By Leyenn




Liljana Howe, still not quite Xmas, 1997

    This b***** sequel is being churned out on a Friday night ready for 'publication' (i.e. printing) on Saturday morning. Hence the snappy and rather rushing intro while I get a little inspiration for one. Catch it as it comes, it's a rare thing.

    Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah fill in the blanks Blah Blah Blah Blah.

    Going now, bye bye. Hope you enjoy the show. The previous part can be found under the title 'Mistletoe And Orange Juice' on this archive.

    P.S. The music John and Delenn listen to is a selection of my personal favourites; 'The Tao Of Love' by Vangelis; 'Chi Mai'; 'Return To Innocence' by Enigma and a few dozen others.

    DISCLAIMER: Just to say I'm pleased to have some temporary houseguests for the week, even if they might get me into all kinds of unnecessary trouble with jms, Babylonian Productions, Warner Bros. and TNT. Anyway, I promise to book them on a return flight as soon as I finish this story, so expect them home soon, Joe - and I promise not even a scratch! They're not mine, have never been mine, and (unfortunately) will never be mine. They belong to, well, whoever owns them out of the aforementioned people. NOT ME!

    All done, on with the Christmas broadcast.







John Sheridan woke slowly that Christmas morning, a contented smile on his lips. Extremely glad that he hadn't gotten drunk the night before, he huddled further down under the covers and looked over in adoration as Delenn stirred peacefully next to him. Not for the first time, he wondered absently how they could have grown so close in only two years. Hearing that in his head, he chuckled at himself and shook his head. *Two years is a long time.* Still, he would be the first to admit it was a peculiar match; Delenn had always been a pillar of strength against anyone and in the time he'd known her, John had never seen her react intimately to anyone other than Lennier - and then only out of friendship. He knew she had grown comparatively close to Ivanova, out of circumstances... thinking back to what he could piece together from that, he silently thanked his subconscious for playing it safe. They might be in love, but the last thing they needed right now was a part-Minbari, part-Human child. He couldn't imagine that going down too well with the Minbari - or the Humans, for that matter...

    Turning his reverie back to something less political, he reached out to brush a stray wisp of hair from her shoulder and smiled affectionately when she stirred against his touch, murmuring something in her sleep. His smile widened, recognising his name among the incoherent dream words. It was... well, flattering. There was no other word for it, really. *So much, in such a delicate body...* To have her there, to be able to hold her in his arms and feel the strength and courage of her melded into his own, meant more than he could have imagined. He knew the Delenn outside well; the Delenn everyone else saw was strong, confident, commanding and devoted to her cause without exception. Yet the Delenn he knew now, the real person, was far different. She'd shown a small part of that self last night at the celebrations; he could never have guessed at how much more she had hidden beneath the aloof exterior.

    Not until they came to his quarters. Then her guard had fallen, so fast he could have sworn someone else had walked into the room with him. In all his life, John Sheridan had never met anyone as mischievous, childlike and overtly sexual at the same time. The devotion to their forces changed to one of an entirely different kind: devotion to him, and to his love. And to getting them both inside the bedroom, out of their clothes and into bed, he remembered with a grin. If anyone had told him before that this stoic Minbari Ambassador would be so eager to get him laid - and so imaginative in the task - he would have laughed at the notion. *But then Delenn is something of an eye-opener in herself.* He chuckled, shifting closer to look across her shoulder at her face. She stirred again, his name clearer on her lips through a soft noise that told him she was waking. Curling up behind her, he slid one arm under her side and laid his hand on her exposed shoulder, bringing the other arm around to hold her tight as he grinned playfully.

    "Well, whaddya know? Someone left me a Christmas present. Ready unwrapped, too."

    "Hmm?" Vaguely awake, she raised her head and looked sleepily up at him. "What?" He smiled and shook his head, tenderly kissing her cheek.

    "Never mind. Happy Christmas, Delenn." She smiled and turned over, snuggling comfortably up against him.

    "Mm... to you too, John. What is it you say? Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah..."

    "And a joyous New Year," he finished with a grin. Delenn laughed.

    "We will certainly have that."

    Sheridan's only answer was a soft, incoherent murmur that soon faded into their passionate kisses as Delenn turned him onto his back and smiled playfully down into his eyes. Looking up at her, he couldn't help but smile in return.

    "If only all those stuffy Ambassadors you deal with knew how sexy you can be. They'd probably die of shock!" He grinned as she lay down on his chest, teasingly kissing his neck before snuggling into his arms. For once in the past twenty four hours, she was comfortable in that warm embrace and had no intentions of lovemaking. Sheridan smiled; there was no getting away from the fact that Delenn was probably one of the best - *was* the best - of the lovers he'd had, or even heard of, but she could be awfully impatient when she wanted something. Still, she seemed to be content for now: long enough for him to teach her that kissing and cuddling each other could be just as rewarding.

    "Can you imagine what Lennier would say if he saw us now?" Her voice was filled with amusement and he laughed against her hair.

    "Oh, don't: that's cruel, honey. You saw how he looked at you yesterday."

    "I saw how he looked at *us* yesterday." She laughed, her eyes sparkling with merriment. "And everyone else..." The expression said it all; he grinned.

    "Oh, yeah... Londo... God, I'd give anything to frame that look!" He paused, the tone changing as his fingers trailed across her hair. "Well, almost anything." Delenn looked up from her position on his chest, warm green eyes settling on the fond smile and reaching up to kiss her lover in silent thanks. Laughter danced in her features when she drew away, shifting her warm, consenting body against his and enjoying the reaction. Sheridan hid a soft moan, tilting her off his chest to lie beside him and curling around her; arms around her shoulders, he pulled her as near as they could both manage and drew himself into a foetal position around her small form. Delenn buried her face in his shoulder, content in the warmth and security afforded her.

    "And Zack - oh, God!" John was honestly enjoying the memories now, she noticed with a fond smile. He seemed to enjoy her more than anything, and she knew the same was true of herself. No one in her life had ever come close to the man holding her now. No one could. If it had been someone else, anyone else, she would have been embarrassed at his laughter over the reactions she had gained. But with John, she heard the pride in his voice when he spoke of her - and the love he felt for her, obvious in the way he held her and looked at her and touched her...

    "Delenn?" She nuzzled her head against him, refusing to abandon the softness around her and look up.

    "Mmm." He looked down, squeezing her shoulders, and smiled at the perfectly contented murmur of answer.

    "Nothing. Just wanted to make sure you were still awake, that's all."

    "Still awake, my love. I like this far too much to miss out on a second of it." He felt her smile against him, gently kissing her way across his chest and settling more comfortably with her head under his chin. "Mm. Better. What were you saying?" The innocent tone of her voice made him laugh.

    "I was thinking about how last night went."

    "You got laid," was her curt reply. "I think that's a good indication."

    His jaw dropped, speechless for at least five minutes before he finally managed to choke out;

    "What - where did you learn that phrase? Of all the things you could have said, Delenn!"

    She shrugged. "You said I was missing out on a lot. So I did some research, and it turned out there were more gaps in my vocabulary than I thought." The devious smile made him wonder just where she had gone for the information. "I happen to be blessed with a good memory."

    "I don't think 'blessed' is quite the word, when you come out with things like that." She frowned playfully.

    "Why? It is a perfectly acceptable term, is it not?"

    He nodded, a little stunned. "Well, yes... But you know, you shouldn't..."

    "I should not say those things, is that what you mean?" Sheridan nodded again, and she laughed. "Why would that be? Because I am Minbari, or because of my rank?"

    "Uh, I don't know - a little of both, I guess. Your rank more than anything. I mean, G'Kar just about does as he pleases and Londo I've practically come to expect it from, but you..." Delenn shook her head despairingly, tapping his nose in admonition.

    "This, coming from the man who only ten minutes ago told me that I was too 'sexy' to be an Ambassador. Do you not have such things as double standards on your world?" Her voice was gently chiding, her amusement lightly hidden behind the repetition of his praise. Sheridan grinned sheepishly, accepting the reproval.

    "Yeah, okay. I withdraw the comment - the *second* comment. You're still far too sexy to be an Ambassador, and certainly not a Minbari one."

    "I am only half Minbari," she reminded him with an alluring smile. Her lover grinned.

    "Oh, believe me, I haven't forgotten." He touched her hair, tracing the joining of her crown. "It's kind of hard to lose track of. Not to offend you or anything."

    "Oh, of course not." Her answering smile made his grin widen, brushing her hair back onto the pillow and moving to kiss her.

    The door chimed.

    Sheridan growled in annoyance, lifting his head to snap out an answer. Delenn, however, had a better idea.

    "Leave it." Her hands cupped his face, lowering his mouth purposefully to hers. "They will go away. It is Christmas day: whoever it is, they should know not to bother us. Now," she wrapped her legs firmly around his, sliding one hand around to caress the nape of his neck and draw him closer while the other trailed down his chest, his eyes widening with a low moan when she brushed his skin. "What were you saying?"

    * * * * *

    "Mmmm.... Oh, fuck. What in the name of Jesus was I doing yesterday?"

    "Participating in an 'initiation ritual', or so you called it." Her eyes shot open, shock roughly booting the hangover haze from her features. Looking up from where her face lay mashed in the pillow, she groaned and dropped back down at the cheerful expression on her partner's face. "Morning. Have a nice nap?"

    "Yeah, great.... What?" He grinned, sliding expertly down under the sheets to get them both on eye level.

    "Cat nap. I think that was what you said you were going to do: of course that was four hours ago-"

    "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute right there. I was awake four hours ago?"

    Marcus laughed, idly lifting a strand of dark hair from the sheet wrapped around her.

    "Oh, yes, I'd say you were awake. Or at least certain parts of your anatomy were... along with certain parts of mine, but we shouldn't go into that quite yet." Ivanova groaned again and rolled over, squinting up at him in vague comprehension.

    "So... what happened? I remember leaving the party, coming here, opening the vodka... and then it all gets rather fuzzy..." She coughed and sighed in annoyance. "I bet Delenn doesn't have this problem." Marcus shrugged, unfazed by her apparent lack of interest in him.

    "I don't suppose she does. You must remember *not* to *get* so *drunk* next time," he chided, tapping her arm on each word. She frowned, blinking back her sudden modesty to force out the question.

    "So, uh... what did we do?"

    "Last night? This morning? Four hours ago? When would you like me to start?" he responded cheerfully. She pushed herself up on her elbows, tipping her head back for a second in irritation - though more at her resounding headache than his presence.

    "Hang on; why are you so bright and cheerful this morning? If memory serves me right-"

    "You have memories now?" He sounded pleased: she shot him a dirty look and rolled back to her side to face him.

    "*If* my recollection is correct, you drank just as much as I did. Or are you one of those incredibly annoying people who never lives to regret it the next day?" Marcus shrugged again.

    "You got it. These," he tapped one exposed limb, "hollow legs. Drink goes straight down, never reaches the brain." He smiled ruefully at her jealous expression. "Sorry." She growled, launching herself at him in half-feigned annoyance.

    "Bollocks you are, you - you -" He laughed, catching her uncoordinated jab easily and drawing her down against him. Grasping both hands in one of his, he reached down with the other to touch her lips, quieting her, before gently tracing her features with a finger.

    "Ah, now, now. No bad language, Susie."

    "*Susie*!" She tried violently to lift herself from his hold: he only grinned and released her hands, his arms tightening around her waist.

    "I thought that might get you woken up a little more. You specifically told me, before you so conveniently lost all recall-"

    "Which I seem to be conveniently recollecting," she added acid-sweetly.

    "I see. Well, before your temporary loss of perception during the early hours, you gave me specific instructions that I was never to call you 'Susie'. See this?" He lifted one arm from the sheet, exposing a dark, vaguely circular bruise. "You did that last night after I tried to." She winced, her fingers reaching out with a sudden tenderness to hover over the injury.

    "Sorry." He smiled, looking down at her.

    "You said that yesterday too. Doesn't matter, it doesn't hurt now anyway." Ivanova gingerly laid a hand on his upper arm, frowning as he winced in slight pain.

    "You're lying to me," she accused.

    "No, I'm lying with you," he corrected with a small smile. Ivanova gave a short laugh of amazement.

    "How can you be so cheerful? After that much to drink, I'm just about ready to - oh, no. Did I...?" Realising what she meant, he smiled and shook his head.

    "No, you didn't. Despite having downed at least a bottle of that devil's drink you call vodka, you still managed to perform wonderfully. Not exactly how I imagined my first time going, but still-"

    "WHAT!?" Horror crossed her face; he looked down sincerely and raised his eyebrows.

    "Is that a problem?" She coughed hard in shock, sitting up to look seriously at him.

    "Well, frankly, yes. Why didn't you say something? I mean, I knew you didn't have anyone but I still figured... oh, shit. I'm sorry, Marcus. If you'd just told me..."

    He shrugged noncommitantly. "It's not a problem. I admit, a thirty-five year old virgin isn't the most common of occurrences, but I'm not completely naive to go with it. I wasn't expecting an Earth-moving experience from the start-"

    "Are you saying it wasn't?" She tried to act defensive, but finally simply collapsed against his laughing body and sighed. "Oh, hell, Marcus. If I'd known, I wouldn't have - I wasn't intending for that to happen... I didn't mean to be..."

    "But I meant you to be." His voice was soft, in a way she'd never heard from him before. One she barely remembered, it had been so long since anyone had used that tone with her. "I love you, Susan. If you want to let it go, just leave it last night, that's fine; but you have to know that I mean what I'm saying. I want to try. I want it more than anything. I want to build a life here with you, on Babylon 5..." Watching her face, he trailed off. "Maybe I'm being a little forward on this."

    Ivanova smiled fondly. "Maybe you are being just a little premature," she agreed gently. "I do care about you, Marcus. I don't let people in easily, regardless of how drunk I am. And I was sober when I went out with you in the first place, remember?" She tried a small smile; he nodded, hiding a sigh as he lifted her away, heavily drawing himself up. "Marcus, wait. Don't - oh, damn. Marcus! MarcusMarcusMarcus come back or I won't shut up MarcusMarcusMarcusMarcus Marcus-"

    "Okay, okay, Christ! Shut up already!" He sat down on the bed, a robe somehow appearing around his tall frame. "You said what you needed to say, Susan. I don't think I should stay." She shook her head vigorously, grabbing for his hand as she sat up and slid onto the edge of the bed next to him.

    "I do. And no, I didn't. If you could just let me finish without running away, maybe you might not be so eager to leave. And maybe," her face broke into a wide smile, playfully pushing him backwards and swiftly losing the robe, "just maybe, you might like what you hear."

    * * * * *

    "Who is it?" Sheridan growled at the persistent buzzing noise coming from the vicinity of his living room. "For God's sake, either tell me who you are or go away."

    "Merry Christmas, John! You awake yet?" He frowned in surprise.

    "Garibaldi? What - is this important?"

    "I think so, Captain."

    "Important enough to warrant me getting out of bed?"

    "Yes, sir."

    He growled louder. "It had better be."

    "Mmm... quiet," Delenn muttered from beside him. "Some people would prefer to sleep for a while, thank you very much." He grinned; if he'd known she got this cranky from lack of sleep, they'd have had something in common right from the start. Nevertheless, when he tried to move she opened her eyes and let out a low cry of protest.

    "Where are you going? Don't go, stay here..." He silenced her with a long, sensual kiss, smiling tenderly and carefully tracing from the tip of her crown down to her chin with the tip of one finger.

    "I'm not going anywhere dressed like this, sweetheart - someone's at the door, that's all. You'll have to get used to sharing me, I'm afraid." He smiled ruefully, lighting another soft kiss on her forehead. "I'll only be a few minutes, I promise. Back soon." Firmly, gently, he lifted her hand from his and got up. He'd reached the door, in the process of pulling on a robe, before he stopped and turned back. Delenn was watching him through exhausted, loving eyes, her head propped up on one hand to see the door. A smile spread across his face, distractedly calling to their visitor.

    "Oh, okay, come in. Give us a minute." Delenn smiled weakly, a perfectly sated look on her features as he came to sit back on the edge of the bed. Lying on the bedside table, carefully placed back in the velvet cushions from where it came, was the gift he had given her. He barely remembered how much it had cost him: the material price was irrelevant. It was worth that a thousand times over in her smile. Now, Sheridan lifted it delicately and pressed the lid, closing the box and taking his lover's hand to help her sit up. Her long hair fell mostly to one side; he brushed the remaining tresses across her shoulder and unclipped the chain, reverently fastening it around her neck.

    "I love you, Delenn. I don't have words to say how much." He stroked her cheek with his thumb, a tender smile flitting over his lips. "This is just a token of my love for you. It would take everything in the Universe to show how much I care about you, and even that could never compare. I want to tell you, every time I see you and every time I leave, if only just for a minute, that I love you. It means more than my world is worth to have you here: I just - hey, what's wrong?" A silent tear fell down her cheek, joining the smile on her lips before her lover kissed it away. "If you don't like me saying those things, you only have to say so. There's no need to cry, honey." Delenn shook her head, trying to clear her eyes and smiling in silent delight.

    "I love you," she whispered finally. Her voice was choked with joy, the tears drying as fast as they fell under his loving gaze. "I'm not upset, John... oh, I love you so much..." She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face into his shoulder for a second, then his neck and finally kissing his lips with a soft smile. She let go slightly self-consciously after a moment, touching his shoulders and looking up into shining sapphire eyes.

    "Go on, Michael will be waiting. But if you don't come back in a few minutes I'll come after you, hmm?"

    "I'll consider myself warned," he teased with a smile as he rose for the second time from the bed, kissing her hair tenderly and looking back over his shoulder even as he reached the doors and opened them to the living room.

    "Hi, Captain. Just thought - hey, did I wake you?" Sheridan blinked at the difference in lighting, trying to reprimand his subordinate and failing miserably. Happiness surged through his mind, blocking out any thoughts he might have had concerning anger for the intrusion.

    "No, not really. Someone else did that..." He grinned. Garibaldi noticed the expression, unable to help returning it with a short laugh.

    "Lucky dog. Look, I can't stay-"

    "Shame," the Captain agreed with a grin. Garibaldi gave him a mock-annoyed glare.

    "Yeah, pity. But someone's gotta keep the place working smooth today, and I guess I drew the short straw. Just dropped in to wish you Merry Christmas - oh, and here." He withdrew a data crystal from one pocket and grinned, gesturing to the huge box seated on Sheridan's couch. "Little parcel arrived this morning from the Babylon 5 Crimbo Chef In Residence, addressed especially for you. Funny thing, it had Ambassador Delenn's name on the label too..."

    "Then it is fortunate for you that I am here, is it not? You have no need to visit two quarters on your delivery." Delenn smiled, amused, stepping out of the bedroom in a light robe that she had somehow smuggled into the cabin the day before. "And so you can return all the more quickly to your seasonal duties, yes?" She raised a brow, her smile slightly expecting. Unoffended, Garibaldi nodded curtly.

    "Of course, Ambassador. Just came to make sure the Captain wasn't working too hard. He isn't one to observe the traditions particularly well, we've noticed." Delenn looked surprised, interested at the mention of another Christmas ritual.

    "Oh? Which tradition would that be? I seem to recall that he was quite... quite good, at your customs yesterday." She glanced up at Sheridan, eyes glinting with obvious intention. Garibaldi shrugged, ignoring her innuendo and sticking to his point.

    "Ah, well; that would your influence then, Ambassador. From what we've seen-"

    "Excuse me," Sheridan butted in with amused annoyance, "who is this 'we'? You and who else?" The Security Chief grinned.

    "Me, Stephen, Ivanova, Zack, Corwin - the list goes on." He shrugged. "I got voted to come deliver the presents and check up on you. Ambassador," he turned briefly to Delenn, "it's a very important tradition in Human cultures that on Christmas Day, no one does any work. Unfortunately that's impossible out here, but I have officially given you both the day off, so there's no reason for him to go anywhere or do anything for the rest of the day. Oh, except for one thing - there's a small seasonal event in the Gardens at four thirty. I expect to see you there, in *civilian* clothes. Both of you," he added with a shine in his eyes. "Lunch is in the box, as well as a few seasonal extras we thought you might enjoy. And, uh, that's for you." He motioned to a moderately sized bag neatly placed on the cushions. "Lennier got me to bring it. He didn't want to come himself, thought you might feel a little intruded upon. Tell you the truth," he continued in a friendly tone, "I think the poor guy's a little stressed over this whole Christmas thing. I tried to explain it to him, but..." he shrugged ruefully. "Guess you have a knack for Human stuff, Ambassador." Delenn smiled demurely, glancing up at her lover and struggling not to laugh at the unintended connotation.

    "It would seem so, Mr. Garibaldi. Oh, and Michael?" He turned back from the open door, having taken their exchange of looks as a cue to leave. "Thank you." Her smile grew a little mischievous, stepping towards him and whispering conspiratorially, "If you don't think I will get you into too much trouble, I would like to thank you a little better." He shot an instinctive glance upwards, but Delenn laughed and shook her head. "We took it down, Michael."

    "Got tiring," Sheridan interjected with a wide grin as his lover placed an affectionate kiss on their friend's cheek and moved back into his arms.

    "Next Christmas," she said with a smile, "remind me that I promised you the day off, and I'll see that you have a reward for today."

    Garibaldi turned back, a pleased smile crossing his usually laughter-filled features. The sarcastic humour faded from his voice, and he bowed respectfully to the couple. "Ambassador, I already have all the reward I want from the two of you. Just enjoy your day off, have some fun, and that's all I can ask. If you can make him forget about work for a day - and that goes for you too - then I won't need anything else. Hell, it'll be worth it just for a day of peace from his incessant complaining!" Sheridan laughed, his arm sliding naturally around Delenn's waist.

    "I think you're exaggerating my faults, Michael. I knew you couldn't be serious for long; that twisted sense of humour just has to have its way, doesn't it?" The Chief grinned an apology.

    "Yeah, well. We all have our virtues. I was just blessed with a really great sense of humour." He grew briefly serious again, drawing a smile from Delenn as she tilted her head onto John's shoulder. "You do make one hell of a good couple, though." With that and a parting smile he disappeared through the door, leaving them alone.

    * * * * *



    "Were you really waiting for me?" He opened his eyes and looked down at her, idly stroking her hair. Leaning back against the wall, gazing at her still form, his embrace was gentle. Her head rested on his thigh, cuddled warmly up against the rest of his body as his hand covered her bare shoulder, toying with the long hair that fell across it and onto her ivory skin.

    "Yes." She frowned slightly and sat up next to him, drawing herself back into his arms and settling her head on his shoulder.

    "Why?" He shrugged, leaning over to kiss her hair.

    "I loved you." He laughed at her dubious expression. "Oh, I'm not telepathic or anything. I didn't know you in some previous life, and I certainly didn't have a vision telling me you were the one. At least not until I saw you. It wasn't even one of those spur-of-the-moment love things... I just thought you were gorgeous." She laughed, tilting his head sideways to hers and placing a kiss on his mouth before giving him a dubious smile.

    "You thought I was gorgeous. And the whole of your time here, that's what drove you after me?" She shook her head in feigned despair. "And here was I thinking you were attracted to my personality."

    "Hey, I was!" He pulled her down onto the pillows, mock irritation playing across his features. "You have to grant me some slack here - after thirty-five years, I was getting restless!" She grinned in mischief as he covered her body completely with his, reaching down between them and bringing a yelp from his throat.

    "Those 'certain parts of your anatomy' were getting restless, you mean. You men, you're all the same. Brains in your balls, that's what I think." He raised his eyebrows, hiding a grin.

    "Oh, is it now? Well, I think you're jealous."

    "What?! Why in God's name would I be jealous?" He smiled fondly, stroking her hair back against the pillows and gently caressing her cheek.

    "Because you're stuck with me, while I managed to find the warmest, most wonderful, compassionate, beautiful and intelligent woman in the Universe to fall in love with." She looked down, eyes closing with emotion at the honesty in his voice.

    "Oh, Marcus..."

    "Shh." He laid a finger on her lips, leaning down to replace it with his own in a tender kiss. "I don't praise people who don't deserve it, Susan, you know that. I'll admit to being a little biased, based on how great a performance you gave yesterday," she blushed slightly, unable to believe she was actually doing so, "but everything I say is the truth. That's how I see you." She glanced up into his eyes, startled for a moment at the utter conviction in his face. Studying him, she finally let out the choking breath she'd been holding and smiled.

    "You keep flattering me like this, you're going to end up staying here permanently." He laughed, partly from relief at her sincerely pleased expression.

    "That's what I'm counting on. I thought we might get in some practice beforehand, though. Hone my skills, that sort of thing." Ivanova shrugged, trying to make in nonchalant.

    "All the same to me. Now, or after I shower?" He grinned, rolling onto his side and taking her with him in a passionate embrace.

    "Now, after and during." She laughed, though the sound soon disappeared into his talented kiss as he swept her into his arms. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she drew herself closer and smiled in anticipation.

    "Works for me."

    * * * * *

    "It was your first time, wasn't it?" Sheridan looked over at her, dropping the robe around his shoulders and towelling off his hair. Delenn turned, smiling at the sight of him as he sat down on the bed.

    "No, it was my seventh," she corrected chidingly with a smile. "I think." Her eyes sparkled as she laughed softly. "I can't remember exactly. Everything blurs into one after the second time." Brushing her own hair over one shoulder, she twisted it slightly in a pale towel to remove the water.

    "I didn't mean then." He smiled, remembering their recent shower. "I think it was the eighth time, actually." Delenn laughed, sinking into his lap and playfully tipping him backward as he grinned. "Ready for the ninth, are we?" She shrugged, leaning down to cover his mouth with hers for a long, sensual kiss.

    "We'll be into double figures soon," he chided in amusement. "Aren't you getting bored with this?"

    "No," was the immediate reply. "Are you?" He touched her face in reassurance, although he could see she wasn't worried. Delenn smiled. "I didn't think so."

    "You know me... far better than... you should," he got out between kisses.

    "True," she answered innocently. "Very true." And kissed him again.

    "Delenn. Delenn, hey! Slow down, honey. We've got all day, you know. Besides..." he moved her easily from his chest, rolling over and lifting her into his arms. "There are new, more interesting places to do this. No one's gonna get within a hundred yards of this cabin today, so let's make the most of it, shall we?"

    * * * * *

    "You know, for a beginner, you're not half bad at this. In fact, I think I'd go so far as to say you're pretty good." Ivanova paused, staring at the ceiling. "Actually, what the hell. You're *very* good at this. Very talented..." She gasped, startled as his hand traced a teasing trail across her stomach. Marcus pushed back his damp hair and slid back into bed, a self-satisfied grin on his lips.

    "Why, thank you, Commander. Though you know, if you keep flattering me like this I'll have no *choice* but to stay here permanently." She shrugged, rolling over onto his chest and teasingly brushing her fingers over his beard.

    "My, how strange. I was just thinking - if you always perform this well, I'll have no choice but to insist you stay." Her own words, she realised belatedly and grinned at his response.

    "Well, they say great minds think alike."

    "Ah well." She sighed in mock resignation. "I guess if 'they' say it, it must be true."

    "Must be."

    The still silence was comfortable, lasting for a long while before Ivanova grew restless and turned over to her side to look at him. Marcus returned her gaze evenly, watching her scrutiny for a moment; he frowned slightly and moved to face her, his voice soft.

    "Something wrong, Susan?" A warm smile answered that question, and his lips had no choice but to return it. "Susan, why are you looking at me like that?"

    "No reason." She smiled knowingly, idly watching her hand as it traced a complex pattern across his chest. "Just thinking, that's all." He shrugged indifferently, pulling her close and unable to keep from smiling as she huddled her face against his shoulder.

    "About what?"

    There was silence for a moment, her face mischievous; she broke the mood with an innocent smile that belied the emotion in her eyes. "I was wondering; who are 'they'?" He growled in bemusement, pushing her playfully away onto her back and sitting up - but when she tried to follow suit, he shook his head in mock discipline and dropped down over her, his face landing only inches from hers in midair.

    "You just can't say it, can you?"

    "Say what?" she feigned innocently. He sighed, leaning onto one side and looking seriously into her eyes, confusion shining in his own.

    "I don't understand you, Susan. You're perfectly happy to relax with me; you make no attempt to throw me out, in fact you all but force me to stay; you listen completely when I tell you what I've wanted to tell you for almost a year; and you certainly act like you feel something for me - so why can't you say it? Or I am just being naive enough not to realise that you don't? Maybe I am. Maybe I'm just having delusions again."

    "No!" Urgently, she grabbed his hand, pulling them together. "Please don't talk like that, Marcus. I'm sorry I haven't said anything - it's hard for me, you know? There have been so many people in my life that I loved, and so many that died... one after the other, always leaving me alone... I can't face telling anyone how I feel unless the same happens again. It always does, they always leave-"

    "I won't." The confusion was gone completely now, replaced by understanding and a warm sympathy. "I know what you've gone through, Susan. I lost everything during one, brief Shadow attack. Everything. Everyone. My entire life, the only family I had left, gone. So I know it's hard, Susan, but I also know what it feels like. Which makes us ideal partners, don't you think?" She looked up at him for a moment and then smiled wryly.

    "Yeah, I guess so." The smile became more sincere as he kissed her, wrapping his arms protectively around her shoulders and holding her tight. "I'm just not ready yet, okay? Give me some time. I can't -"

    "You don't have to say anything," he promised gently. "Just understand that I love you, Susan. And this is one loved one who's never, ever going to leave you."

    * * * * *

    Delenn shifted comfortably onto the couch, settling beside her lover with a contented smile. They were still undressed, in only simple robes after John's timely introduction to just how adventurous a lover he'd taken on.

    "Do you think we should get ready?" Sheridan looked down at her nonchalantly half-interested face, leaning over sideways and backwards to check the time as his hand slipped into hers.

    "No, I don't think so. We have until four thirty: it's only two thirty now. Plenty of time," he added with a soft smile. "Come here." Delenn returned the expression, willingly obeying his command. Delight lit up her features as he lay down on the couch, holding his arms open for her and pillowing her cheek against his shoulder. He was half sitting, his head resting lightly between the back cushions and the arm of the couch; Delenn looked up and smiled at the blissful expression on her lover's face, then lowered her head back to his shoulder and affectionately snuggled nearer. Her eyes closed just as he turned his gaze down to return the favour, smiling tenderly at the sight of her peacefully relaxed features. It was a rare moment for them: John forced back the annoying feeling that some horrendous crisis would break through the silence and fondly stroked her hair.

    "Are you finally tired?" he asked quietly with a knowing smile. She moved slightly, turning her face from the warm of his shoulder to focus on the question.

    "Hmm? Not really. Just comfortable." Sheridan smiled as she raised her head to look at him on eye level, gently placing a hand on her hair and tilting it back to comfort.

    "Computer, do we have any relaxing music on file?" Delenn didn't respond with anything but a low murmur of approval, but she muffled a laugh at the computer's reply.

    "*There are one hundred thirty thousand, five hundred twelve musical files available. Please define 'relaxing'.*" Sheridan winced.

    "Okay, um; classical, instrumental, synth tracks. Something with a slow tempo."

    "*There are fifty thousand eleven musical files matching your query. Please narrow search parameters.*"

    "Not the most helpful of personalities, is it?" Delenn asked from beside him. He laughed ruefully.

    "No, it's not." He tilted his head up toward the screen, as if speaking to it. "Computer, use previous search parameter; look for something Human or Minbari. Quiet, easy listening, that kind of thing."

    "*There are seventeen thousand three hundred one files matching your query. Please specify another keyword.*"

    He sighed in despair. "Okay, last time. New search. Look for something Human; oh, I don't know - nineteenth, twentieth century; something instrumental and slow tempo. Something romantic." Delenn looked up, surprise and approval written on her features.

    "A romantic? They're rare - I am lucky." He shrugged, a wise smile playing across his lips.

    "I know how women work. Most of them, anyway: I go for someone a little... unique, shall we say. But that doesn't mean to say I don't know what you like. I do my research beforehand - increases my chances." He laughed as she punched him playfully on the arm, settling more comfortably between his body and the back of the couch.

    "I'd rather you left your chances well alone from now on," she scolded gently. Her voice took on a fierce note as she added; "You are *taken*, Captain Sheridan. Involved. Spoken for. Unavailable. And I intend to see that you stay that way for a very," she kissed him, "very," and kissed him again, "very... long... time." She punctuated the words with light, sweet kisses, tapping his chest with a forefinger. "Do I make myself absolutely, positively, unequivocally crystal clear?"

    He grinned. "You want me, don't you?"

    "*There are twenty seven musical files available matching your search query. Please specify playing order.*"

    Delenn laughed at the unexpected interruption.

    "Random play, computer," she called out with a sparkle in her tone. Sheridan smiled, abandoning their playful conversation at her implication and settling down to hug her tightly as the first beats of a slow, relaxing synthesizer piece floated through the room. Closing his eyes, he touched his lips to her crown and managed to murmur vaguely coherently for a wake up call.

    "Computer, set alarm to stop play for three thirty EST."


    * * * * *

    "Ready? It's almost three forty-five. If this is as big and exciting as Mr. Garibaldi says, we don't want to miss it."

    "I'm almost done, okay? Jeez, stop nagging at me." Her voice was teasing, a yelp of laughter coming through as her lover crept up behind her and slid his arms around her waist and put his head over her shoulder for a passionate kiss.

    "Mmm... I'm definitely considering keeping you here permanently." A smile crossed his lips, leaning over to capture her mouth again.

    "That's what I'm working for." Ivanova pulled slightly away, leaning back in his arms.

    "Is that so? So if I said you could stay, you'd stop trying so hard?" He shrugged.

    "Maybe. Maybe not. It's unlikely. I'd have to persuade you to keep me on, wouldn't I?"

    "There is that," she conceded. "To keep you on... Sort of like a hired help, right? On a paid basis, of course," she mused. Marcus nodded cheerfully, keeping up the teasing game.

    "Suits me. Just as long as I've got a place to stay and the pay's agreeable... I don't see why not." She smiled seductively, pushing him back against the wall as her hands left his shoulders.

    "Oh, I think you'll find the pay is *very* agreeable...."

    * * * * *

    "It was four thirty in the Gardens, wasn't it?" Delenn sighed, smiling wryly at his impatience.

    "Yes, John. Four thirty Earth Standard Time, in the Gardens." She squeezed his arm, leading him to a bench. "Don't be so impatient. We're early, that's all."

    "Yeah, I know. Early for what, I'd *like* to know."

    "I'll tell you." Michael Garibaldi emerged from behind the bushes opposite with a beaming grin, "If you would like to step this way, Captain, Ambassador; your surprise awaits."

    Delenn glanced at her lover, a silent question in her eyes. He shrugged, standing uncertainly and taking her hand to help her up. She smiled as he used it for an excuse to get closer, his arm natural now around her waist and clasping her hand. Their glances mixed in confusion as Garibaldi led them through the opening to a wide clearing. Delenn recognised it as the place where the Christmas party had been held the night before - barely recognised it, however. The tinsel and bells had been taken down, leaving only a few missing tree leaves and bare spots on the bushes as testimony to their presence. All of the fake snow had been removed, the trees were back to their regularly non-twinkling selves: in fact, there was nothing in the area to indicate that it was anything other than a normal day on Babylon 5.

    Except for the inordinately large number of people gathered, of course. Gazing around, Sheridan noticed that most of the participants were Human - almost his entire staff seemed to be here, along with docking workers, customs control and tradespeople from both the Zocalo and the lower corridors. There were other races there, but they seemed to be gathered into a group and then mainly the Ambassadors, mostly from the League Worlds. Vir and Lennier stood together, conversing quite congenially in a corner near to where Garibaldi had gone.

    "Do you think this has anything to do with the transport tubes?" Delenn asked softly. He frowned: she pointed upwards. Above them were at least eight monorail cars on the central transport rail, and that was only directly above their position. The tubes were lined up back to back along the rails as far as Sheridan could see, and they all looked strange - different somehow, though he couldn't quite place the reason why.

    "Probably, knowing Garibaldi. Hey, Susan!" He called out to his exec, grinning as she approached with Marcus firmly in tow. "How'd it go?" Delenn swatted his arm in vague bemusement; Ivanova glanced at her companion, surprised at the direct question but grinning happily.

    "You're feeling bold this afternoon. It went just fine, thank you. I think we may even come to a... permanent arrangement sometime soon."

    "Oh?" Delenn looked suddenly interested, twining her fingers through Sheridan's as his free hand sought hers. Marcus opened his mouth to answer, just about to speak when Ivanova pulled on his sleeve and pointed upwards in amazement. He followed her gaze, his mouth dropping open in mirror of Sheridan's at the sight. Delenn smiled delightedly, leaning close to her lover and whispering in his ear;

    "Is it something in my confused imagination, or are we not supposed to have snowstorms on Babylon 5?"

    He looked down into her eyes, a childlike wonder shining in his features. Everywhere around them, people were staring at the sky; or what passed for sky in a settlement built on the inside of a tube. And everywhere in that sky, for at least a quarter mile outwards, white flecks were falling. Wet, cold, sparkling white flecks. More precisely, wet, cold, sparkling white snowflakes.

    "What the hell...."

    "Like our Christmas present, Captain?" Franklin grinned over his shoulder, his gaze flicking between the two lovers. "Watch out for it, though, it's cold."

    "Man, that stuff is chilly. Brrr," Garibaldi teased, coming up alongside the doctor. "How'd you like it? Pretty neat, huh?"

    "Yeah, yeah... neat," Sheridan repeated. He was still watching the sky with transfixed awe, unable to quite believe it; his gaze snapped down, a question in his blue eyes. "How did you do it? Is it-"

    "The real stuff, Captain. Took some doing, let me tell you - but with a little help from Lennier here," he punched the young Minbari's arm good-naturedly as he joined the group, "rotational gravity and our good friend Draal, we managed it. The biggest worry was getting the tube doors to open on time. Now, everything's finally done. And it worked," he added with a certain amount of pride as the first shower of snowflakes hit ground level.

    "Best thing is," Franklin out in, "we don't even have to clear it up. It'll melt soon enough, though we adjusted the Garden environmental controls - and the snow a little - to make it last longer. Long enough to have some fun in the snow, anyway. And if we can't all go back to Earth for the season, well, you know what they say."

    "If the mountain cannot come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go the mountain." Delenn smiled at her knowledge, reaching up to Sheridan's ear to whisper, "and I actually know what that means." He grinned, turning briefly back to the group.

    "In other words, if Garibaldi doesn't get snow on Christmas day, he gets downright cranky for the rest of the year." The Security chief returned his grin, accepting the comment.

    "Yeah, right on target. Anyway, I'm off to have some fun with the snow while there's still some there. Though it should last for hours, the amount of the stuff we transported in." He turned, grabbing for Lyta's arm as she approached the smaller gathering. "Come on, Miss Alexander. Let's you and me go have some winter fun." She laughed, linking her arm with his as Franklin caught up on the other side. Even Lennier excused himself to find an area of snow for himself. Finally, Sheridan looked back at his only companion and smiled, leaning down to kiss her before they followed the command staff into the fray.

    "I guess you won't have wait so long to see a white Christmas after all."

    * * * * *

    The other Christmas couple had edged away from the main gathering, now following the drift of the main snowfall into the next clearing. Ivanova fidgeted uncertainly, watching a large majority leave before she got up the courage to speak.


    Her companion looked warmly at her, turning his gaze from the falling snow.

    "Hmm?" She smiled nervously, clasping his hand in both of hers and bringing it to her chest to rest over her heart; surprised to find it was racing.

    "I... My heart and I started speaking again. And we have something we'd like to say to you, if you don't mind." He smiled knowingly, reaching past the distance between them to brush a fallen snowflake from her hair.

    "I don't mind at all. Take your time." The tender embrace was reassuring as he slid his arms around her waist and laced his fingers at the small of her back, supporting her physically as well as mentally. Ivanova took a deep breath, glancing around with trepidation at the gathered officers and civilians. Finding a distracted audience, she smiled a little more confidently.

    "I, uh... Look, if you ever tell anyone else I said this to you, you're Shadow bait. Understood?" He grinned, hearing the slight seriousness covering her deadpan teasing as she stalled.

    "Understood, Commander."

    "Good." Another breath slowed her heartbeat to a reasonable level. She couldn't believe she was finding this so difficult. "I just... wanted to tell you, after thinking about what you said earlier..." She swallowed, looking up into his eyes for the first time since deciding to do this. "I want you to know that... oh, hell." Reaching around the back of his head, she pulled him firmly to her and kissed him deeply. "I love you, Marcus."

    * * * * *

    John Sheridan smiled, squeezing his lover's shoulder to catch her attention from the falling snow. She had all the wonder of a child; not caring about how or why it had come, simply enjoying the bizarre snowstorm as it fell around her. He'd been surprised at her reaction - it snowed on Minbar, he knew, in fact the planet was colder than Earth in many places - but seeing the utter delight on her face made the reasons seem strangely irrelevant. He was loathe to disturb that eager curiosity, but then there were certain things more important.

    "Delenn," he murmured quietly in her ear, leaning over close to her and making a shiver run down her spine at the nearness of his voice. "Honey, I think now might be a discreet time to leave." She looked up from where they sat on the semi-circular bench, following his gaze before standing quickly, soundlessly taking his hand and leading him toward an arch in the bushes. He smiled knowingly at the look on her face, following her willingly out of the other couple's private world with a last glance over his shoulder. He grinned at the sight; Marcus and Ivanova certainly had more than their share of Christmas luck this year.

    Delenn grabbed his other hand impatiently, her own gaze turning for a split second to their friends before a whole-hearted, single-minded intent crossed her face and she pulled him toward her. Sheridan smiled warmly, laughing as her forceful embrace enveloped him.

    *Maybe we all got lucky.*





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