I'll Be Seeing You
Summer, Minbar, 2295, almost two years after Delenn resigned as President of the Alliance, fourteen years after John Sheridan's death
Standard disclaimer applies: not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
It was high summer on Minbar; the hottest summer anyone could remember for years. Delenn had decided at the last minute to attend the festival held in the central park in Tuzanoor for Valen's Day. Tomorrow she was moving to a small house outside of Tuzanoor, leaving behind the apartments in which she had lived for the last thirty-three years. It had been a happy place, her home and John's and David's, but she had left her position over a year before, and the Presidential quarters were meant for the use of the President. The transition had not been without its difficulties, but it was over now, and she was beyond ready to leave. David had been called away, but would return sometime next week and see her settled. Meanwhile, with all her effects donated or stored or packed away, she was a bit at loose ends. She hadn't been to any of the summer festivals in years. Her honor guard of Rangers had protested, but she over-rode them with a look, and told them they might follow but to keep their distance.
The edges of the park were lined with small shops, selling fairings and ritual foods specific to this festival. Delenn stopped in front of one counter, shaded with triangles of light blue fabric that stretched taut overhead, bowing only slightly in the warm breeze. There were tables to one side, with a few Minbari sitting at them, smiling as they sipped tea and sampled the store's offerings of prin'ki, crunchy half moons of pastry dotted with sweet icing in blue and white. The storekeeper bustled over, the customary greetings bubbling out, but he stopped when he recognized his customer.
"Entil'zha Delenn!" he managed to squeak out. "You honor us with your presence! How may I be of service?"
"Tea please," replied Delenn. She reached into an inner pocket of her robes for a few coins to offer in payment as the man poured out. The Minbari custom of exchanging these highly individual pieces of art for goods or services was one she thoroughly enjoyed. Most purchases were covered by long-established clan exchanges set up by the elders; these little tinpens were for small and special things.
"No, Entil'zha," the shopkeeper protested. "The honor of your custom is payment enough." He set a fragile white porcelain cup in front of her.
Delenn spread an array of various tinpens on the counter, searching for the perfect one. "Here," she said, picking out a circular piece of blue glass, inlaid with swirls of white and edged in dull steel, pleased with the symmetry of her choice. "This I received the first Valen's fest I attended with President Sheridan." She picked up the cup carefully, as it was hot, and her hands sometimes shook these days. She did not want to break the pretty thing. "That was many years ago," she added, taking a sip of the hot senn'tha tea. It was fragrant and slightly sweet, just as it had been that day.
The morning had started out cool, but the sun's rays were pouring into the square surrounding the central triangle of grass and inset flowerbeds that formed the park. They had wandered, hand in hand, through the crowds. Guards were all around them, staying at a distance to afford them at least the illusion of privacy. Stopping at a vendor, they had accepted the offer of tea and laughed at the sight of the small cup disappearing into John's large hand. Everything had been light and gay that day. It was a day to enjoy one another; and a rare excursion without the presence of David, who remained at home with his nurse and a contingent of Anla'Shok in attendance. The storekeeper had refused John's offer of a Alliance chit, but had fallen into a deep discussion with Delenn over the brass-toned pyramidal tinpen she had laid on the counter. He had insisted it was too much for his product, its worth being enhanced beyond measure by the giver. Finally, she had taken the blue disc from him in exchange, knowing and accepting that her piece would in all likelihood become an heirloom of his family. John had listened without comment, amused at their involved dissection of the artist, age, and provenance of both pieces. The transaction was finished with a carefully differentiated bow on each side, and then she had taken John's arm, pressing close against him as they strolled away towards the park.
"May I refill your cup, Entil'zha?" the shop keeper asked again, as Delenn abruptly returned to the present day.
"That was more than sufficient. I thank you," she said, replacing the cup on the polished counter. "It is interesting how refreshing a hot drink is on a warm day."
"It will cool off towards evening," he replied, as he deftly put out two more cups for a couple patiently waiting their turn behind her. "And it's twin moon-rise tonight," he added as the male Minbari took both cups, and followed his partner as she led the way to an empty table. "Those two will enjoy the lovers' moons, I think," he said. Delenn smiled, nodded her head in agreement and farewell, and slowly continued on her walk.
The park was as lovely as she remembered, green and cool. It was rimmed by a walkway of translucent flagstones. The stones were embedded with a system of heated rods that kept them clear of ice in winter, and with rows of soft lights that illuminated the path at night. A grove of trees lay at the far point of the park, and the sound of water could be heard from within the irregular patch of swaying green and white. Delenn headed that direction, and as she walked, she could almost feel a small hand slip into her own.
David had skipped ahead, but as they approached the edge of the trees, looming over him so tall and dark, he fell back and reached up to take her hand. She gave it a reassuring squeeze, and pointed to the cart to the left of the opening to the grove. "I see someone is selling Valen'chi!" David laughed and pulled at her hand, propelling her towards the pile of gaily coloured toys.
"President Sheridan. Delenn." The toy seller bowed deeply, then bent over even further to look into David's eyes. "Would you like to see the Valen'chi in action?" he asked in a friendly tone. David nodded, watching the man's hands with rapt attention. The Minbari quickly assembled a pile of triangular and square pieces, blue and pink, snow-white and crystal-clear, into a tall pyramid with curved pieces jutting out around the center. Carefully placing a candle into two holders underneath the delicately balanced structure, he lit them. As the flames reached up, their subtle heat began to set up air currents that set the whole thing in motion. The sound was hypnotic, a rhythm of chime from the small thin crystals and deeper tones from the larger thicker glass as they flicked against one another in their circuit. David observed the motion, and looking to the Minbari for approval, reached forward to gently touch one whirling flange, which halted the whole apparatus. The pieces shuddered to a tinkling stop as he held it still with one finger.
The toy seller beamed in appreciation, "You have found the center, and now you are in control. That is the lesson of the Valen'chi." He turned to John and Delenn, saying, "These are mere toys, but I also have larger pieces that make their music as water flows over them. They are very old, these toys, dating back to Valen's time. It is said he designed them, giving them as gifts to many on Minbar. I would very much like to present one to your son."
David let go of the center piece, and the music resumed as he looked at his parents beseechingly. Delenn nodded, but John held up one hand, and said, "Thank you for the gift to my son, but I would like to purchase one of the water-driven pieces for my wife. Would you have both delivered to Alliance headquarters?"
The toy seller nodded in agreement, and bent over to blow out the candles. Reaching into a box in the center of the cart, he pulled out a triangular prism of green and blue. A silver clasp and ring served to anchor it to the black cord from which it swung. He handed it to David. "We honor Valen today. Wear this in memory of his work and of his words." David pulled the cord over his head, picking up the prism and holding it up to the sun to admire the color in its depths.
As the three of them left and continued to walk towards the trees, John leaned over and remarked to Delenn, "That toy looked a little like a miniature Chrysalis device, at least from the pictures I've seen."
"It is very like," Delenn replied. "Jeffrey must have sprinkled them throughout our culture, hoping that the toys would keep the memory of the device alive. I remember them from my own childhood, but didn't make the connection until I found the plans and pieces of the machine in the old Records Repository after the war." She shook her head. "He continued to think of us, long after he left. He worked so hard to build this world. So much of what is good in Minbar springs from him."
"As you've often said, what is built endures," replied John, putting one arm around her. "We'd better hurry. David's out of sight already."
'Love endures,' she recited to herself like a personal mantra, from safe within the circle of his protective arm. 'It is love that truly endures.'
David still had that necklace; the trees and sky of that long-ago summer day captured within the glass. He kept it in a memory box, along with his father's recordings, and a few other odds and ends. He'd asked her to take the box to her new home, and to keep it safe for him. The sensa trees ahead were in full flower, and the scent hit her long before she entered the dappled shade of their branches, which stood high off the ground. Pale green leaves reached towards the sky like clasped hands, and the tiny white flowers fell like rain, forming fragrant drifts beneath the tall grey columns. She caught one as it fell, and felt others alight in her hair, which she had tied back in a loose greying knot on her neck due to the heat of the day. The sound of falling water grew louder as she approached the pond. From the level of the water, a series of circular stone reservoirs ascended like a spiral staircase. Water cascaded down from one reservoir to another, forming a series of waterfalls that slowed and spread the flow till it ended in a wide, still pool. The edge was ringed with white and grey stones, and the water was dark, filled with green shadows of the leaves above.
David stood at the water's edge, leaning down to pick up first one stone, and then another. He turned them over and over in his hands, as if he as trying to find the perfect one. John walked up behind his son, who was a gangly boy, tall for his age. Reaching down to pick up a flattish white rock, John hefted it, as if trying its weight, then drew back his arm and threw it sidelong across the water. Both David and Delenn watched in delight as the rock touched down; one, twice, three times before plopping into the pool and disappearing, leaving only ripples behind. David demanded to be shown the trick of it, and after John had shown him a few times, the boy settled down to some determined practice. John rinsed his hands in the cool water, washing off the grit of the stones. Delenn was sitting on a rock which jutted out over the water. It was anchored on the bank with large stones tangled in tree roots. She was watching David, applauding his successes and commiserating in his failures. Her hair stuck to her forehead and cheeks, the heat making it cling and curl on her damp skin. John sat beside her and stroked it back behind her neck; his hand was cool and wet, sending shivers down her spine. As John touched her hair, the flowers that dotted it fell slowly, twisting and twirling, into the water below, tiny white ships buffeted by ripples from the skipping stones. He handed her a black rock, etched with a star-shaped crack. "Toss it in," he said. "Make a wish." The sun beat down on Delenn as she tossed it as far as she could, making the same wish she always did. She wished for more time.
The sun was low in the sky when she left the glade, and her escort fell in behind her for the short walk back to Alliance headquarters. Delenn was terribly weary when she finally arrived home, but there were some final bits of business to attend to, and she had to speak to several well-meaning visitors who stopped by to bid her farewell. After her evening meditations and final preparations for bed, her mind was still not quiet. The sight of packed boxes and empty shelves made her restless. She walked from room to room of their home, shared for so long and still crowded with memories. From the living area, she stepped out onto the balcony. The moons were slowly descending from their peak in the sky. The city below still glowed in the soft white light, with only a few remaining squares of sun-gold shining out from the windows of other wakeful souls. It wasn't all that long until dawn. She settled down on the familiar worn stone bench. Patiently Delenn waited, under the lovers' moons, for the sunrise.
I'll find you in the morning sun,
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon,
But I'll be seeing you.