Sakura

Standard disclaimer applies: not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.


Fall 2263

John Sheridan, President of the Interstellar Alliance, let the door slide closed behind him with a sigh of relief. Another day was over, and he could look forward to a few uninterrupted hours with his lovely, and heavily pregnant, wife. Delenn had reduced her working hours, and was taking it pretty well considering her over-developed work ethic. He generally only had an hour or two of grilling on the events of the day when he got home.

This time, however, she was nowhere to be found. He wandered through the rooms, calling her name, and was just beginning to feel a cold trickle of apprehension along his spine when he saw the balcony doors were open. There was a staircase carved into the stones that led down to the grounds, and although the steps were wide and sturdy, with a well worn dip in the middle from years of use, he wished she wouldn't use them. Her balance was thrown off by the rather large bulge that indicated the growing presence of their son.

Bounding down the stairs, he could see that she was out in the courtyard, with a team of Minbari workers, gardeners by the looks of their tools. She was holding a paper in one hard, reading it intently, while the other rested on her protruding abdomen, rubbing it gently with a small circular motion.

"John!" She looked up to see him coming towards her, face alight. His heart did that squeezing trick it always did at the sight of her. He hurried over, not wanting to miss a moment of time together.

"What in the world...?" he said when he reached her side, after a quick hello kiss on the cheek. Pointing to what looked like a bundle of sticks, one end of each wrapped in rough cloth, he looked at her questioningly.

"It is a gift from your homeworld," replied Delenn. "They are cherry trees." Looking again at the paper, she added, "Cherries are the fruit, I believe, but this particular variety does not develop the fruit, only the blossom." She bowed to the workers, and spoke briefly to them in Adronato. They began to move the saplings to their designated locations, then to dig in the soft earth in order to plant the thin sprigs.

"Will they grow here?" asked John, watching to see what pattern they would be planted in. The Minbari believed all growing things did better when laid out in an overall design. "It's a traditional gift on Earth," he continued as he watched, slipping one arm around his wife's shoulders. "As I recall, the custom originated at the beginning of the twentieth century, the nation of Japan sent them as a gift to the old United States."

"Lishen thinks they will grow, and he is quite experienced in xeno-botany. He has divided them into three groups and will plant each group under slightly different conditions in hopes that one or more will prove conducive to their survival. Luckily we are at the end of the warm season and just beginning the long preparation for winter. It should give them time to set down roots and flourish before it turns cold. We will have a small grove here in the courtyard below our windows." Looking up to the balcony, she said with quiet delight. "I understand they are quite lovely when they bloom."

John murmured in agreement, "Beautiful." But he wasn't looking at the trees.

Winter 2268

In winter the cherry trees were black outlines against the cold white landscape, holding out only a dim promise of spring. John stood outside, under the branches that just cleared his head, his shoulders set in a grim line. Flakes of snow dotted his jacket; he wasn't wearing an outer coat.

He heard the crunch of footsteps, and prepared himself for the sympathy he wasn't yet ready to receive. Without turning, he greeted her. "Delenn." The name alone began to calm his mood; it soothed him just to say it.

"I am so sorry, John," came her low voice as she approached and stood quietly next to him.

He nodded, and unfolded the arms which had been crossed tightly across his chest, letting his hands fall empty at his side. She touched one hand, still clenched in a fist, then gripped it tightly when it opened at her caress. "It's just so unfair," he finally said. "The whole thing is unfair. The plague, the quarantine...David was only three years old when it happened. And in the beginning everything was so crazy here with the Alliance. We just couldn't go."

Delenn nodded, cautiously pressing up against his side. Her long coat was warm and she wished it was large enough for her to open it up and take him inside with her. "It was a difficult time...we did make plans, but it was not to be. It's not your fault." Her voice warmed with empathy. They had made so many sacrifices. This seemed like one too many.

John turned his face to the sky, where the snow was now falling thick and fast. The trees were carrying the weight of it, and he wondered if they could bear it without breaking. "She would have loved David," he said. "He looks just like me when I was that age. And Dad sounded so tired when I talked to him earlier." His hand tightened on Delenn's. "There's not a damn thing I can do for him! I can't even go to the funeral!"

"You are doing what you can. We will find a cure for this terrible disease, and Earth will be open to the Universe again," Delenn said. "It is like these trees. To look at them now you would not imagine their beauty, clouds of pink that form and fade in an instant." She said with determination, "We will go as soon as it is possible. Your father will meet his namesake."

John nodded, then turned to engulf her in a fierce embrace, barely holding back his tears.

Spring 2271

David struggled under the burden of the thick woolen blanket he had chosen as their table. The heavy roll of fabric was as tall as he was, and he half-carried, half-pulled it across the grass to the thicket of trees. Bright pink blossoms danced in the light breeze. Delenn and John came behind, carrying a basket between them. When they reached the small grove, the wind had loosened enough petals to cover the grass like drifts of pink snow.

John took the blanket from David, and snapped it out into a flat square on the grass. David sat down immediately, cross-legged, and watched his mother's emptying of the picnic basket with interest. John laid down and stretched out, legs crossed at the ankle, hands behind his head, and peacefully observed the clouds floating above the trees.

"What is this called again, Mother?" asked David, hoping to distract her, and take the opportunity to snatch one of the sensa'tri pastries while she wasn't paying attention.

"Hanami," replied his mother. "It is tradition in the culture from which these trees came to partake in a meal underneath them while they are blooming. The blossoms symbolize the transience of beauty, and of life itself." Sternly she added, "Those are for later. You must eat the foods in the proper order."

John rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow, taking one of the pastries and popping it into his mouth. "On the other hand," he said solemnly to David, who watched his transgression with open delight, "My people have a tradition that the order is reversed when eating outside." He looked at Delenn with eyes wide and innocent. "You wouldn't have me break my traditions, would you?"

Delenn tried to keep a straight face, but collapsed into laughter at the identical beseeching looks she was receiving. "Of course not," she replied, unable to keep the merriment from her voice. "We must honor both our traditions as much as we are able."

The meal progressed from dessert to main course to appetizers of Minbari vegetables intricately fashioned into replicas of various spring flowers. Afterwards David asked leave to explore the far end of the garden, with the pond and the intriguing swampy area behind it. He ran off happily to play in what muck he could find. He almost always managed to find some.

John had returned to his perusal of the blue sky, white clouds, and pink froth of the trees, but this time his head lay in Delenn's lap. She stroked and smoothed his hair as the occasional petal floated down on them.

"I cannot quite believe that it is over," she finally commented.

"Me either," said John with quiet satisfaction. "I already talked to Dad. We'll be leaving within the week. I got us priority clearance. Things are a bit of a mess down there. I'd bring him here, but he's getting too frail for space travel." He looked up into his wife's eyes. "Besides, I'd like David to see Earth, even with the state it's in. It was my home."

"Of course," she agreed. "I would like to see it again as well. It has been a long time since I was there." Delenn gazed up into the trees. "I was not sure these would survive, transplanted here from so far away."

"Some things take to transplanting," John replied. "It all depends on how much they're loved."