TREASURE THE MOMENTS
By John Hightower
October 2001 - This story is a gap filler that takes place during the episode "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place". I wrote it about four years ago, in 1997. It was my first fanfic, and it's kind of a 'fluff' piece, but it has never been published anywhere. So, be forgiving with my 'first-timer's' errors (I've left them intact)…and enjoy.V/R
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Babylon 5, Earth Year 2260
<Funny thing about those old 20th Century military regimes, > thought the Minister as he stared out the viewport of his shuttle at the Minbari ships drifting seemingly at random around the nearing bulk of Babylon 5, <They thought that anything was justified as long as orders were followed without question. Not totally unlike our Minbari friends here… >
Will Dexter, one-time Military Chaplain and now Reverend and Minister of the Gospel had mixed feelings about the Minbari. One the one hand, they were a peaceful and thoughtful people who seemed for the most part honestly shocked at what they'd done during the war. <Like a sleepwalker waking from a bad dream with a bloody knife in his hand, > thought Will. On the other hand, Will had never seen such an efficient and deadly race once they set their minds to it. Although that duality in their natures made Will nervous he was, after all, a man of peace and was more than willing to forgive them. The irony that Minbari protection of the Earth station known as Babylon 5 had in large part made this trip possible amused him no end. <Here I am comparing the Minbari to the old communists, when it's the Earth Alliance I see eventually going the way of the Soviet Union if current policies are left unchecked. >
Not surprisingly, Will found that many within the religious calling saw similar totalitarian trends within the Earth Government. What followed - his involvement in the Alliance Underground - seemed natural if the cycle of violence was to be curtailed. When communications with his old friend and colleague, Brother Theo, presented the opportunity to visit Babylon 5 he jumped at the opportunity to take a more direct role in preventing the eventual downfall of the Alliance. Now he found himself being essentially 'smuggled' from Earth to the rebel station along with several of his colleagues. Their mission - deliver a data crystal with resistance information and personal communications to the Babylon 5 Command Staff. Will had the crystal safely ensconced in a pocket inside his Bible.
Little did he realize at the time that his intercession in a more personal matter would be more important on the galactic scale than the crystal.
Stepping off the shuttle Will had been astounded at the amount of traffic passing through the passenger terminal. He and his colleagues had expected passenger traffic through the station to be light since ties had been severed with Earthgov. What he saw were people from many species moving about, carrying out business that he could only guess at. <Well, > he thought, <This is one Earthgov lie for the books. > Earthgov had painted a picture of Babylon 5 as a station slowly starving itself to death from lack of support and falling apart under Minbari puppet rule. While it was apparent money was tight on the station, things were not falling apart. Will wondered what other misinformation would be exposed as Clark regime lies before he left.
Looking around, the large black Reverend spied the diminutive robed man he was looking for. Brother Theo had not changed a bit over the many years that Will Dexter had known him. He didn't age. Theo was wearing his customary serene expression - those who didn't know the man often thought him a bit simple and dull. Will knew, however, that Theo's unremarkable exterior hid the heart of an adventurer. Over the years, Will and Theo had developed a professional rivalry that often made others think that they disliked one another. In fact, they both shared great respect and admiration for the other's accomplishments. Their mutual cynicism masked a lifelong friendship.
After exchanging the expected jabs at each other that, for them, passed for introductions, Theo turned to an attractive but severe-looking woman standing a little to his rear "Will," he intoned drolly, "This is Commander Susan Ivanova. She's the station's executive officer." Speaking to Ivanova, Theo waved halfheartedly at his companion. "Commander, this is Will Dexter, a sometimes minister and all-around troublemaker. I suspect that your station will never be the same after his visit."
Extending his hand Will acknowledged Theo's remark. "It's good to meet you Commander. I'm glad to see that you don't seem to have been permanently dulled by my friend's lack of enthusiasm and wit. Does he still put people to sleep during his services?"
Ivanova raised her eyebrows slightly in amusement, bemused by the exchange between the two, but regained her serious expression quickly. "It's good to have you aboard," she said, looking at Will and his companions, "The Command Staff is looking forward to talking with you, but we do need to get out of the passenger terminal. Visitors from Earth can attract unwanted attention in public places under current circumstances." At Will's questioning expression, she lowered her voice a little and continued, "While we believe that we have neutralized Nightwatch on the station, there are still sympathizers among the population. We don't want word of your visit getting back to Earthgov." With that, she motioned for the party to follow her.
They were waived through customs without having their baggage and identicards checked. Once out of the terminal, they proceeded directly to their quarters. As they walked to their rooms, Ivanova gave the visitors a quick rundown of the status of the station since the break from Earth. Will and the others were surprised to learn of the Shadow War. Earthgov was heavily censoring news of this sort. Ivanova, for her part, was just as shocked to find out that few in the Alliance knew anything about the state of affairs outside of Alliance-controlled territory.
Under Susan Ivanova's direction, Will's party eventually found their quarters and began settling in. As Susan prepared to depart, she turned to the religious leaders and remarked, "Oh, by the way, Ambassador Delenn has extended an invitation to dinner for all of you. If it's acceptable, I'll be by at 1900 to escort you."
"Ambassador Delenn...isn't she the Minbari ambassador? Will asked. "The one who's transformed herself into a human?"
"That's her," Susan replied guardedly. "Does that bother you?" She added, in a tone that suggested that if any had problems with Delenn, it would be better for them to keep them to themselves. "We depend heavily on the Minbari for our support here, but I won't pretend that there aren't some humans who still have problems with her appearance or her involvement in station activities."
"No, not at all," Will said, seeing that a misunderstanding was quickly developing. "I just recalled seeing her on an ISN broadcast. Cynthia Torqueman's interview of her did not help Humanity's image any among the other races and was unfair to the Ambassador. Of course we'll come. I'd enjoy meeting her."
"Will Captain Sheridan be there?" the Rabbi chimed in. "This may be a good opportunity for us to pass on our information to him."
"I'm not sure," Susan replied. "Captain Sheridan is usually up to his neck in work. He spends most of his time in the War Room. I'm sure that he'll be there if Ambassador Delenn can cajole him into it." At the uneasy look she received from the visiting delegation, she hastily added, "The Captain does know you are here, however. Delenn informed him as soon as you arrived. Now, I recommend that you all freshen up. It'll take you a little while to adjust to the time difference here." With a parting nod, Ivanova left the visitors to rest after their trip.
Shortly before they were to go to dinner, Will's door chime buzzed. Expecting Commander Ivanova, Will opened the door and found Theo standing there. "I thought I'd accompany you" Theo said as he entered. Clapping Will on the shoulder, the monk sighed and said, "Will, it's been too long. It's so good to see you again. I wish it was under better circumstances."
"Circumstances are what they are, Theo." Will replied with a chuckle. "So how are things here? Last I heard, you still had a lot of God's names to find."
Theo shook his head amusedly and sat heavily in a chair. "You don't know the half of it. Actually, we've been sidetracked into helping with the war effort. The Order doesn't mind. Sheridan and Delenn are good people and their cause is just." Looking up at his friend as Will retrieved his dinner jacket, the monk continued, "You might say that we have put our holy mission on hold for the duration."
Will slipped his jacket on and checked the fit in his mirror. As he tugged on the lapels of the coat, he offhandedly asked, "What are the Captain and Delenn like? I know quite a bit about Sheridan's exploits during the Minbari War and information I pick up from my old military contacts, but I've never met him. About Delenn, I know almost nothing except what I saw in that awful ISN interview." Turning back to Theo, he remarked, "I would think that with Sheridan's war reputation, they would make strange bedfellows."
Will made the comment lightly, but was surprised to see Theo wince at the word 'bedfellows'. After a moment, Theo neutrally replied, "Well…they are, as I said, good and caring people and they have come to mean a lot to us here." He looked as if he had something on his mind, and Will picked up on it.
"But there's something wrong."
"Yes, old friend, there is something wrong. It isn't a crisis yet…but it needs to be addressed before it becomes one." Glancing down at his hands, Theo appeared to Will to be looking for a way to phrase something delicately. After a short pause, Theo huffed at himself and said, "Will, you have a great eye for detail and are as astute an observer of the human condition as I've ever met. I know I'm imposing, but I want you to do something for me tonight. Watch Sheridan and Delenn at dinner."
"Watch for what, Theo? Oh...", Will's eyebrows shot up in surprise and then he fell silent for a moment, pondering.
"No, no. It's not what you think with that dirty Protestant mind of yours" Theo continued with a frown. "I'm becoming worried about Captain Sheridan. He is under a great deal of stress and is slowly isolating himself from the people who care about him. Ambassador Delenn is both worried about him and frustrated that he won't let her help." Pausing, Theo brushed an imaginary bit of lint off of his habit and added, "She has approached me seeking some sort of 'human' guidance in how to communicate her concerns to him. With my sage wisdom, I'm approaching you."
"Why me?" Will asked, perplexed, "You know him personally. I only know of him."
"As I said, had you been listening, you are an astute observer of the human condition. Not only that, you also come from a military background and are an outside observer." Theo noted. "Caught up in events as I am, you may see something that I would miss, loathe as I am to admit it."
"OK..." Will resignedly said, shaking his head, "Give me some background. What is Sheridan's relationship with Delenn? You said she was frustrated. I've not heard his name without hers attached to it since I arrived. I can read between the lines. How deep does this concern go?"
Theo shifted position on the chair and scratched his head. "They're not lovers, if that's what you're thinking," Theo began, "Although, surprisingly, I get the impression that in her case at least, she would not mind if that assessment changed. As far as Sheridan's concerned, he cares deeply for her, probably even loves her, but is doing his best to keep her from getting close. I tell you, old friend, they are the worst kept secret on this station. The two of them seem to be the only ones that don't know. Were the situation around us not so serious it would almost be amusing." Theo gave Will a faint smile. "I don't like seeing people, especially these two, in pain. I care about them. Will you do as I ask?"
"Of course I will. Lord! Lighten up, Theo," Will grinned and launched into his best pulpit persona "Let me get into my suitcase and find my Cupid's bow and arrow. I think I packed it under my Superman cape. Ah, here it is! Right next to my Bull Elephant tranquilizer. The Love Doctor is in, and let no man stand in the way."
As he was asked, Will watched both Sheridan and Delenn closely at dinner. He found Delenn to be a charming hostess. It was easy to see why many Humans felt threatened by her, however. She was incredibly intelligent, possessed a great deal of natural charisma, and was attractive on top of it all. Attractive, independent women like her had always faced some difficulty in Human society, bonecrest or not. Being a member of the Minbari ruling caste probably didn't help her relationship with Humans either, with the lingering bad feelings from the war.
Delenn's obvious strengths aside, Will saw strain on her face and in her manner. <She's been through a lot in a short period of time, > Will thought, recalling that only two years prior she had been a full Minbari. Idly, Will wondered what he would feel like if he were placed in that situation…having to attempt to make his way in a culture so diametrically different from his own. And she was in love on top of it all.
Will would have noticed that she was in love even without talking to Theo earlier. He had seen it in her eyes and face the moment Captain Sheridan had walked in. For a split second, that unmistakable look had been there for everyone to see. Delenn had smothered it just as quickly as it had appeared, but there was no doubt it had been there. Glancing quickly at Commander Ivanova, Will noted that she had noticed as well. <Wonder what Ivanova thinks about an 'alien' female being interested in her Captain? Delenn hasn't had the experience in schooling her expression that Human women take for granted, > He thought, <If she's not on her guard it shows plainly.> As he continued to observe throughout the meal, Will came to another realization. Delenn was failing with Sheridan, and she knew it…she simply didn't know how to bridge the cultural divide.
Will knew that in Minbari society there were rituals for every facet of daily life, including informing a potential mate that one was interested in a closer relationship. He also knew that all of those rituals were traditionally male-initiated. In Minbari society males and females were equal in status, but just as in Human society it had not always been so. A gesture or a facial expression might be enough to let a prospective male know that the female wouldn't decline an invitation to become a couple, but that approach wouldn't work on a Human. Watching her face and body language throughout the meal and conversation, Will could tell that Delenn was performing the Minbari equivalent of whacking Captain Sheridan over the head with a baseball bat with invitations and he just wasn't getting the message. <If Sheridan were a male Minbari,> thought Will, <he'd be rushing off to find his ritual book and take a cold chemical peel somewhere. Lordy, we Humans can be incredibly obtuse sometimes. >
For his part, Sheridan looked like exactly what he was…a man who had taken on too much responsibility too fast. If Delenn was showing a little strain, he looked like he had the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders. He in fact probably did, the minister reflected with his newly gained knowledge about current events.
Sheridan tried hard to make the visitors feel welcome, and for the most part he succeeded. Still, he seemed preoccupied throughout the whole meal. For all of his strengths, Will noted, Sheridan also had undergone a great deal of change in a short period of time. Just two years ago he had been a "simple" ship's captain. Now he was ultimately responsible for the conduct of the Shadow War, an effort involving hundreds of ships from a myriad of different worlds. Rubbing his fake Bible between his hands, Will was surprised that Sheridan was even concerned with Earth at all at this point. One more detail to drag him down a little on the tightening spiral he had set himself up for...although in all fairness Delenn herself had a part in turning him into this. From what Will had heard, she had the luxury of a lifetime to prepare for the return of the Shadows, while with Sheridan the knowledge had been thrust on him suddenly - and by her no less. Sheridan's overall demeanor reminded Will most of his battalion commander during the war. Not hopeless by any means, but certainly fatalistic.
Still, Will reflected upon observation, he loved her as she loved him - cultural walls again. Several times during the meal and the conversation, Will thought he detected an unconscious move on Sheridan's part to take Delenn's hand. He stopped the movement each time and the pastor doubted that Sheridan was even aware that he was doing it. Additionally, Sheridan looked over at her from time to time when she spoke and Will thought he looked wistful, although he was careful to hide the expression quickly. The two of them did sit close to one another, however…well inside what a Minbari would consider his or her 'personal space'. Neither attempted to move away from the other.
With the meal over, Sheridan made a little small talk and then left to return to the War Room. Rising, Delenn bowed and took her leave soon after. With the two principles gone, the other invited guests slowly filtered out until Will and Theo remained left alone.
"Well, what was your impression of the two of them?" Theo asked as he leaned back in his chair.
"They're a classic case study in noble suffering," Will simply said. "As you so astutely surmised, Ambassador Delenn is definitely in love. She's afraid that he's slipping away from her and she may not be far wrong, though not in the way she believes. Sheridan does love her, but is trying to put it out of his mind. I also know that Commander Ivanova knows, but I don't think it would be a good idea to ask her what she thought. I don't know how she would feel about being confronted with a Human-Minbari pairing. I got the impression that she is Delenn's friend, but friendship might only go so far with the war having been over for only 13 years." Sighing, Will picked up his Bible, idly tracing a circle on the cover with his finger. Quietly, he added, "I think you're correct to be worried about the Captain. The man is becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. He's an 'Adam' who could surely use an 'Eve' right now."
"Mmm, yes...my feelings exactly." Theo leaned forward in his chair and started idly picking at the leftovers, "Adam and Eve…a most appropriate metaphor for the two of them. She did feed him the apple when she told him of the Shadows. How do we get them back on track?"
Will chuckled, but it was with little amusement. "To quote Tonto from the old vids…what's this we, white man? You asked for an observation…I gave it. Now you want me to help you. I'm assuming that you wouldn't have even involved me if you didn't have a plan."
"Yes, quite," Theo said, smiling, "Even Adam and Eve were not beyond redemption, as the saying goes. Cultural problems aside, the two of them are good for each other. All it would take is for one to make the metaphorical leap and the other would be waiting with open arms. The question is which one is more open to making that leap?"
"I wouldn't count on it being Sheridan," Will snorted. "He's got too much going on right now. It's consuming him to the extent that he sees little else other than the weight of command. He might look on a deepening relationship with Delenn as an additional burden that he doesn't need right now."
"That would be unfortunate. A personal relationship is just what he needs. He needs her. What's more, he knows he needs her. He just doesn't know what he really needs from her. Listen to me...Theo ruminating again." Theo chuckled.
"While you're at it, old man, listen to this whole conversation," Will chuckled along with him. "I came here to drop off a data crystal and now I'm conspiring with a celibate monk to play matchmaker for two people from different species who were mortal enemies just over a decade ago." Throwing his eyes heavenward in mock supplication Will intoned, "The Lord works in truly mysterious ways!" With that, both men broke up into laughter.
"OK, please do this for me Will," Theo said, wiping tears from his eyes as the laughing subsided, "This is important. We need Sheridan at peak performance to have a hope of winning this war. Delenn is the key to that. She has the influence to make him ease up. Talk to both of them for me."
"And what are you doing while I'm doing all of this talking?"
Theo dropped a chicken bone back on his plate and rose, wiping his hands with a napkin. "As you said, I'm a celibate monk. My frame of reference is somewhat limited when it comes to affairs of the heart. Clapping his younger friend on the shoulder, he airily said, "I'm sure you'll be able to regurgitate some down-home Baptist parable to get the message across. Sing a Spiritual for them…you're marginally good at that. All it will take is for one of them to bend a little."
"My Spirituals surely sound better than that awful caterwauling that your monks belt out," Will stated amusedly as Theo headed out the door.
Later, as Will walked toward Sheridan's office, he couldn't help but be amused at the way Theo had set him up. It was ludicrous. Theo had planned this, all right…right from the beginning. He even knew where to find both Sheridan and Delenn at this hour. Here he was…going to see a man he had only just met to try to convince him to open up to a woman he had also just met. He shook his head amusedly at himself and moved on.
Idle thoughts continued drifting through his brain as he considered what he would say when he saw Captain Sheridan. Before too long, he found himself at Sheridan's office door. Glancing in, he noticed that the Captain appeared to be sitting on his couch going over some paperwork. <The man doesn't seem to sleep. No reason to beat around the bush. >. Trying his best to appear a little lost, he stepped in.
<Well, that conversation was a bust, > Will reflected as he left Sheridan's office. As he expected, Sheridan had bristled at the mere mention that he was overworked. He hadn't even wanted to acknowledge the fact that Delenn was in love with him. The obstinate man didn't even want to face the prospect.
Will understood Sheridan, even if he didn't agree with his reasoning. <She has her own problems. Indeed. You, my overworked friend, are firmly in denial. You, my friend, know that she does love you, but you're afraid to risk hurting her or yourself. Love is all about risk. >
If left to his own devices, Sheridan would eventually work himself into a nervous breakdown. Still, his "apartment cleaning parable" as Theo would call it seemed to make contact at some point with the Captain. <All it takes is one seed to grow a tree, > he mused. Will still didn't think Sheridan would make the first move on his own, but one never knew. At least the Captain made good tea. Will couldn't help but notice it was Minbari. Chuckling to himself, he thought, <She's already integrated herself into your daily life far more than you realize, Captain. >
Pulling a station map out of his pocket, he looked for the most direct route to the Gardens. According to Theo's intelligence, that's where he'd find the other lonely participant in this matter of the heart...
<Right where Theo said she'd be. > Will noted wryly as he entered. The object of his search, Ambassador Delenn, was sitting alone on a bench near the rock garden. She was the only one there, not surprising given the hour.
She couldn't see him at the angle he was approaching, and he took a moment to observe her. <She'll be difficult. Minbari are evasive by nature. How do I broach this subject with her? I was fairly direct with Sheridan. I must be more subtle with Delenn or she'll close up like a flower. > Moving closer, he noticed that she seemed to be looking forlornly at the rock garden, lost in thought. <Here goes round two, > Will thought as he moved up beside her.
"Ambassador" Will said as an opening, "I'm surprised to find you out at this time of evening. I assumed most people on the station would be home at this hour."
Delenn glanced up at the sound of his voice. Just for an instant, a smile flickered across her features before being smothered. She had obviously hoped that Will was someone else. "No, Reverend," she replied, turning her head back to the rock garden, "I've become somewhat of a…how do you say? Oh yes, a 'night owl' over the past few months." Apparently deciding that she was being rude, Delenn turned on the bench and looked up at Will again, forcing a smile. "I often come to the Gardens to relax and reflect on the day's events. It helps me clear my mind for the tasks ahead tomorrow."
"Relaxation and reflection are both good for the soul, as we humans say," Will replied. Patting himself on the belly, he conversationally said, "Thank you for the invitation to dinner. The food and conversation were the best I've had in a long time." Will paused and acted as if he were searching his mind for more small talk, although he knew exactly what he wanted to say next. <Steer the conversation to Sheridan, > he reasoned. <He's bound to be one of her favorite subjects…>. "You know, I'm sorry Captain Sheridan had to leave so quickly. He's a great hero to my people…one of our greatest Commanders. I've wanted to have a conversation with him one-on-one for a long time now. It's not often I get to meet a man who was being groomed to command Earthforce one day…well, he was up until the break with Earth. He seems to be a busy man."
Will's reference to Sheridan's heading Earthforce seemed to surprise Delenn. <Aha! > Thought Will. <Didn't know that, did you? > It was true, if the scuttlebutt around the military a few years ago was to be believed. Sheridan and General Hague, the recently deceased Earthforce Chief of Staff, were good friends. Had Sheridan not broken with Earth, he probably would have been given command of an Explorer vessel, then one of the numbered fleets, then command of all Earthforce. Oddsmakers within the military had General Sheridan in charge by 2272.
"Please excuse my manners. Would you care to sit?" asked Delenn, sliding over on the bench to make room. As Will sat, Delenn continued "Please tell me more about this, Reverend. John has never mentioned it..."
Will spoke for some time about Captain Sheridan's very public career after the war. Ambassador Delenn was fascinated. It became evident to Will after a while that Sheridan had told her very little about his personal life and career, preferring to steer their conversations towards Humanity in general. <She's so proud of him, > thought Will, seeing the look on her face as he talked of Sheridan's exploits. <Even with his reputation among the Minbari, she still takes pride in his accomplishments. >
As Will's stories wound down, Delenn returned to the conversation at hand. "Captain Sheridan stays quite busy, Reverend. He is the reason that this station continues to function after all of the distressing events that have transpired. If not for his hard work and determination, it would be under President Clark's control, and likely all of the so called "aliens" like myself would have been removed or recalled by our governments."
"This is true, but don't give the Captain all of the credit." Will pointedly noted. "I wouldn't downplay your own contributions to the station or to Captain Sheridan, Ambassador. I noticed coming in that most of the ships protecting the station are Minbari. I would imagine that it was no small feat for you to convince your government to support 'Starkiller' Sheridan in his break from Earth. Many Minbari must still resent him for his actions during the war."
Delenn was silent for a moment. When she spoke, there was a hint of warning in her tone "I do not care for the term 'Starkiller', Reverend. Just as you have an element in your society that rejects everything 'alien' to them, so there are those in mine who cannot see beyond the past. That kind of thinking is what we are trying to reverse. We all have histories here and we cannot undo them. We can only try to overcome all of our past mistakes and build a better future."
At this, Delenn fell silent, apparently reflecting on her own memories. When she spoke again, it was almost to herself. "You speak of 'Starkiller', Reverend. When I first heard that John had taken command of this station, I was, like many among my people, apprehensive about his reputation and I wondered whether we could work together. I suppose I was expecting some sort of monster. I could not have been more wrong." She fell silent and then more quietly, she added, "After my transformation, I was shunned by almost everybody, both your people and my own. They did not understand why I had done what I had done and I did not expect that. I was very lonely. John Sheridan, a man who should have been my enemy…had been my enemy…was kind to me at a time when I needed a friend. On some level, he must have sensed that I needed his companionship." Delenn seemed to be looking at some far off point in space. Smiling slightly, she sighed and said, "Imagine that...My society's idea of evil personified and I becoming friends. Still I did not expect to..."
"To fall in love with him?"
'Pardon?" Abruptly realizing that Will was listening, she switched subjects and briskly concluded, "He is truly the best that humanity, or any other race for that matter, has to offer and he is ideally suited to lead us in the current struggle. There is not anyone here that would not do anything necessary to support him during these trying times."
"It's all right Ambassador. There is no shame in saying what you were going to say. Saying the words aloud will make you feel better. You love him, don't you?" Will was concerned that this question might be too forward and would offend her, but it was time to ask.
Delenn fell silent for a moment. When she spoke, Will sensed her evasiveness beginning. "Reverend, John and I used to sit here in the gardens together during our free time. We talked about everything and nothing, just enjoying each other's company…"
"And you fell in love."
"I felt so incredibly close to him..." Delenn trailed off, and when she turned to face Will, he saw that almost every defense was down. Love and misery were written all over her face. "Yes, Reverend" Delenn let out a soft sigh, a single tear track running down her cheek. "In answer to your question, I have loved him since the moment I met him…and I miss him terribly now..." Quickly collecting herself, she wiped a shaking hand under her eye and looked at Will with a puzzled expression. "Is that not strange?" she chuckled ruefully, looking at the wetness on her fingers, "We Minbari do not fall in love like this. For my people, love is an outgrowth of the spiritual blending of two souls. Often, Minbari males and females that mate do so for procreation and do not truly love one another until they have been together many cycles, although I understand that humans can fall in love at first sight. I have read that love should feel like a gentle rain. My love is not like that. My love for John is like a flame burning inside of my soul." She paused for a second. "It is exhilarating, distressing, and sometimes it…it frightens me."
"It's that way for all of us. You aren't alone."
Delenn fell silent again, and Will thought he had heard all she would say on the subject. Surprisingly, Delenn began speaking again. As she spoke, her voice began to tremble and tears began to come. "When I was going through the difficult times after my transformation, the thought that John would be here waiting for me was often all…all that kept me…functioning from day to day. He and my dear, loyal Lennier…they were the only…they were all…all I had. And, when the condemnation of my people began to affect Lennier…I subtly pushed him away from me, to protect him…because I loved him as my own brother. But John…John and I…neither of us had anything to lose in my people's eyes, so I stayed near him. My love for him was not that of a sibling. I felt so safe with him beside me. Other people could judge me any way they wanted to as long as John was with me."
"And now?" Dexter gently asked, pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket and offering it to the distraught Ambassador.
"And now…look around you," Delenn replied as she pressed the cloth against her eyes. "I am alone again. I brought my love into this…Shadow War…and now I cannot get him to step back from it, even for a moment…with me. The war obsesses him…it is consuming him and I do not know what to do."
Will Dexter sighed and turned to gaze at the rock garden. "Forgive me, Ambassador, if it seems I am prying into your personal affairs. Human 'religious caste' like myself tends to think in terms of saving souls that are in danger or in pain. When I look at Captain Sheridan, although I barely know him, I see one of those. People like him drown themselves in work so that they don't have to face their pain, particularly in front of others. Add to that the fact that command is a lonely position even in the best of times and you have a recipe for isolation and depression. Others who care about Sheridan see the danger signs and are becoming worried about him."
"Even now, John knows that he can always come to me," Delenn replied, quickly collecting herself, "Any problem or concern that he has is my problem. I will always be there to listen. I do this because I am his friend. If the time comes that he desires physical companionship, I will be there for him as well. I do that because as I said, I love him."
Something about what she had just said bothered Will. She was waiting for Sheridan. Waiting until 'the time came', whatever that meant. Did she not understand that Sheridan would not come to her until it was probably too late…if at all? This strong-willed woman was metaphorically condemning herself to forever waiting in the wings for a man who refuses to burden her because he loves her and wants to protect her reputation. Visions of Cyrano de Bergerac danced through his head.
"Does he know this, as you say?" asked Will. "Respectfully, Ambassador, I think you are mistaken in your belief. Who does Sheridan talk to now? Who does he unburden himself to? No one. He carries his feelings, emotions, and problems and keeps them to himself because he is afraid that to admit them would be seen as weakness by you and those around him. He thinks that you and the others close to him need 'Starkiller' Sheridan, the infallible commander, not John Sheridan, the human being…so that 's what he's giving you." His words were stinging her now, and he hated himself for it, but they had to be said. "There's only one problem with this. 'Starkiller' Sheridan doesn't exist. He is not an infallible commander. He is a human being and he is quite fallible. If he continues like he is, he will eventually fall…and there will be no one there to catch him. You have known about these Shadows for a long time. He has learned of them relatively recently. Yet you sit here while he exercises all of the authority, makes all of the decisions on his own. Would you consider this a good use of available resources?"
"I have no direct military experience. In my…position during our war with your people I was not involved in military planning. I…I'm not sure how much use I could be to him." Delenn stammered, unexpectedly finding herself on the defensive.
It was clear to Will that traditional Minbari evasiveness was returning now that the conversation was becoming more confrontational. Time to push her a little more. She had admitted that she loved him, now he needed her to do something about it…for both their sakes. From what she had said, it was clear to him that she was suffering just as badly as he, but more quietly. "Ambassador, I don't think Captain Sheridan cares in the least about your military skills. While I said he is not infallible, I did not mean to imply that he is tactically incompetent. If these Shadows can be beaten, he will find a way to do it. To put it into your terms, Captain Sheridan is probably the most capable 'War Leader' Earth has ever produced. You are a diplomat, not a warrior, yet at the same time you are supplying the bulk of the military forces that he has available to conduct this war. I'm theorizing that your government isn't too excited to have it's forces under Sheridan's command and it is probably through your intercession alone that they have gone along with this arrangement until now."
"Please get to your point, Reverend." Delenn was sure he was leading up to something, but she was becoming confused.
"Of course, Ambassador. I'm just defining the tightrope that Captain Sheridan walks with regards to your relationship. If I could figure this out within a day, I'm sure Captain Sheridan thought of it long ago. As much as he loves you, he cares about you enough that he would never do anything to jeopardize your position within your government. He knows what his reputation is with your people. This station is relying on you for its continued existence. Perhaps he is worried that a closer relationship with you would weaken your official position and give your government an excuse to withdraw its support."
"He need not be concerned about my position with my government." Delenn said forcefully, "Those are ships of the Religious and Worker castes. They follow because I lead them. They answer to the Captain because I tell them to do so. In this matter, it is immaterial whether my Government approves or not. My personal relationships are not theirs to question. Two of our three castes approve of my actions. As for the Warriors, they have never backed my position in this war. Their position will not change regardless of any person I choose to associate with."
"Sometimes people new to a situation see things that those who live with it from day to day do not." replied Will. "You have forgotten one thing. Sheridan knows nothing of this. He relates to your situation in Human terms. He does not understand that your Government is not looking over your shoulder. Have you sat him down and told him any of this?"
This elicited a small smile from Delenn "Not in a way that he has understood, so it would seem".
"Human males can be fairly thick-skulled when it comes to noticing the affections of others," Will said, smiling at her gently and easing up on her a bit. "That's been a running joke among human females since the beginning of our recorded history." Delenn smiled at that, the first real smile Will had seen on her face since they began talking. Emboldened, he pressed on, "I know a little about your culture. I know that you are trying to communicate to the Captain your willingness to take your relationship to a more personal level. From a Human perspective, you are sending him the wrong signals. The things you would do to attract a Minbari male are too subtle for a human male. In our culture, males don't necessarily have to initiate a relationship. Females can do so equally as well. There is no formal ritual. You do what 'feels' right and hope for the best."
"So if I am more 'overt' towards him you say, then he will invite me to start the bonding rituals?" Delenn got an incredulous look on her face. "I have already allowed him to invite me to dinner alone…on a 'dinner date', as you call it. I allowed him to touch me. I was even going to allow him to kiss me had he desired to do so, something I have never allowed any male to do before. I have been very open with my interest. Were he a Minbari male, I probably would have frightened him away with my brazenness. What more would you have me do, Reverend? How obvious should I be? Should I parade around in front of his door in my 'Shan'fal' robe and chant until he notices me?"
How much plainer could he make it? Will was becoming exasperated. "You have 'allowed' him to have you over for dinner. You have 'allowed' him to touch you. You were going to 'allow' him to kiss you. You're still waiting for him to do what you're 'allowing' him to do and make the first move. He will not, Ambassador. He does love you, but he can't. He's reluctant to burden you with the emotional fallout from his work, or to damage your position with your people. You will have to reach out and take him, or let him go."
"That is NOT an option," Delenn retorted, her temper finally snapping. Who did this stranger think he was to speak to her this way about something so personal? She was angered at Will's casual tone, but she kept her voice low. "If you say you understand my culture, Reverend, then understand this. We share a soul, he and I. We always have. I knew it the moment I saw him. We Minbari only love once in a lifetime, and I have found mine! I would not be complete without him, nor he without me! He has become my reason for living! How dare you come to me after only knowing me one day and suggest that I simply let my love go!"
In the silence that followed her outburst, Delenn was shocked at what she had just said. She had never voiced her feelings about John that way to anyone before, least of all herself. She turned to Will, expecting him to be angry, and was surprised to see that he was smiling broadly. "Please forgive my…my outburst. You have given me much to think about. I…I need to go and meditate on this. Excuse me." She rose to leave.
"Ambassador, you said nothing to be ashamed of. There is no shame in loving a good soul or fighting for your love. There was no one else here to hear you, and I will not repeat what was said. I know you love him. You simply needed to acknowledge it to yourself and realize that you must move on your emotions. You needed to truly feel it. Please understand, he needs you more than he realizes."
Delenn was moving towards the exit quickly.
"Love among Humans is not a passive thing, Ambassador." Will called after her. "It's violent and chaotic. You have to seize it when the opportunity arises. You have to treasure the moments, because once they are gone, they will never come again. Whatever you do, please remember this."
Delenn turned at the door, obviously struck by what he had said.
"Get him out of the War Room," Will called to her. "It is slowly killing him…even a newcomer can see that. Get him to relax. Share his burden with him. You helped to put it there. Show him how you feel." Will rose, picking up his Bible as Delenn continued to hesitate. Smiling, he added, "If you do get him out, bring him by to see me. I'm holding a service tomorrow. Both of you might find it…uplifting."
Delenn nodded uncertainly, and then she was gone.
<She will do the right thing> Will thought as he turned away to leave <She has the capacity to step outside of her traditions, if her motivation is strong enough, and I can't think of any stronger motivation than love. >
Still, after he returned to his quarters, he wondered if he had pressed her too hard.
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