AFTER THE DARK

By Leyenn

 

 

 

   Now, I honestly intended for 'Racing Through The Dark' to be a one-off. It wasn't even that I loved it so much I had to write a sequel; it was just that this fitted nicely into that universe while I was boring myself silly at work one day. It's set just after 'Comes The Inquisitor' and assumes knowledge of the previous story. You'll be very confused if you read this without that one first. There may be others in the series but I'm hoping not. I have enough to do already.

   Love to Mira, Bruce, Billy and Joe: I worship at your feet... and if you think these characters are mine you obviously know something I don't.

 

 

 

 

*****

   Lennier was frantic.

   It was not an emotion that came easily to him, and when it did, he was always sufficiently trained to suppress it and do what had to be done. Where Delenn was concerned, however, another emotion that was only just creeping into his conscious mind - and which he steadfastly refused to acknowledge - tended to take control.

   He hovered restlessly outside her quarters, telling himself he should go in and make sure she was all right but unable to make himself do so - not wanting to face the possibility that she was not, or that she might not be there at all. That she was still held in that monster's grasp, her fate hanging on rules even she did not understand and had obviously not kept to.

   His anger surfaced again, and he concentrated on it to smother that untouched emotion that rose with it. Anger at the Inquisitor, at Kosh for putting her through this; anger at himself for allowing her to perform to the Vorlon's whims; anger at Sheridan for allowing the Inquisitor aboard. Anger at everything and everyone to avoid the knowledge of why he was really so desperately anxious for her.

   At least Sheridan had gone to her. That was something to be absurdly grateful for, even if he believed in the depths of his heart that it should have been he who was risking such wrath to save her. But Sheridan would able to help her. He would defy the Vorlons if necessary: the one thing Lennier could not do because Delenn had forbade it and he would not, even if it meant her life, disobey her order. Or would he? Perhaps that was the root of his anger - knowing that Delenn could give so freely of herself while he was so selfish over something - some*one* who was not even his. And would likely never be, he reminded himself firmly. Delenn was fated for bigger things than whatever he might wish for in the darkness of his quarters; bigger perhaps than what even she might want. Was that not why she had undergone the Inquisitor's mind games? Why she might still be doing so?

   He had to know. Even if it meant seeing that which he dreaded, he had to know. He pushed his identicard into the door lock, entering the code that permitted him access to her quarters. The outer room was sheathed in darkness, with no immediate sign that anyone had been here since she had left. Only when he noticed the discarded robe on the back of the couch, empty tea mugs on the breakfast bar did his hopes begin to rise. Was she alive, and well enough to be here? That would mean she had passed the inquisition, would it not? Unless she had never been intended to pass... There was the anger again. He pushed it away for the moment, conjuring up hope and some kind of relief that at least she was out of the clutches of that madman.

   He stepped cautiously into the room, reluctant to call her name unless she were sleeping after her ordeal. If he awoke her, what would he say? To ask if she were all right seemed a ridiculous idea after having seen her in that place. Sheridan would surely have taken her to MedLab if she were badly injured, but she would need rest...

   His hesitation was interrupted by a soft flare of muted light inside the bedroom: he noticed for the first time that one door was half-open, marked out by a thin pattern of light on the carpet. He stepped up to it, standing to one side in case she were undressing, restraining his deeper impulses as that thought came to him. There was a muffled sound: he glanced tentatively a few inches around the door, meaning only to check that Delenn was inside and all right before busying himself elsewhere.

*****

   The steady, rhythmic clicking sound diminished: the room was left in silence, darkened all but for the stark overhead lighting that engulfed them both in a single spotlight. Delenn's forehead rested lightly on his jaw, her eyes closed: in relief or pain, he couldn't tell.

   "Delenn." He said her name softly, drawing his other arm around her to hold her close. It was ironic that here, after so much had happened, was possibly the only place he could truly allow his feelings to show. "Delenn, are you okay? Did he hurt you? What did he do to you?"

   "I'm all right." She was still slightly breathless, her voice quiet, and she was suddenly trembling. Sheridan tightened his arms around her, pulling her close to his chest to hold her upright as she sagged against him.

   "You're exhausted. And hurt." He looked up slightly, tucked her head under his chin. "God, Delenn, what did he do to you?"

   Her shaking became suddenly more violent: whether from pain or the sudden lack of it he had no idea, carefully lowering her to the floor as she put her arms around his neck and held him to her. He wrapped his arms more securely around her waist, resting one hand on her crown and gently but firmly pressing her head to his shoulder, stroking her tangled hair. Her breath came in soft, uneven gasps, and he felt its warmth on his skin through his rumpled shirt. He held her there on the cold floor for what seemed like hours, smoothing her hair, assuring her that she was all right, that she had passed whatever insane test had been set for her.

   "We should get out of here." His own voice didn't sound too even, he noticed; his hands a little unsteady as his muscles finally began to relax after their albeit short ordeal. "I want you to see a doctor."

   "I will be fine." She sounded somewhat more confident, calmed by the surety of his arms around her. "Please, John. I just want to go home."

   "You should get checked over," he insisted, although he knew he wasn't about to win this argument.

   "Please, John." She sounded as if she might collapse from exhaustion right there in his arms. He sighed and tentatively kissed the top of her head.

   "Promise me you'll see Franklin tomorrow."

   "If that is what you wish." Relief flooded her tone. He nodded reluctantly.

   "Okay. Okay, then. Come on." He took her arm, helping her carefully up from the floor.

   The walk back to her quarters was a laborious one: he took the longest route he knew to avoid any major corridors, knowing Delenn would want as few people as possible to know of her ordeal and even less to see her leaning heavily into the comforting embrace of the station's Captain. She only stepped out of his arms to open the door, doing so without a word and silently accepting his support again as it slid closed behind them.

   "Sit down." She followed his gentle command without protest, smiling weakly as he helped her onto the couch. "I'll make you some tea." Her reply was another grateful smile, and he sensed she was reluctant to speak. He set the tea on the warmer before crossing to her; took her hands lightly in his, kneeling down in front of where she sat heavily on the low couch. "Something wrong?"

   She shook her head. "I'm tired, that's all. It was..." She paused, trying to find a way to tell him without hurting him. It didn't matter; her unspoken words echoed in the silence.

   Sheridan tightened his fingers around hers, extracting his other hand to touch her cheek. She leaned into his caress, her eyes closing for a long moment, revelling in the knowledge that she was not alone. He was there for her, with her. She would not have been forgotten.

   He smiled into her eyes, cupping his palm against her face, an almost possessive gentleness in his touch. No, she would not have been forgotten. Not by him.

   "Is there anything I can do?" His question was tentative, knowing her as he did - oh, so well. She knew him just as intimately: knew from his touch and his voice how badly he wanted to help her, to share some of what she had been through. But how could she tell him? She understood so little herself. There was the frustration, of course, and the pain: but she could not tell him of that. Not when he looked at her that way, and she saw openly how much he cared for her. It was a rarity between them: so much of their relationship was secrecy and snatched moments, and in public his expression was always guarded when he looked at her. Never in the presence of another had he gazed at her the way he did when they were alone: never touched her so warmly and certainly never held her - except once in comfort, and then today. She had been surprised at how it felt to stand like that, even before someone who could barely be called Human; to feel John's arm around her with even that indifferent stare watching them. He had held her supportively, protectively, but there had been a hint of something else. Possession? No, not quite -

   *Defiance*.

   Would he be that way again? Would he stand so firm if anyone were to find out about them? She had refused to answer the question - 'what is he to you?' - but John didn't seem to care. He answered it with his eyes, with his defiant stare, with his hands on her exhausted body. How it would feel to stand in public and have him that close to her, filled with that invincible confidence and defiance in the face of all their difficulties. He already supported her privately, politically - but she hadn't realised before just how much she wanted his personal and public presence in her life. Always it had been necessary to hide their personal relationship; it still was, she knew that. But she had always *accepted* it until now: until she had realised what she was missing. She wondered if John missed it too, knowing he had had it before - and could have it again, but not with her. Not now, not yet.

   So he stayed with her, privately, and watched her sacrifice herself again and again despite her feelings for him. And he asked what he could do? She smiled tenderly.

   "You have done too much already."

   "I can't do too much for you." His voice was firm. "Especially after this."

   "I am all right." She forced herself to sound stronger than she felt. "Don't worry, John. Nothing hurts now."

   *Now.* She saw him register that, but he didn't question. "I'll make you some tea," was all he said. She heard the concealed pain in his voice, reaching for his hand as he stood.

   "John." He looked down at her. "I will tell you. When I am ready."

   He smiled and squeezed her fingers for a moment, going to the kitchen to make her tea. She watched him closely, enjoying the intimacy of the image: John in her quarters, moving around naturally as if they were his own. He glanced over at her as he finished their drinks, a small smile matching that which had crept onto her features.

   "One day," he said softly as he handed her the steaming mug. She didn't have to ask what he meant; as he slipped his hand into hers she squeezed it tightly in response, wondering why she had ever doubted that he wanted this as much as she did. "Drink your tea," he admonished gently as he caught her looking at him. He lifted his arm and she settled comfortably under it, enjoying the soft warmth of his body. Even if she could only have this in private, it was enough for now. It always was.

   He looked down at her with a soft smile that widened as he noticed her eyes drifting shut. He shook her lightly, turning his head to kiss the tip of her crown with warm lips. She started, her eyes opening with a smile as she recognised his preferred way of waking her.

   "You're tired, Delenn. Drink your tea and I'll get the shower ready." He stood up, chuckling as she held onto him. "I need a shower as much as you do, you know. But not until you finish your drink." His tone was firm, if lightly amused. She smiled in acknowledgment and nodded, lifting the mug to her lips. It took her only a few minutes to finish the hot tea, drawn on by the look in his eyes as he had left the room and the knowledge that he was waiting for her. It seemed perhaps a little strange to her that after what she had endured, even through her exhaustion, the foremost thought in her mind was of being with him. She smiled to herself as she glanced at the half-open bedroom doors, reminding herself of just *what* she had endured: if she had failed the inquisition then she would surely have died - what more natural way to remind herself that she was still alive, that both she and John had passed the elusive test. Besides, she admitted at the thought of him holding her again, they had little enough time together. What they had needed to be spent wisely.

   She stood a little shakily, unfastening her belt and discarding her outer robe, folding it carefully over the back of the couch. She had to lean on the table for a moment to get her bearings as she made her way to the bedroom: taking a stumbling step forward she caught herself on the doorframe, feeling rather than seeing the strong hand that caught her arm.

   "Come on." John's hands slid down to her waist, almost lifting her as he steered her carefully into the room. "Sit down," he pushed her gently to the bed, kneeling in front of her. He ran his hands lightly down her legs, slipping off her shoes before reaching up to unfasten her robe. She relaxed under his hands, placing her own flat on the mattress as she watched his ministrations. John loved to do this: to undress her, unwrap her as if she were one of the many presents he loved to bring her. She had been reluctant at first to be so completely helpless under his touch: had imagined it would give him some power, some control over her. The reality had surprised her; finding instead that it was she who held sway over him, even lying motionless under his weight in the darkness.

   He finished the hidden clasps that ran down the centre of her robe, pushing it back off her shoulders. She lifted her hands to allow him to slide it down her arms, completely off her body. Even now, after so many times, he still paused to look at her like this: seated gracefully on her bed dressed only in the simple Human undergarments that he - at her grateful request - had bought for her. She had become accustomed to them, over time: just as she had become accustomed to the body beneath them. Their appearance made little mark on her thoughts, given that it was only John who saw them; more often than not now she allowed him to select what Human clothing she required, knowing that he was the only one she felt it necessary to please. Her own choices were not bad ones, however, she remembered with a smile. She had bought a number of other Human dresses since the first time they had been together: although they had not been out to dinner again, the ideas her purchases gave John - and herself, she admitted - made her wryly glad of that fact.

   He had finished undressing her, she realised, not having been paying attention to his movements: was again standing in front of her, just looking down at her with that smile that told her more than words would ever do.

   "John." She was loathe to interrupt his study, but the aches and fatigue were growing more difficult to push back. She smiled as she touched his hand, easing his embarrassment at having been caught staring. "I would not mind," she assured him as she took his other hand. "But..."

   "Sorry." He smiled and pulled her up close to him. He was dressed in the robe he kept hidden in her closet: it was Minbari, and she privately thought it suited him. It belted at the waist in an intricate knot that came free under her practiced fingers, and he slipped it off and dropped it on the bed. Usually he would allow her to return the favor after undressing her in such a fashion; tonight, though, she was grateful that he was willing to do so much. She leant into him as he pushed open the door to the bathroom, holding her close with one arm while he guided them both into the shower. The fine hiss of steam rose up as hot water sprayed into the small cubicle; it was only designed for one person, but being an Ambassadorial suite was more spacious than Sheridan's - and months of practice allowed them to find comfort even in such a small space. It was made easier by her dependence on him now: he held her close to his chest, unable to keep from reaching down for a kiss as Delenn slid her arms around his neck, enjoying the massage of beating water on her back. It was soothing, cleansing her mind as well as her skin after the unbearable pain of earlier. Only a dulled ache remained throughout her body; she was inordinately grateful that her mind could hold no memory of how pain truly felt after the fact, or she knew she would still be screaming now.

   She rested her head against John's chest, smiling at the light dusting of hair that brushed her skin and rubbing her cheek lightly over his heart.

   "You want to talk about it?" His voice almost startled her, although she could not forget he was there. He was always there, it seemed, despite the restraints placed on them.

   "It hurt." She wasn't sure where the words came from, only that even if they were quiet they were there. "I didn't know what he wanted. Every time I answered wrongly he would punish me, but he would never tell me what it was. I didn't know the answer he wanted." She held onto him, remembering her fear for him. "Not even when I answered correctly."

   "Does it still hurt?" His hands played over her back, wanting instinctively to soothe the pain she had finally admitted to him. He didn't care what the test had been about, at least not now. Later, he would probably allow her to explain it: now, his first concern was her, as it always was when they managed to gain some private time together.

   "No." She shook her head slightly. "Only a little."

   He made a quiet comforting noise in her hair, half for his own benefit as well as hers. "Tell me."

   "You shouldn't hear it." She laid a tired kiss on his chest, above his heart. "I don't want you to hear it."

   "But you want to tell me." He tilted her head up to look at him. "Tell me, Delenn."

   "No." She stood her ground, pouring all the energy she had left into keeping the hurt from him. "Please, John. Not now."

   He was silent for a long moment, looking into her eyes: seeming to realise, at the same moment as she began to weaken, that she did not need him to push her on this. "Okay." He ran his fingers through her hair, a tentative apology. "Want me to do your hair?"

   She smiled, and it gave her acceptance and permission and gratitude better than any words her tired mind might be able to recall. Sheridan grinned and took her by the shoulders, turning her around so that he could reach his target. He reached up to the shelf beside them, selecting a refreshing shampoo that Delenn particularly liked. He poured just enough into his hand, enjoying her murmur of appreciation as he lathered it easily into her hair. He had discovered early on in their relationship - their first morning spent together, in fact - that Delenn was a lot less happy with her Humanity than she outwardly appeared. Starting the day to the sound of her, saying things in Minbari that sounded a hell of a lot like things he didn't think she should know, had given him something of a rude awakening. She had been inordinately grateful when he had slipped into the bathroom that morning and taken the brush from her hand, standing behind her in the mirror and demonstrating yet another benefit of Human relationships. She had gone out of her way to spend the next morning with him, he remembered, just so that he could brush her hair before she left for work. That had been the first time they had showered together, in his rather more cramped cubicle, and the relief in her face had bordered on delight when he offered to wash her hair for her as well.

    He turned her around again, guiding her head back under the spray and smiling at the look of pure relaxation on her face. To see that open, exposed emotion on her beautiful features made all the petty details and arguments in his life worthwhile. There were days when he lived only to see her that way: stole glances at her in their Council meetings, imagining the emotions that passed over her face when they were alone replacing the frustration and fire in her eyes. It surprised him to realise that the one thing he wanted, perhaps in his entire world, was to be able to look at her - *really* look at her like that, in public, with all the affection in his heart. Would he ever get that chance? He tried not to acknowledge the possibility that the answer was no. There was so much hatred and inflexibility in both of their cultures; Delenn herself faced so much prejudice that he had no idea what might happen to her if it came out that she had taken a Human - the Starkiller - as mate. Would it make things worse for her? Most likely, given his unique place on the Minbari hit list; and for him it might be just as bad. How would his people react, officially - let alone individually - to the knowledge that their one hero of the War now had a Minbari lover... and one who now wore a half-Human body? Whether he truly loved her in that way or not he hadn't quite admitted yet, but they *were* at least lovers. They had to be, to risk throwing away so much for the potential danger and isolation of their relationship.

   But oh, God, was it worth it for that look on her face and in her eyes. For the feel of her skin under his, the sound of her voice saying his name, he didn't care for the personal consequences. It was only the thought of what might happen to Delenn, or to the station if their relationship were to become public, that kept him from shouting it through the corridors.

   He pulled himself back to her with a rueful smile, washing the last of the shampoo from her hair and leaning over to place a soft kiss on each of her closed eyelids. They fluttered under his lips; when he stood back she opened them to look at him.

   "I'm done." He slid his hands down her back and took her hands. "You want me to do the rest of you as well?" Her eyes started to slide closed and he chuckled. "On second thought, it'll wait until morning. Now how about you," he squeezed her fingers, jerking her out of her half-asleep doze, "go dry off and get into bed while I finish up here. Okay?"

   "I think I can manage that." She smiled and stretched up to kiss him. "Thank you, John. For today... for everything."

   He smiled in reply and squeezed her hands lightly again. "I know. Now go on, before I have to carry you." She smiled and nodded, stepping out of the shower and leaving him to relax for the moment.

*****

   He'd only meant to glance inside her bedroom. He reminded himself of that as he backed as far as he could into the shadow of the door, his eyes fixed on the bed. It was flat, like a Human bed: he remembered when she had asked him to procure it for her, and his concern for her in sleeping at such an unaccustomed angle. Now, however, Delenn lay peacefully; half-curled with her back to him, bedclothes drawn only loosely up to her waist, and in the subdued light he could clearly see that she was naked. His mind and manners and most of his emotions screamed at him to look away, to pull the door closed and leave her to sleep. He felt as if he were taking advantage of her - making her unclean somehow with the way he looked at her, reacted to the sight of her lying there, the soft light playing on her skin the way he- NO. He would not demean her in this way. But yet...

   She was beautiful. Even though his rational mind was mortified that he was still looking at her, he could admit that. So different to Minbari females, now, he could see: long, dark, Human hair pooled around her head and neck, a few slick strands clinging her shoulders. Perhaps she had... showered, that was the term. He knew she had taken to adopting Human customs in caring for her body, and now he saw clearly why. There was no longer the protective bone plate set along her spine, and the skin of her back was pale olive with only a fine, intricately patterned streak of the cerulean blue of that radiated from a Minbari backbone. Her bonecrest, of course, he had known was different; but it was still a surprise to see, where her damp hair parted and he caught a glimpse of skin, that it did in fact end where her hair began. She shifted ever so slightly, turning onto her side, and he saw as she unconsciously pushed the covers away that her bone structure must have altered significantly beneath her skin as well as outside it. In this position the light drew a smooth line down the dip of her spine; where the back of her ribcage should have clearly shown through there was only smooth, Human skin, and the play of supple muscles under that pale skin looked odd, wrong. It was almost frightening as he realised for the first time how much had been done to her.

   She made another quiet noise, a half-awake humming sound that he had never heard before, and abruptly rolled over onto her other side, her hand gripping the bedclothes. He had to suck in a stunned breath, afraid that she might hear him if he were to make a sound as he registered her complete and very Human nudity. He had seen images of Humans nude before, as he had seen images of all the races he knew of in his studies - but never had he come so close to it, and to see the irreconcilable picture of Delenn's face on a Human body... Like a child drawn to a particularly macabre story he stared at her, taking in every shocking detail. She had breasts! Only lactating Minbari women grew breasts, but he ignored the thought that she might be with child. If he admitted it to himself, he had noticed such developments for a while now. He had not expected them, however, free of her restraining robes, to be so much larger than those of a Minbari female - and much smoother, peaking at small, slightly pink mounds rather than the hardened teat of a Minbari mother. He could see nothing of her ribs beneath her strangely supple breasts; as she moved restlessly on the bed they seemed to slide under her skin, the lower falling slightly to the side as she unwittingly bared the other completely to the light. Her skin was smooth as far down as he could see, with only a small, strange hollow central above her hips where the outline of the reproductive sac should ring her stomach. He could see no further and was suddenly glad of the fact, pulling his eyes away as he contemplated that she was truly, if not Human, then no longer Minbari in any physical sense. He wondered if her own reaction had been as violent, and if she now looked on this body as normal. How must it feel to look on the body that held your soul and not know it as your own?

   Another sound, this one somewhat louder, drew his attention back to the bedroom: thinking for a moment that Delenn had woken. She still lay on her side, however, curled as she had been earlier with one arm in front of her, her hand clutching the bedclothes. She pushed them away almost fearfully, frowning as she half-woke to the sound of - footsteps?

   Lennier drew back behind the door, flaming with embarrassment as he saw Captain Sheridan emerge from Delenn's bathing room. Whether he was embarrassed for himself or for Delenn, he was unsure, having no idea why the Captain was there. Perhaps Delenn had asked him to stay with her, after her ordeal. It was a reasonable assumption that she would not want to be alone. And yet she was naked in a Human bed, and as he dared to glance again he saw that Sheridan wore little more: only a robe that he unfastened from his waist and dropped onto the bedroom chair before stepping up to the bed behind her. Anger boiled in Lennier's throat as the Captain, the one many still called Starkiller, a *Human*, slipped under the covers with a calm, quiet smile as if he belonged there in Delenn's bed. He reached around her for the bedclothes in her hand, spooning up behind her in an odd, almost ducking motion before pressing his chest against her back.

   Her body stiffened for a moment: as her eyes opened she relaxed and Lennier forced himself to do the same, having been ready to leap to her if Sheridan's presence was unwanted. Delenn did not seem alarmed, however: her voice was low, and there was something very odd in her tone. "John?"

   "Shh." He shifted, sliding one arm under her, and his hands grasped hers lightly. "It's okay. I just thought you might appreciate some pleasure after all that pain, that's all."

   A smile touched her lips, one that Lennier had never seen before and would have recognised instantly if he ever had. "So thoughtful, even after what I put you through."

   "You did what you had to do. And so did I," he added after a moment. His voice was slightly slurred against her hair, but the room was otherwise silent and his words were clearly spoken. "You should keep warm," he chided, pulling the covers up over her breasts. "It was cold in there."

   "I am warm now." She pressed her back against him, pulling his arms more tightly around her. "So long as you are with me."

   "I'm with you," Sheridan assured her. "You know that, Delenn." The way he used her name made Lennier's heart clench. "For as long as you need me. Longer."

   "I'm sorry I hurt you." The apology in her tone was bordering on fear: that he would not understand, or that he would not accept her regret? "I've never wanted to leave you, John."

   "I know that. Of course I do." There was a deep trust in his voice, bordering on blind faith. "And you make it pretty obvious." She turned to look at him then, and Lennier choked on his breathing as she closed her eyes and accepted Sheridan's open mouth with hers. Minbari did not kiss, although of course Lennier knew of the custom: but he had never, *never* expected Delenn to become such a willing participant in the practice - and with *Sheridan*? Yes, the two of them were friends, but *this* - this was unthinkable!

   He stepped back, pressing his back to the doorframe, unable to watch such an exchange of affections in such a Human fashion when he knew it to be Delenn. And the very Human he had sent to her that afternoon! But then, from the words they had exchanged and the closeness of their embrace, he could gather quite certainly that this was not the first time such a thing had occurred. How long had Delenn been doing this, and not trusted him with the knowledge? How long had she been inviting the Captain into her bed, perhaps even lying in his own? The way he spoke her name made jealousy rise in Lennier's throat: not for that relationship that his deepest, private thoughts wished from her, but for the ease and calm in that tone: personal, not polite. No one - not even he, her closest friend now, spoke her name in such a fashion.

   Or breathed it, sighed it the way Sheridan was doing now in the room behind him. He stood back, trying to meditate to shut out the sound. Sheridan's voice grew louder for a moment, a strange, warm note to it, then the sound he most dreaded hearing: Delenn's voice, sighing that name. "John..." And then a long hum of pleasure that had to be from her lips. Lennier closed his eyes. She spoke again then, but the sudden change in tone as she again addressed Sheridan brought a concerned frown to Lennier's face and without thinking, he looked into the room again. The sheets rustled around them, and what little they still covered included Sheridan's lower hand, resting on her stomach and moving slowly, rhythmically against her body. His other hand covered Delenn's exposed breast, his fingers grasping the peak and teasing it higher, harder. Her eyes were closed, and he thanked Valen for that, for not having to see whatever was in her mind at that moment. She moaned loudly: Sheridan muttered something and seemed to roll against her body, pushing another hum from her lips that became a moan as he lowered his mouth to her neck. Whatever he did there, she reacted instantly: Lennier could no longer tell from pain or pleasure, although he could not imagine why such attentions might be pleasurable. He tensed angrily as she cried out again, longer and louder and lower, writhing against the hand that pressed onto her lower stomach and pushed her back to match Sheridan's body. Her mouth opened wordlessly, and he started a half-step forward before her eyes opened, unseeing, and he saw unguarded ecstasy in her features.

   "John... John... Oh, Valen, *John*-" And then a sharp, breathless cry from the back of her throat that cut off his name as she went limp in his half-embrace. Sheridan made an uncivilised, guttural sound and thrust once more against her back, groaning in his chest as he collapsed around her, one hand coming up from under the sheets to cross her abdomen, the other resting almost possessively on her breast.

   "I needed that." His voice was drowsy.

   "I had noticed." Delenn, on the other hand, sounded amused. "Thank you."

   "My pleasure." Lennier looked down at the floor as Sheridan placed a kiss as close to her mouth as he could reach. When he glanced up again, Sheridan's lips rested on her crown, at the back of her head where her hair began, and there was a wet sheen along the base in the soft light. His tongue flicked out: Delenn purred in her chest, under Sheridan's hands, her tone reluctant when she finally spoke.

   "I'm tired, John."

   "I know." He reached the tip of her bonecrest with his tongue and replaced it with a light kiss as his hands pulled the sheets up to cover her. "Thought I'd give you something nice to dream about."

   She smiled that smile again as her eyes closed. "Do you know what you are to me?" "Save it for later, love." He didn't seem to realise he'd said it, his own eyelids closing before the words were out. Delenn's smile became tender, and Lennier's heart lurched. Tenderness for Sheridan, *from* Sheridan: his hands on her, possessing her, claiming her even as he calmed her into sleep. How long had this been between them to bring about such a scene?

   "I want to tell you," she assured him sleepily. "Later."

   "Go to sleep now," he told her, obviously trying to sound firm. Delenn's eyes opened briefly.

   "You should go home..."

   "I got the morning off. Don't worry about it." His eyes were closed as he kissed her hair; such a gentle, intimate gesture. "We're safe now, Delenn. We passed. Sleep."

   Her eyes were already closed, and from his inadvertent hiding place Lennier could see there would be no reply to Sheridan's gentle urging. He didn't seem to mind, however; his body relaxed much as Delenn's did, and it took only a glance to see they were sleeping deeply. Sheridan was still wrapped around Delenn, her hands lightly grasping his forearms as his wrists crossed between her breasts. The expression on her strangely Human features was peaceful, almost serene: one Lennier had not seen for a long while. He watched her for a moment, mesmerised by the change this Human brought about in her. He had seen Delenn asleep a number of times, but never had her face been so empty of the worries and responsibilities that plagued her from day to day. Admittedly, she had never - well, he had never *seen* her with another so intimately, so he had little comparison, but Sheridan's firm embrace and hands on her skin seemed to soothe her in a way no one else's presence did. It was *not* the Minbari way: but it appeared to be Delenn's way.

   He sighed, turning away from the peaceful scene in the bedroom with a troubled frown. He could not begrudge Delenn some happiness, after everything she had suffered and what she went through from day to day - especially in light of what she would soon be asked to do. He knew she was destined for another: he had even suspected that that other would be Sheridan, but *not yet*! Surely Delenn knew what this would cost her if word got out to the Council. He wondered if she had told Sheridan - or if she even knew how her actions might be construed by their people. To take a *Human* for a mate, one so despised by her own people, when she was already in such a precarious position...

   He could not understand it. He would accept it, of course, for love of her and respect for what little private peace she could find. But he could not understand it.

   As an afterthought, he punched in the override code and turned off her morning alarm before pulling the bedroom door closed and leaving her quarters.

*****

   Delenn awoke slowly, aware only dimly that the lights which usually heralded the start of yet another day had not yet come on in her bedroom. She lifted her head slightly; meeting resistance she looked down, memory returning at the sight of John's arms still wrapped around her. She wondered what time it might be: still early, if she had not been woken by her alarm.

   "Computer." She kept her voice low, not wanting to wake her sleeping lover. "What time is it?"

   "The time is ten thirty-five earth standard time."

   Delenn frowned in surprise: without thinking she sat up, letting out a loud cry of pain that had more to do with shock than actual agony. There was a mumble beside her, then a hand on her skin.

   "Delenn?" Sheridan sat up, concerned. "You okay? Did you have a nightmare?" He blinked, registering the darkness. "What time is it?" He didn't wait for her to answer, however, taking her carefully back into his arms. "What's wrong?"

   "It hurts." Even her voice was tense as she tried to get out of bed and failed, falling back against him. "I should have been up hours ago."

   "You're in no condition to go anywhere." He held her firm, watching her face for signs of the obvious pain she was feeling. "I'm going to call Franklin to have a look at you."

   "John-"

   "No buts." He turned her face carefully to look at him, his eyes narrowing in real concern as she winced at even that small movement. "I'll get dressed. Do you keep any painkillers around here?"

   "There is - a tea, in the kitchen. It's called *ghali*. It has healing qualities." She bit her lip and held still as he hauled himself from the bed and came around to her side.

   "Figures you'd be big into herbal medicine." He smiled tenderly and brushed her hair out of her face. "Lie down and I'll make some. Come on," he put his arm around her shoulders, gingerly lowering her back to the bed and pulling his own pillow across to lift her head. "I'll be right back. You just take it easy." He stroked her cheek softly before standing upright. "Try and relax, okay. And stay there."

   Delenn smiled weakly at his humor, nodding in acceptance. Only then did he leave the room, returning a few minutes later with two steaming mugs of a sweet-smelling tea. He sat down on the bed beside her, placing his own drink on the bedside table and leaning over to wrap one arm around her shoulders and help her sit up. Her hands shook slightly, fingers stiff as she tried to grasp the mug; she gasped at the heat, instinctively pulling her hand back.

   "I'll hold it. Don't worry." Sheridan slid one hand behind her head, supporting her as he held the tea to her lips. "Take it slow, love."

   She looked up at him in surprise: his own face registered a sort of wonder as he heard himself. His fingers moved restlessly over her hair: she looked down at her hands, her voice sounding surprisingly shy even to her.

   "Do you..." She wasn't sure she could finish the question.

   He looked down for a long, quiet moment; placing the mug in his hand down next to his own drink, he took her hand and looked sincerely into her eyes.

   "I wasn't really intending for it to come out like that, but..." He slid his other hand forward to cup her face, stroking her cheek softly with his thumb. "Yes, I think so." He took a deep breath, giving her a reassuring half-smile. "I love you, Delenn." Trying it out, seeing how it felt to say those words to her face. It felt... right. *Very* right, in fact. Somehow it didn't surprise him, though: as if he'd know all the time that he loved her and had just waited for the right moment to tell himself.

   "I love you." His smile grew wider as the words came easily to his lips. He slid his hand up to her crown, watching her expression as his fingers traced that reminder of her unique nature; fingering the soft lower edge where Minbari bone met Human hair. "I love you," he whispered again. Her eyes filled with tears, not missing the symbolism in his touch.

   "Oh, John..." She swallowed back the tears: not easy with the aching stiffness and pain still dulling her control. A stray tear escaped, shining as it trickled down her cheek; he leaned over and placed a kiss in its path, the tip of his tongue catching the salty liquid on her skin.

   "Shh." He whispered it against her cheek, folding her into his arms as her own wrapped awkwardly around his waist. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

   "No, no." She took in a deep breath that shivered over his bare shoulder, and there was a tone in her voice that bordered on wonder. "I did not think... after everything..." She turned her face into his neck, embarrassed and almost afraid to tell him how deep her insecurities still ran. "I didn't think I would have that."

   "You have it, Delenn. You'll always have it. Me."

   "I know." She smiled, wiping at her face as she lifted her head, looking embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I didn't know it would... It's just that some days it seems as if I'm... so alone..."

   "No." He held onto her hands so tightly it hurt. She'd never known pain to be delightful before. "Never alone, Delenn. *Never*."

   She only smiled in answer, pulling her hand out of his to touch his face, trailing her fingertips over his fiercely protective expression.

   "I know that, now."

   He smiled, relaxed at her words and silently kissed her forehead. "Drink your tea," he whispered in a soft chuckle. Delenn smiled, still a little wonder-filled as he held the mug for her and helped her drink. When she was finished he helped her back to the pillows, taking her hand and sitting over her as he sipped his own tea. She watched him intently: trying hard not to be amazed by the tenderness in the way he held her hand, easily meeting her gaze with a questioning smile.

   "Something else?"

   "No." She shifted, her muscles demanding movement: it was still uncomfortable, but the tea had dulled the pain to a bearable ache. Sheridan saw her discomfort, reaching out to stroke his fingers down her jaw, tilting her chin up to him.

   "What happened to you in there, Delenn?"

   She struggled for a moment, taking in a series of long, calming breaths. He waited, patiently; she felt his eyes on her, lightly questing but nothing more. She didn't want to hurt him, and she knew it would - but it had to be said. How could she not be truthful with him now?

   "I don't know. I..." She found suddenly that that was the only truth she had. She understood the object of the test, but nothing more. "He was sent - to determine if I was worthy of my belief. That I... we," she looked up at him, "are chosen. That we have a purpose, a... destiny." She shook her head, her voice sounding small to her ears. "Until you arrived, I didn't know what he wanted. I didn't know anyway. He just asked me - over and over again -"

   "What?" The question was gentle.

   "'Who are you.'" She closed her eyes. The pain, thank Valen, could not be remembered: but the penetrating heat, the light and the sound of her own screams would not be forgotten. "I didn't know the answer. I don't think I do."

   "I know." He smiled lovingly. "I know who you are to me, at least."

   The sparkle in her eyes was still tinged with awe: he had no doubt that she believed his love for her, but it was obviously a surprise. "Perhaps that was the real answer, then."

   He frowned, not following. "What was?"

   She slid her hand up his arm, giving him only enough time to put down his drink before pulling him to her. "That you love me. And I love you." She smiled brilliantly at the sudden expression of elation that brought to his face. "I would never have told him what you mean to me, John. That is for you, and you alone." She smiled a little sadly. "At least for now." At the matching look in his eyes she forced a smile, trailing her fingertips up and down his arm. The sensation of such soft, tiny hairs still intrigued her, and she enjoyed nothing more - when they had the time - than driving him crazy with her lithe, teasing explorations of his skin. The mix of feeling and idea brought a lazy smile to her lips.

   "Do you know what you are to me, John?"

   "I seem to remember you were going to tell me." He raised his eyebrows, looking intrigued. Delenn smiled, a little teasing, reaching up to trace those soft blond arches that made him look so different to a Minbari. He wriggled them playfully under her fingertips: she laughed and lifted her head to kiss him. Sheridan grinned against her lips, sliding his hands under her back and pushing lightly into the kiss, lowering her back to the pillows.

   "I would rather show you," she breathed into his mouth. "You have nowhere to be now, do you?"

   "Not for *hours*," he assured her.

   Her voice was that low, sultry tone that made coherent thought evaporate. "Good..." Her arms enveloped him and she pulled his head down to her, opening her mouth to the kiss and sliding her tongue lazily into his mouth. He knew that kiss: accepted it now as much as it had surprised him the very first time. How many times, now, had she kissed him like that? Dozens. Hundreds, probably. He found it ironic that there was suddenly so much love in that embrace that had never changed in all their months together. Had it always been there? He felt that strange sensation, as she looked up at him again with those dark, deep emerald eyes, that he had always loved her - and perhaps had always had *her* love, even when neither of them knew it was there.

   "Mm." He couldn't help but smile as she kissed him again, her tongue tracing a sensitive spot on his upper lip. "Damn, you're good at this..."

   "Do you like that?" Her voice was lazily seductive, her warm breath on his lips as she drew back ever so slightly and opened her sparkling eyes to his.

   "Hell yeah." He tilted his head to capture her again, dragging her lower lip playfully into his mouth and rolling her onto his chest. Delenn laughed into his kiss, wrapping her legs around him and obligingly parting her lips to let him explore her mouth. Her tongue fought briefly, teasingly with his; Sheridan caught it lightly between his teeth with a low chuckle, matched by her quiet laugh.

   "Something tells me I'm going to be late for my meeting."

   Delenn smiled innocently. "I will be very punctual," she assured him. "When have I ever made you late?"

   He raised a teasing eyebrow. She laughed, looking slightly embarrassed as she remembered the answer to her question. Early on in their relationship they had been careful - perhaps even over-cautious - but after a few months the strain of rushing away from each other almost as soon as they were together had gotten to both of them. When he had been cleared of Ashan's accusation of murder, the relief and sudden lack of tension between them had been palpable. She had despised having to investigate him, and she had apologised profusely in every way possible as soon as they were safely alone. His gratitude for her faith in him had been equally exhaustive, and the combination had resulted in a *very* late night and even later morning that had nearly uncovered their secret. Only by conjuring up an emergency 'meeting' between them had they managed to avoid some very unavoidable questions.

   Strangely, though, the thought of ending their relationship had never crossed his mind: nor had she ever tried to bring up the idea. He wondered idly if it would ever have been possible. The answer to that, he reasoned as Delenn worked her way lazily across his collarbone with her mouth, was a probable no. Okay, a definite no, then. He knew that now, looking at her, feeling the passionate emotion in her touch. From the minute she had walked into his life, first in the white robes of the Minbari and then the stunning, elegant black of her new and more Human heritage, he had been captured by her. By her appearance, obviously: but more than anything by the startling complexity that lay behind those unique features. He didn't understand, sometimes, how anyone could look into those eyes and see only the 'Minbari with a Human face'. He'd nearly made a hole in his wall when he'd seen that broadcast; the next day she had known he had watched it, breaking down in his arms without a word in an oddly beautiful show of emotion. It had been the first time she had cried in front of him, and the honesty and vulnerability in her tear-streaked face had made his own throat burn. How anyone could look at her and not see the depth of strength, of emotion and honesty she embodied was completely unfathomable.

   And now she loved him.

   It brought him up short, to truly realise that. Delenn looked up from the delightful things she was doing to his neck, sensing the change as if she could see into his own soul as closely as he felt hers.

   "John?" She looked concerned. "What is it?"

   He stared up at her for a long, silent moment: took her face in his hands and kissed her slowly, passionately. There was an intensity in his eyes, when he lifted her head to look at her, that she had never seen there before: a thick, fierce note in his whispered voice. "I love you, so much." His fingers tightened imperceptibly on her face, and she would have sworn long afterward that she saw the beginnings of tears in his eyes. "I didn't think I'd get this again, you know. After Anna died." They didn't fall, but the tears were definitely there now. She took his hands gently from her face and leaned forward, brushing his eyes closed and placing a soft kiss on each eyelid. A salty taste met her lips; she smiled tenderly and let him hold her, burying his face in her neck.

   "I know, John. It's all right." She kissed the top of his head, and after a moment he looked up at her. It was an odd mixture of relief, wonder and apology, but as his gaze met hers she saw the love in his eyes fill his smile.

   He kissed her again, softly, thankfully, and she nestled contentedly into his arms as he rolled her onto her side and held her.

   "I was going to call Franklin." He sounded playfully irritated with her. She smiled impishly and lifted her head.

   "I was going to call you."

   He looked confused. "Um, Delenn - I'm right here."

   "Good. It would not work otherwise." She trailed the tip of one finger down his face, sliding across his collarbone and lightly grazing his nipple. "Perhaps I should have said... call *for* you..." She lowered her head, sliding down his body as her hand slid down between his legs to cup him lightly.

   "Ah." He grinned, then gasped as her hand tightened around him. "Ohhh, Delenn, are you sure I'm not gonna be late?"

   "Do you not trust me?" Her voice sounded plaintive: Sheridan wasn't fooled.

   "I trust your mind. And your heart, for that matter. It's your body that concerns me."

   "I am glad you are paying attention to it." She circled his nipple lazily with her tongue, enjoying the way he moved beneath her teasing.

   "No, hon. Right now, I'm not." He grinned to make sure she understood him, flipping her over onto her back in a movement he had perfected months ago. "You want attention?"

   "I thought you did not want to be late?" Her tone was playful. He sat up, mock-serious.

   "I have hours yet. I just didn't want *you* wearing me out before I have to try and stay awake listening to Londo chatter endlessly again. But," he made a thoughtful face, "I'm sure I could schedule another emergency meeting..." She smiled at that: he sat back on his heels and arched his eyebrows. "Well, if *you* want my attention, Ambassador, you're going to have to ask for it."

   Delenn laughed softly, delightedly, and his heart almost stopped at the sight of her lazily arching her back beneath him. "I want it." Her voice held a ripple of laughter at the look on his face. "I want you, John." She lowered her voice seductively, knowing - seeing, with a smile - what that did to him. "You can see that. Touch me." She stretched languidly against the pillows, extending her arms above her head, tempting him. "I'm yours, John. I was only ever yours, especially now." Her voice was liquid pleasure. "This body is yours as much as mine." He was watching her intently, and she saw him tremble slightly at the truth in her words. She slid one hand down her body, between her breasts, across her taut stomach and, just as she reached that place she longed for one of them to touch, reached up to grasp his hard penis in her hand. He gasped suddenly, so intent on her body that he hadn't expected her quick movement.

   "Ohhhh, God..." His eyes closed for a second as she rubbed her closed hand idly up his shaft, one fingertip dipping lightly into the wetness at the tip. He groaned in his throat and opened his eyes to her, falling forward to kneel on his hands and knees over her.

   "I thought you were supposed to pay attention to me," she asked mock-seriously. He pulled in a breath as she slid her other hand across her own smooth skin, pausing to toy lightly with her breast, seeing the fierce, helpless arousal flame in his eyes.

   "Can we take turns?" He almost yelped, a helplessly pleasurable sound, as she took his testicles lightly in her wandering hand. "Ohhhh, Delenn, pleeease-"

   "If you promise." Her eyes shone with a deep, primal enjoyment of the power she had over him.

   "*Promise*," he grunted through gritted teeth. She smiled beatifically, and her finger found that almost painfully sensitive ridge under the head of his penis. He jerked toward her, rocking into her hand, unable to do anything but meet her eyes as she rubbed one finger lazily, almost absently around the tip, spreading moisture that escaped in her arousing ministrations.

   "God, Delenn." His voice was a fierce whisper. "Don't tease me, Delenn. Please. God. Don't-"

   "Quiet." She saw the strain of closeness in his face and slid her hand back down his penis, gently cupping his testicles in her palm. "I said I would show you how much I love you. I meant it." She lifted one hand to touch his face, touching his lips with his own moisture. "I want to do this for you." Her lips grew an impish smile that he was almost afraid of. "And you promised to do the same for me. Remember that."

   "I remember," he assured her. "Though if this is it, you're not gonnaOhmyGod..."

   "I am not completely ignorant," she informed him tartly as she clasped both hands around his penis again, her thumbs meeting at the head. "I know what pleases you, John. I should, after this long."

   "Did you ever not?"

   She laughed delightedly, rewarding him with a kiss and dipping the pad of one thumb into the hot, wet tip of his straining penis. He bucked into her hands: she pulled back with him, and he stared at her in frustration as she denied him that release.

   "Torture doesn't please me, Delenn," he growled at her. She looked innocently up at him, releasing one hand to fondle his testicles, the length of her finger sliding beneath them and rubbing along his perineum. He sucked in a sharp breath, unable to hold it in, releasing it with a loud groan as her other hand tightened around his penis, completing the exquisite torture. He thrust into her firm grip; she allowed it once this time, blissfully, before sliding her hands down to draw frustrating circles on his inner thighs.

   "This isn't *fair*, Delenn," he ground out as he stared into her nonchalant gaze, willing her to please, God, finish him. There was nothing he could do now, suspended as he was over her, his body frozen and his eyes held by her gaze. Only the excruciating frustration remained, and he tried desperately to communicate it to her. "Please, love. Please."

   She smiled fondly and drew her finger up between his testicles, trailing a single, unbroken line of frustrating pleasure from the root of his penis to the straining head. He groaned, his eyes closing no matter how he tried to keep them open.

   "John." Her hand stopped, her touch gone. He was shaking from the effort just to stay over her now. "Look at me."

   "If I do that, I'm not gonna be responsible for my actions."

   "No." She tilted his head down and brushed her wet fingers over his eyelids, and he opened them to see her smiling at him. For him. "I will."

   "You always are." He sounded fiercely sincere now. "You're so damn beautiful, Delenn."

   "And you love me." Her own voice shook slightly on the words.

   "You bet your sweet ass." He grinned at her surprised expression. "That's a definite yes," he assured her. She smiled and pressed her palm to the tip of his penis, closing her fingers down over him. "Please, love. Oh, God, please."

   "I love you as well," she whispered softly, wrapping her other hand securely around the length of him. He thrust desperately into that firm, close grasp, moaning loudly with relieved satisfaction as she pushed against him, tightening her grip; twisting her hand very slightly as he felt a rush of wetness on her palm, sliding between her fingers. She moved her hand for a moment, ignoring his angry growl, and dipped her finger into that hot liquid, rubbing a lazy spiral around the head of his penis.

   "God, Delennnn.... This time, please, this time, please..." A desperate, pleading mantra, knowing he was going to explode if she left him on the edge again. Her other hand still held him, his hips bucking into her loose grasp, but he wanted more. Needed more.

   And he got it, in a most unexpected way as she did something she had never done before.

   He felt her dip a teasing finger into the tip again; felt it slide across and another take its place, then another, and another as her other hand uncurled from around him to stroke up and down the length of his shaft. His voice grated out, amazed he still had sentences left. "Delenn, God, not again..." And then all coherent thought abandoned him as she lifted her hand to her lips and slowly, delicately, so sensually he actually felt himself start to come just from that, slipped one finger into her mouth. He watched her, forcing his eyes to her face, to the sensual pleasure in her eyes and the teasing way her tongue flicked out to lick his semen from her own skin. "Ohhhhh, dear God..."

   "I love you," she murmured again, and this time it had an entirely different connotation. She knew it, too, he realised - and she *knew* how that affected him. She would have felt it anyway if she hadn't: he trembled in her hand, straining, thrusting toward her teasing fingers, feeling the massive orgasm well up inside him-

   And then she closed her lips around her finger, and her hand around his penis, and his world exploded.

   "Uhhhhhh, Good *GOD* *DELENN* I love you so *MUCH*-" He was only barely aware of his own voice, but the look on her face as she continued to suck lightly on her finger insisted he was somehow coherent. He couldn't tear his eyes from her, even as he felt himself pulse into her hand and her palm closed over him. "*DELENNNNNN-*"

   He collapsed on top of her, not caring and unable to hold himself up as his body shook mercilessly under her relentless assault. He let out a wordless grunt, gasping for air, blinding light filling his eyes as he pushed into her hand, feeling the hot, wet evidence of his climax, her love, spurt violently against her palm and over her naked stomach where she lay beneath him. He finally closed his eyes then, as she massaged his fading erection, drawing out every last drop and shudder from him before finally, blissfully, letting him go limp in her arms.

   He wasn't sure if he either fell asleep or fainted, however briefly: he was tempted, in the overwhelmingly peaceful afterglow, to go with the latter. Delenn's hand was in his hair, stroking his head where it lay on her chest, her touch gentle and soothing. Her other hand, he realised with a start after an incoherent moment, still cradled his penis lightly to his body.

   "Don't you do anything else with that," he murmured in a slurred voice against her suddenly close breast. A languid laugh rippled beneath his cheek.

   "I suspect I will not be able to, for a while."

   "You bet your sweet ass," he teased with an almost drunk smile. She laughed again, stroking his hair.

   "Indeed I do." There was a pause that somehow sounded thoughtful. "Do you know what you said, just before..."

   "No idea." He chuckled. "You're amazing."

   "Not quite." She ran a fingertip lightly down the nape of his neck, making him shiver. "'I love you'."

   "Love you too," he muttered back, not understanding. Delenn smiled.

   "You told me already," she said quietly. "When you, um..."

   "The word is 'come', Delenn." Part of him laughed incredulously that he was having this conversation with her. But then, part of him still didn't believe that his publicly calm, collected Delenn was capable of such raw sensuality as had just lain waste to his brain cells. "Not a patch on the feeling, I grant you, but it's the most polite term." He half-lifted his head. "And did I really say that?"

   She smiled tenderly. "Yes."

   He pulled himself up enough to kiss her on the lips, tasting the slightly sharp tang there. "I guess it must be true, then." He paused and took in a deep breath, laughing to cover the still unsteady heaving in his chest. "And if you give me a couple of hours, I might be in some shape to show you how much."

   "You were worried about meeting Londo," she reminded him teasingly. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. "Screw Londo, and screw anything outside this room. Hell, outside this bed."

   "How odd." He looked up in confusion; her eyes sparkled, amused. "That you should miss out the one thing I do wish to... 'screw'."

   "DELENN!"

   She laughed, delighted at having shocked him. He stared at her, slowly shaking his head in disbelief.

   "What would the Grey Council say if they heard you talking like that?!"

   A smile glittered on her lips, making her eyes shine. "They would say that the Starkiller is a very bad influence on me." She smiled affectionately, running her hand through his hair. "And they would probably be right."

   As shocked as he had been to hear her speak so crudely, he was even more surprised at her use of the Minbari label. There was no anger, none of the revulsion that usually accompanied the word, in her voice. Somehow she made it sound almost complimentary. But still...

   "You need to find a new title for me, Ambassador. That one's far out of date." He reached up to stroke her hair, a tender caress. "Besides, I've never been Starkiller with you."

   Delenn only smiled. "If you had not been Starkiller yesterday, I would likely be dead now." His face registered his reaction to her words: first and foremost a deep terror at the thought of losing her, followed by the extremely mixed emotions as he understood the truth of her words. "You should not be ashamed of it, John. Not with me. Please."

   He looked at her in confused incomprehension. "If not with you, Delenn-"

   "No." She touched his lips to quiet him. "It is a part of you, John. You carry it with you, whether you wish it or not. Not just the word," she shook her head at his expression of remorse. "The true meaning, the strength of it is here, inside you." She took his hand lightly in hers, holding it over his heart, feeling his still slightly heavy pulse under her fingers. "It is who you *are*, John. You cannot hide from that. You cannot hide it from me, and you should not be ashamed of it."

   "Delenn, the Black Star-"

   "It was a long time ago." She shook her head firmly as he tried to speak. "I have seen your records, John. I know what the war was like. You did what you had to do, just as you always do." She smiled half-ruefully. "My people hate you now for what you represent, not for what you did. Many of them probably do not even remember."

   He chuckled wryly. "Well, thanks."

   "I did not say *I* hated you," she reminded him. The sudden, if fleeting look in his eyes surprised her then.

   "Good. Because I couldn't live with that."

   "You will never have to," she assured him in a quiet voice that was somehow more sincere than any passion or ferocity she could have put into it. "I love you, as much for that as for anything else about you."

   "Because I killed your *people*?"

   "No." She ran her hand through his hair, stroking her fingers down his jaw. "Because you fought to stay alive, and because of that you have given me what I never believed I could have."

   Her simple honesty, as it always did, brought a lump to the back of his throat that it took a long moment to swallow back. "Well, for what it's worth now, I'm sorry. For everything I did back then. *Whatever* you say to defend it," he insisted as she started to speak again. "If I could bring them back now, I would. You know that."

   "And there is as much strength in that as the act itself." Delenn smiled lovingly. "That strength inside you, the will to survive - that is what you have that frightens them, John. And that is what saved us both yesterday." She pulled his head down to her, brushing her lips against his and murmuring into his mouth, her voice tender. "*Drala'nai*. My Starkiller..."

   It took him a long moment - not that Delenn minded, he noticed - to wrap his brain around that combination. Delenn was Minbari; that much he hardly noticed anymore unless it was shoved in his face. She was kissing him: this was hardly a new idea. But that she was kissing him so tenderly after calling him something which usually got him spat on by her people - now *that* was bordering on the weird.

   "I love you," he whispered as she drew back to look into his eyes, wanting to see the effect of her strange endearment. He looked a little... bemused. "You know, they've been calling me that for ten years, but no one ever told me what it really means. The Minbari word."

   "*Drala'nai*," she repeated for him. In that tone of voice, from her lips, he could believe it was truly meant as a compliment. "It means... 'Drala' is the word we use for 'Star' in the title of a ship. Only the flagships of our fleet bear that name."

   "What was the Black Star?" There was little pain in his voice now, she noticed.

   "The *Drala'Fi*."

   He took a moment, silently: then nodded.

   "And the... other part of the word?"

   "'Nai' is a common negative phrase. Perhaps a little cruder than some," she admitted after a pause. "It was never meant as a kind word," she added softly with some regret for the pain it obviously caused him.

   "Say it again."

   She blinked, looking up at him. "*Drala'nai*."

   *Starkiller.* He tried to reconcile the gentle word from her lips with that angry epithet. It didn't work: if Delenn had ever once been able to call him that in hate, she could never do it now. He saw that much in her eyes, heard her love for even that darker part of him in her voice. "This much, Delenn? You love me this much?"

   "Yes." No hesitation. "More than this. More than anything." And she had to, really, didn't she? To risk what little she had left to be in his arms. To be with a man - a Human - her people despised, when she was so highly disfavoured as it was. To be with someone she knew had done terrible things to her people, and had been *proud* of them, who she forgave enough to love above all else.

   "I'm not worthy of you." He touched her cheek lovingly, feeling the burn of honest tears behind his eyes. "But I'll try, Delenn. I will."

   "Then try." She let her arms slide from around him, relaxing completely onto the bed. "Wipe away the blood you think still lies on your hands. Make it right for you." She smiled softly, her gaze held on his face. He hadn't realised it was possible for her to touch him without moving. "You are worthy of me, John. I believe that. And I will make you believe it... or," she smiled and shifted provocatively beneath him, "you will make yourself believe it."

   "I'll believe anything you tell me. You know that."

   "That will get you into trouble, one day," she teased. He shrugged half-seriously.

   "It probably already has." Capturing her mouth with his for a long, languid kiss before trailing an almost unbroken line of kisses down to her neck. "Not that it matters," he assured her as his tongue flicked out to brush across her impossibly smooth skin. He knew her body intimately by now, and it was never difficult to arouse her - or to drive her crazy, when he could take the time. And after what she had done to him, he was *definitely* going to take his time.

   "Mmm..." She purred softly in her throat as she felt his teeth nip lightly at her skin, tilting her head back to give him easier access to that sensitive spot just above her pulse.

   "You like that." It wasn't a question, and the confident knowledge in his tone brought an inexplicable but satisfying flush of heat to her skin. "I know what pleases you as well, Delenn. And I think," he reached up to kiss her lazily on the mouth, twining his tongue with hers, "you deserve some definite pleasure right now."

   Her eyes glittered with anticipation: he kissed her again, slowly, enjoying the sensuality in her playful, teasing nips at his tongue. He pulled back to look at her, gently pushing her hands above her head and straddling her waist with a playfully irked smile.

   "We agreed to take turns, remember?"

   "Yes." Her face was a picture of amusement, and he wondered incredulously at how anything remotely professional might fit on those impish features.

   "So let me." He bent down to kiss her passionately, deeply, tongue seeking entrance to her mouth as he ran his hands down her body: resting on her shoulders to rub over her breasts, the slow tease hardening her nipples, tightening them further as he brushed his hands over the hypersensitive skin just above her slender hips. Delenn smiled languidly, closing her eyes and arching into his caress. His hands slid down the outside of her thighs, as far as he could reach before he trailed the backs of his fingers up to slide between her legs and over her damp skin. She made a small sound that he had never been quite able to pinpoint as gasp or sigh but which was definitely an encouragement, moaning into his mouth before pulling back to look up at him.

   "Do you love me, Starkiller?" Her tone was playful; but there was little of that in his voice when he answered her, taking her face tenderly in his hands.

   "More than my world, Delenn."

   She looked up at him wordlessly, wondering if he actually understood what he said. His smile answered her, stroking her face with his thumb, his voice infinitely tender. "Keep your eyes open." He lifted her head gently from the pillow and leaned down, capturing her mouth in a kiss. Blue eyes gazed into hers, shining with as much love and tenderness as she felt in his gentle kiss.

   It lasted for quite a while, and somewhere between gazing into his eyes and remembering to breathe she relaxed and let the feeling of his hands take over. John, she reflected with a long, languid sigh as he ran one finger down the curve of her breast, knew her body even better than she did. Sometimes she still felt strange, from day to day, when she caught sight of her reflection and saw such Human features: to John she imagined she must seem equally strange at times, not being completely Human, but somehow she never saw it in his eyes. Even from the first time, he had looked at her with an affection that somehow conquered the differences between them; had never looked at her as a Minbari or a Human or a mix of the two, but simply and only as Delenn.

   He was watching her, watching the enjoyment and satisfaction on her face at his practised touch, and he saw that subtle change in her eyes that made him smile. It didn't come every time, and hardly ever when he expected it, but for the instant it crossed her face it made his life worthwhile just to be able to do that for her. He drew himself up and stroked her hair back with a quiet smile, meeting her eyes.

   "Now do you know the answer?"

   That fleeting look paused in her eyes; she smiled indescribably, nodded and wordlessly pulled him down to her.

   His hand strayed to her left breast, drawing a lazy circle around her nipple, enjoying the sigh that echoed into his mouth. He traced a feather-light line with one finger from her lips down, across her shoulder, drawing a meandering trail that he followed closely with his mouth. He touched his fingertip to her stiffened left nipple, sliding his hand to cup her breast and lift the nipple into his mouth. Warm wetness replaced his light, teasing touch, and Delenn made a soft sound of encouragement in the back of her throat as he grasped the tip lightly with his teeth.

   "Hmm?" She sighed loudly as his wordless question hummed over her breast, her hands tightening as he swirled his tongue around her taut nipple. "Good, huh?" He smiled and turned his head to her heart, tracing the curve of her other breast with the tip of his tongue before tugging the neglected nipple gently with his teeth.

   "Mmmm...." Delenn's hands rested on his shoulders, pushing him downward, her hips stirring restlessly on the bed. He resisted for a long moment, teasing her nipple stiffly into his mouth before trailing his hands down her sides and playing idly on her stomach. His tongue left a deliciously cool trail on her naked skin, and she gasped sharply as he found a sensitive area: he grasped her hips and lifted her up to him, arching her back to meet his kisses. Delenn laughed softly as he grazed his teeth lightly across her hip, humming pleasure as he kissed her taut stomach and the smooth, hairless skin that replaced the usual appearance of a Human woman. Not that that had ever mattered to John, she reminded herself, sliding her hands into his hair to push him lower and lifting her hips to meet him. To her frustration he refused this time: sat up abruptly on his heels and looked down at her with a wolfish grin, pulling his hands out of her searching grasp.

   "Turn over."

   The sound that emerged from her throat bordered on desperation. "*John*..."

   "Patience is a virtue, Delenn," he chided with a smile.

   "You should know by now that virtue does not interest me," she returned in a frustrated tone. Sheridan chuckled, rolling her over despite her protests.

   "*You* should thought of that before pulling that stunt on me." He grinned, although she couldn't see it, and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Which was absolutely amazing, by the way, and if you think you're getting away with less..."

   A shiver of already aroused anticipation ran through her; he put his hands lightly on her shoulders, trailing down either side of the soft blue streak that followed her spine. Delenn smiled, gasping softly as he traced the very edge of that sensitive marking with a teasing fingertip, idly exploring.

   "John..." She let out a frustrated moan, squirming to try and move his delicate caress to the more sensitive deeper blue center of the marking. He chuckled low in his throat, enjoying the helpless moan the sound elicited from her lips as he lowered himself over her and brushed back her hair, softly blowing a teasing line down her spine and pushing back a grin at her reaction as he reached the tip at the small of her back. He knew from past experience how sensitive that point could be; felt her tense under his tongue as he touched tip to tip and lifted her hips to trail kisses back up her spine, alternating lips and tongue to make her arch into his mouth.

   "In Valen's name... *Oh*-" she gasped as he lifted her hair and nestled against the back of her neck, tracing the top of that intricate pattern with the tip of his tongue as his fingers rubbed insistently at the edge of her crown.

   "Johnnn...."

   "You wanted my attention..." He didn't move more than a millimeter from her skin, his breath sending an intense rush of heat through her to center between her legs. "You have it, Delenn, always." He leaned forward to trace his tongue around her ear, biting lightly to draw a sigh from her lips. "Tell me what you want, love. Tell me what to do to you."

   "Anything..." Her voice was breathless. "Anything, John, please." She almost sobbed with frustration, her mind only half-coherent. "I don't know the words..."

   "Remind me to teach you, then." He nestled his face into her neck, teasing her smooth, sweat-damped skin with his teeth. "Do you want me to touch you? To make you come the way you did for me?"

   He heard her pull in a ragged gasp, her answer half-word, half-breath. "Yes..." His hand slid under her hips, teasing her, lifting her: she sighed loudly as he pushed his other hand between her legs from behind, tilting her hips upward, cupping her in a sudden warm, blissful pressure. "Yessss... touch me, John, please-" Her voice broke momentarily as his fingers opened her from behind, teasing her with her own hot, wet arousal.

   "You really do love me, don't you?" he murmured in her ear. Delenn pushed her hips back to meet him, rubbing against his palm, desperate for the touch he held back.

   "John. Please. I-" She dragged in a breath, beginning to forget how. "Touch me. *Please*. Now."

   "It's not gonna take long," he warned with a smile against the back of her crown, taking the tip in his mouth and hearing her moan. His hand between her legs slid back, two fingers dipping into her. "You're wet, love." That simple confidence again. She pushed onto his fingers, growling as he withdrew his hand in counterpart to her movement.

   "You want me to touch you there, don't you, Delenn?" He smiled, nibbling his way down the back ridge of her crown. "Tell me. You want that. Tell me."

   "I-I want you there... please... ohhh..." He pushed two fingers deeply into her, lifting her hips again with his other hand as she thrust instinctively back onto his questing fingers. "I want you there, John," she gasped as he slipped his free hand further underneath her, lifting her hips further up to meet him. He slipped three fingers between her labia, teasing her open and positioning his middle finger over her clitoris, giving her the friction she wanted as her hips rocked insistently onto his probing fingers. She pushed against his support, surprisingly strong, trapping his hand underneath her and rolling her hips to find the right hard, exquisite pressure of his fingertip on her clitoris.

   "Ohhh, yes... Oh, John, yes-" A frustrated growl as his finger slipped from her for a moment. "John. I want - please -"

   "What?" He nestled his tongue behind her ear, whispering over sweat-dampened skin and feeling her shiver and press into his hand, back against his chest where he lay over her. "Tell me what you want, Delenn. Tell me how. I'll do it, Delenn. Anything." His quiet intensity only made her more desperate for him and she arched back, moaning as she felt his erection press between her buttocks. Sheridan smiled, his voice deliberately gentle. "You want me inside you when you come, Delenn?"

   "*Yessss.*" Her voice was a fierce hiss. "I *want* you..."

   "I should hope so," he retorted with a grin, nestling his face into her hair and dragging his tongue lazily along the sensitive lower edge of her crown. She made a sound that was part laugh, part pleasurable moan, changing mid-breath to a sharp gasp as he pulled his fingers from her and thrust his hot, hard penis deeply and fully into her.

   "Valen..." The word was a breathless whisper as he sat back, grasping her hips to pull her onto him and supporting her with a hand on her stomach that extended to rub wet circles around her clit, her desperate thrusts countering his own. "Oh, Valen, John-"

   "That's it, love. I'm here now, where you want me." He shifted further forward, long, deep thrusts bringing ragged gasps from her throat. "You're there, love, aren't you, it's right *there*..." He could feel her tighten around him, knew even though he couldn't see her face that she was close as he quickened his fingers on her center. "Come for me, Delenn. Come with me... Oh, God..." He thrust into her, feeling her match him, the short, desperate movements that told him she was on the edge, about to spill over. He rolled his hips against hers, two fingers now circling her straining clitoris, feeling his own orgasm come rushing on him for the second time that morning.

   "Come with me, Delenn, right now, come for me, call for me, come on, *come* oh *GOD*-" He felt her tense up impossibly, driving back against him to bury him completely in her. He could feel her coming under him, around him, hearing the inaudible, untranslatable Minbari that built up to a breathless cry and then -

   "Ohhh, in Valen's *NAME*-" A shout that was very nearly a scream tore from her throat, all restraint gone in her fierce, blinding climax. "*John* oh, ohhhh Valen *JOHN*-" Her whole body was shaking violently from his still-insistent stroking, sobs tearing from her throat as she begged his name over and over; the world disappearing all but for the hot, shuddering waves of ecstasy coursing through her as another incredibly intense orgasm hit fast on the heels of her first.

   When she could feel anything other than that inexplicable bliss, the first thing that came to mind was the warm, comforting weight to the left of her back and the sound of heavy, labored breathing against the back of her neck. She was only barely aware when he slipped out of her, letting out a half-sob, her own breath sounding harsh and uneven now that she could finally hear it again.

   "Ohhh, Valen." Her voice shook, and she could feel herself trembling. "Do you *know*," she had to take a breath before she could speak properly, "how much I love you?"

   "I have a few ideas," he murmured with a smile that was clearly audible from where he lay behind her. "I'm definitely gonna be late for that meeting."

   She laughed hazily, hardly caring at that moment. "I'm sure you'll think of an excuse."

   "You think I'm gonna have one coherent thought for the rest of the day?" He chuckled and with a severe effort, lifted himself over her to face her. "You know something I don't, obviously."

   Delenn smiled, exhausted; reached to wrap her arms around him as he lay back, her head coming to settle in the crook of his shoulder as her eyelids fluttered drowsily.

   "My Drala'nai." Her voice was slurred with shaking breaths and a warm, exhausted smile, murmured against his shoulder. "No one else could ever be enough for me." She looked briefly up into his eyes and he saw what she meant, what she didn't have to say. *No Minbari could be enough.*

   "Vi'lan," he whispered into her hair as she put her head back on his shoulder and nestled up to him. Delenn smiled.

   "Shal'vi e'len, Drala'nai."

   He smiled and closed his eyes; ignoring the single, sudden tear, filled with wonder, that slipped down his cheek.

   "Love you too, Delenn."

[END]

 

*****

 

 

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