RACING THROUGH THE DARK

By Leyenn

 

 

 

This began as the start of an AU story, but that didn't really get off the ground and I much preferred this version. For anyone who's read Jane Killick's Season By Season Guide 3 - this is my response to Mira's confusion about this episode. I don't think it's better than the actual conclusion - I'm not that egotistical - but I do like it. I'll leave it to you to decide for yourselves.

 

 

 

 

*****

It was dark 'outside', the station two hours into its night cycle, and the restaurant was empty but for the two of them and a yawning waiter who was rather unsubtly - not to mention a little desperately - trying to remove the couple from their table.

   "Captain..." She tried not to sound too uncertain, a feat that she had been attempting all evening. His smiling response encouraged her, and she continued in a low voice, "I think we may have 'outstayed our welcome'?"

   Sheridan looked up briefly, catching the eye of the one remaining waiter, and swallowed his embarrassment. He hadn't realised they'd been talking for so long - but then, he reminded himself, at least Delenn seemed to be equally affected. She didn't seem to want to end the night either, but they *were* the only ones left and she had to be tired.

   "I think you're right." He grinned apologetically. "It's later than I thought. I should get you back to your quarters, I'll bet you have an early start tomorrow."

   She started to protest his assumption, but he was already standing. "I'll settle the bill, then I'll walk you home if you like."

   It was all she could do not to look foolish as she smiled up at him. "I would like that." Sheridan smiled back, and she was glad he turned away quickly as she felt a rush of heat on her face. Sitting with him, talking with him... even in the midst of so many other people, she had felt special. Befriended. So few people were eager to befriend her these days, and Sheridan had made such an effort tonight, even in offering to walk her home. She knew why he had made that offer, had seen it in his eyes as he spoke and as he looked at her as she was now. She was absurdly thankful for his protectiveness: her change had made her uncertain, vulnerable, and she felt even more so now, dressed as she was and it being so late at night. It was so good of him to offer, and not even out of a sense of duty but, she was sure, of concern.

   A hand rested on the back of her chair. "Ready to go?"

   Delenn looked up and smiled at the Human captain standing over her. She had to admit he was handsome; she did *not* have to admit that that had been her first thought of him, but that didn't stop it having some basis in truth. Dressed not in uniform but in civilian clothing, he looked even more attractive - as much as she seemed to him, at least. Despite everything else, however, her gaze was drawn to his eyes: sparkling blue with good humour and not a trace of the animosity that marred even her own people's vision of her. She found it bitterly ironic that a Human, the Starkiller no less, could look at her with more affection than one of her own kind.

   He frowned slightly at her hesitation. "Delenn, are you all right?"

   She blinked, as if emerging from a dream, and nodded firmly. "Fine, Captain. Thank you." She smiled and started to rise. "I am ready to go now."

   "Ah," he paused and shook his head with a slight smile. "Allow me." He grinned and pulled out her chair, extending a hand to help her up. Delenn smiled. slightly bemused, but accepted the offer.

   That was when, she realised later, things started to move in a different direction.

   She rested her palm on his for support as she stood, intending to release it a few seconds later: however, unfamiliar as she was with Human attire, the movement involved in turning as she rose was restricted by her dress and she stumbled slightly. The shoes the woman had sold her also seemed to work against her, and off-balance as she was it was impossible to stand properly in such impractical footwear. As a result, she reached out and her hand, of its own volition, clamped tightly around Sheridan's in an attempt to break her fall. His fingers wrapped around hers in return, and she almost fell at the sudden, unfamiliar sensation. His skin was warm against hers as he pulled her up, supporting her, and she only noticed that his arm was around her when she again stood upright. His hand lingered on her hip, and she pretended to herself that it was to make sure she was all right, not because of the look in his eyes or the way his hand still grasped hers.

   "Are you okay?" A frown of concern touched her features. "Are you hurt?" She shook her head numbly, still trying to process the sensation of his body so close to hers. She saw him look up over her head, waving away the concerned waiter, and nodded when he looked down at her again. A warm flush ran through her when he refused to let her go, guiding her carefully out of the restaurant. Only when they reached the corridor did he finally release her: they stood in awkward silence for a few moments, she embarrassed for her accidental behaviour, he for his reaction to the situation and his closeness to her. They were, after all, not exactly friends - not enemies, by any means, and they were allies, but still not used to each other. Sheridan wasn't sure how to act around a Minbari, especially one like Delenn, while she was still unused to herself and his presence: neither knew how to act now that their moment of closeness was over.

   Eventually, Sheridan cleared his throat. "Well, now that's over... I mean, uh..." He paused and then smiled to cover his embarrassment. "I was going to escort you home." He offered his arm and gave her a slight grin.

   She smiled and nodded, slipping her arm into his. "I would like that."

   He grinned back. "Great."

   She let him lead her, not noticing how long it took for them to get to her quarters or how convoluted a route they took. It seemed, she noted wryly with a hint of pleasure as they circled the Garden, that she was not the only one reluctant to end the night.

   "Captain?" She smiled a little shyly as he looked down at her on his arm, his eyes seeming to light up his face, and she had to force herself to remember the words that came next. "I do not mind walking with you..." she began softly, unwilling to break the silence. "But it is getting late. You must be tired."

   "Not really," he lied. "Do you want to get home quickly?" He turned her toward the exit; she put her hand on his arm, slowing his movement.

   "No." He stopped and looked at her, and she smiled when she realised what she'd said. "I just thought you would be tired. It has been a long day, after all."

   "Not that long," he protested with a smile. "To tell you the truth I've hardly noticed the past few hours."

   Delenn smiled shyly. "Neither have I."

   He grinned suddenly, as if she'd paid him a great compliment. She smiled back at him, not understanding his reaction but knowing it was a good one. Besides, when he smiled like that it was hard to remember who she was, let alone to remember what she had done for the past four hours.

   Sheridan, aware that the moment was in danger of becoming uncomfortable, tucked her arm more firmly into his and drew her towards the exit. She started to protest, but he sighed and shook his head.

   "It *is* late," he reminded her. "We both have things to do in the morning, I'm sure. You should get back to your quarters."

   "I can find my way on my own, if you are tired," she protested, but he shook his head firmly.

   "Not dressed like *that* you can't."

   Delenn frowned, confused and a little offended. "Why not?"

   He looked down at her: when he saw her expression he chuckled. "Because there are far too many men on this station for you to be safe walking alone in that dress, that's why."

   She blushed fiercely. "Oh."

   "It *is* very attractive, Delenn," he assured her. "And as much as there are people who'd take advantage, there are people who'd take offence. I don't want to see you get hurt either way."

   She smiled, touched by his concern for her. "Thank you, Captain."

   He shrugged and led her into the transport tube, giving their destination as Green 2, to take them directly to her quarters. "It's not a problem."

   "But it is kind of you to take the trouble," she insisted as the tube started up.

   "It's no trouble," he returned, just as insistently. Delenn smiled and politely let it go. She enjoyed the idea that he wanted to spend more time with her, and she was beginning to understand why her choice of clothing had been so successful.

   



    PART TWO

   

   "I think I like that a *lot.*" Sheridan grinned to himself, settling more comfortably into the office chair. Ivanova turned away from him, pulling the blanket further over her head: should he try any more of those damn jokes on her, she was determined to have at least *some* protection.

   Sheridan, however, wasn't thinking about any jokes other than those he'd told Delenn earlier that evening. He remembered with a smile walking her back to her quarters, and the look she'd given him as they stood outside the door. With any other woman, that expression would have ensured that he never reached his office chair - but with Delenn... he wondered briefly if she was thinking of him. He was certainly having a hard time removing her from his thoughts.

   Shaking himself, he glanced over at Ivanova; fighting a surge of jealousy when he saw she was fast asleep and snoring a little less than quietly. He growled under his breath, knowing that to even try sleeping again would be pointless. He didn't want to be here, now, with Ivanova -

   Wordlessly, he arranged the jacket on his chair and left the room.

   Delenn stirred restlessly on her couch, beginning to grow exceedingly frustrated with the diplomatic reports she was studying. She was trying, and not succeeding, to send herself to sleep: she had already tried to meditate, without much success, and the next cure - paperwork - seemed to be working just as inefficiently. With a sigh, she uncurled her feet - she had removed those precarious heels as soon as she entered her quarters - from underneath her and padded over to the kitchen for a drink. Perhaps if she had some herbal tea, it would relax her enough that she could try to sleep.

   She had only just reached the kitchen when the door buzzer sounded. Her slight frown furrowed into a deeper expression of confusion as she replaced the cup she had just retrieved and slowly turned toward the door. Only when she gave permission to enter did she realise she was still in the dress Sheridan had complimented her on earlier.

   "I... thought you might be still awake." The words from his lips surprised him more than they did her. In truth, he'd thought nothing of the kind: he'd *expected* her to be long asleep, his journey here a fruitless one. Evidently, she was having the same trouble sleeping as he was.

   "I did expect that you'd have changed, however," he teased with a small amount of surprise. Behind the breakfast bar Delenn smoothed her dress, a little apprehensively.

   "You do not approve of my attire?"

   "No! I mean, yes. I do." He floundered, falling back on safe ground. "I meant what I said earlier. It's very attractive."

   She smiled coyly and stepped into full view. "Does it attract you?"

   Sheridan suddenly had an inkling of how a rabbit in the glare of headlights felt. He flushed a deep, panicked red and coughed hard. His voice sounded a pitch higher than it should do. "Honestly?" She smiled demurely up at him. He coughed again, weakly, and managed a confused smile. "The dress isn't the most attractive part."

   He said it with such honesty that it was Delenn's turn to blush, and she did so with great alacrity. "Thank you, Captain."

   There was an awkward moment of silence, such as had punctuated their evening at the restaurant. Delenn smoothed her dress again, not noticing Sheridan's face as the movement unconsciously accentuated the curves beneath it. The material was tight enough that it didn't seem to stay flat, but had a habit of collecting at certain points into a convention of crinkles. It was so unlike her usual Minbari clothing: that admittedly had become more Earth-like since her change, but had at least maintained some Minbari influence. This strange, black thing...

   Sheridan coughed under his breath, looking politely away as Delenn rearranged her dress and went back into the kitchen. He vaguely noticed his voice accepting her offer of a drink, but the majority of his mind was far from the conversation. He wondered if Delenn knew just *how* attractive she was in that damned dress. He wondered why she'd chosen that particular item of clothing - he didn't entirely buy the line about the saleswoman. He wondered if she would protest if he helped her remove it.

   He wondered if his coming here had been such a good idea.

   "Captain?" Her repeating voice cut through the haze building over his coherent thought. He blinked.

   "I'm sorry. What did you say?"

   She smiled forgivingly. "I asked if you would like anything in your tea."

   "Oh." He gave himself a good yank back together. "No, thanks." He was glad she hadn't said *with* the tea. He was afraid his libido would have muscled in on the conversation.

   Delenn handed him a steaming cup, and he tried not to notice as her fingers brushed his. *She didn't mean it,* he scowled inwardly. *It was an accident, how could she mean anything by that?*

   His libido wasn't entirely convinced.

   *Oh, shut up and go play somewhere else.* He mentally kicked himself and tried to focus on what Delenn was saying.

   "I'm sorry," he apologised as she repeated herself for the third time. Delenn smiled.

   "It's all right. It is late, you're tired. I understand." She tilted her head slightly, and he got the impression he was being studied.

   "If you're wondering why I'm here, I really don't know." He flashed what he hoped was a self-deprecating smile. He seemed to have lost control of his outward reactions. "It beats sleeping in my office chair, is all I can say."

   Delenn smiled curiously. "Surely you have quarters of your own to sleep in?"

   For some reason that innocent statement made him squirm uncomfortably. Maybe it was the distinctly sultry tone in her voice. He wasn't used to Minbari being *able* to *be* sultry.

   "Uh, yeah. Well." He looked embarrassed. "There's been a little... difficulty. With my quarters." He shrugged, tried to look ready to go back to that chair whenever she was ready to throw him out. "It'll be sorted out in a few days."

   Something in her voice told him she didn't believe his nonchalance. "Oh, well, if that is all." For a moment she was the professional Ambassador again. "If there is anything I can do to help..."

   "Actually, your couch looks pretty comfortable right now." He tried to think of all the things he could have said then to properly, politely refuse her help. Why couldn't he listen to the *reasonable* part of his brain just for two minutes?

   Delenn smiled, partly amused and partly satisfied, and he wondered how he could ever have thought that expression was professional. Whether by fate or by someone much closer, he felt well and truly set up.

   "If the couch is all you require," she said easily, taking his empty cup - when had he drunk that? - with hers and placing them in the kitchen sink. He stopped short, by a very tiny measure, of answering her then.

   "Are you sure?" He tried to think rationally, although it was hard because she was coming back into his vicinity again. "I mean, it could look a little fishy for you..." He smiled. "Let me guess. 'Fishy.'"

   "Yes." The innocent smile in her eyes made his brain gibber. How could *everything* she said or did be so attractive?

   "I meant, uh... Well, it means..." he struggled to explain the word.

   Delenn smiled knowingly, reached across and kissed him gently on the lips.

   "Complicated."

   Sheridan tried to recall how breathing was supposed to be accomplished: he seemed to have a sudden hole in his brain where the knowledge should have been. But then Delenn kissed him again, harder and more persistent this time, and he reasoned that there were better things that could fill that gap.

   "Yes," he said softly as he leaned over to return the kiss. "Yes, that just about covers it...."

   *****

   This was crazy. He knew it was crazy, because the only thing that was missing from this ludicrous and exceedingly pleasurable situation was Rebo and Zooty. Everything else needed for one amazingly warped hallucination seemed to be accounted for - except for the presence of a third party, which just proved that there was a God, even if He was only a small one who looked out for minor miracles.

   The minor miracle at this moment in time was that Earthforce Captain John J. Sheridan, quite recently appointed commander of Babylon 5 and Starkiller of the Earth/Minbari War, was draped along the length of a couch with an unquestionably beautiful woman in his arms and a cool drink in one hand. He was also nearly half asleep, absently running his fingers through the long hair cascading onto his shirt, rubbing fingertips curiously along the edge of the velvety grey crown that encircled it...

   And that was where things got just a little bit weird.

   "Delenn?"

   She seemed almost as tired as he was, taking a moment even to lift her head. "Yes?"

   "Are we going to stay here all night?"

   She smiled, playfully amused, and he heard that sweetness-and-light innocence in her voice that said she was about to pull the floor out from under him - again. "You did ask for the couch, did you not? I would not wish to pressure you into accepting more than you feel ready to take."

   He scowled, unable to keep it completely under control. "I didn't say I wouldn't take... more than I asked for. I was just... being polite."

   "You believed that because of what I asked you earlier, I would be completely innocent as to your customs," she translated with a hidden smile.

   "No," he frowned at the back of her head as she turned around again, slightly annoyed at her tone. "That's not it. I just... didn't want to push you into anything. If there was anything to push." He smiled wryly. "I guess you settled that one, at least."

   "I see. You believed that as I was Minbari, I would not be interested in any relations beside friendship. That I would not be able to decide for myself what I wanted."

   "No!" He sat up and deliberately turned her to face him.

   Only then did he see that she was smiling. He sighed, shaking his head in amazement as his irritation melted away.

   "Delenn, you have *got* to stop doing that. I know you enjoy making a point, but you're driving me crazy. Not that I'm not already, being here at all." He smiled ruefully. "Look, Delenn, I want to be here as much as you think I do. You're a very attractive, very intelligent, very... forceful... woman." She smiled and he couldn't help but returning it. "But you have got to understand that I still see you as a Minbari. I don't know what your customs are, how you deal with this. For all I know, touching any more than your hand might be punishable by death."

   Delenn smiled enticingly, and he still found it vaguely unsettling. "I can assure you, that is not that case."

   He coughed. "No. Well. You get what I mean."

   To his relief, she smiled understandingly. "I know. It is difficult for me as well, to know what your customs are. To be sure that I understand them correctly, in order to do what is required. Your people are so complicated when it comes to sexuality." She frowned. "I have studied much since my change, and it feels that I have learnt less than I have forgotten, there is so much."

   He couldn't help it. "Well, you did ask me to help you understand..."

   Her eyes sparkled suddenly. "I was wondering if you might offer to assist my... studies."

   Sheridan grinned, raising his eyebrows. "Always glad to help, Ambassador."

   Delenn smiled and gently touched his cheek. "I think we are in an improper position for such proper relations," she murmured as she kissed his jaw. Sheridan drew her closer and muttered a reply as he tilted his head slightly and moved in long enough to kiss her.

   "Mmm... maybe we are at that..." He slid one hand into her hair, drawing her in close as she continued to kiss his face. "How about you call me John?"

   "John." She smiled and ran her fingers idly through his hair. "I like that name."

   "You'd better do. It's the only one I've got."

   She laughed at his comment and kissed him again, fully on the mouth in a long, deep, slow kiss that started somewhere around the ends of his hair and ended somewhere near Epsilon three. He was amazed, when she let him get his breath back - not that breath was essential, he reminded himself - that they were still fully clothed.

   "You know, Delenn..." He traced the contours of her face thoughtfully. "Human custom usually dictates a move to the bedroom at this point."

   She opened her eyes softly. "It appears we have much more in common than we realise."

   He laughed, recognising her earlier words. "Who'd have thought."

   "I do not think many people have considered this area of comparison," she confessed in a murmur, her hands trailing along the lines of his shirt.

   He took her hand and stood up. "Then we'd better do some considering, I guess." At her slightly surprised expression, he smiled down at her. "Well, you were gonna do it anyway, right? I thought traditions were very important to Minbari."

   She managed to look slightly abashed at his words. "Well, yes..."

   "Then I think we'd better get moving in the direction of your bedroom, before we get to that considering right here."

   Delenn smiled and took his other hand as well, leading him with an attractively enticing smile towards a pair of misted doors. "This way." She pushed open one door and led him inside, carefully closing the door behind him.

   He stood and stared.

   "You can't be serious." He'd never even *seen* a bed at that angle before, let alone contemplated any intimate relations on one.

   "Delenn..." he started. She was looking at him with something between confusion and anticipation in her eyes, and his heart leapt. He smiled ruefully, trying to phrase this as tactfully as he could without ruining the moment. "Delenn... you've never been in a Human bedroom before, have you?"

   She smiled, looking a little amused behind her confusion at his reluctant behaviour. "Is that important?"

   Sheridan winced slightly. "Well, ordinarily no, it wouldn't be, except that - well, it'd make this a bit easier to explain." Seeing her expression fade into concern, he hurriedly grasped her hands and pulled her to him. "It's not... I do want you, Delenn." Still feeling a little awkward, he ducked his head and leaned close, embarrassed to look at her as he tried to find a little tact. His voice was low in her ear, a wry chuckle running through the words. "I just don't think I can do it at that angle, is all."

   She looked up sharply, surprised: obviously that hadn't even crossed her mind. Her tone was complete confusion as she cast a glance back at the bed. "I..." Embarrassment flooded her features as she seemed to grasp his meaning and she coloured. "I didn't realise. I'm sorry."

   "It's okay," he lied in a considerably amused voice. "Don't worry about it." He cast another dubious stare at the bed. It seemed to be taunting him. "I'm sure I can manage."

   She paused, her silence heavy as she considered something. "It is... how do you say? Changeable?"

   "Adjustable," he guessed, unable to keep the grateful relief completely out of his voice. He *really* didn't want his first night with Delenn to become a complete farce. "That would be good," he ventured slowly. "If it doesn't bother you, that is." He drew a soft caress down her cheek. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, Delenn."

   A smile touched her lips. "I do not think that is possible."

   Her expression seemed to be contagious: just looking into those shining eyes made him grin like a fool. "Well, then... if you really don't mind... I think Humans perform much better in the horizontal."

   Her smile grew a little amused as she led him over to the bed and stepped up to the head, where a discreet control panel appeared to be concealed. "Were you planning on performing something for me?"

   He coughed sharply to cover his reaction to that. "It's a figure of speech." He sank gingerly onto the now-horizontal bed, relaxing when it held his weight. The mattress was quite solid, but it seemed comfortable enough. *Besides, I don't think it's going to be too much of a consideration...* He held out a hand and drew Delenn to stand in front of him, his arms around her waist pulling her close. She smiled down into his eyes, and he thought it impossible that anyone could look so beautiful and still be mortal. She slipped her arms around his neck and leaned closer, and his breath left him as her mouth caught his. He fell back, holding onto her, guiding her carefully down onto his chest before he rolled over, lowering her to the bed as they finally broke the kiss.

   "Delenn..." He sighed warmly and held tightly to her, afraid for a moment he might wake up and she would never have been in his arms. "I don't think this is allowed, you know." He smiled to soothe any concern at his words and ran a finger lightly over her face. "Only angels are supposed to be this lovely."

   She smiled radiantly, even though confusion again touched her eyes. "What is an angel?"

   Gentle fingertips explored her face and crest as he placed soft kisses on her eyelids. "Something very, very beautiful." He drew back a moment to look at her, tenderly smoothing dark hair away from her face. "Maybe you are."

   "Beautiful?" she teased.

   "An angel." His voice was low and more sincere than she had ever heard him. Embarrassment replaced amusement in her voice.

   "Thank you..."

   He smiled and kissed her gently. "If I shouldn't compliment you, just say the word-"

   "No." A smooth fingertip touched his lips, and smiling eyes met his. "You may... compliment me as many times as you wish." A slight blush coloured her cheeks again. "It is just... not something I have become accustomed to, recently."

   Tender sympathy touched his expression as she spoke those words. "Well, you just remember whose opinion matters around here, okay?"

   Her voice quieted considerably as he lowered his head to kiss her neck, working slowly across the triangle of soft skin bared by the - rather daring, he noted with a smile - neckline of her dress. "I will... remember... I think..." She let out a soft, wordless murmur and tilted her head, her lips brushing his ear as his tongue traced a moist path across the top of one breast. "If I am able to remember anything at all when you continue to do that..."

   Sheridan smiled into the curve of her breast and stepped up his efforts. "Anything for you, Ambassador."

   There was a long, languorous pause; then Delenn's voice, soft in the quiet room. "Anything?"

   "Mm-hmm." His lips still moved deliciously over her skin, nibbling slightly in a way that made her forget everything but her own name... and that was rapidly fading. "Why? You want me to stop?"

   "*No,*" she said with such force that he had to laugh.

   "Okay." With an answering shrug and a smile he went back to his task, gentle hands caressing her body through the thin, restricting material of her dress. "Then what?"

   There was another pause; he felt her hands on his chest, teasing his shirt open. "Oh... I see."

   "I was hoping you would..." Small, delicate fingers slipped under the dark shirt and brushed across his chest, pushing the loose material off his shoulders. He sucked in a breath as cool air met bare skin, Delenn's fingers tracing soft trails down his arms as she continued to undress him. The shirt caught at the cuffs, and he subdued her with a quick kiss as he worked them off himself before pulling her back into his arms. Delenn, however, didn't seem quite so easily satisfied, lithe hands sliding carefully between them and working lazily at his belt.

   "Patience isn't one of your strong suits, is it?" he murmured teasingly as his own hands traced the length of her back. He was rewarded with a quiet smile as she pulled back to look at him, looking a little embarrassed.

   "I'm sorry, I didn't realise-"

   "Shh." He put a finger on her lips, carefully working the other hand across her back, searching out the bare skin above her collar and stroking soft fingertips across it. "Did I say that was a bad thing?"

   A smile touched her face as she felt his fingers slide up into her hair, trailing down to catch hold of the fastener of her dress. "I don't recall..."

   "The answer is 'no'," he assured her as his fingers slid under her collar and began lazily working the fastener. He was suddenly glad for another reason that she had worn Human-style clothes tonight: at least it meant he wouldn't make an ass of himself by struggling with Minbari fastenings. *Nope,* he grinned silently to himself, humming slightly as Delenn lowered a kiss onto his bare shoulder and quite expertly manoeuvred his belt and pants away from his body. *I can definitely manage this one...* Getting a comfortable grip on the simple zipper, he drew it easily the rest of the way down, simultaneously pushing his pants from the bed with his feet. The zipper stopped at the small of her back, revealing soft, smooth skin a few shades paler than Human normal. He guessed Minbari didn't get suntans very often.

   He slipped one hand experimentally under the black material, enjoying her encouraging murmurs as his fingertips caressed the gentle dip in her back, just over her spine. Something else leapt out at him, although he couldn't place it for a long moment: only when he moved up to caress the nape of her neck did he notice the difference. She was completely hairless everywhere but for the long curls surrounding her crown; he forced himself not to wonder if that really was the *only* place...

   "Ready?" His voice was gentle in her ear, a soft whisper of air over her cheek. She smiled.

   "I have been ready ever since we began this."

   He grinned and raised his eyebrows. "Sure? It's kinda cold in here..."

   "You are cold?" She pulled abruptly away, ignoring his protest that it wasn't really important, and went to the small chest at the foot of the bed; withdrawing what looked like a thick sheet, she smiled and laid it carefully over him.

   "Better?"

   He gave her a look that was halfway between pleased and frustrated. "I will be as soon as you get back down here."

   Delenn smiled teasingly. "All in good time, my Captain." With careful precision that was completely at odds with her earlier discomfort over the outfit, she slipped her hands under the decorative neckline of the dress and drew it forward, revealing the smooth olive skin of her shoulders. He caught his breath as she let go the dress and stepped out of the black pool that formed around her feet, clad only in simple, Human-looking black silk underwear and a low-cut silk bra. Despite his amazement and arousal, however, when he looked at her face he couldn't help a slightly amused grin.

   "Feel better now?"

   "Much." She smiled persuasively, sliding onto the bed beside him, her hands caressing his chest as she pulled him forcefully close. "Although, there are other reasons than that hideous... thing."

   "I think you looked beautiful," he assured her with a smile. He ran a finger lazily under the silken strap on her shoulder. "Although I think I prefer this."

   "I think I would prefer to be Minbari again," Delenn muttered in a somewhat piqued tone.

   "You don't like these?" He was rewarded with a tired frown. "Well then, how about I help you get more comfortable?"

   Her scowl faded into a pleased smile as she felt his fingers work expertly at the clasp that held the 'bra' closed. "I would like that..."

   Sheridan drew experienced fingers under the straps and eased them down her arms. "I thought you might..." Sliding his hands up her body again, easing the uncomfortable garment out from between them; his fingers grazed her nipple and she gasped softly, glancing at his in sudden surprise. His eyes met hers: she smiled in growing understanding. "You said you would do anything for me," she reminded him softly.

   "Anything." His arms surrounded her, pressing her against his warm, bare chest.

   A shy smile brushed against his shoulder. "Do... that... again?"

   Sheridan smiled, moving warm kisses along her crown. "My pleasure."

   "Ohhh... I do not think so..." Her voice was lazy as she relaxed into the sensation. "I think this... is yours..."

   His eyes widened as Delenn's mouth worked over his chest, coming to rest over his left nipple. "Mmm... Delenn..." A smile worked its way unbidden onto his lips. "You learn fast, you know that?"

   "I am trying," she assured him as she moved languidly across to the other nipple, grazing it lightly with her teeth.

   "Mm... I noticed..." There was an incoherent pause, his mind momentarily losing control of his voice as her hands worked purposefully in a somewhat downward direction. "Delenn... have you been studying?"

   Her only answer was a warm, wet trail of kisses that followed the line from his chest to his lips. "Perhaps," she teased with a smile. "I wanted to be ready for you."

   "For me?" The question was out before he could stop it: she smiled and caressed his cheek tenderly.

   "Of course for you. Only ever for you." She paused, the sparkle in her eyes dimming a little. "Although I do not know of many others who would be willing to have me..."

   "Delenn." His firm interruption halted her. "I'm sure there are any number of people who would want you. I, however, have you." His grin simply sparkled with pleasure. "And I *don't* intend on letting you go."

   "I do not want you to." She buried her face in his shoulder, planting soft, light kisses there. "I want you to have me forever."

   He chuckled softly, knowing she was unaware of her unintentional double-entendre. "I don't know if I can manage forever, Delenn, but I'll do my damned best for as long as I can."

   She smiled warmly and kissed him softly on the lips. "That is all I ask... John..." He smiled when she said his name.

   "Delenn." The smile widened, soft fingertips brushing lightly across her lips. "I want you to know... before we do this... I care about you. A lot." His fingers caressed her face, stroking back her long hair with a gentle, almost tender touch. "I just wanted you to know." The expression that lit up her features told him she understood.

   "I... care for you as well, Captain. John." She smiled. "I care... deeply... for you. More than for anyone else on this station." She ducked her head, suddenly shy. "I do not know why, or how I came to... but it is the truth."

   Seeing her confusion, he smiled and this time when he touched her face, there was an infinite tenderness there. "Then that's all that matters." His smile became one of reassurance and he cupped her face lightly on one hand. "Sometimes Human emotions aren't that easy to analyse, Delenn. It's one of the joys of being Human that you still have to look forward to. One you asked me to help you learn, if I remember correctly." With a slightly teasing smile, he leaned over her and slid one hand into her hair, tilting her head slightly as his lips met hers; lips parting slightly, he took a chance and drew her lower lip lightly into his mouth with his teeth. She moaned softly at the gentle pressure and returned the motion, her lips parting instinctively in a rhythm even she didn't fully understand. Sheridan cupped her face in his hands, thumbs touching her chin as his fingertips caressed her smooth skin, trailing up to her temple and carefully gesturing for her to open her eyes.

   "Delenn," he murmured against her lips, his voice no more than a breathy whisper. "Delenn, tell me you want this. Tell me you want me."

   She pushed her head back into the pillow slightly, a little surprised. "Is that important to you?"

   Sheridan coughed down a more blunt response. "Well, to be honest, it is kind of near the top of the list."

   Delenn smiled in confusion. "Have I done anything to indicate that I do not want this?"

   He smiled back at her, a little sheepishly. "No. I just... I'd like to hear the words."

   Delenn laughed softly and reached up to kiss him. "You are a very strange man, Captain John Sheridan. But if you wish it, I will say those words for you." Sliding her hands over his back, she pulled him closer and smiled gently up into his eyes. "I want to do this, with you. Now."

   He grinned. "*Right* now?"

   Her eyes sparkled. "If you wish it."

   Sheridan chuckled at her seriousness and kissed her quietly on the lips. "Delenn, I'll make love with you whenever you damn well ask me."

   "Then," she smiled invitingly and trailed a fingertip down his chin, "I am asking now."

   He grinned, unable to help teasing her. "Well, if that's an official ambassadorial request..." He was surprised by the force with which she pulled him down on top of her, evidently losing patience with his teasing although her smile remained as ever.

   "I can have the necessary paperwork drawn up, if you wish-" she laughed softly into his mouth as he smothered her offer with a passionate kiss.

   "I don't think that will be necessary, Ambassador."

   "Good." She kissed him again. "And John?"

   "Hmm..." He let out a soft moan of pleasure as she slid her fingers under the waistband of his shorts, the material rubbing a delightful discomfort over his growing arousal.

   "My name is Delenn."

   He smiled, recognising the hidden statement behind her reminder. Tonight was not for an Ambassador and a Captain; it was theirs, for them alone. "Delennnnn...." her name ended in a shuddering sigh as her hands found their way to the bare skin inside his boxers. "Uh, Delenn, I don't know how much study you did, but maybe you shouldn't do that for too long-"

   "Do you not enjoy it?" He could swear her voice was smiling as her breath drifted over his ear.

   "Mmmm... I'd prefer if it was a different part of you..." Now where had *that* come from? *Be careful, Johnny; this is still a Minbari you're dealing with here.*

   Delenn, however, only smiled and eased him out of the strained material, discarding it with some measure of ease. He guessed Minbari underwear was pretty similar, or at least that she'd given the action a great deal of thought, because she seemed far too proficient for a first time experience. Those considerations, however, soon became unimportant; the hot sensation of Delenn beneath him, her kisses laving his neck and shoulders as they held tighter to each other, overwhelmed everything else. He traced a light path down her back to where her one garment remained and smiled into their next kiss, pulling back for an instant to meet her eyes as he removed the last barrier between them. He expected at least a little uncertainty, unsurprised when it flickered across her features in the instant his obviously male body rested over hers.

   "Delenn, if you're not sure about this..."

   "Hush." A slow, gentle kiss answered him. "I am sure. It is just new to me, that's all." She smiled confidently. "I trust you, John. It is not uncertainty you sense in me, only... anticipation." She smiled ruefully. "So much of this is still unknown to me."

   He smiled and lowered his head to kiss her neck, working languorously down to a smooth, round breast. "Just ask, Delenn. Never be afraid to ask me anything." He kissed the tip of her breast, taking a darkened nipple in his mouth, smiling around it as she responded to his attentions with a long, blissful sigh. His teeth grazed lightly over the hard, swollen tip; she let out a breath that was half-sigh, half-moan and slid her fingers into his hair, grasping his shoulders, pressing him close to her, demanding he continue his exploration of her body. *By all means, my lovely ambassador...* With a smile of anticipation, he lowered his head once more and kissed her stomach tenderly, working a soft, nibbled trail of kisses up, between her breasts and resting lightly over her heart. "You're so beautiful," he murmured quietly, waiting for the smile he knew those words would evoke. When he saw her eyes shining with unshed tears, a lump formed in his throat: he swallowed it back and kissed her intensely, parting his lips fully and guiding her tongue carefully into his mouth with a gentle grasp of his teeth. Delenn moved eagerly against him; he held tightly onto her and rolled her over, cradling her on his chest as he lifted her the necessary few inches to manoeuvre into the most comfortable position for both of them.

   "Mmm." He smiled involuntarily as her exploring fingers centred on his lower stomach, teasing lightly along the edge of the thick curls nestled between his legs. Delenn, he noted with some detachment, *was* pretty much hairless everywhere but her head. Sliding a hand down between them, his smile widened imperceptibly as her fingers accidentally entwined with his. "Delenn..."

   Her grasp tightened around his hand, and she raised her head to meet his eyes. Her expression seemed far away for a moment, and he realised with some indefinable emotion that for a moment, he was no longer Human to her: no longer different or apart from her; for a moment their souls touched, and they were no longer alone. As he brought their joined hands up between them, her lips parted and she whispered something soft and delicate in her native tongue. "Mi'cresh'ia e'len'a'li..." The echo of tears sounded in her voice. "Vi'lan..."

   "Thank you," he whispered softly, drawing on what little knowledge of Minbari he had to understand her words. "You're welcome, Delenn, but what for? What does the rest of it mean?"

   She paused, and he saw her trying in vain to translate. After a long moment she shook her head slightly. "It is... there are no words in your language."

   "Is it good?"

   A joyful smile lit up her face. "Yes. Yes, it is."

   Sheridan kissed her gently, his lips brushing away a tear that formed on her cheek. "You'll have to teach me. Later."

   "Much later..." she smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him down for another deep, sensual kiss. "I have other ideas for now."

   "Better ideas, I'd wager."

   "Hmm... perhaps." Delenn smiled innocently. "Perhaps you would care to help me elaborate."

   Sheridan grinned and shifted comfortably beneath her slim form. "I'd be honored." He kissed her again, tenderly this time, and when she met his eyes again they were momentarily serious. "But there is one thing."

   Concern flooded her features. "What is it?"

   A soothing hand came to rest on her cheek, gently caressing her crown. "I don't know how much research you did..."

   "It was quite substantial," she assured him tiredly; he could tell she was impatient with his hesitations, but this needed to be said.

   "You know it can be painful, the first time?" His question was gentle, his tone diffident when she nodded calmly. "I just didn't want to hurt you without letting you know," he apologised defensively. Delenn smiled warmly and stroked his cheek, her fingers shaking slightly as she traced his features.

   "I did not think it was possible... for someone to care so much for me."

   Sheridan's arms tightened around her, and she felt the strong evidence that he did indeed care deeply for her - or at least wanted her. He didn't seem to have much of a vocabulary for a reply just then, but it didn't matter: he captured her mouth in a crushing kiss, and all reasonable intelligence was forgotten. Sheridan wrapped one strong arm completely around her and then rolled her over in his embrace, settling her beneath him, his free hand coming up to caress her face while the other lay under the small of her back, carefully guiding her into position against him. This time, there were going to be no hesitations: no words of warning. This was their time, their night, and all he wanted now was to be with her, inside her, so close to her that there was no separation, if only for an instant of bliss.

   "Delenn," he murmured tenderly, the sound of her name on his lips the only coherent memory he possessed now. "I want you."

   There was liquid laughter in his ear as she nestled her face in his neck. "I have wanted you for hours, and I am getting tired of waiting."

   "Then don't." He ran his free hand down her side, smiling at the involuntary shiver the movement evoked from her, until he reached her hip, tracing tiny circles over the pale skin. Delenn squirmed briefly underneath him, searching out a comfortable position as his hand slipped between them and nestled between her legs.

   "John..." Her voice held less amusement now.

   "Shh. You'll have to learn some patience if you want to play with me, Ambassador."

   "I do not need *patience*. What I need is *you*." Her gaze was heavy with emotion and the need for him, for *them*, together.

   "I'm right here, Delenn, and not even a call from God himself is gonna take me away before I'm done." He smiled, leaning over to place a soft kiss on her lips. "So calm down and stop rushing me." To emphasise the point, he drew his free hand back slightly, making her moan and her hips tilt instinctively to follow him. "The best things come to those who wait, after all." Delenn scowled half-playfully at him, and he smiled. "You just concentrate on this," he kissed her thoroughly for a long, silent moment, "and leave everything else to me." That drew a smile to her face. "I think I can manage that task..." reaching firmly up to grasp his face in her hands and pull him down to her waiting lips. His warm fingers slipped between her legs again, and she felt a gentle pressure to open them wider. She complied almost instinctively, sighing deeply into his mouth as he explored her lightly. His fingertip brushed an exquisitely sensitive place, and she gasped at the jolt of pleasure that went through her, suddenly needing the words to beg him to do that to her again.

   "I thought you might like that," his voice murmured in her ear, and she could hear his smile. "How about this?" A single fingertip slid further between her legs, and she pulled away from his lips to cry out as he slipped one finger briefly inside her, drawing the moist wetness over that acutely sensitive area as he began to pay inhumane amounts of attention to that place. The sensations... Delenn felt as if her body would explode from the inside, and the blast was centred under John's eager fingertips. Every nerve seemed to be tied to him; everything else forgotten, all she could feel, all she knew was his lips on her body, his fingers stroking her, his other hand expertly guiding her movements.

   "John... John..." she didn't know how long this exquisite pain was supposed to last, but much more and she would die before he truly touched her where she wanted him to be. "John, *please*..."

   "Shhh... trust me, Delenn. I know what I'm doing." And before she could say another word, the pressure on her centre increased and she lost the power of coherent speech. The hand under her hips pushed upward, angling her against him, and just as she felt the explosion of pleasure he slipped inside her and she lost control completely. There was a flash of pain that fell away as he withdrew and pushed deeply into her again. One long, deep, slow thrust was enough to send her over the edge: her body shaking as she pulled him to her and kissed him violently through her climax. The warm, wet pressure of her mouth on his combined with the heat and tight contractions surrounding his penis to send him hurtling after her, and it took only a final thrust in counterpoint to her to bring him to a violent orgasm on the heels of her own. The world shattered, and light blinded her eyes as he continued to stroke her, still inside her, sending wave after wave of painful ecstasy coursing through her until all she could see and feel and hear was him, all she knew was him, all she wanted was him-

   The world came back into focus again, and she opened her eyes to look unsteadily up into a tender blue gaze that stared back at her, reaching on instinct to touch him. Sheridan's breathing was shallow, his chest still heaving with the effort of release as he stilled her shaking hand with his own. When he finally regained enough strength to lift his head and look down at her, he couldn't help but chuckle as he brushed soft hair from her cheek. "You know... Humans have a saying: 'Slow and steady wins the race.'" He took a deep breath, trying to find some oxygen in the room. "You think we won?"

   Delenn laughed softly, her breathing still deep and gasping as she relaxed into his arms, her body still trembling. "I should imagine so."

   He chuckled again; looked down at her flushed, glowing features and smiled through a sudden lump in his throat. "You're beautiful, Delenn," he whispered hoarsely to watch her smile.

   This time, however, she spoke, and her voice brought unbidden tears to his eyes.

   "I believe that, now."

   He smiled back the moisture in his eyes and kissed her forehead tenderly before shifting carefully to slide out of her, pulling her tightly into his arms and kissing her long, slightly damp hair. "I always believed it." After a moment's pause, he touched her chin with a finger and tilted her head slightly to look up at him. "And not only are you beautiful, but you're possibly the fastest and most thorough learner I've ever met."

   She smiled, and at least some of it could be attributed to pleasure at his comment rather than embarrassment at the openness of the words. "You are a most thorough teacher, Captain Sheridan. Perhaps we should schedule another lesson."

   He laughed out loud at the teasing glint in her eyes. "You know, that year of studying humor really honed your skills."

   Delenn smiled and kissed the fingertips that reached out to caress her face. "Thank you."

   "You don't have to thank me for the truth - and everything I've told you tonight is true, Delenn. With the possible exception of not knowing why I was here." He grinned sheepishly. "I think we both know now I was deluding myself."

   She smiled and cuddled up to him, wrapping his arms comfortably around her. "I was beginning to suspect." Sheridan smiled.

   "You have excellent powers of observation, Ambassador." His smile widened into a mischievous grin. "Powers of persuasion, too, I might add. You know, *no one* would believe me if I told them the Minbari Ambassador made a move on me after just one date."

   Delenn smiled, looking a little perplexed. "Made a... 'move'?"

   Sheridan chuckled deeply in his throat. "I think my first present for you is going to have to be a dictionary."

   Her confusion melted into surprise. "Present?"

   Sheridan let out a melodramatic sigh. "You women, you're the same the galaxy over. One mention of gifts and you come running." Seeing her perplexed expression he smiled and shook his head. "It was a joke, Delenn. I'm teasing." He rolled his eyes playfully. "Make my second present a book of Earth humor."

   Delenn smiled curiously up at him. "What is this obsession with gifts that you Humans have?"

   He looked surprised. "You don't give gifts? Not even on special occasions?"

   Delenn frowned, looking momentarily confused. "Well, yes, during our festivals, but..."

   "You don't think this is a special occasion?" He smiled tenderly and leaned over to kiss her again. "Just accept it, Delenn. It's a Human custom to give gifts to someone they've been... intimate with."

   She smiled at his words, reaching an idle hand up to brush a sweat-dampened lock of blond hair from his forehead. "In that case, John, I have a gift for you."

   He raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh?" There was a sudden glint in his eyes, and he pulled her close with a devilish smile. "Does it include you?"

   Delenn laughed softly. "Perhaps in a moment." She gestured slightly toward the bathing room that adjoined her bedroom. "The first part of the gift is through there."

   Sheridan frowned curiously, but her lips stayed shut in a teasing smile. Finally realising that to stare her down would probably take until the universe stopped expanding, he sighed and slipped out of the bed, casting curious glances back at her as he walked toward the other room. The door was closed; he pushed it slightly aside and looked inside.

   "What the hell...." He flashed a look of complete surprise over his shoulder, turning sharply to face her. "How did you...?"

   "There is a problem with your quarters. You needed the uniform." She shrugged as if that explained everything.

   He stared at her: after a moment of watching her innocent smile, he couldn't help an amazed smile. He sighed and shook his head, walking back to the bed. "Yeah, that's right." He stood over her for a moment, looking at her in admiration. "But they're locked, no one could get in. Not even me." He couldn't help the annoyance in his voice.

   "I have certain privileges afforded me," Delenn answered with a sparkle in her eyes. "I informed Earthforce that I needed some of the papers you had in your quarters referring to the Minbari funding of this place. They were quite helpful." She smiled as he shook his head again and slid under the sheet beside her: feeling his arms tighten around her, she nestled up to him, enjoying the warmth of his strong embrace. "It did not take much effort." There was a long pause: for a moment she thought he was displeased with her - then a slow, wide grin crept onto his lips. "Funding..." His voice trailed off, thinking it over. "You're a genius, Delenn."

   "Am I?" She seemed quite pleased with that. "Why?"

   "I think I know how to get one over on Earthforce."

   Delenn frowned. "Get... what?"

   He grinned. "Beat them at their own game. Never mind." He grinned and kissed her fully on the mouth, the passion in his touch rising again; with a quick motion, he flipped her onto her back and grinned down at her. "Just plan on coming over to my quarters tomorrow night."

   A matching smile found its way onto her lips as she wound her arms around his neck. "I think I find that proposal acceptable, Captain."

   "Mmm... well, good. Because I have another one for you - one that requires your *immediate* consideration." Delenn smiled. "You have my complete attention, Captain."

   He grinned and kissed her passionately again. "I should hope so... Because I don't think I'm interested in your couch any more." At her tender, accepting smile, he kissed her again and drew the sheet up around them. "What do you say to-" He paused suddenly, and she saw a look of trepidation on his face. "Lennier doesn't wake you in the mornings, does he?"

   Delenn laughed, nestling against his chest, and touched a finger to his lips with a bemused smile. "I am a grown woman, John Sheridan. I can wake myself."

   Sheridan flashed a wry, relieved grin: Delenn smiled and reached up, slowly caressing his cheek before sliding her fingers into his hair and drawing him close. She met his eyes, smiling softly as she tilted her head up and kissed him lightly. "Sleep now, John. You need to rest, and so do I. What else will happen between us, we will see in the morning." He smiled, nodded, and thought momentarily how natural it felt to hold her before he followed her example and slept. [END]

 

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