By Leyenn




Just a little break from my 'Intersections' series (which has little or nothing to do with the episode 'Intersections', sorry ;) that's been languishing on my hard drive for a while so I thought I'd give it a go at finishing it. Part one does stand on its own, but for the title to make sense (not that mine ever do) you really should read part two. I'm hoping that'll be up soon!






The slow, lumbering doors opened and Sheridan peered into the darkness, his heart beating desperately. There was an unbearable stench, the air disgustingly humid in the huge room.

   There was silence.

   A few days before, four thousand people had entered this room. Now, they were all still. But for a rustle of movement in the far corner of the room, it was a graveyard.

   Lennier came out first, supporting a haggard-looking Delenn. Sheridan didn't hear what was said: he knew it in his heart already, there was no need to confirm anything but the fact that she was alive, and she needed him now. He reached out for her, enveloped her in his embrace, kissed the top of her head as she cried. He said nothing: there was nothing that could be said now that would take away the pain. He could only hold her until the tears died down, turning her gently then towards the door. "We're in the way," he told her softly. She nodded, still too distressed to speak, and leaned heavily into his arms as he led her away.

   He took her to his quarters, half carrying her exhausted form regardless of the enquiring and sometimes disgusted looks they received. The plague had certainly brought out the bigot in people, he thought with a scowl, drawing Delenn in tighter to his side to hide her from the insults of a particularly rowdy dock worker. If he'd had the time, the energy and this had been an ordinary day, he would have decked the guy - and that would just have been the *start* of his troubles. *Why Delenn?* He shook his head angrily at the thought. Sure, she looked different, but anyone who bothered to look below the surface, to listen to her speak or see her as she really was - they knew the truth. *Why can't everyone else?* Delenn didn't deserve the pain and rejection that faced her every day. He saw it: whether it was because she allowed him to or another reason, he didn't know, but he saw it in her eyes every time he saw her. The loneliness, the heartache of a good, generous - and yes, beautiful woman, innocently caught between the prejudices of two worlds that she only wished to help. He frowned angrily as they stopped outside his quarters and a Minbari - one of her *own* people, for God's sake - cast a disparaging smirk their way.

   "Talk about ungrateful," he muttered to himself. Delenn lifted her head, looking slightly confused.

   "I am sorry, John. I... I did not hear you..."

   "Nothing." He slammed his identicard into the lock, trying to rid himself of at least some of the anger building in his chest. *For God's sake, why can't anyone give her a break? After all she's been through-* He saw her looking up at him, completely bewildered and thoroughly exhausted, and his heart melted.

   "Oh, Delenn, I'm sorry. It really is nothing. I just... I don't like seeing people treat you like that."

   Despite her exhaustion, she managed a smile. He was so considerate, so warm towards her, even when no one else would 'give her the time of day', as his people said. It was an apt description of her life, sometimes. Even to Lennier, she could not admit the depth of the isolation she felt: the days when it was hard to rise in the morning knowing what awaited her had become more frequent than not. Only Sheridan, somehow, could she trust to understand how she felt.

   "All alone in the crowd," she thought softly aloud, only noticing that she had spoken when he regarded her with tender sympathy and helped her out of the corridor.

   It took her a long few moments, as he helped her sit down on the couch, to realise that she wasn't in her own quarters. He saw the confused realisation in her eyes and laid a reassuring hand on hers. "My place was nearer. I hope you don't mind." When she smiled slightly and nodded, he smiled more confidently in return. "I just wanted to get you out of there," he confessed as he took her hand in his. "You were so..." After a long moment, he shook his head tiredly. "I just had to get you out of there, is all."

   "I wanted to get out of there." Her voice sounded small, even to her own ears. Sheridan made a quiet sound of sympathy and gently drew her close to him, tucking her head under his chin and smoothing her hair. The tears that had so recently stopped began again, and he gathered her completely into his arms and rocked her as she sobbed agonisingly into his shoulder.

   "I had a nightmare last night," he told her softly when her tears had slowed a little; unsure if she would want to hear, but needing to fill the heavy silence that had fallen over them both. "I dreamt that I went into the isolation zone this morning, and there were no Markab there at all... only the two of you." Meaning Lennier as well, not even sure he had seen the younger Minbari. "I dreamt that I - I was too late. You were-" He choked and swallowed. His voice was soft when he spoke again. "I'm so glad you're all right, Delenn."

   "I would rather have died than lived this," she murmured as if she hadn't heard him at all. "To see so many innocent deaths, to watch such great suffering... I would rather have died."

   His soul hurt when she said that, so honestly. "Please don't talk like that, Delenn."

   "Why not?" She sounded worryingly nonchalant, edging towards hysteria. "It is the truth. I would rather be dead than to have given what little help I did - to watch them die, and do nothing."

   "There was nothing you could do, Delenn," he said soothingly. "You couldn't have hoped to save them. What you did, you did out of kindness, but not even kindness can perform miracles."

   "They believed I could help them! They wanted me to help them, they *begged* me to help them, even to the last moment, to the last-" She sobbed, once. "He begged me to help him, to save him somehow. And I could not." She buried her face in his shoulder, shaking with emotion. "I could not..."

   He wrapped his arms around her and stroked her hair, trying to calm her. "I know, Delenn. I know. Shhh, it's okay now. Just relax and rest now." Why had he even let her go into that infernal room? Why hadn't he gone in with her? It wouldn't have hurt him, at least not physically, and at least she wouldn't have been alone...

   He sighed into her hair: even now, he managed to be more selfish than she, even after everything she'd been through - was still going through, the tears that refused to leave sending soft tremors through her body as he cradled her gently against him. She hadn't been alone, after all, not even in the end - he knew better than to think Lennier would ever leave her alone, but there had to have been *something* he could have done...

   But no, he'd had to give her a hard time about it, had to take the moral low ground and imply that they had no obligation to help. Did she know he'd only been worried for her? That it wasn't that he cared less for the Markab, only more for her than he could have realised?

   She shivered in his arms, drawing closer: he held her tighter, shifting position on the couch to keep her close, his voice low and still whispering softly, keeping the dreadful silence at bay. "You're okay, Delenn. You'll be okay. I won't let anything happen to you..." Getting more and more honest as he forced himself to keep talking, to find something to say that would remind her, eyes closed and tears streaming down her pale features, that she was out of the awful, terrifying hell that had been that room. Her face was buried in his neck now, and he could feel hot tears on his skin as she struggled to breathe through her sobs. Panic? More likely shock, he realised as her breathing became more erratic. It was certainly understandable, after everything. He slowed the firm, steady pattern his movements had taken, rocking her almost like a baby as his hands gently rubbed her back to ease the tears.

   "Shh, it's okay, take it easy. Delenn? Listen to me, Delenn." He lifted one hand to her face, carefully turning her gaze up to him, trying not to let his own pain show through at the lonely agony in her eyes. "Listen to me, Delenn, please. Shhhh..." He smoothed her hair as she let out a deep, breathless sob, gently stroking her cheek as his other hand moved rhythmically on her back. "Take it slow. Deep breaths, just try and relax. Slowly," he reminded her as she pulled in a few hesitant, tearful breaths. "Slow." He mimicked the pattern under her hand, pressed to his chest, nodding gentle encouragement as she began to respond. "That's it. Easy." He spoke softly, calming her, meeting her eyes when her tears finally became silent again and the sobbing ended at last. She looked up at him hesitantly: he smiled gently in question. "Still with me?"

   She took a deep, shuddering breath, still needing a moment before she managed to speak. "I-I think so..."

   "Okay." He smiled reassuringly, guiding her head tenderly back to his shoulder. She reached up to touch his face, a tentative movement that he encouraged with a quiet tilt of his head, gently nuzzling her hand. "I'm here, Delenn," he whispered against her palm, knowing without knowing how what was in her mind. "You're not going to be alone, don't worry. I-"

   His link chirped suddenly: he cursed, managing to keep it under his breath but knowing she heard it. She turned her face into his shoulder, trying to stay quiet long enough for him to answer.

   "Sheridan. Go." His voice was terse, hoping his tone was hostile enough to tell whoever it was that this was the worse possible time.

   "*Captain, is Delenn there?*"

   Franklin. Sheridan winced, wondering if he shouldn't have taken his tearful burden to MedLab before coming back here. He looked down at her: she'd glanced up at the mention of her name, her eyes still filled with tears and dark with a pain that no doctor could take away. No, he'd done the right thing. She needed this, needed to be private to let it go. "She's with me." He hoped the implication was clear, his tone making it obvious she wasn't going anywhere. "Why?"

   There was a pause: Franklin obviously digesting the hostility in his voice, his reply curt after a moment of thought. "*I'd appreciate seeing her at the first opportunity.*"

   He glanced down. "I'll see what I can do." Felt her tense slightly before she forced the reaction down. "Maybe tomorrow," he added, to reassure her more than Franklin. There was another, short but still recognisable pause.

   "*Tell her Lennier's sleeping. I'm keeping him under observation for a few days.*" Some of the tension went out of her then, Sheridan noticed with a little relief. If she was this badly affected, who knew what Lennier was keeping inside. "*If she needs anything to sleep-*"

   "I've got enough," he cut in firmly. "Goodnight, Stephen." He cut the link, peeling it off and tucking it firmly behind the couch cushion for good measure. Delenn looked up at him, even seeming vaguely curious at the gesture: not managing the amusement he would have expected from her, but it was a start and he was glad.

   "No more interruptions," he assured her in explanation, moving his hand back to rest on the back of her neck and stroking her hair lightly. "You should sleep, you know. I know you probably don't want to right now, but you must be exhausted. And you'll ache even more tomorrow if you sleep like that," he added in gentle reproof as she tried to nestle up in his lap, pulling herself closer. There was no reply, but after a short wait he felt her head lift reluctantly from his shoulder.

   "How about you take the bed for tonight?" He suggested it carefully, not surprised that she looked dubious. "I'll be right here, Delenn. You're not gonna be alone." He cupped her cheek tenderly in his palm, concerned at her reluctance even though he knew, could see in her eyes if nothing else that she hadn't slept since that door had closed behind her. He wondered if she realised how long it had actually been, if she were even awake and coherent enough to know anything beyond the warmth of his embrace. "If you want me to come in and hold you..."

   "N-no, no, it..." She paused, steadying her breathing again. "It's all right. You need to sleep as well, I do not want to keep you awake..."

   He frowned carefully. "You're sure? If you need me-"

   "I cannot stay here forever," she reminded him quietly. Her tone was reluctant, but steadier now and fatigue was beginning to show in more than her eyes. She covered a yawn, hiding it in his shoulder, too exhausted even to lift her hand: he smiled and leaned in to set a light kiss on the top of her head.

   "You can stay for as long as you need to. Come on." He lifted her into his arms, carrying her - there was no way she could walk in this state - through into his bedroom.

   "Lights, low." He set her down on the bed, helping her to sit up on the edge of the mattress as her hands moved half-heartedly to the clasp of her outer robe. Her grasp was awkward, already half-asleep from crying and the pure physical exhaustion of having been awake so long through such a harrowing time.

   "Here, let me do that." He half-extended a hand: she looked up at him and he paused, suddenly feeling awkward. "If you don't mind, that is..."

   She dropped her hands, managing a grateful half-smile even if it didn't reach her eyes. He smiled gently in return, taking a half-step closer to take over the task. Her exhausted fumbling had managed to unfasten her belt, and it was simple enough to finish and carefully push her outer dress from her shoulders. He dropped it on the bedclothes, looking back to her. She wore a simple blue robe underneath, fastened at the neck and down: it was simple enough to sleep in, he guessed, and he didn't think she'd stay awake long enough for him to search out something else that might be suitable. She'd already slipped off her shoes and stockings, now looking up at him again; he blinked for a moment, for some reason taken aback by the sight of Delenn of the Minbari sitting barefoot and shivering slightly in the low light of his bedroom.

   "Are you cold?" She nodded hesitantly, even though still mostly dressed: he took her tenderly back into his arms, pulling her close for a long moment to warm her and guiding her over to the closet.

   "Here." He opened the door, reaching up to the top shelf to yank down a bundle. It was made of a thick, velvet blue wool, and he obviously hadn't used it for a while as he shook it out and opened it for her.

   "My mom made this for me when I was a kid. Call it a comfort blanket, if you like." He drew the dark, worn blanket around her shoulders, smiling as she grasped it from him and burrowed into its warmth. Sheridan moved her overdress from the bed, pulling back the duvet and taking her hand to help her lie down. Her own movements were more than sluggish; barely able to keep her eyes open, let alone her gaze on him as he settled the pillows under her head and pulled the duvet up across her shoulder. She looked up at him for just a moment, exhaustion clear in her troubled eyes: he frowned in concern and crouched down beside her, finding her hand where it lay still wrapped in his old blanket. *I knew I kept that thing for something.* He held her hand lightly, still uneasy about leaving her.

   "You sure you'll be okay? I can stay right here-" But her eyes were already closed, and he gave up with a tired smile. "Okay, okay." He squeezed her hand, reaching out to smooth her hair back and gently kiss her forehead, knowing she wasn't quite asleep yet. "You need anything, then you call me. I'm right outside." There was a half-hearted squeeze on his hand in reply, but by the time he'd stood again she was deeply asleep.

   He was tired, too: he hadn't realised how much until he saw her like this, turning his head to watch her through the half-open bedroom door. She looked peaceful for the moment, he noticed, grateful to whichever deity might see fit to give her that much. She'd been through so much, more than he could imagine; and having seen that room, albeit briefly, he could imagine enough to make him shudder. He reached up for his jacket on the back of the couch, pulling it across his chest to hide from the sudden cold he felt. He turned until he faced Delenn, making sure she was within his vision before he allowed his eyes to half-close. He was tired, and she was sleeping. He could afford to catch a few minutes of shut-eye...

   He didn't think he slept for very long, certainly no more than a half-hour or so before he heard the sound of murmuring coming from his bedroom. Still mostly asleep, he shifted and muttered something in return; the voice only grew louder, and he half-opened his eyes for a moment, catching sight of Delenn. It was her voice that echoed in his head; her restless muttering and movement that filled the quiet cabin. He couldn't make out the words, shaking his head heavily and yawning, settling further into the couch to sleep.

   "No.." Her voice was louder, coherent if slurred. "No..." She shook her head jerkily. "No... *no*... *JOHN!*"

   He heard her scream even through his light doze; it jerked him awake before she even got to his name and he cursed, racing for the door, driven by the terror and helplessness in her voice. Delenn was sitting upright in the bed, green eyes wide and terrified, blanket tossed aside and hands clenching the covers in a white-knuckled grip. He took barely a second to reach her side, gingerly laying one hand on hers. He wanted to pull her to him, but he wasn't completely sure she was fully awake: she stared only straight ahead, drawing her knees up in front of her, pulling her hand out from under his to wrap her arms around her legs, head bowed and resting on her knees as she started to cry again. Her sobs were gut-wrenching; he couldn't take it. He climbed onto the bed behind her, wrapping arms and legs around her, reaching around her tightly curled body to cover her small, shaking hands with his own.

   "Delenn." He gently pulled her hair back from her face, trying to make her look up and see him. "Delenn? It's okay, I'm here. Look at me." He tightened his hold on her, his body almost completely surrounding hers, pressing against her, trying to make her *feel* his presence. "It's over, Delenn. You're here with me now, remember? We're in my quarters." *In my bed.* "It's all over now," he assured her firmly. "You're okay now. Whatever it was, it was just a dream, nothing else."

   "A - a dream?" Her voice sounded uncertain and far away. She turned her head to look at him; her eyes widened in what could only be described as abject terror. "J-John?"

   He frowned slightly at the disbelief in her voice. "I'm here," he told her firmly. She was staring straight at him, but something in her eyes convinced him that in that moment at least, she couldn't see him. "What is it?"

   "John?" She frowned through her tears, and he saw realisation hit her as her eyes widened in amazed relief. She said his name again, so softly it was almost less than a whisper, filled with wonder; then to his surprise she turned as far as she could and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder. "Thank Valen... I thought..." As the distinction between dream and reality became clear she froze, tensing up, realising the way she had just acted and pulling awkwardly back from him. "I dreamt you were dead." She was still crying, but she didn't seem to notice; with a gentle hand, he reached forward to where she knelt in front of him and wiped the tears away. Delenn blushed, turning her head away, looking mortally embarrassed. "I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."

   "To what?" he asked softly. She swallowed, refusing to look at him. "It's okay, Delenn. Hmm?" He smiled and cupped her face in his hand, trying to make her look at him. "It was just a nightmare. I'm here now. I'm alive." He stroked her cheek tenderly, seeing the tears well in her eyes again even as she forced them down, and took a deep breath. "I cried too when I thought you were dead," he told her quietly. She looked up at him suddenly in disbelief: he gave her a half-smile, offering his hand to her. She looked down at it; after a moment she gingerly placed her own small, warm hand in his, looking hesitantly up at him. He smiled reassuringly, not so surprised this time when she reached out and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head lightly on his shoulder. Sheridan nodded reassuringly, gently putting his arms around her waist and settling her more comfortably into his embrace.

   "It's okay to be afraid, Delenn," he murmured in her ear. She made no response, but he knew she was listening. "I was afraid. I've been afraid every minute since that door closed behind you." She stifled a sob: he stroked her hair, encouraging her to let it out. "I'm still afraid, of a lot of things. Of what happened, of what could happen, of the choices I made and will make. I'm afraid of dying - of living even, sometimes." He touched her cheek softly, unable to admit this to either of them in more than a whisper. "But right now, most of all? I'm afraid of losing you."

   "I thought I had. Lost you." He could feel her tears on his skin, but she was no longer sobbing. "I dreamt... that you died. That when I came out of... of that place," she swallowed hard, "There was no one left. Everyone was dead." She looked up at him with tear-stained features. This time he didn't bother to wipe them away, knowing there would only be more. "You, Ivanova, Garibaldi, Lennier... all dead. There were bodies everywhere." She shuddered, pressing closer to his warmth, and he tightened his arms around her, wordlessly trying to reassure her, to take away the pain of what she described. "I went everywhere, all through the station, but there was no one left alive. Then I came here." Fresh tears chased the tracks already on her face. "I found you... but I was too late. You were..." she swallowed back the tears, her voice choked. "Just like all the others."

   "I'm not dead, Delenn," he assured her. "And I'm not planning on it anytime soon. Here." He took her hand firmly in his, threading his fingers between hers, and placed it firmly over his heart. "Feel that?" She nodded hesitantly, and he felt her fingers tighten in his, her face nestled in the crook of his neck, against the warmth of his skin and the soft beat of his pulse. "I'm alive, Delenn. Really. Whatever you saw in your dream, that's all it was - a dream. I wouldn't leave you alone like that."

   Delenn looked up at him then, and he saw the amazement in her face that he could recognise her fear so easily. She seemed unsure of what to say, only managing his name before she trailed off, looking down; after a long moment, she slipped her hand out of his and reached for the collar of his shirt, now agile if somewhat shaky fingers working easily at the fastening. He blinked; surprised, he made no move to stop her even as she examined the cuffs, carefully opening them to slide the garment off him.

   "Uh, Delenn..." Still sitting upright, he watched her with a somewhat concerned expression as she worked his shirt from each arm and placed it on the other side of the bed. He opened his mouth to say something - not that he knew what that was - but before he could speak she pushed him gently back against the pillows, taking the breath from his lungs. She didn't speak a word, but her eyes seemed to plead with him for something, something she seemed to think he could give her. *Uh-oh.*

   "Delenn," he said softly again. She didn't seem to hear him, and before he could try again he felt her soft hair on his chest, her cheek where a few moments ago her palm had rested, directly over his heart. She shifted very slightly, then lay still. Soft, light hands touched his now bare skin; feeling their warmth, he relaxed, realising that this was what she wanted and cursing himself for even contemplating the thought that had been running riotously through his mind. He knew he found her attractive, knew he cared about her, even admitted - although only to himself - that she featured in a number of his fantasies, a lot of them sexual. But now, when she was so vulnerable and in need of comfort, not passion - he chose *now* to entertain the thought that she might feel the same? *Damn, talk about selfish. If she ever knew...*

   Still, Delenn appeared oblivious to his thoughts: her expression, although still troubled, held at least some semblance of distracted contentment as she listened to the firm - if slightly fast, he realised, not surprising given the near-shock she had given him - pattern of his heartbeat.

   Pushing the embarrassment at his mistake to the back of his mind, he laid a gentle hand on her hair; the other resting on her back, keeping her close. Not that she intended to go anywhere, by the look of things. He smiled tenderly, hoping he imbued his tone with the same feeling. "Think if I stay here, you can get some more sleep?" She looked dubious, and he tried to be reassuring. "I'm not going to sleep yet. I'll watch you, I promise."

   Delenn still looked uncertain, but to her credit she managed to hide her fear of another vivid nightmare. "I... will try."

   "You don't have to," he reminded her, wondering if she really needed to sleep again and feeling somewhat guilty at her tone of voice. "If you're not tired..."

   She smiled, if only a little and ruefully. "I am exhausted. But..." She looked up into his eyes. "I am... afraid. A little."

   Sheridan smiled; it didn't take much to see how much that admission cost her. Even now, she was more concerned with others than herself, how she felt - or maybe, he realised sadly, it was easier on her to be that way, to pretend it didn't hurt and in that way hide it from herself.

   "I don't blame you," he assured her gently. "Just close your eyes," he reached up and took her hand in his, "and relax, and listen to my voice. Okay?"

   "Okay," she repeated uncertainly, but he could hear the fear was gone. He smiled.

   "Trust me. Just think of a peaceful place, somewhere you'd like to be right now. Try and imagine it." She closed her eyes obediently, if a little hesitantly: he paused and realised just how little he really knew about her, personally. After all this time, when he was the first one she turned to even without needing to think, were they really still that distant? There was only one thing he could think of to suggest, even that far too general for his liking. "Think of home."

   He felt the tension almost flow from her body; all but her warm fingers, which closed tightly over his and held on vehemently. He didn't expect her to speak: when she did he barely caught it, her voice timid and quieter than ever.

   "I am home."





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