REST AND RECREATION

By Leyenn

 

 

 

Major Slush Warning! Relatively few spoilers, and those are only up to CoLaD.

    Okay. Let me prattle on for a few moments first. This is the first story I've ever managed to finish, simply because it's the one I always wanted to read. The characters aren't spot on, but what the hell. The part before this has actually already been written by someone vastly more experienced at writing than I, and much more talented. In my original idea, Delenn was attacked by a Nightwatch patriot, which I soon realised was too similar to a certain episode.....

    So here goes. This is my play on what happened after 'Ceremonies Of Light And Dark', though not necessarily before 'Sic Transit Vir'- this is an alternate storyline.

    P.S. For anyone who was at Wolf 359: The Alliance (even though it was a long time ago now); there are a few in-jokes here from Bruce & Mira's talks - suggestions on a postcard...

    DISCLAIMER: All Babylon 5 references and characters are the property of J. Michael Straczynski and Warner Brothers - I just borrow them every once in a while. Whatever else is left of this story belongs to me; however, even that wouldn't exist without B5, so my utmost thanks to jms for allowing us fanfic writers to play in his sandbox.

 

 

 

 

   *****

SUNDAY :

    Franklin watched doubtfully as his patient strode through the doors of MedLab. Closing behind her, they made a soft sigh to cover his own. He turned, and walked over to his desk, past the empty room his former patient had occupied.

    Delenn tried to make her step seem purposeful as she left the medical facility, tried to convince the Doctor she could manage. Her injuries were healing slowly: the lost blood regained, she felt stronger; the area where the knife had entered was merely a dull, throbbing ache - *all right,* she conceded, *a little more than that, but not much* - while her bruised shoulder was gradually losing its stiffness. It had surprised her by being the worst, at least the most painful, injury; she had no idea how it had been hurt, but it gave out enough pain to block the receding numbness in her side. Franklin had said it was simply sprained, and given her a weak sedative with something for the pain. *That must be all I have eaten for the entire week,* she thought to herself. *I would have preferred something a little stronger, I think.* Trying not to think about the pain, she glanced around. The corridor was empty of people, so she slowed her steps as much as possible to reduce the discomfort. Stopping to catch her breath, she heard a noise behind her and tensed. No one appeared so she ignored it, shaking herself. Still, she listened more carefully now, hearing sounds she normally took no notice of: the drone of the fusion reactors; the whisper of air recyclers above her head; her own soft footsteps as she walked - and another noise, similar to the one before only nearer. Much nearer. Silently, she cursed. *How stupid of you,* she chastised herself. *How foolish to go walking through the station on your own in the middle of the night, without the slightest thought of protection. Has being half-killed taught you nothing?* The footsteps - she was sure they were footsteps now - grew closer, and the Minbari Ambassador stopped walking, pulling herself up against a wall for safety. *If I am not killed now by another Earther xenophobe, I will never even *consider* doing this again,* she promised herself.

    The footsteps were almost on top of her now, and whoever it was cast a dark shadow over the floor. Delenn looked up as they turned the corner. *If I am to be injured again, it will not be for lack of attention.* Raising her eyes, she caught sight of the person approaching - and relief swept across her face. Stepping towards him, only then did she realise she too had been concealed in the shadows. Surprise coloured his tone as the Captain spoke her name.

    "Delenn? What are you doing here? You should be in MedLab." Seeing her discomfort, he reached out to put a steadying hand on her shoulder. She flinched in pain, and he withdrew the hand just as quickly. Reaching out as far as she could without wrenching the joint further, Delenn caught it and held on, trying to support herself on his arm. Sheridan moved closer and gently retracted his hand, pausing for a second before wrapping his arm around her waist. She smiled in gratitude, leaning against him for support. It always surprised her how tall he was - she was by no means a short person, yet he still stood a head above her. Sheridan looked down at her, concern filling his expression.

    "Are you alright? I got your message; I was just on my way to get you." He hesitated for a moment. "Why are you walking through the station on your own in the middle of the night? You should at least have an escort. Why didn't you wait for me?" Touched by his concern, Delenn answered,

    "I was coming to find you. I'm fine, really. Just a little stiff-" They started walking back the way Sheridan had come, and she forced herself to stifle a cry of pain.

    "You are *not* fine. You're damned stubborn is what you are." He sighed, stopped walking again and frowned at her. "Are you sure you won't go back to MedLab? They'll take much better care of you than I can, and frankly, I don't think you should be up and around yet. It's only been a week, for God's sake, and you were so badly hurt...." He trailed off, seeing her determined expression. "Oh, hell, all right then. Come on." He reached down and lifted her into his arms, as gently as he would a child. Delenn gasped in surprise, involuntarily wrapping her arms around his neck to keep herself against him.

    "What - what are you doing?" The Captain smiled at her shock.

    "If you're so determined not to get proper treatment, I'm taking you back to my quarters. At least there I can make sure you don't hurt yourself even more." She shook her head.

    "You didn't understand the question. Why," she gestured, "why are you carrying me? I can manage-"

    "It's a long way, and I'm damned if I let you walk. You may be able to manage, Delenn, but it's obviously not comfortable and I don't like seeing you in pain." His arms tightened around her as he continued walking, and Delenn let out an exaggerated sigh.

    "You cannot accept that I am healed, can you? Why must you fuss over me?"

    He laughed. "Delenn, the wound may be healing but it has to hurt. I've had enough knife wounds in my time to know that. I care about you, and I don't want to see you hurting yourself again by trying too much, too fast." She looked up at him and frowned.

    "I am not trying too much, too fast. I have been lying in MedLab for a week, doing nothing-" and now the annoyance started to show- "and I am beginning to tire of people constantly doing everything for me."

    "Is that why you discharged yourself?" She nodded. "Well, I guess it's a valid reason." He stopped at the transport tube, entered it and spoke their destination. He stood in silence for a moment or two before Delenn scowled.

    "John, will you please put me down now?"

    He looked down, as if he had almost forgotten he was carrying her. Pursing his lips, he pretended to consider the idea, then shook his head. A grin spread across his face, and he laughed at her reaction.

    "Why? I cannot go anywhere. I would prefer a little independence, John." The scowl deepened. "Otherwise, I will call Doctor Franklin and ask to be returned to MedLab. I suspect it would be much the same there."

    The tube halted and Sheridan stepped out, still holding the slim Ambassador in his arms. She was lighter than he would have imagined; he'd seen her on the White Star many times wearing what - for a Minbari - he considered light clothing, and he had to admit she had a wonderful figure, but certainly she shouldn't be as light as this. Delenn noticed his distraction, reached up with one hand and lightly brushed his face to catch his attention. Startled, he blinked and looked at her.

    "You were - how do you say it, 'miles away' ?" Delenn smiled in satisfaction at having got the term right as he nodded.

    "Sorry. I was just thinking-" He stopped walking again, this time at the entrance to his quarters. "Here, you finally get your wish-"

    "Which one?" Delenn's satisfied smile widened as he actually blushed.

    "Delenn!" Sheridan averted his gaze to hide the reaction. "How could you suggest-"

    "I did not suggest anything. I simply asked which wish you were referring to. I cannot help it if you insist on reading something into everything I say." She laughed at his expression, wincing as the movement stretched the half-healed wound in her side. "Ouch. Remind me not to laugh in future." Sheridan smiled at that, glad she was willing to drop the subject of 'suggestion'. *Not that you wouldn't like her to have that same wish...* He mentally slapped himself. *This is no time to be thinking of that. Even if it was going to happen any time soon, tonight is not the night.* Presuming she even wanted him that way. *After all, how much Minbari culture do you know? Not a damned lot.* For all he knew -

    Delenn's soft voice near his ear brought him back to the present.

    "John? I think now would be a good time to put me down." He nodded, gingerly lowering her to the floor as he pulled out his identicard. Pushing it into the slot, he ushered her inside and waited until the door shut before going to the computer. He changed the access code, nodded in satisfaction. He didn't want anyone seeing Delenn here and getting the wrong idea.... but then changing the code in itself made her presence in his quarters a little suspect.... Sheridan sighed.

    "What is it?" Again, his guest woke him from his reverie.

    "Sorry." He smiled heartily at her. "I was miles away again."

    "I had noticed." She was standing in the centre of the room, watching him with those green eyes of hers. Standing. Standing? He would have sworn he'd offered her a seat. *Good God, John, you're getting too distracted now.* Frowning, he offered her the couch, and she sat without taking her eyes off him.

    "Is something wrong?" Now it was her turn to frown. "You don't mind my being here, do you? I was not very polite before, when I asked to come." He came to sit beside her, bringing two mugs filled with a drink Delenn did not recognise. "What is that?"

    He smiled. "Hot chocolate. You'll like it, trust me." She glanced at him, uncertain. He chuckled and handed her a mug. "Come on, Delenn. You took a knife for me! I'm hardly going to poison you." Tentatively, she lifted the steaming drink in both hands, then stopped.

    "It doesn't contain alcohol?" Now he really laughed, then stopped when he saw her serious expression.

    "No, it doesn't have alcohol in it. I've never known anyone to put alcohol in hot chocolate before." That seemed to do the trick and she lifted the drink again, carefully at first, then more confidently after the first taste of chocolate. Leaning back, Sheridan took a sip of his own drink and balanced it on the arm of the couch.

    "Were you afraid I'd try and get you drunk? I'm not like that, Delenn. Anything you do here, you do completely sober. Presuming you do anything at all - not that I want to pressure you, um, you don't have to do anything, I mean..." Shaking his head, he gave up, thoroughly confused. She smiled, and he grinned in response and relief.

    "I was not worried, John. I know you, and I trust you. I know you would never do anything to harm me. But that does not include anything unintentional." Now she reached across and took his hand, trying to reassure him. Seeing he would not be convinced, Delenn set her drink down and moved closer to him, reaching out with the other hand to smooth the frown on his features.

    "I have no doubts about your sincerity. I know you care for me. But... we do not like others to know our weaknesses. It is... difficult... to ensure that a Minbari stays 'sober', as you call it.... but if we do not..." She stopped.

    "What?" He leaned towards her, touching her chin so that she raised her eyes to his.

    "We become... psychotic. Mad." She halted again. "I have only seen it happen once.... I did not like what I saw. They - he..." Sheridan placed a finger on her lips as she tried to speak, unable to get the words out.

    "It's okay. You don't have to tell me; I get the idea." he smiled at her, coming closer. "Thank you for trusting me."

    Delenn smiled as his shoulder brushed hers, and he tentatively put his arm around her. No reaction, and he started to pull away again only to find Delenn's fingers entwined with his. Her voice was softer now, and there was an edge to it he couldn't quite put a finger on.

    "Of course I trust you. That part comes easily. Do you trust me?" Now he took her other hand.

    "Yes! Of course I do. You would have died for me, Delenn. How could I not trust you after that?" She gently pulled her hand from his, and he frowned. "I'm sorry, I should have asked, I shouldn't be doing this-" he stopped talking abruptly as she slipped her arm around him, resting her head on his shoulder. Her long, dark hair fell across his chest, and he moved back slightly to look at her as he brushed it back.

    "Shouldn't be doing what?" Her tone was less formal than it had been since they'd met in the corridor, and when she smiled he relaxed a little. "John, all you did was put your arm around me. We haven't done anything yet." Eyebrows raised, his expression was halfway between relief that she wasn't offended and astonishment at her suggestion - and this time it was a suggestion. She detached her hand from his, reaching up to stroke his face with the back of her fingers as she had done in the corridor. Her touch brought him back from the astonished trance she had induced.

    "Delenn." He tried again. "Delenn." She smiled, almost laughed as he spoke her name a third time, only to find he had nothing to say afterwards.

    "Hmm? John, if you don't want me to do this, don't be afraid to tell me." He shook his head violently, catching her hand against his cheek to make sure it stayed there.

    "No, I, um, I don't mind, Delenn. I'm just a little surprised, that's all. I mean, I - it's been a long time, and I'm not used to you being so, um, so-"

    "Forward? I believe that is the word you are searching for," she murmured, teasing, "but I think I can be a little more than that." Slipping her other hand from his grasp, Delenn took Sheridan's face in her hands and kissed him. Without hesitation, he responded, gently drawing her near. They didn't move, didn't breathe, didn't do anything apart from kiss for what seemed like hours. When they finally parted for a few moments, Sheridan held her face in his hands just as she had done and studied her, smiling.

    "Delenn?"

    She laughed, and this time there was only a vague ache. "I'm only answering if you have something to say other than my name."

    "I've had time to think now." Soft laughter. "Why didn't we do this sooner? It seems like I've loved you forever-" he broke off, suddenly uncertain again. "Delenn, I never thought to ask this - hell, it doesn't seem right asking even now - but I have to know. Are you in love with me?" She considered the question, then, "I don't know." She smiled fondly at his shattered expression. "Is being in love with you wanting to be with you every second of the day? Or feeling as if a part of me is gone whenever you're not there? Or wishing I could hold you whenever you are?" Her smile grew more tender, and she gently stroked his cheek. "If this is what it means to be in love, then yes, I am in love with you. More than I would have thought possible."

    Sheridan took her hand in his and kissed it lightly, closing his dark eyes to stop the tears that suddenly welled up. Delenn saw them and murmured, in a voice that was half concerned, half teasing;

    "Was that the right answer?"

    He smiled. "Yes. Oh, God, yes. You have no idea how long I've waited to hear you say that." As she wiped away the tears still welling in his eyes, he gently pushed her hands away from his face, leaving him free to kiss her again. Delenn pulled away for a moment to make herself more comfortable, and Sheridan needed no encouragement to join her as she lay down on the couch. In his embrace Delenn relaxed, settling against him as comfortably as possible. She sacrificed the feeling of complete painlessness for the feeling of John holding her in his arms, kissing her tenderly. This time when they kissed, it really was hours before either of them moved, or had any thought of moving. They did nothing else; simply lay in each other's arms and lovingly, sensually, passionately kissed.

    Delenn touched his face, pulling back for a moment. John looked a little relieved, and part of her didn't blame him. She had never thought kissing someone - even John Sheridan - would have been so tiring.

    "John?" Her mouth less than an inch from his, she brushed her lips against his own. He kissed her again before answering;

    "Hmm. What is it?"

    "Do you have any idea what time it is?" He frowned suddenly, reluctant to look away from her as he tried to check the time. Abandoning the attempt, he shrugged.

    "Nope."

    She smiled. "It's late. Very late, actually. One thirty in the morning." Her embrace relaxed a little, allowing him to move slightly and check for himself.

    "God." John's voice was quiet, a whisper. "Where did the time go?"

    "Here." She laughed and kissed him again. After another soft, sweet kiss they broke apart.

    "Do you want to go? I can take you back to your quarters. Lennier-"

    "Has better things to do than tend me. I don't think I could sleep tonight, not in my own quarters, not without you. I love you." She smiled at the response that statement brought and kissed him again. Pressed against him, he was surprised when her voice suddenly turned pleading. "Please, don't make me leave. I don't want to. Don't make me go..."

    "Hey, shh!" He kissed her tenderly, hastily reassuring her. "Where did you get that idea from? I'm not making you do anything. You can stay here as long as you want. I just wasn't sure what you'd want to do; I mean, tonight's been quite an, um, interesting evening, but don't you think it's a little soon to be thinking about sleeping together?" His eyes questioned her, but as she looked up at him with that green, soul-piercing gaze of hers he knew he wouldn't win. *What are you talking about?!* he chided himself in amazement. *This is the best prize in the world.*

    "I did not say I was *thinking.*" Now Delenn smiled sexily, running her fingers lazily through his hair. "In fact, I said nothing about either of us doing any thinking, and I for one plan to do just that. Or not." She laughed. "Now are you going to carry me, or do I have to walk by myself, which you hate so much?" Sheridan smiled at that, quickly schooling his expression back to a concerned frown.

    "Delenn, despite what you want to believe, you're still not healed. I don't know if this is wise...."

    "It does not have to be wise. It only has to be right." With a half-serious defeated sigh, John lifted her from the couch. Carrying her into the bedroom, he laid her down on the bed and slid gentle hands over her body, removing the dark robe she wore. Delenn smiled in the darkness, enjoying his touch.

    "You've been waiting to do this, haven't you?" She shivered, wrapping a cool sheet around her. He frowned, not seeing her expression and wondering about that tone in her voice.

    *What if she suddenly decides she isn't ready? Would you have the control to stop it? Hell, what if she's decided now?* He sank down onto the bed beside her, reaching out to touch her hair.

    "Are you okay? You are sure about this, Delenn? I don't want either of us to have any regrets. I'll understand if you don't want to.." He felt the firm pressure of her mouth on his, quieting him. Her body, naked now as he left his clothes behind and slipped under the covers, pressed against his own; her strength surprised him.

    "Delenn, I'm not going anywhere! Please, you're hurt, I'll hurt you... I don't want that to happen, I love you."

    "Then that is all that matters." She stopped for a moment and he felt her grasp his hands, bring them up to her lips. Kissing them, she let go and his hands ran lightly over her slim body, making her shudder again. She moved closer to him, and her voice faded into the night....

    And this time, he saw her smile.


    MONDAY :

    John Sheridan opened his eyes, started to move and then stopped, smiling. Curled into his side with her head resting on his shoulder, Delenn slept peacefully. Turning carefully so as not to disturb her, he smiled absently again and leaned over to place a light kiss on her forehead.

    He'd sometimes heard it said that the Minbari were a cold, dispassionate people. 'Emotionless' he remembered as being the term. Just the thought of that made him laugh. The movement awoke Delenn, and she moaned softly as her injuries woke ahead of her. Moving gingerly in an effort to get comfortable, she bit her lip to stifle a cry of pain. Wincing in sympathy, Sheridan tightened his arms around her to pull her close, kissing her tenderly. As she responded despite the pain, the kiss lingered and he felt warm hands on his back, holding him tightly against her. Movement was out of the question, even if he'd the slightest intention to pull away. No, dispassionate was definitely *not* on his list of words to describe the Minbari. Especially *this* Minbari. That was far from the truth: Sheridan had yet to meet a lover more passionate than Delenn - or more imaginative. Nor did he want to...

    She backed away from the kiss, still holding him firmly. Her strength still surprised him, although more because of the extent of her injuries than anything else. He'd enough experience to know she could easily exert this kind of pressure. But with the pain she was in-

    "Good morning," her voice was quiet, a whisper; her face barely inches from his. Warm, soft breath brushed across his skin as Delenn laid a gentle kiss on his cheek. Tilting her head, she covered his mouth with hers, ignoring the discomfort. Sheridan returned the gesture, eventually pulling back to smile fondly at her.

    "I think I prefer that kind of good morning, actually." Delenn laughed at that.

    "So do I."

    * * * * *

    Susan Ivanova looked out over the starscape in front of her, deep in thought. Traffic was slow this morning, allowing her a few moments peace before the main rush of the day came. She was so lost in her train of thought - a near daydream about real coffee and time off - that she hardly noticed Michael Garibaldi until he was less than five feet away. Pivoting from her station, she glanced quickly at the chronometer as she swung past. 09:07. He was late. She looked up at Garibaldi, wondering if he knew where-

    "Seen the Captain?"

    *Well, that answers that.*

    "Nope. He's late; he should've been here almost an hour ago. I was just wondering where he's got to." Ivanova tried not to let concern into her voice; after all, she'd yet to call his quarters and he'd probably just overslept.

    "He's probably overslept." Garibaldi put the thought into words, with as disbelieving a tone.

    "He hardly ever oversleeps. He's hardly ever *late.*" As she spoke, Ivanova turned to her console. Moments later she glanced back at Garibaldi, waiting patiently beside her. Shaking her head, dark hair spilled over one shoulder. Pushing it back, she frowned.

    "No answer. Which means he's still asleep, which I very much doubt; or something's wrong, which is the more plausible explanation."

    "Uh-huh. Or there's the other option." Garibaldi's face broke into a grin.

    "What other option? From where I'm looking, the choices are pretty limited." Ivanova fixed him with her 'tell-all' stare.

    "Alright. The Captain's not at home. Or he is at home, but not answering his page. In which case something's wrong, as you say, or he's up to something pretty damn important."

    Ivanova's expression became one of curiosity. "Like *how* important? What's going on, Michael?" He grinned mischievously.

    "Let's just say, it's diplomatic business."

    "Oh, cut the crap, Garibaldi. What aren't you telling me?" She was past curious, through impatient and way into annoyance by now. He recoiled at her glare.

    "Okay! Man, let me live, alright? Now, my job includes a lot of scouting around, looking for evidence in places no one else might think of looking. Which is how *I* know where the Captain is and *you* don't." He stopped for a moment, as if running through the theory in his head. Seeing her face, he hurried on. "Right. Here's the evidence. Ambassador Delenn was attacked, right? And since we haven't cleared all the NightWatch leftovers yet, I put a guard on her in MedLab. Seemed a sensible precaution, so I left 'em there on the off chance someone else might try something. Which they didn't, but you know that."

    "*Yes* I know that," Ivanova sighed. "Are you ever going to tell me anything I *don't* know?"

    "Yeah, yeah, I was just getting to that part. So, I put a guard on the Ambassador. But here's the thing; last night, they got sent back to stationhouse by the Doc. Seems Delenn discharged herself. Steven insists she wasn't well enough to leave, says he made her call Lennier to escort her back to her quarters. And now the weirdest part. You ready for this?"

    "I've been ready for the past five minutes, Michael."

    "Okay. This morning, I get a call from Delenn's quarters. Except it's not Delenn - it's Lennier, who insists he hasn't seen her since yesterday, and didn't even know she'd left MedLab. Needless to say, she never went back to her quarters last night. But," and here his grin widened considerably, "she definitely made the call. A call. But not to Lennier. Turns out, she called here. Where the Captain just happened to be on duty. Now I don't know what she said, but it's pretty obvious it wasn't just a hello. Steven never actually saw Lennier come to meet her, so it's possible *he* didn't. But right after the time she made the call from MedLab, Sheridan left C&C - even though he shouldn't have gone off duty for another hour - saying it was a 'diplomatic emergency'," - he emphasised the 'diplomatic' - "and no one's seen either of 'em since. Now, what conclusions can we draw from this?" Her annoyance gone, Ivanova was grinning.

    "You're the Chief of Security round here. You tell me."

    "Okay. I asked myself this question: What happened to Captain Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn last night? And I gave myself this answer: Sheridan met Delenn outside MedLab, he took her back to his quarters, not hers, for whatever reason," -he nodded at Ivanova's 'yeah, right'- "okay, for the obvious reason. It's nearer." He grinned again at her disbelieving expression. "C'mon, Susan, this is Delenn we're talking about." She considered it for a moment, then nodded.

    "All right, I'll give you that. So is that it?"

    "Just about. Go figure the rest. What d'you think?" He waited for her opinion on his deductive skills. She pondered the question, then the answer, and nodded slowly.

    "I think it's faultless. I think I'd give you ten out of ten for deductive reasoning. And I think," here she grinned up at him, and her eyes sparkled, "we should make sure no one disturbs the Captain for a while. A *long* while."

    * * * * *

    Delenn woke abruptly the second time that morning; aware of being alone, and cold, the incessant whine of a computer voice in the background. It stopped as she opened her eyes, frowning and sitting up in vaguely conscious confusion. Feeling the soft warmth return, someone holding her - albeit gently - Delenn let out a quiet yelp and tried to pull away.

    "Hey, shh, calm down! It's okay. What's wrong?" John's voice, she realised as she became fully conscious and turned to regard him. "Are you angry with me? If I said or did anything that hurt you, I'm sorry. I thought you'd enjoyed it... if I was wrong, I am sorry. I never meant-" She set a gentle kiss on his lips, smiling in reassurance at his anxious pleading.

    "I'm not angry, John. It was wonderful! I had no idea... I didn't know I could feel like that." She pulled him nearer, enjoying the love in his embrace. "I was just dreaming, I think; I wasn't really awake when you came in. I must have fallen asleep again, after..."

    "After this morning," he agreed with a smile. "You were tired, I didn't have the heart to wake you - and anyway, it's not time to get up yet. Don't worry about it." Delenn smiled, shaking her head in amusement.

    "I was not about to start worrying. I'm perfectly happy here. Though Lennier will worry, if I do not return soon. What time is it?" He grinned, reluctant to give her an excuse to leave.

    "Not time to get up." Delenn smiled dubiously and sat up, intent on checking for herself. She shivered slightly, frowning down at him.

    "Is it always this cold in here?" At his faintly amused smile, she glanced at the two of them. It took her a few seconds to realise that they were both naked: enough time for him to sit up, laughing, and take her gently into his arms.

    "Not usually. You're just not used to... this, I suspect." He kissed her softly and looked into her eyes, suggestion coupled with a loving expression. "I could turn the heating up, but in my opinion there are much better ways of keeping warm." Delenn laughed, seeing the love in his eyes and smiling fondly as she watched his tender expression. He was so loving, so gentle and understanding - but so afraid of making a mistake and hurting her, or doing something she wouldn't feel ready for. Reassuring, she returned the gentle expression, brushing her fingers along his jawline and following them with small, tender kisses as she slid closer. Her arms went around his neck as she reached the sensitive skin at the base of his jaw: her kisses stopped and she rested her head on his shoulder with a loving smile.

    "And are you going to show me any of these 'better ways'?" Her voice was a low, amused murmur next to his ear: her soft, steady breathing sent a shiver across his skin. Delenn absently caressed the nape of his neck and the feeling intensified. He tightened his arms around her instinctively, lightly nuzzling her hair, a quiet whisper of pleasure making her smile.

    "Delenn, how in God's name do you do that? I've never known anyone who could make me feel this good." She laughed softly, sending a wave of warmth through him as they settled back onto the pillows, held in each other's arms.

    "Are you referring to now, or last night? Or somewhere in between?" He shrugged, moving back to catch her gaze and smiling blissfully.

    "It doesn't matter." He toyed idly with a strand of dark hair that fell over her shoulder. "I've never met anyone quite like you before." The compliment elicited a smile as she traced his features with a fingertip.

    "There's never been anyone quite like me before, John. I have to admit that as one of the reasons I was a little nervous-" he laughed at that notion, trying to hide his surprise- "though in hindsight I don't know what I was worrying over." She touched two fingers to her mouth and turned them to him, placing them carefully on his lips with a light pressure. Somehow, the simple movement came off as the most intimate thing he had ever experienced; he took her hand, setting a kiss on her palm to prevent her removing that gentle touch.

    "I can understand. I did *try* to take things slowly, Delenn-"

    "I was 'sweetheart' yesterday," she teased. He smiled in memory, replacing her name with that loving endearment.

    "Sorry... I honestly did try, but you seemed to know what you wanted and you're very forceful, and I love you more than anything - I'm just glad you enjoyed it." She laughed in amazement, tracing his loving expression with gentle fingers.

    "*Enjoyed* it? John, I may have understated a little when I said it was wonderful. I don't know the words in your language to tell you how I felt - how I feel, and I doubt you could understand if I told you in Minbari..." She smiled. "I want you to know... I wish I could tell you how incredible you were, how beautiful you made me feel." He laid a finger on her lips, replacing it with his own for a moment.

    "You already told me. You said everything I need to know when you smiled at me, when I woke up and you were still here." He laughed sheepishly at himself. "I was half afraid you'd leave!" She sighed in mock despair, huddling contently in his arms.

    "You worry too much. If we are planning to do *that* again, then I absolutely refuse to go anywhere." Sheridan laughed, closing his eyes and letting out a soft, completely contented sigh. Delenn shivered again, pulling the covers around them and firmly arranging his arms around her as he gently, inquisitively traced the patterns of her crown.

    "I love you." It was a soft whisper, making her smile against his chest.

    "I know." She kissed him lightly. "I love you, John. I didn't know I could feel this way about anyone... I have so much to thank you for. I wish I knew the words to tell you..." He shook his head slightly, bemused.

    "You don't need to thank me, sweetheart. I didn't do anything."

    She smiled, protesting; "Yes, you did. You taught me so much, you were so patient with me - and you loved me. For that alone I'm eternally thankful." Sheridan smiled at her compliment, kissing her tenderly as she settled close to his body. Her skin was warm against his, pushing away the chill of the room. He turned onto his back, guiding Delenn half onto his chest with one arm around her. He held her tightly against his side, her cheek resting on his shoulder as she wrapped her arms around him and raised her head slightly. Placing a faint kiss on her lover's shoulder, she glanced up with a sparkle in her eyes.

    "You are far more wonderful than you realise, John. I love you more than I can say - in words at least. There are other ways..." She smiled suggestively, drawing a raised eyebrow of surprise. She laughed and smiled. "I am glad we were chosen for each other. I can't imagine ever being this intimate with anyone else." Sheridan smiled, silently lowering her head back to his shoulder and stroking her hair.

    "I hope you realise I feel the same way. I love you with all my heart, Delenn; all my heart and soul. I don't know what it was that brought us together: fate, fluke, destiny - whatever name you want to give it, I'm always going to be grateful."

    She smiled knowingly. "The Universe takes us to where we can learn; I do not know if you have learnt anything from me, but-" She stopped as his embrace shifted, lifting her to meet his gaze.

    "Delenn, do you have any idea how much you've taught me? Not just last night, or the past months; ever since I came here. I've learnt more from you than I ever did in Earthforce... and I've been in Earthforce over fifteen years. I've only known you for two, less than that." He smiled, assuring her; "Everything I've learnt from you means so much more than they did. Sometimes I think Humanity is the single most barbaric species ever to hit sentience - or otherwise." Delenn laughed at the light humour, smiling reassuringly.

    "Don't underestimate yourself, my love. I've studied your people, and from what I've seen Humans have great potential. Just as the Minbari do." He frowned at the separate, distant tone in her mention of her own people.

    "Delenn, you are still Minbari. You were born Minbari, you haven't changed - I haven't changed you. I didn't mean to..." She was shaking her head, a fond smile on her lips. Gently, she touched her mouth to his; moving softly, unurgently against him as he reacted by caressing her hair and running light fingers over her crown, Finally Delenn left the kiss, though staying close enough that he felt her breath on his cheek and a warm shiver ran down his spine as she spoke.

    "I'm only half Minbari, John. I can tell you don't like having such an influence over me, but it is true: I have changed since I met you. My mind, my life may be Minbari, but my heart belongs to you. My emotions are very Human- John, don't look so worried." She caught his face in her hands, tenderly stroking his cheek with her thumb. "I'm *glad* it happened - I am Minbari, that will never change, but you are a part of me now. A Human part. Please don't be angry, I hate seeing you like this. Please?" She brushed his temple, turning his face towards her. "I love you; I don't *want* to be completely Minbari any more. I'm not angry with you for changing me, so why must you be so hard on yourself?" Listening to her earnest pleas, he sighed and smiled ruefully.

    "I know, I'm sorry. I just can't help thinking I've taken something away from you." Delenn let out a gentle sigh. "Oh, John... can't you see you've done the exact opposite? You give me so much, every time we're together - and after this..." She trailed off, smiling into his eyes as memories played through her mind. "You were the one person who didn't try to judge me; everyone wanted to - to talk about my change, to know what I was and who I was and not just accept who I am. You were the only person who understood, who didn't care about what I look like and how I act..."

    "Starstuff," he whispered. Delenn laughed, her eyes bright and sparkling.

    "That was over a year ago - you still remember?" He nodded, squeezing her tightly for a second in amusement.

    "I never forgot, my love. I guess I loved you even then, in one way. Actually - this is going to sound so trite - I can't remember ever *not* being in love with you. We understand each other so well, and you're... um, I can't find the word..." He stopped, slightly embarrassed. Searching, he glanced away from her curious, amused expression. "Do you remember what you told me? That the Universe needs a change of perspective sometimes? I thought about that. Do you know, if it wasn't for you I would have left Babylon 5?" She frowned, reluctant to face that idea but glad of being his reason to stay. "I wanted to understand you, because you have a kind of... special relationship with the Universe. You're fascinating, did you know that?" Delenn was hiding laughter, forcing it back to smile at the compliment.

    "Thank you. That's what I meant: you made me feel... included again. You would not believe how lonely it can be-" John quieted her with a gentle kiss, laying a finger on her lips.

    "I know, Delenn, I know. Please don't talk about that now. I didn't like seeing you so unhappy then, and that hasn't changed. I know how it feels to be alone, believe me: but neither of us has to worry about that now, do we? We've got each other." Delenn smiled, silently agreeing as she huddled close in his arms. Warm and safe, his embrace was so perfect that she never wanted it to end, just wanted to lie in his arms forever and never have him let go. Worry flitted through her mind: would he feel the same way? She had no idea how Human relationships worked. He was obviously pleased to be with her now, but even so...

    "John?"

    "Mmm... what is it?" He looked up slightly, tilting his head to gaze at her.

    "What happens now? I'm not certain of exactly what should happen... Last night was incredible, better than anything I've ever imagined, and I love you very, very much... but where do we go from here?" The vulnerable, uncertain expression looked so forlorn that he sat up, lifted her into his embrace and held her, trying to soothe the vague fear in her eyes that he wouldn't want her to stay.

    "Delenn, I don't know how these things work on Minbar, but there isn't anything I want more than to have you here with me. I think, from what I know of your culture, Human relationships are probably more relaxed than Minbari. Less ritualised, I mean. I hope that doesn't sound insulting." She smiled fondly, shaking her head.

    "Not at all. You're right, most likely. I don't quite know what to expect from this, but I do want us to - to stay together. It's difficult for me, I don't know the words for what I want to say..." He smiled reassuringly, understanding.

    "It's frustrating, isn't it? I wish I could help. Maybe you could teach me some Minbari; that way we'd be even." He looked away, a little embarrassed at his ignorance. "I don't even know what your language is called. I really should start learning about your culture, shouldn't I?" She smiled.

    "It might be wise. After all, I have gone to the trouble of learning your language and studying your people. It would be common courtesy for you to do the same." Her eyes sparkled, and she couldn't resist the teasing smile. "My language is called Adronato. It is the dialect of the religious caste on Minbar. Although really, I suppose I have two languages now - if that isn't being pretentious."

    "No, of course not. This is your home, Delenn, and much as I don't want to separate you from your people, the main language here is English. But," he shifted into a more comfortable position, settling her into his arms with a suggestive smile, "I think maybe we should try to make this relationship a little more two-sided... bicultural, if you want the elaborate description. I don't want either of us pressured into anything, and I certainly don't expect you to act completely Human for me. I can't be completely Minbari, either-"

    "I don't expect you to be," she answered quickly. "We can compromise. And if we can't then we can simply... halve the problem. Manage half the Minbari way, and half the Human way." He gave her an approving glance.

    "Fair's fair. But first we need to think about the immediate future - about what we were discussing."

    "And what *were* we discussing, exactly?" she asked with a teasingly curious smile. Sheridan moved to sit in front of her, took her hands in his and looked seriously into her eyes, piercing her emerald gaze with his own as he took a deep breath.

    "We.... I'm asking you to move in with me - at least for the week. Or I'm offering the live with you, if that's what you'd prefer. If you even want to-" He stopped at the sound of her soft laughter. She set a finger on his lips as he began to question, her eyes shining with amusement.

    "I thought perhaps you would have known my answer by now, that asking would be unnecessary. Although I suppose I can forgive you for being distracted: this 'lovemaking' can be very diverting. That may cause us some problems in the future." She idly traced his muscles with a careful fingertip, a studious expression on her face. "However, I think it might be useful for me, to... better understand what it is to be Human. Do you not agree?"

    "Oh, definitely. A very enlightening experience. Though you may need some time to fully... understand the process." He kept a perfectly deadpan expression and Delenn nodded seriously.

    "Hmm. I have been told that I am a fast learner, so it may not take as long as you foresee. A week, perhaps, at longest. Of course, *perfection* will take some time..." He nodded in agreement.

    "It always does. They say 'practice makes perfect.'" Delenn pretended to consider his comment, smiling ever so slightly through the 'seriousness' of their conversation.

    "Well, that being the case, I think the wisest thing would be for me to remain here. This does seem to be the best place for my learning to take place, after all. And I already have the services of a teacher." She laughed at his amused expression, reaching up to kiss him passionately as the facade melted away. "Seriously, John, I will stay; you must have realised that by now. I want nothing more than to stay with you, for however long. Nothing else... well, almost nothing." Their lips met in another tender, passionate kiss before she continued; "You are extremely tiring, and these being your quarters I think you should offer me breakfast."

    "Hungry? I can go make something... though I'm not exactly sure what you like. To eat," he clarified with a laugh at her suggestive expression. "I guess I'll have to learn, won't I? Yet another thing for you to teach me." Delenn smiled.

    "We'll find something. But first, I think we should return to our studies. Mine, specifically. There are still a few... areas... that I am unsure of. Perhaps we should pay extra attention to these this time." He nodded, gently guiding her down onto her back.

    "That would seem to be appropriate. After all, if you want perfection you've got to be prepared to put in a lot of practice."

    "Indeed. Well, I was taught that perfection should always be strived for."

    "I can live with that...."

    * * * * *

    It was a very long time later when Delenn awoke - for the third time - from a semiconscious sleep in his arms, curled against his side. John didn't appear to have slept, and as she opened her eyes he seemed to be studying the ceiling with great interest. She turned her head, but he obviously knew she was awake and spoke without looking toward her.

    "Delenn, have you ever slept with... made love with... anyone else?" She looked up, gave him an odd smile and turned to regard him, resting her head on one hand.

    "No. Why, is that important?"

    "No." Sheridan sighed and dropped his head back onto the pillow. Delenn continued to watch him, head propped up on her hand.

    "What?" He looked up at her, frowned and sighed again, pulling his head up until he was on her level.

    "Why did you want to know? Now, I mean. I would have thought after the first time to be the obvious moment to ask." A smile. "You missed that by a while." She stopped, considering something else, and the smile dimmed. "Couldn't you tell, the first time, I was..." she frowned now at herself, annoyed that she didn't have the words. Sheridan laughed; seeing her hurt expression, he gathered her against him.

    "Oh, I wasn't laughing at you. No, I couldn't tell. You were always wonderful -" he stopped at her surprised expression. "What is it?"

    "Are you lying to me? You don't need to." This time when he laughed she ignored it, waiting for the answer. "Are you?"

    "No! Of course not. I don't lie well, Delenn, especially in bed. Trust me, you'd notice. Besides, Minbari don't lie."

    "What does that have to do with anything? You're not Minbari." Now she was getting confused. Being with John Sheridan had a way of doing that to her.

    "Maybe not; how do you know? I know all about that 'disappearing souls' business. You should test me one of these days. You might be surprised." Delenn shook her head violently at his suggestion.

    "No. I know you're not Minbari. You're too Human for that." Now it was her turn to laugh. "That was a compliment. I happen to like Humans better than Minbari. But then I could be biased..." she smiled and kissed him.

    "Well, in that case, I think this is as near as I get. Unless it can get any closer, in which case tell me..." He trailed off, raising his eyebrows in question. Delenn shrugged and huddled close to him, enjoying his embrace. Closing her eyes, she relaxed her hold slightly and drifted into a light sleep. She awoke barely half an hour later, her lover's question still playing at the back of her mind. She lay in his arms without moving for a long time, both enjoying the closeness and trying to judge if he was sleeping. Finally, she sighed heavily and sat up.

    "John?" He opened half-closed eyes and looked up at her, frowning at the tone in her voice.

    "Hmm. What is it?"

    "Would it have mattered?"

    "What? Oh." He sat up as he spoke, taking her hand in his. "No, not really. Not at all, actually. Hell, I'm honoured. I never figured I'd be anyone's first, let alone-"

    "A Minbari's?"

    "That wasn't what I was going to say." He pulled her fiercely toward him, looking into her eyes. "You are *not* 'a Minbari'. You're special, and you're *mine*." Delenn smiled, touching his face gently with one hand to calm him.

    "I know. And you're not going to let me forget it, are you?" She was teasing now, and he rose to the bait, placing an affectionate kiss on her lips as he helped her back down onto the pillows. She winced in pain as the pressure of her body came down hard on her shoulder. Sheridan gently adjusted her position until she lay comfortably, wrapping the covers around the two of them. As she winced again, concern filled his expression.

    "You okay?" She nodded slowly, determined to pursue the topic.

    "If it doesn't matter, why did you ask the question?" Sheridan sighed. Her logic was the one thing uninjured by last week's attack. It was damned impeccable, as always. "You're really worried about this now, aren't you?" he didn't give her the chance to answer, knowing what the answer would be. Sometimes he wished Minbari were a little less honest. Too much truth could hurt as much as too little, and he hated having worried her. "Don't worry, please. It honestly doesn't matter to me. I'd still love you just as much. I only asked because, well, you're very imaginative is all. I wasn't sure where that came from." He smiled as relief crossed her face.

    "Desperation can do amazing things," Delenn's smile faded, then returned as she finished the sentence. "And I have a very active imagination."

    "I noticed," Sheridan commented wryly. "Who's desperate, anyway? Not you, I hope." He frowned at her sudden change in expression, seeing he'd hit on the answer. "Why?" Delenn sighed heavily, raising her head to look at him with a despairing gaze.

    "John, I haven't seen you on your own - on our own - for over a week now. Almost two. I've missed you. I love you, and I hate being apart from you. And then there was MedLab." Her frown deepened at the memory. "I know they mean well, but I think everyone on the station came to see me last week. The only person I wanted there was *you*, and you spent less time there than anyone-" she placed a finger on his lips to quiet the apology that was coming. "I know it isn't your fault. You have to run the station and I don't blame you for it. I just wish you would let everyone else handle some of 'your' duties. Susan and Mr. Garibaldi are quite capable people, or they would not be serving under you. I want some time with you, and I can't have that if you are forever running around doing everything that needs doing." She waited for his response. After a minute or two of waiting, he answered.

    "Are you finished now?" His smile took the sting out of his words. "I'm sorry, Delenn. I had no idea... I guess I should have made time to come and see you. I tried, but there's so much going on - I don't like putting the responsibility on anyone else. I'll make time for us, I promise. I'll tell Susan - wait," his expression changed, became more devious. "I'm sure Steven would be open to a little bribery..." He trailed off, thinking it over.

    "John? What are you thinking of?" She laughed in surprise as he kissed her happily, squeezing her as tight as he dared before jumping out of the bed. In her annoyance at his secretiveness, it was a small consolation that their ...activities... the night before made him yelp from the stiffness that suddenly manifested itself. She continued to call after him as he grabbed a bathrobe from a nearby chair and headed for the main room. When he didn't return after five or so minutes, she grew tired of waiting and followed him, gingerly slipping into her own robe as she entered the living area. Her lover stood in front of the comm unit, obscuring her view of whoever he was talking to. Resigned to waiting for Sheridan to explain his idea, she walked slowly, deliberately into the kitchenette to make them breakfast. Turning to open a cabinet, she moved too fast and was glad, if a little surprised, to find John behind her. His gentle hold steadied her, catching her before she fell. He pulled her close and gazed down at her confused features, smoothing away the pain of that sudden movement with a tender caress.

    "So? Are you going to tell me why you ran out on me so suddenly just now, or do I have to wait even longer?" her tone indicated her annoyance and even Sheridan's loving embrace did nothing to quell the impatience.

    "Promise me something first?"

    "That depends. What is it?" The impatience dissolved into curiosity.

    "Be a little less painful next time?" he pleaded with a rueful smile, and Delenn laughed.

    "Promise. Now tell me!"

    "Okay, okay. There's no rush. Plenty of time, now I'm - we're on vacation." he made the statement casually, grinning at her astonishment.

    "How-"

    "Oh, Steven was very compliant. In fact, he wants to thank you personally for what you said to me. I don't quite remember, but there was something in there about giving you a medal for getting me to voluntarily take a week's vacation. Apparently that's quite something. Come to think of it, I don't ever remember taking a voluntary holiday before, so you might just have something." He smiled at her. "Everyone in MedLab wants to know how you did it. Steven was so surprised, he made a public announcement to make sure I wasn't kidding. One of the techs almost fainted." He was getting carried away, laughter seeping into his voice.

    "Well, I'm certainly not telling them." Delenn laughed now as well. His mood was catching, almost euphoric. "You were joking about the technician, weren't you?"

    His laughter filled the room, quieted only by her kisses as all thought of work - and breakfast - was forgotten.

    * * * * *

    "We could *not* tell them," Sheridan suggested with a flickering deadpan expression.

    "What?!" Delenn laughed incredulously. They sat across the table from each other, lightly holding hands as they ate. He'd been surprised by now much Human food she liked, and preparing the meal had been easy - would have been quick, had they not interrupted themselves on a regular basis - once they finally decided to take breakfast over other, more interesting pursuits. Now Sheridan sat in front of her, gently tightening his grip on her hand and smiling tenderly. She returned the smile, squeezing his hand in return as he glanced down and set his fork back on the empty plate. She pushed hers expectantly toward him with a small, pleased smile.

    "That was lovely." He grinned, bowing his head very slightly toward her in thanks as he clasped her hand briefly and stood to place their plates in the cleaner. Turned away from her, he began to speak again and she knew he was smiling. It was strangely pleasing to know she was the cause; she clasped her hands in front of her and rested her chin on her fingers as she gazed at him, listening.

    "To be honest, I'm not sure *how* to tell anyone. 'Morning, Susan, how's the traffic this morning - oh by the way, Delenn and I are living together'. Hmm, really nice way of doing it." Delenn looked down in amusement, shaking her head as she laughed. He turned, bringing a mug of hot tea and placing it in her hands as he slid back into the seat and leaned toward her.

    "Being serious, Delenn. The Minbari aren't going to like this. You're their Ambassador, you have responsibilities-"

    "Responsibilities I share with you. John," she reached across and took his hand again, "we already share so much; the Rangers, the war, this place..." she smiled, "..our love. All that is left is our personal time, our privacy. Is it so wrong to want to share that as well?" He smiled, adamantly shaking his head.

    "No, of course not. I'm not saying it is." He laughed suddenly, amusement filling his expression as he looked up into curious emerald eyes. "I was just thinking how crazy this is. I mean, I love you, but we've slept together once and now we're discussing living together-"

    "I thought we had already decided on that. We were discussing what to say to everyone." She smiled, still curious. "Is it really so strange?"

    "No, I suppose not." Sheridan set his mug down, reaching across for her other hand and entwining her fingers with his before bestowing a gentle kiss on the back of her hand. "Not to you, anyway. I guess if you're Minbari, you don't make love unless you're really sure about each other." She nodded, a small, confused frown on her features; confused that there could be another way of approaching the subject. "With Humans it's a little different..." He caught the expression on her face and kissed her hand, reaching toward her to run his fingers over her cheek, down her jawline with a comforting touch. "But I am sure about you, Delenn. I love you, you love me, and that's all the certainty I need." He looked down at her hand clasped in his and smiled as he remembered their conversation. "So. What are we going to say? People are going to ask questions, especially when they see you leaving my quarters. We are decided on that - you want to stay here?" She nodded. "Good. At least one thing's settled, then. Next up, we have to- what?"

    She laughed, rising from the table to come closer as he followed her lead and stood, pulling her to him.

    "You make it sound like a Council meeting. Does everything with you come down to work? We are on vacation." Her voice grew teasing. "Perhaps I have not made the right decision after all." He ignored her comment with a softly teasing smile of his own as he leaned over to place a slow, sensuous, lingering kiss on her mouth. Delenn smiled into it, letting out a low moan as her lips parted slightly and John moved closer, his tongue gently brushing hers. They let the kiss continue, his fingers lightly brushing her crown as she returned the feeling by faintly caressing his hair, tracing her hands idly across the back of his neck. He shivered very slightly, moving nearer until finally - reluctantly - pulling away. Her soft gasp made him smile; it had been a long time since he'd had that effect on anyone.

    "We really have to talk about this," he whispered gently. "I don't want to say something to someone without knowing you don't mind... and people are going to notice, we can't hide it - although I'm more than willing to try, if that's what you want-"

    "No! I love you, I don't want to hide that. And we really should tell them all properly, now... This is going to come as a shock to a lot of people, especially the Minbari..." She settled her head against his shoulder, easily finding a distraction from that topic. Reluctantly, he reached up and took her hand from the back of his neck.

    "Not for the minute, love. But later, I promise; soon. Right now I have to think, and you're very distracting."

    "Sorry." She accompanied the apology with a smile of amusement, and he could tell she didn't mean her words. The smile dimmed just slightly, and she became serious. "I don't know what to say to anyone, except the truth: I love you, I want to be with you and that is never going to change." He smiled down at her, gently stroking her cheek. Delenn smiled in return, seeing the soft affection in his eyes for her. She could never have imagined feeling this way, but held in his arms it seemed perfectly natural; and wonderful, to see that expression on his face and know that he loved *her*, wanted her above all else. The most beautiful feeling in the galaxy, she decided with a soft murmur. John heard the sound, leaning over to kiss her hair as she nestled closer against his chest.

    "Hell, I couldn't have kept it a secret anyway. Look at me, I must be glowing like an idiot. I haven't felt like this in so long... As soon as she hears about this vacation, Ivanova's gonna know something's up."

    * * * * *

    "*Vacation?!*" Ivanova's voice was loud enough to carry across the station in her surprise.

    "Yep. So the Doc says. Apparently Delenn, uh, talked him into it. Although he wouldn't tell Steven exactly what she said." Garibaldi hadn't stopped grinning the whole time they'd been talking, and frankly, it was starting to irritate her. Still, it did nothing to disrupt her good mood.

    "Something tells me talking doesn't come into the equation."

    "Well, whatever she did, Steven's damned thankful for it. And so am I. Personally, I don't think I could've taken another week of him in the state he's been in lately. This way, at least he'll be in a better mood when he gets back to work." He raised his eyebrows suggestively. "And so will Delenn. She's been so uptight lately, and then there was the attack-" he stopped suddenly. "I wonder if anyone's told Lennier?"

    * * * * *

    The young Minbari busied himself around Delenn's quarters, tidying what little was untidy and preparing himself a meal. He'd left that task for as long as possible, trying to decide whether to cook for Delenn as well. Finally, he'd decided she wouldn't mind if he made himself something while he waited for her. She must be on her way back by now, having been gone all night. *Not that there is anything for her to hurry back for.* Her schedule had been cleared except for minor appointments - which he could handle satisfactorily - to allow her time to recuperate. But recuperation required rest, something she was not getting away from her quarters. She should be here, where he could take care of her. *No, she should be in MedLab, he thought to himself. You are being selfish. She should be under medical supervision, not-* his self-admonishment was interrupted by the comm unit.

    "Receive," he called out, hoping it was Mr. Garibaldi. The Security Chief had promised to find Delenn, while her aide remained in her quarters in case she returned. That had been over four hours ago, yet there was still no word. As he approached the screen, however, Lennier sighed with relief. His face broke into a wide smile as the Ambassador's gentle features filled the viewer.

    "Delenn! Where are you? Where have you been? I've been worried about you. Doctor Franklin said you left MedLab - are you safe? Why haven't you called me? Where are you?" He repeated his original question as panic set in, and was about to ask again when she laughed softly.

    "I'm quite all right, Lennier. And I am quite, quite safe." Seeing his unconvinced expression, she smiled. "I am *fine*. Never better, actually. I hope you have not been too worried about me. I can take care of myself, you know," she scolded gently.

    "But you were hurt - you shouldn't have left MedLab! Why didn't you call me?" Delenn smiled, trying to ease his hurt expression.

    "I am sorry for not calling earlier, Lennier. But-" she stopped for a second, accepting a steaming mug from someone at the side of the screen. Taking a sip, she smiled in appreciation and called out her thanks before continuing. "I would have called, had I been awake before two hours ago."

    "Delenn, I have Marcus, Mr. Garibaldi, almost the entire War Council looking for you!"

    "We've been... busy." The voice was familiar; male, Human. Lennier had just put a face to it when John Sheridan appeared on the viewer behind Delenn, holding a mug in one hand and sliding the other casually around her waist. Delenn didn't seem to mind, turning in his hold to look up at him as he spoke. "This is one member of the Council who knows exactly where the Ambassador is, and where she's been all night."

    "John!" Delenn cried out in embarrassment, trying not to look at Lennier - knowing he would be as embarrassed, and doubly so for her. When she eventually looked up, he was studying her closely, an odd expression on his face.

    Lennier looked down from the screen, trying to add an air of nonchalance to his concern. He'd known for a while that something was happening between the Captain and Delenn, but had never expected them to become this close in this amount of time. Now he looked, really looked at her, noticing for the first time her expression. Somewhere between love and adoration, she was smiling; a smile that told him she was safe, in good hands. Very good hands. He halted that train of thought immediately. He preferred not to think of that aspect. It wasn't his place to speculate on such things. Still looking at Delenn, he also noticed her attire: a silken robe, tied at her waist by a simple knot. Sheridan was dressed almost identically in a similar robe. The only difference was in material; his was thicker, towelling. Neither of them seemed to be wearing much else, however...- *NO*. He must not think of Delenn that way. She was his friend, his mentor and his employer. That was all. *That *is* all,* he thought angrily to himself. *She will never be anything different to you.* But he couldn't hold back a twinge of jealousy as Delenn turned back to the Captain ...her lover.... and smiled, wrapping her free arm around his waist.

    "I appreciate your calling, Delenn." He smiled as warmly as he could manage. "Does anyone else know where you are? They should be notified, if not. Otherwise, everyone will spend the day searching for you and accomplish nothing." Delenn nodded in agreement.

    "I do not wish to worry everyone unnecessarily. I'll call Marcus now. Doctor Franklin, Mr. Garibaldi and Commander Ivanova have been told. Oh, and Lennier," she spoke as he nodded and turned to go, "I won't be returning to my quarters for a while. A week, actually. I think," she turned to Sheridan, and he nodded, "I have been put on vacation. If you could arrange-"

    "Yes. Of course. I'll have your things sent at once. Good day, Delenn." The screen went dark, and Lennier was thankful she didn't see his silent tears.

    * * * * *

    "Good day, Delenn." Marcus smiled knowingly at the Ambassador, now sitting on Sheridan's couch and enclosed in his arms. As the transmission faded she settled back against him, closing her eyes.

    "You really shouldn't have said that to Lennier." The idle comment still held a touch of embarrassment, despite almost ten minutes having passed.

    "What?" He frowned in puzzlement, desperately trying to remember. Before he could, she prompted him.

    "That you know where I was last night. I don't think he appreciated it very much. You shouldn't have embarrassed him like that. Or me."

    "Sorry." There was laughter in his voice, but he turned serious at her admonishing,

    "No you're not."

    "Honestly! I'm truly sorry I embarrassed you, Delenn. But I do know where you were last night. At least, I hope it was you - I'd hate to think there was someone else there instead..." Sheridan glanced down at her, teasing.

    "You know it was me. But Lennier doesn't have to - this is hard enough on him as it is, without-"

    "Whoa. What's wrong with Lennier? I thought he was happy for you - for us."

    "He is. But you don't have to emphasise it."

    "Why?" Sheridan frowned, looking down at her with curiosity. "I love you, Delenn, and I'm proud of it. I don't want to hide it anymore. Hell, it's been hard enough waiting this long for you. I can't imagine what it'd be like-"

    "*Try.*" She sat up, opening dark, emerald eyes as she turned towards him.

    "Why? Why is that so important..." he trailed off, closing his eyes in recognition. "Lennier."

    She nodded. "I shouldn't have told you. He doesn't even know that I know he... he loves me."

    "And he has to wait. And watch. Damn. *Damn.*" He couldn't imagine it. The pain of waiting, knowing she would never look at him that way, with that green gaze filled with love. The worst nightmare imaginable. And when it could not *possibly* get any worse: Delenn in someone else's arms, kissing them, loving *them*...

    He pulled her fiercely against him, tucking her head under his chin and squeezing his eyes shut to close out the vision. Sensing his pain, Delenn ran her hands across his back and pulled herself as close as she could, burying her face in his shoulder. Gently, tenderly, without saying a word, she comforted him. His embrace loosened as he remembered her injuries, and he lifted his head, started to apologise.

    "It's all right;" Delenn smiled lovingly, pushing blond hair away from his eyes. "I understand. I know," her smile disappeared, and sadness welled in her eyes. He would have given anything to take it away, bring back her warm smile. "I know how you feel. It's a terrible thought," she closed her eyes, and Sheridan gently brushed her cheek, trying to quiet her, "I couldn't imagine it. I can't. I couldn't face living without you-" her voice choked, and now he comforted her.

    "You don't have to. I'll always be here, Delenn, I'm never, ever going to leave you." He murmured softly, stroking her cheek with the back of one hand as she smiled. And looked up at him with that green gaze, filled with love.....

    * * * * *

    Later, hours later, Delenn rose and padded out of the bedroom towards the kitchenette. She hardly remembered when - or why, for that matter - they had returned to bed, but whatever the reason she hadn't minded. A small, fond smile crept over her face. She remembered John, his strong arms carrying her into his - into their bedroom. His warm hands, holding her there next to him. And his smile... her own widened at the memory. They hadn't made love this time: she'd been tired, and John had noticed. He'd seemed happy enough simply to hold her, and the sudden stiffness in her shoulder had made anything else nearly impossible. Still, the injuries were healing... and his love had no small part in that. Deep in memory, she barely heard the comm unit behind her until Ivanova's face appeared on the screen. Whirling in surprise, Delenn let out a soft cry of pain. Concern filled the Commander's expression, but Delenn smiled reassuringly. *At least I managed to stay upright this time,* she reminded herself. Steadying herself against the table, she took a cup of tea from it, pleased to find the drink warm and steaming. The other cup was half empty, so she assumed John was awake. She hadn't really noticed before, still drowsy from sleeping so long. Moments later, the sound of running water from the shower room confirmed her assumption. Raising the cup to her lips, Delenn approached the viewer.

    "Can I help you, Commander?" Her soft tone greeted the officer, a smile on her lips from the thought of John.

    "Good afternoon, Ambassador. Actually, I was looking for the Captain. Is he around?"

    *Afternoon? When did it become afternoon?* "I think so. Do you want to wait? I can find him..." Ivanova shook her head.

    "No, it's okay. I just wanted to check something with him, that was all. Maybe you can help me instead, if he's busy-"

    "He's not. Quite the opposite." Sheridan silently came towards Delenn, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. His tanned skin was damp, cool, as she reached up to grasp his hand. Feeling the pressure of his body behind her, she relaxed - only slightly, trying to maintain some level of composure in front of Ivanova. For her part, the Commander seemed unfazed by their show of affection, greeting her captain with a jovial "Good afternoon."

    "And to you, Commander. Was there anything in particular, or did you just call to see if the rumours were true?" Laughter filled his voice, shining in his eyes. Now Ivanova looked down sheepishly, caught out.

    "Yeah, I admit it. Hell, you can't blame me. Everyone and his brother's curious about this vacation of yours. God, you really know how to blow someone away, don't you?" She looked away briefly, then turned back to them. "Michael's here. He's as curious as I am-"

    "And with good reason," Garibaldi appeared on the screen next to her, pausing momentarily at the sight of the Minbari Ambassador embraced in his Captain's arms. To his credit, he took only a second to recover, but Sheridan saw the surprise and embarrassment on his face and grinned.

    "It's alright, Michael. I'm not holding her hostage." The laughter grew. "Although I might consider it if we keep being *bothered.*" He was teasing now and Delenn slapped his hand lightly, chiding him.

    "They're just curious, John. It's understandable. You would be." He conceded the point, covering her hand with his.

    "Okay, I promise not to tease them anymore. Happy now?" He was teasing her, but she was in such a good mood she didn't care. Besides, she didn't get a chance to retort before Ivanova spoke.

    "Great! Does that mean we can tease you now?" She grinned mischievously.

    "Yeah, finally." That was Garibaldi. "Do you have any idea how much trouble you two've caused me? I don't appreciate being yelled at by a hysterical Minbari, Ambassador." She winced in sympathy at the thought of Lennier's panic. "And as for you," he shook his head mock-seriously at the Captain, "you should be more careful next time. Take lessons from me; leave clues that're a little less obvious. Jeez, I could've figured out what was goin' on in my sleep." He frowned, suddenly the centre of attention. "Whaat?"

    Ivanova grinned. "When was the last time *you* got laid, Garibaldi?"

    "Well, uh, last... um, last...." He sighed. "Okay, so it's been a while." Sheridan laughed, half in response to his admission and half at Delenn's whispered comment.

    "See? You have no idea what you're talking about." Ivanova smiled knowingly.

    He glared defensively. "Hey! They say if you don't do something, the best thing you can do is teach it." Now it was Delenn's turn to tease him.

    "In that case, Mr. Garibaldi, I believe you are infinitely more qualified than I." Turning to her lover for his reaction, she smiled. If a Minbari could smile sexily - and Michael Garibaldi had never bet on seeing that - then that was as near as words came to her expression.

    "Oh, I don't know. I think you'd make quite a good teacher. Not that I'd let you, of course." Sheridan's voice was quiet, for her alone. She laughed softly, squeezing his fingers in response.

    "I will teach you, if you wish." This time he couldn't keep from laughing, not caring about the odd looks both Ivanova and Garibaldi threw at him.

    "Excuse us, Chief, Commander. We have some, uh, business to sort out." He grinned. "And if anyone asks, the rumours are true." He looked to the woman in his arms for confirmation and she nodded, her eyes bright. "Ambassador Delenn and I are officially, without a doubt, *a couple*. And this couple is on vacation, as of now, until Friday. Good afternoon."

   

    TUESDAY :

    Garibaldi frowned in thought at Franklin's suggestion, then nodded.

    "Yeah, I guess we could accommodate that. Might tax the patrol teams a little, but who in hell knows? Could do 'em all some good. Nothing much going on around here for the minute, and they're getting sluggish."

    "Don't look now, but I think your nothing just became something." Dropping into an empty chair, Marcus Cole grinned widely at them both in greeting. "Hello, gentlemen. I think, as I mentioned, our evening just got a little more interesting." Inclining his head toward the door, he waited as they turned in that direction.

    "What? I don't see anything, apart from the Commander." Franklin replied in confusion. "Excuse me, Marcus, but how does this make *our* evening more interesting?" He flicked a finger between himself and the other officer.

    "I think our dear Ranger was referring to them." The table wasn't far into Earhart's so Ivanova reached them quickly, raising her eyebrows in inquiry at Marcus. He nodded sheepishly. The other officers turned back to the door as she sat - in time to see John Sheridan enter the room, one arm around the Minbari Ambassador. He leaned over to her and whispered something; she looked around, suddenly aware that they were the centre of attention. Her gaze caught on the senior officers, and she gestured toward their table. The Captain nodded, taking her hand and leading her over. Delenn had never seen the officers' bar, and she hesitated slightly at the sight of so many expectant faces. Sensing her discomfort, Sheridan took her other hand, squeezed it tightly with a smile. Trusting, she smiled back and followed him to the table. She had to laugh as they approached - Franklin and Garibaldi seemed suddenly deep in conversation, while Marcus studied the table intently. Only Ivanova made no pretence of ignorance, smiling reassuringly as Delenn sat down. Sheridan added a light, reassuring pressure on her hands before releasing them completely.

    "Drink?" He made the word a question, smiled knowingly as she nodded and opened her mouth to speak. "No alcohol, I know. Wait here, I'll bring it over." He cast a warning glance over the table's other occupants. "And no teasing her, or you'll never hear the end of it." He frowned when they nodded solemnly, a silent grin creeping onto Garibaldi's face. "Especially you, Michael." The grin dimmed. As he disappeared into the crowd, Marcus leaned conspiratorially towards Delenn.

    "Well?" She feigned ignorance at his question. "Come on, Ambassador. We all want to-" Ivanova cut him off, placing a hand firmly over his mouth.

    "Ignore him, Delenn. Typical Human curiosity, combined with male hormones, is not a pretty sight. " She returned Delenn's grateful smile. "No problem. If there's anything else-"

    She was interrupted by a loud chime over the loudspeaker, followed by the familiar voice of a waitress.

    "Listen up, everyone. Captain's got an announcement!" Delenn watched with growing apprehension as Sheridan made his way up to the stage, mike in hand. Reaching the platform, he placed the microphone in its stand and turned to face the crowd. A sea of expectant faces confronted him, and for a moment he considered backing down. He coughed hard, wishing his throat wasn't suddenly so dry.

    "This won't take a minute." *If I can ever get the words out.* "You all know who I am, and I think most of you recognise Ambassador Delenn -" he nodded at the chorus of assent- "so introductions aside, I'll get to the point. Most - hell, probably all of you will have heard rumours by now concerning my voluntary week's vacation. Requested in a moment of insanity, I assure you." That comment brought more than a few laughs, and he relaxed a little. *Passionate insanity, but what's the difference these days?* "You may also have heard, as I have, certain rumours about myself and the Ambassador." He glanced at her, emotion sparkling in his eyes. "Now, depending on which rumours you've heard, these may or may not be true. So I would prefer to set the record straight now, before this gets out of hand." He motioned for Delenn to join him, smiling persuasively as she shook her dark head in reluctance. "Come on up here, Delenn. Come on, give me a hand to straighten this out." Prompted by Marcus, Franklin and Garibaldi, Delenn rose from the table and was ushered to the stage by Ivanova. Seeing her approach, Sheridan continued. "Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to ask your assistance on this matter as well. If you are asked, will you please inform everyone that only one of these rumours is true. As I have already stated on a number of occasions today." He paused momentarily to extend a hand to Delenn and help her on stage. Clasping her hand firmly, he drew her near. "May I assure all of you -" he was dragging it out now, enjoying himself - "that your Captain and Ambassador Delenn are definitely, without any doubt whatsoever, and with all certainty-"

    "Oh, be quiet." Delenn's voice caught in the microphone, projecting around the room as she placed a hand firmly on his lips, then replaced it with her own. Sheridan responded in kind, returning the kiss with equal passion. As the gathered officers cheered - led by his senior staff, he reminded himself later - he backed away, smoothing her hair fondly.

    "A couple," he finished at last, although it went unheard amid the crowd.

    "I will never forgive you for this," Delenn murmured half-seriously, trying to look mortified.

    "What?! *You* kissed *me!*" He laughed, squeezing her tight.

    "That was provoked." She abandoned the attempt at being serious. "You shouldn't embarrass me like this!" She stopped as he kissed her again, this time letting his hands caress the soft bone ridges and stroke her hair, not caring about - or hearing - the crowd now. They finally parted to an expecting silence, broken only by cries of "Speech! speech!" Sheridan laughed, shaking his head tiredly.

    "I just made the speech! Hell, I've got better things to do." He turned back to Delenn and grinned. "Embarrassed now?" She nodded with a wide smile, placing a finger on his lips as he leaned toward her again.

    "Oh, no you don't. You're incorrigible!" The smile grew fonder as he accepted the accusation. "The rest is for us alone. What little you have left to their imaginations." He smiled at that, half sadly.

    "I have embarrassed you, haven't I? I'm sorry. I only did it because I love you, and I want everyone to know." Delenn smiled, putting both arms around her lover and hugging him tightly.

    "I know, and I'm touched. It's very sweet, and I do appreciate it. I'm proud of you, actually. I don't think I could have done that by myself." She glanced up at him. "To be honest, I think this took more courage than anything else I've ever done."

    "Really?"

    "Really." She smiled. "Thank you for making me do it anyway."

    "You're welcome." He kissed her hair.

    "John?"

    "Hmm?"

    "Give me a little warning next time?"

    * * * * *

    Sitting at the senior officers' table, Marcus shifted uncomfortably. He didn't come to Earhart's often - in fact, this was probably the first time. He tended to keep himself to himself, more content in one of the many bars DownBelow than here. And it didn't help when the reason he was here at all spent the entire time ignoring him. He sighed and turned his attention elsewhere, gazing absently over the dance floor. The music playing was a moderate tempo, but it finished before he managed to place the tune. A slow, almost waltz beat track began to play, and he glanced across the table as Captain Sheridan rose, pulling Delenn up with him.

    "Come on, it's easy. I'll show you." Marcus couldn't help grinning as Sheridan led a reluctant Delenn onto the floor. She seemed to manage quite well, he decided as he watched her attempt at dancing. *Either she's quick learner, or he was a dance instructor in a past life.*

    Garibaldi grinned at him, and he realised he must have been thinking aloud.

    "That's not the only thing he's been teaching her, from what I've seen."

    "Michael!" Susan Ivanova hit him on the back, hard enough to make him yelp in pain.

    "He hasn't stopped talking about those two all day. I swear, it's some male hormonal thing. You don't see *me* talking about it every second. It's not as if he's even being romantic about it!" She shook her head. "Sometimes I really can't figure you, Garibaldi."

    He laughed. "Hey, I'm just happy to see the Captain finally enjoying himself. God knows, we could all use that once in a while." Ivanova shrugged.

    "You're right, I'll give you that much. I think we're all happy for them. Hell, they deserve some time off for a change, while things are quiet." She looked at the dance floor. "She isn't too bad at this, is she?"

    Out on the floor, Delenn caught sight of Marcus and Susan watching them and turned away, lightly resting her head on John's chest. She'd thought dancing would be quite difficult, but once the rhythm was acquired it really didn't take much effort at all. Thank Valen the floor was crowded - it made it easier to lose themselves, avoiding the curious eyes of B5's senior officers. She smiled, remembering her words earlier. "*They're only curious. You would be.*" Delenn laughed inwardly. *How true. Too true.* She closed her eyes; felt John's strong arms around her waist, his gentle voice in her ear.

    "What are you thinking about?" She lifted her head to look at him, ran her hands up his chest and around his neck.

    "Us." He smiled.

    "I gathered that." His smile faded as she sighed. "What's wrong? You're not angry with me, are you?"

    "No, not really." She smiled at his hurt expression. "Not at all, honestly. I just wish everyone was a little less curious about us."

    He grinned in relief. "God, and here I thought it was something serious." At her expression, he laughed. "Alright, it is serious. But it'll die down in time. Give them a while to get used to the idea, okay?" She nodded, and he lovingly stroked her hair, tucking her head under his chin. "Let's face it, we're not exactly the average couple." Laughter. "Now I think about it, it does seem kind of a strange match."

    "Why?" Delenn didn't move her head, closing her eyes again, and absently caressed the back of his neck.

    "Well, you're Minbari, for a start."

    "And you're Human. What does that have to do with anything?"

    "A lot. Delenn, do you realise we were at war twelve years ago? And now-"

    "I don't want to think about it." She brushed his face with one hand, looking up now. "The war was over a long time ago. I refuse to let it back into my life again. Into our lives." She frowned, remembering. "Did we not have this conversation already? I believe I won."

    Sheridan nodded. "Yes, you did. And I agree with you, in principle. But you have to remember that a lot of others won't, especially Humans. We're a prideful people, and you thoroughly kicked our ass!" He grinned as she laughed. "You're right, though. That war's over, and now," He tilted his head and kissed her lightly, "I think we finally made peace." He gently touched the crown that ran behind her head, felt her start as his fingers found the area where the bone melded with soft ivory skin. He frowned. "Did I do something?"

    Silently, she shook her head; when he frowned in concern, she reached up and brushed his cheek, placing a tender kiss at the corner of his mouth.

    "There really is nothing wrong. It wasn't anything you did... nothing bad, at least." She smiled in embarrassment, and he realised why she'd reacted.

    "There's no need to be embarrassed. You could have told me, though." He grinned suggestively as she replaced her head on his chest. "It might have come in useful."

    She laughed. "We always have next time."

    Sheridan smiled and nodded in agreement, leading her further onto the floor; away from the curious eyes of his command team as their lips met in a gentle kiss and his thoughts, as well as hers, turned to other matters...

   

    WEDNESDAY :

    "Are you sure this is where we should be?" Ivanova gave Marcus a dubious glance before turning her attention back the departure area.

    "I'm sure. See? Shaal Mayan, departing at gate four at ten hundred hours." She pointed out the information on the screen.

    "I don't see any Minbari poets around anywhere." Marcus raised his eyebrows in question, just as a Minbari woman walked up behind him and bowed to Ivanova, and then to him in turn as he faced her. She was around Delenn's height, almost the same build and even her face bore a slight resemblance to the Ambassador - without the hair. Ivanova allowed herself a small smile. *I wonder how she'll react when she sees her. Somehow I don't think Delenn ever consulted a poet on the matter.*

    "If you are searching for a Minbari poet, may I assume that you are Marcus Cole?" She turned at his curt nod. "And you are Commander Ivanova. I believe we met briefly during my first visit to your station." Ivanova nodded, then pointed to Marcus, who bowed respectfully.

    "Shaal Mayan, Marcus Cole. Marcus is a Ranger. He'll be your escort during your stay on Babylon Five." She nodded at Mayan's shaking head. "I know, you don't want to be protected, but with everything that's been happening lately-" Mayan cut her off, suddenly agreeable.

    "How is Delenn? I had heard she was almost killed." Her voice betrayed horror at that thought. "How badly was she injured?" This time it was Marcus who answered.

    "Not as badly as rumour would have it. She seems to be healing quite well, actually. And we caught the one responsible." He couldn't help grinning maliciously. "The Captain made him see the... error of his ways, shall we say."

    "He was *thankful* when Security finally caught up with them," Ivanova added with an expression that was half pleasure for Sheridan, half anger at Delenn's attacker.

    "Your Captain... he was not pleased?"

    "None of us were *pleased,* Mayan," Marcus answered quickly, avoiding Ivanova's amazed stare. *How could anyone think he could be pleased about something like that?*

    "Of course not. I am sorry, my choice of words was incorrect. My grasp of your language is... shaky, at best." She smiled an apology at them both. "May I please be escorted to your medical facility now? I believe that is where Delenn is being treated, and I look forward to seeing her again." Suddenly uncomfortable, Marcus nodded slowly and led the way out of Customs. They had walked quite a way in silence before he spoke again, prompted by Ivanova's hissed comment,

    "Well? Are you going to tell her, or aren't you?"

    "Mayan?" Marcus stopped walking until she caught up the few paces between them, then continued on. Ivanova took up the rear, listening carefully as Marcus began to speak again. "Er, Mayan, are you sure you don't want to go back to your own quarters first? The journey from Minbar is long, after all, and you must be tired-"

    "I have already slept, during my journey. I wish to see Delenn now. We have not seen each other in almost two years, and I am anxious to know if she is well."

    "Oh, she's well," Ivanova murmured from behind them. Mayan stopped at that, whirled to face the Human woman.

    "Does that mean something significant, Commander? I gather from your tone it is not an entirely innocent comment." Ivanova shook her head, trying vainly to back out of the conversation. *Always remember, don't upset the Minbari, Susan. They can be awfully fierce.* Now she grinned inwardly. *As I'm sure the Captain knows.*

    "Nothing... significant. I only meant..." Her voice dried up, and Ivanova suddenly realised how hard it was going to be to tell her. "Oh, hell. Marcus, you tell her."

    "Tell me what?" Mayan stopped walking altogether, planting herself in their way. "There is something about Delenn you are not revealing to me, and I would appreciate being told what it is before we go any further." She frowned as they both shifted uncomfortably. After a moment of silence, Ivanova spoke up.

    "We were kind of hoping Delenn would get round to telling you herself, once you got here. We figured she'd be here, to meet you, seeing that you're old friends." She sighed, and Marcus took up the explanation.

    "Delenn isn't in MedLab anymore. She... discharged herself."

    "*What?*" Mayan looked mortified. "Where is she? I was told she had been badly hurt! Why did you not keep her in your 'MedLab'?"

    "She seemed to think she was well enough to leave," Ivanova tried valiantly to pacify the Minbari. "As far as we know, she's doing fine."

    "As far as you know? Is there anyone who knows? Does your Doctor Franklin agree that she is well enough to leave?" Mayan scowled at the Commander's slowly shaking head. "I presume someone has been caring for her, yes?" Marcus raised his head.

    "I don't know whether 'caring for' is the right term-"

    "It is exactly the right term, Marcus." Delenn's gentle voice came from behind him, and he grinned in relief at her presence.

    "Hello, Delenn. We thought you'd be here to welcome Mayan. I'm sorry we didn't wait." Delenn smiled.

    "That's quite all right, Marcus. I apologise for being late. We-" She stopped and glanced at Mayan. "I overslept." She smiled at her friend, tried to make it look convincing. "I should have been here to greet you. My apologies. I hope you have not been kept waiting. Did you have a good journey?"

    The question did not get a quick answer. Mayan stared at her, opening her mouth to speak and then shutting it again when nothing came out. It took Delenn a moment to understand why, until she glanced at Ivanova for help. The other woman touched her own hair with an apologetic smile, shrugging her shoulders. Delenn's hand went to her mouth, sudden comprehension on her face. She reached out to reassure Mayan; the other Minbari involuntarily pulled away, shock registering in her eyes.

    "I'm sorry, Mayan... I didn't think to tell you... I should have realised - you're not used to this. I am sorry. I.." Delenn trailed off, unsure of what to say. She felt a reassuring hand on her shoulder, knew who it was without looking and stepped back into the comfort of his arms. Sheridan tentatively put his arms around her, not completely sure of what to do. It was one thing acting this way around Susan and Marcus, and the other people they considered family; but Mayan? She was Minbari, an old friend of Delenn's. More importantly, she'd lost family on the Black Star. He knew that from what Delenn had told him that morning; it hadn't pleased him then, nor did it now. Feeling her against him, he would have given anything to have never gained that victory.

    "Delenn?" As the Ambassador nodded slowly, Mayan finally managed to make a sound. Her gasp made Delenn recoil, but she stood her ground and they faced each other until Ivanova broke the silence, stepping uncomfortably between the two.

    "Should we... go somewhere private?" Gesturing, she directed the question at Sheridan, who nodded slightly, taking Delenn by the shoulders and steering her down the corridor. Mayan followed, ushered forward by Marcus. Ivanova walked behind them all, making sure the door closed behind them as they entered Sheridan's quarters. Quickly she excused herself, reading the tension in the room. She practically shoved Marcus out of the cabin, and as the door shut behind them they heard Mayan's voice.

    "What- what has happened to you, Delenn? You look almost... Human." As Delenn lowered her gaze, her friend looked around the cabin, frowned. "Where are we? These are not your quarters, Delenn." She paused, raised her eyes to meet Sheridan's. "Are they?"

    "In a manner of speaking." Delenn spoke then, stepping toward her. Sheridan dropped his hands, let her go as she moved towards the other woman. Mayan sank slowly onto the offered couch, and Delenn glanced up at her lover as she too sat. He nodded and left them alone, went to the kitchenette. From there he heard lowered voices and strained to hear what they were saying.

    "You have... changed... considerably... since we last saw each other." The fear in Mayan's eyes evaporated as Delenn smiled warmly.

    "Only outwardly, my friend. At least, most of the change has been..." She sighed. "I cannot deny it, Mayan. To do so is a lie, and I will not lie even to save your feelings. It would only hurt you more to find out later. I have changed, more than you can see here;" she gestured to the long hair that fell down her back. "But I am still Delenn, no matter how different my appearance may be."

    "You may still be Delenn, but are you still Minbari?" The question was out before Mayan could stop it, but when Delenn looked into her eyes, she saw no regret at having asked it. She glanced down at her hands, clasped tightly in her lap.

    "I cannot answer that."

    "You shouldn't have to!" Sheridan came to stand in front of them, anger blazing in his features. "I'm sick of everyone asking that question! *Why* is it so important that you're still a Minbari? Why isn't it enough that you're *Delenn?*"

    "I don't know." Her voice was quiet, and Sheridan suddenly realised how angry he must have sounded. "Oh, hell, I'm sorry. I really am. I didn't mean to upset you, Delenn." He started to say "I love you," but the look on Mayan's face was enough to silence that thought.

    "You are not Minbari. Who are you to say it is enough?" Mayan searched his face. "You look familiar. Who are you?" Sheridan closed his eyes in pain, the moment he'd been dreading finally arrived. Delenn tried to answer, only to find her voice gone when she got to his name. Puzzled by their unwillingness to talk, Mayan repeated her question.

    "Who are you? I know your face, I am sure of it."

    Sheridan raised his eyes to hers, taking the hand Delenn offered and clasping it tightly as she looked up at him. *How could saying your own name be so difficult?*

    He remembered the Black Star, through all the years that had passed; a great, massive ship, graceful despite her size. Filled with Minbari. Filled with people. Victims of his hate, his stupidity, his ambition. And now Delenn was a victim too, in her own way. A victim of his past, and of his love for her. He squeezed her hand, unable to keep the love from his expression as he smiled weakly.

    Mayan noticed. "You.. and Delenn?" She turned her shocked gaze on the other Minbari. "You are involved with him, aren't you? I can see it in your eyes. In Valen's name, Delenn, who is he?"

    "His name.." Delenn took a deep breath. "Mayan, this is John Sheridan." She rushed on, seeing Mayan's appalled expression. "I'm sorry, Mayan, I wanted to tell you, to send word to you, but I couldn't - I couldn't say it. I didn't want -"

    "Sheridan." Her voice was devoid of all feeling, simply a flat tone. "Sheridan Starkiller. Of all the Humans, Delenn, why in Valen's name did you have to choose the *one*-" Her voice broke, and Delenn searched for words that would stop the hurt, take away the betrayal of what she had done. She found none, only repeated those before. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen - I wanted to say something, but-"

    "You could not." Now anger filled her tone. "You could not tell me that you had fallen in love with the Human who killed my brothers. You did not even tell me you knew him, Delenn. Not even that you had ever seen him. Why?"

    "I didn't want to admit that something might happen... that we could ever be in love. I wish I could have found the words to tell you, but even they would have been a lie. I couldn't face hoping - and I can't lie to you, Mayan."

    The anger was gone as quickly as it had arrived, replaced only with sadness.. and somewhere, from the bottom of her soul, forgiveness. She glanced over at Sheridan, sitting now on the arm of the couch with Delenn's hand in his. With the other on her shoulder he turned her towards him, looked down at Mayan.

    "If this means anything at all to you, I wish I'd never seen the Black Star. I wish I'd never fought in the War. And I'm sorry for what I did, only it's too late to be sorry when I can't bring anyone back-"

    "It is never too late to be sorry. Or to be forgiven." Mayan smiled at him, gesturing to his lover. "Delenn was always a good judge of character. If she feels love for you, then surely you cannot be as bad as our people say."

    "He isn't." Delenn was smiling now as well, shifting toward her friend and allowing her lover room to sit comfortably next to her. "Actually, for a Human, he's not bad at all." She laughed as Sheridan gave her a dirty look, squeezing her tightly.

    "Oh, thank you so much. I'm truly honoured."

    "You should be." She smiled lovingly. "Could you make us a drink?" He nodded, rising from the couch. As he approached the kitchenette again, he turned back.

    "Hot chocolate?" Looking over her shoulder at him, Delenn smiled and nodded. Mayan frowned.

    "This 'hot chocolate', it does not contain alcohol?" This time it was Delenn's turn to laugh.

    "No, it doesn't have alcohol in it. Apparently, this is one Human drink no one has ever put alcohol into." The frown disappeared, and Mayan smiled warmly.

    "I think I may grow to like this John Sheridan of yours."

    * * * * *

    It was hours before Mayan left: she and Delenn had talked until there was no more to talk of, and then some. John Sheridan sighed heavily, dropping back on the double bed behind him as he closed his eyes. A picture of Delenn floated into his half-conscious mind. She was sitting on the edge of the bed in a simple gown, gazing at him with a tender expression on her lovely face. That was the only way she seemed to look at him these days - much to his satisfaction, he quickly added to himself.

    "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you were jealous." He opened his eyes to find her sitting exactly where he'd pictured her, the tender expression replaced with amusement. "But how could you be, when you have me to yourself for the rest of the week while Mayan will be leaving shortly for Proxima Three?"

    "She will?" He tried not to sound enthusiastic, but his elation betrayed him.

    "By tomorrow Mayan will be gone, yes. Her flight is booked for the early afternoon. She only came here at all to ensure I was healing well. She cares for me great deal, John, you should be pleased." He patted the bed beside him and she sat as he answered.

    "I know, I know. I am, really... I know how good a friend she is to you. In fact, why don't you ask her to dinner tonight? Now you've caught up, maybe I can join in the conversation. Hell, ask Lennan and Lennier as well. The more the merrier."

    "Now you're just making fun of me. Stop it. I haven't seen Mayan for over two years; we had a lot to talk about."

    "I noticed." He smiled, absently brushing a hand over her hair, smoothing it back as he lay down and propped himself up on one elbow. "I was serious, though, about dinner. I don't really know any of your people, except you; but you know Susan, Marcus, Steven, Garibaldi, Lyta... I'd like to redress the balance slightly, if you don't mind. You don't, do you?"

    "No - actually, I'd like that. It might give me the chance to get to know Lennan a little better. I never really thanked him for his help in saving Babylon Five... in saving our home." He smiled at her use of the plural.

    "That can't be helped. This time you can thank him properly, the way he deserves."

    "No Nightwatch?" She tried to sound light-hearted.

    "No Nightwatch," he confirmed with a reassuring smile. "No Nightwatch ever again. No one's ever gonna hurt you like that again as long as I live." He smiled lovingly as she looked up. The smile disappeared. "Oh, Delenn. Shh, it's okay..."

    Brushing gentle fingers across her tear-stained face, he wiped them away before tucking her head under his chin, murmuring quietly. "It's okay, I'm here; nothing's gonna happen to you." He held her tightly to him, murmuring softly as she wrapped her arms around him, her embrace fierce with emotion. All her fear and hurt and terror came to the surface, pouring out in a torrent as Sheridan cradled her against him, rocking her slowly as he stroked her hair.

    "Shh, it's okay. I promise, I swear on my love for you, on the only thing that matters to me, I'll never let anything happen to you." She listened to his words, hearing his promises as she lay clasped in his embrace. Her tears slowed, and she glanced up at him, anguish shining in her eyes. He hadn't realised.... "Delenn?" He kept his voice quiet. "Why didn't you tell me? I would have understood, I would have listened. I love you. Why won't you trust me?" She took a deep breath, blinking back the moisture in her eyes.

    "I *do* trust you. I trust you with my life, and with my heart." She paused. "I thought I was over this, that I could leave it behind and carry on with our lives. I've had a week to do nothing but think about what happened, and it seemed so long ago. But then you mentioned Lennan, and I remembered." She hid her face, wet with tears again, against in his shoulder. He sighed and shook his head at her.

    "You say 'a week' as if it were a decade, Delenn. You need time to get over the experience. Even if you think you've got over it. Things like that have a knack of rearing their heads just when you finally think they're sorted." He touched her cheek, slipping a finger under her chin and tilting her head up to kiss the tears away. "Must have been pretty traumatic, huh?" She nodded and he gathered her to him, her head under his chin. "My brave, sweet Delenn. You were wonderful, did I tell you that? And considerably braver than I would have been under the circumstances."

    "You're lying." The statement was serious, but her voice held a note of laughter.

    "Me?" he protested in mock innocence, smiling when she finally laughed. "Only about my part. You were - are - the bravest person I've ever seen. Good Lord, they would have killed you and you still weren't afraid!"

    She smiled weakly. "I think if someone is going to kill you, it is better to die angry than afraid." He grinned, making her laugh again with his answer.

    "*I* think, if someone's trying to kill you, it's probably better to get away."

    "That too." She smiled and settled onto the bed, pulling Sheridan down next to her, needing the comfort of his arms. The tears dried slowly, and they lay in each other's arms for a time before Delenn drifted into sleep.

    Looking down at her, Sheridan smiled absently and ran his fingers through her dark, silky hair. They stopped at the crown parting it, halted for a second before he traced the outline of bone ridges, from the centre down to the area where bone and skin joined. She stirred at his touch, sleepily opening her eyes.

    "Mmm. John? How long have I been sleeping?"

    "Not long. It's only early afternoon. Go back to sleep." She shifted, turning in his arms, and brushed her lips across his. He jumped, startled, as her hand ran seductively across his chest and down, resting lightly on his inner thigh as she settled back into position.

    "Damn you, Delenn. Must you always do that?" She opened her eyes again as he lifted her hand away, pulling her closer.

    "What? *Oh*...."

    * * * * *

    Delenn stirred in her lover's arms, opened her eyes and smiled, kissing his shoulder. As she awoke more thoroughly, her kisses became more and more sensual, moving down his chest until he laughed and pulled her warm body near, placing a light, erotic kiss of his own on her skin before tilting her head towards him.

    "Do you never get tired? I've never known anyone as... active... as you." She laughed softly.

    "I'm making up for lost time. You must remember, John, the first time I made love was four days ago. I have a lot of time to catch up on. We have a lot of time to catch up on." She smiled then, amusement tinged with half-serious concern. "Am I tiring you?"

    "No!"

    "Good. In that case..." Her voice lowered, then disappeared altogether as the erotic, sensual kisses returned. He reacted, felt her relax into his arms, then sighed as he spotted the time.

    "Delenn. *Delenn.*" She looked up, frowning slightly as he pointed to the display next to their bed. "We don't have time, not right now. Not unless you want to be here-" he motioned to the bed- "when Lennan arrives?" She shook her head violently. "I didn't think you'd be keen on that idea." He stopped talking as they kissed, then reluctantly backed away. "We really should get up, you know."

    "I know. I also know that you have no intention of doing so." She smiled, sighed. "Are you sure you want to do this? Tell me now, before I have to bother moving." The statement sounded so lazy, so out of character for the Delenn he knew that Sheridan had to force himself not to laugh; a stray smile slipped past his guard and onto his face as he answered.

    "If the alternative's staying here and making love with you? Not really. But it's a little late to back out now." He kissed her again, turning over and rising from the bed. Delenn watched him dress in silence, then followed his example. By the time she left the bedroom he was already preparing dinner. She approached cautiously, having heard stories of his infamous cooking skills. The aroma surprised her, and he turned at her footsteps in time to see it in her face.

    "I thought you'd like it. You haven't had much of a chance to sample Human-style cooking, so I thought now would be the perfect time. Do you mind?"

    "No; you're right, I haven't seen much of Earth culture. Or cuisine, even during my time here. Except for that once, of course." She smiled at the memory, then frowned thoughtfully. "Hmm. That isn't such a bad idea, actually." She laughed at his confusion. "Wait here."

    Sheridan shrugged and turned back to the meal. It was almost finished by the time she returned, having showered and dressed to receive their guests. He was deep in thought over the coming dinner, so much that he barely noticed her presence until she entered the kitchen, slid her arms around his waist and kissed his cheek softly.

    "Back again?" She nodded, smiling as he cleaned up and turned to face her-

    "Wow."

    Her dark hair fell down her back, more tightly curled than usual and held back by an ornate silver clasp on each side. She didn't generally wear jewellery or makeup, but now her eyes sparkled dark blue, there were diamond teardrops in her ears and a matching necklace hung around her throat. The dress itself was quite low cut; not as far as many, but still definitely sexy. It was black - a colour that suited her - and tinged with silver, shimmering as she twirled in a slow circle. The sleeves were a different fabric - not silk, like the rest of the dress, but more like silver chiffon. The skirt was long, ankle length, but slit on one side up to the hip. It was fitted, showing off her figure and flattering - well, there wasn't any of her that *needed* flattering, but it did the job anyway. Light silver shoes finished the outfit, sparkling as she walked.

    "Wow," he murmured again. There really wasn't much else to say.

    "I assume that means you like it." Delenn's voice was filled with laughter at his stunned reaction, and she waited patiently for his answer as he tried to recover.

    "Um, yeah." He mentally shook himself. "I mean, yes, it's beautiful. It almost does you justice." Regaining his wits, he smiled. "You look wonderful. It's very attractive." He grinned suddenly, remembering. He'd said those words before. "No turning heads tonight, though, okay?" She nodded, eagerly coming back into his open arms with a smile.

    "I promise. Only yours tonight, no one else."

    "Oh, I think we can stretch to a few more. Imagine what Marcus will say when he sees you! Or Lennan, for that matter. Not to mention Lennier-"

    "Oh, yes, I forgot." She shrugged. "Well, it will be a - what's the phrase?"

    "An eye-opener?" He grinned in mischief. "It certainly will." Holding her against him, he leaned down and whispered in her ear: "How do you do this? Just when I think you can't get any more gorgeous, you go and prove me wrong." He moved to kiss her, lips barely apart from her own when the door sounded. Sheridan let out a small sigh and started to move back - only to find Delenn's hand behind his head, her mouth on his in a fiery, passionate kiss. Finally backing away, she flashed a smile; the gleam in her eyes told him that was only a taster for what would come later, and he eagerly came to stand by her. She looked up at him with complete, undisguised adoration once more, before smoothing her dress and facing the door just as it buzzed for a third time.

    "Yes, enter." The entrance opened, revealing Marcus and Mayan. She greeted them with a small bow, returned quickly from Marcus. Seeing the realisation hit him as he began to raise his head, Delenn couldn't help a small, satisfied smile. The Ranger's eyes widened considerably as he faced her, trying to hide his reaction. Ivanova nonchalantly walked past him into the room, reached out one hand and pushed his jaw upwards.

    "Close your mouth," she grinned. "Although you do look great tonight." She turned the grin on Delenn. The Ambassador smiled demurely and gave a slight bow.

    "Thank you, Susan. I'm glad you think so. Please, sit." Delenn motioned to the couch as she lowered herself into a chair. They followed her instruction as Sheridan came towards the couch with a drinks tray. Marcus glanced up at him, thanked him politely for the Minbari beverage, then turned back to Delenn.

    "I hope you don't mind my asking Susan along, Ambassador-"

    "Marcus, I'm on vacation; please, call me Delenn. And no, I don't mind at all."

    "The more the merrier," Sheridan agreed with a smile. "Does anyone know when Lennan's arriving? Food's nearly ready-" He was interrupted by the door chime, and the guests already present rose to greet the Minbari Captain. Lennan had arrived with Lennier, and another Minbari whom Sheridan didn't recognise.

    "Captain, Ambassador. May I present Shai Alyt Lennan, and his second, Alyt Kerien." Lennier spoke in a crisp, almost subdued tone that made Sheridan badly want to apologise. *For what? Being happy? Yeah, I'm sorry for falling in love with the most wonderful woman in the universe.* He sighed inwardly. *It's a shame, though.* He felt Delenn's hand on his arm as she introduced the group to Lennan and Kerien; Lennier quietly slipped away to pour drinks for the newcomers, he noted with a twinge of remorse. *Poor guy.* As they made their way to the dining table, Delenn linked her arm with his, her soft voice near his ear.

    "Are you alright? You seem a little distracted." She kept the comment quiet, glancing up at his face.

    "Fine," he raised his voice slightly. "You gonna give me a hand out here?" Motioning in the general direction of the kitchenette, he excused them and led her away. In relative safety now, he turned and faced her, took her by the shoulders as she looked up at him, concern filling her eyes.

    "You're not, are you? I don't like it when you lie to me, John. What's wrong?" He let out a slow sigh, tilting his gaze toward the floor.

    "I'm alright, really. But-" he stopped, unsure of how to broach the subject. Finally he sighed heavily and spoke. "I don't know if this was such a good idea. To bring everyone here. It just... seems like we're showing off, to tell you the truth."

    She smiled gently. "I'm glad you're telling me the truth now." Her expression sobered, and she stroked his cheek softly. "We aren't 'showing off', as you put it. I'm proud of you-"

    "I know!" He lowered his voice again, suddenly self-conscious. "I know. And I'm just as proud of you, of us. Don't ever think for a second I'm not. Not for a moment." He sighed again, burying his face in her hair as he pulled her close. "I couldn't wish for a better lover, or a more wonderful soulmate. It just feels like... like I'm flaunting it, that's all. It's making me... uncomfortable." Delenn moved back to look at him, frowning slightly.

    "You mean Lennier."

    "What?" He tried to cover his relief as she found the real reason.

    "Lennier." She smiled fondly. "'It' isn't making you uncomfortable, Lennier is. You feel as if you're- 'rubbing it in', I think is the phrase. Flaunting me, not this 'it'."

    Sheridan let out a defeated sigh, nodding admission.

    "You're right. It's stupid-"

    "No!" She took his face in her hands, brought his gaze to meet hers. "No, not at all. It's very sweet of you to be so considerate." Her kiss was light, quick, before she turned away and lifted a tray of his cooking. "But Lennier is quite capable of withstanding a simple meal, I'm sure. If we don't do anything... impolite." He crossed the kitchen to help, nodding in agreement.

    "I promise not to do anything impolite during dinner. At least, not until everyone else has gone..." He left the invitation open, and she smiled, brushing against him as he picked up the remaining tray.

    "*When* everyone else has left, and *when* everything has been cleared away, *if* we aren't completely worn out by the end of the night," she glanced back over her shoulder, "*then* you may do as many impolite things as you wish." She turned and entered the dining area, a smile still on her lips.

    * * * * *

    "That was a wonderful meal, Captain Sheridan. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience your Human cuisine." Lennan smiled in gratitude. He was seated on the low couch, Kerien at one side and Mayan on the other. Ivanova took one chair, with Marcus perched on the arm - *guarding her,* Sheridan thought absently with a smile. He sat in an almost identical position on the other chair, Delenn sitting gracefully beside him. Lennier stood to one side of Mayan, having refused repeated offers of a chair. Each held a glass; all non-alcoholic in courtesy to their guests - and convenience - (considering what he planned to do with Delenn when their guests left, Sheridan had thought it wise not to risk drinking any).

    "My pleasure, Shai Alyt. I'm glad you liked it." Sheridan smiled as the room's occupants joined in a chorus of assent. Delenn glanced up at him, sadness flitting across her beautiful face as he caught her gaze. Sad that they couldn't touch, hold, kiss.... She found herself wishing Lennier hadn't come. *I am sorry, my friend. I don't want to hurt you, but I love him so much.... Oh, Valen, what am I going to do?* Buried in her thoughts, she hardly noticed the conversation until Lennan rose and bade them farewell, Kerien and Mayan a few paces behind him. Marcus started to rise, about to follow Mayan out when Lennier shook his head, blocking his path.

    "No, Marcus, you do not have to leave. I will escort Mayan safely to her cabin. I can see you are... comfortable... here. Good night. Commander, Captain." He nodded to each in turn, presenting them with a small bow. As he turned to the door; "Good night, Delenn."

    "Good night, Lennier." She returned the farewell, and the bow, rising from her chair to deliver it. The door slid shut behind their departing guests, and Delenn sank down into her lover's embrace. Marcus commandeered the couch, smiling at the picture they made. There was nothing graceful about Delenn now; Sheridan was seated normally in the chair, arms encircling her waist as she curled into his chest. Her head rested lightly on his shoulder, dark curls obscuring her face. Sheridan gently brushed them back over her shoulder with a fond smile, inclined his head and placed a soft kiss on her hair, oblivious to his exec and her admirer.

    "Um, Captain? Would you like us to go?" Ivanova sounded more than a little unsure, and he shook his head reassuringly.

    "No, Susan, it's alright. That is, if you don't mind...?" he lifted a hand slightly in explanation, gesturing to Delenn.

    "Oh, no, it's fine, really. You must be tired. Another drink?" she offered, rising to pour for herself and Marcus. Sheridan held out his glass, turning to stroke Delenn's hair tenderly as Susan's attention was diverted. He tilted his head towards her, keeping his voice low.

    "You okay? I'm sure Marcus and Susan won't mind leaving, if..." He trailed off as she shook her head violently. "Okay, okay. You are alright though, hmm?"

    "Fine. Just tired, that's all." She paused. "Do you want the truth?"

    "It's always preferable. Why?" The concern returned to his voice as she sighed softly and looked up.

    "I'm glad he's gone. I don't want to be... but I am." She slipped her arms around Sheridan's neck, letting out a sigh. "I think you were right: this wasn't a good idea. Not at all. I hope he's all right..." Her voice trailed off as Ivanova handed them both a glass. "Thank you."

    "No problem."

    "And no alcohol, either," Marcus added with a grin. Ivanova frowned tiredly at him, shaking her head in despair as she sat on the edge of the couch. He shifted slightly, using the retrieval of his glass as an excuse to get nearer to her. Delenn couldn't help a small smile; Marcus could be so obvious at times - almost as much as Lennier...

    "He'll be fine," John's soft voice murmured in her ear. "Stop worrying. It'll work itself out." She nodded, forcing a smile that became real as his fingers brushed across her temple. She tried not to react; it didn't work. Susan glanced at her, smiled knowingly and rose, placing both glasses - suddenly empty - on the table. Sheridan opened his mouth to insist they stay, but Marcus was already at the open door and Susan cut him off before he could speak.

    "We'll leave you two alone. You deserve it after the effort you put into tonight." Her expression was teasing. "Enjoy the rest of your vacation. We'll see you when you return to the 'real world'; you know, the one where you have to work every day?" She flashed a quick smile to show she wasn't serious before wishing them both good night and disappearing through the open door. Marcus bowed toward the two of them, unmoving on the chair, and followed her out with a quiet 'good night' of his own.

    The door slid shut, and Delenn smiled contentedly, snuggling closer to her lover as he ran a finger down her side, lightly tracing the curve of her hips. Her dress parted there, revealing long, smooth legs; she murmured softly as he brushed his fingers lazily further down, making her shiver and pull nearer.

    "Mmm... John..."

    "Hmm? You like that?" Too tired to give a vocal reply, she burrowed into his chest; her own hands slipped inside his jacket and around his waist in answer. He shifted slightly to make more room for her on the chair, a satisfied smile on his face. "I thought you might." His arm went around her legs, hugging her body tightly against his. Delenn stirred in his embrace, settling back down as he caressed her hair with one hand.

    "Mm... this is nice. I haven't felt this relaxed in... oh, it must be years. It's wonderful." She raised her head to look him in the eyes, smiling widely. "Thank you."

    "My pleasure." He returned the smile. "I know what you mean. I haven't just sat and relaxed for... well, years, like you said." He laughed quietly. "Steven's gonna be pleased," he explained at her confusion. "We must be good for each other." Now Delenn laughed as well.

    "I could have told you that." She smiled fondly. "I love you."

    "I know." He kissed her softly. "I love you too, Delenn."

    "Mmm.. good." She lowered her head onto his shoulder again. "If we sleep here, it's going to be very uncomfortable in the morning, isn't it?"

    He nodded, settling into the cushions.

    She shrugged slightly and closed her eyes. "Good night."

    Sheridan smiled, tilted his head to rest lightly on hers.

    "Good night, Delenn."

   

    THURSDAY :

    "Delenn... Delenn, are you awake yet?" His voice penetrated her dreams, reaching for her. Reluctantly, she abandoned the blissful oblivion of sleep and opened her eyes.

    "I am now. What time is it?"

    "Nine thirty. I'm sorry if I woke you. Did you sleep well?" He winced as cramp began to suffuse through the remainder of sleep. "Did you sleep okay is probably a better question." She moved slowly, testing her body's responses - and cried out involuntarily as the stiffness in her shoulder returned.

    "What is it? Oh." She forced back the pain as John lifted her carefully, guiding her up. "Here, let me help." She shook her head at his offer.

    "No, it's all right, really. It's nothing-" she broke off suddenly on trying to stand alone, as pain flowed through her healing injuries. He caught her quickly, steadied her in his arms.

    "Come here. Let me take a look at that." He led her to the couch, gently lowering her down. "Wait here; I won't take a minute." He disappeared, moving a little slower than usual even as he returned. "I remember you promising not to be so painful. That didn't last long." He smiled good-naturedly, afraid for a moment she might take him seriously. Sinking gingerly onto the couch behind her, he shook his head as she started to turn.

    "No, stay there; just move back a little." His arms went around her waist, leading her back until she was almost leaning on him. "That's it." He grinned at her suddenly curious, almost worried expression; leant forward and kissed her gently. "I won't hurt you, don't worry. This'll help, promise." Delenn nodded and turned around again, curiosity undimmed, but allayed for a few moments. She smiled absently as he unfastened her dress, slid it down over her shoulders-

    "Ouch!" She yelped in pain as he touched the injury. "I thought you said this wouldn't hurt!"

    "It won't, honestly. Close your eyes." She turned back to him, a dubious expression on her face. He smiled reassuringly. "Promise. Now turn around, and close your eyes." Shaking her head, she dutifully obeyed, focusing on his voice in an effort to lock out the discomfort. His tone was soft, gentle, almost musical as he brushed her hair forward over her good shoulder. "Just relax, let go... that's it. Listen to me, okay? Ignore the pain: it'll be gone soon, promise. Just concentrate on my voice. Now, breath normally and relax." He released her, talking all the time as he examined her shoulder. It wasn't badly swollen, but enough to cause a lot of discomfort. "I'm not here, okay? Just my voice, nothing else... focus on that." He gingerly touched the stiff joint, moving back as she flinched in pain. "Right, let's try something else... um, okay.." He reached forward and took her hand, surprised to find it clenched tightly into a fist. "Does it hurt that much? Maybe we should get Steven to do this..."

    "No! No, it's all right. It's just a little stiff. I'll be fine."

    Sheridan sighed heavily. "You've said that before, and look where it got you. Delenn, the longer you leave this untreated, the worse it's going to get. You know that, don't you?" She turned her head as far as pain would allow to look at him.

    "Yes, Doctor Sheridan." She managed sarcasm very well, he thought absently. "Stop worrying about me. It doesn't hurt that much - *Hell!* What did you do that for?!" She screamed as he placed one hand firmly on her injured shoulder. He gave her a small, irritated glare, raising his eyebrows in question.

    "I thought Minbari didn't lie? Or are you just being.. stubborn..." he trailed off, eyes narrowing a little. "What did you say?"

    "What did I say when? Just now?" He nodded slowly. "I - I don't know, I just, um.... I don't know. What did I say? Is it important?" She was frowning now, in confusion.

    "That depends. Do you swear at people very often?" At her look of incomprehension, he grinned again; this time in triumph. "I finally got through, huh? I knew you wouldn't hold out playing the innocent Ambassador forever." Now she was confused, and getting more annoyed by the second as he dragged out the conversation.

    "I knew it. I knew I'd corrupt you eventually... it didn't take as long as I thought, though. Have you been studying? You must be a fast learner. Or very impatient." He shook his head as she asked again. "Oh, no. I'm not telling you that easily. You'll have to work for it now." He grinned, knowing he was provoking her, that sooner or later her temper would flare. That, as before, happened sooner than expected. She turned to glare at him, eyes flashing.

    "What did I say? What? Tell me, damn you!" She halted as soon as she heard her own voice, although it took a moment to process her words. Her expression, a mixture of surprise and bewilderment, looked so lost that Sheridan gently pulled her back into the reassurance of his embrace. There was no anger in her voice now as she tried to speak, only confusion.

    "What.. why did I say that? I didn't even think, I just..." She frowned in realisation. "You provoked me! You did that on purpose!" She pulled away to stare at him as he freely agreed.

    "Yes, I did. I wasn't going to tell you! I mean, you don't tell someone they just swore-"

    "Not even me?" She seemed annoyed by that. He smiled gently and stroked her cheek.

    "Especially not you, love. Lennier would throw a fit! I can't imagine what he'd have to say if he'd heard you just now." He grinned, considering the idea. "Actually, I can, but it's not pretty. For either of us." She smiled, still shaking her head in disbelief. She started to turn completely around and then stopped, momentarily tightening her grip on his hand. Sheridan moved to stop her, slowly but firmly turning her back.

    "Where do you think you're going? I'm going to take care of that shoulder, whether you like it or not. Your little... outburst..." she blushed slightly, "is not going to distract me. Turn around, close your eyes and *relax,* for God's sake. Or Valen's, whichever you want to use." She smiled, acknowledging the humour now.

    "I'll stay with Valen for now, if you don't mind."

    "Not at all. Just say whatever comes naturally." He took her hand again, twining his fingers with hers. "Relax. I'm not going to do anything yet, so it won't hurt. Just sit there, close your eyes and forget about everything for a while. Yes, everything," he answered the unspoken question with a small smile. "You can remember again later, don't worry. Just listen to me for now. Nothing else is here, nothing else has ever been here...." his voice took on the same calming tone as before, and Delenn let herself forget, immerse herself in those words; that hypnotic, soothing voice. This time when he placed his free hand on her shoulder, she didn't realise he was touching her until the pressure increased and his other hand slipped from her grasp. She cried out softly as he tightened his grip, forcing her to stay where she was although her body ignored him, trying to pull away.

    "John, please, you're hurting me. Please, let go!" She was begging now, pleading for him to stop as hot tears ran down her face. He released her quickly, taking her hand again with his own as the other tenderly stroked her hair.

    "Shh... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. I would never do that." He brushed her cheek, closing his eyes in regret for the tears he found there. "Oh, God, I didn't realise it hurt that much. Delenn? You're not mad at me, are you? I'm really sorry. I love you; I'd never do anything to hurt you." He paused. "You are still talking to me, aren't you?" She smiled weakly as he came to sit in front of her, concern - and fear - etched on his features.

    "Of course I'm still talking to you. I love you too, you know." She smiled weakly as he wiped away the tears. "I know you only want to help; I'm sorry I keep doing this, but I can't help it. It does hurt a lot."

    "Really? And I thought you just hated me touching you," he replied sarcastically, sobering as he glanced at the injury. "You have two choices; we can go and see Steven, or I give you a painkiller and try again. You still have to see Steven, by the way. That shoulder should get proper treatment." He raised his eyebrows. "What do you want to do?"

    "Try again. I'm curious; I still don't know what it is you're trying to do." She smiled weakly. "Unless it's going to hurt like that again. If it will, take me to MedLab now."

    He laughed. "I'll get you a painkiller for that. Stay here." He left for the kitchen, returning minutes later with a glass of water and two tablets. Delenn frowned uncertainly, debating whether to take the medication he offered. It was very tempting, but...

    Sensing her indecision, Sheridan placed the glass in her hand. "It's okay, I checked. They won't do you any harm. Quite effective, actually; one of the few that do work on Minbari."

    "And you just happen to have some here. How convenient." She smiled innocently at his stare. "What? I didn't say anything." He watched as she gratefully took the tablets from his hand, swallowed them without a second thought and placed the glass on the table, half empty.

    "How long do we have to wait? Do they take long to work?" He shook his head, offering open arms to her. She gingerly leaned back against him, wincing in pain as his shoulder touched hers.

    "Good. This hurts - oh, Valen, I wish it wasn't so painful. It wasn't this bad yesterday, I know."

    "We shouldn't have slept out here last night," Sheridan reminded her. "That probably aggravated the injury... and we have been doing a lot of, um, activity lately." She laughed softly, biting her lip to keep from crying out again as the movement swept through her shoulder.

    "Keep still; it might make it easier," he suggested. Delenn shot him a dirty look.

    "That's what I'm trying to do. It isn't that simple." He sighed.

    "I know. Sorry. I don't like seeing you in pain, that's all."

    She smiled at his concern. "I can't say I like being in pain either, but I don't see what to do about it - short of taking large amounts of painkillers, which I doubt Steven would approve of."

    "Actually, there is something else. Can you sit up yet?" At her agreement, Sheridan eased her forward until she sat in front of him again, facing the opposite end of the couch. "We're going to try this again, okay? But I need both hands, so you'll have to concentrate on something else." He paused thoughtfully for a second, then grinned mischievously. "Can you sing?"

    "What?" Delenn turned slightly, laughter in her tone. "Are you serious?"

    "Mmhmm. Don't tell me you're shy. Can you sing, or not?"

    "Well, yes, I suppose so. A little." She shook her head, laughing. "You're mad. Why, do you want me to now?" He grinned again in answer. "John, this is silly. What do you want me to sing for? And what am I supposed to sing?"

    "Oh, I don't know, anything. Come on, no one else is going to hear. Just for me, hmm?" Delenn sighed, giving in at the sight of his mock-pleading expression.

    "All right. Give me a minute to think of something." She frowned, nearly serious. "You haven't got a recorder hidden somewhere, have you?"

    "No!" He tried to look offended. "How could you think that? I'm just trying to help - if you'd rather I didn't..."

    "Of course I want you to. Just a passing thought. Never mind."

    "Good. Are you going to sing something now?"

    She took a deep breath, let it out again. "Are you sure it should be me? I mean, if you want me to really relax, you should be the one talking. Or singing, in this case." He was silent for a moment, then laughed.

    "You've got me there. Okay, we'll compromise." He rose from the couch and headed for the sound system. "Let's let someone else embarrass themselves, shall we?" He smiled warmly, seated behind her again when the music started. It was a slow, romantic song, and the touch of John's hands on her skin only added to the effect. Delenn closed her eyes, listening contentedly. There was something hypnotic about this music; her breathing slowed, and the tense muscles in her shoulder loosened slightly. Sheridan smiled in satisfaction as she relaxed; brushed his fingertips over the injury, testing her response. She flinched for a second, then settled again as he began to whisper softly.

    "It's okay, just relax; listen to the music. Close your eyes; empty your mind, like when you meditate. I know you can, I've seen you do it. Do that now... pretend you're meditating, but listen to the music, listen to me. I'll keep talking, just listen..." His voice was soothing in her ear; she relaxed completely, barely noticing when he brushed her hair out of the way again and ran his fingers across her shoulder. It was healing, but still swollen and the joint was obviously stiff. He tested her again, pressing more firmly this time - she recoiled involuntarily, forcing herself to relax again almost immediately as he moved away. She quieted, and his touch came back again; lighter this time, less painful. Expert hands ran across her skin, a gentle, steady rhythm almost in time with the music. For a second she opened her eyes in concern, the reassuring tone of his voice gone.

    "John..." she was whispering, unable to make her voice any louder as his touch continued. "John, talk to me... why have you stopped talking?"

    "Shh..." he placed a finger on her lips, brushed a hand over her face reassuringly. "I'm still here... I just ran out of things to talk about."

    "Sing."

    He chuckled softly. "Okay. You just listen now, hmm?" She miled and nodded, closing her eyes again as his soft, soothing voice filled her ears.

    He smiled; he'd deliberately chosen a song he knew, anticipating her request. Delenn seemed to like his singing; she made no indication otherwise, so he continued in duet with the sound system while his hands massaged her shoulder. He felt the muscles loosen under his fingers, smiling absently at the visible reaction. He stopped for a moment, lowering her onto the floor to get a reasonable amount of support behind her. Delenn sat cross-legged in front of the couch, leaning back against the pillow he slid behind her head. Her lover shifted until he sat above her; the couch was quite low, and he reached her without any effort to continue the massage.

    John's voice was strangely entrancing, even more so than the original music as she listened. He was a surprisingly good singer, she thought idly. Surprisingly, the pain was gone, dulled by the tablets while his strong hands took away the rest. Smiling, Delenn tilted her head back to rest on his leg, curled in front of him on the couch.

    "John?"

    "Hmm. Something wrong?" He sounded concerned, leaning down until he could see her face clearly.

    "No, no. That's wonderful." She turned as he tapped her shoulder lightly.

    "All finished. I'm glad it helped." He reached down, pulled her up onto his lap. "Feeling better now?" Delenn nodded as she settled into his embrace, arranging his arms around her until they enclosed her completely.

    "It doesn't hurt at all. Where did you learn to do that?"

    "Something my mother used to do, whenever one of us injured ourselves. Which happened a lot, let me tell you." He smiled at the memory. "We were very active kids, especially once we discovered the magic of trees." Delenn turned to look at him, puzzled.

    "Trees?"

    "Mmhmm. See, back on Earth we lived in a city, so the only place we - Lizzie and I - could go out of school was the Park. It's kind of like the Garden here, but much bigger. Lots of grass, lakes... and trees. *Lots* of trees. Anyway, we'd go there after school and just hang around. But the only thing to do was climb trees, so we got quite proficient at it; not at first, of course, it took a while; so every day for months at least one of us would go home with an injury of some kind - pulled muscles generally, which is how I learnt to massage so well." He laughed. "See, when I started at the academy, I couldn't afford to go home all the time when I sprained something - so I had to learn myself." Delenn smiled, understanding.

    "I don't know very much about your family, or Earth. I keep reminding myself to do some research, but somehow I never get the time."

    "You want me to tell you?" She nodded eagerly, settling more comfortably against his shoulder. "Okay. But there's a condition."

    She frowned slightly. "What?"

    "You tell me about Minbar. I know even less about your culture, and your family. Deal?"

    "Deal." She smiled, echoing his words. "Just don't ask me to give away any government secrets." He grinned mischievously.

    "That's the whole idea!" He laughed, kissed her hair to show he wasn't serious. "No, whatever you want to say is fine." He closed his eyes, tilted his head against the couch and started to speak. "What do you want to know?"

    "Anything. Everything. I've never been to Earth; I don't know very much about it."

    Sheridan smiled fondly, taking her hand in one of his as he ran his fingers through her hair. "I'll take you there one day. I don't know how, or when, but I will. Promise. You'll like it. Some of the places... I can't describe them; you really need to be there." He paused thoughtfully. "I could get some pictures; there must be vids of Earth in the computer somewhere..." He started to move, but Delenn shook her head, pushing him back.

    "No, it's all right. We can do that later; there's plenty of time. Tell me about your family instead. I've never met anyone from your past other than Susan."

    "Yes you have. Remember Jack Maynard? The Cortez?" She hesitated, then nodded slowly.

    "That was only very briefly. And it seems so long ago... I barely remember him at all." She lowered her head in embarrassment. "I know that's a terrible thing to say; you're good friends, aren't you?" He nodded, leaning over to kiss her cheek.

    "Don't worry; you only met for a minute or two - you can't be expected to remember." He laughed suddenly at the memory of her meeting with Jack. "I bet he remembers you, though."

    "Oh? Why?" Curious, Delenn turned until she lay almost on top of him, stretched out along the length of the couch. She rested her hands lightly on his chest, her emerald gaze meeting easily with his. Half affectionately and half in reply to her question, Sheridan reached around her head to trace the line of her crown where it met her hair. He raised his eyebrows at her puzzled expression, waiting patiently for the explanation to register. The realisation was obvious in her face; her eyes widened and she smiled suddenly, laughing.

    "Oh, I understand. It wasn't long after my... change, was it?" Her eyes sparkled at the idea. "You obviously remember. Was he very surprised?"

    "A little... disconcerted. I remember him asking about you when you left. God, I wish he could see this! Sheridan Starkiller and the Minbari Ambassador..." He shook his head in amazement. "This has to be the strangest match in history." Delenn suddenly caught his hands, clasping them tightly in her own with a force that shocked him.

    "You are *not* Starkiller. *Never.* Don't ever use that term again. I hate it!" Anger flashed in her eyes; Sheridan recoiled, stunned.

    "I'm sorry! I didn't realise... I'm sorry-"

    Delenn looked down, suddenly apologetic.

    "No, it's all right. I overreacted..." She shook her head slowly and sank back against him, the fury gone as quick as it had arrived. Sheridan guided her head onto his shoulder, smoothing her hair and running light fingers across her crown.

    "I really am sorry. I forget sometimes... I get so used to people saying it, it doesn't bother me that much any more." He squeezed her hand, eager to comfort her. "I promise not to mention it again, okay?" Delenn nodded against his chest, encircling his shoulders as his own arms went around her.

    "I love you, and I know you. And the John Sheridan I know isn't the Starkiller my people say he is." He smiled at that, touched by her certainty.

    "Thank you; that means a lot, especially from you. I love you, Delenn. You're beautiful, intelligent, loving...." he paused, chuckling slightly. "Everything *my* people say the Minbari aren't." He paused as she lifted her head, green eyes searching for the truth in his words - and finding it. "I guess that shows how much our people really know about each other. We don't seem to have learnt a lot in the past decade."

    "Then perhaps we should start learning."

    He had to laugh; she made the statement with such an earnest expression on her face. Delenn frowned.

    "What are you laughing at? Did I say something amusing?"

    "No, no, not really." He shook his head. "It's just... you looked so innocent when you said that, and I happen to know that's the last thing you are." Delenn saw the gleam in his eyes, smiling back at him as he drew her face nearer.

    "That's your fault, you know," she murmured with a mock-serious tone. "You have a bad influence on me...." her lips brushed his as she spoke, her voice fading as he covered her mouth with his. Without breaking the kiss, Sheridan lifted his lover from the couch and carried her into their bedroom; laid her on the bed and dropped down next to her. Finally moving away, Delenn slid her arms around his neck, brushing lazy fingers through his hair as she pulled him close. Sheridan grinned wolfishly, responding to her touch.

    "I thought you said I was a bad influence...."

    Delenn smiled, seductive, pulled his mouth to hers as she answered.

    "I did. I don't remember saying anything about not wanting to be influenced, however. Did I?"

    "Nope. Not a word-"

    "Fine, then. Now we've ended that little dispute, would you be kind enough to shut up and kiss me? I really don't see the point in lying here and talking when there are much better things to be doing." Sheridan laughed, shook his head and kissed her; soft, warm and sensual as she willingly reacted. He drew back for a second, a mischievous grin spread across his features.

    "Sure you don't wanna talk? I never did get around to telling you about-" Delenn cut him off with a passionate kiss. Her eyes darkened with intense attraction, almost as ebony as her hair, brushing his shoulders as she moved to lie on top of him, held him against the bed and leaned in close to whisper - just before they sank into another kiss - "It can wait."

    And for the rest of the day, it did.

   

    FRIDAY :

    "So? Is she a good kisser?" Garibaldi leaned forward, a conspiratorial grin on his face. "Come on, I gotta have *something* to tell Ivanova. You know how mad she gets. She'll kill me if I don't find out anything!" Desperation coloured his expression, but the captain simply shook his head in mock sympathy.

    "Sorry, Michael. Delenn would kill *me*, and I know whose death I'd prefer. And which method." Garibaldi threw his hands up in exasperation, falling back against the couch.

    "Typical. You've only been together for three days, and she's already got control over you." Sheridan laughed.

    "You have to admit, she's a pretty formidable enemy. Do you blame me for not wanting to upset the woman who could have my station blown apart by three fleets at once?" He sighed at Garibaldi's face. "Come on, Michael, don't do this to me." The other man continued to stare, not speaking a word. Finally, Sheridan scowled and leaned back. "Oh, alright. If you must know, Delenn's a damn good kisser." He smiled slightly at the thought, then forced back the scowl as Garibaldi raised his eyebrows. "There, I've told you something. Are you happy now? Is that enough to report?"

    "Depends. You wanna tell me anything else?"

    "No, he does not." Delenn put her hands on her lover's shoulders and frowned, half serious. "Must everyone hear about our personal life? It is after all personal, or did I get the translation wrong again?" Sheridan grinned sheepishly, ignored her question and tilted his head to kiss her hand.

    "Hi, sweetheart." Delenn removed her hands, coming to sit beside him as he pulled her close and moved to kiss her. She avoided the kiss easily, a hand on his lips.

    "You won't get away with it that easily. When will you stop embarrassing me?" She glared half-heartedly at him. "Oh, John, don't look at me like that. How am I supposed to be angry with you now?" He gave her a boyish smile.

    "That's the idea. You see, Michael," -he glanced at his friend- "the control works both ways." As Delenn glared warningly at him again, he held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, but I lose on authority." She smiled in satisfaction, rising from the couch. Sheridan caught her hand, frowning with confusion. "Hey, what'd I say now?"

    She laughed. "Nothing! I'm only going to make a drink. Would you like something?" She directed the question at Garibaldi, who shook his head and followed her off the couch.

    "Nah, I should be going. Wouldn't do for the Head of Security to enjoy himself too much, now would it? Not when his Captain's giving himself such a hard time, oh no." He continued to mutter as the door opened.

    "Goodbye, Michael!" Sheridan called out, laughing. The Chief waved a hand back without turning around, still mumbling as the door slid shut. Grinning, Sheridan shook his head at his friend. He barely had time to sit back before Delenn settled down beside him, drink in hand. He smiled at her choice.

    "You like that, don't you?" She smiled thoughtfully and took a sip of the hot chocolate, ignoring his comment.

    "Do you really like the way I kiss you?" The question held such innocence that Sheridan couldn't help laughing, and she looked up at him with confusion in her eyes. Closing his arms around her, he smiled.

    "Of course I do! I've never known anyone as passionate as you, Delenn." He paused, considering the matter. "I don't think I'd want to. Presuming there is anyone more passionate, or more beautiful, than you. I very much doubt it."

    "Honestly?"

    The boyish smile returned and he leaned closer, his voice low. "If you don't believe me, let me show you how beautiful I think you are." Delenn put her drink down carefully on the coffee table and turned towards him, smiling.

    "I think I know. Not that I wouldn't like to make sure..." He felt her hands behind his head, warm from the steaming cup, as she drew his face toward her own. Instinctively he ran his hands down her back, wrapped his arms around her waist. They kissed tenderly, and when they moved apart, Sheridan opened his eyes to find her watching him, a fond smile on her lips.

    "I love you," she murmured softly. "I love you so much, John. I-"

    "Shh," he placed a hand lightly over her mouth, tenderly stroking her face with the other. "You don't have to keep saying it, Delenn. I know. Every time you look at me, I can see it in your eyes." She smiled, and as if to let Sheridan see her love for him, lifted her gaze. Dark hair fell across her shoulder and he gently pushed it back, tilting her head up to get a good look at her. *She really is beautiful. If only I'd realised that sooner.* Leaning in to kiss her, he shook his head in wonder.

    "You really are far too gorgeous, you know. It's unfair." She laughed softly again.

    "Why? Are you jealous of me?" She sat up and looked squarely at him, her gaze running down his frame just as her hands did. Finally, she glanced up. "Don't be. In my opinion, you have nothing to worry about." He smiled.

    "Well, seeing that yours is the only one that matters, I guess I don't." He kissed her gently. "I was just thinking... I wish I'd realised how beautiful you are before now. It would've saved a lot of time."

    "You mean you didn't notice? I'm hurt," Delenn teased. Now he grinned, the retort already on his lips.

    "Actually, I did. I didn't want to admit it, that was all. I mean, your people and mine haven't had the best of relations, and frankly I was a little scared. God, I was petrified!" He looked seriously into her eyes, making her see his admission was genuine. "I never felt this way about anyone. The moment you stepped into the Council Chambers, the first week I was here, it was like..." He searched for a word. "Magic. That's as near as words come to how you make me feel. You stole my heart, Delenn, and I will never, ever be the same without you." Looking down at her, there were tears in her eyes - but she was smiling; that soft smile that had melted his heart almost two years ago.

    "I... I don't know what I should say now. What is there left?" Her eyes followed him as he rose and hurried to a cabinet on the other side of the room. Turning back, he smiled warmly.

    "'Yes' might be something along the right lines." She frowned, confusion in her features.

    "Yes? Yes to what? You haven't asked me anything..." Her voice faded as he knelt in front of her and took her hand, kissing it gently the way he had done when she arrived back on station a few weeks earlier. His eyes never left hers, and as he reached up to touch her face he started to speak.

    "I love you." He touched her lips with a finger as she returned the pledge. "No, let me say this, or it'll be another two years before I get the courage again." She smiled and nodded. "Delenn, I meant what I said. Back then... I couldn't say anything - I wanted to, Christ, I wanted to, but everything just got in the way... but when you were hurt, when I held you, all I wanted to do was go back and tell you I loved you, to make sure you knew that, in case...." He stopped, closing his eyes for a long moment. "I wanted to live the last two years over again and spend them with you, to make it worth you... dying.... for me. I didn't know whether you'd live or not, and it frightened me." He shook his head. "Nothing ever frightens me. Not like that. You're so special, so dear to me; I guess I always knew that, I just never admitted it. I didn't want you to.. die.. without knowing how much I cared about you. How much I still care about you. It took so long to hope that you might feel the same way, and then when I thought I'd never know... I don't ever want to feel that helpless again. That's why I want to ask..." He took a slow, deep breath before continuing.

    "Listen, I know it's a little sudden and everything, but you have to know I've never loved anyone the way I love you. The past week... it's been like a dream. I never imagined.... Maybe I'm crazy, asking this early on. Who knows? Who in hell cares?"

    She was smiling, comprehension spread over her face. Still, she waited patiently for him to finish, and as he looked into her eyes, he opened his hand. Inside sat a small, polished wood box. The hinge opened stiffly, and he glanced inside before speaking again.

    "I know it might be too soon, and I'll understand; but I want you to know how precious you are to me, and there's only one way I can think of telling you." He turned the box towards her, placing it in her hand. The wood felt almost soft to the touch, light glinting across its surface. Within the scarlet, velvet cushion inside - Delenn reached in and gently pulled the ring free, holding it up to the light. A delicate silver braid shone brightly, obviously not new but beautiful nonetheless. Nestled in its centre sat a cut diamond, surrounded by black onyx and amethyst in an intricate pattern. The smaller gems caught the soft lighting above, angling it into the diamond and creating a ring of black and violet reflections.

    "It's beautiful." Delenn's voice was quiet, barely a whisper.

    "It was the only thing I could find that came close to you." She smiled at that. "It belonged to someone in my family.. a relation of my mother's, I think. Lord knows why they left it to me. I always wondered what I'd do with it." He laughed at the irony. "Maybe they were a little more foresighted than me." He gently took the ring from her, taking her left hand in his and moving until he knelt on one knee in front of her. "Delenn... God, I didn't think I'd get so nervous-"

    "Would knowing my answer help?" She smiled fondly as he shook his head.

    "I'm going to at least ask the question, now I've got this far. Why did you let me talk for so long? It's making this harder." He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. "I love you, Delenn; I need you, and I want you more than anything in the universe. Will you marry me?" For a moment she said nothing, and he began to regret asking. "I'm sorry, I should have waited; it's too soon-"

    "Hush. It's not too soon. How could it be? I love you, and I doubt you would have gone to the trouble of saying all that if you didn't feel the same way." He shook his head, the smile beginning to return. "You've waited far too long, if anything. And as for being sorry? I'm only sorry I can't give you a better answer."

    "Oh, shit." The smile disappeared, and he looked down as tears welled in his eyes. "I knew it." Delenn slowly lowered herself onto the floor in front of him, taking his face in her hands. Softly stroking the tears away, she tilted his head up to hers and brought her mouth to his; closed her eyes and placed a sensual kiss on his lips. Sheridan reacted, then pulled away, remembering. "Delenn-"

    "I'm sorry my answer wasn't more original, but you didn't give me any warning. I told you to, didn't I?" She smiled at the relieved, amazed expression on his face. "Well? Are you going to put that ring on my finger, or just sit there all day holding it?"

    He laughed happily, grabbing her hand and kissing it again before sliding the ring onto her finger. He clasped her hand tightly in his own, smiling like an idiot as he whispered in her ear; "Don't you, ever, ever scare me like that again. Ever. Do you understand me? That is going too far. Do you have any idea what I would've done if you'd said no?"

    "I didn't," she answered simply with a wide smile. "I was never going to, not from the second I saw you. You weren't the only one to lose their heart that day, John. I always loved you, and I always will." She turned the ring slowly on her finger, watching in fascination as the faceted jewels flickered brightly under the lights. "Am I really more beautiful than this?"

    He laughed. "My wonderful, amazing Delenn Sheridan. There is no ring in the galaxy that could compare with you."

    "Delenn... Sheridan." She smiled. "I like that."

    "Good." He grinned suggestively. "Let me show you how much I like it...."

    * * * * *

    Delenn smiled, spinning around to look at herself in the bedroom mirror. A slim, beautiful half-Minbari, half-Human stared back. Slipping out of the heavy, towel bathrobe, she wandered over to the closet to retrieve a light shift. On walking back, she noted with satisfaction that movement was barely a problem any more, the stiffness and pain of healing wounds almost gone. Regarding herself once more in the mirror, she lowered herself onto the bed. Gliding the shift onto her body, she self-consciously ran her fingers across the bone ridges that circled her head. Mentally shaking herself out of the fascinated trance, she pulled on a silken gown over the shift and tied it firmly at her waist. Relaxing a little, she leaned over and opened a cabinet next to the bed. Reaching for a hairbrush, she sat up again. Her long hair was damp from the shower, glistening with water. Brushing it was easy, allowing her mind to wander, and Delenn found herself fascinated by the crown of bone that parted it. *A crown for a princess,* John had said. She smiled at the memory. That was what had brought on this new-found interest. They had no concept of royalty on Minbar, so John had sat with her in his arms and patiently explained the idea. Delenn remembered clearly the words he'd used, the pictures he'd shown her of old Earth, his careful explanation of the separate monarchies and countries. Again, there was no such thing on Minbar, and she'd told him so. Told him about Minbar, her family, her culture, just as she had promised the day before. In return, John had told her about Earth, his parents and sister, their old home..... They must have stayed that way for hours, just talking. She had awakened in his arms, still on the couch cuddled next to him. As far as she could tell John hadn't slept, just sat and held her... that was the clearest memory of all. Delenn had never expected to feel so wanted, so safe, simply from being held. Her memory of his tender embrace, his intimate kisses.... and his touch. Now she understood what he'd meant when he called her a princess. At first it had seemed irrational - *When was love ever rational?* - but when he had smiled at her, lifted her gently in his arms and carried her into bed, she had begun to understand. And when he touched her... she jumped, shocked out of her memories by a hand on her shoulder.

    "You okay? You were miles away." John Sheridan smiled at her, concerned.

    "Fine." Delenn relaxed as Sheridan sat down next to her, offering a mug of warm tea. She took it gratefully, settling in beside him as he lent against the wall. Sheridan wrapped his arms around her, his own drink in one hand.

    "What were you thinking about? It must've been interesting: I've been sitting here for almost five minutes now." He nodded earnestly at the surprise in her face. "I was beginning to think you'd gone into a trance or something."

    "You." He frowned in confusion. "I was thinking about you," she clarified.

    "Honestly?"

    "Yes." She took a sip of her drink, letting the heat warm her hands. "About earlier. I don't think I ever enjoyed a history lesson before." She looked up, noticing his hair for the first time. "You've showered."

    "Mmhmm. So have you," he replied casually. "Were you that interested? You don't seem the history type." Delenn smiled seductively up at him, finishing her drink and setting the empty mug onto a bedside table.

    "That depends on whether you mean learning it, or making it." He smiled at that. "Anyway, it wasn't the history I was thinking about." She cuddled against him, resting her head on his shoulder. His skin was soft against her cheek, cool from the shower as he leaned over and kissed her gently.

    "I love you." Deliberately setting his drink aside, Sheridan sat up and looked at her, running gentle fingers through her dark hair. "You're so beautiful, Delenn... God, I love you so much." He moved forward and kissed her, his mouth soft and warm against her own. Delenn responded, both arms around her lover as he bore her tenderly down onto the bed. Lying in his gentle embrace, Delenn relaxed completely; their kisses became more passionate and she tightened her hold on him, pressing her warm body against his own. Sheridan stroked her hair, gently pulling away to slip out of his clothes and under the covers. Delenn did the same, taking her lover's face in her hands and kissing him lovingly. His tender caress made her cry out softly but he quieted her, bringing his mouth close to hers and kissing her again. Delenn closed her eyes; hearing his soft, whispered assurances, feeling the touch of his skin against hers and his intimate kisses as they made love. She smiled in the darkness, running her hands lightly across his bare skin. He shivered slightly, and she drew him next to her. Shallow breathing resounded in her ears, replaced gradually by more and more kisses until his adoring touch made her cry out again. Sheridan folded her into his arms, stroking her hair as she pulled away, green eyes shining in the dim light.

    "Is something wrong?" The whispered question made her smile.

    "No, nothing. Nothing at all." She reached out to touch his face, her fingers tracing the line of his blond hair, damp from his shower and their loving. "How could it be?"

    He smiled, bringing one hand from behind her head to touch her face, just as she had done. Running a hand along her crown, he felt her shiver as his fingers brushed the sensitive skin on the side of her face, where bone and skin joined. Now she moved closer, hands suddenly on his back and pulling him near. They came together easily, settled into the embrace without a word: Delenn's head resting on his shoulder, his arm around hers. Sheridan slid his other hand across her skin, clasping his fingers together on her back and holding her secure in his arms. One arm around his neck, hands linked behind him just as his own were behind her, Delenn laid a soft kiss on his bare shoulder.

    "I love you, John. You know that, don't you?"

    He laughed quietly at the notion of not knowing. "Of course I do, Delenn. Of course I do. I love you too, more than anything in the world."

    "Good." She brushed her lips against his cheek and closed her eyes. "I can't believe this is the last time-"

    "Shh." He quieted her in his usual way, kissing her on the mouth. "Not the last, Delenn. Never the last time, not for us. We'll find time. We'll make time for each other. Tomorrow, and the day after, and after that, forever....."

    His voice trailed away as he fell into a peaceful sleep - listening to Delenn, singing a Minbari lullaby in the darkness of their quarters.

 

 *****

 

 

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