by Nightcrawler (KManetta@aol.com)
Babylon 5 Chief of Security, Michael Garibaldi, looked down at the casualties from the Battle at Matok. Scanning the long list of names, he was hoping against hope he would not find Dodger listed there. Suddenly, her name jumped out at him, Private Elizabeth Durman, serial number 56927. It hit him hard when he saw it. He paled noticeably as the news of Dodger's death struck him. His first thought was it must be a mistake. Dodger couldn't be dead. It only took a moment for his more pragmatic side to take over. The casualties had been enormous, he should have expected it. Maybe he had expected it. Maybe. He should be used to dealing with death, but somehow the thought of Dodger dying on some godforsaken planet, hip deep in bodies, made his stomach roll over and his insides quiver. There were twenty-five thousand troops at Matok. Garibaldi wondered bitterly why she had to be one of those who died? As he headed out of the crowd, he berated himself for letting her go. He should have found a way to keep her on the Station. If he had tossed her in the brig, at least she'd be alive. Needing to be alone, he started for the transport tube. Almost no one noticed how stiff his posture had become or that as he strode away, his hands were curled into fists of silent rage. Almost no one noticed, but not quite.
G'Kar, the Narn Ambassador, was an observant being. He looked at Mister Garibaldi's schooled features as he passed by, the bland, impassive look on his face in total opposition with the curled fists at his side. G'Kar cocked his head towards the Zocalo, noting the casualty lists that were beginning to scroll on giant monitors. Thinking back to the young female soldier that had been Garibaldi's constant companion recently, he sighed sadly. He watched Garibaldi from the rear and wondered what he could do to help. G'Kar longed to reach out to the troubled man, but knew Garibaldi would be unapproachable for a while yet. He would wait.
Garibaldi headed straight for his quarters. Like a wounded animal, he longed to be alone. Once inside his room, however, it was another story. Everything seemed to remind him of Dodger, especially the bed. He stared at it angrily, tears blurring his vision. He could remember seeing her lying beside him, with that saucy little smile. He remembered her boldness, her lack of fear. She had only asked one thing of him, that he make love to her. Any sane man would have jumped at the idea, anyone but Michael Garibaldi. Michael shook his head, disgusted with himself. As memories of Dodger closed in on him, he quickly changed and headed out again.
The night seemed long as he walked from one end of the Station to the other. His feelings were starting to overwhelm him, and fear grew inside him. He longed for a drink even though he knew it wasn't an answer. He finally ended up in the casino, sitting in the bar, drinking a glass of water. It seemed like he had just sat down when fellow Command Officer, Susan Ivanova, sat down beside him. Offering her condolences, she tenderly laid her hand on his. Drawing his hand away as if he had been burned, he hastily mumbled an excuse and started walking again.
This time he headed down below. This time he was not alone. Unknown to Garibaldi, G'Kar followed silently behind him, unseen. The tall, lizard-like creature could be amazingly light on his feet with lightning fast reactions. G'Kar was reasonably sure Mister Garibaldi was looking for trouble and he wanted to be there to assist him should the need arise.
It didn't take long. A careless Garibaldi took a wrong turn and found himself in a blind alley. Behind him, blocking the only exit, were three Drazi. Michael groaned, knowing he was about to get the tar kicked out of him. He could have called for assistance, but declined. He looked at the three Drazi slowly closing in on him, each with a malevolent look on their chiseled features.
The fight ended almost as quickly as it had begun. As Garibaldi lay on the ground, beaten and bleeding, his assailants suddenly disappeared. Wondering what he had done to drive them off, he understood as G'Kar bent over him and asked if he was okay. Garibaldi closed his eyes and refused to reply. He was angry, disgusted and frustrated. Opening his eyes, he furiously demanded to be left alone.
G'Kar calmly ignored Garibaldi's snarling commands. He carefully examined the Human to ensure he was, indeed, uninjured. Satisfied that Garibaldi's most serious injury was a mere bloody nose, G'Kar lowered his large form to the floor beside him. Leaning back against the bulkhead for support, he lifted Garibaldi to a sitting position and propped him up beside him.
"So, Mister Garibaldi, we meet again," the Narn began.
Michael wanted to come back with a smart remark, but he was suddenly too tired to think. "Yeah," he replied wearily.
"My condolences. I didn't have an opportunity to meet Miss Durham, but I did see you together. She must have been very special, Mister Garibaldi. You always seemed to have a smile on your face."
It hurt to hear someone say her name. Garibaldi closed his eyes. He squeezed his lids tight, trying to force the hot tears back to wherever they came from, but it was useless. Once the tears began to fall, it seemed as if they would never stop. G'Kar wrapped a long arm around Michael and said simply, "Tell me about her."
That was all it took. For a long while, the two unlikely companions sat together as Michael reminisced. Finally, G'Kar commented that Dodger was a lucky girl to have met and become friends with Garibaldi. Guilt-ridden, Garibaldi closed his eyes. Then he looked up at G'Kar. "I'm no nice guy, G'Kar. Dodger wanted one thing from me that first night, and I let her down. She was a soldier with a soldier's instincts. She knew she was going into battle. Hell, she probably knew she was going to die. She wanted one thing, G'Kar. She wanted to sleep with me, and I turned her down. How could I do that? What was wrong with me? I told her next time, let's get to know each other first, but now she's dead. Maybe if , if we had been together..."
"She still would have died. Death is but a doorway. A time of change, a new beginning if you will."
"Don't give me that crap, G'Kar. Death is it, you're done, it's over. I don't believe in Gods, not mine, not yours, so let's just drop it. She's dead, she's never coming back."
"I understand. I felt the same way once, especially when I was young. I will tell you what someone told me. Joy and sorrow are really one and the same. The reason for your tears now is the same reason for your smiles the other evening. You could not feel this sorrow if you had not experienced that joy. My Gods say one life doesn't end without a new one beginning. May your friend's untimely death result in a new beginning for you."
"What new beginning? Spare me the philosophy, G'Kar."
"When is the last time you allowed someone to touch your soul this way? I know you for over two years and yet I cannot recall ever seeing you so relaxed, so content, so at ease. You are generally considered a most private person, Mister Garibaldi. You do not wear your emotions on your sleeve,. Well, perhaps anger and annoyance, still, it is uncommon to see you happy. If you find yourself amongst a group of happy people, you tend to cast an inhibiting influence. Indeed, I might say many people feel your company quite intimidating."
Garibaldi didn't answer as he slowly got to his feet. The Narn rose beside him. "Look, I don't think Dodger dying is going to change me in any way. She was a soldier, a Ground Pounder. She knew the risks."
G'Kar gazed down sadly at the Human beside him, so desperate to believe this woman had not influenced him. "As you wish, Mister Garibaldi, but you do this woman a great disservice by denying all that she meant to you. You trusted her! You, who trust no one!"
"Who said I trusted her?!" Garibaldi spit back defensively.
"Are you saying you did not trust her? Think carefully before you speak."
Garibaldi shook his head and sighed, "Okay, I trusted her. She, I don't know how to explain it. She made me laugh, she made me feel special. Usually it's me working to make a woman like me, you know? But this time, it was different. I didn't have to do anything. She liked me, she genuinely liked me, for myself. Not because I'm Chief of Security, not for who I know or how much money I have, but for me.": Garibaldi turned tear-filled eyes away, repeating, "just me." as his voice trailed off.
"On my world, there is no greater glory than to die as a warrior. Let us dine and celebrate her glory."
Garibaldi looked over at his Narn companion, as he considered his request. Unbidden, the memories of Dodger's last kiss assailed him, her scent, the warmth of her mouth, and the strength of their embrace, all wrapped up in her feistiness and daring. The knowledge that he would never know them again threatened to overwhelm him.
G'Kar placed one long arm around the Human's shoulder. "Come," he invited. "She would not want to see you grieve so."
Garibaldi looked up at G'Kar and nodded. G'Kar was right. If Dodger could see the way he had been acting, she would have been furious. He thought again of her exuberance and daring, of her zest for life, of her irreverent grin. She had no time for regrets or anger. "You're right." Garibaldi agreed wearily, "Let's eat." Then he fell into step beside G'Kar, humbling himself in her memory to accepting whatever comfort his friend could offer.