WHAT IS BUILT, ENDURES... AND WHAT IS LOVED, ENDURES (II)

By Leyenn

 

 

 

"You know... If we were to think of the first time as a proposal, the second a kind of trial run - the third time would be the engagement and just now the wedding rehearsal..." Sheridan rolled sideways on the bed to regard his lover with a glint in his eye. "We still have to get married."

    "I should never have told you about this," Delenn scolded herself with a despairing shake of her head.

    "Oh, come on, you're glad you did." He shifted further over and pulled her close, a little concerned. Delenn held his gaze equally for a moment to make him squirm and then acknowledged it with a laugh.

    "Yes, I am. But..." Her protest was drowned out as he kissed her and she responded in the way that had become habitual again amazingly quickly, her arms around his neck as he held her close. When they finally broke their embrace, Sheridan kissed her once more and grinned in amusement.

    "You were going to say?"

    Delenn frowned, smiled and shrugged.

    "I forget."

    And then, in one of those times which illustrate the total synchronity of the Universe, the door buzzed and Delenn nodded wryly.

    "Ah, I remember." She glanced over John's shoulder at the door and then back at him. "I was going to say that we should stop this and get up, or people will come looking for us." Sheridan made a face, and she couldn't help teasing him. "Surely you have not forgotten the reason why we were here in the first place?"

    A small, cat-who-got-the-canary smile touched the edge of his lips. "Ah, now. That would be different in each of our cases, because..." He stood, grabbed his bathrobe and turned around, but she was waiting and kissed him full on the mouth.

    "Are you sure of that?"

    Sheridan wrapped one arm around her waist and placed a finger to her lips.

    "-because I came here purely for romantic reasons, as I was about to say."

    Delenn smiled knowingly. "As *I* said; are you sure our reasons were so different?" And for the second time in a day, she turned away before he could respond. He stared after her as she went to the closet, shaking his head in wonder.

    "By the way, the second time was the proposal," she called after him as he went to open the door. He turned back, not in the least surprised to find her standing behind him.

    "As if I could forget," he said tenderly with a smile before kissing her. The chime of the door for a third time interrupted them and Delenn smiled a little absently as he waved her back into the bedroom.

    "Yes, who is it?"

    "John?" Watching from between the half-closed doors, Delenn laughed at his reaction to the familiar voice. He turned sharply to her and motioned for her to disappear. She made a face but did so: taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly and faced the door.

    "Come in, Dad." He turned from the door, not wanting his actions that night to show in his face, and wandered to the adequate kitchen area as David entered. "Drink? I haven't had breakfast yet."

    "Late night?" There was an edge to his voice that made John stiffen.

    "Yeah, as it happens. Delenn and I got talking when I took her back to her suite. It was pretty late when I left. Why?" Listening in the bedroom, Delenn couldn't help but admire his tact. He'd stayed as close to the truth as possible, without giving away anything. With Lefcourt or Morrison, or Ryan, he would have gotten away with the half-lie: he was at a disadvantage because this was his father, who knew him well enough to know he was hiding something and didn't hesitate to say so.

    "What would I be hiding, Dad? What on *Earth* would there be that I need to hide from you that you hadn't *made* me hide?" He knew he'd said wrong as soon as the words came out: David latched onto them, watching him for a reaction to his next revelation.

    "Satai Delenn's missing, John. Since last night, according to General Morrison. Now she hasn't missed any of the talks so far, but the Minbari aren't happy. This is a big problem for us. And, as you were with her until so late last night, I suppose you might be able to tell us why she so suddenly disappeared?"

    "I-" he was about to answer when the door chimed again. "Yes?" It cycled open to reveal Morrison and Lefcourt, accompanied by Vannar and another Minbari Sheridan didn't know. He glanced toward the bedroom doors, quickly enough - he hoped - that none of them would think it unusual. He'd been about to tell his father everything, hoping he could buy them enough time to get back to Delenn's suite: the arrival of more officials complicated matters slightly. He couldn't see how he could get Delenn out of there, but they would know something was wrong sooner or later-

    "Ah, Captain Sheridan." Morrison was eyeing him with a particularly ungenuine smile, Sheridan noted with an inward wince. "Perhaps-"

    "I will deal with this." The Minbari he didn't know stepped toward Sheridan, and from his tone, John suddenly wished the General had gotten hold of him instead.

    //My help is required?// He kept his words formal, his eyes down and hoped Vannar would say something. He'd seen Delenn go with Sheridan, he knew or at least must have guessed what was going on...

    "You speak our language." The Minbari's tone was accusatory.

    "Yes." Sheridan didn't see why he should defend it. "Is that a problem?"

    "It is... unexpected." He glared at Vannar, obviously having expected the other Minbari to have informed him of such a development. "It is also unimportant. Where is Satai Delenn?"

    Something in his tone made Sheridan bristle; as if Delenn had to be under the eyes of another Minbari at all times. *Why shouldn't she have some privacy? She's your damned leader, after all.* "What business is it of yours?"

    It was the verbal equivalent of throwing himself into the Battle of The Line in an EVA suit.

    "*John!*" David gave him a furious glare, the Minbari only just restraining himself from leaping on the Captain in a flurry of insults. Morrison barked out a command, but it was Lefcourt who managed to call him to attention.

    "*Captain* Sheridan!" Reflexively, he turned and just managed to avoid snapping to attention.

    "Yes, sir?"

    Lefcourt's scowl could have burnt through a War Cruiser, but the other General interrupted with an irate, barely controlled shout before he could reprimand the Captain.

    "Sheridan! You will address *all* of the Minbari with respect. They are our *guests* here, and you will treat them as such." He turned and bowed to the tall Minbari. "My apologies for the insult, Ambassador Neriel. He will be dealt with, may I assure you-"

    "It is unimportant." Nerien's tone was impatient. "*Where* is Satai Delenn? If you have harmed her, Starkiller-"

    //I am here.// Before Sheridan could say anything to stop her, Delenn moved the bedroom doors aside and stepped out. He turned to her, about to speak, but she afforded him such a look of tenderness that he stopped and simply nodded. Vannar shifted to attention before her, but Neriel stared for a long while before her pointed glance made him realise his error and he immediately bowed his head.

    //Better,// she acknowledged in a tone that Sheridan was secretly proud of. //Now, Neriel. You see that I am unharmed, do you not?//

    //Yes, Satai.// He didn't dare look up as she approached him, and Sheridan struggled to contain his amusement as the woman he knew to be gentle and loving took on a will of iron. It was a part of her he rarely saw, but a powerful one that had even Morrison backing away.

    //Then there is no reason for your continued presence here?//

    //No, Satai.//

    Delenn smiled, and Sheridan marvelled at how an expression he found so lovely could inspire such fear.

    //Then you are dismissed.// She glanced up at her bodyguard and said in a softer tone, //You may wait outside until I am ready to leave, Vannar.// The warrior nodded once and left. Neriel went to follow, crossing the threshold before:

    //Neriel.//

    He spun immediately, obviously afraid of incurring her wrath and perhaps fearing he had misunderstood her order to leave.

    //Yes, Satai?//

    Delenn smiled in *that* way, and Sheridan was positive he saw the Minbari tremble.

    //In the future, you will kindly not address my husband in such an insulting manner.//

    Neriel couldn't help it; shock got the better of him and he looked straight at her to ensure he had heard correctly. If she judged it an insult, Delenn made nothing of it. //Dismissed.//

    //Y-yes, Satai Delenn.// But she had already turned away before he managed to get the words out. Sheridan grinned at the speed at which he disappeared.

    "John," Delenn said softly, and he turned his attention back to her.

    //Yes, Satai?//

    She smiled tenderly at his half-serious tone. //I will never be Satai to you, zha'Mir.// Her hand reached for his and he held it tightly as they turned to face the Humans. Delenn wished fervently, as she was sure John did, that she could order them away as easily. It would very probably have worked, given their hugely over-zealous desire to please her, but she wasn't sure her conscience stretched to abusing that desire.

    "Satai Delenn." Morrison bowed 'respectfully' while still managing to run his eyes over her from the crown downwards in the movement. Delenn swallowed back her anger and disgust: it was one thing to show such an interest, even in one of her rank, but when she was so obviously attached to someone else - it was unthinkably insolent, not to mention unpleasant for her. She was sure she could feel her conscience begging her to order him out right around then. She refused by a thin thread to try her luck and turned away, feeling the colour rise in her cheeks.

    "*General,*" and Sheridan put as much disrespect and contempt as he could manage into the word, "outside of here, I can't say anything however much I want to. However," he stepped angrily forward, "these are my private quarters and as such, it would be at the very least courteous of you to treat *my* guest with the respect she deserves." He was less than a foot from Morrison, eyes blazing and a hand raised in warning. "Insult me all you like, Morrison, but don't you ever even *think* of touching her. Do we understand each other?"

    Morrison stared at him, astonished. "You can't talk to me like that, Sheridan! I - I could have you court-martialled for insubordination!" He was blustering and he knew it, and Delenn's conscience finally persuaded her.

    "I doubt that is really the case, General." She smiled innocently and waved off the problem. "If so, I'm sure there is room in the Minbari military for someone of Captain Sheridan's standing. Certainly the Rangers would welcome you," she added to him. Morrison obviously didn't believe she was serious: Delenn gave him a contemptuous frown and when she spoke there was an acid sweetness in her voice.

    "If you will excuse us, my -" she paused before saying 'husband', aware that her future father-in-law was watching her - "my partner and I would like some privacy before the day starts." She afforded David a smile, but turned back to his son without regarding the others and said brightly; "Now. What would you like for breakfast?" She went to the kitchen without a backward glance, and he couldn't help but grin in superiority at the open-mouthed dignitaries.

    "I think you've been dismissed."

    * * * * *

    "They certainly left in a hurry," he agreed when she mentioned the incident over breakfast. His culinary skills hadn't improved over the years, but Delenn had managed a quite decent meal for the two of them and he'd eaten with relish.

    "Mm." He kissed her crown lightly and leaned forward to put his plate atop hers on the coffee table before settling back into the couch. "I didn't realise I was that hungry."

    "There is a very obvious answer to that, but I will refrain from mentioning it," Delenn said with a smile. He looked at her for a moment and then chuckled as it came to him.

    "Yeah, I guess there is." He kissed the side of her crown suggestively and she laughed, turning her head to regard him with amusement.

    "John! Would you like to work up another appetite that large?"

    "If you're willing," he answered reasonably. He went to lift her, but she playfully slapped his hand and shifted her weight further against him. He sat comfortably with her back against his chest, his legs wrapped around hers along the length of the couch, and she had only to move a little backward to hold him there. Sheridan protested for a second, then glared amusedly at the back of her head and tightened his arms around her. They stayed that way for a short while before a thought occurred to Delenn and she sighed. Sheridan lifted his head from nuzzling her hair and leaned forward to better see her face, touching her cheek in concern.

    "Something wrong?" She sighed again and looked up at him, shaking her head with a resigned smile.

    "No, I suppose not. It's just that... well, I have to go soon. I have work to do." She twirled a length of hair between her fingers in annoyance. "I have an entire day of talks to get through before we see each other again after this." He grinned when she pouted slightly. "I hate leaving you so soon after last night."

    Sheridan smiled at her reluctance: satisfied it was nothing serious, he relaxed into the couch again and, pulling her closer as she turned to face him, ran a finger enticingly over her crown. "Would it help if I were to offer a repeat performance for you tonight, if you get through these talks?"

    Delenn lifted her head for a moment and smiled at his concern for her.

    "It would be an incentive, I suppose." She pretended a cool interest. "Are you offering?"

    He shrugged, tilted her chin up and kissed her without answering. Delenn shifted around for comfort to sit in his lap, ardently returning it. When he moved away to look her in the eyes, she only smiled and ran her fingers through his hair, drawing him back to her for another long, deep, passionate kiss that lasted until neither of them remembered its starting.

    When they were still again, held in each others arms, Sheridan began to carefully trace the fluted patterns on her crown. He felt her tilt her head toward his shoulder as he did so, smiling at the soft texture under his fingertips. He knew, despite the beliefs of most, that Minbari bone could be as sensitive as skin - more so, if you learnt how to stimulate it. It wasn't something many Humans recognised - the knowledge was probably limited, at most, to those Rangers trained on Minbar... He smiled as a thought came to him, mulling it over.

    //Can you see me as a Ranger, Delenn?// She gave him a surprised smile at that, wondering where it had come from before she remembered her earlier offer.

    //Maybe not simply a Ranger,// she allowed. //Perhaps Entil'zha. It would certainly be an appropriate position.// She lowered her head onto his chest and nuzzled his shoulder. "After all, Entil'zha and the Chosen One have to have a very close relationship..."

    "As close as ours?" He sounded defensive and she realised what she had implied.

    "Different," she assured him with a smile. "I know Marcus would be glad to be rid of the position-"

    "Marcus?" He blinked incredulously. "Marcus is Entil'zha?"

    "No. Only Anla'shok Na." Having confused him, Delenn sighed patiently and sat up again.

    "Only Sinclair and I have ever been Entil'zha."

    "What about Valen?" He knew as soon as he spoke and groaned. "Oh."

    "Exactly." Delenn stood, removing the remains of their breakfast from the table. "There is a connection between the three of us, although I will confess to not knowing precisely what it is. All I know is that you *should* be Entil'zha." The quick clearing done, she offered both hands to help him up. He stood and she reached up to caress his cheek. "No one will contest it if I make the suggestion."

    "Smacks a little of nepotism now, doesn't it?" He twined his fingers with hers and led her through the door as they continued to talk.

    "Why should it?" Delenn nodded to acknowledge Vannar falling into step behind them as they entered the lift. "You are right for the position. I know that and you know that. And the Council will know that, when I speak to them." Her tone implied that the Grey Council would fare much better seeing things her way. "What personal link there is between us, it makes no difference." Sheridan looked down to check she was serious; he saw she was and shrugged.

    "If you say so."

    "I say so." They exchanged a brief, intense gaze, and her facade broke slightly into a smile that she tried to hide as they reached the foyer of the conference centre. Sheridan cast a quick glance down to their linked hands, but Delenn made no move to separate them; he grinned inwardly. *And who am I to complain?*

    His smile soon turned outward, and proud, as they wandered through the gathering; Delenn shifted a little closer to him, making no secret of their attachment - although, as he had hold of her right hand, the ring on her left made it quite obvious.

    "John!"

    He turned his head, searching out the source of the yell. Delenn stopped and motioned for Vannar to do the same, following her lover's gaze.

    "Hey, John! Over here!" She glanced behind her and put her left hand on Sheridan's chest to catch his attention, motioning to a lone, dark-skinned civilian just inside an open restaurant where breakfast was being served to the conference's attendees. Sheridan turned at her gesture and grinned, relieved.

    "Carl." He looked down at Delenn's quiet enquiry. "Carl Kander, an old school friend of mine from the year below me." Anticipating her next question, he smiled knowingly. "If you're wondering what he's doing here, don't ask. News must have got out about us by now - that would be why he came, I guess, but I doubt I could tell you how he got in." He shrugged, used to his friend's scheming. "Carl has connections everywhere."

    Delenn smiled mischievously. "That reminds me of someone else I know." At his embarrassed reaction, her smile widened. "I will meet you in your quart- in your suite," she corrected and laughed. "I'm so used to being on Babylon 5, even after all this time. Especially now I'm around you."

    "Brings back a lot of memories, doesn't it?"

    She nodded. "A lot of good memories. I miss it." She smiled a little sadly.

    "So do I. But at least we don't have to miss each other anymore," he reminded her. Delenn nodded and purposefully brightened.

    "True." She placed her hands on his chest, turning her gaze upward to his with a sigh.

    "You have to go?" She nodded again. "All right. I'll-"

    She reached up and kissed him, and he unwittingly returned the embrace before remembering where they were and pulling away as gently as he could.

    "See you later," he finished softly. She nodded, slipping her hand out of his with a smile that was for him alone, no matter how many people were watching as she walked away. Sheridan stood and watched her go until they turned the corner, then turned and strolled briskly over to the restaurant where Kander was motioning for his plates to be cleared. He pulled out a chair, not waiting for an offer to sit. He knew the man well enough to know one wouldn't be forthcoming - it just wasn't his way. "Hi, Carl."

    The other man didn't bother with pleasantries, but then Carl never had. "Jeez, Johnny - you bagged the Minbari leader?!"

    "Carl." Sheridan looked seriously at the man across from him. "You've been a lifelong friend. I'd hate to have to hit you for that at such a late date."

    Kander laughed as he leaned back, eyeing the other man speculatively. "So this is the real thing, huh?"

    "The real thing," he confirmed. "Took us both a while to figure it out, but we got there." A light-haired waitress unloaded a coffee pot onto the table, and Sheridan thought back to his own breakfast with Delenn. "Yeah, Carl, it's real." He poured out the waiting drink, handing one of the clear mugs to Kander. The dark man accepted it with a nod, absently taking in the crowded restaurant.

    "You know, rumour had that General Morrison guy as top chance for your Minbari."

    Sheridan scowled and gave a contemptuous snort. "That's total shit. He'd as soon kill as claim her - and that's what he'd do, believe me - if it'd help his career." As an afterthought he tapped the table with a knuckle. "And she's not *my* Minbari, either."

    "Whatever you say." Kander shrugged. "Whatever you *do* say, this... attachment... is sure as hell not gonna be bad for *your* career. There's word already you're heading for being the first Human to captain a Minbari cruiser."

    *Been there, done that,* Sheridan thought privately but didn't mention. Instead he laughed.

    "That was Delenn's idea! She got a little hot-headed with Morrison, thought she'd shake him up a little." He grinned triumphantly, taking a sip of coffee. "There's no way that idiot would get his hands on a *flyer*, let alone a full-blown war cruiser while Delenn's around." He twirled the cup, a little surprised. "They're saying that already?"

    "Yep." Kander offered his mug and Sheridan obediently poured out a refill. The younger man lent forward in his chair, elbows on his knees, and clasped his hands in front of him. The glimmer in his eyes told Sheridan he was out for information, and he wasn't disappointed.

    "So, is there any truth to it?"

    Sheridan eyed him sideways with an odd smile. "I don't know. Maybe I will go back to Minbar. Maybe I won't, who knows right now?" He relaxed back into the chair, considering the options. "Delenn's offered me command of the Rangers, and from what I hear their current leader would be more than willing to hand over the position. It's certainly an attractive prospect." Kander gaped at him, taken aback. "You're thinking about doing this?"

    Sheridan nodded openly. "Mmm. Why? It's only an idea at this stage."

    "Yeah, but still..."

    "All those Minbari and little ol' me, huh?"

    The other man frowned. "Something like that."

    Sheridan grinned and shrugged. "I'll manage. I've worked with the Rangers before; they're a good group of people, and enough Humans among them I won't get too 'caged in' by Minbari."

    "I'm not sure your family would see it quite that way," Kander reminded him and he winced.

    "Hell, I guess not. But it's my decision - and anyway, if it's a promotion, what does it matter if it's on this planet or the next?"

    * * * * *

    Sheridan pushed his room key into the slot and stepped into darkness as the door cycled open. He looked around, confused. He was late: she should have been back for a long time. "Delenn, where-"

    "Behind you," she answered before he got the question out. He raised his eyebrows as he turned; she saw the expression even in the dim light and laughed. "You were about to ask where I was: I told you. I am here, with you, where you should always expect me to be - if not in body then in soul." She reached up and kissed him lightly with a gentle smile. "And where have you been?"

    "Talking," he said evasively.

    "With who?" It was curiosity rather than accusation that made her ask, and he answered with a noncommittal shrug.

    "Everyone. No one person in particular." Seeing her begin to grow exasperated at his uninformative answer, he smiled placatingly and rested his hands on her shoulders. "Just people, Delenn. Stopped me in the corridors, in the lift - I didn't even know most of them, and all of them asking the same things. About you and me and the conference, and other half-cocked notions I haven't a clue about." He kissed her tenderly to appease her. "It's nothing important, really. I'm sorry I took so long."

    She smiled in that way that always made him curious and just a little worried. "It's all right. It gave me some time to prepare."

    Sheridan blinked in surprise. "Prepare for what?" He looked around. "Why are all the lights out?" Delenn seemed to ignore his question, reaching into a fold of her robe and withdrawing something.

    "Here. I had this made for you." She took his hand and pressed the something, warm, into his palm. Sheridan glanced at her questioningly, but she shook her head for him to be silent and took his other hand. He followed her through to the bedroom, taking in the darkened suite with a confused smile.

    "Delenn, what - what is all this?" He gestured around; a large, single candle lit the back of the room and he had to strain to see the bed. When he did, he noticed the covers drawn back and his robe lain across them. He glanced at her, then nodded and silently changed into it before Delenn cupped her hands around the candle and blew out the flame.

    "Call it our honeymoon," she whispered through the darkness. "Open your hand." He did so and she heard him gasp suddenly, seeing it a moment later as the crystal she had placed in his grasp illuminated his face. He turned toward her, amazed.

    "Delenn?"

    She smiled, offering her hand, and he took it in his. She led him to the bed and sat down, opening a drawer beside it to withdraw another crystal mounted on a silver chain. It shone as brightly as the one Sheridan held, and she placed it carefully on the table before turning to him and motioning to the other side of the bed. Sheridan regarded her for a second; shaking his head quizzically, he performed the same task with his own gift. Delenn moved fully onto the bed as he did so, and he saw the purpose of it as she lay down: both crystals together lit up the pillows like soft candlelight, casting a warm glow over her face.

    He raised his eyebrows as he sat down, waiting for her to explain.

    "They are... The word is *thi'lendrei*."

    Sheridan manoeuvered himself next to her, perplexed. "'Two crystals'? That's kind of obvious, Delenn."

    "No, no." She shook her head in frustration. "I don't know the correct words in your language. It means... I don't know what it means." She sighed and looked up at him in apology. "It means thi'lendrei. There is no translation."

    "'Thi'lendrei'." He considered the word. "Maybe 'a pair', rather than 'two'? That would make more sense." Delenn nodded enthusiasically.

    "Much more, although you couldn't know." She reclaimed his hand and he obediently followed her gentle signal that he should lie down. "They only shine this way when they are close together; the further apart they are, the fainter they become. The same crystal is used in the triluminaries and other Minbari scanners - no one is entirely sure how it works, but it is very accurate."

    Sheridan nodded: the light was certainly bright enough to concur with her explanation.

    "So why give one to me?"

    "Can you not guess?" With a conspiratorial smile, she pulled him closer to her. "They are unusually rare for crystals on my world. Only a very small number of couples ever manage to obtain them." She looked at him seriously. "It is considered a great honour to be given one by a partner."

    Sheridan smiled in return and brushed the back of his hand across her cheek. "I consider it a greater honour just to have you as my partner," he said softly and she smiled, suddenly a little shy.

    "Thank you."

    "It's true," he answered sincerely. "Nothing you could give me could ever match what I have already." He leaned over to kiss her, but as his lips touched hers there was a pulse of light and he looked up in surprise.

    "What was that?" Sitting up, he studied each crystal in turn and then looked back at her. "Did they do what I think they did?"

    "If what you think is that they reacted to us, then yes." Delenn lifted herself up to his level and smiled. "I told you that no one knows how they work. It is a strange reaction, I know, but it happens all the same." He cast an incredulous glance at the shining gift, and then looked back at her with a slightly despairing expression.

    "Are they going to do that every time I kiss you?" Delenn seemed about to answer, then thought better of it and pushed him teasingly down onto the bed.

    "Why don't we find out?" She kissed him slowly, sensually, and he quickly forgot why he had been so irritated. She huddled into his arms contently as he moved over her and responded with another tender kiss before she reluctantly broke away. "Is it such a bad thing to know how we feel about each other?"

    "No! Of course not." He smoothed her hair onto the pillow with a rueful smile. "I'm just not sure I need such a blinding reminder, that's all."

    "The effect can be dampened," Delenn assured him. "They barely glow at all in normal light, if you're not watching; I wanted you to be able to see it, that's why I made it so dark in here. I can light some candles, that will help -" She started to rise but he quickly held her back.

    "No, it's okay. I'm kind of getting used to it now." He smiled. "It's actually quite nice. Like candlelight." There was a long pause as he caressed her face, from the tip of her crown to her shoulders under the thin robe she wore. "You look beautiful like this, Delenn." He went to kiss her again, but the brilliance of the light grew in intensity before he reached her and Delenn laughed softly as he stared, bewildered.

    "I know what you were thinking just then," she chastised playfully, "and it was not about how beautiful I looked."

    "It was!" His expression softened and she shivered in anticipation at the edge to his voice. "I was thinking how lovely you were last night, when we were... How did you know?"

    "I'm a telepath," she teased, laughing again at his dubious expression. "All right. Just as they react to physical closeness, thi'lendrei can be susceptible to emotions as well."

    "Love lights," he murmured. Delenn smiled, delighted.

    "Yes, I suppose they are. I've never thought of it that way. It's quite a nice translation. They have to be attuned carefully to each couple, but..." she trailed off. "Well, I have had plenty of time to do that."

    Sheridan felt a thought at the back of his mind. "How long have you had these, Delenn?" She hesitated before answering and he held her tightly, beginning to ignore the warm glow that jumped as he did so. "How long?"

    "Three years. It is as long as you had this," she added defensively, sliding her left hand from his grasp to show the ring on her finger. "It's no different."

    "I didn't say it was." He hugged her tenderly, removing all doubt. "I wasn't accusing you. I guess we were both waiting for this long before it happened, huh?"

    There was a short silence that wasn't entirely comfortable, but it didn't last long as he purposefully ended it with a kiss.

    "Do they react to... other things?" His lips were inches from hers, and she felt her skin warm under his suggestive gaze.

    "I... I would think so. I've never had the chance to test them before."

    Sheridan grinned. "Well then; shall we?"

    They soon found, as Delenn had expected, that her gift did indeed react to 'other things' - specifically, that 'love light' became an even more appropriate translation. Somewhere in the night, the candles Delenn had placed around the room were lit, but the warm light could hardly eclipse that which they created through their love. Even when they lay tiredly in each others arms, the hands on the dresser timepiece moving past midnight, there came a subdued - and if Sheridan wasn't imagining things, profoundly sated - glow from the crystalline lights.

    "John?"

    Drawn from his thoughts of her, he opened his eyes and the remaining brilliance dimmed a little.

    "Hmm?"

    Delenn lifted her head very slightly and then lowered it again. "Nothing." She yawned and smiled vaguely. //I just wondered if you were sleeping.// He chuckled quietly.

    "You must be tired."

    Delenn just closed her eyes. "Why?"

    "You're talking Minbari."

    She looked up. "Am I?" He nodded and she sighed, covering another yawn and smiling sheepishly. "I'm sorry. I am tired."

    "I noticed," Sheridan assured her as he pulled the covers up around her shoulders. "Furthermore, I am happy to claim responsibility." He kissed her forehead and settled himself into the pillows. "Can you sleep with this light, or do you want me to put them away?"

    "Leave them. I like it." Her words were drawn out as sleep set in. "It reminds me of you."

    He shrugged and closed his eyes.

    "I wouldn't think you'd need a reminder. I'm right here."

    "I know." She smiled lovingly without opening her eyes. "Goodnight."

    "Mm." He felt consciousness slipping from his mind and struggled to tell her; "I love you."

    Delenn's answer was as clear as she could make it, but she wasn't sure he could hear her.

    "That, I will never doubt."

    * * * * *

    Their second morning came all too quickly for Delenn's liking; awoken by the absence of his warmth beside her when she turned over, it took a moment for her to recognise the steady beating of water from the shower. Knowing he would return soon enough, she sighed, opened her eyes and blinked back the 'day' lighting. With effort, she lifted her head and looked around. The candles that had lit their pleasure the night before had become lower and were no longer alight; she guessed that John had put them out. He had also wrapped her more tightly in the covers, for as used to them as she was now she knew she had a tendency to remove them during her sleep. John's uniform, discarded near the closet in the previous darkness, lay neatly across a chair along with his bathrobe - Delenn smiled when she realised what that meant, her dawning interest changing to merriment when the crystal beside her pillow flared with her thoughts.

    "You're awake, then." He smiled, amused, leaning against the doorframe of the adjoining bathroom. "These things are useful." Her gift hug around his neck on the chain and he motioned to it with one hand, holding the towel around his waist with the other. Delenn saw both, smiling at the first and then making an annoyed face. "That isn't fair," she accused, frowning at the offending material. He looked at her with a polite smile and she sighed as if talking to a young child. "It isn't as if I haven't seen everything before now, John."

    "If you saw it *all* the time, you'd get bored," he told her pedantically as he turned his back on her to open the closet.

    Delenn rose from the bed: uncaring of her current and complete state of undress, she glided up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing against his back. Sheridan resisted for only a moment; against her skilled attack, it was all he could have managed. The pendant at his neck throbbed incessantly, and he found knowing she was thinking of him - especially in their current situation - incredibly arousing. Given where her physical attentions were heading, it was a safe guess what she was imagining.

    "You don't fight fair," he whispered hoarsely. He'd said it to her before, but he didn't remember where or when. There was no when except now, no where except right there, with her in his arms as he turned to her. He let the towel fall, refusing to allow any barrier between them and instead trying to move her back onto the bed.

    She wouldn't go.

    "Now." Her voice was seductive in his ear, and he couldn't help but smile.

    "It's more difficult than you think this way," he warned her. "Trust me."

    "I trust you." She looked up at him. "It doesn't matter. I can manage." She kissed him hard on the mouth, and when she spoke again her tone was commanding. "Now."

    In truth, he wouldn't have wasted the time by then in getting to the bed, but he was too preoccupied to mention that to her until they were finished. When he did, she laughed.

    "Neither would I. And you were right." She smiled up into his eyes, but there was a glint in her own. "It was more difficult than I thought." After a moment holding his gaze, she kissed him enticingly. "But it is the challenge which makes it interesting." She pulled away and he frowned after her.

    "Where are you going?"

    "To have a shower." On the bathroom threshold, she turned back to him and flashed a smile. "Are you coming?"

    "I should have said 'twice'," he told her afterwards as he watched her prepare breakfast. Delenn looked up for a long moment with an expression that was half admonishment and half amusement; shook her head and returned to her cooking. He grinned innocently. "What? It would have been true."

    "That is beside the point. Here," she turned out the final heat pad and emptied the last of breakfast onto a waiting plate. "Help yourself. You should be hungry by now."

    "You make it sound as if *I* did all the seducing," he muttered through a mouthful of bacon. Delenn smiled serenely.

    "Of course. Didn't you?"

    He turned his gaze on her, studying her face, and looked back at his plate. Then he very precisely swallowed, placed his knife and fork together on the plate and pushed it momentarily to one side as he got up. Delenn was already out of her seat, but he was taller and faster and easily caught her as she tried to escape his chase. A peal of delighted laughter rang through the suite as he grabbed her and swung her around; but he was off-balance and fell back onto the couch with her in his lap, eating temporarily forgotten. He saw the alluring defiance on her face, knowing it for what it was, and allowed her to push him back onto the couch.

    "Isn't twice in one morning enough for you?" he murmured as she leaned down to kiss him. Delenn lifted her head and scowled playfully.

    "It's your own fault."

    "My fault?!" He wondered for a moment if sex, as well as alcohol, sent Minbari mad.

    "Yes." She began to kiss his face, lightly brushing his lips with her fingers as she whispered; "If you weren't so good at this..."

    She knew exactly what to say, what to do and when to do it, and if the door hadn't chimed at that moment he would very likely have succumbed to her charms for the third time that morning. As their luck went, it seemed twice would have to be enough.

    "Yes?" He glanced at her, remembering the last time someone - Ivanova - had interrupted them doing decidedly less, but Delenn's ability to switch between personal and professional had developed considerably since then and she sat up almost instantly, although he saw the chagrined look she gave him and grinned, concentrating. The crystal which now hung at her throat gave a brilliant pulse and Delenn smiled.

    Sheridan stood to answer the door while she organised the kitchen, which had by mutual consent become her domain, and so she missed his reaction to the visitor until he came up behind her.

    "Duty call," he said dejectedly when she turned to him. "They'll need you at the conference soon, and Dad wants to talk to me. He's meeting me for lunch, apparently." He smiled gratefully as she placed a mug of steaming coffee in his hand and made a motion for him to eat the remaining breakfast laid out before them.

    "Aren't you going to eat?" He frowned, concerned, as she went back to clearing the kitchen area. "You have a lot more work to get through today than I do. If you can't rest properly around here, you should at least eat something." Delenn smiled at the gentle taunt but let it pass with a reluctant nod.

    "I will eat." She slid onto the stool opposite and cupped her hands around her own mug. He pushed a loaded plate toward her and she smiled, accepting his insistent concern and succumbing to it. When they were both finished, the remainder of breakfast gone, he led her to the conference door with Vannar following attentively. She turned for a lingering kiss before entering, keeping her voice low.

    "Are you sure everything will be all right with your father? He seemed a little shocked this morning. I don't want to alienate my father-in-law before we even have a chance to talk."

    "It's fine," he assured her although he wasn't sure it was. The security guard on the door coughed politely and Sheridan gestured to the conference. "Go on, they're waiting." He grinned reassuringly. "Give 'em hell."

    Delenn smiled. "I will." She turned and strode regally through the doors, Vannar faithfully at her heels. Sheridan watched her until the doors closed, then grinned to himself and left to attend his own day's work.

    * * * * *

    "Sheridan!"

    He stopped and sighed heavily, closing his eyes. He'd managed to avoid anyone in the chain of command for almost three hours now, although he'd had some close calls: evidently they had caught up with him despite his valiant hide-and-seek attempts.

    "Go to hell," he muttered under his breath before plastering on a smile and turning around. "General Morrison. What a pleasant surprise."

    "Don't play games with me, Sheridan." Only Lefcourt's restraint stopped an immediate onslaught from Morrison. "I demand to know what you think you're doing here, what you have done to the Minbari leader and *when* you will be leaving." His tone implied that would be sooner than Sheridan imagined.

    "General," Lefcourt laid a soothing hand on the man's arm. He obviously thought the tirade a little overdone, which allowed Sheridan to relax slightly. "Perhaps we should discuss this. Captain?"

    Sheridan smiled and nodded. "Certainly. Would you like some coffee?" He led them both to the restaurant he and Kander had shared the day before, nonchalantly pouring coffee as Morrison fixed him with a black stare. He sat back and held his cup in both hands, waiting for it to begin.

    "The Minbari aren't a people you can mess around, unless you want your face rammed into the back of your head," Morrison launched angrily before Lefcourt could say anything more civil.

    "I'm not 'messing around'," Sheridan returned with a sigh.

    "Oh, really? And what would *you* call what you were doing with their Satai last night?"

    Sheridan swirled his tea absently. "Catching up." He took a long drink and then looked up, leaning into the chair. "Look, Delenn and I have a - a past, I guess you'd say. It's not widely circulated among Minbari circles, and no one here knows because I haven't told them, but we were... involved. It was a while ago," he added tiredly. "But trust me, okay? No one's messing anyone around."

    //I would hope not.// He felt her hand come to rest on his shoulder and grinned, turning to her. Delenn smiled and slid into the chair beside him. //Progress?//

    //A little.// He knew she was only speaking in her language to exclude and annoy Morrison, but he didn't mind. Hell, why shouldn't they have some privacy? //Not much. You?//

    //Closer,// she assured him with a tired smile. //The foundations are there; the rest will come in time.// She paused, a little hesitant. //Have you met with your father yet?// He shook his head, looking up suddenly.

    "Leaving us so soon, Generals?" Lefcourt and Morrison had stood to go, and he gave the pretence of a disappointed smile.

    "I'm afraid so, Captain. If you would excuse us, Satai." Lefcourt had an accepting expression on his face as he spoke, but Morrison said nothing except to bow formally to Delenn before following Lefcourt from the restaurant.

    "He lost," Sheridan muttered with a touch of triumph. "I bet there isn't one woman who's avoided his charms the way you have."

    "I do not see that he *has* any charms to speak of," Delenn answered distastefully as she settled more comfortably into the seat. "He does not have any respect for anyone that I have seen, either."

    "Oh, he does." Sheridan poured her a drink and grimaced. "Just not for the opposite sex. You're a challenge for that, let me tell you."

    "An *unattainable* challenge," Delenn insisted. Sheridan laughed.

    "And he knows it. The guy's been seething all morning - I'd swear he wants to hit me. Probably had a bet on with someone, and I guess having the lowest ranking guy there swipe your target would piss you off a little." Delenn laughed, taking his hand and twining her fingers with his.

    "What little he knows," she said sadly, but there was a sparkle in her eyes.

    "Indeed." He leant back again from the table and rested their linked hands on the arm of his chair. "How long until they need you back in there?" He tilted his head toward the conference centre.

    "Long enough for lunch," Delenn replied. "We restart at one thirty. What time are you meeting your father?"

    "Right about now." Sheridan squeezed her hand and gestured to the approaching Ambassador. Delenn stood, and he started to protest but she shook her head.

    "It's better I'm not here, at least this time. Besides, I have work to pick up from my suite before I have lunch. It isn't as if I've been there long enough to get anything in the past few days." Sheridan grinned; she leaned down and kissed him in parting, and he squeezed her fingers.

    "Later, then."

    "Later," Delenn promised. She was reluctant to release his hand as she walked away, looking back over her shoulder for a long while. He smiled after her, and she returned it with a silent 'good luck' as his father took his attention.

    "You got my message," he said stiffly. Sheridan grinned, trying to put him at ease, and nodded.

    "Vannar delivered it this morning. Sit down, Dad." David nodded and did so, but his son noticed the obvious discomfort. "Look, this needs to get out in the open. What's bothering you? As if I really need to ask." He saw David's gaze follow Delenn and sighed. "I thought as much. Why is it a problem? Because Delenn's so important, or because she's Minbari? Or is it because I didn't tell you?"

    "You lied to us, son." The words were harsh and Sheridan shook his head.

    "No! I never lied, to any of you. Lying was what got me into this in the first place; don't think I haven't learnt my lesson." He sighed, accepting the accusation with raised hands. "I know, I didn't tell you about Delenn before. I'm sorry for that, but you know how Mom would have reacted and it was over - I didn't see any reason to do that to her. I wanted to forget about it, about everything... That's why I came back. I thought if I was away from the memories, I could get over what happened." He laughed, but there was no humour behind it. "Time heals, huh? I guess that's only if it's really finished."

    David shook his head, irritated. "Whatever you've done in the past, John, it doesn't give you the right to jeopardise this conference. If things go badly with the Minbari because you decided to indulge yourself-"

    "What *is* it with people around here?!" He saw several people glance his way as he raised his voice in anger, but he didn't care. "Yeah, this conference is important. Of course it is, but why isn't *this* important as well? Why does everyone assume I don't care about what happens? I *love* Delenn. I love her now, I loved her three years ago, I loved her from the moment I met her! Doesn't that *matter* to you? Is all you can see some - some tactless Captain who wanted an easy lay for the weekend?"

    David said nothing. Sheridan sighed and despairingly covered his face with his hands.

    "For God's sake, Dad, can't you just be happy for me? For us?" He sat back, earnestly trying to convince his father. "I never stopped loving her, Dad. Delenn feels the same way: if it hadn't been for some pointless misunderstanding, we'd have been married all this time instead of ignoring each other. I was going to ask her, when we were still on Babylon 5, but I never had the chance until now." He saw his father's gaze jerk upward and smiled, nodding. "Yeah, we're getting married. We already are, under Minbari law - Delenn started the ritual before we split up, and there's no time limit if the participants are willing. The Human part..." He shrugged. "We'll set a date when we're ready. Right now, I think we're both happy enough as we are." At his father's shocked expression, he grinned wryly. "Is that enough to convince you? I'm serious about Delenn, as much as she is about me."

    "I... I guess you are." David blinked, shaking his head in amazement. "But it's so sudden, John - you know how your mother's going to be when you tell her."

    Sheridan poured coffee for them both, taking the pressure off the conversation. "It's not as sudden as you think," he countered. "Liz'll tell you: I haven't been interested in anyone since I got back to Earth, and she's always known I was waiting for Delenn even if it was a hopeless cause. She's been trying for years to get me to talk to her again." He grinned suddenly. "She's gonna be pleased when she hears." He pushed the coffee cup across the table. "So it's not really that out of the blue, although I guess it is to you. I tried not to mention Delenn around Mom, and we really haven't seen much of each other without her... Even then I couldn't just say, 'oh by the way, I was going to marry the Minbari leader, but never mind.'"

    "You've got a point." David's voice was reluctant, but his son smiled all the same.

    "Just wait till you meet her properly, Dad." He grinned as the crystal around his neck gave out the short flicker of light that he'd come to recognise, during the morning, as Delenn's thoughts resting on him. It amazed him how accurate the gifts were as he sent a silent flash of love back to her. "You'll see, trust me; if there's such a thing as destiny, then Delenn is mine." He took a long sip of coffee: there was nothing left to say now, only to wait on the response.

    David studied his son, the confidence and sincerity on his face, and after a long while he smiled and nodded. "Son, in that case, I'm happy for you. For both of you," he added with a wide although hesitant grin. Sheridan let out a sigh of relief and returned the expression as his father opened the menu between them. "Now, what are we having?"

    * * * * *

    John Sheridan stood outside the doors to the conference, waiting patiently for the dignitaries to leave. *They should be finished any time now,* he reassured himself with a sigh as he stared at the clock. It was like waiting for someone to come out of class - the time always passed more slowly when you weren't doing anything.

    The doors opened and he grinned, almost hearing an imaginary school bell as people poured out into the spacious reception. Delenn wasn't among them, but quite a few gave him curious looks and he smiled good-naturedly back at them before taking his chance at pushing through the melee. A security guard caught him by the arm and he jerked backward.

    "Excuse me." His voice was slightly annoyed at the delay, especially as he noticed Delenn seated alone at the ring-like conference table, studiously reading a paper.

    "You don't have clearance for this conference," the guard told him equably. "You can't come in here."

    Sheridan sighed. "Look, I'm not carrying. I don't even have a weapon on the planet; I'm just here to get Delenn."

    "You don't have clearance," the guard repeated.

    "What kind of clearance do you want?" He forced himself to be calm. "My name is John Jay Sheridan, Captain, EAS *Phoenix*. My father is David Sheridan and I'm considered married to the honoured guest at this conference. At least by the Minbari," he amended. The man studied him for a moment and then nodded reluctantly.

    "Two minutes. And stay where I can see you."

    "Of course." Sheridan nodded his thanks and entered the room with a smile. Delenn didn't look up as he approached, and he stood directly beside her before she acknowledged his presence.

    "Mind if I join you?" Delenn looked up at him in surprise and smiled, then quickly glanced down at the pendant she had fastened on its adjusting chain around her wrist. It was shining even in the sunlit room and she frowned, wondering how she could not have noticed the glow growing stronger.

    "By all means." With a finality borne of relief, she closed the files she had been studying. "How did it go with your father?"

    "It was... interesting, at first." Her look of concern made him smile. "Everything went fine. He wants to meet you."

    "We have already met," she pointed out.

    "Ah, but that's different. Besides, you have to meet the rest of the family while we're here." She nodded, gathering the documents in front of her.

    "Yes, I know. It will be good to-" Her head shot up to find him still standing over her, grinning. "While *we're* here? Does that mean you're coming back to Minbar with me?" Sheridan's expression was the answer and she flew into his arms, hugging him tightly. He laughed, accepting her ecstatic kiss and backing away a little. "I have a two-month tour of duty to finish on the *Phoenix*, but then yes, I'm coming to be with you." He caressed her cheek with a smile. "Did you think I wouldn't? It would be impossible for you to leave Minbar, and I'm not having us living apart. Entil'zha sounds quite appealing - not to mention that I've spoken with Susan, who practically cornered me into swearing I wouldn't let you go again." He kissed her gently, holding her close. "I won't, Delenn. Not this time." His features showed the sincerity in his words and she smiled, stroking his face. Not wanting to get too serious, Sheridan grinned and picked up her remaining work from the desk. He turned her toward the door, and when he put his arm around her waist and took her hand in his, Delenn returned the favour.

    "Two months should give you enough time to prepare for me, shouldn't it?" he asked as they left the conference room. "I couldn't get away any sooner, and Lefcourt was generous to give me that. It wouldn't be fair of me to expect them to find a replacement Captain at such short notice, and my crew really deserve proper warning." Delenn nodded, reluctant but accepting of the setback. "Hey, it could have been worse." He tightened his grip on her hand, trying to cheer her up. "Morrison wanted to refuse my resignation on grounds of 'misconduct' against a superior officer." He shook his head ruefully. "You'd think that'd get me thrown out quicker, wouldn't you?"

    "I assume he was referring to your threatening him."

    "Mm. That guy really takes rejection *bad*."

    "He should be used to it," Delenn retorted.

    "He picks his women carefully, from what I've heard," Sheridan answered as they wandered out into the grounds of the conference centre. "Always the ones that are desperate to get to the top, or don't care one way or the other whether it's a lasting relationship."

    "He obviously didn't choose carefully enough."

    Sheridan laughed. "Maybe he's really attracted to you." When she glared at him in distaste he grinned and pulled her against him. "I am."

    "There are no two people more different than you and that... man." She frowned, and he kissed her playfully to lighten her mood. Delenn looked up at him; after a moment she smiled and the tension melted from around them. He took her arm with an equal smile and closed both hands over hers, leading her along a winding pathway. They walked under a green, blossom-covered arch and turned into a quiet spot secluded from the main Gardens by a canopy of orange trees. Fresh blossoms littered the path, leaves fluttering down through the breeze to settle on the Stone Garden before them. Sheridan led her to a carved bench and helped her sit, leaning back as she nestled up to his side and gazed at the familiar-seeming garden.

    After a time her eyes drifted closed, and he wrapped his arms further around her to keep her warm while she slept. The sun was setting gradually over the hills behind their private sanctuary; the warm, burnt orange light cast long shadows at his feet from the garden stones. He looked down at Delenn, head resting on his chest, and smiled before closing his eyes. Delenn looked up as he moved a little: a white petal flitted in front of her and she reached out to close her hand around it, pulling it close before opening her palm. Sheridan stirred and opened his eyes; she smiled lightly and offered him the flower. He took it delicately between his fingers and turned it carefully.

    "Magic," he whispered with a smile. Delenn frowned, confused; looking up, she saw the infinite meaning in his eyes and smiled back.

    "Magic," she replied tenderly.

    She set her head on his shoulder, and they watched the sun fall beneath the hills.

 

 *****

 

 

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