I was always disappointed by what happened to John Sheridan in 'Sleeping In Light' and I felt that Delenn deserved better than to spend the rest of her very long life mourning one of the few men she really loved and then dying at the end of it probably knowing that she would never see him again. This is my fix for Delenn. I realise that my Minbari is not up to scratch, I had to make most of the words up as there isn't realy a Minbar/English Dictionary.
Of course Babylon 5 belongs to J. Michael Straczynski, Sheridan, Delenn , Valen, Catherine Sakai and Lorien are his characters, and I've just taken them out of the box to play with them. Este/Tul and the Minbari servants are mine although if you want to borrow them for any reason by all means PM me and let me know your idea. I have very little money so please don't sue. This is probably going to be my first and only fanfic about Babylon 5 but we'll see. Please read, enjoy and review but be constructive.
Sleeping In Light (Part II)
"Lady," the attendant stood at the entrance to the garden. "Have you heard the news?"
"Yes, Thena, I have heard," the woman replied, she looked up at the slowly setting sun, its long rays casting shadows across the grass, "It is time – I am almost finished."
Taking the quill from its inkwell she wrote the final lines in the book, Delenn's surprise entry into the academic discussion and its ramifications changed how President Sheridan was viewed by many who sought to discredit him. He was, as I have recorded, legend, myth and man. But it is to Delenn that I ascribe the finest and best words that could be said of him, that 'he was a good man, a kind man, who cared about the world, even when the world cared nothing for him'. I find that I cannot write anything that will honour him more. His memory lives on in the hearts and minds of those who knew him and knew of him.
The attendant was still waiting as she closed the book and smiled, "I am ready, Thena. Come, we have a difficult journey to make."
Lamps were being lit as they walked from the apartment through the streets of Tuvanor, the attendant touched her arm, "Lady, are you sure you wish to do this, she may refuse to see you."
"I know she will refuse to see me," the woman replied, "but when she hears what I have to say, she will see me."
Thena bowed and then the other woman was knocking on the door. A Minbari servant opened it and she said, "The Lady Este wishes to speak with President Delenn."
"The President sees no-one at this hour."
"Would you tell her that I have news of John Sheridan."
The attendant opened the door wider and Este entered the hall. The servant bowed and Este was alone. She turned to Thena and smiled, "Go home, Thena. I cannot bring you with me this time. I will be back in the morning."
The Minbari nodded and then left her alone. Este stood silently for what seemed like a long time and then the servant reappeared, "If you will come this way."
Este followed the man and was led to a well-lit lounge area, there was an elderly woman sitting in one of the chairs. She bowed immediately and stood waiting, "Madam-"
"Please sit down, Lady Este, you'll give me a cricked neck if you stand over me like that!" a wry smile curved the ancient face.
Este sat opposite the woman and stared at the wrinkled face, "Do I look so bad?" Delenn asked wickedly.
"No, President Delenn, I just did not expect to you to be so-so-"
"That is not what I was going to say," Este retorted and then immediately felt ashamed.
"But that is what you were thinking." Delenn replied, "now, let us to business. You said that you brought news of my husband, may I ask why it has taken you over one hundred years to bring this news to me."
"Because the time was not right. Had I told you then what happened to John Sheridan you would have wanted to join him and that was not possible."
"Might I ask why?" the acid in Delenn's tone was unmistakeable.
"Because you needed to be here. I remember you once said that the universe always places you in the right place, that they are not easy places, nor places without pain but that they are right. The universe needed you here because once John Sheridan was gone the myth of him being a messianic figure would arise and you needed to be here to remind people that he was human. Without you he would have merely become legend and it was important that people remember who he was."
"Hah!" Delenn snorted, "Do you know how much I grieved for him?"
"Oh yes," Este replied quietly and her dark eyes were full of such sorrow that Delenn was momentarily silenced, "I fell in love with John Sheridan the first time I laid eyes on him on Mars. So, yes, I know how much you grieved."
"And you never told him?"
"He did not love me." Este explained softly, "No, I did not tell him."
"So what did you come here to tell me?" Delenn asked quietly.
"That Lorien came for John when he was in orbit around Coriana VI and took him bodily beyond the Rim." She sighed, "this is such a long story that I do not know where to begin. I have been watching humankind from the beginning, from their first steps on Mars, the creation of Babylon 4, I placed myself on Babylon 5 because I knew it was the lever on which everything hinged. I knew Jeffrey Sinclair on Minbar as Valen and later I met and liked the man very much even knowing of his destiny. Of course this entailed a certain amount of subterfuge. But once you have the knack, changing form is easy." She grimaced, "but I make it sound simple. However, I digress. I come to tell you that my history is finished and that I would like you to read it and if it agrees with you that it remain with the Anla'Shok, but I also come to tell you something else-" she swallowed hard, suddenly unsure.
Delenn took her hands, "I feel your thoughts. You know that I am approaching my own death and you are afraid to speak of it. As I said once many years ago, Life is transitory and we all come together in the same place at the end of time. Speak your fears."
"I come to take you across the Rim also." Este replied, "With this history my task is done and as the one remaining First Born I too must also leave. I learnt while on Babylon 5 that despite one's best efforts, one cannot remain subjective. That I too had to take a stand and fight for the peace which now belongs to our children." She paused, "If you wish it I will take you with me when I go."
"And what then?"
"Rest and peace and then who knows. There are other worlds, other universes to explore."
"I will consider it," Delenn replied, "But I wonder – do you take me in the hope I will see John again?"
"I had thought of it," Este replied quietly, "but truthfully I do not know if he will be there. I do not know what awaits either of us beyond the Rim."
"An honest answer," Delenn replied, looking into the woman's dark eyes, "Will you stay here tonight? I would enjoy the company."
Este smiled, "As you wish."
Supper was a quiet affair, Delenn asked a few questions and Este answered as best she could. Eventually she asked, "Why did you become involved? You said that you were an observer – so when did this observation become subjective?"
"The day I stood on Narn and watched the Centauri ships bombing it to obliteration." Este replied, "I suddenly realised that we must make a stand, every one of us. Even if we begin as objective beings. My husband believes I have become too involved – on some level I am tempted to agree with him."
"John said that Lorien had withdrawn to Zha'dum. Is this one of the reaons why?"
Este looked sheepish, "I suspect so. It becomes too much to watch any race suffer, after all in one sense you are our children. I could no longer stand on the sidelines."
"I don't remember you on Babylon 5," Delenn said abruptly.
"You would not remember me," Este replied and then she laid her fork down on the plate, "But you might remember her," and her form changed until an attractive auburn haired woman sat opposite Delenn, "Do you remember Ensign Rees?"
"Oh my," Delenn stared, "You?"
"Me." Este replied, reverting to her more familiar form, "I rather pride myself on the work I did under Dr Franklin's command."
"He always said that when you were on duty everything seemed to flow more easily." Delenn laughed, "I did not think that it was because you were –"
"Alien?" One of Este's eyebrows went up and she smiled, "that was the point. I was there to write a history – not become embroiled in something I could not prevent."
"You did not wish to fight?"
"Not really. I always believed that anyone can fight, but not everyone can heal." Este responded, "My brother should have been there, but knowing Tul as I do he was more likely to have taken his war hammer and disregarding all orders, marched out across the stars and beat both Shadow and Vorlon ships to little fragments of metal, and despite my husband's love for him, Lorien would not have been pleased." She smiled, "So I helped in the only way I could. But that was hard and after five years I had to leave."
"But I take it that you couldn't stay away?" Delenn enquired.
Now it was Este's turn to look sheepish, "Not really. Babylon 5 was a turning point. If I was going to write a history that was the only place to write it. Bester may have been right when he said that not everything was about Babylon 5, but he forgot that Babylon 5 was pivotal to peace and then for victory. Bester was so convinced in the rightness of what he was doing-" she paused, "I suppose I'm naïve, but Bester frightened me. I always thought that he would scan me and find out who I really was."
"We would have stopped him," Delenn replied forcefully, "did you not know that?"
"How?" Este replied, "I rate as a 14 on the PSI scale, far greater than any human or Minbari telepath. He would have taken me by force had he known."
Delenn sighed, "And you could not have revealed who you truly were."
"Not without revealing what I was." Este sighed, "and that, for Lorien's sake, I could not do."
"For that I am sorry," Delenn said softly. "did you really feel threatened by Bester?"
"Oh yes," Este nodded. "To coin a human phrase he terrified the bejesus out of me."
"Tell me," Delenn looked thoughtful, "were you ever involved with Bester?"
"Only once," Este responded and her eyes were dark and thoughtful, "and that was when he came to arrest those telepaths who had fled to Babylon 5. I have never understood this penchant for martyrdom, death is not the only solution. There is always another way."
"Perhaps not for Bester," Delenn smiled, "Why were you involved?"
"I had often helped the telepaths," Este replied, "I took medical supplies down to their quarters, brought food. Byron knew that I was a telepath," she smiled and leant back in her chair, her eyes far away, "So I knew that I had to help."
"There's no mention of you in any records."
"No, but then there wouldn't be. I spoke at length with Byron and together we hatched a plan to save a third of the telepaths who had taken refuge on Babylon 5. I even pleaded with him to save himself but he said that if he escaped, Bester would hunt him and the others down forever. It took a great deal of subterfuge, some clever forgery and some help from Brother Theo and the other monks but we did it. A month later I received a data crystal back with all of them on it. They'd made planetfall and my brother stayed a month to help them build makeshift shelters and then left them. They would have to make their own way."
"But you succeeded," Delenn replied thoughtfully.
"I wonder," Este pursed her lips, "Had Byron known who I was, he would not have felt so kindly disposed towards me. The Vorlons engineered telepaths to fight their wars against the Shadows. We created both – no wonder he felt that the humans owed him and the others a homeworld of their own "
"You did find them a homeworld," Delenn replied, "safe from Bester."
"Yes, but it was an act of desperation, not an act of love."
"Are you so sure?" Delenn smiled, "You cared enough to make a difference. It may have started as desperation but in the end, you did what you did because you thought it was right."
"Flattery will get you everywhere," Este smiled, and then said, "I think I have become too involved, perhaps because I came to know everyone intimately and because I walked the corridors of Babylon 5 and heard the echoes."
"Every place where people have walked, talked, laughed and loved, leaves an imprint on time. Everywhere I went I could hear and see the shadows of those people who lived on Babylon 5. Even you and President Sheridan." She smiled, "I could not have written my history without this gift and even that is subjective. Nothing is truly objective unless it is the universe itself."
"I do not know about the universe," Delenn replied, "You have given me much to think about and opened my eyes to so many things."
"Good ones I hope," Este smiled.
"Mostly good. But somewhat disturbing nevertheless."
"Sometimes they disturb even me," Este's nose wrinkled. "It is really only in the last five hundred years that I have begun to understand what my husband meant when he insisted that we as the First Born leave. Each race has to make their own mistakes – and it is only when they realise that they are repeating their mistakes that they will stop making them."
Delenn laid a cool hand on Este's arm, "You are the youngest aren't you?"
"Of the First Born? Yes." Este sighed, "Because of my gift for healing it has been hard for me to watch you all try to obliterate one another."
"I imagine it would." Delenn smiled, "I will start this history tonight, how much time have we got?"
"A few days, a week, ten days at most," Este responded.
"Then I must start." Delenn replied, she rose to her feet and Este followed suit. "someone will show you to your room."
Este bowed and then, clutching the books, Delenn quietly slipped from the room.
She slipped out quietly the next morning. Thena was waiting for her in the garden, "Lady," she said quietly when Este entered.
"Good morning, Thena," Este smiled, "how are the arrangements progressing."
"All is in hand, Lady. Are you certain of this, must you go?"
"I am afraid so, Thena," Este replied, "I cannot stay. I would want to meddle and my husband always told me not to meddle."
"But we could go somewhere, somewhere you would not know what is happening and therefore you could not meddle."
"Thena," Este replied quietly, "It doesn't work like that. Even if we travelled to a deserted island, sooner or later I would want to find out what is happening in the world, and when I did I would want to change it – my way."
Thena nodded, suddenly disconsolate. Este put her arms around her and rocked her gently, "Ah, don't be sad. We're just going home."
"But I will not see you again," Thena said mournfully.
"You do not know that," Este replied, "and neither do I. It is true for the moment we must part, but I do not know what the future holds."
"Take me with you, Lady," Thena said suddenly.
"Ah, Thena, I cannot."
"But you will take President Delenn."
"Because of her husband," Este replied, "I knew that Lorien had returned to take John Sheridan across the Rim, and I felt it wrong that they should be separated. The peace we enjoy is because of them."
Thena nodded sadly, "I understand, but I don't like it."
Este smiled, "I know. There's nothing I can say that really helps except that this is what I have chosen and you can choose either to support me or defy me."
Thena shook her head, "I cannot defy you, Lady. It is true that I am upset, but I accept your choice. I have prepared my letter of resignation."
Este laughed softly, "No, Thena. The house and its contents are yours – I have left you enough so that you may continue to live here in comfort or if you prefer to travel the stars. I will not leave you destitute."
"When do you wish me to take possession?" Thena asked quietly.
"I will speak with President Delenn today and ask if I might remain with her until we are ready to depart. If she agrees I will give you the papers today. Then you are a free agent to do as you choose."
"And if I choose to leave Minbar?"
"Then you will leave Minbar," Este reached out to touch the side of Thena's face, "When I give you the papers I will have no hold on you."
"You would not be angry that I did not stay to see you go."
"No," Este replied, "I will not."
To her surprise Thena suddenly flung her arms around her and said thickly, "I was lucky to have a mistress such as you."
Este smiled, "No, I was lucky to have a friend such as you." She touched the side of Thena's face again, "Go. I'll see you this afternoon all being well."
Delenn was sitting in the garden, she smiled when she saw Este, "I always watch the sun rise."
"The beginning of a new day. I like beginnings," Este said, sitting down, "they're always full of such promise."
"So they are," Delenn replied, "I get up to watch the sunrise every morning."
"How do you find my book?" Este inquired
"I could not put it down," Delenn replied, "I will continue reading it tonight, but I will leave it with the Anla'Shok with pleasure. Perhaps I should make it mandatory reading for whoever wishes to become a Ranger. They would gain much from it."
"I am glad you think so," Este murmured, "I came because there are things we must discuss and arrangements you may wish to make."
Delenn smiled, "I have made most of them. David is a Ranger now with family of his own, the house will be his of course, but not the title. The Alliance will stand or fall in the centuries to come and all we can do is the best we can do, history will take care of itself."
"I hope that there will be a history to take care of," Este responded as the sun rose and the rooftops glistened in the early morning light.
"There will. We did what we did because it was right, not because we wanted to be remembered."
"That was just an afterthought?" Este raised an eyebrow, then she turned to Delenn, "I have suggestions that you may wish to consider, some you may disagree with but I would urge you to consider them carefully, bring David home to say goodbye." When Delenn opened her mouth Este raised her hand, "Listen to me, I understand Sheridan's reasons for not doing so when he 'went to the sea' but the bond between mother and son is different. If you do not do this, he will ultimately end up resenting you. He will come to feel that you did not care enough-"
"But he must know that is untrue," Delenn replied.
"In his heart he knows, but belief is a powerful motivating factor. If he feels that you did not value him enough to say goodbye he will, even in private, resent that. Take this opportunity, tell him how much you love him and bid him farewell."
Delenn pursed her lips, "All right. He is the last you know. Everyone else has gone, Susan, Richard, Londo, G'Kar, even Vir. I never thought to outlive them all."
"I'm afraid that's the price of longevity," Este replied quietly, "you get to watch everyone you love die. Perhaps that will be mankind's legacy, to live longer and longer, perhaps even gain immortality."
"As I recall, Kosh said that we weren't ready."
"Not at the Death Walker's price," Este responded, "One must die so the other can have eternal life, who chooses who lives and who dies? You? Me? Neither of us, it is in the hands of the universe and the universe can seem very cruel at times."
"How many times did you come to Babylon 5?" Delenn asked suddenly.
"Over fifty that I can remember," Este smiled, "I think the two that I remember most clearly and with the most love are when I served as a nurse under Dr Franklin and when I lived for over thirty years in DownBelow. I took the name of Elizabeth Shaw and I used to tell stories."
Delenn's face lit up, "I remember you, you asked for unusual forms of payment as I recall. Food, or somewhere safe to sleep or another story. I remember listening to some of your tales, I wondered then how you managed to memorise them all, but I suppose that is part of being one of the First Born."
Este laughed, "Don't you believe it! My memory for the history of races is appalling, I have no desire to learn about treaties, and agreements. And yet, that is history is it not? It took me almost ten years to learn the stories I told in Down Below."
"Didn't you tell one that made Londo give you a whole week's lodging in his quarters?"
"Ah yes, the one about Croeseus and the Oracle at Delphi." Este smiled, "I think it made him stop and take pause. Whether it altered any outcome is another story. One always hopes that it did, but one can never be sure." Este smiled, "I think my favourite story has always been the Perlesvaus and in particular the Wolfam von Eschenbach version. I was always touched by the idea that every action has good and bad consequences and that we must try to strive for the middle path and if we err to err on the side of good."
"An interesting argument," Delenn smiled.
Este smiled, "Perhaps one of the most persuasive." She looked around, "shall we have breakfast and I shall leave you to make your final arrangements."
Este was signing the last of the documents when Thena found her, she was sitting in the roof garden. She smiled when her servant entered the garden. "I have been looking for you, Lady." Thena said quietly.
"I have just finished signing the papers," Este replied, "As I promised, I have left the house and contents to you. You are now free."
Thena took the paper and said, "You wrote the contract on paper?"
"An old medium I'll grant you," Este replied, "but I felt that it was the right one to use when giving a friend their contract of manumission. But since I had to register an electronic copy also, you have been free since this morning. Here," she placed the data crystal in Thena's hand, "You are now your own person." She paused and smiled, "But I think you have always been your own person. Go in peace, Thena and as an old friend told me once many hundreds of years ago, 'May God be between thee and harm in all the empty places you must walk.'"
Thena managed a wan smile as she took the paper, "There will be many empty places when you are gone."
"You will fill them," Este replied, "Try not to grieve too much. Remember, I will miss you as much as you will miss me."
Thena's face brightened, "You think?"
"I think," Este reassured her. "For whatever reasons I have loved this universe and all who exist in it, I shall be sorry to leave."
"That makes it slightly better," Thena sighed, "I must go, Lady. It would break my heart to see you leave."
"Then you must do as you see fit," Este replied bowing, "Goodbye, Thena. May you find peace."
Thena bowed and then gathering up her things, left the rooftop garden. Este watched her retreating back and then even after she'd disappeared, the space where she had been for a long time.
Delenn was sitting in her easy chair reading the remainder of her book when Este found her, "I must go out for a little while," Este explained, "You will think me foolish but I need to say goodbye."
"Go," Delenn smiled, "I will have supper waiting when you return."
Este walked through the streets of Tuvanor, the day was bright and she looked up at the sun feeling its warmth on her face and again felt her guts twist as she thought how much she would miss this world she had become used to.
Eventually she found the place she was looking for, she stopped at the gate, the last of the light was receding and again she felt the familiar sadness, "Evening comes." She murmured.
The monument was subdued by Earth standards, inside it had been dressed in warm sandstone and here and there torches were set into the walls which enhanced the welcoming nature of the place. There was a seat opposite the plaque commemorating Valen but instead she knelt on the hard floor so that she was at eye level with it.
Gently she touched the letters, the Minbari ones were first and below them the same message written in English, "Oh my friends," she murmured softly, "I have missed you. I am glad that you found some semblance of peace at the last."
Carefully she opened her jacket and took out a small plant, "I have taken a few liberties," she began, "And created you a plant of your very own. My husband would not approve, nor I suspect would Kosh, he said that one should simply be ready to lay down one's life without expecting recognition for something. He was probably right. But this plant will live forever, it does not need watering or sunlight for I have made it from part of myself. It will continue to exist even when I am gone." She stroked the letters again and smiled, "My friends, I was lucky to have known you." Her eyes became far away as she remembered.
The crash had brought people from all over the area, slowly the being was lifted from the wreckage and they stood looking down at this alien figure. "What is it?" someone asked.
"Move aside please," a sharp voice said and a tall Minbari was pushing her way through the crowd to kneel beside the figure.
She looked up at the people, "She's human." She said quickly.
"But they don't have the capabilities to travel here," another voice said querously.
"I think she's been thrown back in time," the woman smiled tightly, "Come, let us get her to my house."
Carefully the woman was lifted onto a stretcher and the servants followed the taller Minbari woman. Once at her house she smiled, "Take her through there and put her on the examining table, I'll see to her myself."
"Do you know about the hu-mans?" one of the Minbari asked.
"I have studied their physiology." The elder Minbari smiled, "Go now. She will be quite safe."
The Minbari regarded the unconscious woman thoughtfully, "So you're Catherine Sakai. We will talk later – there is someone you must meet."
She carefully removed the suit and then gently laying her hand on the woman's head watched as a soft silver light emerged from her hand to run in a flowing stream down Catherine's body. Este bent and murmured softly, "Sleep now, Catherine. There will be time to talk when you awaken."
Her servants were waiting in the antechamber, "How is the hu-man?"
"She will be fine after a sleep," Este replied, "I must go and speak with the authorities regarding her presence here. Would you put her to bed for me?"
The two Minbari nodded and Este smiled, "Thank you."
The Minbari paced the floor, his expression grave, "You say that this human will be no threat – how can you be so sure! You say that this hu-man is female! We know nothing about them, what if others follow her here and seek to conquer us?"
"If others had followed her they would be here already," Este replied soothingly, using every nuance and power she had to try and ease the situation down, "Take the ship, I doubt that she will have any use for it now, I will be her surety and if you wish to ask her any questions I will bring her here when she's recovered."
The Minbari didn't respond but nodded, "She may stay with you for now, we may wish to speak with her – later."
Este left the building seething, Blasted Warrior caste! Sensitivity of a brick! Find something strange shoot it, shoot it again, shoot some more and then maybe, just maybe ask questions. She slipped into the apartment to be greeted by her servants, both bowed when she entered, "Lady," one of them began.
"What is it?" Este asked looking from one face to the other.
"We tried to put the female hu-man to bed, but she awoke-" one of them began.
"And panicked?" Este queried.
"Yes, Lady," the other bowed, "We did not wish to hurt her. She is hiding beneath the bed."
Este nodded, "I think it best that we are left alone, she is obviously still hurt and afraid."
"Do you think she really came through Time, Lady?" one of servants asked.
"Anything is possible, Crean," Este replied. "I shall see you both tomorrow."
Both of them bowed and then quietly left the room. Este sighed and then quietly opened the bedroom door. She lifted up the valance skirt and saw the woman crouched under the bed, clasped in her hand was what looked like a fork.
"Are you going to come out?" Este asked quietly.
The woman started, "You speak English!" she gasped.
"Oh yes," Este replied, "Come on out, it'll be impossible for you to eat supper crouched under there."
Slowly Catherine crawled out from beneath the bed, Este held out her hand and reluctantly Catherine handed her the implement. "My name's Catherine," she said slowly, "Catherine Sakai."
"Well this is the planet Minbar," Este replied, "but it's not the Minbar you know." She looked at Catherine's stricken face and said, "You realise that you've been thrown through a Time Vortex of some sort?"
Catherine's face crumpled and Este suddenly felt sorry for her, "Come and sit down," she said gently, "You need time to assimilate all of this."
Catherine nodded and Este smiled and helped her to a chair, "It will be all right you know," she said quietly.
Catherine looked up at her, "I wish I could see how, I was going to go back to Babylon 5, Jeff and I had finally admitted our feelings for one another and I was going back to marry him. Now-" she swallowed, "now I'm lost in the past." She paused, "My ship! Maybe I could re-configure it some way and maybe I could get back-"
"Your ship has been confiscated," Este said quietly, "and you could not get it back even if you wanted. You must learn to become used to this Time."
"How?" Catherine's voice was almost a wail, "There's nothing for me here!"
"I think that there is much you could teach us," Este replied quietly, "But for now you must rest and recover. One of our doctors should also examine you, being thrown backward in time can have some rather nasty side effects."
"But I feel all right," Catherine complained.
"I know, but you will be confined to this apartment for the next week anyway," Este smiled, "So I would take this opportunity to rest."
The following morning it became patently obvious why Catherine wasn't going anywhere, she was running a high fever. Este gently sponged her forehead and held a cup of liquid to her lips, she drank gratefully and scowled.
"I know that it tastes foul." Este murmured, "but it will help to bring your fever down."
Reluctantly Catherine drank the rest of the herbal mixture, Este stroked her forehead and said quietly, "I have to go out for a little while, do you promise to behave and not attack my servants?"
Catherine nodded miserably and Este chuckled, "Go to sleep. You'll feel much better in the morning." She watched as Catherine turned over and settled down.
Her servants were waiting for her when she emerged from Catherine's room. "Hopefully she will sleep now, I do not think she will attack you again."
"Lady." They bowed and Este quietly left the apartment.
He was standing in his usual spot and her heart went out to him, for once he looked truly lost and alone. "Respects, Entil'Zha," she said softly.
He turned, "Lady Este."
"How are you feeling now?" she asked kindly.
He rubbed a hand across his face and sighed, "Tired. Lost. I had hoped that when I succeeded then things would become easier."
"I wish that they did," Este smiled, "Come to breakfast tomorrow, I may have a surprise for you."
"And what would that be, Lady?" Valen turned and for a moment she caught the sense of something else and then it was gone, "it is well known that you don't give anything for nothing."
"Perhaps on this occasion I will change my habits," she replied, "Would you accompany me, Entil'Zha? I have news and you, I think will be interested."
Valen nodded and followed the Minbari woman. Eventually they stopped at a small café. "Sit with me for a few moments, Entil'Zha," she said slowly, her eyes never leaving his face. Slowly, Valen complied and they ordered drinks.
Este sighed and then said, "I must needs lay my cards on the table, to coin a human phrase." She smiled wryly, "There are things you need to know about me and I must trust that you will keep what you discover to yourself for the remainder of your days."
Valen regarded her thoughtfully, "Is this so important?"
"Oh yes, Commander Sinclair," she said, so softly that he almost didn't hear her, "I know who you were, my race has an ability to seeclearly for want of a better phrase. But I will not disclose your identity to anyone, the Shadow threat has passed and I have news for you that may give you purpose."
"And this has something to do with me coming to breakfast tomorrow morning."
"There is someone you should meet, and I think it best that you meet her in private first." Este replied, "But since I know who you were I give you something of mine that you must keep to yourself. I am from the race of First Ones." She paused, "Like the Shadows and their adversaries, the Vorlons. I am here because I was sent to observe and to help you if I could. But that must be your choice. But I tell you this so that we are both in the other's debt."
"You must know I'd never do anything-" Valen began.
"I do," Este smiled, "and I think you know that I wouldn't do anything or I would have done so by now."
"You could have just been waiting for the Shadow threat to pass," Valen replied. "And then you would strike."
"That would negate everything I stand for. You must live, Valen. And I think you will find that reason to live again if you come to breakfast tomorrow morning."
"And if I choose not to come to breakfast tomorrow morning?" Valen asked.
"Then you choose not to come to breakfast tomorrow morning."
"I don't suppose you'd care to enlighten me," he scowled and Este had to suppress a chuckle.
"If you wish me to I'll try," she replied. "Do you wish me to call you Valen, or would you prefer Commander Sinclair?"
"Valen,I think," he smiled sadly, "It is, after all, who I am now." He looked around, "Sometimes I wonder if it was all worth it."
Este smiled, "If you come to breakfast tomorrow, I guarantee you will find out, and you can decide whether you thought it was worth it."
Valen smiled, "I will consider it, Lady."
Este smiled, despite his misgivings, Valen had come to breakfast the following morning and the joy in his face when he saw Catherine, had made the tears come into Este's eyes. He'd embraced Catherine so hard that Este was sure that she heard ribs crack. They'd sat in the corner and talked all morning. She'd served them lunch and then quietly slipped from the room – she was almost certain they never saw her go. When she returned they were calmer and she smiled as she saw the change in Valen's face.
He stood up as she entered, "How do I thank you, Lady?"
"By leaving now," she smiled tightly, "You have founded the Anla'Shok, Valen and for that you will be remembered with honour when all else is dust. But you must leave now. If the Grey Council were to suspect that you were once human and that you were in love with a human then all you have worked for would crumble."
He nodded, "Very well, I am assuming that you have passage booked."
"For all of us," Este smiled, "I too must leave, my task is elsewhere now and I hope to see my husband and for us to spend some time together before the world crashes in on me again."
"Lady Este," Catherine spoke suddenly, "I have the strangest feeling that I've seen you before."
"Perhaps we will meet in the future, before time and circumstance bring you here." Este shrugged, "I do not know. But it has long been my belief that the universe puts you where you are most needed."
"I have no words-" Valen began.
Este shook her head, "Words are not needed. I have not given you your gift yet, this was for Miss Sakai." She smiled, "This is your gift." She laid her hands on either side of his head, for a moment he resisted and then suddenly sagged in the chair. Gently she removed her hands and he lifted his head, "Wha-" he croaked.
"I have given you peace," she said quietly, kneeling so that he was looking down into her face, "You will have no more nightmares; while you will sorrow for what you had to do; it will not haunt your waking memories. I tell you now as I will only ever tell one other, you stood against the Shadow and blazed like a comet. Go well, Entil'Zha."
They had parted at the spaceport. Catherine still slightly shocked and Valen stern and it seemed to Este unyielding. "Goodbye, Entil'Zha."
"Lady Este," he said firmly, and then she was alone. She had turned and walked through another gate to another ship. Once at her destination, Este would disappear for almost two thousand years.
She moved so that she was sitting on the bench. She'd never seen Valen or Catherine again although she knew from her own intelligence that they had settled on a distant planet and had descendants. Raising a hand to her face she was surprised to find it wet with tears, she touched the plaque again, "Rest well," she murmured, before bowing and then leaving the structure.
Delenn was sitting looking out of the window, the book closed on her lap. She turned and Este saw the shine of tears on her cheeks, "I have finished," she said slowly, "You have a real gift for storytelling, Este. I am privileged to have read this." She stopped when she saw Este's face, "You have been weeping."
"Only for friends long since gone to the light." Este replied, "I have no doubt that they are at peace so the grief that I feel is for me and not for them, but I find it impossible not to grieve."
"Ah, yes. Grief is something I am all too familiar with" Delenn replied. "I have other news for you, David arrives in two days time."
Este sat down, "You did not have to do this because I said that you should."
"I know that," Delenn smiled, the smile transforming her features, "but I think that you may be right. Sometimes the one thing we regret most of all is that we never got the chance to say goodbye. Despite my grief for John, we did at least get the chance to say our farewells."
Este smiled, "Then I admire your courage and your stoicism. I never felt I had the strength."
"So tell me, why did you venture from your home?"
"Curiosity to begin with. Lorien spoke with such compassion about humans that I wanted to see what you were like." She smiled, "and then I became 'entranced' by you. You are such a paradox, all species from the Centauri to the Narn to the Minbari to the Human. You have much more in common than you realise and could meet on so many levels. You should rejoice and celebrate your similarities, not pick at your differences. But that too is something you have in common, that you all pick on the differences each species has and don't concentrate on your similarities. Still, you've made great progress."
"Do you know how patronizing that sounds?" Delenn replied waving her fork at her.
Este scowled, "It does, doesn't it. I don't mean it to, I mean that we've watched all of you for a long time and we believe now that you'll get to where we are. After all, what you are, we once were; what we are, you may become."
Delenn reached out to grasp her hand, "I like the sound of that. I could ask when of course but I doubt I'll get an answer."
"You'll get the only one that matters," Este replied, "in your own time."
Delenn laughed but the laugh turned into a cough halfway through, when she'd calmed down she nodded, "Thought it would be something like that." She paused and then smiled, "I am glad you are here, Lady Este."
"I am glad to be here, President Delenn."
Este would remember, later, how time seemed to speed up after that. Delenn had preparations to make and Este spent a great deal of time wandering the city, trying to fix the sights and sounds in her mind. Once, she caught herself in the market watching all the people walking by and feeling like an outsider, and then realising ruefully that now she very probably was.
She bought some mith'tak at one of the local booths and ate it slowly, trying to savour every mouthful. Somehow it didn't seem to work and she found herself returning to Valen's Memorial. To her surprise the flower she'd left had been planted in a pot and now sat, waving gently in some unknown breeze in front of the plaque.
There was no-one around and calmer this time, she sat on the bench and smiled at her memories, "I have to go soon," she said quietly, "and I do not know what will happen in the centuries to come but I trust that this place will remain. Goodbye, my friends."
When she returned to the house a young man was sitting next to Delenn. He stood up as she entered, "I am David." He said tersely.
"Lady Este," she responded, shaking his hand.
Delenn smiled, "My son takes some convincing."
Este smiled, "That doesn't surprise me. When would you like to go?"
Delenn looked surprised, "You're giving me the choice?"
"To a degree," Este responded guardedly.
"Then I should be ready on Sunday."
Este nodded, "Thank you."
"I suppose you're going to perform some strange ritual," David interrupted.
Este raised an eyebrow, "Such as? I'd suggest a family meal and then you say goodbye. What did you think I was going to do? Draw pentagrams on the patio, burn candles made from human fat, speak incantations in the lost language of Ha'Toth?"
David looked stunned and then smiled sheepishly, "I thought this might all be a sham, that you were going to-"
"Hasten your mother's death?" Este raised an eyebrow and David looked away. "In one sense you are right, I am perhaps hastening her death by two or three days, but my departure is imminent and I asked your mother if she would come with me."
David sighed, "I suppose I was hoping that this day would not come – it seems too soon."
"It always is," Este replied sadly, "Whether it's a hundred years or a thousand when you must say goodbye it is always too soon. But in the end, all souls come together. That much I know."
David nodded and Este was left alone to stare out across the city of Tuvanor. Eventually she shook herself and went inside. Delenn was playing a version of cat's cradle with her great-grandaughter and for a moment, Este felt her heart clench. David came to stand beside her, "This upsets you."
"The leaving, yes. The thought of taking your mother with me and depriving you of her company. The wish that I could restore her youth to her. Yes, that upsets me."
"But even you realise the futility of such a wish."
"It does not make me wish it any less," Este replied. She turned to David and managed a smile, "It will all come right in the end I know, but now I do not know for whom I grieve."
"Perhaps for the future," David said quietly, "even though you cannot prevent any of it."
"Perhaps." Este smiled, "It has been a pleasure, David, I only wish we could have spent more time together."
"I think, Lady Este, that the privilege and the pleasure are mine." David replied quietly.
Delenn looked up as they entered, "I wish to ask you what time of day do you wish us to depart?" Este asked softly.
"I think in the evening," Delenn replied.
"Then the evening it will be." Este smiled, "Do you think you are ready?"
Delenn smiled sadly, "Is one ever ready for anything like this?"
Este grinned wryly, "Probably not."
Supper was a gentle affair, although Este was aware of the tension bubbling beneath the surface, strangely enough it was one of the grandchildren who broached the subject. "Why are you killing my grandmother?"
One of the other adults put her arm around the child's shoulders and tried to pull her away but Este shook her head, "No, I will explain."
"She will be upset," the adult replied.
"Are you not upset?" Este smiled, "How will what I tell her upset her any more than your knowledge of what will happen?"
She knelt on the floor so that she was at the same level as the girl and said softly, "I have to leave this universe very soon and I asked your grandmother if she would come with me. It may be that we will see your grandfather."
"And she's going to die?"
"Not exactly," Este replied slowly. "I take her beyond the Rim and there is no returning from that place."
"And I'll never see her again?" The child looked perturbed.
"I do not know about that," Este replied, "I believe that we will all meet one day in a place where no shadows fall."
"Will I see her when I die?" the child asked.
"I do not know," Este replied, "But I do believe that we'll all be reunited at the end of times."
The youngster half-smiled and Este's heart went out to her, "All things must pass, you know," she said gently.
"You promise you won't hurt her," the child's lips compressed in a thin line and Este found herself smiling.
"I promise. And wherever you are she will always be with you. Here and here" She touched the child's forehead and heart and then laid her hand on the child's head again, and looked up at the parent hovering close to the youngster, the older woman biting her lip. "I bless you in the Name of the First Born, may you be an instrument of peace to all races."
The youngster frowned, obviously not understanding what had just happened but Este was rising to her feet and holding a hand out to Delenn, "Are you ready?" she enquired gently.
Swallowing, Delenn nodded. Refusing the proferred hand Delenn hobbled outside to the veranda, finally she looked up at Este, ""Where do you wish me to sit?" she asked.
"Wherever you feel happiest," Este responded.
"John always used to like the mornings," Delenn murmured as she looked out across the city of Tuvanor. "He has always been with me in memory every day I have watched the sun rise."
"Then come with me now," Este replied gently, taking her hand, "And we will watch the sun rise on other worlds."
To the others watching, Delenn and Este seemed to be surrounded by a shimmering light and then they were alone.
David swallowed, "I would like us to bow our heads in prayer," he said quietly, "May President Delenn and Lady Este rest in peace, wherever they have gone. We will remember them always."
The world spun, Delenn found herself holding onto Este. They materialised in what seemed to be a forest. Delenn looked around, "Where are we?" she asked faintly.
"Beyond the galaxy," Este replied.
"Oh," Delenn put her hand to her head, suddenly dizzy. Then she became aware that Este was lowering her to the ground, "What's happening?" she managed to ask.
"It's all right," Este was kneeling next to her, "Go to sleep." She said gently, "you'll feel much better when you wake up."
Delenn managed a weak smile and then almost without volition, her eyes slid shut and she was unconscious.
"My Dearest," a new voice said.
Este turned and saw the figure of Lorien standing some distance away. Getting to her feet she practically ran into his arms.
"I have missed you," she said quietly.
"And I you," Lorien said. "But you know why you had to stay." He smiled, "Did you do as you promised?"
"And probably more," Este admitted.
"Come, let me introduce you-" Lorien said, taking her arm. "John, may I introduce my partner, Este."
Este looked up and smiled, "President Sheridan."
Sheridan looked up into her face, "Have we met?" he asked curiously.
"A long time ago, when you were still Captain of Babylon 5," Este replied, "and may I say it is as much of a pleasure now as it was then."
"I don't recall meeting you," John looked from one to the other, "and I know that I would almost certainly have remembered you."
"You would not," Lorien replied, "My wife has an ability, unique among our kind in that she can change her appearance. She has done so many times when she came to Babylon 5. You probably only remember two."
And John Sheridan stared as Este's shape shimmered and another woman stood in front of him. "My God!" he whispered, "You were Dr Franklin's best nurse!"
She raised an eyebrow as she shimmered back to her usual form, "Really?"
"Oh yes," he responded, "Always said that he wished he'd had the courage to tell you that himself. He felt that Sickbay ran so much smoother when you were on duty – and that whatever anyone threw at us, when you were there he could handle it."
"I wish he had told me so himself." Este murmured.
"Sometimes we never say the things we should when we can," Sheridan smiled a little ruefully, "it is a failing of the human race I think. We think we have all the time in the world and we don't."
"A failing of a great many races – including ours," Lorien interjected, "but come. I have something to show you." He led the way across to a figure lying beneath one of the trees, "Look."
He stared at the sleeping figure and an inarticulate cry broke from between his lips, dropping to his knees he stared at her. "Is-is she?" he began.
"She needs time to recover," Este said quietly from behind him. Gently she laid her hand on his shoulder, "I believe you needed to sleep when you first arrived."
Standing up he said, "I am sorry, I did not expect-"
"It was my wife's choice," Lorien said quietly, "I should have prepared you for this, John. Forgive me."
Sheridan half-smiled, "There is nothing to forgive, you just caught me by surprise." He walked across to his wife, "She looks so tired, how long will it take her to recover?"
"A couple of days," Este assured him.
"And then?" John turned to look up at Este.
"Then, to paraphrase a human saying, 'the universe is your oyster,' because I felt that wherever you want to go, you should go together."
"Lorien never told me this," John turned to stare at the alien behind him.
"It was not his idea or his choice," Este replied, "it was mine."
John nodded and then knelt beside Delenn's sleeping form. He bent to stroke the hair away from her forehead, "She looks younger," he murmured.
Este knelt on his wife's other side, "Give it two or three days. When you return she will be young and vibrant as you remember her."
"Come, John," Lorien took his arm, "Let me show you the comets dance beyond the rim."
Delenn woke slowly, she could see the huge trunk of a tree above her and wondered why she was lying in what appeared to be a forest. Slowly she sat up and looked around, she was lying in a huge forest on grass so green that at first she thought it couldn't be real. Across to her right a sea of bluebells waved in the breeze and she sat watching them lost in thought.
"You really shouldn't be awake," a familiar voice said softly.
Delenn turned and practically threw herself into Este's arms, "Oh, Gods I'm glad to see you!"
"Here, you should drink something," Este said, setting her tray down and pouring a clear, glittering liquid from the crystal decanter into a glass, "it won't put you to sleep," Este assured her as she handed her the glass.
"Where is this place?" Delenn asked looking around.
"The Woods of Lorien," Este replied as she took the glass from Delenn, "a place for rest and healing. I thought it the best place to bring you."
"You'll see him soon," Este promised. "You should try and rest."
Delenn managed a weak smile, her eyes flickered and closed and she murmured, "I thought that you hadn't drugged that drink-"
"I haven't," Este replied, "you still need rest, go to sleep. I'll go and fetch John."
Delenn felt Este ease her back down onto the grass, her last conscious thought was that she hoped that John was all right and then she slipped into slumber.
"You see, the myriad of worlds out there," Lorien smiled, gesturing to the planets, "all for us to explore."
"Are Delenn and I gods now?" John asked.
"In one sense," Lorien replied, "you have merely evolved to the next stage of Being. But I think that you had realised that."
"Yes," John smiled, "I am just beginning to realise how overwhelming it all is. And what of the future – are we energy, matter, a mix?"
"Now that you will have to figure out for yourselves," Lorien smiled, "but you two have taken the first step, the rest is up to you."
John turned and saw Este walking towards them, "How is my wife?" he asked, the words falling unbidden from his lips.
"Come with me," Este smiled, "I think she will want to see you when she wakes up."
"What will we do now?" he asked, as they walked towards the forest ahead of them.
"What do you want to do?" she asked.
"Spend some time with my wife, and then - who knows?" Sheridan smiled, "I'm a bit nonplussed to be honest."
"Understandable," Este replied. "Come."
Sheridan knelt next to the slumbering figure of his wife and gently caressed her cheek, she stirred and opened her eyes to see John gazing down at her, with tears in his eyes he spoke, "Good morning, my darling, the brightest star in my sky."
Unable to speak Delenn reached up to lay a hand against her husband's cheek before his mouth came down on hers. Este smiled and left them alone.
Lorien was waiting for her, he turned as she approached, "Well?"
"He's with her now," Este replied, she stood looking out across the vista in front of her.
"Have you told him, have you told her?"
"Rather difficult," Este sighed, "she has just regained consciousness, I thought you would have explained matters to him."
"He has not been-"
"Receptive?" Este raised an eyebrow when he nodded and then said, "Tell me."
"At first he needed to recover," Lorien said quietly and then after a pause he said, "he didn't seem to want to move on, he just came out and watched the sunrise every morning."
"Ah," Este said slowly, "oh dear."
"Well we have no options now, he may be more willing to listen."
"He missed Delenn desperately," Este replied, "and that can affect anyone's mental state. They don't have our advantages – I knew I would see you again someday – he did not."
"You are a deep one, Este," Lorien smiled, "go to them. Explain – I have every faith in you."
She scowled and then slipped away.
Delenn was sitting with her back to the tree, "I never forgot you," John was saying, as he knelt beside her, "I watched the sunrise every morning and you were with me every day."
Delenn smiled back, her hand holding his, "I did the same my love."
"President Sheridan, Lady Delenn," Este smiled, "if you feeling well enough would you come with me."
Both of them stood up and Este noticed that Sheridan took Delenn's hand. She led the way away from the forest until they stood on what could only be described as a viewing platform. "There are some things you both need to know, but I think you're beginning to discover that aren't you?"
Both of them looked down and she heard a soft gasp from Delenn, they were starting to glow. Sheridan looked up, "What is this?"
"That was our gift to you," Este said quietly, "to bring you up to the next plane of existence. You're both free to travel the multiverse."
They both looked at her, "I thought we were destined to stay with you-" Sheridan said.
"You don't need us any longer," Este said. "Go and watch your sunrises on other worlds."
"I don't know what to say," Sheridan said slowly.
"It's been an honour and a privilege to know you both," Este said quietly.
"No, I think the honour and the privilege were ours," Delenn said, "will we ever see you again?"
"You may, you may not," Este smiled, "the universe is a big place." The glow became even brighter and before they disappeared she saw within the golden light, John Sheridan turn to the woman he loved and a smile of such joy break out on his face that she was rendered speechless. Then she was alone.
"You succeeded," Lorien was behind her, his arm warm at her waist.
"Yes, and we must be going soon too."
"The multiverse awaits my love," Lorien swept her into his arms.
"Actually a nice long vacation would be wonderful," Este replied as she linked her arms around his neck, "somewhere we won't be bothered for a couple of thousand years."
"That my love," Lorien said, his arms tightening around her waist, "can be arranged."