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Delenn of Mir and John Sheridan
Doubts and Regrets
Chapter 1: Second Thoughts
The flames flickered silently, their light minimally settling on the kneeling woman. The warmth of the flames' glow could do nothing to heat the chill in Delenn's bones, the frost around her shattered heart.
"He was gravely wounded at Z'Ha'Dum. He was dying. He was dead. I did all I could to help him, but I cannot create life. Only the universe can do that. I can extend, enhance. There is no magic, nothing spiritual about it, only the application of energies . . . healing and rebuilding cells. I gave him back a portion of his life, but only a portion."
"In human terms, barring injury and illness, perhaps twenty years. But no more than that. And then, one day he will simply . . . stop."
It was no good; Delenn couldn't meditate, her mind unable to relax, to think of anything other than Lorien's words to her, and John's fate.
I did this to him. My half truths, my lies of omission did this to him. Twenty years. Oh, Valen, he only has twenty years left, and if it weren't for Lorien, he wouldn't even have that meager time. He would be dead; he was dead.
She stood, giving up the pretense of meditation. Delenn moved into the small kitchen area, remembering John's marriage proposal. She couldn't believe after all she'd kept from him that he would want to bond himself to her, become her mate.
She reached for a container of tea herbs but stopped, her hands shaking with tension, with grief. Delenn tried not to cry, for herself, for him, but the tears came. The heat of them burned her cheeks; the flames of the unknowing complicity in his death scorched her heart as deep and painful as any fourth degree burn.
Delenn dropped to the kitchen floor, her legs unable to hold the weight of her guilt. She had killed him as surely as the Shadows did. He deserved to know about Anna, her suspicions about her cruel fate. Anna was his wife and she had no right to keep the truth from him. Was her mission more important than his right to make an informed decision? Once, she would've answered with an unequivocal, yes, but now she didn't know. She just didn't know.
Who was she to make such life altering decisions for him? What made her think her vision of the future and what needed to be done was clearer than John's? She was Minbari, and to her people, understanding wasn't necessary only obedience. Yet, John Sheridan, wasn't Minbari and she was as guilty as any of the older races who viewed the younger ones, like humans, with paternal oversight and arrogant wisdom.
And then there was her personal interest in him that had nothing to do with Valen's prophecy. Perhaps the selfish side of her prevented Delenn from being honest with John about Anna. She forced herself to entertain that possible truth through the veil of her tears.
She had begun the mating rituals with John knowing there was a possibility that his wife was still alive. Yes, the probability of her existence free of Shadow control was extremely slim. Still, did she have the right to cross that invisible line, even if her heart had already done so? Probably not. Most assuredly not.
She had indeed been selfish. Delenn had fallen in love with the very man destined to save the universe from the darkness, the solider who would push back the darkness with his indomitable light, his unflinching will. She simply sought to get to know the captain better. Yet, the more she learned about him, the more she wanted to know him. And the more she knew him, the more time she wished to spend with him. And so it went until her heart was so full of John Sheridan that she couldn't find her way out of her self-created web, even if she wanted to.
Through tear blurred eyes, Delenn peered down at the diamond ring John had given her. He called it an engagement ring, a symbol of his commitment and promise. She fingered the ring, her self- deprecation increasing as it sparkled its innocent shine.
I don't deserve this ring. I don't deserve him.
She stood, wiped her wet face, and moved determinedly. She couldn't do this. She should have never accepted his proposal. There would always be secrets between them, secrets Delenn was unwilling to share, too afraid to reveal. How could the two of them build a marriage on a sandy foundation of partial truths and secrets?
Delenn wrapped herself in a thick brown hooded cloak, exited her quarters, and headed for blue sector.
John Sheridan lie awake in his bed, eyes fixed on the bland, white ceiling. He'd done it. He'd finally managed to ask the woman he loved to marry him. The entire route back to Babylon 5 from Z'Ha'Dum had been one of deep reflection.
After learning the truth, he'd been angry with Delenn. Hell, he'd been furious, so much so in fact, that he had taken her arms in his rough hands and shaken her. He cringed at the memory, the way he looked at her—a contorted volatile mask—his voice harsh, uncaring. That had been her last image of him before he turned his back on her. She'd confessed her love for him, finally in words, and he had abandoned her, his sense of betrayal strong, unyielding.
He'd boarded that Whitestar with Anna knowing his wife was finally and truly dead. The woman who traveled with him into the snake's lair was nothing more than an empty, soul-less, Shadow controlled shell. In spite of his anger, John was forced to admit that Delenn had been right. In the war ahead, one could never be more important than the whole, even if that one had been his wife.
Yet, when he called forth the ship to bomb the planet and made that fateful jump, he didn't do so to save the universe or even to punish those who harmed Anna. No, he'd done it for the love and life of one woman—Delenn of Mir. And she was his last thought as he died and his first thought when part of his life was returned to him.
"You told me that humans live to be 100 years old, even older. I told you I was afraid that I would get you back only to lose you. And that's what this is. Twenty years."
"I went into this with my eyes open. I knew if I went to Z'Ha'Dum . . . there'd be a price. Seems there's always a price. I'm okay with this."
John sat up in bed, sweat forming on his forehead. He swung the covers from his body, exposing hairy legs and bare feet. In spite of the late hour, he couldn't sleep, the stress headache making rest impossible. He stood, wiped the moisture from his forehead, wishing he could erase his doubts just as easily.
"It's not exactly what I had in mind, but . . . It's temporary until I get you a real engagement ring. It's an Earth custom. You see, you give someone you love . . . an engagement ring as a kind of down payment for another ring . . . the kind that you exchange when you get married. I don't know when we'll be able to get to that part of it. We may not survive the next two weeks. But I wanted you to know that whatever time I have left . . . I want to spend it with you."
John still hadn't fully come to terms with his twenty year life extension. Before Z'Ha'Dum, before Delenn, before Babylon 5, he'd imagined living out his years in Earthforce, retiring, and finding a little patch of land to build a home. Preferably, some place on Earth where the summers were mild and the winters even milder.
But his life had taken an unexpected turn, and he hadn't as yet figured out whether that turn had been for the better or the worse. He huffed and ran a hand through his pillow-matted hair. In spite of what he told Delenn, John wasn't okay with dying in his early sixties. He was grateful to be alive, for sure, but the knowledge that he wouldn't live past the age his father was now pained him on a level he couldn't begin to fathom.
He found the nearest wall and leaned against it, thinking. He would eventually have to tell his parents, his sister, and his friends. John rubbed his temples, envisioning those conversations, especially the one with his parents. They would be devastated. Delenn was right, most humans did live to see the century mark; and really healthy and lucky ones more than that.
This thought made him frown. He had been healthy and damn lucky over the years, having kept all body parts where they belonged, in spite of the physical trauma that naturally accompanies the life of a soldier. He was healthy, or he had been healthy—before Z'Ha'Dum, before his fall into oblivion.
His room began to spin and John slumped to the floor, pulling his knees to his chest.
She will outlive you. You'll give her only twenty years and you'll die, leaving her alone. For how long? Shit, for how long, John? How long do Minbari live?
He slammed his fist against the floor, realizing he didn't know shit about Minbari mortality or physiology and even less about Delenn's special case. They never talked about it. She didn't share and he never bothered to ask. It wasn't important—until now. John always assumed they had time—he had time.
Yet, now all had changed, and he didn't know what kind of life he would be subjecting Delenn to if she married him. Why had she accepted his offer of marriage, anyway? Pity? Guilt? Penance?
No, no, she wouldn't do that. But she had taken the news of my limited lifespan pretty hard and, without a doubt, there was guilt in those haunted green eyes of hers. Fuck, I should've asked her first then I would know for sure. But what if I had asked her first, she said yes, and then told her about the twenty years? Would she have felt trapped, tricked even? God dammit!
John rose to his feet, went to his closet, and pulled out a shirt and pair of pants. He considered his situation while he dressed.
She shouldn't have to settle for half a man, half a marriage. Delenn deserves better, much better than a husband with a time bomb attached to him. I may not know much about her physiology, but I'm pretty sure she'll live a helluva lot longer than I will. Probably, decades longer, and she'll be alone. What a raw deal. She shouldn't have to be stuck with me because I was fool enough to run off to Z'Ha'Dum and got myself killed.
John finished dressing, walked out of his bedroom and to the front door. It cycled open; he strolled out, head aching like hell, and headed for green sector.
John Sheridan approached Delenn's door, the corridor quiet and empty. The lateness of the hour contributing to the bleakness he felt, or so he told himself. He lifted his right hand and rang for entrance. John waited patiently, scanning the shadows for movement, like any good soldier who understood nightmares weren't confined to the dream realm.
A third buzz, five minutes later, yet no Delenn. Patience be damned.
"Captain Sheridan to Command and Control."
"Yes, Captain," Ivanova answered, her voice alert, if not questioning. "What can I do for you at 0200 hours in the morning?"
Ignoring her annoyed tone, he said, "Please admit me into Ambassador Delenn's quarters."
A heavy sigh and two beeps followed his request. She'd switched to privacy mode.
"I can't do that, sir," she eventually said after a long pause. "You know, the right to privacy and all that, John."
"I don't need a lecture on constitutional rights; I just need you to let me into Delenn's quarters. I'm sure she wouldn't mind."
He looked around, and while he was the only one out, he felt like an idiot standing in front of Delenn's door talking to his hand.
"It's late, or rather early," Ivanova said. "I'm sure she's asleep, which is what you should be doing instead of stalking the ambassador."
He heard a barely concealed chuckle, which did nothing for his anger or concern. Surely, Delenn wasn't that deep of a sleeper that she wouldn't hear the doorbell sound. What if something was wrong? He was wasting time with Susan.
"Susan, just let me in. This is Delenn we're talking about, not the average station ambassador. If it were anyone else, I would go through proper channels. It's important," he finished with a pathetic sigh he hoped would melt her frosty Russian attitude.
"If Delenn didn't have an obvious soft spot for you, I wouldn't even consider doing this."
The door clicked and slid open.
"Don't make me regret it," she said, before shutting down the line.
Relieved, John moved inside, closing the door behind him. The room was dark except for a few unattended burning candles.
Unsure of what to do now that he was inside, he called out to her. No answer. He called out again, louder, walking in the direction of her partially closed bedroom door.
Slowly, he slid the door completely open and glanced inside. Empty.
"Where in the hell is she?"
His pulse quickened as thoughts of a hurt Delenn flashed through his mind. Images of her bleeding, weak form with a knife embedded in her, burned his mind. A small, pale, and helpless Delenn in Medlab mocked him. He couldn't even say the words 'I love you,' back then, even though his soul knew it months before. He'd been afraid, weak . . . too cautious.
John considered calling Susan again. But what would he say? 'Put an all points bulletin out on my missing fiancée because she's not where I thought she should be.' That sounded dumb, paranoid, and jealous, even to him, and he refused to be that guy. He was in fact, that guy, but he'd be damn if he let Susan know it.
Instead, John found a comfortable spot on her sofa, took his shoes off, and waited.
TO BE CONTINUED