NEVER TRUST A MINBARI

By Leyenn

 

 

 

N.B. This story is set just after 'Grey 17 Is Missing'. I was working on an NC-17 version which may one day get finished, but it's pretty scattered among my notebooks so don't hold your breath. Hopefully this one will be enough to keep your sappiness-appetite satisfied.

    Special thanks to my beta readers Kerry and Sofie, and to everyone involved with Babylon 5.

    Any comments gratefully received at the address below. Feel free to circulate the story, but bear in mind I'm making no money from writing this - it's purely for my own vicarious enjoyment.

    (Un)NECESSARY DISCLAIMER: They are not my characters or setting, non of this belongs to me and I make no profit whatsoever of any description except in happiness. If I can be charged for such, please feel free to sue the pants off me.

 

 

 

 

   *****

Delenn moaned softly, turning gradually onto her back at the sound of her outer door sliding closed. Still half asleep, she didn't notice the heavier footsteps and pulled the sheet further over her shoulder, working up the energy to turn onto her side and face the bedroom doors. The footsteps stopped for a short while: Delenn sighed and closed her eyes again, settling down to sleep. Almost unconscious, she shifted back against the pillows as her visitor approached; hearing a hand on the door, she looked up tiredly.

    "Lennier?" The door opened; Delenn blinked through the light, searching for her aide.

    "No, it's John." The Captain smiled warmly, leaning his tall frame against her door. "Is it okay if I come in?" Delenn gave a weak smile, gesturing to a chair at the end of the bed.

    "Please." She followed him with her gaze, grateful as he pulled the chair around to sit comfortably beside her. There was something about having him there that was different from Lennier's visits - for one thing, Lennier had never settled so comfortably in her presence... and he never looked at her in *that* way. She blushed slightly, glad that Sheridan couldn't see it as he turned and closed the doors far enough to block out the bright light from her living area.

    "I hope you don't mind my stopping by. Lennier told me you weren't feeling too good, so I thought I'd see how you were doing. Is there, uh, anything," he spread his hands, "anything else you need, while I'm here?" Delenn smiled at his concern, lightly shaking her head.

    "No, not really. Lennier was here earlier, he took care of everything. I thought he might have come back - but I am pleased to see you," she added hastily with a smile. Sheridan returned the expression, and for the first time she noticed the tray that he placed carefully on her bedside table. He saw her curious gaze and gestured, a little embarrassed.

    "I made some tea, I hope you don't mind. I'm not being forward or anything, I just... thought you might like something warm to drink. I know I always do when I'm ill." Delenn smiled gratefully, reassuring, and he tossed a relieved grin her way before pouring the drink.

    "I'm not ill, exactly," she protested weakly. It took more energy than she'd realised to push herself further up the bed into a sitting position, and Sheridan had finished by the time he looked up to check she was comfortable. He sighed, admonishing gently at the obvious effort she needed.

    "Here, let me help. Take it easy," he reached out a hand, gently guiding and steadying her as she sat still for a moment, adjusting.

    "So what is wrong?" His question was half concerned, half teasing at her vain protests.

    "Do you remember I had to drink something during the Ranger ceremony?" Sheridan nodded, adding a small amount of milk to the cups at her assent. "It is called sha'neyat. The death destroyer, roughly translated. It is an integral part of the ceremony - unfortunately, it is also a deadly poison to Humans." She held out a reassuring hand as he glanced up in horror. "Don't worry, it wasn't serious. I remember that Ambassador Sinclair was apparently quite ill after his own installation, but I neglected to think of the effect it might have on me."

    "But you looked fine," he protested. "Surely it can't have been that bad?" Delenn smiled ruefully, turning toward him to lift her cup and closing her eyes over the dizziness. Sheridan quickly reached out to steady her again, and she relaxed into his touch even as he removed it from her shoulder to hand her the moderately full cup. His hand covered hers for a second as she took it from him; the slight physical contact heightened her impression of his feelings even more so than his steadying grip had done moments before. It was obvious in his face that he didn't want to let go, but at the same time he seemed afraid of offending her and the hand was hurriedly, if reluctantly withdrawn. Delenn could also see his surprise over her clothing: she had half hoped for that reaction, but he seemed a little more nervous than she had expected. Studying Human relationships had been difficult, to say the least, and although she had a vague idea of what his expression meant she couldn't understand why he looked so reluctant to do or say anything. In Minbari terms, this was so much easier...

    Sheridan, meanwhile, was studying her. It *had* surprised him to see what she wore: a rich lilac, silken garment with thin straps over each shoulder. From the design he guessed it was short - at least shorter than he had imagined her wearing - and cut low enough for him to flush slightly when he noticed. He hadn't thought that much about Delenn's private life before, and it felt a little awkward to see her so intimately... especially in light of the way he knew he felt about her and suspected she felt about him. He'd seen the look in her eyes when he told her how much he cared for her: the same look that had been there in that instant before they almost kissed and that he'd seen again night after night in his dreams of her. Not erotic dreams, which surprised him somewhat - he was definitely attracted to her, it seemed strange that his dream self hardly ever expressed that - but simple, happy dreams of them together, be it talking or holding each other or sometimes kissing, although not often. He'd gotten used to dreaming about her; idly, he wondered if her own sleeping thoughts ever included him.

    "John?" Delenn smiled warmly, sensing his discomfort. "Thank you for coming to see me. I..." she looked down at her drink, a little embarrassed. She had thought it would be relatively easy to start a relationship with John Sheridan: she had experience of love herself, albeit from a long time in her past, but somehow it had become immensely difficult to even start up a conversation without feeling embarrassed or nervous that she was saying the wrong things. He felt the way she did, she was sure of that, but nothing ever seemed to go right for them. She longed to have been able to tell him she felt the same when he came to her in MedLab, even more so in his quarters after their dinner had finished, and she would have given anything to have had Ivanova interrupt just one minute, even a few seconds later, when they would have been unable to leave their emotions unfulfilled.

    "I was hoping Lennier would say something to you." She was toying with her drink, turning the cup nervously in her hands. "I did not ask him to, but I thought perhaps..." Sheridan smiled at her hesitation; Delenn caught his gaze and returned the affection, promising herself that now, before he left, she would tell him what she needed to say.

    "I'm glad you came." Her statement was genuine, as was her smile. Sheridan looked over at her, unable to help a grin that made her smile widen.

    "I asked Lennier where you were. I noticed you were missing in the War Room yesterday and I thought it was a little unusual, after your... promotion?" He tested the word and Delenn smiled again in response.

    "That is as good a word as any."

    They sat in silence for a while, before her private pact came back to her and she carefully set the tea down, shyly offering her hand. Sheridan glanced at her face; for a moment she was afraid he was about to leave, but he saw something in her expression that even Delenn didn't know was there and gave her a light smile. Placing his own cup next to hers, he hesitated, but after a moment his hand slid into hers and he tightened his grip, making her smile as she lowered herself back onto the pillows. With his free hand, Sheridan pulled the covers back over her and tenderly brushed the back of a finger across her cheek.

    "How are you feeling now?" She squeezed his hand, huddling under the sheets.

    "Better than I was half an hour ago."

    Sheridan grinned. "Is my company really that good?" She looked away a little demurely at his good-natured teasing.

    "I like having you here. Lennier is kind to take care of me, but he doesn't..." she searched for the words, not wanting to insult her friend. "It isn't the same," was her final conclusion.

    "I know what you mean. It's nice to have friends around, but..." Trailing off, he flushed slightly. Somehow they'd both made the distinction between being friends and being... whatever they were to each other now. The notion that Delenn felt the way he did was a relief, satisfying, but strangely natural; as if he had always known she would.

    He suddenly became aware that he'd stayed silent for longer than he intended: Delenn was curled up slightly, obviously comfortable as she tried half-heartedly to keep her eyes open.

    "Are you tired? I should go-" Delenn lifted her head, dismissing the idea.

    "No, don't. Please. Lennier won't be back for hours yet..." Sheridan smiled, touching her cheek again as her speech faded and emerald eyes flickered shut.

    "Why, would he mind?"

    "Hmm." Delenn opened her eyes and frowned vaguely, focusing on his smile. "Mind? Oh," she nodded understanding and then shook her head. "I - I suppose not, but... he would be uncomfortable with the... situation..." She was having more difficulty than she had thought in approaching this subject: eyes down, she toyed nervously with her hair and swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, pleading with herself not to mess up this chance. Sheridan watched her closely, his eyes widening as he caught on to what she meant - what she wanted.

    "Delenn." He kept his voice gentle, reaching for her other hand and leaning forward in the chair. "Delenn, I think we need to talk about this." She nodded silently; he saw the embarrassment rising in her features and smiled tenderly. "Delenn, look at me. Please?" He moved to sit on the bed beside her, releasing one smooth hand to caress her face. "I know what you want, because being honest... this is hard for me, Delenn, but I want it too. I want *you*." He swallowed, gently stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. "Delenn -" he suddenly became aware of having said her name at least five times in his nervousness - "I need to ask you something. Two things."

    She had looked up in surprise, in relief, at his admission; now she met his gaze evenly, a light smile on her lips as unshed tears dried in her eyes.

    "Ask me anything." She took his other hand in hers, holding tightly to those words. *I want this. I want you.* "I want you too, John."

    "I know." He smiled at that, kissing her hand. "I know you want me, but - are you in love with me?" Delenn thought, very privately, that she had never heard such trepidation from anyone in her life. "Because I love you, Delenn, and if this is just a - a one off then I need to know. I mean, you don't seem like the type but if you do feel like that then please tell me before we do anything-"

    "John." Her quiet voice stopped him in mid-rant. "I do love you." She reached up and - with amazing energy for someone in her condition, he remembered later - pulled him firmly down beside her, turning to her side and sliding both arms around his neck as her mouth covered his in a soft, passionate kiss. "You have no idea how much I love you."

    "I don't care," he whispered into another kiss. "Not right now." Somehow that didn't sound offensive although she knew it should, under normal circumstances. Delenn almost laughed at that thought. Being in bed with a Human, especially this Human, intent on doing what she knew they were both intent on doing, however slowly, was not a 'normal' circumstance. *Although I think it may become one,* she thought with a lazy smile as John leaned close to her ear, whispering;

    "Would it be insulting if I kissed Entil'zha?" She frowned playfully, considering it.

    "Only if she found it to be."

    "Oh." He paused. "Do you think she would be? Insulted?" Delenn smiled and shrugged.

    "Perhaps. Perhaps not. It depends."

    "On what?" She turned over completely, settling into his arms, and looked up at him.

    "How well you managed it."

    "Ah." He cupped her face in his hands and leaned forward, sliding down a little to be on her level and laughing. "I hate these beds of yours, you know." Delenn almost giggled, shifting in his arms and waiting for the kiss she knew would come. He turned her over, playfully nuzzling her shoulder as he worked upwards before finally touching his lips against hers. For a moment, Delenn thought he would stop there: she let out a soft gasp when that theory went abruptly from the room. No one in her life could have prepared her for the force of his passion, his emotions. She tensed very slightly for a split second, about to return the kiss when he pulled away, feeling her discomfort for that short moment and frowning in concern.

    "Am I going too fast for you?" Delenn shook her head with an encouraging smile, leaning close to him.

    "No, it's all right. I'm just out of practice, that's all." At her gentle urging he kissed her again, a little more warily this time until she quietly assured him that she had no problems with his enthusiasm. "Actually," her voice was teasing, laughter interspersed with light kisses, "I think this should be going a little faster." Sheridan raised his eyebrows in half-real amazement before she leaned in to kiss him again.

    "I should not be doing this," he muttered unconvincingly as his uniform was tossed aside and Delenn drew him closer, complaining incoherently about the sheets and removing them from around her until they were both covered.

    "I asked you to. Is there a greater justification?" She cuddled up persuasively and he sighed, half seriously defeated. "Well, if you really do not wish it..." Delenn turned away, laughing as he growled in annoyance and reached out for her, holding her from behind. The touch of her warm, bare skin against his had the desired effect: Sheridan's expression became one of pleasure and when he sighed now it was completely playful - and totally conquered.

    "Of course I do. But there are a lot of Minbari on station at the moment, and if any of them decide to visit you... what happens if someone finds us here? Finds me here, more to the point."

    "Shh." Delenn turned over and placed a finger on his lips, caressing his cheek reassuringly. "Do not worry. Nothing would come of it: they would not hurt you." She smiled gently, brushing the back of her hand across his face. "I wouldn't let them hurt you, John."

    "I'm not worried about me. What would happen to you?" She neatly sidestepped the question with a sensual kiss, whispering seductively in his ear;

    "Does that really matter? The chances of your imaginary 'someone' finding us are extremely small, after all. Now-" he cut her off with a soft murmur of concern, reaching for her hand as she trailed it along his side, intentions obvious in her eyes.

    "Uh, Delenn, I think we're kind of forgetting something here." She paused for a long moment: realising what he meant, her hand came back to his face and she kissed him gently in reassurance.

    "I can only conceive if I wish to conceive." He frowned, raising himself to one elbow to look at her face. He expected naivete; instead he saw that she was completely serious.

    "How... convenient," he commented slowly. Delenn brought herself to eye level with him, propped up on one elbow and smiling.

    "Minbari contraceptives are considerably advanced, John. They are implanted at birth and despite my change, Doctor Franklin assures me that mine is in perfect working order. That does not suddenly make me the most promiscuous woman on the station, however," she scolded lightly at his expression. Sheridan grinned sheepishly, moving her onto his chest as he lay back down on the pillows. A thought occurred to him and he frowned, drawing a curious expression from his companion.

    "At birth? Surely-" She laughed quietly, quieting him with a playful touch on the lips.

    "No, Minbari are not sexually active from birth, John. That is a very silly thought, for practical if not psychological reasons." She smiled ruefully, almost apologising. "Minbari sexuality is a very... odd idea, compared with your way of doing things. In some ways it is quite simple, but then there are areas that even I do not understand properly." She paused.

    "Are you going to tell me about it?" Sheridan asked with an encouraging smile.

    "If you want to know," she responded equally.

    "I want to know about you. Does that count?"

    Delenn smiled. "I think so. Although my ideas are slightly different to what a Minbari would consider normal - it isn't just my appearance that is partly Human," she qualified at the curious features watching her. "If it were, if I were still wholly Minbari in my mind, then we would have been doing this a long time ago."

    "What!?!" She laughed at his incredulous expression.

    "As I said, Minbari sexuality is very different to Human ideals. Minbari are much more... 'up front' I think is the term to use. If someone feels the way I do - the way we do about each other, then in Minbari society it is very easy to come forward and say so. Unless the other is already promised to someone else, of course. Then it is considered a very serious sin, and a great dishonour," she added with a stern frown.

    "So... everyone on your world acts like this?"

    "Not everyone," Delenn corrected. "It is done with great deliberation and meditation before any mention of such feelings is made to the other person involved. That way, if the feelings are false or misguided, then any damage or bad feelings in the friendship are avoided." Sheridan nodded, considering the idea.

    "Seems fair enough. And does this happen often, or..."

    "It is not a common occurance," she conceded ruefully. "Once, I believe it was much more common for people on my world to fall in love. Now most marriages are arranged by the clan or caste rather than by personal choice. Although if someone does find their soulmate and their feelings are true, their arranged marriage can be anulled to allow that relationship to continue." She smiled apologetically. "This is where it becomes confusing." He shrugged, playing with a strand of dark hair that fell across her shoulder onto his chest.

    "I'm getting it so far. Carry on - I'll let you know when I get lost." Delenn laughed softly, aimlessly tracing a pattern with one finger on his shoulder.

    "If you say so." She took a deep breath, composing the ideas in her head, and then started again. "Even though most marriages are pre-arranged, the traditions over finding a soulmate are still followed. Contraceptives for both males and females are implanted at birth, but..." she stopped, frowning. "This part does not make any sense to me."

    "Tell me anyway," he encouraged with a smile. "Maybe I can put a fresh perspective on the idea."

    "Perhaps. I doubt it, somehow. You see, religious caste Minbari are educated completely in Temple and until we reach twenty cycles old, nothing is said of our sexuality or of relationships of that kind with others. Under any circumstances." At his expression, she smiled in relief. "You see why this makes no sense to me." Sheridan nodded. "Good. I was afraid you might see reason in that idea."

    "Uh-uh. I don't get that at all... your contraceptives are implanted at birth, but you don't actually know about them until you're what, twenty years old?"

    "Twenty Minbar years," Delenn reminded him. "That translates to around fifteen, maybe sixteen Earth years."

    "That's still a long time," he argued. "Most Humans are taught at least the basics of reproduction by the time they reach that age, the majority even younger. I knew everything there was to know about sex by the time I was eight years old, and I'm not alone. Are you telling me no one on your world ever spreads these things around?" Delenn shrugged, catching his hand to the side of her face where he continued to toy with her hair.

    "We have a saying: 'Understanding is not required, only obedience'. It has always applied to that situation."

    "So no one says anything because they think kids shouldn't have to understand? They just have to do what they're told until they get to the right age, and then everything gets sprung on them?" Delenn nodded, a wry smile on her lips.

    "You think this is crazy, yes?"

    "Yes!" She laughed, settled carefully onto his chest and kissed him lightly.

    "Good, so do I." After a moment she laughed again, moving her hands up from his shoulders to run her fingers through his short hair. "Why are we even discussing this? Lennier will come back eventually, we're wasting time." She leaned forward to kiss him again, more forcefully, but John laid a curious finger on her lips.

    "Wait a minute. If this is how Minbari feel and Lennier is Minbari, fully Minbari, why are you worrying? Surely he knows about these things by now. He's more than fifteen, he must be." Delenn smiled at the idea, twining her fingers behind his neck as she answered him.

    "Yes, Lennier knows. But he is much younger than me-" She laughed at his disbelieving expression. "Honestly!"

    "I don't believe it," Sheridan protested sincerely. "I mean, he's got to be a few years younger than you, but not a lot. Exactly how much is 'much younger'?" Delenn smiled in embarrassment, glancing down.

    "In Human years? About thirteen, perhaps fourteen years younger than me. I haven't kept count since he first came to the station."

    "So how old does that make you?" he teased. She looked up sharply, trying to hide a self-conscious smile.

    "What do you want to know that for?"

    "Just curious," Sheridan maintained. "I can always look on your file, of course..."

    "I'm not sure," she murmured softly. "In Minbar years probably about forty five, fifty cycles. You get to a point where you stop counting," she added to defend the vague description and he grinned wryly.

    "Oh, I know that one. Passed it years ago - Earth years ago," he emphasised to make her laugh.

    "And how old are you, then?" Her question caught him off-balance; John frowned playfully, feigning ignorance.

    "Uh, I'm not sure... it's been a long time since I had a birthday..." The disjointed explanation came to a halt as Delenn laughed, turning over and pulling him against her back, making him gasp as she slid easily out of the slip covering her and shifted her lithe body provocatively against his.

    "Tell me. Then you can have what you want," she teased.

    "I can have it anyway," Sheridan retorted as he leaned close to her ear. "I outrank you."

    "Oh?" Delenn looked up at him and smiled knowingly. "I don't think you do, John. I also don't think you can take what you want without my consent." She was smiling and he knew she wasn't serious, but the idea made his blood run cold for an instant. The thought of someone, anyone, even himself doing that...

    "John? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that the way it came out. I know you wouldn't do that to me." She smiled tenderly, reaching back to gently caress his cheek and placing one hand behind his head to lead him into a passionate kiss.

    "Forty four," he whispered as she pulled away. Delenn frowned curiously.

    "What?"

    "Forty four. You wanted to know how old I am, in Earth years." He grinned mischievously. "Now you have to tell me or you don't get what you want." Delenn growled, muttering quiet expletives as he shut her up with another deep, sensual kiss.

    "Thirty five. Maybe thirty six, I'm not honestly sure." She smiled innocently into his eyes. "Can I have my reward now?"

    "Only if I get mine," he teased. Delenn laughed; he grinned, burying his face in her hair and kissing her neck. "I'll be charitable, you can have yours first." Delenn frowned, unsure of his meaning. Starting to ask, a low moan of pleasure pushed her question away as Sheridan easily slid one hand down across her stomach and lower.

    "Do you like that?" She nodded shakily as he stopped, waiting for her to get used to the sensation and carefully lifting dark hair from her face. "Good. I don't want to do anything you don't like. You only have to tell me if I do." She nodded again, leaning back into his arms; he pulled her close, kissing her crown between soft, whispered affections. She started to turn, but Sheridan tightened his arms to stop her, shaking his head and smiling ruefully. "Don't move, okay? I told you I hate these beds of yours. Don't make me move or we're going to have some major problems doing this right now." She laughed softly, turning anyway and laughing louder at his irritation.

    "How in God's name do you make love on these things, Delenn? Your species must be amazingly good at it to manage without-" he stopped, aware that the bed was moving, flattening out. She was simply smiling, amusement sparkling in her dark green eyes as they watched his reaction.

    "Better now?" He nodded wordlessly, smiling as she gave a satisfied nod of her own and pulled him closer for another kiss. "Good. Now, what were you saying before?"

    *****

    "John?" Resting, finally, after at least two hours, he tilted his head and smiled.

    "Yes?"

    There was a pause.

    "Was I, um.. was I meant to feel that way?" He laughed softly, stroking her hair.

    "Did it feel good?" She blushed very slightly, refusing to look up as he touched her cheek.

    "Yes." His laughter was louder this time.

    "Well then." Delenn frowned, timidly looking into his eyes.

    "Is it always like that?" Sheridan nodded, a mischievous spark in his smiling features.

    "I hope it will be."

    "You... hope?"

    "Mm-hmm. Delenn..." He sighed and lightly kissed her hair. "You're supposed to feel good when you make love. Is that something different to you?" She paused, taking in the idea and nodded slowly.

    "I have never, ever felt that way before. I told you that Minbari are taught about sexuality, but even then we do not discuss what happens during reproduction. It is all very... restrained, more spiritual than physical." She sighed, but there was a smile on her features. "It always seemed unremarkable." Now she laughed. "It seems I was wrong." Sheridan grinned in amusement as she looked up, remembering his words. "It will be like that every time?" He nodded, laughing at her expression.

    "It's not so bad, Delenn. You deserve to feel good - like I said, that's the idea." She smiled up at him now, watching her own fingers intently as they followed the line of his collarbone.

    "I did not say it would be a bad thing: not directly, anyway."

    "Oh?"

    Delenn smiled knowingly, seductively tracing a finger along his shoulder and up across the side of his face before resting her palm on his cheek. "I will begin to be very tired after a while."

    He grinned. "Just as long as it's me who tires you, I really couldn't care." He'd expected her to laugh: instead she only smiled softly and reached up to touch his face, bringing him down to her and placing a gentle, affectionate kiss on his mouth.

    "Only you, John. It will only ever be you, after tonight. I was always to be yours, from the moment I was born. I have always loved you and wanted you... there will never be anyone else here." She took his hand, placing it lightly over her beating heart. Feeling that against his hand was a sudden, forceful reminder that this was Delenn he was lying next to - Delenn he had been kissing and holding - Delenn who was declaring her undying love for him at that minute. Very slowly, deliberately, he set aside their situation for the immediate future and took her hand, looking seriously into loving emerald eyes.

    "Delenn, I know we've gone pretty far already, but I have to give you a chance to... If I do this, if we do this, there's no going back. I'm not going to be able to forget it happened if it doesn't work out, so if it happens tonight - hell, any night, I'm going to stay with you. I love you, I want you and if this is really what you want then I'll do everything I can to see it through. But I need to know you're sure. I have to know you won't regret this-"

    "I won't." The sincerity and utter conviction in her voice made him smile slightly; it was covered with a tender concern that made Delenn kiss him again, reassuring him with a beautiful, loving expression. "I love you. There can be nothing else between us except that. I know you care for me, for the way I feel and how my people will react to... us," she smiled a little wider on the word, trying it out. "But you must understand that I would not be here, with you, now, if I was not completely sure that this is what I want. And that you are who I want." There was a pause, a soft promise as she explained; "Minbari do not engage in serious relationships of any physical nature unless the other is the one they are intended for. Their soulmate. It *is* permitted until the Age of Service, when we leave Temple, to be... physical... sexually... as long as it is done in private and in the knowledge that it will not lead to a lasting relationship. It is only done in order to gain experience and so to learn how to please our soulmate." She laughed ruefully, glancing up at her Human lover. "I do not think I was studying quite the right area." He smiled and shrugged, unfazed.

    "You already please me far more than you imagine, Delenn. As for the rest of it? Well, we'll make it up as we go along. You'll just have to relearn how to please your soulmate - and that starts with teaching me how to please you." She didn't understand the logic there, and he smiled. "It takes one to know one," was his only reply.

    *****

    They were resting briefly, talking in quiet whispers and gentle touches while both recovered from the previous hours. Sheridan glanced down at his lover, smiling at the far-off expression on her face as she contemplated something. Silently, he reached over and lifted a stray lock of hair from her cheek, placing it back amongst the mass of curls flowing over his shoulder. She looked up at the movement, brought from her reverie by the brush of his skin against hers, and smiled warmly. He seemed about to say something, but then paused, changed his mind and whispered curiously instead;

    "Delenn?"

    "Hmm?" She raised her eyes to his, waiting for his question.

    "*Do* you outrank me?"

    "Mm-hmm." He considered it for a moment.

    "Oh."

    "Why?" Her eyes sparkled in the soft candlelight. "Does that bother you?"

    Sheridan paused, wondering. **Does* it?* He'd never had a relationship with anyone working so closely with him as to have come across the situation before. It shouldn't have been a problem; after all, if he had outranked her it probably would never have come up. What right did he have to be worried simply because it was the other way around?

    He looked into her eyes and smiled confidently. "Does it bother me? No, not really. Why should it?" Concern flickered in his eyes as she sighed with relief. "Did you think it would?"

    "I wasn't sure." Delenn smiled. "I'm glad it won't be a problem. I love you, John. I wouldn't want differences like that to come between us."

    "They won't." He gently stroked her cheek with the back of one hand. "We're equals in here," he touched her temple, "and in here." His hand pressed lightly on her chest over her heart. "That's all that really matters." Delenn smiled and held his hand tightly in place where it rested, reaching up to kiss him. Sheridan returned the kiss and lay back, holding her firmly against his side without taking his gaze from her face. Delenn nestled her head into his shoulder, closing her eyes.

    "John..." Her voice was quiet, relaxed. "What was the other thing you wanted to ask me?"

    "Hmm? Other thing - oh, that." He shrugged. Delenn opened her eyes and sat up slightly, curious.

    "What was it?" At her inquisitive expression, he grinned and turned towards her.

    "I was going to ask if you trusted me." She laughed softly at that. "I remembered you asking me the same thing before we went to Babylon Four, and I thought it sounded kind of serious enough to ask right then."

    "Why did it need to be serious?" she asked sincerely with a smile. "I think life is often much better if everything is fun, rather than being serious all of the time."

    "Like the goks," he added, laughing. Delenn looked at him for a second and then began to laugh as well.

    "Like the goks," she repeated as he drew the covers back over them both, hiding their laughter between teasing kisses. It was a moment later, and much further than simply kissing when Delenn gasped suddenly: she heard the outer door cycle open, freezing in her lover's arms at the sound of voices entering the living room.

    "Of course the Ambassador will be happy to see you, Commander. I'm sure she will appreciate the company. Captain Sheridan also said he would visit..." Delenn didn't hear the rest of her aide's comments, listening instead to the whispered laughter in her ear.

    "Well, I did keep my promise," Sheridan murmured. She turned onto her side, moving him off her body to lie facing her and forcing down her own laughter, not wanting any interruptions - not of the kind standing outside her door, anyway.

    "I should go." His voice was serious now, not acknowledging the fact that there was no way under Heaven she was going to let him leave.

    "No." She paused long enough to breathe a sigh of relief as the footsteps stopped and the sound of tea-things entered the cabin, then touched his lips with a finger as he tried to protest. "John, you said that you would not leave me. That if this happened tonight, today, you would stay with me. Were you lying?" He shook his head violently, biting back a loud verbal denial to whisper;

    "No, of course not. But do you really want them to find out like this?"

    "That does not matter. They will find out anyway - and I do not want you to leave." Delenn shifted nearer, a gentle kiss on his mouth ensuring that further protests were never spoken. She knew what she wanted, and Lennier's presence outside was not going to stop her. John wanted it too, she knew that, no matter what he said - and it showed. It hardly took a second to be where she wanted to be, kissing him hard to cover the sounds they both made and holding him tightly as their climax came easily, silently. She pulled away from his mouth to breathe, hiding a soft cry.

    "Shh... quiet, love." John's voice was barely audible, even so close to her ear. She nodded slightly, tightening her arms around him and pressing her face against his shoulder until the feeling left completely and she looked up. Lennier's footsteps started again, then stopped abruptly and retreated. Sheridan let out the breath he'd held, slipping out of her to lie on his back with a gentle arm around her shoulders.

    "I really should go, Delenn." He only looked at her when he'd finished speaking, unable to face the hurt in her features. "It doesn't feel right, being here when they come in. How are they going to react? Especially Lennier." Delenn looked up at him and sighed.

    "You should go," she repeated. There was no belief in her voice, gently mocking his words. "And where would you go, John? Lennier is here now: that means that he is unlikely to leave for at least a few hours. You cannot leave, because he would see you if you tried to. There is only one way out of this room," she gestured slightly to the door as her aide and the Commander slowly came nearer, "and Lennier will be there. If you wish to hide, you may, but you have been gone for almost five hours already and I'm sure your crew will soon discover where you are." She huddled closer, settling comfortably against his side and resting her head on his shoulder. "Or they may think you are missing, which would compound the problem we have, would it not?" The sweetness in her tone made him smile.

    "You always win, don't you?" Delenn shrugged, lowering her voice further at the sound of a teacup being placed on the table outside the door.

    "Sleep, John." Her mouth close to his ear, he nodded silently and closed his eyes, knowing what she intended without having to ask. It would be lying, of a sort, to make Lennier think they were both asleep... but it would be better for him than finding them awake and very obviously having made love. He closed his eyes and pulled the covers up over Delenn's shoulder, linking both arms around her waist and turning very slightly, protectively toward her. Whatever was going to happen, he was damn well going to make sure he took the force of it. She was ill anyway... Realisation dawned as the doors opened, and he only managed to seem asleep by imagining what he was going to do to her when Lennier was gone. *You devious little... I didn't know Minbari could be so mischievous!*

    *****

    Susan Ivanova hadn't been sure she should visit Delenn from the start. They were friends, yes, but not particularly close and there was something about this that didn't sit right.

    Now that 'something' had come straight at her, reared up its ugly head and spat the contents of its stomach at least four times in her face. Still, there was something sweet about the picture in front of her - even if it did make her feel severely uncomfortable. Being honest, 'ugly' was definitely the wrong word. It seemed strange but almost normal to see Sheridan holding Delenn; yes, 'sweet' was the description that came to mind. 'Beautiful' was another one. *Shut up, Susan, you're getting far too poetic over this. You've just walked in on your Captain asleep, naked and in bed with the Minbari Ambassador and you can bet they haven't been discussing trade disputes. What in God's name are you going to do now?!*

    "I suggest," her voice was quiet, "that we didn't see this." Lennier hardly reacted, his gaze fixed on the sight of his mentor and her Captain. Ivanova glanced back to them for a short second: Sheridan moved slightly, drawing a similar shift from Delenn before she settled against him and murmured something incoherently in her sleep. The Commander looked away, not trusting herself to watch for any length of time - and not seeing Sheridan's very slight smile.

    "Lennier?" He finally looked away, shock, amazement and even horror mixing in his eyes - although Ivanova suspected it was from the sight rather than the actual idea of them together.

    "Did not... see this?" His tone was dubious.

    "Yes." She grabbed his arm, backing hurriedly out of the room. "Look, I know it's not the most comfortable of things to have rubbed in your face, but they're both adults. Whatever they choose to do in private, it's none of our business. So neither of us saw this. Did we?"

    "I cannot lie to Delenn." His voice was tense now, frequently glancing back toward the doors. Ivanova frowned and pulled them shut, only her desire to let the couple sleep stopping her from slamming them in her annoyance.

    "I'm not asking you to. She's hardly going to ask you if we saw them in bed together, is she?" Lennier shifted uncomfortably at her words, disconcerted by her bluntness. "Lennier, I can tell you care about Delenn, but she's old enough to make her own decisions. If she wants the Captain as a lover... well, there isn't much anyone else can do about it. Whatever they've been doing - and I hate to rub it in, but I think it's pretty obvious - I can safely say it's by mutual consent. I know Delenn well enough to know that he couldn't force her to do anything, and I know the Captain well enough that I know he wouldn't try to." Seeing the distraught expression on his face, she sighed and relented slightly, laying a friendly hand on his shoulder. "Maybe we should leave now, huh?" He frowned and shook his head. Ivanova matched the expression with her own, gripping both shoulders tightly and forcing him to look at her.

    "And just what are you going to do? Wait until they wake up and then let *them* see how you reacted? You can't act as if nothing's happened and you know it. It's better to leave now and hide it, for their sake, than stay and say whatever it is you plan on saying. Hell, I'll bet you don't even know what it is you want to tell them, do you?" The young Minbari met her gaze, then looked down and shook his head. "Well then, I suggest we go. Now?" He paused, nodding admittance after a long moment and followed her hurried steps from the rooms.

    *****

    Delenn opened her eyes after a long while, blinking in surprise when she found herself staring straight at a bemused Sheridan. She searched his face in concern, trying to find a reason for the sudden change in mood.

    "What is it? What's wrong?" She reached up to touch his face, running her fingertips across his cheek.

    "You tricked me," he murmured in an amazed and slightly annoyed voice. "You're not really ill at all, are you? At least not as much as you made out." Delenn looked away, embarassed at having been found out.

    "I would have told you," she assured him, her voice quiet with a touch of innocence. "And it wasn't a complete lie." Pride tinted her expression.

    "Always plant a lie inside a truth..." He grimaced as he recalled how he'd given her that piece of advice when she returned to the station after their brush with Nightwatch, only to find a Narn on security detail.

    "It makes it easier to swallow," Delenn completed in a self-satisfied tone of voice. He winced. *How can I be angry when she followed my advice?*

    "I *was* unwell yesterday," she assured him in a small voice, breaking the silence. "Lennier insisted that I stay in bed another few days to recuperate, and-"

    "And, you decided it would be the perfect time to lure me in." He shook his head in amazement. "*Did* you ask him to tell me where you were?" She paused, unwilling to renege on her earlier words. "Truth, Delenn."

    "I... did mention I needed to talk to you. I might have... suggested that he ask..." She glanced up sheepishly, a forlorn look on her face that made his heart melt. "Are you angry with me?"

    Sheridan frowned seriously, teasing out his reply. "You lied to me, Delenn. Not to mention Lennier..." She started to protest that, then thought the better of it and looked away in shame. "I don't appreciate being deceived." He sighed dramatically, tracing her jawline with a finger. "Even if it is by the most beautiful woman on the station." He smiled warmly and kissed her. "No, I'm not angry with you."

    "You're not?"

    He smiled wider at her surprise. "No, I'm not. Not that I approve of what you did, of course..." he saw her blush shamefully and kissed her lightly, "but it did serve a purpose. I'll forgive you this once-"

    "Thank you," she whispered with a smile. "I won't lie to you again, John, I promise you. I just wanted-"

    Sheridan silenced her with a finger on her lips, putting on a playful frown. "Hey, now wait just a minute." He pushed her hair from her eyes and looked down at her, serious. "I said I'd forgive you, not let you get away scot-free." Drawing her closer and running a hand down her side, grinning at the flash of understanding in her eyes. Delenn smiled and twined her arms around his neck: Sheridan leaned in and kissed her passionately, whispering;

    "And as I'd wager Lennier won't be back tonight, you have plenty of time to pay up..."

 

 *****

 

 

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