A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY (I)

By Frieda W. Landau

 

 

 

This is a story about the life long friendship between two Minbari women: Delenn and the poet Mayan. It takes place both in their present - just before, during and after the birth of Delenn's son - and in their past. I have tried to write this story the way memory actually works, one thought leading to another, without any chronological order. Only the events of the present are linear.

   The writing of this story involved learning more about Minbari culture than is presented in the episodes of Babylon Five. I used every available printed and online source I could find. Especially helpful, again, were Katherine Drennan's To Dream in the City of Sorrows, and the online Encyclopedia Xenobiologica. What I could not find, I tried to extrapolate from what was available. I've made certain assumptions about Minbari society based on human social structures, especially in tribal cultures such as Native American and others that have a well-developed clan system. I am assuming that Minbari belong to the father's family and the mother's clan. So, in the case of Delenn, Mir is her father's family name, but her clan - which called her to judgement in "Atonement" - is the one to which her mother belonged.

   The rituals in this story - with the exception of the rebirth ceremony - are all my own. Again, I've made assumptions about the rituals themselves and their place in Minbari society. A culture creates rituals around those aspects that are very strong or are feared or both. According to the Babylon Five canon, there are a great many Minbari rituals surrounding sex and mating, which leads me to conclude that Minbari have a strong sex drive which they try to control through their rituals. And, as Delenn says, in "Racing Mars," Minbari have rituals for all aspects of all relationships.

   Since this is written from the point of view of Mayan, the alien culture is the human one. I have tried to show the "strangeness" of certain human customs through her eyes. The one fairly graphic sex scene in the story, however, is of Minbari sex, so that is shown as "normal."

   Sorry for the anthropology lesson, but I felt that I should explain a little about how I came to create the assumptions underlying this story and how I created the rituals shown.

   I'd like to thank the anonymous author of "Discoveries," who signs herself as ShePsych, for allowing me to use and expand upon her idea of the loaf contained in one of the rituals.

   I'd like to thank (in no particular order) my beta readers: Lynne, Gwyn, Penny, Pat, Kim, Char, Chris, and Debbie, who patiently put up with me when I complained, and made all sorts of helpful suggestions.

   I would also like to thank Mary Riley who suggested I write a story about Delenn's friend coming to stay with her for the birth of David. I don't think Mary had any idea what she was letting herself in for when she so casually made that suggestion.

   One more thing, except where specifically noted, and except when John Sheridan is present, all conversations involving Mayan are in Minbari languages, usually Adronato.

   I hope you enjoy this story. All comments - positive and negative - are welcome.

 

 

 

 

*****

      Minbari do not have problems with relationships. We have a
   ritual for everything: for being together, for being apart, for
   meeting, for saying goodbye, for solving problems....

      (Delenn Sheridan)



Sha'al Mayan, the foremost poet of her generation, the youngest ever to be awarded the honorific "sha'al," signifying total mastery of her art, the idol of millions, paced the room at a loss for words. The irony was not lost on her. She had dry periods before, when the words would not come. But this was the longest, over two months now. And none of her old tricks worked. Meditation, activity, change of scenery - all failed. She stopped in front of the window over looking the quiet street that ended at the foot of the crystalline cliffs that circled the village. This was usually her favorite view, watching the play of sunlight splash jewel tones on the multi-faceted surfaces. Some of her best work was inspired by those cliffs, but not today.

   She sighed and started to turn away when she noticed a figure in brown and black walking purposefully toward her gate. As the figure drew closer, she saw it was human, a human male. How odd. She could not remember the last time a human had visited this village so far from the metropolitan centers of Minbar.

   She watched as he stopped to read the house name on the gatepost. Satisfied he was in the right place, he entered the sheltered garden. She waited for him to reach her door and opened it before he could knock. He made the sign of the triluminary and bowed his head.

   "I seek the poet, Sha'al Mayan." he said in perfect, if accented, Adronato.

   "You have found her," she answered, hiding her surprise.

   He bowed again. She studied him as he reached into a pouch on his belt. He wore black, a shirt and minbari style trousers that had the look of a uniform, topped by a brown cloak fastened with a brooch set with an Isil'Zha stone flanked by a human and a minbari figure. Many of the items on his broad belt were unfamiliar, but she recognized the pike holster and the embroidered meditation stone pouch.

   "I am instructed to wait for an answer," he said as he handed her a data crystal. He bowed and withdrew into the garden before she could respond.

   Fingering the crystal thoughtfully, she turned and walked into the house. The human must be a Ranger. She knew of them, of course, but this was the first time she had ever seen one. Then the message must be from Delenn. Mayan had expected a message for some time now, ever since that silly ISN broadcast last month. So why was she so reluctant to hear what her old friend had to say?

   Finally, she placed the data crystal into the monitor. "Hello, dear friend." Delenn's face appeared on the screen. For a moment, Mayan could not reconcile the face with the voice. The two women had met only two or three times since Delenn's transformation, and then only briefly. Freezing the image, Mayan studied her friend. The human characteristics were predominant, especially the luxuriant hair. The remnant of the minbari bonecrest seemed an ornament. The effect was exotic, alien. But the eyes were still those of the Delenn of old.

   Mayan listened as the message resumed. "It is time, my friend," Delenn said. "I ask that you remember our old pledge. The bearer of this message will make all the arrangements. Please come soon, or it will be too late." Delenn's face faded.

   Mayan stopped as she was about to remove the crystal. There was a second message. A man's face appeared. She recognized the most famous human male in the galaxy - John Sheridan, President of the Interstellar Alliance, and Delenn's mate. "Hello, Mayan. I hope I'm pronouncing your name correctly. My Minbari is not very good, as you can tell.

   Delenn told me about what happened to you the last time you visited Babylon 5. Please don't let that stop you from coming. Delenn really needs you to be with her now. You have my word that no harm will come to you. Please, come, for Delenn's sake."

   Again, Mayan froze the image on the screen. So this was the human who had captured her friend's heart and soul. She saw an ordinary human face. Pleasing to look at perhaps by human standards, but not exceptional. There was grey in the hair and the trim beard, and the eyes had seen too much, yet the overall impression was of a human male in his prime. But that did not make him unique. What did Delenn see in him? One point in his favor: he did seem concerned about his wife. Mayan mentally shrugged as she removed the data crystal. She would wait to pass judgement on Sheridan until she met him.

   "Anla'shok," she called to the ranger in the garden. He appeared before her and bowed his head. "How soon can we leave for Babylon 5?"

   "We can leave now, if you wish, ma'am," he replied.

   "Tomorrow is soon enough," she said. "Do you have lodgings for the night?"

   "Yes, ma'am, thank you." He bowed again.

   "Then, I will see you this time tomorrow." He turned to go when her voice called him back. "Anla'shok, if we are to be traveling companions, I should know your name."

   The Ranger smiled and said, "Kendrick, ma'am, Jason Kendrick." He bowed once more and walked away.

   Mayan packed quickly and efficiently. After years of touring and performing tee'la, she knew what she would need for a month's absence from home. Besides, she could always borrow from Delenn. They were still much the same size. She hesitated a moment, then packed the small case that contained the antique pens and other implements of her art.

   A flock of temshee sang outside her window as she prepared for bed. She smiled. Temshee were singing when she made that promise to Delenn. It was the end of her second year at the temple school, when they were fourteen. One of their teachers had sent her to find Delenn. Mayan made for the old bell tower the two girls used as their private retreat. She knew Delenn would be there, listening to the songs of the temshee that nested in the rafters. And, most likely, reading stories of Valen. Mayan could never understand her friend's devotion to Valen; she thought it was excessive, even for one of the religious caste. As she climbed to the top, she heard a crying sound. She found Delenn sitting on the floor of the empty bell platform, weeping as though her heart were breaking.

   "What is wrong," Mayan asked as she knelt and put her arms around Delenn. "Are you hurt or sick?" Delenn buried her head against Mayan's chest and sobbed harder. Mayan rocked her gently until finally, Delenn regained a measure of control. She wiped the back of her hands against her eyes and hiccupped.

   "Oh, Mayan, it is so sad. I never realized before, but now that I am learning the rituals for my first ceremony as a fertile female, I see how terrible it must have been."

   "Delenn, what are you talking about? You are not making sense. Start at the beginning."

   "I am sorry." Delenn picked up her discarded book. "This tells of Valen's wife and the birth of their first child. Oh, Mayan, Valen's wife had no women of her clan and caste to attend her and perform the proper rituals. She gave birth all alone."

   "But, Delenn, she was not alone. Valen was with her, and she was in a Ranger camp."

   Delenn shook her head impatiently. "That is not the same thing. Don't you see?" Delenn grasped her friend's hands. "Mayan, promise me that if ever I conceive a child, you will be with me to perform the birth rituals. Promise me, please!"

   Delenn was truly terrified. Mayan squeezed the hands clasping hers and said slowly and carefully, in the most formal dialect, "I promise, Delenn. You will not be alone."

   But Delenn was not satisfied. "You will be with me, no matter where I am?"

   "Yes, Delenn. No matter where you are. In Valen's name, I promise."

   The poet Mayan touched the fading scar on her forehead. Who would have thought, all those years ago, that she would be called to fulfill her promise on Babylon Five!

   Mayan sat in the forward observation lounge on the bridge of a White Star. How like Delenn to despatch a warship for her. But, she had to admit, it was the fastest, most efficient way to bring her to Babylon Five. And the safest. Now, just a few hours from her destination, she stared out the tall windows into hyper space, remembering their school days.

   She let her thoughts wander, touching first one memory and then another: Delenn fiercely defending her arguments in class; Delenn mimicking the pompous maths teacher with devastating accuracy; Delenn gently teasing her out of a black mood.

   They were born in the same month of the same cycle, only a few days apart - Mayan, at twelve already composing tee'la; and Delenn, so sure she had a destiny to fulfill, even if it was at yet unclear. They became friends immediately.

   Delenn had been at the school since she was eight. Mayan had come to the capital to study with the master poet who taught at the leading temple school. She had never before attended a school of such size and formality. In the village at the foot of the mountains that flanked Tuzanor, she was taught at home by visiting masters or at the local temple, until her father was transferred to Yedor to became chief aide to the Shai of the warrior caste. The population of this new school was greater than that of her whole village.

   Delenn was her guide and protector those first months, constantly at her side, easing her passage into the life of the school. Twice, when Mayan was on the verge of expulsion, Delenn persuaded the housemaster that she, and not the new girl, was at fault. After the second occasion, Delenn told her they had to talk. Mayan could still hear the ring of steel beneath the soft voice.

   "Mayan, on two occasions now, I have risked my honor to lie for you. The first time because I believe a newcomer should be given another chance; the second time, because you are my friend as well as my roommate. I will not lie for you again." When she did not respond, Delenn said sharply, "Do you understand me?"

   Mayan nodded, miserable and afraid that Delenn would hate her. Mayan knew she was wrong, but after the freedom of her former life, she chafed at the restrictions of the school. Neither girl said anything for a few moments, until Delenn gave her a radiant smile. "Next time, my friend, if you want to get around the rules, come to me first. I know all the ways. I should, I have been here long enough."

   Mayan gasped, and started laughing. Delenn hugged her and the two girls, both laughing uncontrollably, collapsed to the floor.

   "Ma'am?" Ranger Kendrick stood before her. "Can I bring you anything? Tea, some fruit?" Mayan smiled at him.

   "No thank you, Jason. Please, don't fuss."

   Kendrick bowed and said, "Entil'Zha herself gave me explicit orders to see to your comfort. Now, you wouldn't want me to be accused of dereliction of duty?" He smiled and continued, "We will reach the Babylon Five jump gate in about an hour. I've placed your luggage aboard the flyer. We'll be ready to go as soon as we clear the gate." He bowed again and left the bridge.

   Mayan watched the Ranger walk away. He was the first human male with whom she had ever spent any time. She enjoyed his company, despite her protests. He was charming and amusing and considerate. She didn't think that was part of his Ranger training. Or did they receive instruction in how to please traveling poets? Perhaps after pike practice?

   Delenn knew how to use a fighting pike, she suddenly remembered. That had been a surprise. As the child of a warrior father of the Fire Wings clan, and a religious mother, Mayan was expected to learn the ways of both castes so as to choose her own. But Delenn? She had kept her ability to use the pike a secret, even from Mayan, for the first year they roomed together.

   It had been the last week of school before the long summer holiday. Delenn came in late to supper, her tunic torn and dirty. The housemaster was furious. A certain laxity at the end of the term was permissible, but Delenn's behavior was inexcusable. He sent her to change her clothes. Afterward, she was to meditate upon her conduct.

   Later that night, while they were eating the food she had smuggled into their room to replace Delenn's missed supper, Mayan demanded that Delenn tell all. Hadn't they sworn not to keep secrets from each other? Delenn was reluctant, and then embarrassed, but finally admitted she had been practicing pike fighting with a group of older, warrior caste males who were studying at the school. She had lost track of the time, and had no chance to sneak in and change before supper.

   Mayan had wondered why Delenn, religious on both sides, and by personal choice, would want to learn the one skill most closely identified with the warriors. She should have expected Delenn's answer. Valen, of course. "Valen said learning to handle a fighting pike sharpened the mind as well as the body," Delenn informed her in that earnest tone.

   After that, the two of them practiced together. Years later, when she asked her why she tried to keep her skill a secret, Delenn told her that a former roommate insisted that it was improper for a religious caste member to use such a weapon. And the old housemaster agreed. After that, it just seemed easier to keep her interest a secret.

   Delenn still practiced with the pike, but Mayan had let her skills rust. Perhaps she should ask Anla'shok Kendrick for some pointers. She was beginning to see what Delenn meant about human males. But Mayan would never make the mistake of falling in love with one. Love was much too dangerous. It pierced your soul and left you exposed and vulnerable. The way she felt the first time.

   She was seventeen, the year she had to decide whether to continue in the temple system.

   Delenn wanted her to continue, naturally. She saw the two of them finishing their novitiates and becoming acolytes, pledged to serve their people. But that was Delenn's way, not hers. Mayan didn't know exactly what she wanted - beyond composing tee'la. She had learned much during her six years at the school, but now she was restless, unsettled - afraid to leave, but unwilling to stay.

   Then she met Vorthenn. He was warrior caste, of the Wind Swords clan, sent to the temple school by his clan elders to finish his education. Mayan could still vividly see the first time he walked into the meditation class. The sun shone through the tall, arched windows, splashing him with light. She always thought of him that way: golden and shining, dazzling her eyes. The focus of her meditations changed. She no longer looked inward. She studied Vorthenn as though he were a new ritual she had to memorize.

   He was tall and sturdy, with muscular arms and shoulders, emphasized by the close fitting shirt and tunic he habitually wore. His hands, although callused from years of weapons training, were shapely, with long, slender fingers. His bonecrest was unusually thick for a young male. It was intricately fluted, rising to three tall points that framed his face. How she longed to stroke it.

   He sought her out one evening, to help him, he said. As the daughter of a warrior, she would understand the difficulties he was experiencing at a religious caste school. Would she walk with him in the moonlight?

   She told Delenn everything that night. How they walked through the gardens behind the main temple; how they talked - he really did want her help. Delenn gave her a skeptical look but Mayan ignored it. "It's true, Delenn. He is so sweet and considerate."

   "If you say so," Delenn said, her voice carefully neutral.

   "No, really. He was very careful. He only briefly touched the backs of my hand. Never the palms." Delenn looked incredulous. "Well," Mayan admitted, "not until we said good night. Then, before I could lower my hand, he held it and stroked the palm with his thumbs. Oh, Delenn! My heart beat so hard and I could barely breathe." They talked long into the night, analyzing every word, every gesture.

   Mayan stared at the swirling patterns of hyper space outside the White Star. It was hard to believe that they had ever been so young and naive. She recalled what she told Delenn the last time they met on Babylon Five: they were too young to know anything about anything; they could only feel, and wonder what it all meant.

   Her thoughts returned to the past and her first love. They walked often in the moonlight, sometimes talking, more often tentatively exploring each other. He would gently cup her face in his hands while his long fingers lightly rubbed across the temple ridges of her bonecrest. When she shivered, he would kiss her and remove his hands. Until the night she put her hands over his to hold them in place. Then, greatly daring, she mimicked his actions, lightly stroking the convoluted folds of his crest.

   He drew her face toward his, until their foreheads touched. He placed one hand on the back of her crest and rubbed across and between, while his thumb stroked the folds on the inside. She tried to mirror his actions, but her hand was too small.

   "It's all right, Mayan," he murmured, "just stroke one side and then the other. Yes, like that." She felt him tremble beneath her hand. Or was she the one trembling?

   The fingers of his other hand flickered lightly across the sensitive skin of the blue patch on the top of her head. She started as she felt a shock run through her. He pulled her closer and tilted his head so that his mouth could find hers. He kissed her hard, and then released her.

   He put his arms around her shoulders, holding her against him, stroking her back, until she stopped trembling. Arm in arm, they walked back to her residence. As he said good night, he kissed the palm of her hand. "I love you, Mayan," he whispered, and walked away.

   The next time they met, she was as eager as he. Her hands and mouth reached for him even before they were safely enfolded in the shadows of the trees. She no longer told Delenn every detail.

   One night, as they walked by the waterfall, the light of the two moons shimmering, turning the crystalline path into a stream of liquid silver, Vorthenn turned to face her. Taking both her hands in his, he looked into her eyes. It was so bright, she could see herself reflected in his.

   "Mayan," he said after a long moment. "Will you couple with me? Will you perform the d'ar'sha'Na ritual with me?" When she did not reply, he said, "Surely this is not unexpected. We have shared pleasure. Would you not like to share the ultimate pleasure with me?" Still, she did not answer. He released her hands and looked away.

   She spoke then, just one word, "When?"

   She chose Delenn, of course to be her second at the ritual. Delenn was hesitant: she was too young; too inexperienced; too terrified. Mayan pointed out that at Delenn's Felan'na'teloch Na'fak'Cha, three years ago, Mayan was her attendant. Delenn countered with the fact that Mayan's own Felan'na'teloch ceremony was two years earlier, so she knew what to expect. But, in the end, Delenn agreed, as Mayan knew she would.

   Mayan hadn't thought about the ceremony that marked Delenn's passage to physical maturity in years. She thought of the secret Delenn told her as part of the ritual. Delenn had spoken before of the time she became separated from her parents and wandered into the old, deserted temple, and of the voice that promised no harm would come to his little ones in his great house. What she had never told anyone before was that the voice was Valen's.

   Later, Mayan wrote a poem for Delenn. Valen's Child, Mayan named it, not knowing at the time how apt was the title. She tried to recall it now. Oh, yes, that was it.

   The fire of her soul blazes through eyes
   Wide with wonder at the myriad
   Manifestations of a Universe
   Striving to understand itself
   As she hurries headlong toward
   A destiny dimly glimpsed
   Through veils of past prophecy
   That fuels the fire within.

   Anla'shok Kendrick appeared. "We'll be jumping in a few minutes, ma'am," he told her. "We should board the flyer now. The captain of this ship wants to rejoin the fleet as soon as we're clear."

   "Yes, of course." Mayan rose and followed the Ranger to the two-seat flyer. Within the hour, she would be on Babylon Five.

   Anla'Shok Kendrick escorted Sha'al Mayan out of the docking bay into the VIP lounge. "The formalities have been taken care of," he said. "Someone will be here shortly to escort you to your quarters. I regret I have to return to duty."

   "Thank you. I have enjoyed your company." She smiled, and added, "I will tell Delenn that you were most efficient in your duties."

   Kendrick bowed. "I am most grateful, ma'am," he said solemnly, but with a twinkling eye.

   Mayan raised her hand in a gesture of farewell. "A safe journey, then, Anla'shok. Walk with Valen."

   Kendrick grinned. "It will be a short walk, ma'am. Babylon Five is my duty station."

   Mayan laughed. "Then we will meet again."

   "Count on it, ma'am." He made the sign of the triluminary, bowed and quickly walked away.

   Mayan studied the throngs hurrying purposefully through the terminal area. Sentients of all sorts interacted, meeting and parting in a harmonious dance. There were Minbari, Narn, and Drazi, as well as humans, wearing the black and grey of station personnel. There was no sign of the tension and fear evident in her first visit. If this was Sheridan's handiwork, she was impressed.

   She watched as a uniformed Narn, talking with a Minbari, pointed in her direction. The Minbari bowed and walked toward the lounge. It was Lennier. "Sha'al Mayan, Delenn sends her apologies," he said in the formal dialect, "she was called away. She asked me to escort you to your quarters." He bowed and led her toward the nearest lift. He did not speak again.

   Mayan sighed. Some things had not changed. Lennier still resented her. For Delenn's sake, he would be polite, she knew from previous experience; but the situation would be uncomfortable. Lennier gave her the code for her quarters, bowed perfunctorily, and quickly withdrew.

   She entered into the standard Babylon Five VIP quarters - a general living area with a small galley and breakfast bar, and an enclosed sleeping area. Someone, Delenn most likely, had placed candles and delicate chimes around the room. There were fresh fruit and flowers on the counter. Through the open door into the bedroom, she could see her luggage at the foot of the Minbari style bed. She unpacked quickly, then checked the small bathroom. Yes, Delenn had remembered to include the cleansing chemicals and lotions. Checking out the small refrigeration unit in the galley, she found a pitcher of her favorite juice. She poured herself a glass and tried to relax on the small, grey couch.

   She was nervous about seeing her old friend again after all this time. The friendship had survived and even strengthened over the years, but Delenn was happily mated. Would the strong bond between them still be there? And now there was Delenn's pending motherhood. How would that affect their friendship?

   The last time she was this nervous, she realized with a shock, was at the d'ar'sha'Na, she shared with Vorthenn. She laughed out loud. No, she was not quite that nervous now. No one could be. Well, perhaps Delenn was as nervous then also.

   The preparations for her first sexual experience took three days, during which, secluded in her room, she purified herself through fasting, meditation and prayers. She saw no one, except Delenn, and very little of her. As her attendant, Delenn was very busy preparing the special chamber for the rituals, along with Vorthenn's second, a young acolyte called Branmer, who served the logic master at the school.

   Before the ritual began, Mayan and Delenn, and Vorthenn and Branmer shared a ceremonial meal prepared by the attendants. In Valen's name, had there ever been a more self-conscious group at table. If not for the prescribed prayers as each food was tasted, the meal would have been eaten in complete silence. She could only manage a few bites of each dish. After the final meditation, the four of them entered the chamber.

   The chamber was very like her quarters on the station, she recalled. A large room with a smaller room jutting into it at the far end. On either side of the smaller room was the arched door of the two dressing rooms.

   Delenn led her through the left-hand door. She removed her clothes and stepped into the cleansing stall. Her hands were shaking so, she needed Delenn's aid to finish. Afterward, Delenn massaged a fragrant, spicy oil into her skin. The scent of the oil, and Delenn's light touch made her aware of her body as never before. Mayan could feel every muscle. Every nerve was alive. She put on the soft white robe Delenn held out to her and adjusted the hood to conceal her face. They did not speak. Mayan was apprehensive and Delenn too intent upon performing her duties correctly.

   A chime sounded, startling them both. Delenn handed her a lit candle in a silver holder and walked with measured tread back into the outer chamber. Mayan followed, a few steps behind. Delenn and Branmer held open the double doors of the inner chamber. Vorthenn, also robed in white and carrying a candle, held out his free hand to Mayan. They bowed to their attendants and walked through the doors. Delenn and Branmer closed the doors in unison. They would guard the chamber during the night.

   Mayan started as the doors closed behind her, almost dropping the candle. Vorthenn gave her hand a brief squeeze and released it. He motioned for her to start lighting the candles arrayed on the walls, the only light in the room. When they finished, Mayan saw a broad couch piled with pillows covered in red and gold silk, flanked by two crystal tables that held silver carafes of juice and water, and two small crystal cups. And that was all. The carpet beneath their bare feet had the feel of velvet. Vorthenn took the candle from her and placed it on one of the tables, his own candle on the other.

   Very gently, he lowered the hood of her robe. Looking into her eyes, he told her, "don't worry, Mayan. I won't do anything you don't want." He kissed her softly as he removed first her robe and then his. For a long moment they stood there, staring at each other. He was beautiful, from the points of his crest to his broad chest and narrow hips, to his long, well-muscled legs and shapely feet. His stomach was taut and flat, with a wide, blue, triangular blaze that started at his navel and ended just above the pubic bone. The blue was deepening as she gazed. He smiled and lowered his eyes to her abdomen. She blushed to realize that her own blaze was also darkening.

   He led her to the couch. He lay amid the pillows and pulled her down beside him. He began stroking her crest and the blue patch on her head. When she tried to do the same to him, he caught her hands. "Not yet, Mayan. I just want to touch you first." He kissed her palms and continued stroking. He ran his hands from her crest down her neck and arms. He rubbed his thumbs across her palms and then kissed her as he started stroking her belly, softly at first, and then harder. She jerked and arched her back. A wave of heat that seemed to emanate from his hand spread throughout her body. The blue blaze began to throb. He changed to a kneading motion. The throbbing increased. She had never felt such pleasure before.

   Suddenly, she rolled facing him. She kissed him, thrusting her tongue deep into his mouth. She rubbed his blaze with one hand and stroked the inside folds of his crest with the other. As she felt the throbbing beneath her hand, he guided it down. Understanding what he wanted, she closed her hand around his stiffened penis. She stroked down and then teased the wedge-shaped head with her finger tips. He made a growling sound in his throat and she stroked harder.

   He continued to knead her blaze. His other hand found the wetness between her legs. He inserted a finger to open her. As she expanded, he began to rub the interior ridges. At the first touch, she convulsed and began to tremble. She thought she would shake to pieces. The exquisite agony built.

   He moved so that they lay on their sides - belly to belly, blaze to blaze, her top leg over his. She was kissing him frantically now, the fingers of one hand rubbing across the ridges of his crest, the fingers of the other digging into his back.

   She was open for him now. He inserted the tip of his shaft. As he thrust deeper and deeper into her, she pushed against him. She barely felt the pain when he broke through the thin membrane, so intense was her pleasure. She climaxed first, as wave after wave rippled throughout her body. He held her close until her shaking began to subside. Then he thrust into her again, harder and harder with each stroke. As he began to climax, spilling deep into her, she felt her own excitement peak again, so that their bodies exploded against each other. Afterward, they collapsed into each others arms and slept.

   They were lovers for a year, until they parted in a ritual as formal as that of their first coupling.

   Mayan rose to pour herself some more juice when she heard the door open. She turned to see Delenn enter. "In Valen's name, Delenn, you're as big as my father's old cruiser!"

   Delenn smiled and said dryly, "it pleases me to see you also, Mayan."

 

*****

 

 

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