Chapter 6: I pray to Lord my soul to take
John Sheridan felt like he'd been pacing and waiting and worrying for a century. His stomach was all balled into knots, and, in truth, he had no stomach or body of which to speak. But he did have a soul . . . and memories and needs and wants.
And what John wanted, what he desperately needed was for Delenn, his starstuff, to return to him.
He'd done all he could to make the reunion happen, to light her path from the depths of darkness and despair to the light awaiting her just beyond the rim.
John could do no more. Delenn would have to do the rest. She'd have to want as much as he did. Meet him half-way. Make the journey and bridge the chasm between their lost souls.
She's capable, but is she willing? God, I hope so. Don't want to live an eternity without her. Half of my soul lost to vulturous shadows of pain, grief, and loss.
"Are you sure she's coming?"
John stopped pacing long enough to meet Susan's annoyed gaze. She was as young and beautiful as she was his first day aboard Babylon 5, all dark hair and crisp tones. But the look she was giving him now didn't speak of long ago rank and chain-of-command. No, Susan Ivanova had the fatigued, put-upon look of a woman who was battling her inner self that screamed for her to commit bloody murder.
And those murderous eyes of hers were penetrating and lethal.
John shrugged. Sure, he'd asked her the same question at least twenty times over the last ten minutes. Then ten more times before that. And eight more before that.
"Do you think Delenn understood why you and the others were sent to her?" Yeah, he'd asked her that question just as many times.
Susan snorted and ran a frustrated hand through her loose locks.
"This is Delenn we're talkin' about, John. She's queen of symbolism. I've never known her not to understand something so obvious. Death hasn't affected the woman's brain cells."
She sighed, and, yeah, rolled her eyes at John as if he was the most annoying moron she'd met this side of the rim.
Maybe he was. But, dammit, what was taking Delenn so long?
Everyone was here, in this place between time and space. A fabricated reality where family and friends have gathered, their individual stars of light blending together in a majestic lighthouse of love and wonder.
It had to be enough.
And just when John was seriously beginning to doubt the radiance of his yellow brick road, a star tumbled out of the darkness.
Spiraling out of control, it's trajectory headed right for them. John's body braced for impact, the collision inevitable.
But as the star tumbled end over end, it began to slow and circle. And finally, it came to a complete stop. Hovering above them all.
The other stars looked upon the new arrival, and then at John.
He didn't move. Couldn't breathe. Wouldn't dare hope.
Then the other stars moved, widening the space between them until they'd created a large, empty circle. A vacant spot, an offering, an invitation.
All eyes went back to the trembling, hovering star—expectant but unsure.
Long minutes past, but the circle of life, circle of love remained strong. No one moving, the vacant spot beckoning, wanting to be filled.
Cautiously, the hovering star began its descent. Controlled and steady.
It landed, claiming the spot that was always its right.
Then the crowd converged on the star, swallowing her light but creating a more radiant one in return.
And in the midst of the emotional cavern stood a bewildered, teary-eyed Delenn.
"She came." Hoarsely spoken but deeply felt.
Up until the moment she'd come barreling through space, John wasn't quite sure the intervention had worked. But did she make the trek for me, herself, or the others?
And there were many others, so many John could barely make out his tiny Minbari in the crowd. But she was there, a simple white robe covering her slim form. Demure and unassuming, with a hint of fragility.
"I told you Delenn would come." Susan gave John a reassuring squeeze to his hand. A hand he hadn't realized had reached for Susan when he'd first spotted what John knew had to be Delenn's shooting star. He needed the strength the Russian could give.
"I was afraid to hope. To believe," he admitted, his eyes never leaving the ever-growing crowd a few feet away, and the woman in the center.
"She never stopped loving you, John."
"She also loves Chimir." It was a hard truth, but one John couldn't ignore, could no longer hold against Delenn. She'd had a right to that love, the companionship Chimir offered, the life and happiness the warrior castemen had brought her. Anything less would've been a cruel fate Delenn did not deserve.
"Chimir was worthy of her love and devotion." Her grip tightened, understanding the painful heat of her honest words. "But she has always been more devoted to you, John. You must understand this. Understand and accept that Delenn . . . well, just look, John."
Susan pointed to the scene before them, points of light everywhere.
Delenn was smiling and crying, silent sobs that shook thin shoulders.
Her parents were there. So were his. His sister and her family as well. Garibaldi. G'Kar. Stephen. Lyta. Londo. Two rows of Babylon 5 crew, present and accounted for. Then there was Zatharas, Lennier, Maya, Chimir, and Neroon. David and his wife stood behind Delenn, David's fingers wrapped in his mother's hair the way he used to do when he was a boy of five.
But there were many others. Markabs and ISA ambassadors. Too many Minbari to count. Most John didn't recognize, was sure he never knew. But they were here, adding their brilliance to the moment, paying homage to a long-lived life.
And it was then John truly saw, really understood.
His heart went out to Delenn then, and his throat constricted, a visceral reaction to all his wife had loved and lost.
"So many." A whisper.
"Too many." Susan's words just as soft, voice no stronger than John's. "She endured much, John."
Yes, he hadn't understood. Couldn't see past his own limited lifespan, shamefully enving Delenn her long life.
But at what cost? Well, John could see the cost. The stars surrounding her attested to the cost. The emotional, psychological cost.
"She knew them, loved them, and had to go on when they died. One by one by one. Family, friends, lovers, all extinguished lights in a Universe that took much but gave much less in return."
Enlightened words from a man whose eyes had been closed for too long. Understanding limited to his singular experience, narrow view, unexpected jealousy.
But the evidence was there, greeting Delenn, welcoming her home, chasing away the last remnants of her shadows.
And watching from a distance, John noticed with a knowing smile, were the men he'd come to think of as the Triumvirate, puller of strings, makers of dreams—Lorien, Dukhat, and Valen.
Susan released his hand and started to walk toward the crowd. A moment later she stopped and looked at him over her shoulder. "Are you coming?"
John shook his head. He couldn't. Not just yet. Not with everyone around.
Susan shrugged. "Suit yourself."
Then she was there, pushing past Lise and Vir, elbowing her way to the front as if the other people waiting didn't matter.
And as the minutes faded, so did the circle of lights, growing dimmer and dimmer. Each returning from whence they'd come, until only two remained.
Delenn and John.
As Delenn strolled toward him, eyes bright with so many tears, John kicked himself for not using the last three hours to come up with some great first line. But all he'd done during that time was stare at his lovely wife, dreaming of taking her in his arms and kissing her senseless.
But now she was right before him, head tilted up, lips quivering, beseeching.
God, one word and his whole Universe fell into place.
He crushed her to him, lips hard, mouth rough, hands seeking.
No way could he be tender, play the gentlemen. There was no gentlemen left in John Sheridan. Not with Delenn finally so damn close.
So he took. And took. And took. And, yes, took some more, reveling in the sweetness of the woman. Devouring her sobs and moans, and giving her his in return.
They fell, and a luscious bed caught them.
John cradled Delenn to him, still kissing, still exploring with teeth and tongue and lips and hands.
And she explored too, Delenn no passive partner to be dragged along with the rising tide of lust and longing.
No, Delenn's hands were eager, mouth and body hungry, hips undulating in the most sinfully erotic way.
Hell, yes, it was all coming back to John. The Shan'Fal, their honeymoon, and all the intimate nights—and days—they'd shared. The angle of the bed irrelvant when all they wanted was to be together. John inside, stroking, pleasing, loving.
And he wanted that experience again. Wanted more than old, recycled memories. Wanted passion and heat and warmth and wetness.
But he had her, in his arms, under his naked body.
And he found her, that delicate flower that opened so invitingly under his touch, taking him in and making John feel right at home.
And when the wave of sexual euphoria finally released John and Delenn from its intoxicating talons, they floated back to themselves. All sweat, heavy breathing, and satiation.
Delenn settled in the crook of John's arm, his chest her willing pillow.
"Well, he said," swallowing hard to catch his breath, "that was one hell of a hello."
Delenn laughed, a sexy sound that went straight to John's groin.
"After so long apart, John, when I finally saw you, I found my mind had gone completely blank." Delenn looked chagrined, brow furrowing when she looked up at him. "That has never happened to me before. Perhaps death has affected my ability to think and reason."
John chuckled, reminded exactly why he'd fallen in love with Delenn of Mir. The woman was unaccountably adorable.
"So you decided to jump my bones instead?"
She laughed again, throaty and sensual.
"I believe it was you who did all the jumping." Delenn raised up on her elbows and looked down at John, green-gray eyes shimmering with flickers of repressed naughtiness. "And everything else as well. So much so, John, I thought I was on an old-fashioned boat, rocking and rolling, unable to keep my balance, forced to hold on or be thrown overboard."
"Well," he said, plucking a stray strand of hair out of Delenn's face, "we are soulmates, captains of each other's ships."
"Soulmates." Delenn smiled. "We are at that." She pressed her lips to his. "You've always been that to me, John." Another kiss. "Always."
All the humor and sexiness was gone from her voice now. Delenn's words healing a wound deep within John Sheridan. A wound that, if he was being honest, began the moment John learned he only had twenty years to live. Twenty years to spend with Delenn. Twenty years and no more.
Delenn caressed his cheek, a soothing stroke of fingers then palm.
He'd missed this, missed her.
"I love you, John Sheridan." Delenn shook her head. "You can't possibly know how much."
Oh, but he could. For his love for this woman, this Minbari, was fathomless and all-consuming.
"I love, you, Delenn," John said, the four words carrying the weight of a billion stars.
Then he kissed her. Or perhaps she kissed him.
But it didn't matter, it never did.
All that ever mattered, all that ever would matter for John and Delenn was that they were together.