Series: Babylon 5
Pairing: Neroon/Catherine Sakai
Disclaimer: These stories are not meant to infringe upon the copyrights held by J. Michael Straczynski, Kathryn M. Drennan, Babylonian Inc. or Time Warner Productions. I'm merely playing with what they've apparently abandoned, adding my own take on that universe. It's not my fault...my muse is forcing me to do it.
Summary: After "Objects at Rest" John and Delenn find that once again the dead do not stay dead.
Note: This fic is dedicated to John Vickery who has been described as having a voice that could melt the underwear off a cloistered nun at 50 paces. So very true.
crystal mountains gleam
within their hearts
no shadows fall.
"You were fortunate that we caught your signal. The Maria was chasing raiders into this previously unexplored sector of the galaxy; we were so far into what we humans call the back of beyond that I doubt any other ship, well any other friendly ship, would have heard you... at least not in time," Shok'na Enrique Montoya said from his seat behind the desk in his small office off the bridge. "And as for your story - I was in Tuzanor when you seemingly perished in the Starfire Wheel. If it wasn't for the fact that Minbari do not lie except to save another's face, and I can't see that happening here, and that my shok'nali, Rastenn is Warrior Caste and vouches that you are indeed Neroon, I would've said this was impossible."
"Then you will agree with what I've asked of you... for the sake of Minbar?" Neroon sat opposite in the only other chair in the room, still in his Drazi overalls. He glanced down at his workstained hands and his garment, still spattered with small blotches of Anyani's blood. He'd been talking with the captain when they heard the commotion coming from the hangar and rushed in with others to see Dancer, splashed with blood as was Ni'Dayr, who apparently had been close behind her, standing beside Anyani's lifeless body. He'd pivoted and prevented Tr'Gan, who was behind him carrying Jade, from entering the hangar and fortunately had done it fast enough that Jade hadn't seen the spectacle inside. While he'd returned to the hangar to investigate, Tr'Gan had taken the child back into the residence, walking past the mound of luggage temporarily deserted by the owners.
As Dancer hoarsely explained what had occurred, a burial detail, including Neroon, was created to add one final victim to the host of others. During the interval the grave was being dug, Dancer used the remaining water in the pipes to shower and then dress in a dirty Drazi desertsuit that she'd thought never to wear again. To the music of Trovalli's Ducata, her favorite, Anyani was quickly buried beside the two Pak'ma'ra who had perished earlier. During the funeral they attempted to divert the child from the true meaning of the ceremony and Neroon thought for the most part they'd succeeded though it was hard to tell as the whole day had been upsetting to Jade. Eventually the survivors trooped aboard the Maria and it lifted effortlessly from the Shadow prison-planet. Now he sat with the human captain of the oddly named White Star 27 trying to discover his best approach to being, once more, what Branmer called a player in the great scheme of things.
"Oh yes, most definitely. Minbar has only recently begun to heal from the civil war; everything is still very tenuous. Were news of your being alive sprung on the world without any forethought I shudder to think of what might happen. We will not communicate with base until we are closer to Minbar and then I will only use a tightbeam signal to speak directly with Entil'Zha Delenn or one of her aides."
Neroon nodded his agreement. Back on Limbo they'd toyed with the idea of his taking another name and convincing any rescuer that he was an ordinary Minbari but the ship was a White Star and Gedaer and a few others had recognized him. It had not been at all helpful that Jade kept clutching him, calling him "Roon" over and over in her distress. Now Neroon realized that life was becoming infinitely more complicated than a mere struggle for survival. He needed information to plan his next move. "So what has been happening since my death-that-wasn't?"
"Hmm let me think." Montoya rose and began to pace in the small room. "After your departure Delenn reshaped the Grey Council; she named two of the Warrior Caste, two of the Religious Caste and five of the Worker Caste to positions in it."
"I see." So Delenn had kept her word and done her best to see that neither side in the civil war had gained an advantage over the other. He'd done well to trust her that fateful meeting aboard the Takari.
"There is a bit more," the Shok'na paused in his pacing, turning to face Neroon. "The center is held in honor of your memory until the time of the one-who-is-to-come."
Neroon stared in amazement at the human captain. "I'm the Aikon, the Chosen One?"
"So it would seem. That is one of the reasons why I will wait to make contact. There will be repercussions to your return."
Neroon thought on this; just a few years ago he'd been so proud to attain a place in the Grey Council as Satai only to see Delenn shatter it when the Warrior Caste, under orders from Shakiri, had refused to help fight the Shadows which was another reason for the growing resentment against the current Shai Alyt. Deep in his thoughts, he barely listened as the captain continued with the current events until he mentioned John Sheridan.
"Starkiller?" Neroon exclaimed. "President?"
Montoya nodded and added, "Unfortunately there are many on Minbar who are none too happy about the Interstellar Alliance and that Sheridan is president and now married to Delenn, especially as the headquarters for this new alliance has been built in Yedor."
Neroon frowned. He'd heard rumors of her closeness to Sheridan and that her caste, once the dreaming ceremony was over, had dropped its opposition to her choice of mate. His poor world, after a near milllenia of gradual changes, was undrgoing an enormous amount of upheavals in only a couple of decades and now he would be bringing his own unsettling presence to an already fragile society.
*************************Walking down the corridor to the stateroom Montoya had directed him to, Neroon continued to try to find an approach to the problem so that his return would cause the least difficulty for Minbar but it was proving difficult. They were four days out from Minbar and if he couldn't find an answer perhaps the best plan was simply not to return but have the Maria take him elsewhere. There were probably still a few Minbari ships out there that had never acknowledged the surrender; he could join one of them. Tradition had it that in the service of his clan a warrior was ready to sacrifice everything: his individuality, his blood, his life but could he sacrifice his clan, his caste and Minbar itself to live a life of permanent exile?
He stopped outside the door of the captain's stateroom, given to Dancer and her daughter by the captain as it was the only private chamber on the Maria. He was about to ring the buzzer when he heard Jade's voice crying "Meema, Meema". The child sounded like she was in distress. Where was Dancer? he thought as he entered without announcing his arrival.
There on the floor sat Dancer, seemingly oblivious to her daughter and everything else. Jade was trying to get into her lap and pulling at her hair to get her mother to pay attention to her. Jade looked up at him and, with eyes filled with unshed tears, ran to Neroon. He picked her up and walked towards Dancer while gently patting the child on her back
"Dancer. Dancer," he said his voice growing louder. Still no reaction. He came closer and knelt beside her saying, "Catherine." She blinked then focused on him holding Jade in his arms. "What is wrong?"
"I used the com to send word to my aunt Mari." Her voice quivered and she had to wait a minute in order to continue. "I found out she'd been killed in a protest rally against Clarke over two years ago. All this time she's been dead." She pulled her knees up, wrapped her arms around them and rested her head on the bulkhead behind her as she took a deep breath. "I am so tired of losing people. My parents, Jeff, Anyani, even the Pa'ma'ra and Abbai I barely knew and now my aunt even though I haven't seen her in years."
"What will you do now?"
"I don't know. Earth is still there and Clarke is gone but I have no place to call home. Neither Jeff nor I really had a home."
She closed her eyes, still paying no attention to Jade who snuggled closer, content to be in his arms. Neroon realized he would miss moments like this as he looked down into the child's brown eyes so like her father's, like Valen's he supposed, though no image of Valen survived from his era. He recalled his reaction when, aboard the Takari, Delenn had told him of Sinclair's fate; when he learned that he had human blood in his veins. It had been a shock to know that his once enemy Sinclair had willingly gone back in time to became his hero and progenitor Valen. His enmity now seemed like a lifetime ago. A thought occurred to him. "Did he know about Jade?"
She opened her eyes and stared at the two of them. "You mean that I was pregnant? No. Heck even I didn't know until some time after my capture. Contrashots are supposed to be a surety but space travel and living on alien worlds can cause them to fail. I'm pretty sure she was conceived on the freighter Videnar while we were on route to Sector 14." She laughed bitterly.
"We joked that it was as close to a honeymoon as we were likely to have and so it was."
He could recognize despair even in a human and if she were Minbari he would believe she was close to the state of being sechli sakarr which the humans translated as soul sick. Right now she was in no shape to take care of Jade by herself but there was no one else...no one else to care the child, for Valen's child...no one, except for him, he realized. It was an absurd idea and yet... Branmer had taught Neroon to think outside the box, beyond the typical warrior caste patterns. Was this the answer, not to go gently but make a full on assault? "Do you know what the sire-oath is?"
She looked up at him in bewilderment before replying, "It's a Minbari form of adoption, isn't it?"
"Yes. The sire-oath comes from the time before Valen when it was often necessary to make arrangements for dependents." The more he thought about it, the more he knew he needed to do it; the challenge was irresistible. "I want to make the sire-oath for Jade."
Dancer searched his face as if trying to read his mind. "Why?"
"There is blood between us, between Sinclair and myself. I might have been responsible for his death several times over if things had not gone differently. He made a great sacrifice and we...I, owe him.
He took a deep breath and continued, "I misjudged him dreadfully. As I am of the family of Malkh and we are descended from him, I will stand as her relative to make the oath."
She shook her head. "I will not relinquish my daughter."
"By tradition, the mother if she lives, remains with the child." Dancer looked searchingly into his eyes as he continued, "We are not of the same blood but we are of the same heart."
She gave a little smile. "Jeff said that you once told him that." She seemed to consider his words which gave him hope.
"I swear by my name, my honor, my life that I intend no harm to Jade...or you." Neroon waited for her reply, Jade quiet in her arms as if aware of the importance of the moment.
"I am aware of the honor you do us," she replied slowly. "but Jeff always said that I rushed into things with little thought. I dare not now... for her sake and mine. I will need time." She reached out her arms for her daughter and Neroon gave the child to her mother.
He rose abruptly, stretching his muscles as he looked down at her. "In four days we reach Minbar. It is best if the matter has been settled by then." He turned and left Dancer to make her decision.