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Delenn of Mir and John Sheridan
When the Universe Stood Still
John Sheridan looked at himself in the mirror, grimaced at the melancholy visage frowning back at him, and dropped his eyes to an old photo. He reached for the photo, age spots and wrinkles decorating a once strong and vibrant hand. It shook and it took his other hand to steady the one. Or perhaps they steadied each other, John was never quite sure.
He lifted the photo, turned, and shuffled slowly back to his bed. Legs tight and aching from arthritis, Sheridan found the welcoming comfort of his bed and sank into its soft familiarity. The firm yet soft mattress molded his dying body perfectly-the only thing in life Sheridan was at peace with.
His bent fingers held tightly to the photo in his hand and he took an audible sigh before looking upon it. The photograph was over twenty years old, but its ageless beauty was kept intact by the frame covering it, and fiercely protected by the gray haired man holding it.
Sheridan lifted the photograph to his mouth and placed a quivering kiss to the crystal frame. Tears filled his eyes and fell. For many years, Sheridan refused to allow himself to cry, now it was all he did. Cry for his loss, cry for what could have been, cry for the life that was stolen from him, from them.
He closed his eyes, allowing the tears to fall unencumbered down his weathered cheeks, onto his chin, and beyond. Sheridan held the photo to his chest, his heart, as it slowly rose and fell, tightening with each memory flooding his mind.
As his body betrayed him and each tick, tick, tick of death's inevitable clock marked off each minute of his evaporating essence on this physical plane, his mind sharpened, remembering all he wished to forget. Well, Sheridan didn't want to truly forget because to forget it all would mean he had to give her up. He was forced to do that twenty years ago. Now, in his final hours of life, he wanted to remember. He wanted to remember it all. He needed to remember it all, make peace with it, with her, before the clock struck twelve and he was no more.
Sheridan opened his weary eyes, seeing the photo through blurry lenses, kissed it again, and said, "Oh, my sweet, sweet, Delenn. How I have missed you. How I still love you. I came back and promised you twenty years. Twenty years. And we were denied even that short time together. I trusted in the universe and it abandoned me when I needed it most, when we needed it. And my life has never been the same. Lorien said one day my heart would just stop. I never realized it would happen far sooner than I'd imagined. It was the year of fire, the year of destruction, the year we took back what was ours. It was the year of rebirth, the year of great sadness, the year of pain. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed. It was the year my world fell apart and my heart stopped beating. It was the year you left me and never returned. It was the year 2261 and the place, Babylon 5."
John Sheridan clung to the photo as his eyes fluttered and closed for the last time.
John Sheridan awoke with a start, heart and head pounding, hands and forehead clammy from perspiration.
"Time?" he asked, voice thick from sleep and concern.
"Two am," the monotone female voice came.
Sheridan threw the covers off him, knowing from experience he would find no peace in his bed after such a dream. He dragged his tall body out of bed and headed straight for the Babcom unit.
"Any messages from Ambassador Delenn?" he asked, turning away from the unit before the expected and consistent response echoed through the quiet, lonely quarters.
"No messages from Ambassador Delenn."
"Of course not," Sheridan responded, moving into the living room.
It had been two months since Delenn left Babylon 5 for Minbar and Sheridan hadn't heard one word from her or Lennier. She had told him she may be there some time, but two months without even one message. It wasn't like Delenn, and the longer Sheridan went without hearing from her the more concerned he became.
He knew something was bothering her, but not wanting to push or spoil their last night together, he ignored the nagging feeling that there was more to her trip home than simple Ambassadorial duties. It felt much more personal than that, now two months had passed, and Delenn had still not returned.
Sheridan had even tried contacting Minbar, but all he got for his effort were polite nods and disapproving eyes. He knew he wasn't one of their favorite humans, if Minbaris had a favorite human, but Earth and Minbar were now at peace and Sheridan expected some common courtesy, if not for him as a man, then for his position of Captain of Babylon 5. But of course, none of this mattered to the Minbari who erected a solid wall between the human interloper and Delenn.
Sheridan moved slowly into his small kitchen and set about making himself a cup of tea, praying to God, Valen, the universe, or who or whatever would listen to bring Delenn back to him before he did something he would likely regret.
Another two weeks went by before Captain Sheridan was informed that Delenn's White Star would be docking in an hour. Not bothering with propriety, Sheridan hastily made his way to docking bay nine, pushing and moving aliens and humans alike out of his way. He was thirty minutes early but he didn't care. He fidgeted and paced for those long minutes, impatiently waiting to see the face of his beloved.
The White Star docked, and within five minutes Lennier exited the ship and made his way down the ramp to the pick-up and drop-off waiting area. Sheridan smiled at the Minbari as Lennier politely made a triangle with his fingers and bowed. Sheridan kept smiling and looked anxiously past Lennier for the woman he'd dropped everything to come greet.
And with each passing minute, the smile on Sheridan's face diminished until there was nothing left but a sad, confused grimace.
"Where is she, Lennier?" he asked, turning a hard gaze the man's way.
"Perhaps we should speak privately, Captain Sheridan," Lennier suggested, folding his arms behind his back and walking away from the bustle of traffic and prying ears.
Sheridan followed, growing angrier with each step. He didn't like this; he didn't like this at all, his dream suddenly alive and in Technicolor.
Lennier led the captain back to his office, having spoken not a word. As soon as they entered his office, Sheridan said, "Okay, out with it Mr. Lennier. Where in the hell is Delenn and why is Minbar stonewalling me?"
Lennier raised his brow at the human's rude and aggravated tone but Sheridan quickly softened.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Lennier. I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just . . . it's just," he stopped again, shaking his head and running a hand over his eyes. "I haven't gotten a lot of sleep lately. I didn't think Delenn would be gone so long and it's not like her to make no effort to contact me."
He walked around his desk and sat, and gestured for Lennier to sit as well. Sheridan took a long, deep breath before trying to speak again. He was afraid to ask the inevitable question, the very fear that's been haunting his sleeping mind for the last three weeks.
"Is she coming back to Babylon 5, Lennier?" John's mouth asked, but his heart asked, Is she coming back to me?
Lennier's face revealed nothing. He simply slipped one hand in his robes and pulled something out. He opened his pale hand to Sheridan.
"She asked me to give you this," he said, revealing a perfectly, triangular blue data crystal.
John stilled his shaking hand and took the delicate item, holding it in his large hand like it was the most precious thing in the world. Perhaps it was.
Lennier stood to leave, but John's soft, fragile tone halted his movement.
"Does she still wear the engagement ring or do you have that in your pocket as well?"
Lennier answered without turning. "She wears it still, captain, and has not wavered in her devotion to you. Delenn . . ." He faltered for a moment and then said in his own fragile tone, "Delenn loves you still, and always will."
They were difficult words to hear, and even more difficult to say. Lennier took his leave and Sheridan could do nothing but stare at the crystal still in his hand. He pined for word from Delenn for almost three months and now that he had it, he was afraid. Afraid all his fears were about to come true, no longer dreams, but a living, breathing, walking nightmare.
A part of him wanted to wait until he was completely alone in his quarters to view the message, but he didn't think his heart could make it that long wityh his sanity still intact. Like a good soldier, Sheridan gritted his teeth and took the poisoned pill, inserting the data crystal into the viewing base.
It flickered once, twice, and then a third time. And there she was, looking just as beautiful as John remembered. But there was something noticeably different about Delenn and Sheridan knew immediately what it was.
Her eyes. Yes, her eyes were different. They held no passion, no power, no spark. He remembered those soulless, hopeless eyes. He'd only seen them like that twice before, after the deaths of thousands of Markabs and when he left for Z'Ha'Dum. And now those haunting eyes were staring back at him, unseeing.
"Hello, John. I don't know exactly where to begin. I guess I'll start by saying I love you and I was foolish enough to think that would be enough. I should've known better. I should've . . . My clan requested, no demanded, my presence home to explain why I had taken a human as my prospective mate. In the long history of my world, no Minbari has ever taken an off-worlder as lover or mate. It has been forbidden since my people first made contact with other species. Without consultation or approval from the other members of my clan, I made myself genetically compatible with humans and have now embraced one of them as a prospective mate."
John's eyes narrowed at her words, or what he felt were her clan's words.
"This has caused my clan great concern. What affects me is my decision, but not if it affects the history and laws and rules of Minbari society. This is what I was accused of, John, and my clan wanted to know why I had pledged myself to a non-Minbari. I told them it was the calling of my heart and that I loved you."
Delenn paused at this, wringing her hands in an unusual display of distress.
"This answer was inadequate for my clan leaders who wished only to help me understand myself and determine if our joining was the right thing for me. Help," Delenn said again, venom lacing every syllable, fingers now balling into tight fists.
"I was given one opportunity to defend my actions through a ritual called The Dreaming. But I had to first give my word I would honor their decision."
John sank back in his chair when she said the word honor. Honor was everything to Minbari, especially those of the religious caste. Honor also meant a lot to a military man like John Sheridan. And it was Delenn's honor and integrity that drew him to her from their first meeting when she removed her white hood and told everyone in the council room that she'd undergone her change so that humans and Minbari would never know war between them again. He knew from that day forward his life would never be the same.
Even through the data crystal, John could see Delenn was paler than normal. Her features were sullen, depressed, agitated. Sheridan could also see as well as hear the pain behind her words.
"The Dreaming did not reveal the defense I hoped it would. My clan thinks I only wish you marry you to atone for my sins during the Earth-Minbari War. I saw Dukhat's death during the Dreaming but Calleen refused me a second admittance when I tried to go back in to seek clarity. He refused, and I think he knows the truth my long dead mentor spoke of before he took his last breath of life. I couldn't hear it clearly then and I still can't. With Calleen's refusal, I had no defense other than my love for you. Love should've been enough but they think they are sparing me, sparing themselves, sparing future generations from a tainted gene pool."
She laughed then, a hard, scornful laugh that was all harsh and bitter, and didn't reach her teary eyes.
"Perhaps I should have told you the truth before I left. But how do you tell the man you love that your people think him a blight on their way of life, and that I have to defend our love, our reason for being together, our reason for living?"
She shook her head in defeat.
"You would've tried to stop me, and in a weak moment, I may have allowed you. But this was something neither one of us could run or hide from. I had to face my clan, my family. It was my duty. I had no choice, John. Please believe that. I had no choice then and I have none now. I must abide by their decision. I am forbidden . . ."
She stopped cold, biting her lower lip, tears flowing freely, uninhibited. "I am forbidden . . . forbidden to return to Babylon 5, forbidden to continue our joining, forbidden from contacting you beyond this message."
And with those last words, she dropped to her knees, head in her hands, body quaking with tears.
The message ended and John too could do nothing to hold back the flood of tears overwhelming the banks of his own eyes.
Three weeks later, John Sheridan was packed and ready to go.
"Come in," Sheridan said when the door to his quarters beeped, alerting him to a visitor.
"What in the hell do you think you're doing?" Susan Ivanova asked by way of a greeting.
"Well, hello to you too, Susan. What brings you to my quarters on this fine Tuesday morning?"
"Did you think I wouldn't find out, John? Did you think I wouldn't notice your change in schedule and all your private meetings with Marcus and Lennier?" she asked not able to keep the anger out of her voice.
"This has got to be the dumbest, most asinine plan you've ever come up with. And you've come up with plenty of jackass plans in your day."
"Hey, I resent that, Susan. Besides, I'm the superior officer here."
"Well, perhaps you should start acting like it," she said, pointing a finger in Sheridan's chest. "You've been walking around the station like a zombie for almost a month. You hardly eat or sleep. We're all worried about you," she confessed, finally calming down.
"We'll, I'll be a lot better once I get Delenn back here where she belongs. I'll be happy and that should make you happy."
Ivanova shook her head and softened her tone. "John, you can't go to Minbar and bring Delenn back here. Don't you think if she could, she would be here? Don't you think Delenn would move heaven and earth to be with you, if she could?"
Sheridan did think that. But if he admitted that, he would have to also admit that he was powerless to do anything about her clan's decision. And that he refused to do.
"I think if I went there and explained our unique relationship her clan will reconsider. If I explained what happened on Z'Ha'Dum and Lorien and my twenty years, they will see our joining differently."
"When have you known Minbari to change their minds? When have you known them to admit a mistake, even a small one?"
Sheridan didn't answer and Invanova pushed even harder.
"What if they refuse to see you or see you and deny your request? What will you do then, John? Will you kidnap Delenn from her people?"
"If I have to," he snapped. "I'll do whatever it takes to bring her back here. You didn't see that message, Susan. She can't bear this anymore than I can."
Ivanova pulled Sheridan to the couch and they sat.
"I know you're hurting, John, but you have to think about this rationally. If you go to Minbar unannounced and unwanted, they won't be pleased. If you somehow sneak on the planet with Marcus's help and they find out, they'll likely kill you. If you manage to go undetected, find Delenn, convince her to break her vow, and bring her back here, they will follow. Delenn may not be in favor with many Minbari because of her change, but I daresay, most worship her and would not take kindly to Starkiller abducting one of their religious leaders."
John shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "I have to do something, Susan. I can't do nothing. I have to do something."
"Whatever something you're planning will only lead to another war with Delenn's people. Is that what you want, John, to drag Earth into another unnecessary war because of one man? One man's death started that horrible war. Don't let one man's broken heart start another."
"I have to fight for her, Susan." His eyes and voice were pleading. "You don't understand. I could do nothing to save Anna. I lost her, never had a chance to say goodbye. I mourned her for years, never thinking I would ever love again. But then there was Delenn, beautiful, strong, Delenn, and my world suddenly had meaning again. I could do nothing to save Anna from the Shadows, but I can save Delenn from a bunch of xenophobic Minbari."
Ivanova reached for Sheridan's hand and held it in her own. "Do you understand what Delenn will be giving up if she came back here without her clan's consent? Even if there isn't another war, they will know she came willingly. They will disown her. She will have no place on her own homeworld."
Ivanova held his hand even tighter before she spoke her next words. "You told me about Lorien and your twenty year life-span. Have you thought what Delenn will do once you . . ." She couldn't say the word. "She will outlive us both, but once you are gone she will have no home, no caste, no clan, no family for her to claim or who will claim her. She won't have you. She won't have anything."
Sheridan removed his hand from hers and stood.
"I think it's best you leave now, Susan."
"You've said your peace, now leave me to mine."
Ivanova stood, gave her commanding officer a weak smile, and let herself out.
Sheridan looked at his packed bag on the floor and gave it a swift kick, sending it skidding across the room. He mindlessly undressed and plopped on his bed. He hadn't cried and cursed so much in his life as he's had since receiving Delenn's message.
Sheridan knew his second-in-command spoke the truth, the truth no one else was willing to say to him. A truth he didn't even want to admit to himself. Sheridan drew the covers up over him, remembering his last night with Delenn. It was the third night of the sleep watching ritual and he fell asleep happy and content with her next to him. And at that moment he knew he would never sleep so peacefully ever again, and he would die alone, wife and childless.
John Sheridan clung to the memory of Delenn watching him as he fell asleep as his eyes fluttered and closed.
Sheridan bolted up in bed, sweat drenching his body. A small arm wrapped around his waist and pulled him back down.
"The same dream?"
"I should have never given in and told you about my trip and the Dreaming, John. If I had known you would have such dreams, I would've kept it to myself, the way I intended."
"It'll soon pass," he assured, not sure if he was trying to convince her or himself.
Delenn placed a soft hand on his cheek, caressing before following it with an even softer kiss.
"I don't know what I would've done if Calleen tried to prevent me from going back into the whisper gallery."
She laughed sweetly then said, "I think I would've forced him. I was not going to allow the truth to be hidden or our joining to be held prisoner by a ridiculous notion of Minbari purity."
John smiled, knowing Delenn would've done exactly that. He envisioned Delenn dragging Callenn by the scruff of his neck with Lennier looking on, doing absolutely nothing to stop her.
Delenn turned John to her and kissed him full on the lips, deep and with longing.
"Worry not, John, no one will take me from you. I won't allow it."
John believed her. No one else could put his mind at rest the way Delenn's heartening words and kisses could. And damn if she wasn't swallowing him whole with her kisses. And for the first time since Delenn returned to Babylon 5, John Sheridan could see beyond his own fears and concerns and into Delenn's. Every touch and glance she bestowed on him was an unspoken cry of relief, of love, of devotion.
"I love you, honey," John whispered, rolling over on top of Delenn and capturing her lips.
"I would've come for you, Delenn. When I peered at the universe, it stood still and peered back, and then it spoke to me."
"What did it say?" Delenn asked, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him even closer.
"It said, 'You promised her twenty years. Have faith, John Sheridan, for she will come and hold you to your promise. Have faith and all will be as it should.'"
And it was. John and Delenn lived a lifetime in those twenty years. And when John Sheridan's clocked made its last rotation, he was neither wife or childless. He had made his peace with the universe a long time ago and it had returned his Delenn to him.
And with twenty years of memories flooding his contented mind, John Sheridan's eyes fluttered and closed for the last time, knowing one day they would open again to see the eyes of his beloved looking back at him. But that reunion was decades away. He would wait. Oh yes, John would wait.
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