ALTERATIONS (III): MINDS DO MUCH MORE THAN THINK
'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'll be arriving at the rendezvous point specified in five hours. That should give you enough time to determine what's going on. Have you heard any more from Bester since we left?" On the screen, Ivanova shook her head.
"Nothing. Two days of silence - only the one message telling you to go." She sighed. "I don't like this, John. I never liked the guy, you know that, but-"
"You tried to kill him," Sheridan replied with a hint of sarcasm. She winced ruefully.
"Yeah, well. All the same, this doesn't feel right. I hope you find someone still alive when you get there." Sheridan raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Don't tell me you actually *tolerate* Bester now? You have had a change of heart. I thought you hated Psi Corps."
"Hey, I do; but with everything we've heard about Clark's forces, I'm starting to wonder if this isn't a trap. Knowing Bester he's probably in on it, and we could do with knowing everything we can about what's going on back home. What with this embargo, it's getting really tight around here. Reliable information dried up twenty four hours ago - lately, you wouldn't believe some of the stuff I've been hearing." Sheridan nodded with a rueful grin, seeing the logic in her reasoning. A soft voice at the doorway interrupted his thoughts; he turned, smiling warmly at Delenn. She looked tired, he noticed with an inward grimace. Ivanova seemed to sense the obvious shift in the room, signing off with a discreet goodnight to them both. He absently returned it, offering a hand to his lover as she stepped further inside, the door closing behind her. Her eyes caught his, tired and frustrated, and he didn't need to look at her to know she was barely awake.
"Bad dream, love?" Sheridan's arms wrapped securely around her as she cuddled into his chest, ignoring the screen displaying unseen messages behind her. She didn't answer, but he knew the silence for what it was: a vague attempt to confide in him without making the guilt any worse. He tilted her head to rest comfortably on his shoulder, gently stroking her hair. "Not having a good night, hmm?"
"Only after you left," was the quiet reply. He sighed, forcing down the guilt she knew he would feel. It wasn't a bad price for such a gift, they both admitted, but the problems still made him hate himself for having to leave her sleeping. The only side effect of their union had been Delenn's problems with that. She was fine while he was there holding her - even having him in the room was enough so far - but once her lover was out of eye contact should she wake, Delenn would suffer nightmares that ranged from a simple 'alone, in the dark and frightened' to the vivid, fully real memories of the War. It was those that frightened her more than anything; the first time she had awakened, screaming, in the darkness of his quarters without him there, she had almost gone insane from the fear. It had been the first night waiting for Bester's 'instructions'; almost a week gone by, she realised in distraction. She had no idea how John had reached her that night - she had certainly not been in any condition to open the doors and neither had any recollection of him entering the bedroom - only that they had both been awake then until morning. The next night the same had happened, she remembered all too vividly; she had fallen asleep while they worked and John had put her to bed, returning to finish up the paperwork: only to hear her screams. Again she hadn't slept until John was there, cradling her in his arms and soothing the fear as she cried. Despite her embarrassed protests that it had been a simple case of overwork, John had forced her to take sleeping tablets the third night; after it happened again while she swore - and she had - that she had taken the medication, he had flatly refused to allow her to sleep alone again. In all truthfulness, she had delighted in a reason to move permanently into his quarters: not essentially a problem, as it had become a consideration anyway and John certainly looked none too upset by the notion. There had been the inevitable problems explaining to the command crew about changes in schedules and rumours abounded now about their relationship, even regarding the discretion taken over their engagement, but John had brushed away her protests and cited 'a decent night's sleep' as their reason whenever anyone asked. Only Ivanova knew the real reason, as Delenn had forced herself to tell her friend about the nightmares, but it was the best-kept secret on Babylon 5 and Ivanova wasn't about to break her trust. Or her neck.
Now Sheridan hugged her tightly, gently rocking her in his arms as she tried to pull herself closer to the comforting warmth of his body. With a soft smile, he let his shields go and allowed her into his mind, tenderly closing the barriers behind them until she was completely held, mind, body and soul, in his reassuring embrace.
<What was it this time?> His tone was quiet; she smiled both mentally and physically at his concern, but didn't answer. He gave her the time she needed, lifting them both easily over to one of the seats and settling down, Delenn on his lap, to listen.
<Not as bad as the others.> Her 'voice' was soft, calm, and he let out a sigh of relief. <It wasn't about the War, just the usual Babylon 5 crises. It started in Grey Sector, but there was nothing really awful... I was alone, that was all that scared me. I'm sorry.> He sighed in mock despair, reached down to caress her light skin and whispered against her hair,
"Delenn, you know by now that you don't need to apologise for this. If anything it should be me who does that; if it wasn't for my-"
<Shh. No more.> She wasn't ready to speak aloud, and tiredness made it easier to communicate mind-to-mind. <This is no one's fault, and it's a low price to pay for what we have. Please, don't let us start this conversation.> Sheridan smiled, admitting the wisdom in her words and falling silent. He remembered the first time that discussion had started. He had speculated on the reasons behind her nightmares: Stephen could find no cause, but his examinations never went as far into Delenn's mind and body as John's did. He knew every single part of her in intimate detail, the good and the bad - and there was far more of the former than the latter. Delenn had wondered at his insistence on taking her to Stephen anyway: he would have known any problems within minutes, without the need for medics and scanners - and she hated hospitals, particularly after her change. John had speculated, afterwards, on the causes. He had drawn it down to being an after-effect of his unintended intrusions into her mind, the very first, brief time he had touched her soul... which only made him feel more guilty. She had finally called a truce admitting that yes, she could have blocked him from her thoughts had she wanted to, but neither could correct the mistake now. Although it had been a painful experience, she secretly doubted it as the real reason for her night terrors. However, John held it as the most credible; that somehow his presence in her mind kept the past in check, releasing her from the dreams and memories that haunted her during the night.
<Still tired? I'm going back to bed now anyway....> It dawned on him that she was only vaguely awake by now, and he laughed quietly before gathering her into his arms and carrying her back to their suite. He refused to undress, smiling sleepily at Delenn's sleeping body before he kicked off his shoes and lay down next to her, huddling tightly into the warmth of her arms.
* * * * *
"Feeling better now?" Sheridan trailed a finger lightly over her back, tracing her spine and smiling as Delenn shivered, cuddled nearer.
"Much better," she agreed with a smile. "No more bad dreams tonight, I don't think." John laughed, leaning to kiss her crown before she shifted further up the bed to return the kiss on his mouth. "No more dreams, in fact."
"Am I really that good?" he teased with a quite laugh. Delenn smiled again, carefully tracing two fingers down his cheek as they lay facing each other.
"You," she leaned forward and kissed him softly, "are perfect. Everything I imagined... *more* than I imagined. I'll never get tired of loving you - physically or otherwise."
"I wouldn't have thought it," he murmured quietly with a remembering grin.
"What does that mean?" At her frown, he placed a light kiss on her open palm and smiled reassuringly.
"Nothing in particular, sweetheart. Just that I remember the first time..." he trailed off with a fond smile. "You were very shy, you know. I wasn't expecting that, and then - I didn't think you'd turn out quite so.. enthusiastic." Delenn looked down, slightly embarrassed.
"I wasn't quite sure what to expect, either. I heard... mention, of what happens when Humans make love. Susan didn't want to explain it; I think she was a little embarrassed about my needing her advice so much." She smiled faintly, vaguely sheepish. "What I heard sounded... I wasn't completely sure if I - I wanted to do that. It frightened me a little."
"It frightened you a lot," he corrected fondly. "Everyone gets nervous their first time, honey. I did."
"You did?" Her voice was incredulous. "But you - I've never seen you frightened. Not even against the Shadows! How could you be?" He shrugged, turning the question back on her.
"How could you have been? In all the years we've been here, I've never once seen you scared - at least I can't think of any. Or was it just the thought of me that got you so rattled?" Delenn laughed, placing a gentle kiss on his lips.
"No, not you. I wasn't very... I don't know the word I'm looking for..."
"Tell me in Minbari." As she went to correct the name of her language, he shook his head and chuckled. "No, I'm going to say Minbari, because I never know which one of the three you're speaking in. At least this way I don't make any horrible mistakes." Delenn laughed softly, pressing her face into his shoulder and placing a light kiss on his tanned skin.
"The expression is 'niy lita'hn jrihn' in my language. It means, um... 'not taught', or something along those lines." She sighed. "I can't explain it." Sheridan shook his head, smiling.
"It's okay. I know what you're trying to say," he grinned, "you mean you were a virgin. Or something like that. Someone who's never had sex before," he amended at her curious smile. Delenn shook her head, and he frowned in surprise. "You weren't?"
"No. Yes." She sighed and looked up. "I've never made love with anyone before you. But it's more than that; I've never known anything about it, except for what I heard when I came to Babylon 5... which wasn't the best source of information."
"I can imagine." He tilted her head to get a good look at her expression. "You really didn't know anything at all, did you? You should have told me, angel. No wonder you were so nervous."
"I trusted you," she answered with a fond smile. "Anything you would do, I didn't think it could be that bad." Sheridan smiled. The memory of her, lying beside him that first night, was so easy to recall...
<Yes, I do.> The words seemed to originate inside his own mind, and John Sheridan smiled; reaching out, he didn't hesitate. His arms tightened around her, lifting her from the floor and carrying her swiftly into the bedroom.
<You are sure about this, Delenn?> He set her carefully down on the bed, gently stroking her dark hair. <I know what you said before, and you did agree to marry me, but I won't do this unless you're sure.> He barely took notice of the fact that she could hear his thoughts now, concentrating on her answer.
"I'm sure. I'm just nervous." She wrapped her arms around his neck, gently kissing his mouth. "I trust you, John. Please?" Hearing her ask for what they both wanted, he returned the tender kiss and easily slipped out of the civilian clothes he wore. Delenn didn't seem surprised - but then she'd seen him like this before, he reminded himself with a grin. In that way, he thanked the explosion that had blinded him.
<Don't think about it,> Delenn pleaded. <I don't want to remember anything right now.> He laughed, leaning down to kiss her again.
<You're very impatient, my angel. Take it slow, there's plenty of time.> She nodded with a sheepish smile, returning his kiss. He sensed the slight tension in her mind, mixing with anticipation and excitement.
"Delenn, are you sure you're alright? I can feel how nervous you are - please don't try to hide it. You never have to hide anything from me."
"I can't help being tense," she whispered in apology. "I don't want to be, it's just that I've never done this before."
"Do you want to?" It was a little late to be asking, since they were both naked and tenderly holding each other, but he did so anyway. She nodded, kissing him gently on the lips and eagerly opening her mouth to his. This part she knew...
The rest, however, had been something entirely different. The shared memory flowed between minds, each remembering for the other in one single, wondrous image. John remembered her nervousness, gently kissing her now the way he had done then in comfort and reassurance.
"Delenn, you need to relax. This will hurt if you don't, and I'll have to stop. I can't hurt you." She nodded, trying to take his advice, but he could tell that it wasn't going to be enough. Moving against her, he made a soft whisper of sympathy as she cried out in fear at the flash of pain.
"I - I can't." Momentary tears stained her cheeks, pain still burning in her eyes. "John, please, I can't-"
"Shh," he kissed her gently, backing slightly away, "it's okay, I'm here. Tell me what's wrong. I'll take care of you, I promise." He released her, feeling the tension mount but smiling involuntarily as she cried out at the absence of his touch. He took her hand, squeezing it gently and turning on his side, head propped up on one hand to look at her.
"I'm here, Delenn. It's me, okay? Nothing's going to happen if you don't want it to." She nodded slowly, curling in against him.
"Hold me," she pleaded quietly. "I'm scared, John, I'm sorry..." He sighed, offering his embrace as she took in a shaky breath.
"You have every right to be, sweetheart. Making love for the first time is a frightening enough experience; I can't imagine what it must be like for you." He kissed her tenderly, an easy comfort through the confusion. "However long it takes, you can have as long as you like. It doesn't have to be tonight."
<I want it to be,> she confided timidly. <I do want you, John. Please don't think I don't. I love you and I want us to be together. I don't know why I can't....>
<You're nervous,> he explained reassuringly. <It's perfectly natural. Just relax and let yourself go. It's difficult to do sometimes, but I promise I'll make this worth it.> His gentle touch left her in no doubt of that. <Think of something good, angel.> He was stroking her hair, calming her. The first memory that came to her mind was of him, and he laughed.
*'And what if she does like what she sees?'*
*'Later.' A touch on his chin. 'History awaits.'*
Delenn smiled, much the way she had then. She was aware of his laughter, looking up after a moment to join in.
<We certainly made history, didn't we?> He was surprised at that turn of conversation; the last thing he'd expected to discuss now was their victory in the war.
<Are you ready to do it again?> Her smile faded a little, and he sensed the answer. She covered it well, but he gently reached into her mind and opened the fear to them both.
<Don't hide it away, Delenn. Deal with it.>
*'Deal with it.'* That was a memory too, from more recently. He smiled, remembering what had come afterwards.
<My turn,> he teased playfully.
*'I - I don't know what to say.'*
*'Then say nothing...'*
Delenn smiled again, hearing her voice so clearly in his memories. She could vividly picture that moment for herself, an image etched into her mind so deeply that she knew every second, every movement and could never forget.
*'I hear when it happened, Vir was with a woman. Apparently they are to be married soon...'*
She was beginning to relax now, and he carefully pulled her close.
*'Must be the fastest courtship on record, she just got here yesterday.'*
*'Perhaps we should check the air recycling systems. There may be, as you say, something in the air...'*
John was kissing her now, tenderly holding her in the warmth of his arms. The tension was mostly gone, flowing out along with memories of the two of them. She noticed, for the first time, the soft music playing behind them. It was old Earth style, but she couldn't catch the words as John kissed her again, melting away the remaining nervousness. This time their memories weren't coherent; they ran one into the other, sights and sounds and scents, feelings for each other and gentle touches that meant so much more than they had realised...
She saw herself through his eyes, approaching their table in the Fresh Aire restaurant in that black dress that made his heart skip more than a few beats...
He saw the message he had left for her, his image on the cold computer screen - telling her he loved her, meaning every word...
She heard her voice, the day she'd gone with the Markab into almost certain death, and the fond touch of her hand on his face...
He heard himself in MedLab, finally admitting to both of them how much he cared for her, holding her hand in his so tightly she never wanted him to let go...
She saw her face on the White Star, a warm, caring smile sending him to sleep as rain sounded through the room...
And he saw himself, asleep, here in the bed he shared with her; such a peaceful expression on his silent face that they both smiled. Delenn was barely aware of exactly when he entered her, only of the sudden pleasure that brought her back from their shared memories. He held her still, his voice soft and loving in her mind.
<Have I hurt you?>
<No.> She shook her head, tightening her arms around his neck to pull him in for a kiss. <Oh, no, never. You'll never hurt me, John. I know that.> Her voice held such joy that he laughed in delight, returning her kisses eagerly with soft, sweet ones of his own.
<Not so nervous now, are we?> This time it was she who laughed, blissfully tilting her head back against the pillows as he kissed her neck and began to move easily inside her, murmuring gently all the time how much he loved her, how beautiful she was and how lucky she made him feel to be with her.
<It seems we are both fortunate,> she managed through increasingly incoherent thoughts. <I never imagined I would feel like this, not now....> He smiled, holding her close as he sensed the tension building again. He knew what it was, knowing her reactions better than she did - but Delenn seemed suddenly frightened, worried at that instant that something was wrong.
<Shh, shh, let it go, Delenn... Just let it come, relax and let your body guide you. There's nothing wrong; this is how it's meant to be.> He could feel her pleading, knowing what she wanted and half hating himself for not being able to give it to her any sooner.
"John...." Her voice, her real voice, was a gasping sob as her reacting body tensed so tightly that she was shaking, pulling him fiercely against her. The cries softened, becoming quieter as he kissed her passionately to reassure her, soothing the almost painful emotions on her features. That touch ignited her memories again, the one firm source of reassurance she had, and he purposefully guided them until he heard his own voice whispering that he loved her at the very instant the tension released. The last sensation of his kiss finally made it happen, exploding into a pleasure beyond belief as Delenn buried her face in his shoulder and cried out: a soft, sweet, beautiful sound, filled with the promise of her total love and devotion to him.
Still shaking, she gave a quiet cry of amazement as the radiant warmth of her coming permeated her mind and flowed through her body. John laughed softly, his face nestled in her hair as he felt the joyous afterglow as well; seconds later, neither of them remembered who had come before the other as he finally let go inside her, pulling her back into the warm light of ecstasy. He'd never put much faith in the rumour that women got the better deal when it came to making love; his own experience had taught him that if there was one area where nature practised equality, it was in the bedroom. Delenn, however, had now turned that philosophy completely on its head. If he thought the feelings he'd experienced before were intense - not that he could remember any of them after that night - he'd been absolutely, completely and definitely wrong. Nothing prepared him for the unrivalled bliss flowing into him from her body; waves of exhilarated joy drowned his mind, and he realised with a sudden, out-of-place contentment that he no longer knew whether it was himself or Delenn he was referring to.
As the room finally coalesced around her again, Delenn let out a shuddering sigh of pleasure and lifted her head to look at her lover, lying next to her on the bed. His eyes were open, watching her, and the quiet satisfaction that sparkled there made her smile.
"How was it for you?" She laughed, recognising the phrase from his rather cliched memory. He lifted her hand out from under her, pulling her into his arms as she yelped softly.
<I won't let you fall, angel, don't worry.> He kissed her tenderly. <So, did you enjoy it?> She frowned dubiously at him, collapsing into quiet laughter after a minute of simply watching his face and teasingly kissing his cheek.
<What do you think?> He shrugged, concealing a grin.
<I think... I need to pay closer attention next time.> Delenn laughed out loud at that.
<Perhaps you do.>
<Later?> His voice was pleading.
<Later,> she promised. <I won't sleep very long, li'sha'na. Not long...> He smiled, hearing the slightly slurred Adronato name of 'lover' in her thoughts. His eyes closed, a contented smile on his features, feeling the warm touch of Delenn's mind on his. Falling asleep, she looked up at him and saw, to her pleasure, that his expression mirrored her own. The soft music was still playing, gently lulling her into sleep, and finally she could make out the words.
Lying here with you, I still can't believe it's true,
She was holding him, her face against his neck as she kissed him softly, feeling the warmth of his body shaking from their unintentional re-enactment. His arms surrounded her, equally as gentle, a hazily sated glow in his eyes. It had been so real, almost as if it were happening over again... if that was what telepathic memories were like, it was more of a gift that she had ever imagined. Warm and smiling in the afterglow, she cuddled him affectionately and turned her head to rest on John's shoulder.
"How was it for you?" Delenn laughed softly against him, raising her head and smiling in playful despair.
"Can you never come up with anything original?" Pretending injury, he winced.
"I could, if you hadn't made me so tired."
"Sorry," she whispered, her voice thick with amusement as she lowered her head. "I am a bad influence over you, it seems." He smiled, but his voice grew more serious at her comment.
"So people seem to think." Delenn looked up again in concern, a silent frown on her features.
"Why do they think that, John? Surely they can see..." He smiled tenderly, affectionately stroking her hair as he shook his head in tired despair.
"I don't know, honey. I honestly don't know. I guess they just don't understand you - not the way I do. Some just don't make the effort, and I think a lot are scared."
"Of me?" Her tone was incredulous.
He smiled. "Not you, specifically: what you represent. The Minbari are far more advanced than Earth - you proved that straight off." He felt her shudder at the mention of their war, using a wordless murmur to calm her along with a gentle kiss. "Some people are frightened of that. They don't know why the war ended, and with all the rumours it's no wonder Humans back on Earth and the colonies are afraid you'll go back and finish the job." The incredulity turned to alarm, but he shrugged. "That's Clark at work, honey. We all know you would never do that - but even now, people are afraid of differences: in each other, in aliens... in you."
"Am I not an alien?" She smiled curiously.
"No. No, you're not." He didn't explain, but Delenn simply smiled again; she didn't need him to. She felt the same way, though it was as inexplicable to her as it was to him. She had always regarded Humans as alien, but she had long ago ceased to think of John as simply another Human... he was her lover, part of her soul. More than that, he accepted her. Delenn huddled down in his arms, playfully kissing his chest and wriggling against him. Sheridan looked at her, smiling with a tired amusement.
"Has your sex drive always been this high?" She glanced up and smiled demurely in answer. He laughed. "I dread to think what havoc you caused in the temples."
"I will have you know I was the perfect student," she retorted in mock defence.
"Oh, I don't doubt it. But a student of what?" Delenn chidingly tapped his arm and he yelped quietly.
"You have a sordid mind, Captain Sheridan."
She frowned, despairing, and shook her head at him. "You are hopeless, do you know that?"
"Oh, come on, I'm not that bad at it."
"Why do our conversations always come down to lovemaking?"
He grinned, lifting her slightly and placing a passionate kiss on her lips. "It's funny you should ask that..." Delenn smiled, tightening her arms around him and returning to her earlier task of kissing his warm chest. And, pretty soon, their conversation very literally came down to lovemaking.
* * * * *
"Who was she?"
"Your first. I presume it was a she?" He laughed, nodding vehemently.
"Yes, it was a woman. They generally are, at least where I'm concerned. Do you, uh, know much about that....?" At her blank frown he shook his head, waving it off. "Ah, never mind. You know, that's a pretty strange question to ask, given the circumstances."
Delenn smiled. "I'm not exactly what you would call ordinary, though." She was facing the computer terminal in their private suite, absently catching up on the details of their mission. Sheridan sat cross-legged on the bed, dressed, as she was, and awaiting the signal for them to return to the bridge. They would arrive at Bester's co-ordinates in-
"Just under twenty minutes," Delenn confirmed. He nodded and beckoned to her as she removed the crystal from their player, reaching out to pull them both backwards onto the bed. His arms wrapped around her waist and he buried his face in her hair, hugging her tight.
"I love you," he murmured in her ear. She responded with a soft whisper of her own, totally comfortable in his embrace.
"I love you, John. I don't want you to ever forget that. If this is a trap and we are captured, don't forget that I love you. Always." He smiled; his eyes misted over and he blinked to clear them before tenderly kissing her neck.
"Nothing's going to happen to us, Delenn, don't you worry. We can do anything together; no one's ever going to split us up. For any reason." She smiled at the ferocity in his voice, the dedication.
"Entil'zha, Captain Sheridan, to the bridge." Korell's accented voice made Delenn smile as her lover groaned in annoyance.
"No one except our crew members, that is." She laughed, rolling off his chest and straightening her dress as they both stood. "I still think it's a conspiracy," he muttered as she playfully shoved him through the door and retrieved the data crystal, hurrying to catch up.
* * * * *
"You're sure these are the co-ordinates?" Sheridan leaned over his armrest, calling up their mission details again for the third time. They, along with their four additional White Star ships, had emerged from hyperspace only minutes before, but there was simply... well, just nothing there.
"Yes." Delenn's voice was tight, irritated at the lack of information. "This is where we were told to wait." She looked up and turned to him, frowning. "This doesn't make any sense, John. Why call us all the way out here for nothing? There are no signs that it's even a trap: no ships within a - wait." She glanced back at Korell behind her, ignoring her lover's concerned eyes for the moment to concentrate on her discovery.
"Four seventy mark twelve mark eight," the Minbari confirmed. "It's a battle, Delenn. Are you sure-"
"Go. Now." She turned back to Sheridan, but he was already retrieving the specifics from their shared desk between the chairs. He looked up for a second at her silence, but Delenn was intent on her own console and barely noticed his attention. Even in light of their sudden discovery, he couldn't help a small smile when he saw the studious look on her face.
<What are you looking at me like that for?> Still focused on her screen, she smiled very slightly at her observer.
<Nothing. Just thinking.>
<Is that what that noise was?> she teased. He looked up in mock incredulity, about to give a reply when Korell unwittingly interrupted their conversation.
"Entil'zha." She turned her chair to face him, questioning with her eyes, but he said nothing else. Only pointed.
"Good Lord. That's more than a battle, Delenn. That's a shooting war." Eyes transfixed on the sight, it took Delenn a moment to realise he'd spoken aloud. She could barely tell which side was which: explosions and plasma bursts obscured too much of the lead ships to be able to see clearly. After a moment the debris in one area to the left of their viewport cleared enough to make out the names of two Earth style ships: she and Sheridan came forward in unison to read them and she heard him gasp softly. Hurriedly, she reached into his mind and silently motioned to the ships firing at those Earth cruisers, bringing forward their shared memory of the evacuation at Z'Ha'Dum. Alarm flashed across his features as he looked down at her, long strides taking them both back the central platform. They were seated within a few seconds, Sheridan calling for control of the weaponry while Delenn punched in a hail to the Earth cruiser they'd seen.
"This is the White Star Fleet to Earth Alliance vessel Agamemnon. Please respond. I repeat, this is the White Star Fleet-"
"They can't hear you," Sheridan interrupted briskly. "This fight's been going on for at least four hours now, from the mayday: chances are their comm systems are shot to hell." Delenn nodded, hating to admit the idea, but he was right.
"Take us in, Korell," she called back to their aide. "If there is anything we can do-" A starfury span erratically across their path, cutting off her speech abruptly as the plasma burst from its exploding engines caught the side of the ship. They were near enough now to make out the attacking vessels and Delenn frowned as her fears were confirmed. They looked frighteningly like Vorlon cruisers, only smaller and more angular: the energy weapons in front were similar, although on a Vorlon ship they resembled antennae while here they reminded her of the sharp, back-jointed legs of a Minbari beetle. The colours on the ships were different, too; there was no doubting they were organic and definitely Shadow in origin, black and green marble shifting and sliding and changing on their surface as they moved. The largest five were definitely warships, Delenn decided, hearing John come to the same conclusion in the back of her mind. Another hunk of debris flew back past them, and she could tell it wasn't from the Shadow allies.
"This is John Sheridan to the White Star Fleet. Break and attack, I repeat; break and attack. Fire at will, but *only* on the Shadow vessels. Assist any and all Earth ships." As four confirming signals reached his console, Sheridan turned to Delenn and reached for her hand. She smiled slightly, despite the situation, and grasped his offer tightly as they neared the huge battle.
It wasn't going well. The Canaveral, a huge Omega class cruiser, was already heavily damaged and Sheridan could see that none of the crew were going to escape alive. Even if they could reach the life pods, they'd be instantly helpless in the destructive fray. He winced, feeling Delenn do the same as one small lifesaver did manage to eject from the ship. A Shadow fighter, for lack of any more accurate description in his mind, bore down on it and the tiny pod exploded under the laser, slicing through its centre with perfect accuracy. A second later, Sheridan's anger turned to a malicious grin as White Star Four performed the same duty on the attacker. As well as numerous smaller ships - mainly civilian transports, he noted with a grim despair - there were six other cruisers that he could see and only two, the Agamemnon and the Sphinx, were still in firing condition. His throat tightened at the sight behind them; they were obviously trying to protect something, and even as Delenn gave the order to assist he saw what. A massive Explorer class ship hung dead in space behind them, hidden behind the width of each ship as they tried vainly to protect it.
"John." Delenn's voice was a horrified whisper as he turned to her. "There are *three thousand* people on board that ship."
"Oh, dear God." He glanced over at her, his grip tightening on her hand so hard that it hurt. Even with the combined power of four White Star class ships, the Earth side was no match for such a huge force. The warships were just the start: they seemed to have an almost endless supply of suicide pilots - presuming they actually had pilots - each of which wasted no time in taking out every starfury in its path before purposefully crashing into the hull of the nearest Earth cruiser. Finally receiving a report on the names of each ship, his throat tightened. *This can't be happening.*
He silently gave her the list. Agamemnon, Sphinx, Cortez, Vesta, Canaveral... she stopped reading, handing it back with a pained look in her eyes. The Earth fleet was beaten, and they knew it.
<We walked into a death trap,> Sheridan realised quietly. <They'll never let us get away alive, and it would be days before any reinforcements could get all this way out. We'll all be dead by then.>
<No we won't.> Delenn's determination made him frown incredulously.
<Delenn, honey, they could take us out easily. There's no way- Oh, shit. Shit, shit, *shit!*> She heard the anger, the desperation in his tone as the wreckage of what could only be a White Star ship zoomed fiercely into the side of a Shadow warship. Beside him, Delenn offered a soft prayer for the Rangers, her emerald eyes closed in pain.
<They will *PAY* for that.> Total outrage surrounded her thoughts, anger blazing in her eyes. "Korell, take control of the weapons. Call *all* of the other ships out of firing range." Sheridan glanced at her in horrified confusion, catching her gaze and raising both eyebrows impatiently. Still giving orders, she silently showed him her idea: the protest died on his lips and he nodded, a malicious gleam filling his eyes.
"Delenn, two of our remaining ships are damaged - they cannot escape the battle. White Star Twelve is still operational, but..." Both commanders turned at the hesitation.
"But?" Sheridan snapped impatiently. The ship bucked suddenly sideways, explosions ripping through the right of the bridge as they stopped dead. The weapons continued firing, but the pattern was erratic and they both knew it wouldn't hold out long enough to protect any of the ships.
"We are unable to escape firing range, Captain. Only White Star Twelve is still in operation."
"Call them out of the battle," Delenn answered. "One ship will not make a difference to what we are about to do." Korell's panicked glance was immediately followed by a dozen others from crew and repair crews around the bridge, but neither of their commanders acknowledged the attention. The Minbari's brow furrowed: Delenn looked almost asleep, and Sheridan was in the same condition. *Are they expecting a miracle? Because that is what we need if they are not about to do anything.*
<I may proceed anyway,> Sheridan finished with a mental smile. <Good to know you still have a sense of humour in all this.> He paused, settling into the chair and dropping his shields. The only outward sign of their activity was the strong, unbreakable grip on each others hand, squeezing so tightly that neither could possibly be sleeping. <Do you think this is going to work?> Delenn frowned, relaxing her shields and twining their minds with a practised ease.
<I do not want to wonder about that. It has to, so it will. There is nothing else to it.>
<Well, I guess that's one way of looking at the situation.>
<It is the *only* way of looking at the situation.> Delenn opened her mind to his, pushing easily through the hull of their bridge as the silver-gold mist that embodied both lovers. Out in space, the extent of the damage was clearly visible. The battle, although one-sided, was still going on - she yelped angrily as the Sphinx fired in their direction, rocking their physical base back on the White Star.
<You're shooting at the wrong people!> Sheridan's yell reached the Sphinx's 'captain', a young and obviously untrained lieutenant wearing the colours of a lower-decks crew member. He jumped from his seat, whirling around as a small part of the golden mist flowed through his bridge.
"What the hell - what *is* that?!" Bewildered head-shakes answered his query; Sheridan fiercely shot a mental answer at each one before blinking out.
<Do *not* fire at those ships!> The weapons console made a feeble protest as he entered the co-ordinates, faintly noticing the muted explosion on his own ship and letting out a yell of rage. Delenn was obviously feeling the same way, he noted wryly; she'd decided on the more subtle approach, though. Turning through space, idly dodging laser fire and instinctively freezing at least two shots at the Agamemnon's bridge area to leave it intact, he grinned in amazement at the sight. Each White Star ship - with the exception of White Star Twelve - was now in formation and surrounded by a glowing silver barrier, deflecting every attempt, from any angle, to pierce the hull. It took an immense amount of energy to hold it together: he marvelled at Delenn's composure as she rode forward on a wave of plasma from their own ship to join him.
<We have to stop this.> Her voice was strained, but clearly audible. <Now. The Earth cruisers will not last much longer.> Wordlessly agreeing, Sheridan reached for her and drew her mind closer to his, as close as he could manage before opening his talent to her. He knew instinctively that she had the better control, releasing the complete power of their love to her for the first time. He was still there, guiding her more than anything, but Delenn had control of them both. For a moment she hesitated: he pushed her forward, drawing his own power from the meld and acting almost as a gestalt for her mind. Suddenly a picture floated into someone's thoughts - they were barely aware of being two separate people, unsure of which mind developed the idea - and Sheridan mentally clicked his fingers.
<That's it!> Delenn saw the memory the instant he did: a cold, dark mist surrounding their fleet - not the small, injured flock of ships they commanded now, but their huge fleet of ships from two dozen worlds against the Shadows and Vorlons. The mist had frozen everything, shut down power in every ship but their own - and stopped the fighting. Now they could do the same.
<I don't like it,> she protested. <Doing what the Shadows do... it's wrong.>
<It's *against* the Shadows,> Sheridan retorted impatiently. <How can that be wrong, if we save lives? Delenn, we have to do this. How else can we stop them? Even if we get away now-> His persuasion halted abruptly, attention switching to a massive, uncontrolled explosion. Delenn swung around in time to see the rear rotating section of the Vesta licked with flames as their rear generator exploded. Without thinking she bound her mind instantly with John's and reached out, imagining it as almost a model and easily slicing the generators away. Panic ensued in the ship for a second; Sheridan laid a calming thought in every mind he could reach - a lot of minds - and fused the exposed hull air-tight with far more ease than he should have done, he remembered later.
<We have to do it *now!*> There was no arguing with his desperate tone and Delenn knew it. She took his mind back into hers, feeling the power their bond gave her and unable to resist a spark of elation at the sensation. It was a strange, amazing feeling to be everywhere, around every ship at once, but Delenn pushed it away and concentrated on her task. She couldn't be sure if the mist surrounding the area was silver or gold or John or herself, but it didn't matter. He was there, providing the power and holding their shields together, protecting their ships as she reached around the others. The Vesta fired toward her: she blinked out for a split second, missing the attack and deflecting it to destroy two Shadow ally fighters. She had intended to use their idea on only those ships: now she was annoyed with the Earth vessels as well, spreading her influence outwards to envelope them all.
<Lights out,> Sheridan called. Every ship simultaneously went dark, devoid of power as they drew it out, away into what he could only describe as a collection point. <Now what?> Delenn smiled knowingly at his question, reaching into the energy and projecting a picture of her idea. Sheridan repeated the gesture, grinning maliciously.
At that moment, anyone on the Earth ships - had they been able to see what was happening - would have been celebrating a miracle. A moment before, however, their entire ships' systems had gone down, so the first they heard of their rescue was from the shock waves firing out in every direction as each and every ally vessel, fighter or warship, suffered a massive build up of energy in their power core. And, consequently, blew up. Rather fast. In a rather large explosion.
In the moment after this, everyone on the Earth ships - if they had been able to see, which of course they couldn't - would have been panicking out of their minds. Because normally, according to the laws of physics they went by, the shock waves emanating from such an explosion would have been enough to destroy anything in the immediate - that is fifty thousand kilometre - vicinity.
Too bad John and Delenn Sheridan weren't physicists.
In the third and final moment before power mysteriously returned to their ships, the Earth crews were once again celebrating. And, among other things, trying to work out exactly what had happened - which is pretty hard to do without any power, but they were trying anyway.
And then their generators came back on-line, with the quite handy effect that they could see the strangely white-bronze cloud and its tendrils clasping them, feeding energy back into their systems and causing them to once again panic out of their minds.
Not a fun afternoon.
And especially not for their two exhausted saviours, withdrawing slowly to their ship with barely enough energy to return to the physicality of living.
<Let me tell you something, John Sheridan. If I ever, ever, ever, *ever* have to do that again...>
<I get the picture.>
<We're still on the bridge, you know.>
<You think moving might be an option?>
<It would be a good idea.>
<When I can actually *move* would be a start.>
<Want me to carry you?>
A pause, then; <That would be nice.>
<Give me an hour or so, then.>
<Is that all you need?!>
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