FROM NIGHTMARES TO REVELATIONS (II)
And here's part two! Trampling off in its own direction, as always. This one definitely doesn't stand on its own, as you can probably see from the first line, but I think it follows on nicely and fulfils the second half of the title pretty well. If you wanna know how, you'll just have to read it!
"Shhh, it's okay. I'm here." Sheridan pulled his shaking companion back into his arms, holding her tightly. "I won't let you be alone, Delenn. I promise. I won't..."
The sobbing had started again a few minutes ago, prompted by her own unconscious movement away from him and the sudden loss of his heartbeat under her cheek: he'd been awake this time, thank God, but he'd learnt by now that when it started the only thing to do was to let her cry herself back into sleep. Her arms slid fearfully around his neck, pulling him to her: tears again embellished her pale skin as he held her close, stroking her hair and murmuring constant reassurances in her ear as she cried. She probably wouldn't remember much of this night, he reminded himself as he held her, which was at least a small blessing given the number of times now he'd wiped away her tears.
They were slowing now, if only for this time: her eyes were closed again, but he didn't need to see her face to know that the nightmares still plagued her. He'd considered giving her a sleeping pill, wondering if that would do any good, but eventually decided against it: at least this way she would get the tears out and perhaps they could talk tomorrow. There was no need to ask if she would see Franklin: he knew her answer, knowing that he alone now had the advantage and the intimacy that would make her open up to cope with this. He didn't know how Minbari dealt with such horrific experience, but he knew how Delenn was dealing with it - could only hope against hope that when she woke in the morning, her night terrors would not plague her along with the waking nightmare she was already living.
She was sleeping again now, he noted with a relief that was tinged, painfully, with trepidation; knowing it was only a matter of time before she woke again, screaming or sobbing or both as he tried vainly to calm her. He sighed heavily and put a gentle hand to her face, tenderly drying the tears... if only to await the next, it was enough that she could sleep these few minutes for now.
He shifted position, feeling a numb sensation begin in his fingertips: her eyelids fluttered and she half-lifted her head, murmuring something in a language he didn't understand. It sounded different, so much different to the broken and sobbing English that emerged between her tears: in what had to be her native tongue her voice was soft and beautiful, tinged if just for that one moment with happiness and a quiet, tearful joy he'd never heard in her before. He hadn't expected it now, certainly: held her tightly as she frowned, that soft tone hardening in fear, knowing what was coming as the tears started again.
"John..." Her tears were eerily silent this time: he hadn't thought anything could be more painful than hearing her sobbing, but the awful loss in his whispered name made his heart break. He didn't understand the other words: didn't need to. Pain like that didn't need a language.
He gathered her closer and slid back on the bed to sit up against the wall, cradling her in his lap: he shook her gently at first, then more firmly, praying he might wake her before the dream grew any worse. "Come on, Delenn. Wake up, it's okay now. I'm here."
"No - John...."
He smiled reassuringly, even though she wouldn't see, knowing she could hear it in his voice as he lowered his mouth to her ear. "John's here, Delenn."
"No..." The tears crept into her voice, still quiet in sleep. "No... he's not here..." She started to cry then, her words coming in ragged sobs. "He's dead, they're all dead...."
"Shhh." He put a finger gently on her lips, gathering her against his chest. "He's here. He's alive, Delenn. I promise."
"I-I can't find him... He's not here..."
He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat at the total and complete loss in her tearful voice. "Shh, shh, it's okay." He was struggling with his own tears now at the heartbreaking fear in her restless features. "He's here, Delenn. He's always here, don't you know that? He wouldn't leave you. He loves you..."
He loves you?
He loves you.
I love you.
She was suddenly quiet: the room went deathly still, and he couldn't remember how to breathe as she opened her eyes, still crying, and stared at him.
"Shh." He reached up a quick, gentle hand to dry the tears for a moment. "It's okay. It was just a dream, it's over now." He swallowed hard, her exhausted and fearful gaze suddenly piercing. "Did you..."
"You did not mean it," she said softly. Her eyes lowered and she put her head on his chest, hiding tears that - for the first time - had nothing to do with that gruesome room. "Th-thank you f-for helping me, f-for knowing what to say..."
"Delenn." He didn't know what he was doing, he realised. It was the stress, the trauma, it had to be. This was a damn stupid time and an even worse decision, and he didn't care. "Delenn, you're upset. You're not even awake yet. You're not thinking straight." He crooked a finger under her chin, lifting her silent gaze to meet his.
"Of course I meant it."
Her eyes widened, but the tears there now were not for death as all the others were. Instead they shone with joy, fearful as it might be with the disbelief that still lingered. She was already cradled completely in his arms, her own creeping up to his shoulders, her lips inches from his: he didn't know, didn't think, how to reassure her or how she might interpret his kiss. All he knew was that his mouth was suddenly on hers, gentle and tender and delicate and all he could have hoped for in kissing her for the first time. Oh, it was a stupid time, but it was the *right* time for this. For them.
He paused, holding her for a long moment: when he finally drew back she was crying again, and he lovingly brushed away her tears as he took her face in his hands. "I won't leave you, Delenn." His voice was a whisper. "I could never do that. You have to know..."
"I know." She tried to swallow her tears, the joy complete in her features now. "I dreamt... that I had told you, before - before you died..."
"I'm not dead," he told her firmly. She smiled very softly, and her hand pressed lightly to his chest.
"I know." Her fingers moved slightly, almost curiously: he smiled and covered her hand carefully with his, feeling his own thudding pulse under her warm skin.
"I'm not going to die, Delenn. It's not going to happen. Whatever you're dreaming, it won't come true now. The nightmare's over." He caressed her cheek, tenderly, an intimacy in the touch he hadn't felt before as her eyes still watched him, her hand still on his chest. "Believe me, Delenn. You're gonna be okay - we both are." He gave her a questioning look. "At least believe I wouldn't lie to you?"
Her voice was a whisper, filled with the sudden emotions that threatened to overwhelm her now. "I believe that..." She tried to hide the tears, but he smiled reassuringly and after a deep breath she let them fall, tucking her head under his chin and curling against him. Sheridan smiled tenderly, soothing the tears with a careful rocking, rubbing his fingertips gently along her crown.
"Shh, it's okay. I know, it's hard right now - it hurts, but it's gonna get better. Let it take the time it takes." He nestled his face in her hair, murmuring against the edge of her crown. "I'm here, Delenn. I love you." She sobbed quietly when he said that. "It's hard to need someone, I know that, but we both know you do." He didn't have to remind her how. "Let me help you now, hmm?"
She nodded silently into his chest: he smiled gently and slid his hands up into her hair, holding her carefully as she cried. The sobs and screams were gone, only soft tears left behind to hold her emotions, pain and joy all too overwhelming to accept in the wake of the past days. He rocked her against him, stroking her hair: murmuring to her that he loved her, that they were together now and he wouldn't let her be alone again. Why hadn't he realised, he wondered as he held her, that *that* was what he had meant to himself as well as her? She hadn't been alone in her nightmare, that was true, but they hadn't been together and that was what mattered. Mattered to both of them, he knew, even if she was too emotional to say the words in return right now... He'd heard them, anyway, even if he hadn't known them at the time. He could wait - he'd wait forever for her to speak to him, really to him, in that soft, beautiful voice he'd heard in the midst of her despair. God, why had she needed to suffer so badly just for him to realise how much he loved her?
But she hadn't, he reminded himself as he forced the truth to the fore. He'd known before her ordeal, when she had come to him, when she had put herself in the midst of this of her own free will - a will that was stronger than his, than anyone else he knew. How could he not have loved her for that? He hadn't distrusted her when she came for that request: he'd only hoped, tried to convince them both that she wanted what everyone else wanted - what *he* had wanted for her, to get her away from this and keep her safe because he couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to her while he could prevent it. She could have died... he'd dreamt it, known then if he hadn't admitted it that he loved her, that he needed her to hear those words. If she had died without knowing... He couldn't make that mistake again. Not with Delenn. He owed her more than that, and he couldn't live with that regret twice over in his life.
"I love you, Delenn," he told her sincerely. The truth, the only one that mattered now. There was no reply, no soft voice in return: she was sleeping again, he realised. Careful not to move too much and disturb her again, knowing she needed this, he tilted his head to look at her.
She was smiling.
He didn't notice himself crying, only drying his face hurriedly at the salty taste as a tear trailed over his sudden smile. "I should've known, honey, shouldn't I?" He kissed her tenderly on the forehead, enjoying the sound of his own voice using that endearment for her. "You need that as much as anything." She stirred slightly, and for a moment he thought she'd heard him: there was a half-coherent murmur in that quiet Minbari tone, and then she shifted her arms around him and snuggled closer before settling deeper into sleep. A warm smile touched his lips at the unconscious relaxation in her embrace, knowing this was what she needed to heal now. When she woke again they could start to deal with everything: he could take her to MedLab later, get her food and a shower to make her more comfortable, but only this intimate comfort could ease the pain enough to carry on so soon after her ordeal. She needed *him*, no one and nothing else, and he'd be damned to hell if he wasn't going to be there for as long as it took.
She murmured something again: a slow tear ran across her cheek, that once peaceful expression twisting into a frown. Sheridan gently squeezed her shoulder to wake her, his fingers drying that lone tear as her eyes flickered open.
"Right here." Concern flitted through his eyes as he lifted his head. "Are you okay?"
She frowned slightly. "I think so. Why?" She paused. "Was I..."
"You didn't look happy," he filled in reluctantly. Delenn shook her head slightly, still half asleep.
"I don't remember..." Her frown deepened and he sighed, knowing it was at best a half-truth.
"Do you want to talk?"
Her eyes darkened, the pain returning, and he yanked himself back from letting it go. He loved her: he wasn't going to let her hurt like this. "You don't have to, you know, but I think you should."
She nodded silently: he tipped her chin up with a gentle touch, still holding her close. "It's easier to get it out, Delenn. Trust me."
"Do not make me speak to him. Please." Her voice was very quiet, and it took him a moment to remember who she meant.
"Stephen? No, no." He kissed her reassuringly on the forehead. "Just me, if that's what you want. I'll be here whenever you're ready."
"Perhaps... tomorrow?" She seemed lost for a moment, and he saw realisation come to her eyes: remembering just how long she had spent in his arms, in the dark, lying in his bed while she cried. She had been ordered to take the coming days away from work, of course, but he had no reason to give if someone were to find them here and that, much to his chagrin, was obviously the first thing to come back to her. "Oh, I-I should go, you have work you must need to do..."
"Shh." He put a finger on her lips, holding her as she tried weakly to move. She was still exhausted, if it were possible even more so after such a troubled night. At least she was beginning to take in the real world again, but he didn't want her out of his sight just yet. "Why don't you stay for a little while?"
Delenn looked up, and he saw in her face that she was about to accept: she paused, and just for a moment, the ever-present ambassador appeared. "I don't know... it could become... difficult."
"Do you want to?"
She looked a little embarrassed. "Yes."
"Okay." He pressed a soft kiss to her lips as she began to protest. "No buts. You stay here until you're ready."
"I..." She paused. "Thank you."
"I want you to stay." His hand moved lightly over her back, the other shifting to touch the crest that encircled her head. "You should get some more sleep," he suggested quietly as she hid a yawn in his shoulder. The idea obviously upset her, feeling the tension return, but he held her gaze and gave her a quiet, reassuring kiss. "I'll be right here. I'll wake you, I promise." He couldn't help a little gentle teasing. "Although if you keep up these dreams, who knows what you'll find out."
Delenn smiled; a small, tentative hand reached up to his face, and he held still as she brushed her fingers over his lips. He encouraged her exploration with a light kiss on her fingertip: her smile widened a little, the first real smile he'd seen from her in days, and she leaned carefully up to him...
"Is this okay?" She looked confused: he sighed ruefully, loathe to remind her when she gazed so trustingly up at him, but it wasn't right if she wasn't ready. "Now, I mean... I don't want..."
"I do." She took a deep breath, glancing down as her hands dropped back into her lap for a long moment. "I did not think that you would want me," she confessed quietly. Sheridan couldn't help a chuckle at the absurdity of the thought.
"You shouldn't doubt that, Delenn." He kissed her softly on the top of her head. "Of course I want you. I just wish it hadn't taken this for me to see it."
Her only reply was a shuddering breath, of relief and painful memory: she nodded silently then and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head tiredly on his shoulder. They sat in silence for a long while, with Delenn cradled in his lap as he absently stroked her hair, the light contact calming them both.
She fell into a light sleep, soon or later he wasn't sure, leaving him alone with his thoughts - even if they did revolve around her and he knew she would never truly let him be alone. When, he wondered as he continued to stroke her hair, had they gotten to be this close without either of them realising? He'd never noticed... or had he just never accepted that he could be attracted to someone so different to Anna? That he could fall in love with her, that he could open up enough to risk his heart again?
That he could find home with her?
Delenn stirred against him: her eyes fluttered as he looked down, unable to help a smile at her soft green gaze.
"Back with me?"
She nodded: he traced her lips with a thoughtful finger. "I think I owe you a little something," he reminded her softly. She frowned sleepily, taking a moment to realise what he meant: a warm, gentle hand cupped her face, tilting her head up, and she moved then of her own will to meet his kiss.
It wasn't passionate: wasn't likely to be, given the circumstances, but the promise was there... and it was warm, more loving than he remembered for a long time, and suddenly so *alive* in a way he hadn't realised a kiss so simple could be. He couldn't honestly say whether they stayed that way for seconds or minutes or closer to an hour, only that when he managed to force himself back to look at her she was smiling. Really, honestly, beautifully smiling up into his eyes.
She spoke, very softly, in Minbari again: he didn't need the translation, but it was in her kiss as she sat up to his level and drew him back to her. "I love you too," he whispered into her mouth. A quiet smile curved her lips against his, and he slid his hands under her hair to guide her. Whether Minbari kissed or not, he hadn't really thought, but Delenn seemed to grasp the idea. Quite firmly, in fact, and definitely with some enthusiasm. He didn't need too much intelligence to realise why, but that need to remind herself he was alive was at least gradually fading. It was the first time she'd really been awake since they'd gotten out of that room, and maybe this was a good time...
"You know, it just occurred to be that there's a few other things we should be doing." She looked suddenly nervous and he smiled reassuringly. "Nothing like that." He ran a careful hand down the front of her robe, raising his eyebrows lightly in question. "I just think you should get out of that. Maybe take a shower?" She'd needed sleep above anything, but she seemed ready to move now and Franklin would have his guts if he didn't take care of her other needs. Of which he was one, he realised suddenly with an inward grin. Stephen wouldn't have gotten that one, that was for sure.
"I can make something to eat, too, if you like." She blanched at that idea and he nodded quickly. "Maybe later. How about that shower?" It wasn't even out before he wondered if he were making a mistake: she hesitated, and he cursed inwardly. Did she even *take* showers? She looked Human enough now, but she'd been born Minbari. How did he know what her rituals were?
They were closer to his than he'd realised, though, given the grateful smile that had overtaken her hesitation: he smiled back and gestured for her to sit up before moving to stand. Delenn was still a little unsteady: he reached out to take her shoulders, holding her still for a moment to let her get her bearings.
"You okay?" Her answer was a silent, careful nod; he took the half-step between them and slipped his arms around her waist, guiding her to him. "Let me know when. No pressure. I know this is hard..."
"I will be all right." Her voice was quiet, the words carefully spoken but clear. He smiled into her hair.
"You'll be fine, Delenn. Trust me."
"Yes," she said quietly. He smiled and tipped her head up, looking her seriously in the eyes.
She touched his cheek softly, just the way she had before, and her tired eyes shone. "Yes."
He smiled. The only response in his mind seemed to be a kiss, and she didn't seem to mind; only when he backed gently away to look down at her did he see the fatigue in her eyes. "You sure you're up to this?"
She looked up at him without answering, and he sighed ruefully. "Okay. Let's get this done, then you can rest for a while."
"I have already rested," she reminded him, her voice still quiet but more from fatigue than any overwhelming emotion.
"You've spent most of the night crying," he reminded her gently. Delenn looked down; he touched her chin, holding her gaze. "It's not your fault, Delenn. I'd've been worried if you were doing anything else, to be honest. I don't blame you," he assured her in a tender voice. The tears welled up again: he saw it and kissed her forehead, squeezing her hand gently. "We'll get this done and then you can go back to sleep, okay? And you're not going anywhere," he put in firmly at the protest beginning on her lips. Awake, tired but still back in control, she seemed reluctant to accept so much of his comfort now. "Would it be any easier if I admit that I want you to stay? I need to know you'll be okay," he added close to her ear. "Please, Delenn. Don't try and shut me out now."
"You will not leave me?" The question was softly spoken, but it hit him like a stone.
"Oh, God no. I'm not going anywhere." He kissed the top of her head, then took her hand and turned her slowly toward the bathroom. "Come on. I'm with you, remember. I'm not leaving. We're just gonna take a quick shower, then we can go back to bed. That okay?"
She nodded numbly; he returned it with an inward sigh of relief, pushing open the bathroom door and guiding her inside. "Okay." The shower door was already half-open: he reached inside, holding firmly to her other hand, flipping the dial to turn on a rush of water. Delenn flinched: he turned back in concern, seeing her eyes wide with fright and hurriedly pulled her into his arms again. The sound of pounding water echoed in the room, and it took only until her shock faded for him to realise that that had been the source of her fright - not surprising, he thought ruefully, given how deathly quiet it had been in that room and that he was the only contact she had had since then.
"Shhh..." She was still shaking slightly, her skin warm as steam began to fill the room, and he held her against his shoulder for a long moment to calm her. "Shh, it's okay." He took her hand to guide under his, placing it carefully on the collar of her robe. "You just let me know if it's not, okay?"
She nodded, drawing in a slow, deep breath to help calm herself. "I'm sorry. I just..."
"I know." He squeezed her hand lightly where it lay under his. "You don't need to apologise, Delenn. Having one person die is horrible for anyone, but after what you've been through..." He trailed off, shaking his head and only pulling her close for a moment. There were no words, would never be any he could give her that would truly understand her pain. "I'm sorry, Delenn," he whispered into her hair. "I know it was your decision, I wouldn't take that from you, but if there were anything..."
"I chose this," she reminded him in a shaking voice. He pushed her back, gently, holding her by the shoulders as his serious gaze held hers.
"Nobody chooses this, Delenn. Don't make it your fault when there was nothing you could have done." She nodded reluctantly and he sighed. "You're what's important now, Delenn. To me at least." He flashed her a rueful smile and gently rubbed her shoulders under the dark robe. "You want me to help you out of that?"
Delenn looked down: he hid a sad smile, realising she had all but forgotten that she would have to remove her robe to shower. "If you want me to turn round, or I can wait outside-"
"No!" She held onto his hand, her grasp surprisingly strong given her subdued attitude right now. "No, please don't leave..."
"You're not alone, Delenn," he reminded her as he held onto her hand, the other reaching up to stroke her hair and trying to reassure her. "I'm here. The only way I'm leaving is if you tell me to go."
"No," she repeated softly. The panic was gone, but her voice was firm. "I do not want you to go."
"Okay. Okay," he smiled in reassurance again and kissed her forehead tenderly. "Do you want my help?"
"Y-yes." She reached for the clasp of her robe, but her fingers trembled and she smiled gratefully as he slipped his own between them to help. The robe was relatively simple to remove; he slipped it back off her shoulders, dropping it to the floor without noticing where it fell. He doubted she would want it now anyhow, and it would at least need to be cleaned - he'd have it burned if it were his, and her expression made it clear that the same idea was in her mind. He kept a firm grasp on her hand, helping her step into the shower: the water hit her, soaking his hands, and she began shaking violently at the sudden heat. She wasn't looking his way, thank God, her eyes closed as she wrapped her arms around herself to control the shaking: he yanked off his pants and boxers, taking her in his arms as he stepped between her shaking body and the steaming water.
"Shh, it's all right. Just relax, I've got you." His arms wrapped tightly around her waist; she turned into his damp chest, soft, wet hands resting on his shoulders to keep her balance.
"I-I was so cold..."
"I know." He stroked her hair, soothing her. "It'll go away soon. Just try and relax now."
She nodded, carefully, and leaned into him for a long, still moment. He carried on stroking her hair, gently moving his hands down her back to gradually soothe her enough for them to turn fully under the water again. He didn't suggest she do anything, although he knew if he were in her place he'd be scrubbing himself raw by now: Delenn obviously wasn't up to much more than standing, occasionally turning her head to catch the spray but nothing more. It was Sheridan, eventually, who tipped her head back and washed her hair; he managed admirably, judging from her gratitude, but he didn't push the issue by trying anything else. This was hardly the time to start emphasising the physical, even if he was trying his damnedest not to remind himself that he was *naked*, in the shower, in a very hot, steamy room, with a very naked Delenn who looked even more beautiful like this than he'd ever seen her...
He scowled inwardly at himself and yanked his mind firmly back into line. If there was going to be a time for that, it would come later - and there definitely *wouldn't* be if he took advantage of her now.
The water was cooling a little now: recognising the telltale background beep that reminded him even the captain had to accept limitations, he turned off the spray and guided her out, dragging his robe from the opposite wall to wrap quickly around her as she started to shiver. The room was still hot, thankfully, giving him time to grab a towel and hurriedly dry himself down as she stood silently, swamped in his worn blue bathrobe and watching him intently. All her attention focused on his movements, holding him to her with her gaze if not her hands now, it was obvious to him that she wouldn't think to do anything for herself just yet: the tears might be gone and the pain slowly receding, but he knew death well enough to understand that she would be blissfully numb for a while now. He smiled encouragingly as she met his eyes, suddenly seeming to realise she hadn't moved: Sheridan shook his head at the apology starting in her eyes, touching a fingertip to her lips before taking her shoulders.
"I don't mind. Let me." She paused for a moment, and he was pleased to see her dependence dwindling somewhat: a sign she was recovering, he hoped, however long it might take. That would be longer than a day, he knew, only confirmed by her eventual nod: he eased the now-damp bathrobe from her shoulders, dragging another towel from the storage shelf to wrap around her hair before turning his attention to her pale body. He forced himself not to pay *too* much attention, knowing he was noticing her in a far different way than he should right now and realising with a wry humor that at least next time, neither of them would have any cause for embarrassment.
He finished the gentle rub down, leading her into the bedroom again before turning her back to him to deal with her hair. It wasn't too difficult: he could brush it for her later, if she asked, but he didn't think either of them were up to any more activity just now. Turning her back to face him, he looked at her completely for the first time and a warm smile emerged on his lips that couldn't be ignored no matter the situation.
"Delenn... you're beautiful, you know that?" She blushed lightly, the simple and sudden compliment bringing a flittering smile of her own to her lips. "Thank you." "I'd get you a robe, but..." he raised his eyebrows in gentle question. She looked down then, reluctance turning her away as she misunderstood his careful movement toward her. "John, I... I do not think..."
"Hey." He turned her back toward him, stepping forward to catch her hidden gaze. "I don't want anything from you, Delenn. You've given enough." He gave her a reassuring smile and a curious shrug. "I just thought, after yesterday, if you want to know I'm alive..."
She smiled quietly again, still looking down, herself embarrassed as she realised what he truly meant. "I..." She raised her eyes, managing somehow to look shy despite the past hours with him. "I would like that."
"I think you'll sleep better, too," he reminded her hopefully. Her smile widened slightly: an improvement on her previous reaction to the idea, he noted with relief. He picked up the old blanket from the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders again, making sure she was warm before enveloping her in his embrace and placing a gentle kiss on her temple. "Come on."
The bed was looking suddenly very inviting, and he could tell from her face that even that quick shower had exhausted her again. He pulled back the duvet, holding tightly to her hand as she slipped under, knowing she still needed that constant contact and desperate not to undo all the progress they'd managed to make in her state of mind. He joined her quickly to make sure, smiling at the soft warmth of her skin against his and pulling her close. She reached out, albeit tentatively: he chuckled and wrapped his arm around her waist, the other hand resting comfortably on her shoulder.
"C'mere, honey." He shifted her over slightly onto his chest, pillowing her head on his shoulder and leaning down to kiss her gently. "No more nightmares for now, okay?"
"No." She smiled sadly, but there was hope in her voice. "The nightmare is over now, isn't it?" His only answer was a kiss, but it was all either of them needed. "Go to sleep, Delenn," he said softly. She nodded obediently and closed her eyes, her hand sliding along his arm to rest once more on his bare chest.
"Will no one miss you today?"
"No one who matters more than you. Now go to sleep."
He found a retort for that, but they were both asleep before he could say it.
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