this. She decided that it would be best to be direct. "I am not who you think I am."
John sat back in confusion. "Okay, you got my attention. Go on."
"I found myself here. Today. I do not know how it happened. But this is not my world, although it has its similarities. I am a stranger here."
"You're kidding." He looked at her closely. "You're not kidding."
His face was closed to her, and she again felt that tightening around her heart. He didn't believe her. "I know this is difficult to believe…"
"Why should I believe it? You're somebody else, somebody that looks and talks like the Minbari ambassador, but isn't? It's impossible! Are you trying to pull some sort of Minbari trick now, at the last hour? Why? You got everything you wanted! We're standing down. I'm ready to sign away the rights and freedom of of allies and innocents alike, all on your advice. Your negotiations. Your treaty. The Minbari are backing down without explanation, just like you did in the war, only this time you want us to go along with you!"
His voice was shaking, and his body was tensed as if he could barely hold back his rage . For a moment she was afraid he might strike her. She lowered her head to hide the tears that sprang unbidden to her eyes. "I suppose it is too much to ask that you would believe me. But I must do what I think is right, according to what I know. I know who I am, and it is not the Delenn you knew. If I must act alone in this, then that is how it must be."
He stared at her, his anger blunted by her obvious distress. She believed this, even if he couldn't. "Have you seen a doctor? Maybe there is some reason for this…feeling. Some medical reason?"
She shook her head, missing the feel of her hair swinging around her face. For a moment she was distracted. How could she have grown so accustomed to her change? At one time, she had had to fight back the wish she had never undergone her transformation. Now it was this body, her original body, that felt alien. She replied sadly, "You told me once about a time during the war, when your fighter was disabled. You were alone for hours, with no way to signal for help, drifting, lost, helpless…that is how I feel now."
"All alone…in the night." He whispered the words, his face frozen in shock. He went on hoarsely, "I never told you about that. I never told anyone, not even Anna, what it felt like. How did you know?"
She looked at him directly, willing his belief, "You told me. In my world. We were both… undergoing some difficulties at the time, and it was a connection between us. It meant a great deal to me, your sharing that story. I knew," she swallowed hard, "I know, what it is to be alone, in a crowd."
He lowered his face into his hands. "This can't be happening. I mean, are we talking parallel universes, or what? How did you get here?" Then he sat up straight and asked urgently, "Where is the Delenn of this world then? Has she taken your place? Will she be all right there?"
Delenn was taken aback; she hadn't given much thought to her counterpart's fate. "She would find it difficult, especially since she is still fully Minbari."
"What do you mean? Fully Minbari? What are you then? What happened to you? How can we get her back here, and you back where you belong?"
The questions came too quickly for her. "I…she…." The suspicion was back in his eyes, and it cut her like a knife. "I wish I knew. I…miss my home. In many ways. But that is not important, not now. We do not have time to go into my history. And I have no power to help her, or myself. But perhaps I can help you find a way to fight them."
He shook his head again. "That's not likely." Clasping his hand together in front of him, fingers tightly interlaced, he said, "I don't know what's happening, but I believe you're not my Delenn…" At the look on her face, he amended his words, "I mean, the Delenn I knew."
Ignoring the lurch her heart gave at his words, and her resolve strengthened by his change of mind, she said insistently, "This treaty, John…it is all wrong. Why did you agree to it? Why did she want you to sign on to it?"
John rubbed the back of his neck. "That's a long story. I may not be the best person to ask. You and I fought long and hard over the terms. I mean she and I fought...this is damned confusing. In brief, I agreed because I couldn't see a way out of it." He leaned forward and said intensely, "We're losing the war. Losing badly. I got the impression she thought this was the only way any of us could survive." His face was creased with worry. "We've been trying to fight them for a year. They're just too strong. For every one of their ships we destroy, we lose two of our own. If it was just their allies, we could have a chance, but those Shadow vessels…you have to fight them with tricks and traps. In direct battle, we don't have a chance. If this treaty falls through, I'll take us back out to fight, but frankly," he looked at her and said firmly, "We'll die out there. That's the solemn truth of it. That's why I agreed. Where there's life, there's hope. Maybe if we back off now, we'll be able to find a way to continue the fight."
Putting aside her fear, Delenn said, "It is a hard choice." She thought rapidly. "What of the Vorlons? What are they doing about this threat?"
John snorted, "The Vorlons? What use could they be in a battle? When you asked me to take Ambassador Kosh on board the flagship, I hoped he might be some help, but he never says anything. Not even one of those patented Vorlon expressions that sound good but no one knows what they mean. We have Vorlon ships as escort in every battle, but they just observe. They've never shown any desire to join in, on either side."
"Kosh is with you? Is he here, I mean, on the station?" Delenn's voice sparked with hope.
"He came down with us. He still has his quarters here on the station, I believe. What do you think the Vorlon can do?"
"In my world, they are our allies against the Shadows." She paused a moment, then said, "Let us go and speak with him. Perhaps he knows something of why I am here."
"Kosh, tell me what you know about this! What's happened to Delenn? Is this some after-effect from Sebastian's little test?" Sheridan was in Kosh's quarters, facing the tall impassive Vorlon. At least he thought Kosh was impassive; it was hard to tell with that encounter suit hiding both face and body. His own body was tense and he was having difficulty controlling his anger. Part of his mind was taking note of his response; he'd have to think about this later, once the crisis was over. Something lay beneath the anger and it felt like fear--the kind of fear a man felt when someone he cared for was in danger. He was used to compartmentalizing that kind of fear; it was part of what he had to do in battle. This was different, both in kind and in degree. "Kosh, I want answers." His voice had dropped a register, and was going from blazing hot to icy in tone.
"She is elsewhere." The Vorlon spoke, but as usual, he didn't answer the question.
"She's in MedLab, if that's what you mean. Unconscious maybe, but here. How do we wake her up?"
"Do not try."
He tried to give Kosh the benefit of the doubt. Until today, his intentions had always seemed benign. But that test…that had made no sense. Of all the people to doubt, Kosh had doubted Delenn's commitment. It was insane. "Why not? Is it dangerous? Would it harm her? Do you know what's happening?" Then he pushed it further. "Are you the cause of this?"
This time he got no answer.
She wanted an answer. "Kosh, you must know this treaty is wrong! It is against everything you have taught me, everything you and I have worked for!" She stood before the blank helmet, speaking to it intensely. "Do you know who I am?"
John looked between the hulking encounter-suited alien and the petite Minbari uneasily. He was still trying to process the facts he'd been given. He wasn't entirely sure he believed her; but he'd known his Delenn for a while now, and trusted her. He'd bet this one was on the side of the angels as well.
"Then tell me what is happening! Why am I here? What can I do to stop this?" She bit back the final question as it wasn't important, not now. How do I get back?
She stared at Kosh, her mind whirling. Refuse? He refused to say…no, that wasn't it. "I should refuse? Refuse to sign the treaty?"
The Vorlon nodded. "If you wish."
"But what will happen?" She thought back to her recent conversation with John, this world's John. We'll die. This was the choice then, not to die herself, but to watch others die—to watch John die. He wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice himself, nor would she hesitate if her life was demanded. John had said they couldn't win; perhaps he was right, and it was best to give up for the time, to re-group.
"Delenn." John's voice behind her was hard, but sympathetic. "The end doesn't justify the means."
"That test was rigged against her, Kosh! And using someone like Sebastian, for any purpose…it perverts everything we stand for! The end doesn't justify the means. You can't condone torture in the name in of security. Have a little faith in her, in me! We're on your side!"
The Vorlon stood, the iris in his helmet contracting and expanding silently. Finally he spoke again. "You do not understand." After a moment, he added. "There are no sides."
Delenn stood straighter, and put her shoulders back as if preparing to take on a heavy weight. "I refuse. I will not sign."
"Then we fight." John's voice was weary but firm in its agreement.
"I don't want to fight you, but you're wrong. You were wrong about her, and you're wrong about me, and for all I know you're wrong about everything. I make up my own mind, and I'll do what I think is right, no matter the cost. Now tell me how to bring her back!"
The room pulsed with energy, fading in and out of focus. Kosh was standing in the center of waves of light. They seemed to be emanating from the Vorlon, but John could see other figures now, wavering and indistinct. Delenn, he thought it was Delenn, but not the one he knew, stood before the Vorlon. "I refuse," she stated with determination. As he looked on, he realized in shock that she was Minbari, fully Minbari, bonecrest and all. Was this a scene from the past? Kosh could do that, show him events that had happened before he'd come aboard the station. He'd done it with images of the Icarus. Then he looked beyond the slim straight figure, and saw…himself.
The two Sheridans locked eyes and stood transfixed. There was a brief instant of slack-jawed confusion. John saw a grim scarred face that, somehow, was his own. He unconsciously reached up to his own mouth, tracing his unmarred visage with his fingertips. His counterpart gave him a hard, appraising stare; then nodded as if in acknowledgment, and turned his attention back to Delenn and Kosh.
"It is over." Kosh's voice reverberated through the room and in their minds. Delenn collapsed, and both Sheridans tried to catch her as she fell. Kosh held John back with a thought. He watched as his scarred counterpart gently laid the Minbari woman on the floor, and hit his link, obviously calling for help. A sound like rushing wind filled his ears; he could no longer hear their words. He looked to Kosh, who repeated, "It is done."
"What does that mean?" he shouted over the noise. "Is that her?" he asked, pointing towards the unconscious Minbari his other self was tending. "Has this been another test? Wasn't the first one enough?"
Kosh looked at him, tilting his helmeted head as if examining Sheridan with curiosity, and said with emphasis, "Go. You should not be here."
Hoping that the Vorlon's words meant Delenn was all right, John turned and headed for the exit from the room. He glanced back to see the door behind his counterpart and the stricken Delenn open. His blood ran cold as he heard a familiar voice calling his name. As the vision began to fade away, he saw Anna, followed closely by Jeff Sinclair, rush into the room. Sinclair knelt by Delenn, and he watched himself embrace his wife. He stood, unable to move for an instant, his eyes blinking through tears as he tried to focus on the wavering figure of his lost love. Then he tore his eyes away. That wasn't him, and that wasn't his Anna. An urgent need to see if Delenn was truly back flooded through him. When he looked back once more, the vision was gone. He left, racing towards MedLab, pain and anxiety and hope surging through him.
When she woke, she opened her eyes to an unfamiliar ceiling. She quickly deduced she must be in MedLab. For a moment she lay there, trying to believe it was all a dream, but she knew better. Oddly, her deepest regret was that she hadn't had the chance to speak more with Anna Sheridan. She had the strongest feeling she would have liked her. Hesitantly, she reached up towards her head, and encountered soft strands of hair curling around her face.
"Welcome back," said a voice, and turning her head, she saw the smiling visage of Stephen Franklin.
Mustering a smile in return, she asked the question she was supposed to ask. "What happened?"
"You collapsed in your quarters. Lennier called us. We brought you here. After that, I have no idea." He passed a small device over top of her, lingering over her abdomen, then her chest, and finally her head. "Hold still. I'll take readings, although I have no clue what I'm looking for. Patients always expect it, though. Makes us look effective, and keeps us busy." Another medic put his head into the room and called, "Dr. Franklin, can I ask you to look at something for me?"
"Of course. Excuse me a moment, Delenn. I'll be right back."
She nodded in acknowledgment, then returned her weary stare to the ceiling. Soon enough, the questions would begin. The only answer she could give in all conscience was 'I don't know what happened." It had the benefit of being true, of course. She didn't know exactly what had happened to her. She only knew that it had been real. Quite real.
Turning into the medical facility at a dead run, John almost collided with Stephen. "Is she okay? Is she awake?"
The doctor looked at him and said, "You had something to do with this, didn't you? Was it Kosh?" He raised his voice to John's already retreating back, "You're not going to tell me, are you?"
"Hey." A soft voice, light with hope and warm with affection, greeted her from the doorway. For a moment she closed her eyes. She didn't want to look. Guilt washed through her; she had condemned the other John Sheridan to almost certain death. She didn't know if she would face the same choice here, but she knew she might have to make it. She knew she didn't want to make it. Feeling her limp hand lifted and pressed between his two large ones, she opened her eyes and met his. Understanding flared between them, and no words were necessary. She returned the pressure, then curled her fingers into his palm like a bird settling into its nest.
"Glad you're back," he said, releasing her hand to pull a chair over by the bed. He reclaimed her hand as naturally as if it was his by right.
"It is good to be back."
That was how Stephen found them when he returned a few minutes later. A comfortable stillness, like the silence after a storm, filled the room. It was as if they had found their peace in each other's presence. He saw no need to interrupt their silent communion, and closed the door, keying in the door sign that read, 'Do Not Disturb: Testing in Progress.'