ALTERATIONS (II): THE LOVE LIKE DUST
'We are starstuff. We are the Universe, made manifest.' - Delenn
This story is set just after the fourth season episode 'Epiphanies' (REMEMBER EPIPHANIES?! - see, I am a J&D fanatic).
DISCLAIMER: I didn't hurt them, I promise! Don't get angry, I never said they were my characters... they belong to the wonderful world of Babylon 5, Warner Brothers, Joe Straczynski, and all the other people we dream of being.
"We really should go see Steven," he mused absently, caressing her back with the light fingertips of one hand. Delenn looked up and laughed quietly in amusement.
"Why is that?" She smiled teasingly and sat up, moving further onto his body before settling back down and tracing his lips with a forefinger. "Do you need some advice? I thought you handled it... me, quite well, considering." He frowned playfully.
"Considering what, exactly?" Delenn smiled at his tone and toyed with a strand of hair that fell across his eyes.
"Well, taking into account that I was... inexperienced, that it has been almost four years for you - and that you took advantage of me...."
"I did not!" Sheridan pulled her firmly up to him as she huddled into his chest and he kissed her. "You wanted this as much as I did. Didn't you?" His grip relaxed; Delenn smiled tenderly at his concerned expression, wrapping her arms tightly around him and affectionately nuzzling his shoulder.
"Oh, of course I did. I've wanted you for months, years." She looked up and kissed him softly on the mouth. "I was just teasing. You were wonderful, really. I promise." She paused: he seemed unconvinced. Perhaps that last comment had hurt more than she intended it to. Delenn sighed, shifting again and carefully trailing her fingertips over the side of his face.
"Do you want to see?"
He frowned for a moment, then realisation filled his expression and he grinned with amusement as he gazed up at her.
"I don't frighten you anymore, then?" She smiled thoughtfully and then shook her head.
"No, not now." She laughed. "It's hard to see how you could be threatening like this." He frowned in mock hurt, suddenly turning her over and pushing her down onto the bed to engulf her in a huge bear hug. Somehow, early in the night, he'd lost the cast on his injured arm - he remembered it having something to do with Delenn and the fact that his blindness had gone, but as the injury itself had also disappeared he didn't particularly care for the reasons. His arms tightened around her; he growled playfully in her ear, and Delenn laughed as he growled again and pretended to bite her shoulder. Raising his head to look down on her, he grinned wolfishly at the joyous expression on her face.
"See? I can still be dangerous, even in bed." Delenn smiled and shook her head against the pillows, laughter in her green eyes.
"I don't believe it. You wouldn't do anything."
"Oh, wouldn't I?" He laughed along with her this time, bearing down on her still form with a soft growl until she pushed back, rolling him sideways onto the bed and easily clambering up onto his chest. The play continued, teasingly pushing and threatening each other until it became more mental than physical and they were both too tired to do anything but lie still in the other's arms.
<John?> her voice questioned in his mind.
<Hmm. Something wrong, angel?> She jumped at the sound of his thoughts in her head, suddenly sitting up in shock and staring down at him. He opened his eyes and frowned at her, wondering what the problem was.
<*This* is the problem. I shouldn't be able to hear you, not like this.> He smiled, pulling her hand into his and forcing her to lie down again.
"And I shouldn't be able to see you like this," he brushed a hand over his eyes, "but I can. Why worry, sweetheart? It's certainly nothing bad. Anyway, maybe we're dreaming. Maybe we'll both wake up and find none of this is real." He grinned. "Pinch me."
"Why?" Delenn looked up in confusion. "What will that achieve?"
"It'll prove I'm not dreaming, for one," he answered with an amused glint in his eyes.
"Oh." She considered it, then; "Couldn't I just do this instead?" Her mouth descended on his, hands sliding behind his head in a blindingly passionate kiss. He turned her more carefully this time, gently catching her in his arms and lowering her down onto the pillows under his body. Delenn smiled as he pulled away, content to stay under his protection for the immediate future.
"Awake, definitely awake," he muttered as he pulled the covers back over the two of them. She laughed, leading him down to her again as her arms tightened around his neck.
"Yes, I think so. Which leads to the inevitable question of-"
"What the hell happened?"
"I wasn't going to put it quite that bluntly, but yes."
He laughed, settling comfortably over her as she cuddled under his chest. It had been longer than he could remember since he'd had this feeling and he'd missed it desperately. But even with Anna, the only other he'd ever really been attracted to, it hadn't been the same. There was no sense of being... together, the way there was now. As if he'd just found what was missing, after so long; not just in his life, but in his mind and soul.
<John,> Delenn's tone brought him from the reverie, <as much as I love staying here, I really would like to know what's going on. I was never a telepath; I shouldn't be able to do this, to see the things I can see...>
"Shh," he whispered quietly in comfort. <It's okay. I think I know; that's why I mentioned Steven. I think... maybe it's time to bring some others in on this little secret of ours.> She nodded, relaxing into his arms. <But first, can't we just enjoy this? It has been a long time and I don't know when we'll get to do this again. I want to spend every minute I have with you, no matter how long I live.> She closed her eyes, pain filling her expression.
<Oh, Valen... Don't, not now. I don't want to lose you, not after this->
"Hey, you're not going to lose me!" He hugged her fiercely, kissing her hair. "Remember what I promised?" She nodded silently. "Tell me, then. What did I promise you?" She swallowed hard, looking up into his eyes.
"That you won't leave me. That you'll find a cure, a way to stay with me - and I do believe you, but I don't see how you can." She forced back the tears, knowing that wasn't what he wanted to see from her.
<Delenn, listen to me.> His voice was firm. <I'm not here to control you. Whatever you want to do, I won't stop you. If you want to cry, if you need to, at least don't hide it away. Let me help.> She nodded, smiling weakly at the gentle plea.
<I don't want to cry. I've done enough of that to last me a lifetime, I don't want to waste any more time. Especially not with you. I love you, and I trust you to find a way to stay with me after - when Lorien said you wouldn't be able to. But it's impossible->
"*Nothing* is impossible. Not when I have you here. Nothing. We can do anything together, Delenn, anything at all." He smiled suddenly, inspiration shooting through his mind. "Do you want to find out how true that is?" She looked up and frowned in confusion, the meaning not immediately apparent in his words. He lay back beside her and lifted her into his arms, tilting her head down to his shoulder to get comfortable as he wrapped his mind around hers. It was instinctual, easy, as if another was guiding him in what he suddenly and compulsively knew he could do.
<Just relax, honey, let it go. There's nothing to be afraid of while I'm here. I'll take care of you.> She smiled inwardly, silently obeying the strength of his command, opening her mind to his as he carried her. <That's it,> his voice murmured in her thoughts. <Come with me, my love, don't just stay there. It's easy!> Elation filled her mind, tempting her to follow - and she did. A silver mist, barely visible, embodied her mind as she swept through the station, trying to see just how fast, how far she could go.
<Hey, slow down!> John's voice caught up with her, laughing. <There's no rush; we still have time off, remember? Plenty of time to explore.> Delenn smiled sheepishly, readily agreeing. She relinquished the power to him, enjoying the warmth his mind gave hers as they coursed back the way they had come. They wereback in his quarters, she realised with a slight frown.
<Don't you have any adventurous spirit, John? Why have we come back here?> He smiled, lightly chiding.
<First things first, love. We'll work outwards - I'm just as curious as you.> He sent a child-like grin in her direction. <I've never heard of anyone doing this before, so let's take it slow, shall we? No need to have all the fun at once.> Laughter echoed her agreement as they moved slowly away from his quarters and approached the entrance to Blue sector. Curious, Delenn led her companion through the corridors, interested to see whether they would be noticed. She heard voices, descending almost to ground level and laughing in delight as John's golden aura coalesced into a solid shape. He encouraged her to do the same, quietly urging, but she returned to a safer place near the ceiling where the crewmembers wouldn't see. Two young Security guards turned the corner on their way to the stationhouse, passing Sheridan and giving a chirpy salute.
"Morning, Captain," was the chorus as another young officer hurried to catch up with them, laughing and joking as they passed the stretch of corridor where John was standing. He faded out, returning to Delenn where she hovered carefully, watching the scene with hidden laughter.
<Do you think they can hear us?> she asked idly as they passed through the connecting corridor between Blue and Red sectors.
<Who knows?> He grinned wickedly as Ivanova and Zack came around the corner, deep in discussion. <Want to find out?>
<John!> Her cry, filled with laughter, went unheard to the Chief's ears... Ivanova, however, jerked her head up in surprise. Her expression turned from one of confusion and shock to one of incredulity as she stopped dead and looked around. Zack frowned, watching her with a dubious expression.
"Uh, Commander, are you okay? Listen, maybe I should handle this by myself-"
"No, no, I'm fine. It's nothing. Where were we?" Sheridan couldn't contain laughter at that question, amazingly appropriate to not Zack but her other, unseen companions.
<John, she'll hear you,> Delenn sent privately. <Don't you think we should explain before you start teasing her like that?> Sheridan just grinned, moving nearer to Delenn as the two officers passed under them.
<Good morning, Susan,> he planted in her mind. <From both of us.> Her head snapped around again, but Sheridan simply sent a picture of them both soundly asleep in his quarters. <Do Not Disturb,> he teased. Ivanova's eyes widened in comprehension, nodding slowly.
"Uh, sure, whatever. You know, Zack," she turned to the Security Chief, "I don't feel too good. I think I'll just, uh, go take a headache tablet, maybe have a lie down..." She disappeared rapidly down the corridor, leaving Sheridan and Delenn laughing and Zack shaking his head in confusion as he continued on his way.
Delenn followed her friend part of her way, halting when the Commander stepped into a transport tube. <Do you think we can get in there?> she asked curiously.
<Don't see why not,> came John's reply. <We walked through walls before, didn't we? It's just like being a hologram, like that thing in the corridor. It's just energy.> Delenn laughed as he disappeared through the wall, and she followed.
<I don't think I like the idea of being 'just energy'. It doesn't sound very appealing.> A knowing touch appeared in her mind, and she gasped involuntarily with pleasure. <On the other hand... Where did you learn to do that, of all things?> He grinned, twining easily around her.
<Comes naturally. I guess you got lucky; you got a guy who knows what he's doing.> Delenn laughed as Sheridan appeared extremely near the fusion reactor.
<Says he - be careful, John.>
<Yes, Ma'am.> He floated near to the doors and then blinked out, reappearing on her other side. Delenn twirled to look at him.
She sighed in mock despair, trying his trick of blinking out and reappearing further away. <At least I'm not messing with my life. John, come back over here!>
<Why?> Panic starting to set in, she felt the comfort of his mind in hers as he disappeared through the wall.
<I'm alright,> he assured her tenderly. <Stop worrying, love. There's nothing different about being here as being anywhere else. It can't harm you.> He smiled, lifting her easily and transporting her to the central monorail corridor. <But, wherever you feel safest. Do you want to try outside yet?> She nodded eagerly, relaxing into his mind as he carried her through the hull of the station. Fear jolted through her as she saw stars and he quickly blinked back inside, reappearing in his body, lying in bed next to her.
<You okay?> She was shaking, but nodded vehemently and smiled.
<Fine.> She coughed, sitting up slowly. "Fine. I, um.. I wasn't quite ready for that, I don't think. Next time." He nodded in understanding, taking her hand in his.
"Plenty of time, angel; no hurry. Come here, sleep for a while. We can try again later."
"Mmm. Tired, though..." He nodded again as she slipped into Adronato, murmuring incoherently. Her mind slipped easily into unconsciousness as he sat up and gently put his arms around her, lowering her back to the pillows and lifting the covers over them with his mind, without realising - both of them too tired to notice. Too tired to do anything but sleep, and dream.
*These are going to be interesting dreams.*
* * * * *
Delenn smiled contently, turning from one side to the other to nestle her head into Sheridan's chest. His voice was soft in her thoughts, and the smile widened. She couldn't imagine any better way to be woken than to hear John's love inside her mind.
"Delenn, angel, it's time to get up. Are you awake yet?" She sighed, shifting to turn slightly again, eyes firmly closed.
<You know I am.> He smiled at the bemused tone.
<Okay now?> Delenn opened her eyes and looked up with a quiet smile.
<Fine. That was very tiring, though. I think we went a little too far this morning.> Her eyes sparkled. <I liked it.>
He laughed. "Do you want another try?" Delenn smiled, shaking her head tiredly.
"Not right now. I just want to stay here and talk for a while." He nodded, gently cupping her face in his hands and stroking her cheek. He smiled at the silvered light shining in her eyes, sliding one hand behind her head to guide it back to his shoulder. She murmured contently, cuddling nearer as he curled his mind and body around her.
"So, what do you want to talk about?" She closed her eyes and shrugged.
"I don't know, anything. I just want to hear your voice."
<Which one?> She laughed, reaching up to touch his lips with a finger.
"You're getting too dependent on telepathy, my love."
He sighed and shrugged. "Okay, whatever. What do you want me to say? Tell you a story, talk about family..."
"Family," she decided eagerly. "I don't know much about your family, except for-" She stopped short and he shook his head quietly.
"Anna isn't part of my family any more. But you are." He looked down at her and smiled, trailing a finger across her cheek. Delenn smiled back, moving up to his level and placing a warm kiss on his mouth. Sheridan pulled her gently against him, returning the kiss with one of his own. After a short while she moved away, touching his face and urging him to continue.
"Anyway, my family. Well, my mom and dad are still on Earth, as far as I know - but dad said they'd find a way out, so maybe they won't be there for much longer." He shivered, imagining. "I hope not."
"So do I."
He smiled gratefully. "Thank you. Liz heard from them not long ago, which I suppose is a good sign. And her... well, do you have any brothers or sisters? You never did tell me." Delenn smiled in memory and nodded.
"I have - had, three brothers. And I believe I have a sister, although we've never seen each other. My brothers-"
"You *had* three brothers?" His voice was full of concern and sympathy. "What happened?" Delenn closed her eyes, slowly lowering her gaze.
"Kanarr and Verann are a few years older than me. Ramani was the youngest... he was born just before my mother left. A year: no, two after my birth. One day, when we were going to temple... I was very young, only five years old at the time. My father was with us, and there was an accident... Ramani was killed. I don't remember the details, only waking in the hospital." She choked, swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, I can't..."
"It's okay." He leaned her against him, stroking her hair. "Tell me about the others - and your sister? How do you know about her, if you've never met?" Delenn looked up and shrugged, shaking slightly from the memories.
"Her name is... Tarine, I think. We would be half-sisters, I suppose, in your language. She lives with my mother, as far as I know; in the temple at Mani."
"Is she one of the... what was it, Sisters of Valerian? Is she one of them as well?" He was genuinely curious, she noted with some surprise.
"I don't think so. As I said, I don't know very much about her. She was born after my mother left and raised in Temple, but I have never heard that she joined the order."
"Why don't you see her?" Delenn looked up in surprise.
"Why don't you go and see her? Surely she wouldn't turn you away. If you've never met, don't you think it's time?" She smiled slightly, touching his cheek.
"It's a nice thought, John. But if I left here, what would happen? You know how many people have tried to make me leave - if I go, the Minbari influence goes, and Earth will come back to take the station. To take you." The sadness in her eyes was more than he could bear. "I couldn't take that chance. Perhaps later, when everything is over and we have peace on both our worlds, I will go back to Minbar to see her. I could take you with me," her voice grew excited, and he smiled at the child-like tone. "You've never been to my homeworld, have you?" Sheridan shook his head, gently touching her lips with his own.
"We'll go there one day, sweetheart. Then you can introduce me to everyone, show me around... on one condition." She looked up and frowned.
Sheridan grinned. "That you come with me to Earth. And not just into the system this time, either. I want to take you home, show you everything I can't describe to you. Hell, maybe we could even take our honeymoon there."
He laughed softly at her lack of comprehension. "I thought someone would have told you that part by now. After the wedding, in most Human societies, the couple get a holiday together... on their own, you know?" His voice grew more personal, huddling against her. "Just the two of us, for a week or two. I'm sure Susan and Lennier could manage everything for a while; we could go to Minbar, then Earth. Take a White Star - get a private area designated, of course." Delenn was smiling widely, having caught the idea behind what he was saying.
"It's a good idea: do you think anyone would mind?"
He laughed. "I think Susan would practically push us off-station. Don't worry, we'll get our honeymoon one way or the other. Even if I have to re-write the Universe for a little while to make it work." His kiss was soft and tender, a simple assurance that made Delenn believe his words completely. The warmth of his mind made her remember something else and she pulled away very slightly to smile into his eyes.
<I'd almost forgotten about that. Can we try again?> Abandoning their conversation, he grinned in anticipation and settled in comfortably against the pillows.
<Sure, whatever you want. Are we ready for outside yet?> An eager assent found its way into his mind and he chuckled quietly, closing his eyes. <Here goes, then. Coming?> The question was unnecessary; Delenn had escaped the confines of his cabin long before he caught up with her. <Are you *always* this impatient?> he asked incredulously. Soft laughter answered as they appeared in C&C. It was strange, seeing his workplace from where they stayed near to the ceiling, and Sheridan mentioned it to his companion. He could see her, vaguely, as much as it was possible to see energy; a silver mist glowed slightly from her position in the empty air beside him.
<I wonder if we can be completely 'invisible'? It could be hard to explain if anyone sees... well, us. What there is of us right now.> Delenn frowned ever so slightly, concentrating, then smiled in superiority: the silver light faded and disappeared from view. He let out a soft cry of amazement, but she urged him to follow suit and he soon found it easier than he'd expected. All he needed to do was imagine himself 'transparent' rather than the goldish-bronze aura surrounding his consciousness. Delenn evidently did the same: the aura he saw around her was silver-white, completely opposite to his own. He recognised it easily, feeling the same light in his mind and smiling involuntarily. He could still see her, sense her presence, although to what passed as his eyes she was completely unseen.
<Outside.> It wasn't a question. He trailed after her, amazed at the power of her mind as she pushed outwards and upwards, soaring through the hull and out above the planet. He didn't have to go far to catch up, though. Barely a hundred metre stretch from the station, she had stopped dead and simply hung in space, frozen. For a moment, panic ran through his blood until he too stalled in wonder.
<It's beautiful.> Delenn's voice was filled with awe. <I never dreamed of seeing this. It's one thing to see it through a window, from a ship, but this....> There were no words to describe the feeling of being *out there,* in *space,* without the constraints of a suit or ship or station - simply out with the Universe, out among the stars. Nebulas, star systems, ships, planets, suns... *Space!* He realised he was grinning foolishly - *or what passes as a grin when you're made of energy* - but the sight was so amazing that they both simply stayed there, transfixed. Delenn began to move, slowly, toward the planet; after a moment, John followed and they reached the outer edge of the atmosphere within an instant. Casting an idle glance back, he gasped and rotated quickly to get a good look at the station. From their earlier position it had been impossible to see, but now they had a perfect view. He called wordlessly to Delenn and she turned at the same instant to let out a cry of astonishment and wonder.
<I don't remember it being that big,> he confessed in a quiet whisper. Her agreement was silent, but he heard it all the same. He reached back, trying to stretch the limits of this new-found talent. To his surprise, it was easy to be in two places at once - but when Delenn moved back to join him, it became more difficult.
<Try to picture it,> she suggested. <Perhaps if you imagine you are there, it will be easier. Like becoming unseen.> He gently thanked her for the advice, the only way he knew how, and she smiled demurely in pleasure. In truth it was still difficult to stay at their previous position while he floated nearer to the station, but keeping an image in his head made it simpler. They practised for over an hour, every so often glancing back to the station to check on the time. It became easier, until both could switch from the edge of the system to the station in an instant, while still 'remaining' at the same place as before. Effectively, as John excitedly branded it, splitting their consciousness in two. Delenn refused to put a dampener on his joy, feeling the boyish excitement inside him; she'd never known him so ecstatic, and it was spreading into her own mind. Looking around, she saw the bronze aura spark brightly and flicker out, only to reappear a kilometre away on her right. She teasingly gave chase, wondering absently at the space their minds were covering. John didn't seem to tire, but she could feel, in the back of her mind, that the experience was taking its toll. Both were running on adrenaline alone now, although it hardly mattered - they could have survived on each other without the need to return home for many more hours yet.
Delenn, however, had decided it time to end their exploration for the minute. She slipped inside his mind, anticipating his next move in their playful game and appearing there the split instant before he did. His reactions were lightning-speed; he disappeared again, coaxing her to follow until she caught up the second later. She twirled around her lover, smiling as his mind opened and she carried them both back to the station.
The first thing the tired pair became aware of was the hum of voices in C&C as they entered the station's hull. Ivanova stood in the centre of it, a discussion about Drazi documents for the freighter they'd passed briefly on the way in going on around her until her link bleeped for attention. Sheridan halted their passage for a moment, hovering to listen as he caught the mention of his name. Delenn cried out softly in shock as she listened, and Ivanova suddenly glanced worriedly around as she heard the noise.
<Try to remember to do that privately around her, Delenn. You'll shock the hell out of the poor woman.> Delenn winced in apology, hearing Ivanova's skittish voice answer Franklin.
"I'll be right there. Lieutenant, deal with this." Her tone was clipped, but Delenn heard the worry and confusion in her friend's mind.
<Susan, it's all right. Don't worry.> Out in the corridor now, Ivanova jumped in shock and swung round at the familiar accented voice in her head. Delenn reached for her mind, suddenly coming up against a wall and stopping. She had no wish to invade her friend's privacy, but she looked so worried....
<She's coming to us, Delenn. Let's go; we can explain soon.> He laughed ruefully. <And there's going to be a lot of that, I can tell.> She frowned, unwilling to leave Ivanova in such distress. <Then stay. We've been practising that all afternoon; now you can put it to good use.> Delenn smiled, grateful for his good advice, and reached back to his quarters after him while the other part of her mind stayed alongside Ivanova. She didn't say anything, only trying to soothe the worry on her features. It worked to a small extent, but when they rounded the corner Delenn let out a private moan of annoyance and sympathy. Outside the door to John's quarters, Franklin and Lyta had met.
"His vital signs were all over the place, not to mention Delenn's. They faded so gradually I barely noticed until the computer alerted me five minutes ago. The readings have evened out during the past few minutes, but it was touch and go..." He trailed off as Liz Sheridan came charging from the opposite direction; Delenn sighed in despair as she followed the rest of her mind to John.
<Hi, sweetheart. Back so soon?> His voice was teasing as she entered the room slowly, although she was unsure whether that came from the brazen mist surrounding the bed or from John himself, sitting up and watching her return with great interest.
<Can you see me?> She came down to his level, gently swirling around him before she made the changeover between being conscious as energy and living as matter. The reply went unheard to her ears; the world became fuzzy at that point and she briefly lapsed into unconsciousness.
"Delenn, honey, wake up. Relax now, take it slow. Are you back with me?" She frowned, opening tired green eyes and narrowing them at his face so close to hers. He was holding her by the shoulders, shaking her very slightly to bring her round. She could feel tendrils of his mind around hers and smiled tiredly, nodding belatedly to his question. He grinned in relief, backing away to help her up. "Take it easy, love. Careful, don't sit up too fast." She grimaced and nodded as the world began to spin erratically around her. He laid her back down for a minute or two, gingerly brushing a stray wisp of hair from her cheek. "Keep still for a while. I think maybe you came in a little too slow there. The last step seems to work easier if you just sort of... imagine yourself back here and then," he clicked his fingers and grinned, "just do it instantly." Delenn nodded slowly in agreement, rising again gradually and massaging her temple.
"It probably gets easier to control with more practice," she muttered quietly. "I hope it isn't so uncomfortable the next time, either. I have the worst headache imaginable."
Out of instinct, he reached out and touched her temples. The warm bronze colour she had come to associate with John flared against her skin, warm and healing, until he dropped his hand and grinned in amazement. The headache was gone, and she let out a delighted laugh.
"Captain! Captain Sheridan?" He winced at the tone in Franklin's voice; before Delenn could recite who she'd seen in the corridor, he touched a finger to her lips and shook his head.
"I saw them. Just," he smiled ruefully and gave an exasperated plea, "don't ask me to tell you how." Delenn laughed quietly, nodding.
"I promise never to ask you how this works - as long as you do the same for me." He nodded with a wide grin, pulling her close against him.
"Deal." He leaned over her, tilted her head up and kissed her softly on the mouth. Delenn relaxed into his mind, enjoying the intimacy their bond gave. She had always loved it when he kissed her, but this was something different... completely, totally different. To be able to feel it mentally, as well as physically, was... magical. He smiled at the compliment, leading her willingly closer into his mind as well as his body.
<...Don't ask how you do it,> she finished with gentle laughter in her mind. <I won't. It would take the magic out of it, I think.> John smiled again into the kiss, letting out a mental sigh as the door buzzed again.
"Let me try... Johnny? John, open the door, it's Lizzie."
He pulled away slightly, lightly brushing dark hair back from her face and caressing her cheek with a reluctant sigh of despair.
"Never fails." Delenn laughed, rising from the bed and suddenly looking around the room. "Something wrong?" His tone held concern, but she shook her head and smiled sheepishly.
"No, it's nothing. I was just thinking - how strange it is to be back on solid ground after this morning." He grinned, laughing, as she passed him a robe from the closet and extended a hand. Taking it in his, Sheridan lifted himself to stand next to her and wrapped the warmth of the towelling around him. Their journey had been comfortable - he hadn't expected space to be warm, but there it was - but now he was cold, for some reason. He glanced over at Delenn, now watching him from the door of the bedroom with some amusement.
She smiled. "You. You look lost, my love. Come here." She beckoned him to her, neither needing any encouragement for the tender embrace as they stepped out into the main room. Delenn sat on the couch, tying her robe a little tighter and watching her lover with a teasing glint in her eyes as he gave her a pointed glance of amusement and turned to open the door. Before he could get words out, the portal swung upwards and inwards to reveal an extremely frustrated Susan Ivanova. Franklin - whose emergency identicard had opened the door - and Lyta weren't far behind. Liz came in last, hurriedly followed by Lennier, who looked almost as if he'd run the length of the station to reach the informal meeting.
"Didn't I say 'Do Not Disturb'?" Sheridan teased. "Just what exactly do you think that means, Commander?"
Ivanova grimaced. "With all due respect for your privacy, Captain - Delenn," she noted with a slight nod in her direction, "I do not appreciate having my mind messed with. Particularly today, when I find out that the Captain *I* thought was talking to me is actually here, in his quarters, on his way to being registered a medical emergency!" Sheridan frowned, then remembered the conversation he - Delenn - had heard in the corridor and grinned sheepishly, looking down at his lover and fighting back laughter.
<You were anything but ill last night,> she teased, her eyes full of amusement. He turned away with an admonishing glance, refusing point-blank to laugh at the mental comment. He disappeared into the kitchen, easily finding his way around and ignoring the curious, wonder-filled glances from Franklin.
"And to cap it all," Ivanova was saying as she followed him, "just when I get told about this, we start getting weird energy readings from outside the station, then the planet, and the next thing I know the whole sector's gone haywire!"
"Yes, we're sorry about that," Delenn muttered loudly, contained amusement in her tone. Ivanova's head snapped round, staring at her friend.
"That was *you?*"
Sheridan grinned sheepishly. "We went for a walk."
Franklin came toward him then, never removing his gaze from Sheridan's face. He turned, saw the doctor, and frowned slightly. The rest of the visitors - with the exception of Ivanova, still advancing on Delenn - were staring at him in disbelief.
"What's wrong?" He turned his gaze on Delenn, confused. "Did I do something really strange this time?" His lover watched him for a moment, uncomprehending, and then suddenly laughed. He raised his eyebrows, silently asking for elaboration. She hid the laughter behind her hand, catching his eyes and simply smiling.
"They're shocked because... well, by all rights, my love, you should be blind." He gasped suddenly, remembering, and then frowned at her expression as she enjoyed the surprise on his face. He approached the couch with her drink and his, but no one seemed to have got over the shock long enough to reach for the mugs he left on the counter. Sheridan sat down beside her, smiling as she curled her legs up onto the seat and settled against his side.
"Not going anywhere for a while, are you?" Her tone implied that he wasn't, and he readily bowed to her authority with a smile.
"I guess not." Delenn smiled, satisfied, and glanced up at their guests.
"Sit down, please." They moved slowly, as if in a daze, and she smiled reassuringly. "Have we suddenly become Shadows, and no one has thought to inform either of us?"
Sheridan grinned at the effect that had; Lennier sat immediately, and only Liz remained standing after the others followed suit. Even she took a seat after bringing over the drinks; a lightly soothing tea Delenn had brought with her, and she thanked her lover privately for his choice.
<Don't mention it.> He lifted one arm from his side to encircle her waist, gently drawing the warmth of her body and mind as close as possible. <They need it, from the way they all look.> Delenn gave her silent agreement to that idea.
"John." Liz was the first to speak, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "Can I ask a question?" He shrugged, taking a sip of tea and relishing the taste.
"Sure, go ahead. Just-"
"-Don't expect us to know the answer," Delenn finished with a glimmer in her eyes. He looked down and nodded with a small smile.
"Go on, whatever it is. We promise to try, anyway." His sister seemed vaguely uncomfortable with the 'We' meaning her brother and his fiancee, but Delenn didn't care; after the morning they'd had, nothing could have dampened her spirits.
"It's pretty general: I just would like to know exactly why we're here. I mean, there's obviously nothing wrong with you..." She turned to Franklin, confusion evident on her face, and left the rest of the question unasked. Sheridan laughed ruefully. "It's pretty general: I just would like to know exactly why we're here. I mean, there's obviously nothing wrong with you..." She turned to Franklin, confusion evident on her face, and left the rest of the question unasked. Sheridan laughed ruefully.
"I'd like nothing better than an answer to that question. I did leave *specific* instructions that we were *not to be disturbed,*" he frowned good-naturedly at his exec, "but obviously some people thought something was wrong. Can I - can we," his gaze again turned to Delenn as her thoughts touched his, "please assure everyone that everything's okay?"
"There really is nothing to be concerned about," she agreed. "We're both fine - more than fine, we..." Words failed as she tried to explain, and she scowled for a second before he squeezed her hand with a calming touch.
"Delenn isn't really sure what to say... and to be honest, neither am I. I know what you want me to say; that I have a rational explanation for this," he passed a hand over his eyes, "but I don't. Or I do, perhaps, but you, uh..." He grinned again at Delenn. "You wouldn't believe it. And I wouldn't tell you," he added hurriedly at her 'don't-you-dare' expression. "Not some parts, anyway-"
"John!" She frowned in embarrassment, but he only shrugged.
<Not ashamed of your performance, are you?>
<Do you *know* how fast rumours start on this station?!>
<I thought you didn't mind the rumours.>
<I mind *those* kinds.>
Ivanova followed the mental exchange with narrowed eyes; sitting slightly away from the other visitors, she could concentrate more easily. She glanced at Lyta; the other telepath seemed to be having difficulties reading the couple and Susan frowned. If a P... well, if Lyta couldn't hear their thoughts, then why did she, barely a P1, pick them up so clearly? Delenn and John seemed unaware of her watching mind, making hardly any attempts to block her out. The majority of their consciousness was obscured, but Susan could feel no animosity toward her in the shields. They were natural, she guessed, not the clumsy walls she had so often seen around the minds of normals. These were smooth, unyielding and yet at the same time flexible to each other. In some places they formed a mist, losing her senses in the fog, while in others they were a solid dome of silver, locked to any intruders: but the shields changed from time to time, flowing and moving against each other. It took some time, during which she was barely aware of the quiet conversation, to realise that there were actually two minds behind the shields she could feel. She noticed the differing colours for the first time, feeling the warm gold tendrils wind around and through the smooth silver, gently rebuffing her attempts at further contact.
"Susan," Delenn's kind, quiet voice broke her from the trance, "if you wish to know something, why do you not just ask?" Ivanova looked down and blushed slightly, embarrassed for her lack of courtesy. *Especially considering how much you hate having people poke your mind, Susan. Have a little respect!* In the midst of her self-admonishment, she felt a touch on her own thoughts, shying away even though it felt familiar.
<Frightened of me?> Delenn smiled across the room at her friend. <Surely you know my mind by now.> Ivanova frowned, worry clouding her thoughts.
"I, uh... Could you..." She gestured, feeling more comfortable with a verbal conversation. Delenn nodded in understanding.
"I'm sorry, it's not very polite to do that. I was... talking, to - never mind." She smiled apologetically at the rest of the group. "Where were we?"
"Discussing how you... I think it was you... did this." Sheridan smiled gratefully into her eyes, motioning to his own. "I'd love to know." She laughed in apology.
"So would I! Unfortunately, I don't know. I certainly couldn't do it again."
"You don't know that," Franklin protested. "If we could find out what you did..."
"Oh, come on, Stephen. You know what they did," Ivanova interrupted in amusement. Her captain shot her a dagger sharp look; Delenn glanced away, a little embarrassed at the outright comment. The Doctor's eyes narrowed in confusion, then widened considerably in comprehension.
"You get it now?" Ivanova's voice was sarcastic. "Leave it alone, right?" Delenn smiled, half in embarrassment and half in thanks for the abrupt ending to that topic.
"There is no point to discussing... that," she smiled wider, involuntarily. "I really don't know what I did, supposing it was my influence at all. And yes, I suppose it might be possible to repeat it, but I refuse to have you blinded again for the purpose." She frowned mock-sternly at Sheridan, and he nodded seriously in agreement.
"But if we could just find out how you did it, it might be possible that the process could be duplicated-"
"No." Sheridan tightened his arms around Delenn, protecting. "You heard her, Stephen. Neither of us is going into that area of tests. End of conversation."
"John, you should be a little more hospitable," Delenn reminded him chidingly. He grimaced, nodding slowly as he placed the empty tea cup on the coffee table.
"Yeah, I know. It's been a long morning, though-"
"*You've* had a long morning?" Ivanova laughed incredulously. "What have you two been doing?" She realised the question after it was out, as Lennier looked away and Franklin and Lyta suddenly found interesting things to do with the remains of their tea. Liz simply raised her eyebrows, watching intently for the reaction. Sheridan laughed.
"No, actually, we haven't been. You wouldn't believe what we've done this morning." He grinned at the curious faces. "Suspend your disbelief for the moment, okay?" Looking down at Delenn, he smiled, eyes glinting. "Have you ever seen space from outside a ship?"
The query elicited mixed reactions; mainly assents or denials, but Ivanova's eyes widened at the prospect as she caught Delenn's mental hint.
"From... outside? As in, without a ship?" Sheridan nodded, his eyes gleaming. "Without a suit?"
"Don't be stupid, Susan." Franklin spoke up in incredulity. "Of course with a suit. It's impossible to survive - you'd die within minutes!" Delenn set her head on John's shoulder, burying the laughter in his robe.
"Only the body, Stephen. Energy doesn't die, remember. Elementary physics." He grinned. "All consciousness is just energy, on a basic level, right?"
"Well, yes. The psi energy used to fire the synapses in the brain, the energy storing memories and imprints in the mind-"
"So what if you could separate the energy from the body?" That question gained a round of 'crazy', but Sheridan just kept grinning. "You remember Lorien, Stephen. A being composed entirely of energy, yet he could make his physical shape as solid as you or me. So what if that can be done the other way around?"
"It's impossible," Franklin countered. "You'd need to be a lifeform thousands of years more advanced that us! And even then, even supposing it *was* only the consciousness removed, it would take tremendous amounts of energy to even attempt it. You'd never be able to adapt back; it would be ludicrous to even try."
"Oops." Sheridan grinned. "We didn't know that at the time."
"*What!*" Franklin stared at him, jumping from his seat to pace the room. "With all due respect, Captain, Delenn; that's crazy! Now I know you're in love, and maybe everything seems easy at the moment, but it-"
"Nothing is impossible," Delenn said quietly. "Nothing at all." Franklin simply shook his head, laughing in amazement.
"Delenn, it's not in the Human genetic make up to be able to do that, or the Minbari for that matter. You simply... aren't able!"
"Oh?" Delenn stood slowly, carefully placing her tea cup next to Sheridan's on the table and offering both hands to him. He took them without hesitation, stepping close to her with a quiet smile.
"What are we going to do?"
She smiled gently. "Just follow me; let me lead you. You trust me, yes?" He shrugged, lightening the mood.
"I trust myself. It's the same thing, isn't it?" Delenn smiled in amusement and nodded. Her hands, clasping his, released and she stepped back to give them both more room. He followed her into the area between his kitchen and couch, then stood looking at her as she slowly brought her hands up to take his again. The silver shields dropped completely, and his mind bonded instantly with hers as their love closed in around them. It kept them both safe, away from the deafening mental noise of the station, until the joining between them was complete, seamless. Delenn backed away ever so slightly, keeping her hands in his as she opened her eyes and smiled blissfully. Their friends were watching with rapt attention, and she reached out a small part of her mind to touch each of them.
<Now, you see it's true.> Sheridan opened his eyes and smiled down at her, adding his own voice to the assurances.
<Now you see; Love conquers all. Even death.> Delenn caught his gaze and laughed joyously, coming eagerly into his arms as the golden bronze aura surrounded her. Her own silver mist intermingled with his, until the two minds flowed away from their hosts and filled the room with shining laughter.
<Now do you see?>
* * * * *
Franklin stood outside the isolab, talking seriously with Liz Sheridan as her brother and his fiance watched from inside. She was shaking her head, the shock still evident on her face, and John frowned. *Asking about the family history, most likely,* he decided. He slipped his mind briefly out of the room to check, earning a soft admonishment from Delenn.
"John, Stephen said we were to engage in no telepathic activity." She scowled half-heartedly at her lover as he dropped back and toyed idly with the bed they were seated on. Pulling himself up cross-legged on the pillow, he sighed.
"Yeah, well, I'm getting bored in here." Delenn gave him a mock-serious expression of injury.
"I did not think I was that terrible company." Her soft smile made his frown disappear and he sighed ruefully, pulling her close into his arms.
"Oh, honey, you're not; I'm just a little stir crazy - I wish he'd talk to *us* and not *them.*" He gestured to Lennier and Liz through the transparent barrier. "And we can't even do anything in here!" Delenn smiled mischievously, touching his cheek with a teasing hand.
"He didn't say we couldn't do *anything,*" she murmured seductively. He laughed, shaking his head and leaning forward to set a playful kiss on her lips as she came more comfortably into his lap.
"Why did nobody tell me Minbari had such high sex drives? I could have gotten this relationship to move a hell of a lot faster." He was teasing; Delenn shrugged.
"Ivanova told me to watch out for Human men; she said you were 'only after one thing'. I wasn't quite sure what she meant by that... but now I understand." At his play-injured expression, Delenn laughed and kissed him once more before sliding from the bed. Sheridan followed her quickly, seeing the sparkle in her emerald gaze as he caught her around the waist and her laughter filled the room. She turned into his arms, settling quickly and kissing him again. It wasn't particularly prolonged, but enough for Liz to cough politely in the middle of her conversation with Franklin, interrupting his rhetoric of questions.
"They're obviously in a good mood. John was never like that with Anna, that I remember."
"Delenn can be a very... inspirational force, I believe." Lennier spoke up softly. Franklin coughed more loudly and nodded.
"Uh, yes. Mr. Lennier, I think I have all the information I need on her condition. Thank you for your co-operation. If there is anything else, I'll be sure to let you know. I may also request that the Ambassador take a few days leave - when convenient, obviously. As a matter of course."
"Whatever you believe best, Doctor. Thank you." The young Minbari nodded, bowing politely to both Liz and Franklin before departing MedLab. He passed Marcus on the way through; the Ranger seemed far too engrossed in the report he was holding to pay more than a distracted greeting. He stopped dead before Franklin and Liz, glancing impatiently toward the isolab. Sheridan and Delenn seemed too preoccupied to notice his presence, but he could tell from their veiled expressions that they both longed for release.
"Stephen, how long have you had them cooped up in there?" he demanded. "These aren't lab rats you're dealing with, remember. I'm surprised neither of them has tried any retribution on you by now - I came by two hours ago and nothing's changed. How many tests are you running, for God's sake?"
<More than necessary, I know that much,> was Sheridan's immediate, chagrined response. <Let us out of here *now,* Stephen, before I get really cranky.>
<We wouldn't want that,> Delenn answered with forced humour before turning her own anger on Franklin. <Why was it necessary to put us in isolation to begin with? We don't pose a threat to the station...> She frowned in concern and surprise as Zack entered the room with a worried expression, hearing her comment. <You cannot believe that! Neither of us would ever do anything to harm this place!> She stepped forward - Sheridan put an arm around her shoulders, calming her agitation. He whispered something in her ear; she sighed and nodded, looking down. Squeezing her shoulders affectionately, he punched the intercom between their isolation and the MedLab outside.
"Are you going to let us out, Stephen? Or do you really need to keep us both caged up to perform your tests?" Without glancing at Delenn, he added, "We'd rather find out for ourselves about these talents than go through anything else, thank you." Pointed gazes followed Franklin from both 'captives', Liz Sheridan and Marcus. Zack looked slightly concerned, but the door cycled open despite his silent protest and Sheridan stepped out. He kept one arm around Delenn; Marcus suspected it was at least half for restraint against the anger building inside her. He had experience enough to know that Minbari had vicious tempers and Delenn was no exception - if anything her fire was worse than many, even despite the direction she found for it being the correct one.
"About time." The Captain scowled in very real anger. "You'd better have something conclusive to show for this, Stephen - or I might just let this little lady go for a while." His threat was covered with a smile as he looked down at Delenn, and only half serious, but agitation was clear. Franklin beckoned them to the door, gathering various prints and screens before following them out.
"This is going to take a long while to explain, so I thought we could go somewhere comfortable. Earhart's?"
"Civilians aren't allowed inside Earhart's," Zack protested. Sheridan turned and raised his eyebrows with a slightly malicious grin.
"Are you calling Entil'zha a civilian, Zack?"
"No, Sir," came the snap reply. Sheridan's grin turned to one of amusement.
"Good." Pride evident in his features, the Captain looked down at his lover. "Because that would be completely the wrong end of the scale, would it not?" Delenn smiled, resting her head lightly on his shoulder as they walked along, her anger subsiding.
"I suppose. I don't have the most... settled of careers." Controlled laughter answered that as they hid away in their own private conversation. They veered off to Delenn's quarters eventually, it being the nearest residence. The matter of their telepathy was judged 'too sensitive' by the Security Chief, and Sheridan agreed in all honesty. He also preferred being in private with his fiancee, which had some small part in his choice.
"I'm sorry, I don't have much in the way of lunch at the moment; we could order something, if anyone is hungry, but I would prefer not to have to cook." Delenn looked around with an apologetic smile, grateful for the assents of people having already eaten. John was a little hungry, she could tell, but he assured her privately that it was nothing that couldn't wait for a while. He helped her prepare the drinks as Franklin laid out his report on the low table, Marcus and Zack sinking into a couch as Liz stood uncomfortably to the side.
"John, for Valen's sake go and make her relax. Convince her that I honestly am not a monster?" Delenn's pleading expression was nigh on impossible for him to resist, and he nodded sympathetically with a soft kiss. His arms slid from around her waist; she followed him with her gaze across the room as he sat and beckoned Liz to his side. A minute later, Delenn joined them with a tray of drinks, gratefully received by every guest. She sat gracefully beside her fianc, instinctively settling closer when his arm came around her.
"So, Doc: what have we got? And it better be good enough to warrant that *examination.*" Sheridan seemed serious and from his expression, only Delenn could tell that his anger was fading. He enjoyed watching Franklin squirm after the exam he'd put them both through, and Delenn was beginning to see the benefit. It certainly made him more relaxed - and that wasn't a bad thing, by any means.
"Much of what I can tell you I think you already know. However, you might be interested to know that these... these gifts of yours, are natural. Although they do resemble, to a small extent, those of a person taking massive quantities of dust. No, I'm not saying you're both drug addicts," he added immediately at Sheridan's incredulous features. "I'm the last one to be making that judgement - and I can find no trace of any contaminants in either of your systems."
"Because we haven't taken any," Sheridan interrupted pointedly.
"Exactly. But it is a useful example - just hear me out," he protested as the Captain began to speak. Delenn laid a hand on her lover's arm, giving her assent to listen and he nodded, turning back to Franklin.
"Uh, you were saying?" The Doctor bowed his head, glancing at Delenn to include her.
"The way your talents are developing is very similar to the way drugs enhance telepathy. Every time dust is injected or taken into the system in some way, the hit has to be larger in order to give an effect. But each time, the effect it gives is larger than the one before - encouraging the user to keep taking it. The same thing seems to be happening with your talents. Every time you use the abilities you have fully, say this morning, new talents are formed. The 'hit' gets bigger, for lack of a better metaphor. This shows up in your neural pathways; I compared your previous scans to those I took just now and the results are very different. You have areas of your brains that have never been active before - at least consciously - that are suddenly working overtime on these new abilities you have. I can't understand how it can be completely natural: up until now we've only ever seen minute amounts of this activity in dust addicts, and never in a healthy adult of any species. I will need to do some more research - no more testing," he assured them both at the Captain's torturous glare, "but what I've gathered will need some study. And I may need to review the medical you were given after you came back from Z'Ha'Dum, Captain. It seems that whatever Lorien did was over a short-term period."
"Whoa." Liz looked up at the conversation's turn. "What exactly are we talking about here? Came back from where? You've mentioned that place before."
"Z'Ha'Dum." Delenn's skin went cold at the name. "He went to Z'Ha'Dum, the homeworld of the Shadows... and he-" John's hand covered hers, gently making her quiet.
"Don't do that to yourself, love. I'm here now, and I'm never going away again." He smiled reassuringly, turning back to his sister, but his arms encircled Delenn and refused to let go. "I went to the Shadow homeworld, like Delenn said. While I was there, I was injured. I died." He rushed on, not wanting to see Liz's reaction. "Lorien, the First One, the oldest sentient in the Universe, sav- No. What was it he said? 'He cannot create life, but he can breathe on the remaining embers.' But he didn't save me. Delenn did that." For a moment he stopped, and she could feel the emotions turning through his mind. Love, respect, gratitude, devotion, the list was endless... His love was endless.
"Lorien told me - told us, after Delenn saw me - that I wouldn't live as long as I would have done. He said... I only have twenty years. It's a good run, even if it's not what we planned: enough time to see the repercussions of this war through, to marry - at last -" he smiled tenderly at Delenn, "certainly enough to be together, to build something; maybe even a family. That's all I care about any more." He wouldn't look at Delenn, couldn't, knowing that if he did he wouldn't contain the feelings in his mind. Alone, it didn't matter, but he couldn't break down - for any reason - in front of Marcus and Lennier and Zack and Franklin... and Liz. He knew, beyond doubt, that the twenty year sentence had been lifted; but the words didn't seem to come out, and so he sat and held Delenn as they both struggled to reconcile what had been the hardest part of their relationship to come to terms with.
"Let me get this straight." Liz's voice was strained, tearful. "You're saying you're going to die in twenty years? John, that's barely any time... what you could have had..."
"I will have. I went willingly to Z'Ha'Dum - I knew there'd be a price. I even accepted it; it was twenty years more than I'd have had otherwise, and I was thankful to have at least that." He saw his sister's expression and sighed, looking down to release one arm from Delenn and take Liz's hand. "Don't worry about it. I-"
"Don't worry?! You're my brother, you're going to die, and you tell me not to worry!?" She tried to pull away, but his grip tightened on her fingers.
"I'm not going to die, Liz. Not now. That's what you were going to tell us, isn't it?" He turned to Franklin. "The 'things' Lorien put in my system: they're gone, aren't they? I'm healthy again." The Doctor nodded, frowning in confusion and excitement.
"You're more than healthy: I can't find any trace of problems or deterioration in either of your cells." He paused, ready to explain from the beginning. "Everyone ages minutely each day; every second, your cells die and aren't replaced, your brain loses certain pathways - your body ages. But for some reason I can't find, you don't. Either of you." He looked at Delenn; she didn't seem surprised, somehow, and neither did Sheridan. Franklin shrugged incredulously and continued. He was beyond unbelievability now. "It's as if you suddenly just - stopped ageing. Completely. It's impossible, but you seem to have done it. You're both in perfect running order - and I mean perfect. Nothing wrong with even one cell, and no sign that there ever has been." As he lapsed into silence, searching through the documents spread before him, Zack spoke up, leaning forward and shaking his head in confusion.
"Wait a minute, Doc. You're saying they're *immortal?*"
Franklin nodded silently, coughing hard to be able to get the words out.
"That... would be basically what I mean, yes."
That caused some reaction; Sheridan had imagined it would, but didn't really mind. He simply held Delenn, his lips close to her ear as he whispered his own personal reaction to the news. She smiled, cuddling under his embrace and returning the warm gratitude.
<I wish they weren't here,> she sent privately. <I think this would be a good opportunity to have you get used to a Minbari-style bed.> Concealing laughter, Sheridan hugged her tighter and silently agreed.
<I've often wondered what Minbari were like when it comes to... personal matters. I wasn't really expecting you to be so open...> She protested that comment.
<I would hardly call private, shielded telepathy 'open', would you?>
<Physical, then. And you certainly are.> A knowing grin accompanied his voice.
<If you think I can be physical now... Well, you have the rest of eternity to find out just how sexual I can be.> She smiled, and he growled at the quiet temptation in her words. <Later, my love. We have forever; don't be so impatient.>
<I could spend forever making love with you,> he retorted with a soft frown. <Why waste it?>
"*No one* is immortal," Liz stated firmly. "We'd all like to be, but face it: the solid truth is that everyone dies, eventually."
"Not them." Franklin motioned to the couple, now attending the conversation with quiet smiles. "They may begin to age again; in a few minutes, a few days, months, maybe even years. Or, they may not. I can't tell-"
"We won't." Delenn's voice was firm. "I don't know how I know, but I'm certain of it. As certain as I am that we will never lose each other, to anything." She looked up at her lover and sighed. "I'm sorry I can't give a more logical answer, but that is the only answer I have. It will have to be enough, until the Universe decides to reveal its reasoning in this matter."
"What the hell does that mean?" Liz was angry now and although she tried to resist it, Delenn could feel that this wasn't going to end without an argument. "What kind of crap is that? 'The Universe reveals its reasoning.' The Universe doesn't have reasoning! It's not a person, it doesn't do things on purpose-"
"Liz," Sheridan cautioned. She shook her head adamantly.
"No, you stay out of this, John. She knows what's going on, what's happening to you, and she isn't telling you."
"That's bullshit," he snapped back. "I know Delenn better than you can imagine. She doesn't understand what's going on any more than I do, and she's just as scared of whatever it is. But that gives you no right to start undermining her beliefs, no matter what you think." His sister turned away, her head shaking as the normally warm, kind demeanour finally and completely slipped. Franklin discreetly gathered his material, beckoning Zack and Marcus hurriedly through the door. Sheridan saw them leave, noting the message Marcus left on the edge of the coffee table as he departed the heated scene. He was about to call them back: seeing the anger in Liz's face, he reconsidered. It wouldn't be fair on anyone to have them here when she blew - which was going to be soon.
"I can't believe you would do this, Johnny! After Anna, after all you did for each other, you let it all go for a *Minbari?* I've never been racist, you know that, but-"
"You're certainly starting now," he interrupted with a snarl. "You can have whatever complaints you like about my relationship with Delenn, and I will deal with them all until you have nothing left to protest with, but you can*not* use her race against her! The Minbari are a good people, better than a lot of Humans, and I will *not* have you saying things like that about them! *Especially* the woman I love!"
"John..." Delenn stood, coming up behind where he had approached his sister and placing a hand on his arm. "Please, leave it alone..."
"No." He looked down, his anger disappearing for the time he saw her face. "No, I can't. This has to be sorted now, Delenn. Before it gets out of control. She has to understand how much I love you."
"Then *show* her," Delenn pleaded. "Please don't fight like this, not over me. Don't let that happen, John. Tell her, show her how much we love each other, but don't fight over it. It isn't worth the anger."
"How can you say that?" He covered her hand with his, urgency in his grasp. "Everything we've been through, and now you say it isn't worth it? Tell me you don't believe that, Delenn. You can't give up on us, not now-"
"I didn't say that I would." She took his hands in both of hers, holding him tightly in place. "I would never give up on our love - but that doesn't mean I would use it as an excuse to fight over something so long past."
"What are you talking about?" Liz shook her head at Delenn, looking up at her brother as he pulled the other woman against him. "She's crazy, John. She's talking nonsense."
"No, I'm not." Delenn kept her voice quiet. "I do not want to argue. But I can see why you do, and it has nothing to do with my presence."
"It has everything to do with your presence! She was my best friend, don't you know that?! They were happy, they could have been happy again if it wasn't for you-"
"That's not fair," Sheridan protested. "You don't know the whole picture, Liz, you don't understand."
"I understand enough to know that she made you kill Anna!" The words cut through him like a knife, and he was vaguely aware of Delenn sinking onto the couch in shock; suddenly bereft of the only stability, the only comfort he had, he looked down at her.
And saw the horrible truth of those words, reflected in her tear-filled eyes. He closed his eyes for a second; pushing back tears, he ignored his sister and dropped onto his knees in front of Delenn, taking her hands firmly in his and gently stroking her skin.
"It wasn't your fault, Delenn. You didn't make me do it, I swear. I would have done it without what you said, without everything you taught me."
"No. No, you wouldn't have. You would never have had to make that choice, if I hadn't hidden it from you, if I hadn't wanted to - to keep you here, denied you the right to choose. I loved you too much, I wanted to protect you... I'm sorry..." She drew herself up tightly onto the couch, tears falling silently as she turned her gaze from him. He forced back his own tears and the anger welling up at the sight of her; the forceful, passionate Delenn he knew, curled helplessly in a foetal ball and crying as if her heart would break.
"Hey, shhh, it's okay..." He slid onto the couch beside her, enveloping her in his arms and rocking her gently as the tears began to fall harder, her frail body shaking against his embrace. "It's okay, it's all right now, honey. Everything's fine; you did the right thing, I promise. I don't blame you for what you did, I never will. It's all right, sweetheart." He could barely see Liz, sitting silently across from him as she watched the scene with guilt in her eyes. She'd never meant to get Delenn this upset, never wanted to hurt either of them so badly...
Sheridan held his lover as the tears dried, feeling her control return somewhat as she buried her face in his shoulder. He understood the embarrassment she felt; she was stronger than anyone he'd known, and she didn't like showing weakness to anyone. It was hard enough for her to reveal her pain and hurt to him - even after the last time she had cried in his arms, he had gotten the feeling of resistance, that she was holding back more than she could show to him. It had been years, maybe all her life, since there had been someone there to turn to - someone to hold her and comfort her. Everything she'd been through during the past, since the war, had been bottled up inside for so long that he hadn't been sure how much it would take to remove the anguish from her mind. Now he knew; he could see it in her incoherent thoughts, feeling her huddle closer to hide the shame and guilt away.
<I'm here, sweetheart, I'm here. It's alright. Just let it go, it's okay. I love you, Delenn. I love you. Everything's okay now. I'm here for you. I love you, honey. Please believe that...> The words made her tears return, so similar to her own on the day of his leaving. <Oh, I'm sorry, darling. I love you, I wouldn't hurt you.>
It was all he needed. Gathering her into his lap, he kissed her forehead gently before tucking her head under his chin and rocking her against him, cradling her shaking body to his. She was cold, shivering despite the warmth of the room; he stroked her hair, trying to calm her.
<I love you, Delenn. My love, my wonderful, darling love; you mean more to me than anything. I love you much, much more than anyone can imagine. I swear, I swear on anything in my world, you mean so much to me...> That was all she wanted, and he knew it; the sound of his voice, quietly reassuring her that he still wanted her, still loved her as much as he always had. It was the only thing she needed to hear; so it was the only thing he said to her until the tears stopped completely and she sat motionless in his arms.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"It's okay." His voice was gentle, muffled in her hair. "You needed that, you know. Maybe you didn't want it to happen now, but at least it's over." She nodded silently, a weak smile on her features.
"I don't think it will happen again. It is over, as you say." She didn't move, her voice quiet against his chest. "Is she still here?" He nodded, feeling a soft sigh in her mind.
"Do you want me to go?" Liz spoke up for the first time, and Delenn looked up to find the other woman standing over her, a hesitant hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say those things... I'm sorry," she repeated in a soft voice. Uncurling slightly in John's arms, Delenn studied his sister; for the first time, she realised the other woman was crying. That wasn't quite the right word, but to Delenn's exhausted thoughts it was the only one that came to mind. A soft tear ran down Liz's cheek: her brother smiled at Delenn's silent forgiveness and reached up a hand to pull the unprotesting sibling down to his side. He kept one arm tightly around his fiancee, sliding the other along the back of the couch and hugging his sister affectionately. The scene seemed slightly absurd to his mind, for some reason, but he ignored the feeling in favour of the light pressure of Delenn on his lap and the warmth of Lizzie beside him.
"It's been a long time since you sat like this, hasn't it?" Delenn smiled knowingly, and Liz couldn't help but marvel at the depth of her understanding. No one she knew had ever understood her brother that well, to see the disguised content in his face and hear it his in voice. *Even Anna,* she confessed to herself.
<Thank you, although I'm not sure if that is appropriate,> Delenn murmured quietly. It took Liz a moment to realise where the words had come from; enough time for John to tighten his grip on her as a wave of shock brought realisation and she almost pulled away.
"It's okay, Lizzie." He grinned and squeezed her shoulders in reassurance. <You'd better get used to it: I think you'll hear a lot more of us like this from now on.> She shook her head, as if to clear it, and frowned disbelievingly.
"I don't care who you are - I don't want you poking about in my brain. That goes for you too, Johnny." Delenn nodded in apology.
"I know, I'm sorry. It's just hard to block strong thoughts at the moment, I'm tired - and being in such close proximity..." She trailed off, searching for a way to explain. John shrugged, touching her hair and idly running his fingers across her crown.
"She feels what I feel," he said eventually. Liz's eyes narrowed in confusion.
"What does that mean?"
Her brother grinned. "Exactly what I said. It's kind of like.. mixing two separate liquids and then sharing them out again - say water and oil. Split the mixture in half and when they separate out again you end up with equal amounts of them both, in each container. That's what it's like for us." Delenn laughed quietly, turning her gaze from Liz to John Sheridan.
"I don't know if I like that idea. Being compared to water and oil doesn't sound very appealing."
<Like being energy didn't,> he teased. She blushed slightly, remembering his passionate convincing on that metaphor. "How about if I started talking about souls, would that be better?" At her disparaging look, he grinned. "I thought not. Too complicated for today." She nodded fervently.
"I am far too tired for a conversation about the state of my soul, thank you." She frowned, about to close her eyes, and pointed. "What's that?" She reached forward, taking the flimsy sheet in one hand and bringing it up close to read. Sheridan grimaced at the text, shaking his head and emitting a low growl.
"Just when we got things sorted, finally. Why does this sort of thing always happen to us?" Delenn sighed, slowly rising from the comfort of her position.
"I sometimes wonder." At her irritated expression, he smiled ruefully.
"Well, no rest for the wicked, I suppose." Liz smiled at the reference and Delenn's apparent lack of understanding, before Sheridan stood hurriedly and she spread her hands wide in confusion.
"What's wrong? What does it say?"
"We got a distress signal. From Bester's ship." Sheridan narrowed his eyes at the name. "He's got some Shadow force tracking him and he wants our 'assistance'."
"Which we will give," Delenn added forcefully. Her lover turned incredulously.
"If only to destroy the Shadows' allies, we will go." She sounded as if the decision was already made. He held her gaze for a moment, then looked down and nodded at the logic of her statement.
"Ivanova won't be happy - not if we give Bester any help." Delenn shrugged, and he smiled at the Humanity in her gesture.
"It is not Ivanova's choice. It is ours, and we will go. Yes?" He grinned: the confirmation was merely formality - they both knew who had made the decision.
"Yes. But let me bawl out Marcus first." She shook her head in despair, then nodded and cast a glance at Liz.
"I'm sorry, we have to..."
"Of course." She smiled brightly, tapping her brother lightly on the arm to say goodbye. He waved a hand distractedly back at her, intent on the report. Delenn gave her an apologetic smile and bowed quickly as the BabCom came online and Liz discreetly left the room.
"Why didn't you tell us this before?!" Sheridan waved the sheet at Marcus' image. The Ranger gave an apologetic wince as he tried to explain.
"I figured you could do with hearing what Stephen had to say first, and then.... Anyway, I thought it might be helpful in dealing with Mr. Bester; he is a telepath, and you... well, you are telepaths now. And another hour or two will hardly make a difference. It's not as if he's actually under attack. Not yet. Besides, it said to wait for further instructions." He frowned. "A little weird, don't you think?"
"Great." Sheridan looked down to Delenn at his side and sighed. She smiled ruefully.
"No rest for the wicked."
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