ALTERATIONS (IV): A RECONSTRUCTION OF FALLING FORTUNES
'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.
*****"Entil'zha, the Earth fleet is hailing us again. They demand- Entil'zha?"
"Mmm? Go away..."
The voices conversed out of her range of consciousness; Delenn silently growled at the headache threatening to pound open her skull and dragged the covers back up over her head. Maybe if she just ignored it all, it would all leave her alone...
<Delenn?> No such luck.
<Leave me alone. I'm tired.> Warmth enveloped her as John Sheridan pulled her body against his, and she smiled vaguely. <Go back to sleep, my love. It's early yet, and you're as exhausted as I am.> He didn't take her advice, cuddling up closer behind her spoon-fashion and burying his face in her neck.
<It isn't early, angel. It's almost eleven, B5 time. We've slept longer than we should have.> Momentary shock accompanied her reply, but his lover was still defiant.
<My head hurts and I'm tired. I see no reason to get up yet - go back to sleep.>
"We can't," was his simple answer. She winced at the physical sound, turning irritably to face him in bed.
<And why not, exactly?>
"Entil'zha, the Earth fleet demands an answer. What should we tell them?" On the intercom, Korell sounded a thousand times louder than before, and Delenn muttered angrily under her breath as she fought off his voice, trying to bury herself in the warmth of John's chest. He sighed, gently pushing her away despite the temptation.
<Duty calls, sweetheart. Time to go back to work.> She growled again, building up the courage to open her eyes as he sat up, removing her protection from the real world. Quickly she closed them again, making a low, irritated noise at the brightness of the room and pulling the covers back over her head as he jumped out of bed.
<How can you be so energetic? I'm exhausted. Anyone would think you let *me* do all the work yesterday.> He grinned, but she was half glad to see the weariness behind his eyes. At least it showed she wasn't the only one who had difficulty coping with their new-found power.
"We'll be right there," he muttered, vaguely coherent, into the comm unit with a wane smile. Punching the 'off' command, he returned to the bed where Delenn was sitting up carefully, frowning into the lights.
"Lights, lower. A lot lower," she amended as it barely faded enough to be bearable. The room fell into near-darkness, but she had no need of lights as John retrieved the nearest clothing his semi-functioning mind could locate and tossed it onto the covers beside her.
<Shower,> was all she said before he heard her disappear into the adjoining room. A moment later, the chink of light became a flood as the door to their 'private' suite opened to reveal another White Star captain, Ben Hawks. Sheridan frowned against the brightness, beckoning the Ranger in and hurriedly forcing the door shut. Hawks was far too cheerful for John's liking, and he barely glanced at his friend before tiredly dragging the clothes into some semblance of order.
"Please, not now, alright? I promise we'll explain everything later, but can't we just get one day of uninterrupted rest?"
"'Fraid not. That lot out there," he motioned irritably through the hull, "are threatening to blow us to pieces unless we tell them," he counted off on his fingers; "'a', who we are; 'b', exactly what you did; and 'c', how you did it. And I tried asking them to be patient, I even tried *telling* them to be, but to be honest I think they're beyond patience now." He grimaced. "You look like hell, Captain."
Sheridan smiled sarcastically. "Oh, how kind of you to notice. Look, we'll be there as soon as walking becomes a viable option, is that alright? Or must everyone keep on until both of us crawl back into bed and let you sort out this sorry mess yourselves?"
Hawks heard the tiredness in his Captain's voice and smiled in understanding.
"Yes, sir. I'll leave you alone now; shall I-"
"Tell them we'll be there in half an hour, okay?" Sheridan smiled tiredly; Hawks took the apology and nodded, leaving silently and quickly closing the door behind him just as Delenn stepped from the shower room.
"All yours," she said quietly in his ear as she sank down beside him to dry her hair. "What did he want, precisely?"
"Oh, what everyone wants, it seems. What did we do, how did we do it, can we do it again, what happens now...." He trailed off at her sympathetic gaze. "Oh, I'm sorry. It just annoys me, that's all. You'd think they'd give us a break, after all we did." Delenn smiled ruefully.
"That is never how it works, John." He sighed, sliding an arm around her shoulders and hugging her tightly.
"I know. Guess we should go face the music, hmm?" She lowered her head to his shoulder, closing exhausted green eyes for a second.
"It does seem urgent." She lifted her head, smiling tiredly. "At least it is good to know we are needed, I suppose." He grimaced, rising to head for the shower room as he answered;
"Yeah, but do we have to be needed in a billion places at once?"
Delenn's laughter followed him into the bathroom, captured inside his head as he tried valiantly to wake himself up. The shower seemed to do the trick, though he stayed longer than intended, only to emerge and find her dressed and waiting with a tender smile. It took even longer for him to dress and clean up, and they were seriously considering a simple hologram to the bridge by the time he finished.
"I really don't have the energy, John. Not to mention how panicked the crew would be: none of them really know what we can do, and we haven't exactly given much in the way of explanations."
"What, you want to hold a press conference?" He glanced up irritably; Delenn frowned at the anger in his tone, feeling it flare in her own mind. Sheridan saw the look in her eyes, sighing softly as he stood and gently put his arms around her shoulders. "Sorry, honey. I didn't mean to snap at you. I just get cranky when I'm tired, and having someone trying to bash my brains out from the inside isn't helping." His lover smiled sympathetically, but she couldn't keep from laughing at his explanation.
"I know how cranky you can be, John Sheridan, but there's no need to start on me. I feel just as terrible as you do. But, we need to get back to work, or everyone will begin chasing us again. I know it would be a lot easier to just-"
"We'll walk, okay? I don't have the energy or the inclination to go leaping around the ship either. They'll just have to wait until we get there, for once." He glanced once back over his shoulder at the dishevelled room, shrugged heavily and followed her out.
* * * * *
"We repeat; this is the Cortez to unidentified vessels. You are charged with attacking the Earth colony Ganymede. Please identify yourselves and surrender or we will be forced to open fire. This is the Cortez-"
"Shut that off, and open a channel to the Cortez." Sheridan's voice rang out across the bridge as he stepped through the doors with one arm around Delenn. The crew went silent, turning to regard their two commanders. Sheridan frowned, taking his place in the centre chair while Delenn settled quickly into her place beside him. "Well? Does it take that long to carry out a single order? And get me status reports on the other ships!" As the crew hurried to obey, Delenn gently took his hand and turned her chair in his direction with a soft smile.
"Don't be too hard on them, John. I know it's frustrating, but it was to be expected. How many others have done what we have? No one knows how we defeated the Shadow allies, and they're all curious about us. *I*'m curious, and to be honest, it scares me as much as it does them." He looked up into her eyes, saw the emotions mirrored there in her mind, and smiled tiredly.
"Yeah, I know. Hell, so am I. But we'll adapt, Delenn. That's what we're good at. We would never have gotten this far otherwise." She nodded, glancing down as he gently squeezed her hand and reached out to tilt her gaze back to him. "You know what scares me more, right now? The idea of *not* having you in my mind. I'd be lost without you now, I couldn't handle it. Oh..." he felt the sadness in her thoughts, cursing himself for having to bring that up. "Oh, angel, I'm sorry. I didn't think...."
"It's all right." She swallowed hard, fighting back tears. "I'm fine, honestly. I just... don't want to discuss that right now. Please?" He nodded seriously.
"Of course. Whenever you want, okay? But not now."
Delenn smiled gratefully. "Thank you." He touched her cheek, gently brushing two fingers across her lips.
"Entil'zha, the Cortez is not responding, but another ship is hailing us." Korell stated in Adronato from behind them. Delenn turned in her chair and nodded, smiling as brightly as she could manage against the pounding, unabating headache.
"Open a channel to - which ship is it?"
Korell glanced down at his panel. "The Agamemnon. Opening channel." Delenn nodded again, turning back to her co-Captain.
"Do you want to do the honours?" she asked with a smile. Sheridan returned the grin, leaving his chair to approach the floating viewscreen at the front of their bridge as it descended, carrying an image of the Agamemnon's bridge.
"This is Captain John Sheridan of the White Star fleet to Earth Alliance vessel Agamemnon." He grinned at the shocked expression of his former weapons officer. "Long time no see, Lieutenant. Where's your Captain?"
Ross sputtered, eyes bulging at the sight in front of him. Delenn sat in her command chair, a self-satisfied smile on her face, until Sheridan mentally beckoned her forward. She approached the screen, allowing a smile as her hand slid naturally into his. Ross was frowning now, unsure of what he was seeing - or even if what he was seeing was real. Sheridan took pity on his friend, releasing Delenn to return to his chair. Sensing it would make for easier communication, she quietly disappeared to speak with Korell while her lover attempted to force some coherent conversation from the dumbfounded lieutenant.
"Ross, will you kindly ask the rest of your fleet to refrain from threatening us? We're no match for you with three ships down, and even if we were I'd prefer not to have this come to bloodshed. I get the feeling we're all on the same side here."
"With all due respect, sir, I don't know about that. A ship of your description stands charged with attacking Ganymede last year, and I know you follow the justice system just as we do. I respectfully demand-"
"That would seem to be a contradiction in terms, Lieutenant." Delenn's voice was firm, calm, as she stepped out in front of Sheridan's chair. "We stand *accused* with that crime, but I can assure you that we and all of our fleet are entirely innocent. Surely we are entitled to tell our version of events?" Sheridan couldn't keep the pride from his face as he listened to her, looking up with an amused smile at Ross.
"The Ambassador is correct, lieutenant. We are entirely innocent of any crimes you choose to charge us with concerning that incident. So, will you let us come to your ship and explain ourselves, or are you going to act like Clark's typical Earthforce personnel and blast us out of the sky right here?"
Ross blinked at the insult, his gaze darting away in embarrassment.
"I can arrange for you to be brought across to the Agamemnon, Captain Sheridan. But only you will be accepted, no one else. If you attempt to bring any others-" Sheridan could tell Ross was having difficulty threatening him; he sighed with relief. That was a good sign - but he wasn't about to go alone, not yet.
"Delenn comes with me." His statement was final. "Delenn and I will cross to your ship, and I give my word we will not be armed." That gained a protest from Korell, but Delenn turned briefly and silenced him with a reassurance in Adronato. Then she returned her attention to Ross, adding her agreement to Sheridan's.
"No arms, I give my word. We will come peacefully, without any others, in two hours. Will that be enough time?" Ross frowned, conversed for a moment with another crew member, then nodded.
"That will be acceptable..."
"Entil'zha," she informed him with a smile and a curt bow. "Two hours, Lieutenant Ross."
"Yes, ma'am. Two hours." He signed off with a puzzled, bewildered look at the other bridge crew; one that he didn't think Delenn and Sheridan could see. Quiet laughter filled the White Star bridge as the screen went dark, joined by Korell when he noticed Sheridan's mimic of the look. The rest of their crew frowned to each other in puzzlement, but Sheridan and Delenn had left the bridge long before anyone had the courage to ask Korell what the joke was.
* * * * *
<I haven't been here in so long - it's amazing I still remember the way around.>
<Your mind is amazing,> Delenn retorted with a smile.
They had received orders to wait in the docking bay, but after a half hour with no response from anyone, they'd made a unanimous decision to find their way to the bridge. More precisely, Delenn had pointed out that as no one had come to apprise them of the situation, they should go to find someone and do the same. John had simply complied.
So here they were. Having walked down at least five miles of corridors on their way to a transport tube - the docking bay they were ordered to arrive in being, of course, the furthest from a transport tube - and now finally being on the same level as the bridge. Less than five minutes away, by his reckoning, though it was possible he could be wrong. Hell, it was most likely he was wrong.
And he really was dreading walking straight into one of his old crew right now. For one, they'd probably shoot him on sight. One the other hand, they might wait a moment in shock when they saw his companion. Delenn walked closely at his side, her arm around his waist as he had his around her shoulders. Their conversation was short, mostly telepathic and confined to mostly past memories - and what the Earthforce crews would say when they saw them together.
<*And* how you are going to explain me away,> Delenn thought at him with amusement. <Please don't do anything embarrassing, John, I'm too tired.>
He laughed. <I promise not to be too all-powerful until we get home. Then I'll do something really spectacular.> Delenn grimaced at the picture he drew in her mind of their dramatic entrance to Babylon 5 space. She was about to retort when footsteps sounded around the corner and they forced away the playful banter for another time.
"They were supposed to be waiting in the docking bay when we got there! What on Earth possessed you to get tied up talking with the fleet? Lord knows where they could be now - they could be after the Captain for all we know. And that Minbari woman? I've seen her before, on ISN a few years back. She's the Ambassador for Babylon 5. Do you know what that means? She's got more ships behind her than the entire Earth Resistance! You saw what they did to those others. They could swat us like flies! I bet the Minbari wouldn't hesitate to do it, either. Maybe it's true what they're saying about Sheridan, maybe he has gone over to their side."
"I don't believe that." It was Ross' voice. "You're starting to talk like one of Clark's xenophobes, Ben. You served under Sheridan, you know him. We both do. He wouldn't just kill us all for no reason - and neither would the Minbari."
"I *knew* Sheridan, before he went to Babylon 5. You saw them on the bridge of that ship," the voice betrayed disgust, "how they acted. No wonder he wanted her to come over here - she's got him on a leash!"
That hurt. Delenn frowned angrily, barely controlling the impulse to demand that whoever it was took that comment back. And if they didn't, she was damned well going to make them-
<Delenn, calm down. It's not our problem.> She relaxed minutely into the arms that encircled her shoulders, but her temper flared dangerously on the edge of explosion.
<How can you say that? You heard what they said!>
<It's only words, angel. If you let them get to you, they've won. There's no truth in it, so why worry? You should only be afraid of the truth, Delenn, not the lies.>
<I'm not *afraid,*> she answered irritably. <I'm *angry.* They are going to take that back->
<No, they're not. Not right now. There are better ways of doing that, later.> He smiled at the images he placed in her mind, pleased when the anger dissipated and she smiled slightly in amusement before adding some of her own more imaginative ways.
<I didn't know you could be that violent,> he teased. Delenn turned and kissed him lightly to cover her laughter.
<Nonsense. Of course you did; you know everything about me.>
<Mmm... true. Very true.> He reluctantly pulled back and released her slightly as the footsteps continued in their direction. Delenn smiled once more at him, then tensed against the wall as Ross halted to speak with another crewmember and his companion's heavier footsteps came around the corner first. Sheridan glanced at his own partner, saw the concentration on her face and realised instantly what she was going to do. If he didn't-
The realisation never got finished. The lieutenant saw Sheridan, drawing his PPG without hesitation. Sheridan heard the handgun power up, tensing to move from the path in a second, if needed. He didn't believe any of his crew would fire on him: hadn't he earned enough respect and trust from them to believe in him?
Evidently not. The gun fired - but Sheridan was not in the path when it went off. More accurately, the path of the plasma burst did not get to where he was standing. Delenn stood with her back to the wall, holding the energy in place by sheer telekinetic force as the crew member - Ben Marx, Sheridan recognised - stared in horror and amazement at a ball of plasma hovering placidly in the centre of the corridor. Sheridan calmly stepped out of the way, and the barrier released; momentum gone, the energy burst dissipated harmlessly. Marx stood stock still, his gaze locked on the area of the blast as Sheridan reached his saviour just in time to keep her from falling.
"Bloody hell, Delenn. How much more can you do?" He frowned at her pain-filled face and shook his head. "Just don't do that again anytime soon, okay? I don't want you hurt." He tightened his arms around her, feeling her lean into him - not for comfort, but to stay upright.
"Don't give me reason to do it again, and I won't." Her voice was irritated but faint, and he could sense that it would only be a matter of time before her energy, mental and physical, gave out completely.
<You okay?> He tried not to talk too loudly, but the extra expenditure had worsened the headache and she winced.
<No, I don't think so. Is there somewhere...?> Sheridan nodded, looking up just in time to see Ross - a lieutenant commander now, he noticed - and another man round the corner. A third officer came after them, but he didn't remember her name - a transfer, he thought absently.
"Captain Sheridan? You were asked to stay in the docking bay until we reached you. What are you doing here?" He caught sight of his officer, muttering expletives in the centre of the corridor. "Marx, what happened here? Marx? Ben? What happened?"
Sheridan frowned impatiently, still holding onto Delenn. "Look, I appreciate that you want answers, but I need to take her somewhere-"
"No one leaves until I know what happened just now. And that starts with you, Captain Sheridan. You may have been my commanding officer once, but this is my ship until our Captain recovers and I would like to know why you and your Ambassador are wandering around without- Captain?"
Sheridan was ignoring his monologue, concentrating on Delenn. It suddenly struck Ross how weak she looked - nothing like the woman who had confronted him so calmly on the bridge of her ship. Now, supported against Sheridan, she seemed subdued; more tired than before. Actually, 'tired' was an understatement. Exhausted was more the adjective to use. Sheridan was cradling her in his arms, a pale light surrounding them both as he touched her crown. The light faded, became brighter and repeated the flickering for a few moments before it steadied, flowing between them. Delenn slowly raised her head, her gaze locking on his face. As Ross and his crew watched with amazement, the light didn't fade - if anything it got stronger until separating into gold and silver; each colour surrounded a different person until it seemed to fade into their skin. Sheridan slowly opened his eyes and smiled, seeing Delenn watching him closely with a curious amusement on her features.
<You wanted to know what else I could do.> Sheridan shook his head, trying to sort through the past few minutes - a task made infinitely harder by the headache, and Ross' incessant voice on the edges of his consciousness. With a start, he realised he was nearly asleep; whatever Delenn had done - whatever they had done - it was certainly relaxing. He pushed away the contented smile threatening to cover his face and reached out for her, bringing both minds back to full consciousness. The force of his headache hit suddenly, as if waking, and Sheridan grimaced.
"Are you alright, Captain?" Ross sounded nervous, and Sheridan couldn't blame him. He tried to smile reassuringly - which is a little difficult when you really don't know if you are, but Ross seemed to accept it.
"Fine, Lieutenant. Just fine, I think. Delenn?" He felt her hand tighten in his as she stepped closer and nodded slowly.
"Yes, I think so. A headache, but that's been there all morning, it's nothing serious. I, um, I think we should sit down for a while, though." Sheridan agreed readily, glad that she had brought up that point. He'd almost believed they would all stand in the corridor forever. Gratefully, he wrapped his arm around her waist and followed Ross to a private conference room. He recognised it as the reception room for any visiting Generals - the last time he'd used it he remembered all too vividly.
<John, don't. Don't torture yourself like that. Concentrate on now. What are we going to say to them all? They want answers, but I don't have any. I don't know what happened back there, after he fired at you.>
"Didn't you mean to do that?" he asked quietly. Marx glanced back for a second, more inclined to treat them as prisoners than guests as they entered the room. <Any minute now he's going to start pretending this place is the brig.> Delenn smiled, hiding her reaction to his mental comment in favour of his verbal question.
"I meant to stop him firing, yes. I wasn't quick enough, but it was instinct to do what I did afterwards. I just... I couldn't let him hurt you. I know, inside, what happened - I could duplicate it, if I had to, but I can't explain..."
"Show me later," he requested to soothe the growing exasperation. She nodded, gratefully sinking into a chair as the crew took up places around the large table. Sheridan sat down next to her, linking his arm over hers and clasping her hand tightly. "Reminds me of the War Room." Delenn looked sideways at him, glancing around the room.
"Yes, I suppose it does." A politely impatient cough interrupted her scrutiny.
"Excuse me, Captain... er, En- en'il..."
"Entil'zha," Sheridan supplied with amusement. "Ranger One might be easier to pronounce." Ross frowned slightly, determined at that concealed challenge.
"Entil'zha," he repeated with only a slight accent. Delenn smiled and bowed faintly, still seated, in his direction. "Could you enlighten us, if you don't mind? This is all getting just a little hard to believe." Sheridan chuckled, glancing at his lover with a bemused smile.
"You don't need to tell us that. I'm afraid most of it defies explanation - you'll just have to trust us on this one."
"Trust you?" Marx's voice was incredulous. "You expect us to trust you, after everything you've done? Do you know how many people *died* on Ganymede? Do you? I lost *family* during that attack!"
"I'm sorry," Delenn said softly, misunderstanding. "It could not be helped; we tried, but we couldn't reach the colony any faster-"
"Faster? *Faster?* Did you want to kill everyone? Was half the colony not good enough for you, you little half-breed?" His face twisted up in disgust and anger. "Did you make him do it? Did you, Minbari freak? You should never-"
In reality he never got to 'You', because Sheridan was in front of him before any more words could enter the air. He shoved him backwards, protective anger rising in his eyes as he pushed Marx unremittingly from the centre of the room. His expression reflected his fury, one hand tight under Marx's chin while the other clenched into a fist, hovering barely an inch from the officer's face. He had the lieutenant up against a wall, holding him fiercely up a good two inches from the floor with the hand under his chin, tight around his neck.
"Don't you ever, ever make any comments like that again. If you say one more word about her, I'll hit you so hard I swear you'll never remember what it was like not to hurt. Don't you ever dare to say *anything* like that about Delenn. Never, *never,* NEVER! Do you hear me?!"
"John." Delenn's tone was quiet, a gentle hand on his arm drawing the anger away. "It's all right."
"No, it's not." He dropped Marx to the floor but refused to release his neck, keeping him pressed up against the wall. "Did you hear what he said about you?"
"I heard." She looked down, and Sheridan winced. He dropped his hand from the other officer, ignoring the gagging sound. It brought a little satisfaction, but that disappeared with the last of his anger as Delenn stepped further toward him and took his hands in hers. "Let it go, John, please. We have enough anger directed at us already without asking for more. I can handle it." She smiled. "If you let it get to you, they've won. You shouldn't be afraid of the lies, my love." Sheridan looked down at her, smiling ruefully as he heard his own words thrown back at him.
"You're right, as always." He paused, wondering briefly what would happen if he kissed her...
<Marx would injure you quite badly, I should think.> He grimaced, nodding mentally as they returned to the table. <But we could always ask for him to leave.> He covered his laughter with a cough, glad for the interruption when the doors opened again. Those at the table stood in courtesy to the arriving officers; Sheridan couldn't help smiling as the Cortez's and Vesta's Captains - Maynard and MacDougan - got a good look at him. Delenn still had her hand in his, and with the smile on his face as he glanced down at her, Sheridan knew it had to be a picture to shock even the most stolid of captains - and Jack Maynard was not one of the most stolid of captains. On a ratings scale of the most stolid in Earthforce, he probably came around two hundredth.
Which made for a very nice introduction.
"John? What are you doing here?" He swallowed, eyes darting between Sheridan and his companion as her led her around the table. Delenn tightened her hand around his, lightly twining her fingers between his own. He grinned inwardly, feeling her subconscious possessiveness surround him and hiding slight laughter, only smiling widely at his old friend as they approached. <This is going to be fun.>
Delenn groaned mentally. <John, you promised....>
<I'm not Minbari - I lied.>
<Half of you is. Oh, John, please?>
<Don't you want anyone to know about us?>
<Yes, of course I do, but why like this?>
He laughed inwardly now, pulling her body closer to his and sliding one arm around her waist. <It's more fun.>
<Oh, you're incorrigible!> Her laughter mixed with his own in his mind as he brought her in front of Maynard.
"Jack." He nodded cordially, watching the puzzlement and confusion play over his friend's face. "Before you ask the inevitable question; I'd like to introduce Delenn Sheridan, my... soulmate, for lack of a better word. And my fiancee," he added with a grin. The look on Maynard's face was priceless. Both John and Delenn would have given anything to frame the expressions of utter amazement on the faces all around them.
"Is it that hard to believe anyone would want me?" John teased. Delenn laughed outwardly now, and he privately thought that it had to be the most wonderful sound he could ever have heard.
<Thank you,> she sent demurely. He grimaced in mock annoyance.
<Must you listen in on *everything* I think?>
<If you must insist on embarrassing me, yes!> He laughed now, conceding her point and calling a truce as they retook their seats at the conference table with their amazed audience. No sooner was everyone seated, however, that Sheridan's link sounded. He sighed in irritation, glancing at Delenn's sympathetic expression and smiling ruefully.
"Is this meeting ever going to get started?" He frowned as the link bleeped again. "Sheridan, go."
"Shai Alyt, trian myua feh li-" Sheridan cut off the Minbari with a quiet sigh.
"Is Korell there?" he asked in Adronato.
"Ni, Shai Alyt. Korell-"
"Wait a second." Sheridan turned wearily to Ross. "Can I use your intercom for... What?" He frowned at Delenn, concealing amusement. "What is it?"
"English would be nice," she whispered in a tone thick with laughter. He groaned, shaking his head.
"Was I doing it again?" She nodded. Sheridan sighed, concentrating on consciously reverting to English. "Can I use your intercom to deal with this?" Ross nodded, motioning bewilderedly toward the screen set in the wall. Sheridan got up, noticing vaguely that Delenn rose behind him and stood at his side when the intercom activated.
"Put me through to the White Star," he requested of the terminal. It flicked into blackness, then a logo he didn't recognise appeared. ACCESS DENIED, it read. He scowled. "This is Captain John Sheridan, access code obsidian. Put me through to my ship." Again, the same problem. He tried a third time, before Delenn set her hand on his and motioned to the screen. A silver light flared briefly: the mechanism whirred in protest, but it patched through the channel. Delenn smiled in satisfaction and stepped away from the terminal, back to his side. He glanced down at her; the self-satisfied smile was all the encouragement he needed to hug her tightly against him in thanks. A small thing, but the control she had over her talent made him immensely proud of her - and a little jealous, but he didn't mind that.
<Each to their own,> Delenn agreed as Nerid stepped into view. The conversation was brief, and it ended after a few minutes with Delenn and her former aide exchanging opinions in rapid Minbari. He couldn't be sure which language, it chopped and changed so quickly, but it hardly mattered; he heard the translation in his head at the same time. Finally, Delenn closed down the terminal. It blinked furiously in protest at her abuse, but she ignored it and turned to the gathered officers.
"My presence is requested elsewhere, to oversee the repairs to our ships. And I think perhaps you will be able to manage better here without the... distraction of my being here." She smiled pointedly at Sheridan; he looked down a little sheepishly and she laughed. "I will leave things here in your capable hands - don't disappoint me." Her teasing was good-natured, and he grinned in amusement.
"No, Entil'zha. Of course not." The facade evaporated as he took her quietly into his arms. "Wouldn't dream of it." Delenn smiled, reaching up to kiss him lightly.
"Good." She gently released his hands from her back, clasped them in hers for a moment. The light shone again for an instant, reaffirming the bond between them before she let go and smiled. There was barely any loss of contact; he could feel her in his mind, in his thoughts, even as the doors closed behind her.
<Later, angel,> he sent quietly as he settled back into his seat again.
<Why do you say that? We're never apart.>
He smiled absently. <And how glad am I?>
<Infinitely,> came the reply.
"So you don't know how you did what you did? That seems a little suspect to me." Spano was watching Sheridan with something between wonder and suspicion. "You know, we had that Psi Cop out here just a few hours before you arrived, said he'd come from Babylon 5. We didn't think anything of it, but now-"
"I am *not* in league with Bester, and neither is Delenn," Sheridan answered tightly. After a constant five hours of this - and that was just *after* lunch - he was beginning to get just a little annoyed at their constant scepticism. And it didn't help the situation that Delenn was off supervising repairs with Hawks - in reality trying valiantly to do the same job he was and explain their talent, he'd noticed during one of their mental conversations over the past day. At least the Rangers were more ready to believe, anyway. He'd had to block any communication with Delenn after a few hours; it got too distracting to have her listening in, and he knew she found the same. Still, she was constantly there in the back of his mind - sometimes pushing to the fore, when she wanted his opinion on something, but generally just in his mind, a comforting, calming presence when things got too hot.
Like they were now.
He growled, forcing himself not to give in to temptation and call for her. It would be so easy just to leave and go to her, take her home... He sighed; he knew that was impossible - not to mention impolite - but then just talking to her would be enough right now.
<You asked for me?>
He smiled tiredly, fighting to hide the communication from the room.
<Why?> Delenn's tone was surprised. <You want them to believe, why not show them that what you are saying is true?> Sheridan sighed in answer.
<It's not as simple as that. Aside from showing them exactly, and I mean synapse by synapse, how we do what we do, they won't believe me. And they want to know what role Bester has to play in all this - I keep telling them he has nothing to do with us apart from Carolyn, but they're all such sceptics!> She sent a calming picture into his mind: the two of them, completely sated and soundly asleep in their private suite on the White Star... he laughed mentally as she focused in on the fused locking mechanism, the removal of a card-slot, and finally the three old-fashioned heavy-duty bolts on the door. He started to reply-
"John," Maynard's voice brought him back to the Agamemnon, "is there something wrong with you? You keep... drifting. Has this got something to do with this 'talent' of yours?" Sheridan frowned at the spoken quotation marks.
"How many times have I told you, I'm telling you the truth. I can get records of the attack on Ganymede! I can arrange for you to meet people who'll verify our story! Why in Valen's name won't you believe me?!" The epithet was out before he could stop it, and he leaned back in the chair and groaned at the range of expressions it gained.
<Problem?> Delenn asked.
<You're rubbing off on me,> he complained in irritation. <I'm even starting to talk like you now!>
<Is that such a bad thing?> she questioned in amusement. Feeling the annoyance in his thoughts, she sighed and reached easily across the space between them to place a calming, phantom touch on his hand. <Perhaps you should begin this again tomorrow. It has been going on all day and you're tired, my love. I could request your presence....>
<No, no. It's alright. I need to get this over, or neither of us will get any sleep tonight. Besides, if they don't believe me soon they're going to start getting as cranky as I am, and with all the gunning power over here...> He left the thought unfinished, but Delenn winced at the picture it created. 'Bloodbath' seemed an appropriate description. <No, I'll see you later - in person, that is. I *will* get them to believe me, I swear.>
<On Valen's name?> she teased. He sent a bemused mental scowl, teasingly chasing her out of his thoughts.
<Go! You're distracting me!> Quiet laughter followed her from his mind, leaving only the warm, calming place behind. <I'll see you tonight, honey. Love you.>
<I love you, John,> were the last words she sent into his thoughts before her presence retreated back to the White Star. He returned his mind to the Agamemnon again, focusing on the confused faces in front of him. He realised he'd faded out again and sighed.
"Sorry, Delenn wanted my opinion on the repairs. It's all sorted now - no more interruptions."
"Good," Maynard answered with a barely held impatience. "Maybe now you could tell us about this gift of yours." Ross nodded, his own impatient gaze locked on Sheridan.
"We're not disputing your explanation of the attack on Ganymede, Captain. Just this latest incident, and the.. accuracy of your talents."
"And my connection with Delenn," he realised. "I love her, okay? She's not keeping me as some kind of slave - she isn't controlling me at all!"
"Glad she knows her place," Marx muttered quietly.
"And I am *not* controlling her either," Sheridan spat with barely held fury. "We're partners - *equal* partners. And to be brutally honest," he glared pointedly at Marx, feeling the man shrink under his menacing gaze, "I've had enough of your comments. I'd prefer it if you had the decency to insult me so that I can take it out of your hide, but right now I think you should leave." His tone made it clear: that wasn't a suggestion. Ross quickly, almost nervously dismissed his lieutenant, turning back to Sheridan as the Captain's narrowed eyes followed the departing officer.
"Better, Captain?" Sheridan nodded stiffly.
"For now." He glanced once more at the closed doors and sighed, letting the tension drain away as Delenn's picture floated into his mind, reminding him. "Sorry. I don't mean to keep doing this, but that guy just winds me up." The anger flared momentarily. "No one says those kind of things about Delenn within my hearing. No one says them anyway, unless they want their butt spaced from one side of this galaxy to the other." Realising what he'd said, he sighed heavily. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?" Maynard nodded slowly with a hint of a smile.
"You care about her a lot, don't you, John?" Sheridan made a face.
"If you hadn't gathered that by now, I really shouldn't help you." He held the sarcasm for a moment, breaking suddenly into a wide smile. "Yes, I care about her. Did you think I was joking about her being my fiancee?" The expressions around the table finally brought it home to register; he glanced up at the ceiling, rolling his eyes and laughing. "You seriously thought we were just kidding?" He focused the question at Maynard, shaking his head in amazement when the Captain nodded sheepishly. "Oh, Lord. But you saw the way we were acting... surely you didn't think-"
"No one knows how Minbari are: how were we to know? It could have been an act, for all we know about them." Sheridan laughed at Ross' bewildered comment, running a hand back through his hair.
"Minbari are... relaxed, but very private about these things. Delenn's the exception to the rule - not that I mind it at all," he added instantly with a knowing grin. "They don't mix easily, from what I gather - uh, culturally, I mean. Delenn got some stick back home for getting involved with me." He didn't like revealing their private life, but if it helped get the Earth ships on their side... well, it was for a good cause. And, maybe, it might show them that Delenn was more than simply a Minbari with Human features.
"Why are you two... together, anyway? You're not exactly Mr. Popular with the Minbari." Sheridan winced at the reminder, folding his hands restlessly in his lap. *Must you bring that up?*
<The heart does as the heart does, my beloved. I don't care what you did.> He smiled at her sudden reappearance in his thoughts, shaking his head in wonder.
<You always do this, don't you?>
<Turn up whenever I get frustrated to cheer me up. Have you got some mental radar or something?> Laughter echoed in his mind as she danced playfully through his thoughts. He almost took the retort further when Ross' voice peered through the fog.
"What is it now?" His voice was amused, and Sheridan grinned sheepishly.
"Delenn just told me that 'the heart does as the heart does'. It's a favourite saying of hers. She always tells me that love doesn't know about cultural divides or borders," he confided with a quiet smile. Delenn returned the expression from her seat on the White Star, barely aware of those around her, her mind elsewhere. Hawks called her name, and she turned reluctantly away from her lover with a gentle farewell. The smile on his face faded slightly, but at her admonishment he brought it back.
<I'm never far from you, John. We'll never be apart, ever. And you will see me soon, I hope?>
<Tonight,> he confirmed, before returning to the physical conversation going on around him.
"So," Spano asked with a knowingly amused grin, "what's she like?" Sheridan missed the obvious implication half-purposefully, too glad of the sudden loss of tension in the room to notice the amusement building around him.
"How long do you have?"
Ross laughed. "Not long."
Sheridan shrugged. "How about 'perfect'?" Spano laughed now, joined by the few other crewmen in the room who had, by general consensus, stayed quiet.
"Come on, John. No woman in the history of the Universe has ever been *perfect.*" He raised his eyebrows suggestively, and Sheridan groaned in despair, shaking his head in defiance.
"Uh uh. No way! You lot are more juvenile than the last time I saw you!" Ving, now a commander, spoke up from the back of the room.
"Aw, come on, Cap'n. It's alright for you, on that space station of yours - us out here, we never see a woman up for grabs in years!"
Spano swallowed his laughter, refusing to give in. "So is she any good? Come on, we're not gonna tell. Just a little vicarious amusement, that's all we're asking. Not too much, is it?"
"No!" Sheridan stood and paced away from the table in half-serious frustration. "Do you know what she'd do to me?! Uh uh. I value my life." Spano sighed, mock defeated.
"Oh, well, can't say we didn't try. I guess some nuts are just too tough to crack."
"Too right," Sheridan retorted.
"Shame, but I'm sure there are other ways to find out what our good Captain's been up to..."
"...like tapping into his vidcom..."
"...bugging his quarters..."
"...bribing his crew..."
<Yes?> Amusement bubbled through her tone.
<Help me, for Christ's sake!>
She laughed into his mind. <Am I?>
<Sorry.> She laughed again. <Am I?>
He sighed in mock despair. <Yes! I've told you a million times, angel, you're perfect.> He smiled despite himself, silently drawing a picture of exactly how perfect she was in his eyes and sending it to her. Even through the miles of space separating them, he felt the slight colour in her cheeks as she smiled, embarrassed.
<Thank you.> He grinned in desperation.
<You're welcome. Now will you please help me before I go insane?!> For a moment there was silence, and he growled in bemused irritation. <Delenn, come on, stop teasing me. Don't you want to see me? I'm begging now, okay? Please!>
"Did someone say something?" He whirled around, his eyes shining as she strode into the room. "The repairs were organised faster than I expected. I trust nothing terrible has happened in my absence?" The last of her question was swallowed up in his name, hidden in joyous laughter as Sheridan slid his arms around her from behind, leaning over her shoulder to kiss her firmly on the mouth - a kiss that left their companions in no doubt of the seriousness of their relationship. She turned in his embrace, following his mouth with her own until she pulled away, eyes sparkling as she forced a serious expression.
"I do not appreciate having questions like that asked about me," she muttered with something akin to anger - amusement - in her voice. Sheridan sensed her disapproval; only half serious, but he nodded in agreement as he held her circled in his arms.
"I know - I don't like having to hear them, either." He smiled, touching his hand against her cheek. "I wouldn't have answered them anyway; what happens between us is a private thing, not something to discuss, with anyone. I wouldn't demean you like that." She smiled gratefully, love and pride shining in her gaze. He silently offered a prayer of thanks that he could see those emerald eyes; for a terrifying few moments, he'd faced the very real possibility that he would never see that smile again. It wasn't a nice prospect, and he gladly turned away from it at her gentle tone.
"I know, and I'm glad. You don't have it in your soul to do that, my love, so I shouldn't worry." He grinned, playing along with the toying game in Adronato. He could feel the officers behind them listening with great intent, wondering what either was saying, and looked down at her in mock annoyance.
"Oh, have you been delving around in my soul again? I thought I warned you last time." Delenn smiled demurely, denying the accusation.
"No, I have not. Your mind is a wonderful place to be, John; but as you say, I would not wish to live there. One person to one body is quite enough."
"Or one person to no bodies," he countered with a serene smile. The confusion building behind them was coming to a head, and Delenn sighed in pity, switching to English to force out the curiosity in their observers.
"That was a very true comment. But I don't think we should indulge ourselves - not here, anyway. Later," she smiled seductively, "later, we will... continue along that path. For now, I believe the agreements are still to be finalised?" He sighed and nodded, dropping back into his own native tongue.
"Yeah - we didn't seem to get very far this afternoon. Although..." he frowned slightly in thought for a minute as she listened patiently to his mind. Finally, he let her in on the plan telepathically as he finished aloud, "A demonstration might be just the thing. Are you up to it?" Delenn smiled wickedly, her eyes glittering an emerald green.
"I've never said no to a challenge." He laughed, his own features lighting up at her additions to the idea.
"Well, in that case..." He leaned over and whispered in her ear, making her laugh as well with his comments.
"A demonstration... of what, exactly? And why?" Maynard, thoroughly confused, interrupted them. The insanely inspired grin on John's face was enough to set off warning lights, but he humoured the younger man and waited for an explanation; hoping one would be forthcoming.
"To show you that we're serious about what we can do. And about each other." He glanced down at Delenn; she nodded sharply once and released his hand, approaching the intercom terminal again. The same noise emitted when she requested a dialogue with the White Star, but Sheridan turned - and the gazes in the room followed - in time to see her hand pass in front of the screen. The silver light flowed for an instant, then a picture of Hawks appeared. He conversed quickly with Delenn; she bowed and the screen, released from her hold, flickered into darkness. There was a muttering of comments around the table, but Sheridan turned back and smiled in amusement.
"That's nothing... Is it done?" Delenn nodded, sliding her hand into his.
"It is time to fly, my love."
He grinned, turning to face her until they stood slightly apart. Delenn lifted both hands until they were level with his, reaching out to touch palms in the space between them. Light glowed, and Sheridan's smile widened as he forced back blissful laughter. This was going to work!
<Don't be so optimistic,> Delenn chided him. He scowled playfully.
<Why not? We can do ANYTHING!>
<You're getting an ego, li'sha'na. Come back down to the ground for the moment.> He sighed mentally and obeyed, suddenly realising the absurdity of her comment. Floating on a ship, in the middle of space with rotating sections to keep them in normal gravity, and she wanted him to come down to earth?
<I said nothing about which planet,> Delenn retorted with a smile. Her hands locked with his, and the light spread until it encompassed them both, fading from two colours to one, and then none.... and all the colours of a rainbow, filling the room with Delenn's delighted laughter. They were exaggerating the visible aspects, making it seem all the more amazing, but still... It was nothing like the last time, when they had both discovered, out of necessity, how far their talents stretched. That had been exhausting, harrowing work, but this....
<I didn't think it was possible to go to Heaven without actually dying,> John confessed. Delenn smiled, and he felt it as if it were his... her voice was no longer in his head, it was part of him just as his own was...
They came together without noticing, the touch of bodies nothing when compared to the intimacy of their minds. They briefly compared it with their first time together, but even that wasn't sufficient to express the depth of joining. A small part of one mind stayed on the officers in the room, until it read their slight panic and alerted the other. Both reluctant and ecstatic at once, the one mind turned back to their friends and reached out, eyes opening with a silvered sparkle while the other stayed entwined.
<Are you ready to know?> Her voice was musical, a dozen different notes shining and threading through her tone. Slow, bewildered, nervous nods answered her, and the silver - Delenn - reached out and smoothed away the fear with a mental smile.
<We will not harm you. Do you think we have done this to show our power over you?> Soft, sweet laughter sparkled around the room, echoing through the tendrils of silver light flickering around Delenn's body. <You are mistaken, my friends.> That wasn't Delenn, but the golden light as it coalesced around Sheridan's skin; he opened his eyes and smiled. <We do this for ourselves, now. To show you what we can do, to help you understand.> The laughter was deeper, richer now, and they vaguely recognised it as John. <Are you ready to learn, Jack? Everyone? Do you want to know?>
The assents were more forceful this time, and John nodded.
<Then we can leave.> He turned back to Delenn and gently took her in his arms. She twined her arms around his neck, tilting her head to touch her forehead to his as the room faded out. Panic filled the minds around them, but John reached out and brushed it easily away.
<No harm will come to you, any of you.> His tone quietened as he conversed with Delenn, and it returned more informal, more friendly. <Open your eyes, for God's sake. How can we show you anything like that?> The teasing laughter called for his order to be obeyed, and the faces around them slowly took in their surroundings. Gasps filled the air; their companions turned in slow, amazed circles to encompass the entire area with their gaze. John and Delenn Sheridan stayed in the centre, wrapped around each other as their minds explored much farther than the simple physicality of their surroundings. They held the bubble together around their charges, keeping them together; an easy task that took less than a synapse to consider. Their minds concentrated on walking, wandering, exploring each other as at the same time they explored the stars around them. The darkness sparkled with a myriad of glows, ships gleaming in the starlight like living, breathing creatures in the vastness of the surrounding night. The nebula nearby shone unimaginable colours, perfect against the contrast of black. Although only real for the minutest of seconds, the experience seemed prolonged as John and Delenn held the consciousness' of their friends there, their real bodies still back in the Agamemnon's briefing room. Sheridan almost dared to take his body outside, but Delenn's panicked denial halted the thought in construction.
<You are not invincible, John Sheridan, much as you would like to be. I don't want to lose you to something as trivial as your ego.> Vaguely insulted, he sent her a small frown. <Sorry,> she added sincerely. He smiled.
<Don't worry about it. Do you think we really can do that?>
<I don't want to find out,> came the reply.
<Why not? It'd be fun!>
<It would be deadly,> she pointed out. Then her face broke into a radiant smile, her mind tightening around his and laughing at his boyish excitement.
<No limits!> came from his thoughts, and she laughed again at the elation.
<What is the opposite of 'grouchy', John?>
Confused, he answered, <Ecstatic, I guess. Why?> She laughed again.
<Because you are.> He was about to answer that with a comment of his own, but Delenn spoke first and they disappeared along with the panicked, awe-filled officers.
Whereas the scene before had been one of a starscape, now Delenn took them to the White Star fleet: their own ship, to be more precise. They reappeared in a corridor - physically this time - near the bridge and only a few yards from the viewing room; Delenn stepped back slightly, breaking the contact that kept the bubble together and opening green, gleaming eyes. Sheridan grinned at her, catching her hand and pulling her in again for a silent kiss.
"You enjoyed that, didn't you?"
Delenn smiled. "Was it obvious?"
"To me," he answered quietly, glancing to their guests.
"Is this where the tour starts?" Maynard's voice was shaky, but his grin belied any suspicions he might have had over their display. The others: Ross, Spano, MacDougan, Ving, stood behind their unanimously elected spokesperson with bewildered, awed expressions.
"Mm-hmm. I suppose you're still pretty sceptical," Sheridan teased. At the coughs and adamant head-shakes, he laughed. "Wise men know when they've been caught out. This way," he motioned to the viewing room. Korell turned the corner, almost running into Delenn and catching her arm to steady them both. A hurried apology emerged from his lips, but she waved it off and turned him back the way he'd come. He stopped abruptly, staring at her.
"Has no one ever told you it is disrespectful to look a superior in the eyes?" she asked with a teasing smile. He realised her amusement, knowing it to be a joke and bowing only very slightly.
"My apologies, Entil'zha." He looked up again, straight into her eyes, and gave a small 'so what?' smile of his own. "What are you doing here? You were on White Star Fifteen ten minutes ago..." his voice trailed off as they entered the viewing room and he noticed the Humans regarding them curiously at the incomprehensible language. Delenn took his arm, leading him to a corner of the room to explain the situation. To his credit, Korell barely made a sound in surprise when she mentioned her talents: but then he had known Delenn a long time and was hardly ever surprised by her actions.
"Who's that?" Maynard questioned politely as Sheridan motioned him into a chair. Without turning, the Captain smiled.
"Korell. He's kind of a senior officer - sort of. A friend of Delenn's, anyhow. They knew each other in temple on Minbar, though he's a Ranger now." He sighed ruefully at the blank glances. "Right, you don't know who the Rangers are. Forgot. Korell," he called over as the Minbari turned from Delenn to leave, "are you going to be occupied anytime soon?" The Ranger gave a quiet smile.
"It seems not, Shai Alyt." He bowed deeply with respect, approaching Sheridan and his fiance again. "How may I be of service?"
Delenn looked at him; glanced up at Sheridan, then to their visitors and finally back to Korell with an apologetic grimace.
"Tell them about the Rangers."
"Everything, Entil'zha?" She nodded: so did he. "Very well." He turned to the Humans seated before them and smiled warmly. "You will excuse me if my English is less that accurate. What would you like to know?"
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