"EMPTINESS" (PREQUEL)

By Castor

 

 

 

I was re-watching the last few scenes from Sleeping in Light and this elucidation (for want of a better word) nagged in my brain. While I realise this has been written to death (pardon the pun) this one wouldn't go away. Depending on the mood you’re in you might get a bit sniffly.

   All characters and situations belong to jms. This is just my take on what was going on inside.

 

 

 

 

*****

He’d only been gone three days and she knew, deep inside, that his life was finally drawing to a close. There was a connection between them that even death, she felt certain, could not sever. She had wanted to be with him at the end, but she understood why that could not be so. They had shared so much, but he, always trying to spare her pain, had wanted to keep this experience from her. But the bond held true. She could feel him weakening even from this distance. She knew the end was near.

   She had insisted on working even though the others had told her she should take some time for herself. They argued but she had remained implacable. The Interstellar Alliance would not stop its business even when its founder and, for so long, president was dying. Life would go on. Needs had to be met, disputes settled, logistical problems resolved. He would not want her to stop. And so she went on. But as she made her way to bed she knew tonight would be different.

   She knew he’d been at Babylon 5 that morning. Zack had contacted her, wondering what Sheridan was talking about when he mentioned the letter. She’ d tried to explain it to him and he had been appalled that he had not had the chance to be with them all on Minbar. But he was the last to see Sheridan alive and she had been glad one of their group could give her the last details of his time with them. Zack had understood. He’d done his best to tell her everything he could. How he’d encountered Sheridan standing in the deserted Zocalo, lost in memories. How they’d walked together to the docking bay. It was Zack who told her where Sheridan was headed when he left. She knew where he was right now: Coriana Six.

   It made sense. He’d told her once, long ago, that he’d been given a message from Kosh that when the time came he was to return to the end of the beginning. Then it had not made sense to them and they had spent some time trying to work out the meaning of Kosh’s remarks, cryptic as ever even when he spoke from beyond the grave. But there on the station, or perhaps before, Sheridan had realised the meaning and made his way to Coriana Six.

   She undressed slowly, unwilling to face the empty bed again. It felt so cold without him beside her. Many a time during the Minbari winters she had snuggled against him, his body heat keeping her warm. When she had been pure Minbari she had not noticed the cold. After her change she had begun to realise why human rangers often complained of it when they first arrived on Minbar. They adapted, of course. She could have, but with him lying there beside her it was so much better to use his body to warm her, his arm around her, the slow rising and falling of his chest sending her to sleep.

   She would have to adapt now, for no other would take his place. But she was loathe to. To do so was to admit that, finally, she accepted he would not return: that she would never see him again. And that she could not face.

   She climbed into bed and pulled the sheets over her, but on his side they remained down as though in preparation for him. The pillow cases had not been changed since he left and his scent still lay on them. Of course he would not come. Would never come again. Yet still she noted the bedclothes turned down and, as she closed her eyes, she could imagine the way the bed dipped as he climbed in and settled down beside her, touching his lips to hers in a goodnight kiss. She remembered how, when she was frightened or sad, he would pull her into his arms and wrap them tenderly around her, saying how much he loved her and reminding her that they would survive this trial as they had so many others.

   She lay on her side, willing herself to sleep, but sleep would not come. She could feel him dying. Feel his heart slowing. The vibrancy and energy that had always been his, even as he grew old before his time, was slowly fading from him.

   She turned to the empty side of the bed and stroked her hand over the cold pillow. He was so close now. She rolled closer, imagining him there, and then she could bear it no longer and she pulled the pillow into her arms and curled around it, holding the last of him to her even as she felt his life ebbing away.

   She felt a surge, a glimmer of hope. Something had happened, she knew not what. For a little while he was stronger. She held on tightly, hoping she could keep him from the end by some mysticism which would give him her life force. She would have gladly sacrificed her years for him. She had even, long ago, investigated the alien healing device which had saved Susan at the cost of Marcus. When Franklin caught her she had felt guilty, until he had admitted he’d also considered it. But Lorien’s gift would not have responded. It was what it was, no more and no less and altogether different from the forces on which the alien device depended. His time was set and finite and nothing would change it. Sheridan had scolded her when he learned of her studies. She was not, he had said, to sacrifice herself for him and, in fear of what she might try, he’d ordered the device destroyed. Franklin had barely put up a fight. The loss of Marcus was still too strong in their minds. To lose, possibly, Delenn too, and to no good end was too great a risk. The device was destroyed.

   She curled tightly around the pillow. ‘Please. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone.’ She did not speak the words out loud, but the mantra echoed in her mind. Then she felt a peace descend. It washed over her like a balm. He had not wanted this; had not wanted to leave her. But now he was prepared. He knew what was to come and, at last, he could accept it. She did not know what had changed but John was ready, she knew that now.

   And the knowledge was terrible to her.

   So long as he had fought. So long as he had been reluctant to leave she’d felt, even though she knew it was foolish, that there was a chance. That he would fight and win his last and greatest battle. But now she knew he had surrendered, and with that came the certainty that the end would come.

   Tighter, tighter. She would not let go until he did. He was still there with her, an echo of a love so strong it could cross the light years between them, and she clung to him as she had before he had begun his Sunday drive. But slowly, inexorably, the fingers of his mind slipped from hers. She reached out for him, desperate to hold on to the last until, with a final touch, he was gone.

   The pillow was cold. It wasn’t him. There was nothing left of him in the bed beside her. She pushed it away and got up. She did not make a sound but the tears rolled down her cheeks in a steady stream. She put on a dressing gown and went outside. It was just before the dawn and she sat on the bench where, during his last days, he had been wont to sit in the moments before dawn, waiting for the sun to rise. She knew for she had never been far away. Each day he had left their room so quietly, trying not to disturb her, but she always knew when he was gone. He needed this time alone but she had watched him, silently, until he would sigh and turn to see her standing there. And each day he had smiled and gone to her, or beckoned her to him to enjoy those last moments of still quiet before the world awoke and the bustle of daily business began.

   As the first rays broke over the horizon she felt something. A warmth flooded through her that could not be explained by those first, bright, clear beams of light. And she knew he was there beside her, the lines of care and worry now smoothed and replaced with a look of calm and peace. A breeze passed over the balcony causing her to wrap the dressing gown more tightly around her, but the cloak of Entilzha which he wore was not stirred.

   ‘John?’

   He did not speak. He gazed, unflinchingly, into the dawn light, a small smile on his lips and a sparkle of wonder in his eyes. She did not try to touch him for she knew that here was just a spirit and it would yield like smoke to the brashness of a physical touch. But none was required for they were bound together in ways that went far beyond the need for such things.

   He was there with her and she knew, as surely as she knew she loved him, that he would always be there in the dawn light, waiting for her, watching the start of a new day. And she knew, just as surely, that she would be there with him. And together they would face each day as they had for so many years. He would give her the strength to carry on for the rest of her life. A part of him watching over her until, finally, she would join him in the place where no shadows fall.

   The sun broke through and she was alone again, yet not so alone. He was there in the dawn and she reached out towards the sun. The light caressed her fingers.

 

-----

‘Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star stuff...’ Delenn.

‘As for Delenn. Every morning for as long as she lived, Delenn got up before dawn and watched the sun come up.’ Susan Ivanova.



 

*****

 

 

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