If Thou Wilt, Remember

When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.

When I am Dead, My Dearest-Christina Rossetti

He'd taken to stopping by her quarters in the evening after his shift was over. C&C was under orders to let him know the instant word came in from Minbar; any word at all, at any time, day or night. The Rangers under his command weren't able to get in close enough to find out what was going on, and those that were stationed on the planet surface weren't sending any intel out. There was nothing John could do, and so he patrolled her space, checking on things for her, and looking for something he couldn't find.

Delenn had given him the passcode to her apartments a good while ago. He entered it on the touchpad outside the door, fingers lingering on the numbers, knowing her fingers had touched the same keys not so long ago. Once inside, he stared at the monitor, willing the 'incoming message' light to flash green. But it stayed stubbornly unlit. The rooms had the aura of abandonment, reflecting the emptiness of any place where she wasn't.

"Lights, low," he called, trying to brighten the atmosphere somewhat. Running his hand over the counter, he could feel the grit of the accumulating dust. Where did dust come from in an enclosed space station anyway? Next time he'd bring a pocket-vac and clean up a bit. Whoever looked after this place was falling down on the job. He supposed if Lennier was here he would have handled it, but Delenn's attache was with her on Minbar. Lucky devil.

Moving into the living room, John sat down heavily on the couch and leaned forward, moving one of the off-white candles from the center of the low round table to one side, in a line with two others. Cocking his head he moved it back to the center. It looked better where she'd put it. After a moment's thought, he picked up a nearby silver firelighter and lit the ivory column. The scent rising from the creamy pillar filled the air. Shan'fal wasn't far away in time or in his memory, and he felt the familiar ache build as he recalled that night of careful ritual, a mix of frustration and fulfillment.

Restless and anxious to dissipate the anxiety that narrowed his throat and sped up his heartbeat, he attempted a simple meditation exercise she'd taught him. Slipping off his shoes, he crossed his legs on the couch cushions, tucking his feet under his knees, not willing to get down on the hard floor as she'd originally required. "Open your mind and open your heart," she had said, and he had, at her command. He could feel the warmth of the candle, small as it was, and see the light dancing across his closed eyelids. His hands lay open on his knees, as if in petition.

It didn't help. The only thing that kept him from going mad these days was piling into his own work, head-first and hard. And there was plenty of it waiting back in his own quarters. He pulled on his shoes and laced them up, then stood and examined the closed glass doors that led to her bedchamber. He hadn't been in there since that memorable night of bliss and discomfort. The watchers had chanted and prayed as he and Delenn revealed their inner desires to one another. Sliding open the doors, he stepped into the darkness. A thin thread of light from the living area dimly illuminated the tilted bed, the chest along one wall, and the closed door to the adjoining bath.

He smoothed the fitted cover on the blasted bed, tilted at an angle no human could stick to, and almost tripped as his feet became entangled in a pile of soft stuff on the floor. "Lights," he commanded without thinking, and reached down to pluck up the offending garment. It was a silken slip, a soft shimmer of white like moonlight left puddled on the floor. John turned it over and over in his hands, running his thumbs across the thin line of lace that lined the bodice, fingering the long seam that ran down the back. It wasn't like her to leave clothes lying around, but then she'd been in a hurry when she'd left. As he smoothed the sleek material, he realized he'd done this before, the memory lingered in his hands. Suddenly he buried his face in the cloth, breathing in the subtle remnants of her perfume.

God, he wished she was here, and he was holding her close against him. He would run his hands along the curve of her waist, trace the outline of her spine up to the neck, slowly move the thin strap off one shoulder, then the other... Hot tears clogged the back of his throat and he clutched the material in his clenched fists. If she didn't make it back, he would take this, keep it in a box in the back of his closet. It would be something of hers to have and to remember. No one would miss it. No one would know.

The last time that kind of bad news had come, it had initially been broken by his superiors on Earth, over a comlink as he cruised the stars light-years away. He'd taken the blow like a soldier and born his grief alone. The final confirmation had come from a pair of blank-faced IPX suits, arriving in dock when he did, mouthing their unfelt sympathies like a murder of croaking ravens. This time, if the worst happened, he would hear it from his crew or his Rangers. They would respect his privacy, but he knew they would mourn with him, which was somehow a comfort. Delenn affected people that way.

Straightening up, John carefully laid the silken shift down on the bed, adjusting it so no wrinkle marred its folds. For now it would stay, an empty vessel awaiting her return. He tugged his jacket back into regulation condition, and rubbed his hand across his face and slightly wet eyes. Time to go. He walked back through the rooms, calling out for the lights to darken as he went, pausing only in the living room to blow out the candle flame that remained burning steadily, unmoved by his inner turmoil. That was what meditation taught you, the ability to remain steady as the world around you burned. He'd learned that lesson long ago, the hard way. Work, and focus, and moving forward was what got you through times of trouble. Patience, he told himself as the door closed behind him. There was always hope, and hope would see him through.