QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Thanks to Susan, Janice, Peggy, and Tish for reading and rereading. Also to the crew at Worldcon. We must do that again sometime soon!
Comments are always welcome.
Standard Disclaimers apply.
Spoilers up to "The Inquisitor"
John Sheridan to Delenn: "God damn it, Delenn, I have always felt that you were holding out on me on a couple of things. . . "
The room was pitch dark, no light at all except for the flickering golden glow of a single candle. She was alone, sitting cross-legged on the sofa, staring at the dancing flame, meditating. It was a time she usually looked forward too. A chance to review the day, clear her mind, and to discard all the minor annoyances that tried to intrude as she centered herself again. The small delicate hands that normally lay quiet in her lap were restlessly playing with the hem of her favorite dress. Her mind was just as restless, touching on all that had happened, flitting from event to event, refusing to focus on the ritual.
She wished the fluttering in her stomach would stop. They were back - butterflies, what strange terms humans had to describe emotions. Her first experience with this sensation was the night of their dinner at the Fresh Aire. They began when she tried on that dress and looked into the mirror. It was made of the softest material and clung to her body. Cool air brushed across skin that had never before been exposed to public view. The woman in the shop said she would 'turn heads.'
The feeling continued while she showered, fussed with her hair and dressed. By the time she walked into the restaurant it felt like a million butterflies were alive in her stomach. It did nothing to help calm her when the hum of conversation stopped and all eyes watched her cross the room to John. The feeling stayed all evening with varying degrees of intensity.
Their conversation had been wide ranging, covering everything and anything. But mostly they told stories of their personal lives and homes. Light and casual, revealing a little more of themselves with each tale told. She shared stories with him that had never been told to anyone else. Smiles and laughter were the order of the evening.
It came as a surprise that they were the last in the restaurant. John had been taking care of the check when Delenn gave a gentle reminder -- * she * invited * him * to dinner. Tonight was not business but pleasure. He had flashed a smile that reached the back of his eyes and said, "This is * my * pleasure." She felt her cheeks grow warm and glanced away, only to be pulled back by his voice softly asking to walk her home by way of the garden. The butterflies took flight again.
The memory of that evening was very special. The first occasion they had spent any length of time alone together and, as usual, whenever she pictured their walk home through the garden, the butterflies swarmed again. John. She began to call him by his first name after the horror of the Markab, but only when no one else was present. The private moments they had were few and the butterflies were always present. Except for the last time - when he told her his concerns about Sebastian, the worry clear in his face, voice and words.
When first informed of the Inquisitor's visit by Kosh, her heart stood still for an instant as panic threatened to take over. The legends she had heard as a child were turning into a cold reality. 'The Inquisitor' asked questions -- hard, painful questions. One legend said there were no correct answers and the few who had emerged alive from a session with him were forever changed. A shadow of their former selves. Another said that he was looking for someone who had never, would never exist. It was not butterflies but fear she felt. She had wanted to run, to get as far away from Babylon 5 as possible. It took all of her training to keep her feet planted firmly on the floor and, with an only slight tremor in her voice, to ask Kosh why.
In John's office her doubt and hesitation had been very apparent. Lennier tried to justify Kosh's decision, but deep down she knew this was all about commitment: a willingness to stand up for her beliefs and put her life on the line. When John offered to help, it firmed her resolve to confront The Inquisitor no matter what. The moment had arrived to face the unknown and it must be done alone.
When Sebastian left that cold dark room, she stayed in John's arms feeling the strength emanating from him. She drew upon his strength to recover what had been drained during her trial. She had not been in his embrace since the Isolation Zone and was vividly reminded how good it felt to be surrounded by him. All thought of the recent past disappeared as she enjoyed the quiet moment. But it did not last long. She was jolted back to the present when John started to speak.
He told her it was time for some answers, straightforward answers. He refused to go and ask Kosh again. He said Kosh talked in riddles. There was no need to ask him to explain; she knew exactly what he meant. This time he wanted to talk with her. Alone. Without interruption. When she did not respond he repeated the request. There was no way to avoid this and reluctantly she agreed.
She knew some of the questions he would ask, but not all. What answers could she give him? How much of what she knew could be shared? What about the things she guessed? Conclusions reached by piecing together bits of information received from many different sources.
Her biggest fear: what questions would he ask that she did not anticipate? He always surprised her with the twists, turns and leaps his mind took. She must be prepared.
He would want to know about Sebastian. What happened in Grey 19 before he arrived and why she was sent there in the first place? What did it all mean? Did he fully understand Sebastian's parting words? Would he press for an explanation?
How was she going to explain that? Could she? In this new body she had not been fully confident of her decisions, thoughts and actions. There was always a slight doubt connected to everything she did. The intuition that had always been an accepted part of her was constantly in question. The rejection of her own people and no longer being able to call Minbar home added to that insecurity. The ordeal with the Inquisitor restored her confidence. She remembered why she had chosen this path.
Sebastian had broken down all the barriers that were placed between herself and the rest of the Universe. The moment she verbally fought back, when she told him what he was, all the different parts melded together and she was again Delenn - whole, complete, connected. Stronger, more confident, her feet placed firmly in her destiny. The inflicted pain no longer mattered. Nothing would deter her from the path she was destined to walk.
So far it had been impossible to find words to convey what had happened in that chamber. The regaining of herself in the middle of all the torture. The rediscovery of the parts that had been misplaced, forgotten, buried, hidden from view after her change. They surfaced sporadically, when needed, but were never fully integrated into this new self until now.
A cold hand that would not keep still, crept up underneath the long hair to the back of her neck. She forced it back down into her lap again. She was nervous, a still unfamiliar emotion. One that she did not like. It was worse than the terror she had experienced standing in front of the Grey Council as an acolyte with Dukhat prodding her. Forcing her to speak out, to give an opinion in front of the leaders of Minbar.
Nerves. Minbari emotions were never like this. Never this strong, this constant. Human emotions were much more intense. Would she ever get accustomed to them or learn to control them? Right now she would be content if the fluttering in her stomach stopped.
What was she going to say to him? The restless hand began to move again, this time to play with the ends of the long hair and she jerked it back down. She must calm down and focus.
Dinner was in the warmer. Maybe that was the underlying reason for her nerves. They would be eating alone for the first time. Here, with no one else around. Whatever made her suggest this? It was madness.
She knew why - it was the gleam in his eyes when they stood outside her quarters. He told her to get some rest - she touched his cheek. He closed his eyes, made a small sound and turned his face into her palm, staying there for the barest second before looking at her with those hazel eyes full of tenderness. It slipped out before she had time to think, "Dinner?"
Maybe she should check the table again? Maybe the food was cold. Maybe . . .
The thought trailed off and the fluttering increased. Alone with him. Would that the circumstances were different. Light and flirting, a social occasion only. To see him smile, the flash of white teeth, his eyes light up and transform his face. It made him look younger, relaxed and carefree. The pain of his past no longer reflected in his eyes.
A soft sigh escaped her lips and a small voice broke the silence. "In Valen's name, I do not want to do this." She must clear her mind and meditate until he arrived. Maybe it would help with the answers he wanted.
The litany had barely begun when another picture invaded her mind; that time in the garden when she had touched his hand. The glint in his eyes made her look away and drew her back. She wondered where the conversation would have gone if his link had not interrupted them. It seemed the only time they were not disturbed was the night all the Markab died. She could still feel his warmth, smell his scent, and remember his comforting words.
She needed to focus, to stop being distracted by other thoughts. She looked away from the flame, off into the past, to another dark place, inside the Chrysalis. Just before she entered, doubt reared its ugly head and she sought out Kosh, remembering Dukhat's words, 'if you ever have doubt about your actions, all you need do is look into the face of a Vorlon. Once you do that, all doubt is erased forever."
Within the cocoon she had been somewhere between reality and dreams. It felt as if she had been drifting in one of Minbar's seas and every so often, bumped against a sunken crystal. The pain could only be described as razor sharp fingernails ripping her apart from the inside.
When she emerged she had been alone in the middle of a crowd. Different and outcast, no longer fully accepted by her own people. Maybe she would start there.
Lennier. She must take a closer look at him. Their relationship had changed since she went into the Chrysalis. He was no longer the student and she the teacher. He had watched over her while she was wrapped in the cocoon. Prayed, listened to her pain and worried. He was at her side when she was most vulnerable, terrified at what she had become and assisted Dr. Franklin remove some of the blue crust that covered her body. Lennier guided her back into the Council Meeting and stood behind her the first time she saw John.
All thought of Lennier fled when John's face appeared in her mind. He would be here soon.
John. Sebastian said, "Chosen ones." With that thought she took back control. She would be calm and ready when he arrived. The candle sputtered out and she sat in the total darkness not allowing the thoughts clamoring inside her mind to intrude on the meditation litany. She breathed deeply, centered herself, and tried to get ready for the coming squall. Only the hands playing with the hem of her favorite dress betrayed the picture of perfect calm.
All too soon the door chimed and she gave the command for low lights, stood, smoothed her dress and calmly said, "Enter." There was no way to postpone this; it was time to begin. The false calm vanished when the butterflies in her stomach started to flutter again and she involuntarily whispered, "In Valen's name." How far would this go?
John stood in the docking bay doorway watching Sebastian until he was out of sight. There were plenty of questions running through his mind and he wondered how many full answers he would get at dinner tonight. There would be half-truths, evasions, and most certainly, misdirection. It was the Minbari way. He hoped she would to listen to her human side and begin to trust and help him understand what was happening.
She gave him joint command of the Rangers. He had been overwhelmed when it happened and did not ask many questions of Delenn. Garibaldi had disappeared shortly after John's speech and there had been no opportunity to pursue the subject with him. He spent the evening talking with the Rangers, learning why they joined, what their commitment was, what drove them.
Sebastian had used the phrase 'Coming darkness.' John had to have information if he was to lead. Tonight he would press for the answers.
The lessons with Kosh did nothing to explain the realities of the coming darkness. Why did Kosh think it necessary to subject Delenn to this torture? Why was Sebastian waiting for him? He would never get a straight answer from Kosh.
While Ivanova researched Sebastian he went into his office and called up Delenn's official file - - something he had not reviewed since arriving on the station -- and read it as a commander expecting a new officer on board. It was put together very cleverly. When he first read the file there seemed to be a wealth of detailed information about her background. But now, reading it again after so many months, he found a lot of words, but no substance.
He studied her picture, she looked so different, yet the same. This was the way Sinclair knew her, beautiful even when fully Minbari. The changes that had occurred inside the chrysalis made her even more unique. A second, more recent picture appeared on the screen and he was reminded of an old human expression, 'so easy on the eyes.' The shape of her face was the same. The skin was not so white now, but more of a human, pink tinged, flesh color. He wondered if the blue by her bonecrest was underneath that magnificent mass of chestnut hair. The eyes were the same green mist color, but no picture could ever capture their depth or her essence.
He called for Sinclair's files and reread Londo's, then G'Kar's. They were full of impressions, specific incidents, and amusing anecdotes. Delenn's was similar up to a certain date. Then nothing. No new comments or observations. What did Sinclair find out that made him stop writing?
He brought up Sinclair's notes on the Council meetings. They were thorough, complete with all of the ambassador's comments and actions. But again, after that same date the personal notes about Delenn were missing. What did he decide to help hide?
There was a personal journal containing Sinclair's experiences since taking over Babylon 5 and John knew exactly what part to start with, 'a hole in your mind'. Curious that Sinclair mentioned it periodically until the end of his stay. The log changed after the incident with the Cybernet. It became vague, much less specific. Did he remember what was in that hole? And if he did, how was Delenn involved? Because, John knew, she was most certainly involved.
The last thing John looked at was the message Sinclair left for his replacement. Comments about the command staff and a promotion recommendation for Ivanova. At the very end there was a very odd phrase, added almost as an afterthought, 'And so it begins'. Nothing else, what was the meaning of that? What had Sinclair learned? He knew he would not be returning to Babylon 5. Did he know who his replacement would be? Had he already known about being assigned to Minbar as ambassador?
The first Earth Ambassador to Minbar. What influence did Delenn have in that decision? Why Sinclair? What impact did the announcement have on Earth? What repercussions vibrated through the political corridors of both worlds because of his appointment? And, of course, there was still the other question that had never been answered to anyone's satisfaction. Why was Sinclair put in command of Babylon 5 in the first place?
What did Lennier say those many months ago? They found a Minbari soul in a human body. So where did Delenn fit into that discovery? He was sure that was the reason why Sinclair was named Commander of Babylon 5. The rumor was the Minbari had an objection to every other name offered by Earth Gov.
What part did she play in all of this intrigue and political manipulation? Delenn. When Anna died a part of his heart froze and he thought it would stay that way forever. Delenn. He wanted to know more about this woman who was melting the ice around his heart. Because of her, he was experiencing emotions that had been dead for a very long time. She had been there for him whenever he was in doubt. Every time he looked into her eyes he felt capable accomplishing the impossible.
His mind was a swirl of questions, bouncing from one to another, then leading to even more. John had been told the reason why he was picked to command Babylon 5. But was he told all? Was it a trade off? If the Minbari insisted on Sinclair as their Ambassador, did Earth demand to name his replacement? Hague said that John was hand picked by Santiago, but Clark was the new President and he could have named someone else. Clark knew John's assignment was a slap in the face to the Minbari. They would have known he was "Starkiller." Why then didn't they object? Or did they? Did the Minbari have a hand in this as well?
Delenn was in her cocoon when all of this was taking place. Did she know Sinclair would not be around when she emerged? What was her reaction when told that 'Starkiller' was now in command of Babylon 5? Or did she already know?
Kosh and Delenn kept talking about the 'coming storm' but neither was willing to relay full details. They parceled out information in small doses as if he were a child. It was as though they believed he was incapable of handling the worst. The flash of the Shadows in the cell with Morden was enough to make the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Now it was the time for more complete information. He wanted to stop walking around in the dark, bumping into walls he didn't know existed until he was battered and bruised. Today was a perfect example.
He had walked into Grey 19 blind, PPG drawn, ready for a fight. Not knowing what was taking place, only that Lennier feared Delenn would be killed. It took a second for his eyes to adjust to the light before he saw her lying on the floor, not moving. His hand shook slightly, fearing that he was already too late. Sebastian said something that sounded like "the final player".
Before he could blink, he was forcefully, violently, throw back against the wall by a stream of fire. Upon regaining consciousness he found himself standing in the middle of the room, hands in the air, shackled to steel. Sebastian verbally attacked and then physically assaulted him with a force of light. Through the red haze of excruciating pain, John could easily see Sebastian enjoyed his agony. He was about to black out again when he heard Delenn's voice. The sound snuffed out the rage inside him. She was alive! Despite the pain his mind immediately began to search for a way to escape or, at the very least, to get her out of that hole.
His first thought was to tell her to get the hell out of there; he was willing to die so she could live. Then, unable to believe his ears, she offered her life for his and there was nothing he could do to divert attention back to himself. He stood there, helpless, frustrated, and unable to go to her aid.
Answers, he wanted answers and wouldn't leave until he got them. He would poke and prod until satisfied. There was too much unknown.
When Sebastian said 'Chosen ones,' the enormity of that phrase hit him like a ton of bricks. Chosen by whom? Together they would lead the fight against the Shadows. Another unknown. The Vorlons -- exactly how much could they be trusted. Kosh purposely put Delenn in the middle of that torment and knew that John would come to save her if she was in trouble. It was a cold, calculated move by the Vorlon. What were their objectives?
'The right place at the right time.' Sebastian used a phrase John had heard so many times. But what did it mean to Delenn. It could very well be different from his definition, or with a twist that hadn't occurred to him. He lacked the political training she had in spades.
When the handcuffs disappeared his first thought was of her. Was she all right, unhurt? She looked beautiful in the blue white light, her long hair and clothes in disarray. Confusion on her face when she asked, 'What happened?', not quite believing she was alive. He held her tightly and felt her rapid breathing. He didn't want to let her go, but he did want to get out of that room, out of the darkness into the light.
They walked to her quarters arm in arm. Outside the door he looked down into her weary eyes, smiled reassuringly and told her to get some rest, he would come back later. She hesitantly suggested dinner, he quickly agreed before she could change her mind. He told her he would have something sent from the Fresh Aire and be back by seven.
So many areas to be examined. How much would she tell him? Sebastian had disappeared from sight long ago and John absently fingered the wings on the sleeve of his uniform jacket. It was time. A restless hand ran through his hair as he walked out of the bay. How much would he ask?
The door opened and she welcomed him in with a warm, gentle smile. The dim light flattered her appearance and she had changed into the sapphire blue dress, leaving off the red outer robe, it was his favorite. There were candles everywhere waiting to be lit. He sighed to himself when he looked into her eyes and wished tonight was a 'date.' He would much rather hold her in his arms than do the intended cross-examination. A fluttering began in his gut when he remembered how her hair had tickled his nose the last time he held her.
They exchanged a few pleasantries as she busily arranged the everything on the table. She commented on the food he had sent from the Fresh Aire. It was the same menu as the night they had dinner there. He laughed as he took off his uniform jacket and gently teased her, saying they had nothing Minbari and he knew she liked this. She grinned back at him; "Maybe we should send them one of Mr. Garibaldi's recipes. He has quite a reputation on the station." Continuing on in this light vein she added, "I know he can make popcorn."
She offered him wine and, surprised, he accepted the glass from her ice-cold hands, suspecting that it was a diversion.
"What are you drinking, Delenn?" He didn't know where to start and finally admitted that he had a major case of nerves.
"It is glomo, the drink we had with the Flarn. After what happened today I thought you would prefer wine. Londo gave it to me some time ago." She walked around the room lighting the candles and silently prayed he would not see her shaking hand.
John leaned up against the counter watching her every movement. "Londo has an excellent palette." Taking another sip, savoring the flavor of the mellow wine, drinking in the sight of her.
She came back towards him and picked up a bowl as he said, "I had Ivanova research Sebastian."
She looked up and asked curiously. "What did she find?"
Delenn was so close; he was distracted by the fragrance of her perfume, caught in the exotic scent. From very far away he heard his name being called. Mentally he shook himself and came back to the conversation instead of going to the very delightful fantasy that was forming in his mind.
"First, what happened in that room before I arrived and why did Kosh send you in there." That's what he wanted to hear, along with her impression of Sebastian. "I want a full answer Delenn, not a half truth or an evasion. If we're to fight this coming war together . . ." He left the sentence unfinished; she would know what he meant.
Her first impulse was to avoid the question, to reply in such a way that the answer wrapped around the inquiry instead of going to the center. She was very good at this; people walked away not realizing until much later that they had not really been answered. But he was right, with the coming darkness, the jeopardy he was putting himself in the center of, answers were necessary. But how much need she tell?
And they began here, something over and done, no longer threatening. She spoke of the reasons why Kosh sent her in there as they started eating and tried to explain the doubts she had lived with since her change. The words that were impossible to find earlier came easily now and his questions helped further clarify all that had happened. She told of putting on the manacles and her confusion during the first encounter with Sebastian, not understanding what he wanted. She described her first tiny victory and then the next. Small ones only and the reward was always the same - - - ten minutes to rest. With each victory she gained a little more confidence.
He poured himself more wine as she told of the interrogation and the pain. Of rediscovering herself in the middle of the terror and finally, being able to stand up to Sebastian, to verbally lash out, even with the knowledge it would cause more pain. Of the ominous thought that invaded her mind before she blacked out. It was very possible she would not get out of the room alive. When she regained consciousness and saw John being subjected to the white flash of agony, her immediate reaction had been to divert Sebastian's attention back to herself.
Somehow the food disappeared from the plates, the table was cleared, and both sets of butterflies vanished.
He gave her the details of Ivanova's research and also related what had happened in the docking bay. When he was finished she looked at the picture in her memory said, "Yes."
His immediate reaction was one of annoyance, she sounded like a Vorlon. "Delenn." John was grinding his teeth.
She gave him a half smile and lightly touched the back of his hand. "The Vorlons were correct in selecting Sebastian to be The Inquisitor. Who better to investigate the 'chosen one' than one who thought he was 'chosen'. With his past he knew how to put them to the test, to find their flaws, weaknesses and strengths."
"Why were you put in command of the Rangers, Delenn?" He asked it in a matter of fact tone, demanding an answer.
His mind had taken a leap and with it came the first unexpected question; it was so simple, so straightforward, she should have anticipated it. The butterflies were replaced by a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. They were now into an area she did not want to address. With that one sentence he flung the doors open wide and there was no way to close them. How far would this go?
"Delenn, you can't tell me the Grey Council would put a Religious Caste Ambassador in command of the Rangers. There had to be a specific reason." He pursued the question not allowing her an easy answer.
She threw out the one forming in her mind. What reply could she give him that would not lead down a path she did not want to take?
"Michael knew about the Rangers. He helped you with them before you brought me in." Refusing to let go of question.
"Why was he told? Why was he trusted? Does he know?" John's voice was strained.
She opened her mouth, then closed it. Again the barely formed reply was discarded. His questions were coming fast and furious.
"What does he know?" The muscles in his cheek twitched.
Still no answer from her. Those expressive green eyes of hers were cast down, not looking at his face. Her hands were hidden from his view.
"Did Michael ask, 'Why you, Delenn? Did he ask that question?" The gentleness in his eyes was replaced with determination.
This was a question she could answer. "I have had military training. I studied under Branmer for several years. My teacher said it was good to know all aspects of Minbari culture." She began to expand upon that theme when John interrupted her.
"That's not good enough, Delenn. It is only part of an answer. What about the other part?" His voice hammered the question at her. "I don't need a detailed history on your military training."
She tried to push away from the table, but John grabbed her wrist and said, "Why don't you answer me? What is it you don't want me to know?" He was getting exasperated. He had just gotten started and there were no explanations forthcoming.
"What does Michael know?" The hammer came down again. The determined look in his eyes turned hard.
Her mind was in turmoil. Was this the place to start? There was so much more to this than she was willing to share. Maybe she could divert his attention unto another area by giving him part of an answer.
When she bit her bottom lip, he knew a point had been won, and loosened his grip on her arm. When the answer came it was barely audible and he was not sure that he heard correctly.
"Sinclair. Sinclair asked Michael to help me with the Rangers." Delenn's hands were clutching the edge of the table
"Sinclair. Well that is a start." John thought, a start, but certainly not enough. "What does Sinclair have to do with the Rangers?"
She reminded him of the time Lennier came to talk about the coming darkness and why the Minbari surrendered at the Battle of the Line. The finding of a Minbari soul in a human body.
John controlled his impatience. This was old ground they were covering. He recognized that to give out any facts except what the Minbari were prepared to share was extremely difficult for her. He let her take as much time and as many words, as she needed. But he didn't expect to hear what was eventually disclosed.
"Sinclair. We found what was thought to be a part of Valen's soul in Sinclair. The impact of this discovery upon us was indescribable." She went on to tell him of the decision to stay close to Sinclair. To observe him and see if it could be discovered why Valen had returned. It was written in the Minbari history that Valen would return to help in the next Shadow war. The Rangers needed to be rebuilt if the Shadows were coming again. The Vorlons also would come out of hiding to help. All the preparations for the coming war began with the discovery that Sinclair had part of Valen's soul.
"Why were you chosen to watch Sinclair, Delenn?" The push for more facts continued.
So much for trying to divert him. She hesitated, unsure how to phrase her answer, not wanting it to lead to more questions. But John was on a quest and would not give up until he had what he wanted. It was necessary and she continued, forcing the words out of her throat, "I was on the ship when Sinclair was taken prisoner. It was decided then. I had knowledge of your language, studied your culture and could immediately begin to investigate Sinclair." The picture of the Grey Council meeting flashed in her mind. The loud, disagreeing voices echoed in her ear. The final decision had been hers.
He could see she was mentally thousands miles and years away from him and decided to pursue a different thought. "Who was your teacher?"
"What?" She was deep in the memory and his question startled her. It was unrelated to what they were discussing.
"It is a simple enough question, Delenn. You said before that 'Your teacher thought it was important to study all aspects of the Minbari.' Which one of your teachers said that?" There was no edge to his voice - he asked it frankly.
Yes, it was a simple question with a very complex answer. They stepped upon another path that she did not want to take. The candle on the table winked out. She took the opportunity to delay, to think about her reply and went to find a fresh one.
John watched her graceful movements as she crossed the room. Her long hair covered her face when she bent down to find the new candle. He could not see her eyes, could not tell what she was thinking. Her hesitation told him this was important. He would wait for a while before asking again. After all, he had all night.
Her hand shook slightly when she replaced the old candle. John took the lighter and lit the new one. Her hands were cold again and he clasped both in his to warm them. Looking deep into her eyes, gently, softly saying, "Delenn, who was your teacher?"
She gazed at his large hands covering hers and remembered another time, another place, when she was unsure of which path to take. She glanced into John's eyes and saw reflected there the same concern and caring that were in another's eyes so many years ago. She choked out one word. "Dukhat."
It was his turn to be surprised. Dukhat! He knew Delenn was in the hierarchy of the Minbari Government but this was unexpected. She was taught by their Leader. The one they compared to Valen. No wonder she was charged with keeping an eye on Sinclair and put in command of the Rangers. Or did she take command?
"How long did you study with him, Delenn?" This would tell him more. If it were only one or two years it would mean one thing. Longer was something else indeed.
She looked him fully in the eyes for the first time and allowed him to see a little of the vulnerability there. In her soft, low voice replied, "Ten years."
He blinked. His mind raced towards all sorts of possibilities.
She plunged on, once started finding it impossible to stop, her words running together, "I was in the ship the Earth vessel fired upon. Dukhat died in my arms. I was enraged; the best of us was dead. The decision was made to retaliate." She paused then went on, "If it had been someone other than Dukhat, there would have been no war." Her voice was full of sorrow, green eyes brimming with tears.
He hated seeing her eyes turn into green pools, the single tear slide down to her chin. But he could not back off this track because of them, he pushed for more. "What was Dukhat to you, Delenn?"
She stood up and walked away from him, worrying her lower lip. Minbari training screamed in her mind, not to give him the information he sought. To evade the answer, to turn it into something she was willing to share.
"Delenn." One word, softly spoken. It is more than a plea and less than a command. He wanted to understand. Why she was on that ship. Why she was so close to Dukhat.
She looked down at her clenched hands. The decision to answer him had been made before the door opened. What had not been decided was how much would be told and she had already gone further than anticipated.
She turned back to him, and then swung away again. It was so difficult. His hand, light as a feather, touched her shoulder. He whispered, "Delenn," a caress left hanging in the air. It was up to her to reach out and take his offer. She turned and put her forehead on his cheek. Her hands rested lightly on his chest, rubbing a small piece of his shirt between two fingers.
"He was my teacher," a pause, "my mentor," a longer silence, "and my friend." Hoping he would not ask for more.
"Ah, Delenn," said with sympathy and an underlying question. His arms wrapped around her.
His voice seemed to echo around the room. She knew what was coming and tried to pull away. He just held her tighter.
"Tell me why you were on that ship." He was insistent.
"John." She pleaded with him not to ask.
"Tell me." His hot breath in her ear, unwilling to give up the quest. Her body was stiff; it felt like a rod of steel. She twisted away, succeeding only in turning around in his arms, but not breaking free of his grip. He could feel the rise and fall of her abdomen, hear her heavy breathing. She persisted, squirming this way and that, up and down.
"Delenn, let me in." His voice changed again.
She was strong, but he was stronger with a specific purpose in mind.
"Tell me." He would not let her go.
The wall in her mind resisted, she refused to bend, even a little. He had enough, there would be no more on this subject tonight.
He changed tactics. "You refused to leave and let me die in your place." He reminded her of the dark room, the commitment she made to life.
She stopped fighting his hold.
"You were willing to die for me." Stating the fact of her pledge.
A small crack appeared in the wall.
"You were prepared to give up your life for mine." Calling upon her honor as a Minbari.
The crack became wider.
Delenn, I have put my trust in you." His velvet voice seeking her most fragile spot.
The crack turned into a fissure and instinctively she knew what his next words would be.
He turned her around and took complete advantage of the vulnerability he saw in her eyes. He bent down close to her face and murmured, "Trust me."
The wall could not withstand the full force of the those two small words. The burden crashed down on her shoulders. It had been up for so long, was so heavy and impossible to carry alone any longer.
Suddenly she sagged against him. He was thrown off balance by the unexpected weight and staggered to recover and support both of them.
She paused for a heartbeat, long enough for him to think that he had lost this round. Then he heard her voice, low and trembling. He hung on tightly, almost afraid of what she would say, knowing what he would hear had never been told to anyone else.
She answered the question regarding Dukhat. "I loved him." There, for the first time, voiced out loud. The tears started as the pain came back.
Still he was not satisfied and asked a question that was none of his business, one he really did not want her to answer. "Was he your lover?" It should not have been asked but he held breath and doubted the answer would be forthcoming. If it did, it would most certainly be evasive.
This was easily given, something she wanted him to know. "No, Dukhat was never my lover." Her tone incredibly sad. "If he had lived, I believe we would have become lovers. I still had much to learn and he would not add that complication to our relationship.
"He died in my arms." She repeated the reality.
Her words twisted a old knife in his gut and he said in a halting voice, "At least you had that."
She looked up at him, saw a lone tear and clearly understood the emotional pain he must have been in when told of Anna's death. Not being able to see the body of the woman he loved so deeply. His reality of Anna's death was only words spoken and a piece of paper.
They both cried, and for the first time there was no rage, no anger, no resentment in their tears. Together they shared their grief for the loss of love. Seeking solace in each others arms.
When the tempest was over they were relaxed and comfortable within their embrace. One of her hands was on his shoulder; the other played with the hair on the nape of his neck creating the most delightful sensations. His hands lightly caressed her back and tangled in her long hair. This was only a pleasant diversion. In fact, he admitted to himself as the butterflies began to flutter, more than a pleasant diversion, but had to be put aside. He must not forget his primary purpose here tonight. It was time to begin again. He breathed in her fragrance once more then reluctantly pulled back.
"Why were you on that ship, Delenn," continuing to pursue the questions she had avoided answering earlier.
She looked at him with anguish in her eloquent eyes.
Changing tactics again, he stepped further away and in a deceptively casual voice said, "I was on a Minbari ship during the war."
Delenn froze, fingernails dug into her palms, afraid of his next words.
"It was after an aborted peace mission. A try at establishing a dialogue between Earth and Minbar. The mission was discovered and the Minbari representative was killed." He watched her reaction closely.
"In Valen's name," rang in her mind. It was John! Lenonn met with John. She did not know, never checked the prisoner's names. She had been so upset at losing Lenonn, at the failed attempt at peace. She thought the Warrior Caste responsible for the attack, for the death of her friend. Lenonn gave John the one word he knew would capture her attention. The future, her future.
John went on, "There was a member of the Grey Council on board, covered head to toe by a long grey robe that looked many sizes to big for her." He saw many different emotions instantly flash across Delenn's face. "I didn't understand her words, but the voice was low and sad. I tried to get her attention by shouting out the words that Lenonn had given me before he died. The only reaction at first was a beating by the Minbari guarding us. I tried repeatedly and had just about given up hope when she shouted a command. One word, in a voice that conveyed all of her authority and power. Immediately the pounding stopped and we were released."
He had caught her off guard and locked onto her eyes, didn't allow her to glance away. Oh there were occasions when she permitted him a glimpse inside, but this time she was unable to shield her thoughts. He read her face as clearly as words written on a page with each sentence that came out of his mouth. Her eyes were wide open; mouth parted, and was barely breathing. She was stunned.
"It was you, Delenn, wasn't it? Under that grey robe, it was you." Pressing the point home.
She was astounded; no one since Dukhat had ever read her thoughts so clearly. She had been able to hide her past from all, but here it was out in the open. He guessed the secret she had hidden so well from everyone in Babylon 5.
He leaned down and whispered in her ear, "It was you, wasn't it, Delenn," no longer a question. He took her small, tightly fisted hands and forced them opened. The fingernail marks were deep and bright red; one had broken the skin. He brought the injured hand close to his mouth and murmured, "Satai -- Satai Delenn," then kissed her palm trying to ease the ache of discovery.
She did not know how to react or which reaction to come let first. So they all came at once - relief, grief, joy, and fear in a mixture that was as painful to experience as it was to watch. She lurched back, stumbled away and fell up against the bedroom doorway. Tears and laughter mixed together as she continued to shudder uncontrollably. She had not heard her name connected to that word in so very long. Satai, so much heartache, grief and death associated with the title.
It hurt to watch her try and cope with this alone and John went to her side. She waved him away, and he retreated into the background, respecting her silent request for privacy. This was the first she had ever refused the comfort he offered. He understood her need to conquer the out of control emotions, to compose herself before continuing on. He would not intrude until she was ready to talk to him again.
He waited patiently watching for the chance to offer comfort if she gave any sign of be able to accept it. She gained control for a moment only to lose it again. There was no opening, she was closed within herself. John knew she was facing private memories that had to be reconciled before she continue.
It took a while for her to recover, not completely, but enough to turn and face him. The look on her tear-streaked face was haunted. Her hand strayed to the back of her neck as she said in a voice full of uncertainty and laced with fear, "John?"
His heart went out to her; the haunted look touched deep inside of him. He did not want to break her. Sebastian couldn't, but he could. One simple question about Dukhat was all it would take to bring her down on her knees. But that was not what he wanted. They were meant to be equals, not one dominated by the other. Everyone was entitled to their secrets. He certainly had his fair share of them.
He spoke before she could go any further and gave her a gift. "So long ago you saved Starkiller's life, my life, Delenn. Mine, Franklin's and G'kar's. Were we both in the 'right place at the right time?' Would we be here now if it weren't for your position then? Have we always been in the 'right place'?"
Delenn spread her hands, palms upward and gave a slight shrug, not knowing what to say. Lost in a maze of memories and what would of happened if . . .
John then added an afterthought, "Did you know, I refused second in command on the Prometheus?" She looked confused and he explained the Prometheus was the ship that fired on the Minbari war cruiser.
She took a shaky breath, a tumult of thoughts cascading in her mind. One dominated however, the one that had shaped her life from the first time she could remember.
"We have a destiny to fulfill. The universe touched each of us long ago. Though we were born on different worlds and had yet to meet, we were connected. It seems our paths have crossed many times during the years. The universe made us . . .," she searched for the correct word.
He held out his hand and supplied it for her, "Partners."
She put her hand in his and they went to sit on the sofa. The conversation became communication, and the communication turned into understanding. Their relationship changed and they began to trust one another. The universe was hard at work again.
John sat on the bed; elbows on his knees, aching head in his hands. There was so much to process, to put into place. She answered all his questions. Minbari did not lie, she probably did not tell the full truth, but at least he heard some of it.
What concerned him now were the questions he didn't think to ask. The next time would be easier. He wouldn't hold any thing back now, waiting for others to decide the time was right to dole out bits and pieces of information. He was in command and the decisions were his to make. Kosh was teaching him to fight legends. He needed all the available facts in order to do that, everything, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant.
Delenn's military training with Branmer was extensive. That coupled with the teaching of Dukhat made her a formidable foe. It also made her an invaluable ally. She was more than that to him, how much more, he was still unwilling to look at yet.
He flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. Kosh. Tomorrow he would have another lesson. He was curious what this one would be after Kosh learned of John's session with Delenn tonight. Or did Kosh expect what happened tonight? Was this part of his plan? And what did he mean by, 'I listened to the music. Your thoughts became the song'?
Questions, he was tired of the questions still rambling around in his head and needed sleep. He began to unbutton his shirt wondering if he would end up sleeping in his clothes or find the energy to get completely undressed. It seemed like such a major decision to make right now.
Delenn was exhausted and did not get up when he left. Her beautiful eyes showed the stress and strain from the session with Sebastian and their evening talk. He could not leave her that way. He went back, sat of the low table in front of her and took her hands in his.
"I have another question, Delenn." He was very serious.
She winced, had there not been enough questions tonight? What more? She was not sure that she would be able to continue.
He flashed a smile trying to alleviate her concern. "Garibaldi made you popcorn?"
She nodded her head slightly. "Yes. When I was trying to find out more about humans." Where was John going to go with this?
"What did you think?" His curiosity clearly evident.
"It stuck in my teeth." Unconsciously, she ran her tongue across her teeth.
He laughed, " I know, it has a tendency to do that. Did you like it?"
"Not at first, but yes, I did by the time the bowl was empty." She could not figure out where all this was leading.
"What did you watch?" He asked even though it was obvious what Michael would have shown her.
"A cartoon I think he called it. Daffy Duck? Towards the end, I began to understand and thought it was very funny." She gave a reminiscent smile.
"Would you like to have popcorn again sometime -- with me?" The dimple appeared along with a crooked grin.
She shyly looked at him and answered, "Yes." The butterflies were back and whipped up a storm in her stomach.
"No cartoons. I think an old movie about World War II would be appropriate. Casablanca." He got up and went to the door.
She followed him and asked, "What is that about?" She was still confused, what was going on here?
"About war, intrigue, sacrifice, and romance." He traced a line with his finger down the side of her face and slipped out the door.
It was a good thing he encountered no one on the walk back to his quarters. He was in no mood to be distracted by side issues.
He brooded over the things she disclosed tonight. It was enough to make his head spin: Sinclair, Dukhat, Grey Council, and the universe. This was the first they had talked about their combined destiny. Was this what Sebastian meant by 'Joined at the hip?'
His head started to pound when he tried to go over everything that happened tonight, it was too late to try and sort any of this out now. In the morning and over the next few days, there would be time enough then.
He forced himself up and got ready for bed. At least he could sleep late in the morning, that is if his inner clock didn't wake him. He convinced Delenn to leave a message for Lennier canceling all her appointments for the next day. She agreed only if he would do the same and stood right by him while he made the call to C & C.
He slipped into bed and was almost asleep before his head hit the pillow. One memory floated to the surface: how she felt in his arms, so soft and warm. Her expressive eyes gazing into his, mirroring the pain in her heart for his loss of Anna and her loss of Dukhat. He caught a hint of her perfume on the back of his hand and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
One last question darted through his mind. "What did she hold back, what didn't she tell him? How would it affect their future?"
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