THE LIFE IN A DAY
This story deals with the changes Delenn experienced when she emerged from the Chrysalis. Not the obvious, major changes such as hair and a more human appearance; but the small things. How do her clothes fit now? What changes did she have to make in her daily routines? What was still familiar and what was now different? The circumstances surrounding her dinner with Sheridan in "A Race through Dark Places" seemed a good place to investigate some of these changes. And to deal with some of the major, emotional changes too.
I relied on televised, printed, and Internet sources for information on Minbari biology and customs. Christopher Russo's Encyclopedia Xenobiologica web site, and Katherine Drennan's book, To Dream in the City of Sorrows, were particularly helpful. The latter has been called totally canonical by JMS. Adele Hutchinson graciously let me use a few bits from her story, "Who Would Have Thought;" in particular, the insult of the Minbari warrior. What I could not find in any source, I extrapolated from what is known of Minbari culture and tried to make some intelligent guesses. In a few cases, such as the name of the Minbari fruit, I simply made things up that felt right to me. I hope you all agree.
I'd like to thank the following members of the J & D Forum for proofing, criticizing, and generally helping me: Analise H., Annette W., Penny R., Lynne B., Pat W. And last, but not least, Mary Riley, who cajoled, flattered, and bullied me into writing.
Delenn awoke in a panic, panting and clutching the sweat-soaked sheet. The dream had come again. It was always the same: she was standing naked in a circle of fire while unseen voices excoriated her, urging her to destroy the alien within. They could not, or would not, hear her anguished cries that to do so would kill her as well. This was the seventh - no, the eighth- time the dream had come in the waning hours of the night. The first time was a week after she emerged from the Chrysalis; the second time a month later. But now the dream came more often. This was the third night in a row. And this time the fire was hotter and brighter; the voices more menacing, more insistent.
Gradually, her breathing slowed and the panic subsided. She knew from experience that any hope of more sleep was gone. Three standard hours to her usual waking time. This could not go on. She needed rest if she was to function effectively. Perhaps she should ask Doctor Franklin for a sleeping medication. No Minbari remedy had worked.
Sighing, she threw back the covers and called for lights. Might as well get an early start.
It was going to be a long day.
A shower first, then breakfast. She would postpone her morning meditation until after her meeting with the trade delegations. She would appreciate it more then. She sighed again as she took off her night robe and went into the bathroom. After brushing her teeth, she paused to study her reflection in the full-length mirror. What she saw no longer surprised her. But the image still seemed subtly distorted, larger and smaller at the same time.
She stepped into the small shower and adjusted the temperature and pressure of the water. Although it was much smaller and stronger than what she was used to at home, she had come to enjoy the invigorating massage of the needle-fine spray. She sighed again, this time in relief as the pulsating water loosened the knot of muscles at the base of her neck. Working the washing gel into a rich lather, she began the systematic cleansing of her body. Through trial and error, she had developed a pattern with which she was comfortable. Ivanova had thought she was joking when she asked her to demonstrate the proper way to do the morning cleansing. But humans did not understand the importance Minbari placed on rituals. Or, how comforting the rituals could be.
Delenn worked the lather deep into the roots of her hair. She hoped it wouldn't be a - what was that phrase - oh, yes, a bad hair day. She didn't think she could cope with that on top of everything else. But at least she would never have as bad a hair day as the first time she asked Susan for help. The commander had been kind and patient as the obvious embarrassment of both women subsided. She thought regretfully of her lovely headbone, once the envy of the other female acolytes. Now only the softly fluted crest remained.
She rubbed the scented lather around her neck and over her shoulders and then down to her breasts. Their size and shape still astounded and delighted her: Firm and round and full, like a ripe gha'til fruit but soft and tender to the touch; the nipples darker and rougher textured, but oh, so sensitive. Among her people, only lactating females had breasts like these - and then only while actually nursing.
Down over her now rounder belly and across hips that were broader and flatter than before, to still shapely legs. She watched, enchanted, as the soft lighting created miniature rainbows in the translucent bubbles. She felt, rather than saw, the fuzz of hair on her legs. She would have to ask Susan about purchasing an exfoliating device. Human bodies required a great deal more maintenance than Minbari ones! She quickly rinsed off and grabbed a towel from the warming rack.
Back in the bedroom, she regarded the sweat-stained nightrobe with distaste. Although she researched human anatomy and physiology before undergoing the transformation, she had not been prepared for the myriad human smells; especially that of perspiration. Wrinkling her nose at the sour, acrid smell, she though the room smelled like a wet gak - a very large, very wet gak.
She dressed rapidly, but with care, automatically adjusting the inner robe to accommodate her larger breasts. Over breakfast she caught up with a backlog of reports from home.
On her way to the first meeting of the day, Delenn mentally reviewed her schedule. Two trade delegations and the Babylon Five Council meeting, a few routine appointments and then at four o'clock, the monthly welcoming ceremony for newcomers to the Minbari community on the station.
Suddenly she stopped, oblivious of those around her, her distress and despair clearly visible. The host of this month's ceremony was one of the first to condemn her transformation, to call her malkrah, pariah, outcast. The same as the voices in her dream.
"Ambassador, Ambassador Delenn, are you all right?"
She looked up and smiled bleakly at the young man in the station security uniform.
"Are you sure ma'am?"
Pulling herself together, she smiled more brightly this time. "Yes, I was just - as you say - lost in thought. Thank you for your concern."
"Well, if you're sure..."
He turned to look at her several times as he walked away.
Delenn let her mind wander during the Council meeting. Londo and G'Kar had nothing new to say, after all. The memory of the dream still disturbed her. Perhaps she should discuss it with someone. But who? Lennier was an inappropriate choice for something so personal. She had no close friends among the Minbari community on the station. If Sinclair were still here, she could talk to him. He had supported her transformation when he learned the reasons for it. And, he approved of the results! But Sinclair was on Minbar, re-activating the Rangers. A third voice cut across her thoughts. Captain Sheridan had evidently grown tired of the bickering.
An interesting man, the Captain. Not at all what she expected when she heard Starkiller was to be the new commander of Babylon Five. At their first meeting, something in his eyes held her. She would like to get to know him better. And he seemed to enjoy their brief talks. Perhaps he could help her understand more about humans. Yes, she would approach him - if this interminable meeting ever ended.
"Captain, may I speak to you, privately....This is difficult."
Delenn entered her quarters to the sound of the com signaling an incoming call. It was Captain Sheridan.
"Ambassador? It's all set. I made reservations at Fresh Aire. I'll pick you up at seven thirty, if that's OK with you."
"Pick me up? I do not need to be carried!"
Sheridan laughed. "No, not pick you up physically. I mean I'll meet you at your quarters to escort you to dinner. A gentleman always escorts a lady on a date."
"Oh, forgive me, Captain. The meaning of some of your expressions, especially the more informal ones, still eludes me... But there is no need for you to escort me. I will meet you at the restaurant."
"Well, if you insist. Our reservations are for eight. I'll see you then."
The com faded out on his pleased, but somewhat bewildered, grin.
In Valen's name, what had she done! She only intended to meet with Sheridan, to talk, perhaps in the garden again. What had possessed her to suggest dinner! A dinner date, no less. She was as impulsive as an adolescent! Well, she told herself wryly, in a sense she was an adolescent. Hadn't she entered puberty only three months ago. For the second time! But this time was far different! For one thing, Minbari females do not bleed. The first time the bleeding was so heavy - and the pain so severe - she thought something had gone terribly wrong. Doctor Franklin assured her it was perfectly normal. Normal?! How did human females survive years of coping with the mess and the pain. She thought of her own experience as a young Minbari female. The almost imperceptible physical changes: a slight rounding of the abdomen; the appearance of small nipples on the slightly concave breasts; the pointing of the crest. She remembered the special rebirth ceremony that marked her passage from child to adult. Her mother had attended, which made it even more special. Her first adult ceremonial white robe, the gift of her father. How proud she had been when she wore it for the first time. It was still her favorite robe, even though it was now too fragile to wear often.
Which reminded her: what should she wear to dinner. What does one wear on a date? She could not think of anything appropriate in her wardrobe. Mmmm. Since she would be eating human food with a human male, she would wear human clothing. Should she ask Ivanova for help in choosing the proper garment? No, she had imposed on Susan enough.
Delenn hesitated inside the door of the small dress shop in the Zocalo. She did not know where to begin, or how. She looked around for the shop keeper. The only other person in sight, a middle-aged human female, appeared to be another customer. The woman abruptly strode out the door, carefully avoiding Delenn, and proclaimed, "I don't patronize stores that allow freaks."
Oh, no. Coming here was a mistake. As Delenn turned to leave, a young woman came out of the back of the shop.
"Welcome, Ambassador. How may I help you?"
"I was just leaving. I do not wish to cause you any problems."
"Nonsense. I rarely get such a distinguished visitor to my shop. Now, what can I show you? A dress, pants, shoes, accessories?"
She smiled at Delenn. Delenn smiled back, at first tentatively, and then with more confidence. "A dress? For dinner? For a dinner date."
The woman, who said to call her Leanne, pulled a black garment from a rack. She pointed to a door in the far wall and thrust the dress at Delenn.
"Here, this should fit. Go try it on. I think this is what you want. Especially if it's a first date and you want to blow him away."
Seeing the look of puzzlement on Delenn's face, she added, "you know, get him to admire how you look, get him to want to see you again. Never mind. Just go try it on."
Bemused, Delenn tried to tell her it was not that kind of date, but Leanne pointed to the door again and told her to call when she was ready.
Surrendering to the inevitable, Delenn walked into the dressing room without further demur. Inside the well-lit, mirrored room, Delenn inspected the dress. It was long and slim, all black without any decoration. Not at all what she was used to. But then she wanted something different. But this different? She quickly disrobed, leaving only a silky undergarment that covered her torso and supported her breasts. What was it Susan had called it when she first saw that typical Minbari undergarment? Such an odd name. A teddy. That was it. Delenn picked up the dress, but could see no way to put it on. It wouldn't fit over her head, and stepping into it did not work either. She was about to ask for help when she found the concealed zipper in the back.
She pulled on the dress and smoothed the fine material over her body. It hugged her body in a way she was not at all accustomed to. But it was not unpleasant. She rather liked the cut-out bodice which emphasized, but did not reveal her wonderful, new breasts. Turning her head to view the back of the dress, she gave a small cry of dismay. The long skirt, slit up the back to mid-thigh exposed her legs with every step. No proper Minbari female would ever reveal her legs like that. Only to her lover or mate would she dare show off such an erotic part of the body! But she was no longer a proper Minbari female. She was now partly human. And humans have no taboos about showing their legs. So why was she still so uncomfortable?
The shop keeper knocked and entered before Delenn could respond.
"Perfect! Absolutely perfect! It's even better than I expected."
"You do not think it is too daring?"
"No, no. It's elegant yet sexy. Just the look you want. In fact, if you're not careful, medlab will be backed up with whiplash cases from all the heads you turned."
Delenn protested with dismay. "Oh! But I do not want people to look away from me always."
"Look away? Honey, every male in the place will have his eyes glued to you. Now, let's see about some accessories. Earrings, I think. And a sexy pair of heels. Get changed and I'll show you."
Delenn agree with the choice of earrings, although she had never worn such things before. But she balked at the shoes. She was nervous enough about the dress. She did not want to worry about walking in unfamiliar footwear. She thanked the shop keeper for her help and paid for her purchases.
Back at her quarters, Delenn again inspected the dress. Elegant yet sexy. Was that the image she wanted to convey to the commander of Babylon 5? Shaking her head doubtfully, she went in search of suitable footwear. Yes, that pair of ceremonial slippers she rarely wore. The ones with the low heels and patterned backs. The charcoal grey color would go well with the dress. And the jeweltone colors of the backs would flash with each step, further emphasizing her legs. What was the matter with her! First she worried that the dress showed too much of her legs, and now she was pleased the shoes would attract more attention to them. She must do more research into the human endocrinological system.
Delenn sat at her dressing table. Now, what about her hair. Everything else was new and different, so why not a different hairdo. Something elegant, yet sexy! Why not? Perhaps something upswept, off her neck. Gathering her hair with both hands, she threw it over her crest. She looked in the mirror and giggled. She looked just like Londo! Trying again, she brushed her hair into a twist over one shoulder and then wound it around her hand. One hand holding her hair at the nape of her neck, she pinned the hair in place with the other. A few experimental shakes to see if the pins would hold. Only a few adjustments were necessary.
An hour before she was to meet Sheridan, Delenn decided to cleanse herself again. But this time she bathed rather than showered. She did not want to redo her hair. And the warm, scented water of the bath would help calm her. She thought of the Captain while she soaked. Would he approve of her appearance, or would he think her presumptuous for wearing human clothing. Well, it was too late to worry about that now. Time to finish her bath and dress.
The com signaled as she was putting on her new earrings. It was Lennier calling to tell her everything had gone smoothly at the welcoming ceremony despite her absence. Should she tell him of her dinner date in case he had to contact her this evening? No. Sheridan had agreed, no business this evening. She did not want any interruptions. She finished dressing and walked out the door.
The Fresh Aire Restaurant was only a brief stroll away, but she took her time. The few humans she passed stared at her, but they did not seem disapproving. Perhaps, she had made the right choice after all. She reached the door of the restaurant. It was crowded and she could not see the Captain. Ah, there he was, in the middle of the room. He saw her and beckoned. She could feel everyone's eyes on her. Taking a deep breath, she walked over to the table.
The restaurant was closing. They were the only ones left. Even the cooks had gone. Delenn signaled the waiter for the check, but Captain Sheridan insisted on paying.
"You can pay next time."
Next time! There would be a next time! She couldn't remember when she had enjoyed herself more. The Captain seemed pleased too. They had talked for hours of anything and everything. It was as though they had known each other for years, instead of a few brief months. Reluctantly, they both left the restaurant.
"I hope you'll at least let me walk you home, Delenn. After all, a gentleman...."
"I know," she said laughing, " a gentleman always escorts a lady home after a date." Had she overstepped, calling the evening a date? No, he was laughing too. Everything was still fine.
Sheridan chose to go the long way through the gardens. He seemed to be as reluctant as she to end the evening. She studied him covertly as they walked and talked. He, too, appeared to have taken pains with his appearance. He was dressed in civilian clothing with which she was unfamiliar, but the effect was pleasing to the eye. He was freshly shaved and the citrus scent of his cologne - aftershave as he called it - still lingered. He too had made an effort to impress. This pleased her.
In fact, everything about him pleased her. She hoped that she pleased him. She thought she had. She remembered the way his eyes widened when she came to the table; his smile as she sat down. The way he eased her nervousness. And the way he looked at her legs! Did he truly regard this evening as a date?
"I am sorry, Captain. Did you say something?"
"I said, I seem to be boring you."
"Oh no! Not at all. I was just thinking how pleasant it is here with you."
Now why did she say that? What must he think! "I mean, being here in the garden."
"Oh, then it's not my presence...."
She started to protest that she didn't mean that either when she realized he was joking. They both laughed and continued their walk.
They stopped at the bench where they had first talked. He gestured for her to sit and took his place beside her.
"You know, Delenn, I think this is the best evening I've had since I came here. You're so easy to talk to and...."
He fell silent as a Minbari warrior approached them. Passing the bench, he spat out one word, "malkrah," and quickly walked away. Delenn flinched as though struck. Not here! Not now! Not with this man! She turned to apologize to Sheridan. Before she could say anything, the Captain, who was watching the retreating back of the Minbari, said, "I though I'd heard every epithet the warrior caste has for Starkiller. But that's a new one. What does it mean?"
"Outcast," Delenn answered automatically. Didn't Sheridan realize the insult was meant for her?
"Outcast, huh. I suppose he means that Starkiller is outside the warrior caste code. I'm sorry you had to be subjected to that, Delenn."
He was apologizing to her! It hadn't even occurred to him that some of her people rejected her. He accepted her as she was.
"Do not concern yourself, Captain. His words have no meaning."
They smiled at each other and rose to continue their walk. Too soon, they arrived at the door of her quarters.
"Well, I guess I'll say good night. I've enjoyed our evening, Ambassador. We must do it again soon."
"I would like that very much, Captain. Good night."
She started to bow in the Minbari fashion, but changed her mind and extended her hand. Instead of shaking it as she expected, Sheridan took her hand in both of his. For a long moment they gazed into each other's eyes. Abruptly he let go of her hand.
"Good night, Delenn."
"Good night, Captain."
She paused for a moment in the doorway, reluctant to let go of the evening, and smiled. He waited until she entered her quarters and then walked away, whistling a tune she did not recognize. But it seemed a happy tune.
Delenn was very tired. But before she prepared for bed, she looked at herself in the mirror. She saw an exotic human female, with the remnants of a Minbari headbone that sat like a tiara on the dark hair. Perhaps she really was more human than she thought. But she still felt Minbari. Would she ever reconcile the two parts of her? Abruptly she turned away.
She quickly undressed and let down her hair. Taking off the unfamiliar earrings, she placed them on top of the black dress. Putting on a fresh nightrobe, she climbed into the newly made bed. She gave a silent thanks to the efficiency of the housekeeping staff. She couldn't have faced the sweat-soaked bedding of this morning. Calling for lights out, she hoped the dream would not come tonight. Her last thought before she fell asleep was that Captain Sheridan was a most attractive male!
Delenn stirred restlessly in her sleep. The dream was starting again. But this time she was not naked; she was wearing the black dress. As the flames licked at the hem, she heard someone call out her name. Turning, she saw Captain Sheridan. He held out his hand to her. She grasped it and the flames parted. Quickly she stepped out of the circle of fire. Hand in hand, they walked away.
Delenn awoke momentarily. She smiled and fell back asleep.
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