There is a very important anniversary coming up. It is one I do not wish to celebrate. This anniversary will bring me no joy. One might wonder why my thoughts are so Morose, since for most people, the word anniversary conjures up idyllic images of parties, balloons and good times spent with loved ones.
Generally I would agree but not this particular anniversary. It will be a twentieth anniversary. The marking of this passage of time should be a joyous occasion, but it will beovershadowed profound sadness.
Those who do not know me well, say that lately I do not act like myself. That is because they do not know the real me. They only know the former Entil' za or Madam President. No, they do not know the woman who has lived the last twenty years dreading the coming of this day. Only six living people, besides my husband John, know that woman: Susan Ivanova, Stephen Franklin, Michael Garibaldi, Vir Cotto, Lyta Alexander and Zack Allen know because they were there when John returned from the Shadow Home world, Z'ha dum.
We were living on Babylon 5 back then. My husband John was the captain, Susan Ivanova held the rank of commander and was John's second in command. Stephen Franklin was Chief Medical Officer, Michael Garibaldi was the Chief Warrant Officer and Zachary Allen was his assistant. Lyta
Alexander was the station's resident telepath and Vir Cotto held the position of Aide to the Centauri Ambassador, Londo Mollari. Poor Londo, he knew the secret of what a dark day this anniversary would be for me, but he along with his friend and former nemesis, G'Kar as well as my aide and former confidante Lennier, took that secret to the grave with them.
Twenty years. So much has happened in John and my lives since then, most of it impossible to keep out of the public's view, but not this. This burden the eleven of us bore alone. No one else ever knew. Not John's family, not even John's and My son, David.
I've often wondered, if we did the right thing keeping this information from David, considering the profound impact it will have on his life. On the one hand my heart screams, he has the right to know! On the other hand, my mind shouts, he wouldn't understand- because he wasn't there. David has heard first hand accounts of the events leading up to that accursed day. He's also seen vids and read the history books' recollections of what went on when his father made that doomed voyage, but he did not live the nightmare of grief and mourning when we all believed that John had perished at Z'ha dum. All he knows is that his dad was missing and his Whitestar was destroyed after John followed his previously presumed dead wife Anna to that Valen-forsaken planet.
We did our best to shelter him from the horror of that day, that we relived time and time again over the years. John never told David about how he faced certain death in the room or how he stood trapped on that balcony with Anna and the Shadows she served coming towards him to kill`him. In fact the only person he ever confessed the utter terror he felt at that moment, knowing he was trapped that high above the planet's surface with the Shadows in front of him, a long drop to the rugged, deadly terrain behind him and the Whitestar he had loaded with two Thermonuclear bombs to destroy the Shadow capital zooming to the surface from above him, was me.
David never heard his father's voice, the strong beautiful baritone timber cracking, as he relayed the untenable feeling of helplessness of those few agonizing moments of knowing he'd never see his friends and loved ones again, compounded by the emotion that by not returning to help them fight this war, he was failing them. John and I never talked about that in front of our son. He knew about some of the nightmares his father would experience, because there were times John would wake up screaming, from his mind replaying either the miniutes from the time he heard Kosh's voice in his head telling him to "Jump" into the depths of that unknown chasm until he woke up miles beneath the surface not knowing where he was or the time he suffered for eight days in that bastard Clark's illegal and immoral captivity, which was the only other major secret we have kept from David.
We were not able to shield him from his father's nightmares but we were successful in hiding the emotional collapses John and I suffered privately over the years. Everything would be fine and then one night, for some inexplicable reason the specter of this upcoming anniversary would surface. Those were the worst times. John and I would end up huddled up together in the bed, holding on to each other for dear life, struggling to keep the silent tears from falling, determined not to audiblize our grief because we knew it would only increase the other's pain.
Time. Unfortunately, the time of this anniversary is fast approaching. It is hard to believe it has been almost twenty years. I sat down one day and figured out that twenty years is approximately sixty-three million, seventy-two thousand seconds (63,072,000). To most people that seems like a longtime, but to those of us who know what really happened in the bowels of Z'ha dum, twenty years passed, much too quickly.
Twenty years. I keep hearing those two words over and over in my head today. They are even harder to hear now, than they were almost two decades ago. Those two seemingly innocent words had a devastating effect on me that day so long ago but at least back then, the pain was tempered by the joy of John asking me to marry him. This time there will be no joy, only emptiness and sorrow. Instead of celebrating the day John asked me to
be his wife, I will be trying to cope with the loss of my soul mate.
NO, in Valen's name I do not wish to see this anniversary arrive. How can I celebrate the day the only man I have ever loved, with all my heart, soul, mind and body, will simply stop. My pain doesn't just come from knowing the exact day my husband will draw his last breath, but also from my guilt of knowing my dishonesty was a part of the reason he went to Z'ha dum.
John has tried to tell me over and over through the years that it is not my fault he went. He says the same thing he said in his time delayed message to me after he left that fateful day, That he went knowing that it was a Shadow trap and that he would be facing almost certain death, because he felt it was what he had to do, not because I withheld the knowledge that Anna might be alive and serving the Shadows, from him.
In a few days, this twentieth anniversary will arrive. After John has passed beyond the veil, I will have the unenivable task of explaining to David and my in-laws, the complete and unvarnished truth of what happened after John jumped off of that balcony, on Z'ha dum. John feels that this is an unnecessary hardship for me, so he recorded a vid crystal explaining how he died and how he met Lorien and was given a temporary reprieve of twenty years. He doesn't know I know he recorded that message. John would never willingly cause me pain, so that when anything comes up that would remind me of what will happen at the end of his twenty years, he does his best to shield me from it. This time he can not protect me.
It is not like all the times before when we have faced the possibility of death. Before there was always hope that we would both make it out alive. This time there is no hope, because there is no cure for death. I remember how when I would become tense just before the action started, John would tease me, that he knew we would survive whatever battle we were fighting because I would will it so.
He would say, "Delenn, your will is so strong, that when you will something to be, the Universe changes it's perspective to fit in with the way you think it should be. So that's how I know everything will be alright". I would usually just shake my head, laugh at him and tell him he had too much faith in his wife, but I would be smiling and feeling more at ease with the situation, which was his goal in the first place.
I've never put much stock in my husband's accessment that my force of will could bend the Universe to my desires, but this is one time, I wish it were true, because I would give up everything I have, if the Universe would not take John from David and me. I know that is impossible. I've seen the signs that John's life is steadily ebbing away. Even though he is still the most handsome and distinguished man I have ever met, his body is starting to show the signs of his impending demise. Knowing John has seen these signs also, is the hardest part for me. Every time I see him have to struggle to catch his breath after a minor exertion, have to sit and rest after walking a few hundred yards or not be able to stand for more than a few miniutes at a time, my heart breaks, to see this once energetic and vital man, so physically depleted. I am just grateful everyday it is not worse. Thank Valen his mind was not affected. He is still the smartest tactician, I know.
He has also become one hell of a diplomat over the last twenty years. He used those two skills to keep the Alliance strong during the transition period of his leaving the Presidency and my Inauguration. He worries about what this anniversary will do to the Alliance as much as he worries about what it will do to David and me. What John doesn't suspect is that I know a small part of the reason he worked so hard the last few years he was
President, is because he knows the Alliance is one more way to keep me from withdrawing from life after he is gone. He knows as long as I have our son and the Alliance both to protect and guide, I will not shut myself away in Temple and mourn him for the rest of my life. It is his sneaky little way of forcing me to embrace what the rest of my life holds for me. John knows I love David and that I respect how important the success of the Alliance is to him, so he is assured, I will not give up on life until it is my time to join him in the place where no shadows fall.
I love John so much. I never could say no when I suspected something was really important to him. That is the main reason I agreed with him to not pull David out of Ranger training. At first, I wanted our son home to share in the last few days of his father's life. I understand it would be hard for David to witness his father pass on but I also know that he will have me, Susan, Stephen, Michael, Zack and Vir to help him through his grief. They will be here for the celebration of life and friendship dinner party John is having the night before the day of the twenty year anniversary. I have
received a verbal conformation from everybody but Zack already. I assured John that David would have plenty of loved ones to lean on who would understand what he was going through but he looked at me with those beautiful greenish hazel eyes of his and said, "No sweetheart, please try and understand. I have thought on this long and hard, especially this last year. I...we, made the decision long ago that we would not tell our family about my shortened lifespan because it would cause them too much pain.
The reasons for that decision is more valid now that I am certain there will be no reprieve from the twenty year old debt I owe. It is my time to pay the price. Delenn you once said to me the price was too high, now I am going to say something I have very seldom said to you in the nineteen years we have been married, you were wrong. The penalty of my life is nothing compared to the love and joy of the last twenty years with you David, my family and friends.
I was lucky twenty years ago, I got another chance at life. Millions of people perished in the Shadow war, whom I am sure would have gladly accepted the price of twenty years against the alternative. Delenn, I died on Z'ha dum. Logically, my love you know this, but emotionally even after all these years you cannot accept it. You were there Delenn. You know I had no other choice. I remember the night I forced you to finally accept that it wasn't your fault and yet you still feel guilty and you still are holding out for a miracle that we both know is not going to happen.
How can I leave this world in peace, knowing I have hung that same millstone around my parents, my sister and my son's neck and I will not be around to offer them comfort or tell them that it is okay because I accepted the fact that one day I would just simply "stop" as my fate a long time ago.
David is young and he is very much our son. He would just spend his time trying to find a loophole. You and I both know he inherited our need to 'fix' things. I love our son, Delenn. I will not let him blame himself the rest of his life because he could not save me. Being our son puts enough pressure on him. I refuse to allow my selfish desire to have him by my side at the end, cause him to live out his remaining days thinking of himself as a failure because he couldn't change something that happened before he was born. Please don't ask me to, it's hard enough for me to see that look reflected in your eyes, or Susan's or Michael's or Stephen's. And believe me Delenn, I see it. No matter how well you all try to hide it. Hell, the four of you are the some of the strongest people I know, yet each one of you is still eating yourself up inside because you cannot find a way to render the contract I signed on Z'ha dum, null and void.
I understand your reasons: Michael still in a small way, blames himself for what happened with Clark and he also thinks that if he hadn't followed my orders and ensured the Whitestar was loaded with those two bombs, it would have changed the outcome of what happened there. He's right to an extent. If he hadn't carried out my wishes, the capital city would not have been destroyed and the Shadow would have been prepared to strike sooner. I read the reports aboutthe Shadow ships surrounding the station at that time, if I hadn't destroyed the capital, the whole station might have fallen and then the outcome of the war would have been much different then, Delenn. We would have lost the war and I still would have died on Z'ha dum because the Shadows would have killed me when I refused to serve them. It was not his fault just as it was not your fault.
Even Susan and Stephen blame their selves and they didn't even know I was gone to Z’ Ha dum until after I was already on the way. Susan feels it is somehow her fault because that is the way Ivanova deals with things. She's lost so many people in her life, none of which was her fault, but she always blames herself because she's still traumatized by her mother's suicide when she was five years old.
Susan couldn't prevent her mother's death back then and she can't prevent mine now, but somewhere in theback of her mind she still feels there should be something she could do. That's why Ivanova always has to be in control because when she's not, she feels like she is that helpless five year old again, and that if she had not gone next door to play, her mother would still be alive. Every time someone she over dies, she relives the horror of her mother's death all over again. I think that Susan subconsciously feels that if she can prevent someone she loves from dying, she can make up for failing to prevent her mother's death.
My passing will hit Michael and Susan hard, but it will effect Stephen on an even deeper level. As a man of science, Franklin has seen death many times over he years. I remember one time someone remarked how cold, impersonal and detached he was while working. That person never knew the real Stephen Franklin. Never saw how he agonized over the death of a patient; How he analyzed over and over in his head the facts of the
death of a being he couldn't save. Stephen can't save me and he's never excepted that fact.
Franklin made me a promise twenty years ago to keep looking for a way to save my life. That's a promise he's kept. It's not his fault there's no cure, but he still feels like he's failed me. It's not true.
Stephen, Susan and Michael haven't let me down and neither have you Delenn. As he said he name, Sheridan turned her chair around to face him, and held his arms out. Delenn could hold back the tears no longer as she exploded from her seat into the loving safe have of her husbands arms.
As Delenn sat remembering this the tears began to stream down her face. John was about to enter the room and inquire if all was set for the party, when he heard his wife's low sobs. His heart went out to her for all the pain she was enduring. There was no need for him to ask her why she was upset, he already knew. Every since he shared with her that he had the dream about Z'ha dum for the third night in a row, that had been all Delenn had been able to think about. In fact that was his motivation or asking her to make the party arrangements personally, he had been hoping the preparations would distract her and give her mind a temporary respite from her grief. Unfortunately it hadn't worked.
John entered the room quietly and knelt down next to Delenn. She hadn't heard him come in and was slightly startled but she recovered quickly and began to turn away from him so he would not see her crying. His voice stopped her as he pleaded with her not to turn away from him. When she was facing him again, he reached out a hand and gently wiped Delenn's tears away. "I love you Delenn, please don't cry," John said softly as he stood up, pulled Delenn out of the chair and into his arms.
"I am sorry John to show such weakness," she whispered though a throat constricted with emotion, "but if is just so unfair!". John couldn't stop the laughter that escaped him as he thought of the irony of that statement coming from his wife who had spent countless hours lecturing him on the inherent fairness of an unfair universe.
"Shh, it's okay Delenn. Crying is a part of being Human," he whispered as he pulled her even closer into his arms and planted a soft kiss on the top of her head. "Besides if you didn't shed a tear, I might think that you didn't love me anymore" he teased her.
"Don't be silly, John Sheridan. I will love you until I take my last breath and beyond. My heart, my soul will never belong to another in this or any other lifetime. Even after we have returned to the star dust from which we came, our spirits will find each other. You are as humans say, stuck with me" Delenn announced as if she were making an official proclamation in front of the alliance advisory board.
"And that is the greatest gift the Universe has ever bestowed upon me, my love. I have spent every day of our lives together being thankful for the chance to have you and our son in my life. Even after all these years, I'm still amazed at how empty my life was until the two of you came in to it.
Out of all that I have accomplished in my life, what I am proudest of is that I can say, I was a good husband and father. All the medals, accomendations, being president and Entil' za, those are nice, but none of them mean nearly as much to me as when you or David tell me you love me. That's what I want to remember Delenn when my time comes- the love in your eyes, not the tears. I can face anything as long as I have your love, even death. So please, for me, no more tears. Let's not dwell on the sadness of my life's Sunset, but enjoy the bright light of our love for each other" John said as he stroked her bonecrest lightly.
The love in her husband eye, the tenderness of his words and the gentle caress of his fingers on her bonecrest and back were having a stimulating effect on Delenn. Where her heart was about to break from thoughts of a future with out her love, it along with her body were slowly being coaxed into the need to be loved in a more physical way by her soul mate. John sensed the change in her mood and smiled because even after almost twenty years they still had the same amazing connection between them. He knew that their passion would only distract her from what was to come for just a little while but it all he could give her in the way of comfort.
John and Delenn's lovemaking that night was slow and unhurried. In the hours they lay together they silently communicated the words, feelings and emotions that the specter of death robbed them of having the time to experience with each other.
As the years of her life passed, Delenn would remember that night with fondness because out the depths of her despair grew an even more profound closeness with her husband. The link between their souls never severed. When ever Delenn was troubled she could "feel John's comforting embrace around her and hear his caressing whisper, telling her, "To follow her heart and her feet would find the right path". John's spirit watched over Delenn for the rest of her life and when it was time for her to shake off her mortal coil he was there waiting for her with arms open wide. As she stepped into his embrace he smiled at her and said, "Welcome home my love, I've missed you.
Disclaimer: I do not own Babylon 5, nor any of the
characters in this piece of fiction. They are the
property of JMS and Warner Brothers.
characters in this piece of fiction. They are the
property of JMS and Warner Brothers.