The pilots’ ready room for Desell Squadron was quiet and empty, the lights brightening from standby dim to full on as Ayeshalan entered. Seeing no one there, she dropped onto one of the benches and sighed. Raider activity had been picking up in this sector, and Ayeshalan and her pilots had all been pulling some extra shifts.
She closed her eyes and sighed again. Perhaps she was just beginning to feel her age, she thought. This sort of thing hadn’t always been so wearying. She was just about to drop off to sleep when the last voice she ever expected to hear brought her suddenly, painfully awake.
“Ah, for the chance to watch you as you sleep. I’ve often wanted to try the ritual the other way around.”
“Terron?” she gasped. She stared at the tall Minbari in front of her. His blue eyes sparkled beneath a bone crest sculpted into elegant, sweeping spikes. “How can you be here?”
He smiled, a gesture that felt like the short end of a denn’bok straight to the chest. “You never spent any time studying in temple, did you, my dear? If you had, you’d’ve learned about the Day of the Dead.”
“It’s been a long time, but I do remember that. It’s a Brakiri festival. They’re observing it on the planet below.” She stood up, reaching a hand out to him tentatively, as if he might vanish.
“Directly below. We’re all a part of it now. So here I am, for a little while.”
“Terron!” she cried, throwing herself forward and into his arms. He gently patted her shoulders, murmuring, “It’s all right, Ayeshalan. Ah, mirucol’idi, don’t cry.”
“I never cried for you, my love. I couldn’t.”
“I know,” he said. “I don’t blame you.”
“Why did you do it?” she cried. “I watched your ship self-destruct….why did you do it? Why?” She pounded her fist into his chest.
“Shhh, mirucol’idi, shhh….” He held her tightly until the first wave of her grief and fury had passed.
A bit calmer, she looked up at him again. “Why, Terron? The Grey Council ordered us to surrender, but there wasn’t any need for shame. It was necessary, to preserve our own souls.”
“But you forget, we did not know that then. All we knew was that we were being ordered to cease the holy war that we had fought for all this time, that we were within a breath of winning utterly. Our officers could not stand the thought of conceding defeat. They chose death instead, for all of us.”
“Why didn’t you stop them? Why didn’t you leave before –”
Terron placed two fingers across his wife’s lips to still her frantic plea. “I barely knew what was to happen until the order was given,” he said. “I had to serve my officers. I couldn’t have lived with myself, knowing that I’d denied them a last chance to express their souls.”
Ayeshalan tore herself free of his embrace, turning her back, sobbing again. “Damn you, Terron! Damn, damn, damn …” She slipped to her knees and began shrieking incoherently, slamming her hands into the deck for several seconds before collapsing.
The next thing she was aware of was Terron, picking her up and laying her out gently across a bench. He sat on the floor beside her.
“Damn you, Terron,” she said again, softly.
She looked for a long time into his face, wishing for the first time in many years that she still had both her eyes. When Terron was alive, he could often look into her eyes and understand what was in her mind. Not telepathy, but simply the insight gained over years of love and trust. She wondered if he could still see.
When he did speak, it was hesitant at first, the hesitation of knowing the truth could hurt, and wishing that pain could somehow be avoided.
“For doing exactly what you would have done, if you had been in my place?” he asked.
“Yes.” She sighed. “I hated you, Terron. Hated you for leaving me and our son. I couldn’t grieve, so I could only hate. And time passed, and I didn’t have the strength to hate anymore. But I still couldn’t grieve. I didn’t know how to … say goodbye.”
“I suppose this is your chance,” he said, smiling. “As well as mine. I couldn’t tell you — there was no time, even if we’d been allowed — but I looked out at the stars, toward your ship … toward you. It was very quick.”
She sighed again. “It’s been nearly ten cycles, Terron, and I still … miss you. I still serve, and the Anla’shok have given me a home, but I still …” She turned her head into his shoulder, took several deep breaths. “How long can you stay?”
“Not long. But we will meet again someday. Maybe soon. The universe takes care of its own. For now, we should enjoy the time we have.”
She looked up. He was still smiling. At last, she managed a smile of her own. “Do you know what the humans call me?” she asked him.
"But he didn't tell me he loved me." "If he didn't love you, he wouldn't have shown up in the first place. This whole thing is born of love." – John Edward, One Last Time
Copyright (c) 2000 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.