See Part 1 for Disclaimer and Notes.
IV. Kindred Spirits Beyond the Rim, January 2281
At first, the light was so blindingly bright that John couldn't see anything at all. Then, slowly, his eyes adjusted. He blinked once, twice… and before his vision had entirely cleared, he heard a familiar voice.
"Hello, old friend."
It wasn't Lorien. Lorien didn't talk like that, and besides, this voice was too tinted with life and death and loss and destiny to belong to someone who'd lived millions of immortal years before journeying beyond the rim.
"Welcome." There was the voice again, and now the brightness of the light was becoming less unbearable; it didn't hurt. In fact, it was warm and comfortable, and Sheridan felt a smile stretch across his face as his eyes finally adjusted. The voice was coming from all around him; he let the warmth and the light surround him, engulf him, fill his mind and then – a fleeting flash of memory to what had to be his absolute favorite memory of Delenn, the feel of her in his arms, the warmth of her lips against his that very first time before there was any threat to his life or hers, before there was any deadline, when they had all the time in the world – and the echo of her voice… I will see you again in a little while, in the place where no shadows fall.
"For her, it will be nearly a century." That was Lorien's voice, now. "But here, you will barely notice the passing of hours."
He still couldn't see anyone, but the first voice came again, and he tried to turn toward it; except, of course, it was everywhere, even coming from within John's own mind. "I want to know everything." He was confused. This wasn't at all what he had expected it would be like. But the confusion was replaced by more warmth, and he wrapped himself in it, let himself be consumed by that voice and a gentle wave of laughter. "This isn't like Heaven. We don't get to watch. You'll have to fill me in."
"Why am I here?" John asked, speaking for the first time. He was amazed; his own voice, too, seemed to be coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.
"Because," Lorien responded. "You passed."
"You have always been here." He knew that voice, too. It brought a smile to his face.
"Her journey is not yet complete."
"But she'll be here soon?"
"All in good time, my friend." That was the first voice again. Finally, objects and vague outlines of living beings began to take shape before John's eyes. A permanent smile fixated itself on his features.
It felt like a dream. Was it? John couldn't be sure. Now there were fluid shapes and familiar faces, but he felt like he was walking on a cloud, surrounded by eternal sunshine. His eyes fell to the nearest of those faces – Lorien. He was seated comfortably, as though he'd been sitting there for ages, as though the chair that held him had been crafted, molded to his very shape. He was smiling in that way that Lorien had always smiled – knowingly, with the wisdom of the ages in his eyes. Next to him, a second familiar face – and he allowed a chance at recognition to pass from his lips. "Jeffrey Sinclair."
"He has been known by many names. This was one," Lorien affirmed, and Sinclair's smile widened, absolute joy evident in his features. "He has been waiting patiently for you to join him here."
"I did what you said." John felt nervous and excited at the same time – but not afraid. He was too warm and comfortable to be afraid. "I took care of the Rangers and Delenn."
"I want all the details. Come," Valen said now. He gestured with a whispered wave of his hand to an empty chair on his left. "Take the place that has been prepared for you."
John took a tentative step forward. "I'm not sure I deserve it."
More gentle laughter from the The One Who Was. "I recall saying much the same thing. But we are welcome here; this place belongs to no one else. Here, we will gather until we are complete, and then a new journey will begin."
"I really don't understand."
"You are three, but you are one. You cannot be whole until you are all united in this place. For now, rest and reminisce." Lorien extended a hand, long fingers curling slightly. "It has been a long and difficult road. Your journey will begin anew soon enough."
"And where are we going?"
"You will know when she arrives."
John's steps became more confident now, and though he didn't entirely understand, he allowed disbelief and confusion to become emotions of his past. He shrugged them off with other feelings he didn't need anymore, feelings like regret and sadness and pain and hopelessness, and settled into the empty chair beside the man he had known as Jeffrey Sinclair.
"Start at the beginning," Valen said now. "Don't leave anything out."
And so John began to talk, tentatively at first, and then with more animation and excitement as he weaved the tale that needed to be told, that of two-thirds of The One, and the events of the last 20 years of their lives. And he reflected as the words tumbled out that he had spent spits and starts of his lifespan in the presence of each of his counterparts, but very little of it all at the same time. Intentional? He wondered. Perhaps. He found that this made sense, and he found that he felt comfortable with it. And, finally, he realized that he was looking with great anticipation toward the ever-approaching hour when The One Who Is would come to take her place, her seat right next to his own, here where she had promised him they would meet again – in the place where no shadows fall.