See Prologue for Disclaimer and Author's notes.
Epilogue - Rising Star (six months later)
Delenn stood on shaky legs at the construction site. It was to be a park, the city had decided, a peaceful place for families to gather. Z'ha'dum had been demolished quite efficiently and in its place now were piles of dirt and gravel and one giant, clean hole in the ground. The memories of what had happened underground were just that – memories. She looked down at the single carnation in her hand, then walked to the rectangular pit and knelt.
A single tear escaped her eye, tracing a slow, jagged path down her right cheek as she tossed the flower into the pit. She looked up – it would snow soon, one of those late winter snows that was all bark and no bite. The sky was overcast and an unmistakable pre-snowfall chill hung in the air. She pulled her coat tighter to her body as a shiver ran through her, and then she felt the warm presence of someone standing beside her.
She looked up and smiled at her companion before returning her eyes to where the carnation had landed, a spot of white against the brown earth. "In a moment."
He nodded and offered a grunt of understanding, and then a second carnation joined the one that she had thrown. When she saw that, she turned to him, and he gently took each of her hands in his. "It's better this way." He pressed a single kiss to the top of her head. Hand in hand they walked to a nearby dirt pile and each took a handful, tossing them simultaneously into the pit. "A burial we couldn't give all of them."
"What have I told you about apologizing for Anna?" John lifted her chin, smiled into her eyes. It was a sad smile, and not quite the same smile he'd had before going to Z'ha'dum. It was the smile of a man forever changed. But his lips met hers in a small, slow kiss on the lips, and she smiled back as it sent a warm wave through her body. Then he stepped back, took her hand again, and led her away from five years of memories.
They walked slowly – he was still unsteady, especially on his left leg. "You're still planning to go back to work tomorrow?" She asked after a long silence.
"I've been away long enough," he responded. "My body is healing well, and my mind… is as healed as it will ever be. Six months clean and sober." With his free hand, he reached for the smooth, round chip in his pocket and flipped it through his fingers once in thought. "And the people here… they need me."
"I need you." It slipped out before she could stop it, and they stopped walking, facing one another on the sidewalk. "I'm sorry. I—"
"Slow, remember?" He reached up, brushed the back of his hand over her cheek. "But for what it's worth… I don't know what I would've done in the last six months without you. I can guess, but I don't like any of the options." They gazed at each other for a long moment. "Come on," he said finally, glancing at the sky. "Let's go home."
Ivanova felt like she was having déjà vu. Coffee stain on clean white shirt? Check. Marcus trying to initiate a before-work romp? Check. Running very late? Check. She burst through the doors of BPD Headquarters, mumbling expletives under her breath. Maybe it was just something about Captain Sheridan that brought out this side of her.
"I know, I'm late," she relayed to the dispatcher. "And let me guess. Sheridan's already in my office."
The dispatcher blinked at her. "Yes, Ma'am."
"Fabulous." She breezed past the dispatcher and punched in her entry code.
Sheridan was most definitely already in her office, feet kicked up on her desk. He was again reading an open file, and again drinking from her "I don't like Mondays" coffee mug. But this was not the same overly confident man who had arrived in Babylon all those long months ago.
She suspected she wasn't quite the same person he remembered, either.
As she opened the door and entered her office, Sheridan set aside the file and started to get to his feet out of respect. Ivanova smiled at that – evidence of a changed man. "At ease," she told him with a small smile and a wave of her hand. Gratefully, Sheridan settled back against the chair. "How are you feeling?"
"I won't lie. I'm not 100 percent, but I'm feeling well enough to give orders and sign papers," he said honestly. "And I… miss… this," he admitted slowly. "And," he finished, "As I understand it, you need me here because you have a promotion waiting for you." He raised his eyebrows at her.
"I still don't know if I'm going to take it."
"Oh, come on. The only reason you don't want to move up is because you're afraid to let go of this place. You don't think anyone can run it as well as you do."
She was quiet for a long time. Sheridan folded his hands in front of himself, content to wait her out. "Do you know that every time you've come into my office like this, I've managed to spill coffee on my shirt in the morning?" She asked finally.
He stared at her incredulously. "Every time?" He asked finally. "This is only the second time. What, you're saying I'm a bad omen or something?"
She laughed at him and settled behind her desk. "What's in the file?"
"Shadows," he admitted, opening the file and turning it so she could read it. "Village of Narn. Just a small pocket, but we know how that goes. We missed two of the Board members in the takedown. My guess is they're building their own forces, seeking to become leaders themselves."
"I guess it's never really over, huh?"
"There will always be new battles to be fought," he reasoned. "Which is why we need someone like you as Chief of Police. You've been there; you know how to take them down. You've proven you can do it and if necessary you can do it again. You deserve it. You'd be great at it. You," Sheridan pointed a finger at her, waving it slightly, "Have a face people trust."
Ivanova grunted. That was not exactly what she'd been going for. "I'd rather have a face people fear."
"Well, that too. Both of those qualities would serve you well as Chief, to say nothing of your personality, your charisma, your…"
"And if I move on, the job of commanding BPD opens up for you."
"If I take it – and I'm not saying I'm going to – who's to say I won't give that job to someone else? Sergeant Allan is recovered and due for a promotion, and Lieutenant Corwin—"
"Lieutenant Corwin said 'mostly' on the police radio," Sheridan challenged.
"Well, I'm just saying. As Chief I'd be in a position to appoint my replacement here. I might shop around."
"You might. You won't, but you might."
She sighed, deciding to let him know he'd called her bluff. She looked around the office. It was cluttered with years of memories, stacks of paperwork – the mark of someone who tried to be very organized about the fact that she worked too hard. "I sure am going to miss this place."
"I'll take good care of your city."
"I know you will."
She reached across her desk with an extended hand. Sheridan shook it. Firm handshake, she noted. At least he's still got that going for him.