Title: Darkened Souls, Part 4: Remembrances and the Future

Author: B5Crusader@geocities.com
Date: 01-23-98

Dedication/Notes: This was an unintended piece that just popped into my head the other night as I was thinking of a way to make more notable and clearer the events in the upcoming Part 5: Reunions. So far it looks like probably the least violent piece of this story to date.

I might be putting this story on a slight hiatus so I can finish up In the Shadow of Giants, Tidal Forces (which one of my good friends gave me a great idea for a sequel to that story, all ready), as well as crank out a lot more of the seemingly rather popular In the Garden of the Past story.

Part 4: Remembrances and the Future.

Earthdome, Geneva, Earth, Earth Alliance,  December 31, 2250

John Sheridan strolled through the gathered crowd easily, a friendly smile plastered on his face. His hair was cropped in a severe military crewcut. His dress uniform, unlike many present, was simple and bore little of the braiding, ribbons, and colorful patches of others present. Despite this simplicity he attracted attention from everyone around him.

Not that he cared about the syncophatic fools who hovered at the edge of his vision. He passed a knot of people, seeing Anna dressed stunningly in a black gown that had been all the rage before the war. It fit her snugly and accentuated her slim body nicely. As he passed he gave her a quick appreciative smile causing her to blush slightly before turning her attention back to another Earthforce wife.

Anna knew he was cruising the room, looking for old friends and avoiding enemies. He'd already found most of the people he'd been looking for. This was rather easy since this as a reception for those who'd been awarded the Alliance Medal of Valor earlier that day.

John smiled suddenly as he recognized a man strolling through the crowd, watching everything with a smirk on his face. Unlike many present, this man was dressed in simple civilian attire. The only indication of his affiliation was a discreet Earthforce pin and statbar. John didn't need these things to know who this man was.

"Michael Garibaldi, good to see you again." He greeted the other man. The two shook hands.

"Hi, John. It's been awhile." Mike grinned, truly pleased to see John again.

"So, what brings you here, Mike? I thought you hated these things." John commented, flashing a bright, albeit, false smile towards General Hague who was passing by at the moment.

"I do. But I wanted to see how Jeff was doing. I can't find him though." Mike shrugged as if he had expected such a thing to occur.

"I haven't seen him since the ceremony earlier." John noted. Jeff had been one of the few individuals he'd been looking for earlier.

"Well, you know Jeff. He isn't one for parties." Mike commented neutrally.

John steered Michael off into a corner away from prying ears and looked at the man more closely. He could see he was worried. "How is he?"

Michael shrugged uncertainly. "Catherine says he's a lot better. He's not suicidal anymore and he's able to get some sleep, despite the nightmares."

John's look hardened suddenly. "I could have read that in a report. In fact, I did read that in his last medical report."

Michael sighed. "Look those two months at Father Rafelli's place have helped him a lot. Cathy says he's doing a lot better. He's even started talking to people again. I went and saw him just after he went there and I can say from what I saw on the vids today he's a hell of a lot better than he was."

"Mike, I need to know if we can rely on him. He's my friend, but I also need him to handle the others. The Senate wants him out of Earthforce and last I heard he was going to quit." John said.

"I'd say he's in. Cathy's been watching him close and seems to think he'll stay." Michael informed John.

"But can we rely on him?" John asked, irritated.

"I don't know. He's got a lot of anger in him, a lot of guilt. You saw what losing Joshua did to him." Mike sad sadly. John nodded.

He remember all to well. He'd found Jeff just outside the starport surrounded by a group of some twenty other soldiers. All of them had simply stood there staring at a man drenched in blood holding the small lifeless body in his arms, a maddening high pitched keening sound coming from him. It had taken a full minute to realize he'd been staring at his friend.

When he had overheard one of the soldiers telling a newly arriving medic what had happened, John had felt sick to his stomach. Jeff had lashed out with an axe at the medic when he had tried to remove Joshua Sinclair's body from his father's arms. Only an alert and quick guard had pulled the medic away in time to save him from being cleaved by the blood soaked weapon.

John had started talking to Jeff, as if everything was normal. Talked about little things, useless things. After a time, Jeff had relaxed his guard enough for John to be able to knock him out with a punch. The medics had closed in, removing the dead body and taking Jeff for medical treatment.

John had visited him at the hospital the next day. All he heard was either silence or a scream the likes of which had haunted John's own dreams for several weeks. He hadn't decided which was worse. The hopeless, soul rending screams or the empty, world shattering silence.

"Credit for your thought." Mike said humorlesly.

"Just remembering things." Was John answer. Mike merely nodded his head in understanding.

Seeing his wife pass by, John took it as an opportunity to change the subject. "So, is Lise here?"

Mike grinned. "Yeah, somewhere. She and Cathy wandered off somewhere, after Jeff up and disappeared on us."

"Hmm. Didn't think Cathy was much of a socialite." John commented.

Mike rolled his eyes in mock disgust. "Lise thinks she can make Cathy more sociable."

John chuckled. "I think Cathy would much prefer to hop in a ship and fly solo recon against a fleet of Minbari Warcruisers than be here."

Mike nodded his head in full agreement. "That or hole up with Jeff somewhere quiet."

"Why, Michael Garibaldi! You sound almost jealous!" A voice said teasingly.

Both men turned to see Catherine Sakai, Lise Hampton, and Anna Sheridan standing with amused looks on their faces. Each woman was dressed in black dresses, each slightly different in cut but very flattering to the figure.

John could easily see why nearby single males, as well as few attached males cast glances in their direction. All of them were beautiful, attractive and very strong willed women.

"I was wondering what happened to you two." Michael grinned at Catherine.

"Well, we saw Anna here being followed around by several of those Senators and decided we just had to rescue her before their drool ruined her dress." Lise explained happily, earning a wicked grin from Anna who'd moved to entwine her arm with Johns.

They all chuckled lightly at this. John turned his attention to Catherine and smiled warmly. "It's good to see you again, Catherine. How have you been?"

She smiled back. "I've been well. I finally got the loan for my ship. Now all I need is someone to hire me."

John's smile faded a bit. "So you won't come back to Earthforce."

Catherine looked down. "I can't, John. I've seen to much. I can't fight anymore. Not after all I've seen happen."

"What about Jeff?" John asked.

She looked back up and John could see the conflict in her eyes. And the love. "It's his decision. I've already told him I'll support whatever he does, but I'm going back out there as a civilian. He seems to understand. If he quits the Force, I'm going to try to get him to join up with me."

"So he's quitting?" John asked.

"He hasn't said for sure. I think he's going to stay. All he's ever wanted to do was fly and to serve others. To help people. I'm not sure he could make it outside of the Force anymore. He's too used to fighting for everything. We all are." Catherine explained.

"Any idea where he's at?" John looked around and spotted General Hauge and Admiral Wilson fast approaching their group. Catherine saw them as well and smiled knowingly.

"I was going to try the gardens, but it's very cold and my coat is in the other room. Would you mind getting him?" She asked the last question loud enough for the two high ranking officers to hear clearly.

"Gladly, Ms. Sakai. I shall return shortly. Excuse me." He gave Anna a quick kiss and quickly strode towards the doors leading out into the main gardens, a genuine smile on his face at the offended look he'd seen on Wilson's face.

John shivered violently as soon as the cold night air struck him. Despite the cold John smiled as he inhaled the fragrance of the gardens. The wonderful scents of home. He started to stroll the Gardens casually casting his eyes up to the stars occasionally.

He could easily understand Jeff Sinclair's almost obsessive behavior with gardens and nature. Compared to the harsh, unforgiving realities of the life in Earthforce and the equally slimy machinations of politics the gardens were peaceful and untainted.

Roughly halfway through the path around the garden John finally spotted a man standing beside a stone bench. If not for the slight wisp of his breath floating away into the night air, John would have sworn it was a statue. John quickly walked over to him.

"Jeff?"

Jeffrey Sinclair turned his head slightly to look at him, the movement almost mechanical. Stiff and rigid. For a moment the face was blank, the eyes cold and dark as space itself. In an instant that look dissolved into a warm, welcoming smile.

"John how have you been?" Jeff shook his hand firmly.

"I've been well, *Commander* Sinclair." John emphasized his friends new ranks teasingly. Jeff smirked at that but made no other comment. He'd been promoted earlier today after receiving several awards, the two most important being for the Battle of the Line and the Liberation.

"Did Catherine send you looking for me?" Jeff asked. He spoke slowly. It was painfully obvious that he was still uncomfortable being around others. John had hoped for better but was relieved to be even hearing Jeff speak again.

"Actually I was already looking for you when I met up with her. She saved me from another boring conversation with Admiral Wilson and General Hague." John looked over at Jeff in time to see a smile flash across the man's face for an instant.

"You know, those two would drive a Minbari to suicide." Jeff said after a moment's silence, causing John to laugh.

The two started walking down the path leading back to the reception, neither saying a word. Occasionally they stopped to take closer inspection of a plant or tree. When only a few meters away from the doors John looked at Jeff considering. After a moment he nodded his head.

"Jeff, I need to know if your staying in Earthforce or not." John said directly.

The blank expression came back to Jeff's face as did the cold eyes. John couldn't help but think he was talking to a corpse. For a full minute he said nothing, then slowly nodded his head. "I'm staying in Earthforce, John. I'm still with you."

The two men shook hands solemnly. Without further words they returned to the reception. There was much planning to be done, much rebuilding to do. But that could wait for a night.