WHAT OTHERS SEE

By Leyenn

 

 

 

Here it is, number four! Don't you love this? We're now up to 'Severed Dreams', after the battle. I don't know if this is going on longer, but we'll see. Nothing mine, especially the first scene. After that, we'll see. I don't think Joe would have them do some of the things these two like to do... *g*

 

 

 

 

*****

"Hello, John."

   His smile lit up the room, as much as she imagined her image did for him. He held out a hand to her, breathing her name, guiding her away from Garibaldi and the queues of watching officers to a more private corner. He looked a little unsure of what to say; she understood his hesitation, feeling any number of eyes follow her as she walked close to him. There was relatively little background chatter among those sullenly leaving, and more than a few were looking in their direction: the last thing either of them needed now was to send news of their relationship back to Earth, particularly in the hands of Nightwatch.

   "Listen, I've been trying to find some way to tell you how much what you did... means to me, and, well... 'thank you' seems poor and inadequate." He smiled slightly, stopping to turn and look at her. "I don't know how much this cost you personally and I suspect I never will, but I want you to know..." For the first time outside their private times together, his eyes were suddenly filled with his true feelings for her. "Seeing your face at that moment was probably the single, finest moment in my life."

   She smiled, perhaps a little shyly, wondering in the back of her mind if anyone else heard his words or that vein of deep emotion in his voice. Her own sounded too calm to be coming from her mouth, her mind whirling at the implications of his expression and open words.

   "It seems that this is the only home we have left. How could I abandon, as you say... my partner." She held out her hand to him, wanting in some way to touch him now and knowing no other way to do so in such a public environment. His sudden grin reflected her own emotions, and the softly concealed meaning in her choice of words. 'Partners' hardly began to describe them: they were that, of course, but so much more...

   He took her hand firmly in his; perhaps more businesslike than she privately wanted - and John as well, she noted from his face - but still the contact sent a rush of warmth through her, and it would prove to everyone that they were truly together, professionally if not more... His pleased grin, as he gripped her hand, faded into something she had missed desperately in her many trips away recently; he looked up slowly to hold her gaze, seeking approval as he raised her hand to his lips. She felt the heat rise in her face, wanting to look away and at the same time knowing she could never do so, revelling in that warm, intimate gaze.

   There was a polite cough beside her: she blinked as John dropped her hand, trying to remind herself that the room was not empty. He covered his own embarrassment well at having been interrupted; Delenn looked down, hoping none of the command staff saw the smile that remained stubbornly on her lips or the warm, tingling flush of heat that must be visible in her face.

   "I just thought there's something you should see." Ivanova's enigmatic words caught her hearing: she looked up as John glanced at her, a look of confusion on his face. She smiled at him as Ivanova led them out, Franklin guiding her with a brief touch on her arm while Garibaldi hobbled behind. John's expression registered nothing but bewilderment as Ivanova led them silently into a transport tube, but that stubborn smile remained as he stood in front of her, half-reaching a hand to touch hers. He wanted to speak to her privately: he wanted to do more than speak, or less... She could see it in his steadily rising impatience, looking down to avoid the desire to step closer, knowing he would smile in approval and take her easily into his arms if she made such a suggestion. Could they afford that now? She wasn't sure. It was some comfort, though, at least, to know that he wanted it as much as she did.

   The tube doors opened: Ivanova stepped out, smiling to someone Delenn couldn't see as she matched her step easily to Sheridan's; wanting to stay near him, to hold onto the feelings his closeness evoked. They were on the Zocalo, she noticed; on a low platform in the center of the marketplace. John glanced down at her with a puzzled frown: she matched it with her own, letting him know with a glance that whatever it was, she had not been a part of it.

   They paused at the front of the small platform, and she could see people; Human, Minbari, Narn, as many others as she could name filling the space between the unmanned stalls. John stood close to her: looking out over the amassed crowd, hiding his confusion to once again be the confident leader she saw within him.

   There was a single, sharp crack: another: then another. She followed the sudden sound, and it took her a moment to register what it was. Echoes started up around them, and she instinctively took John's arm as a look of amazement crossed his face amid the resounding applause. He looked down at her then, a sudden grin transforming his face before her eyes, and slid his arm out of her hands: she looked up at him, pushing down a wave of emotion that should not be seen in such a crowd as he put his arm around her and pulled her close to his side. The smile that rose to her lips could not be hidden or controlled; she leaned into him, a myriad of emotions filling her mind as she followed his gaze out over the applauding crowd. Love and pride were foremost, or at least recognisable: love for him, for this man and what he had achieved, for his strength and confidence; deep, overwhelming pride in him that he could inspire such devotion in so many. She felt almost invincible standing there, at his side, *in his arms* as he put his free hand on hers and looked down at her.

   *This* was what it felt like, then: this complete contentment to be in his arms with him looking down at her, surrounded by so many people after so long in secrecy. She had thought it would be uncomfortable to know that others could see the affection between them, but all that filled her mind was the look of unrestrained happiness in his eyes as he tugged gently on her free hand and leaned over to kiss her - in public, in front of everyone, the thunderous applause and cheers and shouts of support filling her ears as his lips touched hers.

   It was light, gentle, and quick: easily misconstrued as a friendly gesture of affection rather than the restrained and passionate gratitude she truly felt from him. She closed her eyes, savouring the gentle touch of his lips on hers for even that short, open moment. What any others might feel at the sight of him meant nothing for that instant: their approval pounded in her ears but she didn't hear it, the only articulate knowledge in her mind how much *she* loved him now.

   Sheridan lifted his head, and she opened her eyes almost reluctantly to smile up at him. He opened his mouth, but she squeezed his hand imperceptibly to halt the words that rested automatically on his lips. He wanted to say it, she realised: now, with so many eyes on them and so many ears trained to anything that might pass his lips, he wanted to tell her how he felt for her. How much he loved her.

   "I know." It was the only way to keep him from speaking, and she wanted him to know that he didn't have to do that for her. "I know, John."

   He smiled into her eyes, and her throat closed to push back the well of emotion his expression brought. She put her head lightly on his shoulder, leaning into his welcoming hold and clasping his hand as they looked out over the applauding crowd.

*****

   He kept his arm around her as they left, finally, to the fading sound of applause after giving another impromptu speech to the flocking crowds. She had expected they would disperse after seeing the 'heroes of the hour', as Ivanova had teasingly called them: instead they seemed to multiply, almost to the point that had Garibaldi not kept their route back to the tube clear, they would likely have been caught for a long while in the throng.

   The corridors were filling again, slowly, as they made their way back toward Blue Sector, heading - Delenn assumed - for Command and Control. Certainly John would have to check again that everything was going smoothly, and he would likely not sleep in the next few days as he tried to keep everything under control. She worried for him, as she always did: it was even harder now to pretend only a polite interest, or the quiet affection of a friend rather than the deep, indescribable love that filled her heart for him.

   She felt his eyes on her: glancing up, she couldn't hold back a smile at the look on his face. Ivanova, Franklin and Garibaldi walked a few paces in front of them, talking quietly; for the moment, however brief, they had some semblance of privacy between them and he took full advantage of it, leaning down close to her.

   "Shal'vi e'len," he murmured quietly, bringing a smile and a quiet heat to her face. '*I love you,*' or as near as the phrase came in her language. His hand, resting on her waist, caught her fingers: wound his own between them, lightly circling a caress with one finger on her palm. A warm sensation ran through her at the discreet, intimate touch and she squeezed his hand softly, communicating more with that touch than all of the words she couldn't use in public. He twisted his hand slightly, stroking her palm and enjoying the delicate blush that rose to her cheeks.

   "Come on." He leaned closer, pulling her to one side and down an adjoining corridor as the three chatting officers walked on ahead.

   "Where?" A rush of forbidden, almost adolescent excitement rippled through her as the others disappeared from view. "John, we don't have time-"

   "I can take ten minutes," he assured her with a grin. "If anyone asks, I went to pick up some papers." He turned the corner again, steering her quickly into his office. It was deserted, the lights down - perfect, but still...

   "John, they will come looking for us. What if we're seen?"

   He smiled and took her firmly in his arms, gazing seriously down at her. "Let them find us. Let them see how much I love you." He touched her face with the fingertips of one hand, almost reverently. "We deserve this, Delenn. After what we've done today, we can take a few minutes for ourselves. Can't we?"

   Her response came in a manner he much preferred to words; her fingers slid into his hair and she pulled his head down to her, smiling as his mouth found hers. His hands roamed her slender body under the simple dress she was wearing: she leaned into his chest, all thought of discovery forgotten. That they didn't have time for anything more was of no moment: it was equally as pleasurable here as it might be in his quarters to be in the warm circle of his arms, to hold onto him in return, melt into his kisses and shut out the world.

   Susan Ivanova scowled, muttering under her breath about what she was going to do to Sheridan when she caught him for running off like that. She'd been in the transport tube halfway to C&C before she'd turned right the way around and noticed both he and Delenn had mysteriously disappeared. Sending Garibaldi on ahead to check with Corwin, she'd doubled back and checked the location of his link, finding him in his office. Probably back at his desk already, the damned idiot. Didn't he ever slow down?

   "If he wanted something, he could have at least mentioned it - but oh no, not him, he has to go running off alone *now*, without even *telling* me. I swear, I'm gonna bill him for my ulcer treatments. *When* I get the time. *If* I get the time. Not that I ever-" She blinked.

   Her mouth snapped shut, although it probably wouldn't have mattered: it was blindingly obvious that neither Sheridan or Delenn would hear anything short of a nuclear explosion in the immediate future.

   Neither of them were seated at his desk, although Delenn came close to being seated on it, and nor were they discussing anything that required forming coherent words. After a long, breathless moment, Delenn broke their embrace and laid her head on Sheridan's chest, closing her eyes as Ivanova backed quickly around the doorframe.

   She wasn't sure she was supposed to see this. Okay, so she was *sure* she wasn't supposed to see it. The Captain and Delenn? This was just too weird. And *now*? *Talk about a bad case of timing...*

   Then Delenn pulled back and smiled at him: warmly, comfortably, as if she'd been doing this for -

   *Oh God.* She'd seen them kiss earlier: it had been hard to miss in all that attention, but it had been light, quick - *friendly*. Not like the way they were looking at each other now. There was passion in this, heat. Love, even, in the way he held her close and smoothed her hair idly down her back.

   "Are you all right? You seem tired." His expression was one of concern as she sighed and lifted her head.

   "I am, a little." He began to lead her over to the couch; Delenn laughed softly and held him back with a smile. "It's all right, John. It was a long flight, nothing more."

   Sheridan grinned ruefully, chuckling after a moment. "You scared the hell out of me, you know."

   "I'm sorry." She didn't sound it. "I will try not to do it again."

   Sheridan smiled slightly. "I really thought we were dead for a minute there."

   "I would not have abandoned you," Delenn assured him, her hands sliding up to his shoulders. Sheridan tightened his arms around her.

   "I know that. But I wish you would have told me!" He grinned ruefully. "When I saw those jumppoints opening, I thought that was it." A loving smile graced his lips, and his hands gently framed her face. "And then when I saw you..." He shook his head in amazement. "No one ever looked that beautiful."

   Delenn, amazingly at that point, looked almost shyly at him. "Never?"

   "Never." He kissed her softly, his eyes sparkling. "Well, except..."

   "*John!*" His name was filled with delighted embarrassment.

   "It's only the truth," he returned equably, chuckling slightly at her expression. "What, you don't think I look good in bed?"

   Oh shit. **Please* don't answer that-*

   "You know what I think of you in bed." Her voice rippled with amusement and attraction. "And you know I would have you there now, if we had the time."

   Ohhh, that was TOO much information! Ivanova ducked back around the doorframe, holding her breath as she shook off her amazement and mortification at walking into such an intimate scene. The *Captain* and *Delenn*?! And it was *serious*, any blind fool could see that. Good God...

   "You have a perverse sense of humor," she said to the ceiling: shook her head again, amazed and somewhat irritated that she could have missed it. She prided herself on knowing everything that went on aboard Babylon 5. How long had this slipped past her? How long had they managed to keep it a secret?

   "Hey, Ivanova!"

   She spun at the sound: Garibaldi strode jauntily down the corridor, straight into her flashing glare. "*SHH!*"

   "What?" He flashed her a jovial grin. "We're all set, you wanna join us for a drink?" He frowned briefly, confused at her wildly hissing admonitions. "Whaat?? Come on, let's get the Captain and go-"

   And then he made the fatal mistake of walking - confidently, no less - around the corner and into the office.

   There was a long, deadly pause.

   Then: "Oh, shit."

   Ivanova raised her eyes to the ceiling in helpless frustration. "Why him? Of all the idiots, why did you have to send *him*?" There was no reply: she wasn't surprised. God seemed to take her complaints with more than a handful of salt these days. With a heavy sigh, her mind already picturing what she could do to him that involved pins, PPGs and sensitive areas, she turned the corner.

   The scene was pretty much what she'd been expecting: Sheridan and Delenn stood loosely in each other's arms, Delenn looking somewhat amused if a little uncertain. Sheridan's face was unreadable; heading for irritation, definitely embarrassment and perhaps even crossing into anger in the next few minutes. Garibaldi, however, was frozen two foot inside the door, his eyes fervently exploring the deck plates and seemingly having forgotten how to move his feet.

   "Uh, okay." She coughed uncomfortably, grabbing Garibaldi by the arm and trying to keep her eyes on him and nowhere else. "Look, we'll just, uh - wait, you know, outside. Until you're finished." Tugging him backwards, her face flaming. *Until you're FINISHED? Geez, Ivanova!*

   Sheridan sighed heavily. "Susan." There was a tired amusement in his voice, albeit warring with the look of trepidation on his face. "It's okay. Really."

   Garibaldi raised his eyebrows, finally finding his voice through an awkward cough. "Um, yeah? I mean - okay?"

   The couple exchanged half-amused glances: after a moment Delenn's voice was quiet but clear as she looked down.

   "I will... pretend, if you wish..."

   "No." He glanced back at Ivanova, who suddenly found her toes wonderfully exciting. "No, you don't have to do that. Not any more."

   Garibaldi started to choke. "Any *more*?"

   "John," Delenn started softly. He lifted her chin with one hand, raising her eyes to his, and shook his head firmly.

   "No, Delenn."

   "It's dangerous."

   "I knew that much a long time ago."

   Garibaldi coughed again, his voice tentatively confused. "How... long... a time?"

   "We shouldn't do this," Delenn insisted, obviously trying to be discreet as she turned her head to look away from the two observers. "Not now. People will say-"

   "People will say," Sheridan interrupted firmly, "that I love you more than anything else in my life. And strangely enough, they'd be right."

   Delenn looked down; after a hesitant pause she nodded very slightly, glancing up at him with a smile and a permission that Sheridan was only too glad to accept. The deep, gentle smile in her eyes made Ivanova want to melt into the floor and yank the decking over her head. Garibaldi blinked, shook his head: when he looked back and they were still gazing at each other he turned back to Ivanova, spluttering madly in confusion.

   "Okay, what the *hell* is going on here?!"

   Delenn blinked as she broke from Sheridan's gaze, turning toward Garibaldi as if she hadn't noticed anyone else was still there. Sheridan, however, saved her the trouble of embarrassment with a sudden grin.

   "I guess it's been a long time, huh Michael? Surely you still recognise the signs."

   The other man winced, apparently caught off-guard by the amusement in his CO at the somewhat uncomfortable scene. "I, uh... sorry..." He coughed again, shifting uncomfortably on his feet as the notion of what was actually right in front of him seemed to come into focus in his mind. "It's, um, not something I was expecting..."

   "No, well." Sheridan paused, looking down at the calm, serene Minbari in his arms, and flashed her a private smile. "The same goes, more or less." Delenn ducked her head, smiling, obviously reminded of something. Ivanova raised her eyebrows, a thought pushing its way through those crowding into her brain right now and pounding on the inside of her skull. "So." Her tone was strikingly conversational as she raised that ever-expressive eyebrow at Sheridan. "How long has this been going on?"

   He winced ruefully, almost apologetically, glancing down. Delenn was smiling. "You remember last year, when Earthforce came down on us for rent..."

   Her eyes literally bulged, and she stared at him with her jaw falling open. "ALL that TIME?"

   He winced, his hands tightening on Delenn's back. "We wanted to tell you. It was just never the time, and with everything that's going on..." He sighed; Delenn slid a gentle hand down to his chest, her touch soothing although she didn't speak. His own hold on her stayed firm, and Ivanova got the impression that was as calming to him as her own touch. He shook his head helplessly. "We couldn't risk it, Susan. I'm sorry?"

   She met his gaze for a long moment: then sighed and nodded. "No, I guess not. I just... God, John!"

   He grinned back at her. "Yeah, well." There wasn't a huge amount left to say. Their secret was out, there was nothing to be done now. Strangely, or perhaps not, it was oddly relieving to be caught so unawares: after over a year keeping their relationship so private - although admittedly with a few close calls - he had been starting to believe everyone else was either completely blind or just didn't give a shit about either of them. "What do you want me to say?"

   Ivanova just looked at him; standing there completely at ease, Delenn still held naturally close to him as if they had both forgotten how strange that intimacy looked from the outside. She sighed, unable to help her building amusement, and amazedly shook her head. *I must be in shock.* "No, you know what? I think you made everything pretty much clear already." Garibaldi stuck up a hand, jumping in with a slightly wild shake of his head. "Um, excuse me, Captain. Ambassador," he ducked his head at Delenn: suddenly realised how bizarre that was right now and shook his head. "Look, not to sound, you know - but did I miss something here? A few months of innocent conversation, a bit of courtship - some gooey looks, maybe. You know, the way *normal* people do things?"

   Sheridan gave a wry smirk. "Michael, Delenn and I are hardly normal people."

   Delenn smiled, a little ruefully. "That is certainly true."

   Ivanova shrugged, obviously not as concerned with this apparent leap in their relationship as Garibaldi. "So," there was that deceptive flippancy again as another somewhat irritating thought came to her, "does anyone else know?"

   Sheridan winced at that, and Delenn's expression turned rueful and a little embarrassed. He exchanged a glance with her, and she coloured slightly as he admitted; "Um... Lennier. He found out pretty much the way you just did."

   Garibaldi grinned widely. "Oh, I bet that was priceless."

   "Michael," Sheridan retorted warningly. The other man swallowed his grin, at least part of the way.

   "Yes sir."

   "No more so than your own face, Mister Garibaldi," Delenn assured him serenely with the hint of a smile. Sheridan grinned, seeing Garibaldi's mollified expression and tightening his hands on Delenn's back.

   "I have one hell of an ally here, Michael. I wouldn't mess with her if you feel like eating solid food for the next few weeks." He glanced down at Delenn: she turned back to him and he flashed her an enquiring look, sliding his hands down her arms to hold her hands lightly in his. "Speaking of food, how are your dinner plans for tonight?"

   Delenn smiled warmly up at him: trying to ignore how strange it felt not to draw back from him, to feel his hands in hers and know there were others standing there without having to pull away. "I haven't had time to think about it," she confessed in answer to his question. She didn't need to say that she hadn't bothered, remembering that she had cooked for him their last night before she left and it was his turn - or rather, his treat. He always bought takeout when they ate in his quarters, given his disastrous culinary skills.

   Sheridan grinned, pleased and recognising her unspoken words. "How about I save you the trouble?"

   "Something Human," she requested, sure and suddenly embarrassed that he wasn't the only one to notice the lilt in her tone. She was so used to the ease of their relationship, it was hard to remember they were in company now.

   "I think that can be arranged." She glanced up at him, her cheeks flaming at the obvious innuendo in his voice. He was enjoying this!

   "John," she said quietly, reprovingly. "We're not alone..."

   "Something you seem to be having a hard time remembering," Ivanova added to him with a hint of a frown. "And if you're gonna make dinner plans in front of me then you'd better invite me along. Unless you're cooking," she wrinkled her nose at the thought. Delenn smiled, deeply amused.

   "I have not let him cook for a very long time now," she assured the other woman. Ivanova chuckled.

   "Sounds like the John I know."

   "Hey!" Sheridan shot her a dark look before frowning half-playfully at Delenn. "Maybe we *should* have kept this a secret. Five minutes and you gang up on me!"

   "It's in the female instruction manual," Ivanova informed him sagely. "Comes with the breasts." There was silence for a moment: she arched an eyebrow at Garibaldi, as if he should have filled it without her urging. "So, are you going to cook or do I have to do it?"

   He blinked, confused by the apparent and sudden change of topic: knowing it was useless to argue with Ivanova, however, after a short minute he threw his hands in the air and shrugged. "Sure, whatever. What choice to I have?"

   "None," Sheridan answered him with a grin. He gave Delenn a speculative smile. "Italian okay?"

   "Anything will be fine," she assured him, turning to Garibaldi with a polite but warm smile. "If I could ask one small thing..."

   He bit back a sigh; it was impossible to be frustrated to her face, he noticed, wondering if Sheridan found that. "What is it?"

   She glanced up at Sheridan: he shrugged and she looked back down for a moment. Good God, Minbari could be *shy*? He hadn't known that.

   "Could you, um... could you come to John's quarters?" She blushed deeply, and her reasoning immediately appeared in 3D technicolor behind his eyelids.

   "Uh - sure. Sure." He sounded a little rushed, but he *really* didn't want her to try and explain herself. Delenn and the Captain in the Captain's quarters meant only one thing, after the display they'd just put on - and Delenn plus sex was not something he wanted to start thinking about. Granted, she was attractive in an exotic sort of way, but she was still *Minbari*... He'd cook for the entire crew if it meant not having to know about that. "Six thirty okay?"

   "Fine." Sheridan also looked more than a little discomfited: not surprising, given that images of what he and the Minbari Ambassador would be doing after that - and possibly before - were flashing in sharp focus through the minds of two of his most senior officers. And most trusted friends, or so he hoped. "You realise that this..." he glanced down at Delenn, "has to stay a secret. At least for now." His eyes met hers for a moment, apology clear in his expression. "Until everything's calmed down and going right again."

   "That may be a while," Delenn reminded him softly.

   "It takes what it takes." He put his arm lightly around her, and she leaned comfortably into his gentle touch. "I'll be here."

   Delenn smiled: sensing the growing discomfort from his two officers, Sheridan put on an easy grin and deliberately changed the subject. "So. Dinner?" Ivanova nodded, almost sharply, obviously relieved to be unofficially dismissed from the situation. Was it that hard to understand, he wondered, that he could love Delenn? That he could hope for her love in return, and that she might give it?

   Probably not, he admonished his almost bitter mood. It *was* hard to understand how they had kept it secret for over a year, or that they could be so warm and comfortable together given their usually polite, at least loosely formal interactions. Hard to grasp that they were such good actors, he guessed. And a little stinging, that they had tried so valiantly to hide it. Garibaldi seemed more thrown than anything, but Susan's face was sombre and her eyes were unreadable.

   He touched Delenn's arm gently for a moment. "I'll be right back." She nodded silently; perceptive as always, he thought with a smile. He started after the departing officers.

   "Ivanova."

   She didn't seem to hear: he stepped out into the corridor, reaching out a hand to touch her shoulder. "Susan."

   She turned back to him then, and despite her seeming rush she didn't hesitate to speak.

   "I wish you would have trusted me. All of us."

   Sheridan sighed. "I should have guessed that was the problem."

   "You should have told me. Us." Her voice was cool, bordering on harsh. He couldn't help responding in kind.

   "It's not a question of trust. It's dangerous enough - if anything happened to Delenn..." His voice was quieter; he looked back at the door and shook his head, and his eyes finished the sentence without words. "It was a secret that had to be kept. You should understand that?"

   A wry smile found its way to Ivanova's lips, her anger fading. "Touche, I guess."

   Sheridan smiled in return, a little ruefully. "For what it's worth, I do trust you. Even with this. But Delenn..." He sighed and leaned in a little. "She doesn't like me to protect her. I know, she doesn't need me to, but-"

   "You still do it." She shook her head wryly at him. "And what better way, huh?"

   "Exactly. Susan," his tone hardened, more earnest, "this has never happened before. *Lennier* has a hard enough time dealing with it. If the Minbari find out that Delenn and I..."

   "Starkiller," she muttered apologetically. He nodded, running a hand through his hair.

   "We had to keep it quiet as long as we were still connected with Earth - we both know what Nightwatch could have done with this..." She winced, nodding. "Now we've broken away, we can afford a little freedom at least. But the Minbari... It's gonna take time."

   Ivanova nodded sombrely. "I know, I know." She flashed him a rueful half-smile. "Just give *me* some time to get used to it, okay?"

   Sheridan smiled back again, relieved. "Okay."

*****

   "At least I don't have to spend the next three days scraping the kitchen clean," Sheridan muttered with a wry chuckle as the door slid closed. Delenn smiled in amusement, her eyes sparkling as she helped him clear away the remains of Garibaldi's gourmet offering.

   "I think they were glad to leave us with this." She placed the last plate into the sink, quickly dipping her hands under the running water. Sheridan grinned, sliding his arms around her waist and holding up a towel for her.

   "I think they were just glad to leave."

   Delenn smiled, nodding as she dropped the towel onto the table.

   "It must seem strange to them now." She paused: he glanced over her shoulder, making a questioning sound. "Do you think..." She turned her head, looking somewhat concerned. "Should we have told them?"

   "Would it make a difference?" He smiled tiredly and shook his head. "I don't think so. When could we? It's still not safe-"

   "It will never be safe, John. Not completely." She turned in his arms, her hands light on his chest. "Nothing is completely safe. I think perhaps... we should have said something, that is all. I feel guilty," she admitted ruefully. He sighed and kissed her forehead.

   "It was as much my choice as yours. Don't torture yourself with it." She nodded, but he could tell by her seemingly meek expression that there were still doubts hidden behind her eyes. "Delenn, it's okay. You know, falling in love wasn't a crime last time I looked. I'll have Michael check," he teased as he tilted her head up to kiss her tenderly on the mouth. "It'll be okay. Give them a bit of time." Delenn nodded; she smiled ruefully and he let himself relax as he saw her doubts dissipate - for now at least. "Go sit down and I'll make us some tea. At least I can manage that without screwing it up," he assured her at the amusement in her eyes.

   "It is good that I trust you," she reminded him as she crossed the room. Her voice was teasing. "After such a wonderful meal, I might suspect you of trying to impress me." He snorted: she laughed. "Do not worry. I would never leave you, even if I do have to survive your cooking."

   "I have other talents," Sheridan assured her. He glanced over his shoulder from pouring their tea, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Much better than cooking..."

   Delenn suppressed a smile, teasing him. "Really? You will have to show me, one day."

   He flashed her a playful scowl, carrying their steaming tea over to the couch. "If anyone had told me," he handed her a mug, "even a year ago, that I'd manage to fall in love with such a frustrating Minbari..."

   "Or that I would enjoy being Human," she returned equally with a smile. He held her gaze for a moment: she regarded him evenly and he gave a dramatic sigh, shaking his head.

   "How I managed to get myself into this, I'll never know." She looked at him in mock hurt and he chuckled, holding up his arm for her to nestle close. He gave her a curious glance. "Actually, now I think about it, it's all your fault..."

   "Yes." She smiled and sipped her tea, looking pleased with herself. "As I recall, however, you did not complain."

   "I can't think of anyone who would," he assured her seriously. She smiled: they shared a warm, loving kiss, and when she drew back his arms tightened around her with a tender brush of his lips on her hair. "I hope you're staying tonight."

   Delenn curled up onto the couch. "I do not think we should waste such an opportunity." He looked confused: her smile held just the hint of a blush. "I do not think we will be woken early tomorrow," she teased. "It does not take much to realise what we will be doing tonight."

   He grinned at the reminder, raising his eyebrows. "And what will we be doing, exactly?"

   "We will not be... pretending... anymore," she reminded him with an enticing smile. Her eyes shone with pleasure as she reached up to kiss him; he could tell her doubts were fading. "And I think I like that idea..."

   "Mmm..." Her kiss was warm and inviting, and the look in her eyes was one he intimately recognised. "Exactly my feeling." He put down his tea, carefully taking the mug from her hands. "Up for a round of not pretending, Ambassador?"

   Her only answer was a wicked smile: then she leaned forward to capture his mouth again, sucking teasingly on his tongue. His hands slid into her hair, stroking her crest: a soft hum echoed into his mouth as he pushed her back into the couch... then Delenn's eyes sparkled suddenly and she rocked him backward, laughing delightedly as she followed him onto the floor.

   "Delenn!"

   "Shhh..." Her voice was hushed, her kisses covering his face. "No one will disturb us now. And we have made love here before..."

   "Not on the floor," he assured her. After all, he'd definitely remember if she'd ever assaulted him like this. "Which makes it as good a place as any, I guess."

   "Perfect," she corrected with a soft laugh. Her breath, warm and slightly rushed, rippled on his neck, and there was a familiar heat building in his groin.

   "You are," he murmured sincerely against her throat as she continued to explore his features with her lips. Delenn smiled at the compliment.

   "I can be, on occasion." Her fingers slid down his chest, slipping under the belt of his pants. "Although there is little imperfect about your performance, my Drala'nai."

   "Glad to hear it." He grinned, releasing her from his grasp for a moment to hold onto her hands. "Patience is a virtue, hon. Didn't they ever teach you that in temple?"

   "I was never taught to be Human in temple," she returned quietly. Sheridan smiled ruefully and kissed her, tenderly on the lips but not with the passion she was so accustomed to.

   "You're not Human, Delenn."

   "I am more Human than I am Minbari." Her hand stroked his cheek softly, and to his relief and amazement she was smiling ever so gently. "It is not what I thought would happen, and it is nothing you have made me." She smiled, knowing that was foremost on his mind. "But it is true all the same." She lowered her voice, almost conspiratorially. "It is not something I would ever tell another, or that I could ever show you, but..." She paused and sighed. "You have never seen me, or known me as a Minbari. And there is no one I would show such differences to now."

   He looked surprised, lightly brushing her hair back from her face, and his voice was gentle. "Are you really that different?"

   "Not in some ways. But with you... a Minbari would not act the way I do. Or look as I do," she added after a moment. His eyebrows rose.

   "Oh? What do Minbari... look like?"

   To his surprise, she blushed and looked shyly downward. Looking at her body, covered by her simple green dress, as if she were trying to reconcile her past and present to be able to tell him what he asked.

   "If it's hard for you..."

   "Not hard," she assured him. Her smile at his concern was warm, a little rueful. "Only... it has been only two years, and yet I find I can hardly remember myself as a Minbari. Sometimes... I can even look at myself as I used to be, and I don't recognise my own face."

   "And that's not hard for you?" His voice resounded with sympathy for her, his heart aching for what she had gone through.

   "Sometimes." The admission was difficult, and it would come only for him. "It was... when I have been away, when I went home, it was hard. There are people here who dislike what I am, but they mean me no harm. Not really," she assured him firmly as his eyes hardened protectively. "They only fear what they do not understand, as much as they fear any other alien. But when I went away..." She paused, studying her fingers for a long moment. "When I am with you, none of it matters. The way you look at me... the way you make me feel... I can forget all the others, even how I feel about myself. If I did not have you..."

   "Not even a question," he cut in before she could finish the reluctant sentence. "I'm yours until I die, Delenn - and after that."

   "I know." She smiled tenderly. "As I will always be yours. And I will always love you, but for some of my people..."

   "What they think doesn't matter. Love is love, Delenn."

   Her fingers stroked his face lovingly, her palm cupping his cheek. "You know I love you, John. Nothing will stop that, no matter what anyone says."

   "But it still hurts," he said softly. She looked away, but even without speech it was obvious. "I know you better than anyone, Delenn. You don't have to tell me in words when something upsets you."

   She lifted her head, slowly; saw the tenderness in his eyes and half-smiled, leaning into his arms and reaching up to place a loving kiss on his lips. Her voice was quiet when she tried to speak again. "I-"

   "Shh." He held her close, hugging her tightly to him. "Don't say anything. You don't have to." He looked down at her; after a moment, kissed the tip of her crown, his fingers running lightly through her hair. "And I know you're beautiful, for a Human or Minbari."

   She smiled. "I assume you would like me to reply with something suitably adoring."

   Sheridan chuckled, glad she was relaxing again. "You know, those romance novels really aren't the right kind of research for you." She tilted her head up; he kissed her, and her response this time was little to do with romance. His tongue twined lightly with hers; Delenn reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck, smiling into his mouth as he rolled her over onto the floor. "At least you're keeping me fit," he teased with a grin. Delenn gave him a mock scowl, biting his lip lightly in retort. He chuckled, one hand sliding down her back as the other tightened in her hair. "Mmm... have you been planning this all night?"

   Her eyes sparkled as he looked down at her. "May I say... perhaps there is something to said for restraint after all."

   "They call it anticipation, where I come from," he teased. "Or impatience."

   She looked at him archly. "Are you saying I am impatient?"

   Sheridan grinned. "Never."

   "Good." With that, she took his face in her hands and kissed him impatiently.

   He wondered, idly as she helped him remove his shirt, if there happened to be anywhere or anything that Delenn wasn't willing to try with him. Curiosity always seemed to take precedence over reluctance, or the distaste he might have expected a year ago at the idea of the two of them literally stripping each other naked on the floor of his quarters. He didn't think he'd ever corrected anything in his mind as quickly as his impression of Minbari - or at least of Delenn - when she had first proven to him what intense passion was hidden behind that calm exterior. It was incredible to him that even now, there was no one else in the world who could see that look of pure attraction shine in her eyes.

   She pulled his head down to her again, tightening her arms around his neck as he evaded her deepening kiss with a teasing trail down her shoulder. A low, teasing growl emerged from his throat, mingling with her hum of pleasure and drawing a laugh from under his wandering lips. "You sound impatient, my love," she teased quietly. He chuckled, nibbling the side of her neck as he slid a hand under the collar of her dress.

   "You started it."

   Her voice rippled with bemusement. "Is *everything* my fault?"

   "It is when you get me like this," he returned equally. Delenn smiled, running her fingers through his hair as he looked up at her.

   "If I had known revealing our secret would make you this way, I would have done so a long while ago."

   He made a playful face, teasing her. "What way?"

   Her smile was close to wicked then: he only had time to blink as she rolled him onto his back, sitting up to straddle his hips and running her fingertips down his chest. He raised his eyebrows, grinning at the sudden switch. Delenn was always willing to experiment, but when it got down to it she definitely enjoyed this position. "Getting impatient with me now, love?"

   "No more than you," she assured him with a smile, and he rolled his eyes as he understood her words. "I assume this means you do not want me to move," she continued absently, a finger trailing down his stomach as he chuckled under his breath.

   "You could try coming back down here."

   She smiled, shifting her hips to settle more comfortably. "I like this."

   "It'd be hard not to." He smiled, one hand reaching up to touch her hair. "And no, you don't have to move."

   "Good..." Her smile was enticing; not the only part of her that was, to Sheridan's eyes as she dropped her outer dress to one side, not bothering to stand as she undressed. She'd certainly had practice enough, playfully pushing back his wandering touch as he tried to help. "Neither do you," she informed him lightly. Sheridan chuckled, obediently dropping his hands. Her hips rose slightly as she unfastened the simple jumpsuit she wore under her dress; he slipped his hands under her thighs, gently pulling her forward even as she lowered herself onto his chest. His hands slid up then to rest on her hips, mirroring her own actions as she leaned in for a kiss and her practiced hands easily added his pants to the clothes adorning his couch. He grinned, his murmur slightly breathless as he broke for air and helped her out of what remained of her clothing. "You know, maybe impatience is the better virtue..."

   Delenn laughed, a distinctly earthy sound as his hands stroked slowly back up her now naked body and she tilted her head to kiss him. "I would say that is definitely a possibility."

   "I think it just won the argument," he corrected as he pushed her gently onto the floor again. She looked at him, slightly surprised - but certainly not disappointed with the continued change in control. It was never really about control, between them, knowing they were equals - *partners*, now. In every way, he realised suddenly as he looked down at her, tenderly smoothing back her slightly mussed hair. In the docking bay, he'd acknowledged her use of the word: professionally and spiritually, but it had been that short time later that he found more important to him. He worked with her so closely because they had to do it, because there was no alternative to their cause: but he held her and kissed her and made love to her because he *wanted* her, because he loved her desperately and he wanted everyone to know...

   "I love you," he murmured sincerely. Half to himself and only half to her, even though he knew even that wasn't necessary. Delenn didn't seem to object to the reminder, however: only smiled and lifted her head to capture his mouth, in a particularly passionate kiss that answered him without words she didn't have the breath to say anyhow. He teased her lower lip with his teeth, tracing her lips with his tongue: her fingers tightened in his hair and she hummed into his mouth, holding him so tightly to her that his lips never left her skin as he trailed down to kiss her neck again. A hand strayed down to cup her left breast, gently teasing her nipple; she made a soft sound of encouragement, her own hands on his shoulders as he kissed his way across soft skin to her other breast. A long, warm sigh purred in her throat as he traced the tip of his tongue around her nipple, feeling it tighten and peak in response to the delicate teasing, her quiet encouragement sending a rush of warmth to his groin. Her hand followed it, but he didn't need any much encouragement in that area; already hard and impatient for her, holding back to make sure she was ready - not that he needed to worry, he noted with a smile against the soft curve of her breast. The hand that closed around his hard shaft was guiding rather than arousing - not deliberately, anyway, although she always was to him - and it was obvious that her immediate reaction to their positions was much the same as his.

   "Want me?" His voice was deceptively quiet as he covered her hand with his own, wrapping her fingers around the base of his penis as he lifted his head to look into her eyes. Her response was a fierce kiss, her hand under his firmly guiding his erection to just *where* she wanted him. He moaned low into her mouth, his tongue brushing hers as the sensitive head of his penis pushed into her body. That long, blissful sigh echoed into his mouth as he slid into her, easily and comfortably as she tilted her hips to take him in completely. An inward smile tugged at his lips as she growled softly, wanting more of him: he moved his hands under her hips, lifting her legs to wrap around his waist. The shift in position pushed him deeper inside her, drawing a satisfied moan from her throat; he pulled back, and she kissed him desperately in return until he thrust back into her, filling her body almost further than she had thought he could.

   "John..." Her hands were on his back now, strength in her grasp as she held him in her, wanting him to stay there. "John, please..."

   He looked down at her, for a silent moment save slightly ragged breathing from both of them; her eyes were pleading, and he couldn't refuse that gaze even if the idea had ever crossed his mind.

   "Shh." He stroked her cheek, a concerned caress. "What is it?"

   "It's all right." She paused, seeming somewhat hesitant for a moment. "I just... I want you here, for a little while."

   He smiled and kissed her tenderly on the forehead. "I love you, you know. All of you..."

   Delenn smiled back at him, softly, and he made a quiet hum in the back of his throat as her muscles tightened around him in answer. Her kiss was light and unhurried, tilting her head up to him; she reached a gentle hand up to touch the sealed gash on his forehead, her fingers tentative. "Is that still painful?"

   He smiled wryly. "Delenn, I could have a fractured skull and I wouldn't notice it right now." She looked concerned for a moment and he chuckled, gently pulling her hand away. "It's fine. I had Stephen check me over. Relax," he murmured in her ear, tenderly nuzzling her crest to reassure her. "I'm fine, thanks to my amazing Minbari Ambassador." He flashed her a grin, and her answering smile was only slightly demure. "You *were* amazing, Delenn. Who else could get three heavy cruisers to turn tail and run like hell within twenty words?"

   She laughed, reaching up to place a gentle kiss on the healing cut. The movement shifted her hips, her legs tightening around his waist as she held him inside her; he couldn't help the quiet moan that emerged under his breath, his body rocking instinctively in counterpoint to her movements. Love and desire shone in her eyes as she looked tenderly up at him, and the light in his own was half amusement and half barely-held restraint.

   "You know, there's a word for this, but right now I couldn't say if it's 'pleasure' or 'torture'." She laughed softly, delightedly at her effect on him, and he swallowed hard to avoid the sudden, animal need to just ravish her *right* now. "Oh, hell. Definitely pleasure," as he lowered his head and cupped her smooth breast in his hand.

   She moaned softly, barely audible and more a deep, rolling sound as he tugged her nipple into his mouth and sucked lightly, his rhythm deepening as he rocked his hips very slightly against hers. Her legs around his waist still held him inside her, but his small, quick movements rubbed over her clit and she writhed under his suddenly desperate attentions, his name and a murmured string of Minbari on her reddened lips.

   "Delenn..." He gasped her name, his mind blanking as she took advantage of the moment and kissed him again. "Delenn, I-"

   "Shh..." Her hands caressed his back, up to his neck to slide into his hair, smiling into his eyes. He gazed back at her for a moment: she gasped softly as he wrapped one arm around her and rolled her over, flashing her a sudden grin.

   A soft laugh breathed over his lips then; she arched her back to sit up, straddling him with a blissful sigh as she sank down onto his hardened penis again. A stray curl of thick, soft hair fell across her shoulder as she put her hands on his chest, delicate fingertips tracing clenched muscles: a warm hand stroked up her body, making her shiver as he touched sensitive skin. He smiled up at her; eyes half closed and humming softly, so beautifully open to him the way she always was when they were joined like this. His fingers teased that long curl of hair, raising it to stroke lightly over her neck: she smiled, leaning into his caress, gasping softly as he dropped his hand to her breast and the other slid between her thighs, caressing all he could reach of her. The warm, unrestrained sounds that filled her throat made him smile, his own arousal quickening as he stroked her, feeling her tense around him as he thrust into her body. He always knew when she was close: it wasn't difficult, after so long being so close to her, and he knew just how to bring her with him when he came inside her. Her back arched, pressing hard onto him as he thrust into her: he heard her voice quiet as he continued to stroke her, searching out her other hand to pull her down to him and roll her onto her back in a movement that was, if not smooth, at least immediate. Her own control was gone, her body rigid and straining toward his hand; his wasn't far behind as he thrust into her, desperately, his head lowered to kiss her neck as he felt her hands in his hair, rocking against him.

   "John - ohhhh, Johnnnn...." Her voice was breathless, almost a whimper, close to her ear and barely audible in the sudden rush of ecstasy that blinded his brain: only aware of the warmth of her under him, her hands grasping him instinctively to keep him inside her, through her climax and his as they came together. It didn't happen often, but he'd never known anything as amazing as that feeling when the intensity of her orgasm triggered his own and he lost all sense of the world in the deep, blinding bliss of coming inside his beautiful Minbari lover.

   She was gasping for breath when he finally lifted his head, his chest heaving slightly, but despite his weight she held him firmly from moving. A tremulous hand reached up to stroke his hair, brushing it back from the cut on his forehead: he smiled and kissed her, gently in that way that never stayed gentle for long. Passion was never far behind after they made love that way, even if he was too close to exhaustion to do anything more about it right now.

   "Mmmm..." He chuckled, his brain slightly hazy as he took her face in his hands. "God, I love you. That was..."

   "Amazing?"

   He laughed, unable to forego kissing her again. "Oh, you bet..."

   "I do not 'bet'," she reminded him teasingly. "But I think I would win, if I were to do so."

   "Oh, definitely." Sheridan smiled lovingly into her eyes: she looked gorgeous, relaxed and ever so slightly sleepy as she toyed with his hair and smiled up at him in return. He kissed her once more, slowly and tenderly; caught her hand on his back, lifting her palm to his lips as he slipped carefully out of her. She didn't protest when he rolled heavily onto his back, following his movement to prop herself on one hand as he let out a blissful sigh. Delenn looked down at him silently, with a small smile as his eyes closed briefly, trying to recover from her onslaught. He glanced up, feeling her gaze, forcing his eyes open for just a moment: saw her watching him and drew her into his arms again, and she cuddled into his side with a contented smile. Her eyes fluttered shut, her body relaxed as she slid one hand up to his chest and nuzzled lightly at his shoulder.

   "John?"

   "Hmm?" He trailed his fingertips absently up her spine, his eyes half-closed as the warm afterglow of loving her steadfastly refused to leave.

   "Why did we not do this before?"

   He smiled, gazing up at the ceiling and trying to keep his eyes open as she looked up at him. "I know my brain's a bit fuzzy right now, after... *that*..." he grinned suddenly at her, "but I at least remember that we have done this before. Any number of times," he reminded her lightly. Delenn smiled contentedly, shifting further to tuck her head under his chin and press her warm breasts to his chest.

   "Not like this..." She paused, considering and feeling considerably lazier than before. "I like it here. There is more room than on your couch."

   "Less comfort than the bed, though," he reminded her. She laughed softly.

   "I thought you were an explorer."

   Sheridan grinned wolfishly, tilting his head down to kiss the tip of her crown. "I like exploring you. Although the scenery is a good change of perspective..." One kiss became another; when he reached her temple she looked up, moving her head to encourage his explorations and smiling as he pulled her up to capture her mouth again.

*****

   Getting to the bedroom, eventually, did however prove too tempting for even either of them: after the whole day spent together, openly, it just seemed to complete things to finally spend a night without worrying they would be discovered together... and Delenn was definitely right, Sheridan reminded himself wryly. There was something to be said for restraint after all, given the new shift in their relationship. Their personal and professional lives had never mixed before, at least not so willingly, but he found he was going to like being able to treat her as his lover instead of hiding his feelings behind closed doors. So, neither of them were ready to get down and dirty in front of the command staff - but just to hold her hand, to know he could touch her and talk to her the way he always did when they were alone, to spend the night sleeping with her without being constantly on edge...

   Delenn didn't seem to be able to sleep, however, tonight. He frowned lightly down at her; head resting on his shoulder, one arm draped across his chest as she gazed absently across the room, obviously lost in thought.

   "Delenn?" She looked up, wondering if he had been speaking to her and she hadn't heard. Sheridan smiled down at her. "You okay?"

   "Hmm? I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

   He shrugged, but she could see he was concerned.

   "You're tense. You should try and relax more."

   She arched a non-existent eyebrow in his direction: he sighed ruefully and shook his head, not needing speech to hear her perfectly.

   "Okay, I know. No one's relaxed around here at the moment." He tilted his head to touch hers, stroking his fingers absently through her hair, smoothing it and idly separating the strands. Delenn looked up at him after a moment; he flashed her a smile, slightly apologetic.

   "Helps me think."

   "I was not complaining," she assured him. Sheridan chuckled.

   "I know better than to make you complain."

   "I should think so." Her tone was clearly amused as she pressed closer, and he chuckled as he put his hand back on her hair. This time, though, his fingers traced the delicate folds of her crown: staying deliberately far from the areas he knew aroused her, preferring for now the calm, intimate silence rather than the intensity that always came with their lovemaking. He traced a light path around the inside of her crown, an intricate exploration across the tip and down into her hair as she shifted further into his embrace.

   "Cold?" She looked a little uncomfortable, and he knew when something was up. He turned his face to her hair, gently nuzzling the inside of her crown where his fingers were softly exploring. When she didn't reply for a moment he looked up again, concerned. "Is something bothering you?"

   There was another short pause, but she shifted restlessly against him and eventually sighed. "Perhaps a little."

   He frowned slightly, sitting up slightly to meet his eyes. "What? We're in this together, Delenn. All of it."

   "And that is what worries me." She smiled quickly, attempting to reassure him with a soft caress as he reacted to her words. "Do not misunderstand me - I want this, I want us to be together, but - with all the problems with Earth at the moment, with my people and your people and the Shadows..." Her usually bright eyes were dimmed grey with worry - and fear?

   "This is really getting to you." He frowned, concerned that he hadn't seen it before, bringing one hand up to cup her face and gaze seriously into her eyes. "Why didn't you say something? You don't have to hide from me, Delenn."

   "I didn't want to worry you." Her voice was quietly reluctant. "You have so much to deal with-"

   "And you keep me sane, Delenn." He pressed his hand to her face, stroking her cheek gently with his thumb. "At least let me do the same for you."

   "I am hardly venturing into insanity," she assured him archly. He smiled.

   "I didn't say you were."

   "I believe you did," she returned equally. He regarded her for a moment, then shook his head with a bemused chuckle.

   "Okay, maybe I did. I just don't want you keeping things to yourself because you think it'll protect me. It won't." His gaze was gentle, but still serious. "I need you, Delenn, but that doesn't mean I can't be there for you in return. We all need someone sometimes."

   "I know." She reached up to her cheek, gently grasping his hand. "And I know you are here for me, when I need you. But..." She paused; looked down and smiled apologetically. "You must remember that I am Minbari, John, at least in part. I was Grey Council for a long time. We are not trained... Minbari do not share things as easily as you do." He looked concerned now: what else had she kept from him? "I try, for you," she promised, trying to reassure him. "Perhaps it comes easier to me than other Minbari, I do not know. I know that I love you, and I want to be truthful with you." She sighed. "But it can be... difficult, sometimes."

   "I know." The empathy in his voice made her smile, reassured by the knowledge that he understood her - possibly better than she did herself, these days. "Honesty isn't the issue, you know. You've always been honest with me." He flashed her a teasing grin. "We'd probably still be stuck as polite friends if you hadn't." Delenn smiled, a little sheepishly at the reminder.

   "I wanted you. I still want you." She ran her fingers through his hair, stroking his cheek with a soft hand, fond and loving. "I do not think that will ever change."

   He smiled, passing over the light quip on his lips to kiss her instead, gentle and slow and sincere as his fingers tightened in her hair, her hand clasping the other that still rested lightly on her face.

   "You know I'll never push you." His voice was quiet and heartfelt as he broke the kiss to stroke her hair tenderly. "But if something's bothering you, I want you to tell me."

   She gave him a quizzical glance. "Does that not amount to the same thing?"

   "I said I *want* you to tell me. I didn't say I'd make you. I'd hope asking would be enough."

   "You ask a lot of me, sometimes."

   "Only for you," he assured her with a comforting caress, gently running his hand down her shoulder. "There is *nothing* I want more than for you to be happy, Delenn."

   "Nothing?" There was a touch of amazement in her voice; he grinned.

   "That and to have your gorgeous body available to me. At every possible opportunity."

   Her eyes sparkled. "I thought that might be the case." She looked up at him with that open expression that always, deep down where he kept his first impressions of her, amazed him. "Do you want me again, now?"

   "I want to hold you." Given her complete ease with their physical relationship, he could never help but return in kind, but right now... "Right now, after everything that's happened... I just want to know you're here. Not that I won't mind, if you want to..."

   "It's all right." She shook her head, smiling as she nestled once more into his shoulder, but even that was tinged with worry. "I know. The past few days..." She sighed and slid her arms around him, deliberately pushing away the problems that assailed them both. "It will be nice to be here again tonight. It feels empty without you," she admitted as an afterthought. Sheridan smiled, hugging her tightly to him as she tucked her head into the hollow of his neck. Despite their usual and necessary secrecy, it was rare for them to sleep completely alone now. Even if it was only holding her in her own bed until she fell asleep before returning to his quarters, it was enough to be near her for that short while and Delenn certainly found it easier to sleep in his arms. Whenever they could afford the risk, although it wasn't huge given how much they both flitted around the station as it was, she would sleep in his quarters: it made for some thin nerves, on occasion, but there was an almost illicit joy in grabbing that intimate time together. God knew they needed it, and more than ever now. His mind flitted back to the depressing and regrettably momentous events of the previous day: he sighed heavily, pulling her warmth closer.

   "Tell me." He smiled slightly, not bothering to wonder how she knew. She could read his body like a book, and the tension in him right now had to be written in four-foot-high type.

   "I was just thinking..." He sighed ruefully, tilting his head up to stare at the bare metal ceiling. "I know I shouldn't. It's just..." Another sigh found its way to his lips; he tried to smile and failed, closing his eyes. "How much I miss home, suddenly. It's funny how you never miss something until you can't have it any more." He opened his eyes and looked down at her. "I spoke to Dad earlier. I..." He paused, taking in a breath. "I wanted to tell him about you. About us." He wondered if she resented him not doing so as much as he did. "I wanted to so badly, Delenn. If I could have been sure..."

   "One day," she soothed quietly. "One day it will happen. Don't worry." His eyes still clouded with pain at the secrecy and she reached up to him, gentle touches seeking to ease that exhausted tension. "I know that you love me, John. I have all I need." She sat up, looking him in the eyes. "You would tell them if you could. That is all that matters."

   "I'd tell the whole damned galaxy if I could." He looked down to meet her eyes, and a wry smile rested on his lips even as he sighed again. "Crazy, isn't it? I've been tossing and turning for days without you, and now that you're here I can't seem to shut anything else off for even two minutes." He sighed, the corner of his mouth tugging upward apologetically. "I'm sorry, honey."

   "Shh." She kissed him lightly on the hollow of his neck, not wanting to move. "I understand. Don't worry."

   He chuckled sardonically. "You must be the only woman in the galaxy who could put up with me."

   "I was meant for you." Her voice was sincere as she traced his lips gently with a finger. "And I love you very much more than you could imagine."

   "I can imagine quite a bit," he assured her. She smiled and kissed him delicately on the lips.

   "Exactly." She smiled warmly, her eyes deep with affection for him. "How could I love you and not 'put up with you', as you say it?"

   Sheridan regarded her for a moment: she met his gaze calmly and he smiled, shaking his head in amazement as he pulled her into his lap and hugged her to his chest. "What *did* I do to deserve you?"

   "I will let you know, if I ever find out."

   He laughed, at what from another woman might be considered arrogance: even in such a mock-haughty tone, Delenn's voice was demure and a little amused and it did wonders for his mood. She laughed softly at his sudden grin and burrowed into his arms, warm and - for the moment - contented in the safety of his embrace. It was rare to get the time to just *be* with him recently, and she knew it would become harder before the year was out. There was so much left to be done...

   "I love you," Sheridan murmured in her ear. She smiled, turning her head to look at him and easily allowing him to tuck her head under his chin. He must have seen or at least sensed her unease, and he knew the tender truth of those words always calmed her.

   "And I love you," she assured him quietly, matching the sincerity in his voice and nuzzling into his chest. "But if that is not enough-"

   "It's enough for me." He looked seriously down at her, his eyes darkening for a moment. "If anyone else says otherwise then they can go to hell." She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes: he sighed inwardly and took her face lightly in his hands. "I know it feels strange, knowing that it's not a secret now, but that's not a bad thing. Really. It was gonna get out eventually, we knew that." He smiled reassuringly, seeing the apprehension in her carefully constructed expression. "Delenn, I love you. There's something I feel for you... it goes beyond words. And as much as I'd never want to? If I have to choose between anything and you, it's you. No questions asked."

   "John-"

   "No." He put a finger firmly on her lips. "No buts. It's my choice, and it's made. You'd never be able to change that and I don't want you to try."

   Delenn looked, for a long few moments, as if she were about to protest: he kept his gaze even as he watched her, smiling reassuringly, and eventually she sighed.

   "If it were to become public knowledge that you can persuade me so easily..."

   He grinned, kissed her lightly. "Only in private," he assured her. "I wouldn't try anything in the Council."

   "I would not let you," she reminded him archly.

   He chuckled wryly. "I know. I'm not as stupid as some people give me credit for."

   A smile touched her lips, almost rueful but definitely amused, and she huddled warmly against him. His own smile widened and he wrapped his arms completely around her, hugging her tightly. "You and I are partners, Delenn. Remember?" His voice was low and sincere. "And I wouldn't lose you for anything." *Not even for Earth.*

   "I remember." She smiled. "And I know," she added softly. He touched her cheek, caressing up into her hair as they met in a light kiss. It deepened considerably as she rolled onto her back, reached up and drew him purposefully down to her again. "But do you think *they* know," she sounded wholly amused now, touching his chin teasingly with a finger as her other hand slid down his back, "what is really between us?"

   "Like right now?" Sheridan grinned, chuckled at the desire in her eyes and ducked his head to kiss her neck. "Not a chance in hell..."

[END]

 

*****

 

 

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