By Tamzin Grey
This story begins with the last scene if Learning Curve, and contains spoilers for Strange Relations.
Don't touch me. Please don't try to touch me. I can't bear it.
Were you ever going to tell me? I can't bear it if you weren't.
"I'm going to pretend you were going to tell me this sooner or later."
Pretend. Is that what I'm doing? I don't know.
"I was just.... looking for the right time."
He said he was sorry. But he just sounds embarrassed.
"Ten seconds after you thought of it would have been good."
"Yeah. Yeah, maybe so."
I wish I wasn't here. I wish I was back in my own quarters, in my own bed.
I wish I hadn't had to hear my husband tell me this.
"Are you all right?"
I don't know.
"I think so."
I don't know.
"It will just.... take some getting used to."
Two's company, three's a crowd....
This hurts too much. I can't take it in yet.
'It's not like him.' Such a small remark, why did it make me think there had been some connection between them? Was it the way she said it?
It was odd, the way he didn't talk about her at all. There was a lot to do, we talked about so much, but he never mentioned a replacement for Ivanova until I asked him about it. Even when she arrived, he hardly spoke about her. I couldn't understand it.
The worst I could imagine was that they had been lovers. I know humans sometimes do that before they take life-vows. It's their way. But marriage! He has a life-partner still alive and he didn't tell me. He asked her to come here to work beside him, just weeks after we were married. He made all the arrangements. He said nothing.
I can't think about this. It hurts too much.
Thinking about it is making it worse. Surely he should have told me before we were married? Did he think I might be upset, and was too cowardly to start the conversation? Or does he really hold marriage so lightly that he honestly thought it didn't matter? It hardly ever happens on Minbar, but I've studied human culture, I'd have understood. I'd have got used to the idea, come to terms with it. At least I'd have known John was honest.
I can't bear to think about these past few weeks. I was so happy. I never thought I could ever be so happy.
I thought I would never marry. To have a husband, perhaps even to have children - that was for other women, I could never hope for it for myself. I was chosen, I ruled, I was Satai. Power and authority were supposed to be a more-than-fair exchange for love, companionship and family. I never questioned it.
But I was chosen to do more than rule. To be the one who would change, who would become the bridge between the races, to unite body and blood with the other half of our soul. The change was daunting enough. To give up my body and become forever alien to my birthright. To be caught in between, belonging nowhere. But what was to come after was more daunting still. To give up my body a second time to one of the enemy, to a man of a different species, then a third time to carry and give birth to the child who will truly unite our peoples once and forever. At first I simply did not know how to face it.
Kosh.... How can I think of him now? Valeria, angel of light; Gabriel, messenger of God. I would have done anything for him. I would have given up my soul for him. Perhaps I did.
Kosh is gone. There's no comfort there now, if there ever was.... Get the hell out of our galaxy....
It was so difficult. Things tasted different, smelled different, looked different. I could scarcely lift my own valise, I even had to call for help to undo the lids of the food containers in my quarters. My emotions swung one way and another, my body was a strange organism I didn't understand.
I made myself approach John, although I was so embarrassed. But then - he seemed such a kind man, such good company, he even seemed to understand something of what I was going through. I began to like him, to enjoy being with him. I thought he was honest, and brave, and.... kind. How could I have been so wrong?
A week after we were married, Ivanova left. How soon after that did he think of Lochley as a replacement? He's explained it all to me. He wanted someone who had fought on Clark's side, as a gesture of healing. But he didn't know anyone he could trust, except her. It sounds so reasonable. It is so reasonable. It's just the sort of thing we used to talk about - how to build the bridges, how to heal the wounds of the war. But he didn't talk to me about this.
I know what must have been involved. It's a high-level appointment. The forms, the paperwork, the bureaucracy. It must have taken weeks. Two weeks, three weeks - the first weeks of our married life. I learned so much, he taught me so much. I got used to living with him, eating with him, sleeping with him. It was the first time in my life I'd ever been so close to anyone. It was wonderful. I don't think I quite realised how alone I'd been until I wasn't alone any more.
I can't believe he didn't tell me. For three weeks, he said nothing. Three weeks of politics, and laughter, and meals, and work, and even some relaxation. Three weeks when I was thinking about him. Three weeks when he was thinking about her, arranging for her to come here.
I keep coming back to WHY?
And I can't find an answer.
I had to talk to her. We have to work together, I had to establish some sort of relationship. But she's so arrogant about it all. I wish he hadn't told you without consulting me first. I could almost have strangled her at that moment. Well, strangled someone. To speak as if she had all the rights to dictate when I might be told something by my own husband!
Why does he talk to her about it, and not to me?
But I must stay calm and smile and answer her with soft words. I can't afford a public confrontation. But then to tell me that it all meant nothing, as if the fact that John has broken a marriage after only three months should make me feel better! It will soon be three months since he married me.
I don't know you, John. I wonder if I ever knew you.
He came to my quarters last night, as we had arranged last week. I welcomed him. What else can I do?
I want to yell at him, to tell him how I feel, to have a row that would 'strip the paint off the walls'. I can't. What would it achieve? I can't force him to tell me why he did this to me. I can't even imagine an answer.
This marriage is important, to everyone. We are the symbol of the Interstellar Alliance. If we can't make this work, how can we make the larger alliance work? I can't storm out and barricade the door. I can't make this rift wider, or harder to bridge.
He said he was sorry.
He said he loves me.
But I just want him to tell me why....
It's my own fault. I should have insisted on finishing the rituals. Even just a little further would have done it. The seventh ritual, where the male tells of his past life, and the female tells of hers. To share the secrets which ought to be shared. Our elders were right to insist on this ceremony, and I was a fool.
Or worse than a fool. Was I afraid of what I would have to tell John? I've done many things I'm not proud of, things I try to atone for every day of my life, things I will regret till my dying day. Things I should tell John?
I didn't tell him about Anna. I knew how much he had loved her, how hurt he was by her loss, he had a right to know she might still be alive. But I loved him, or I thought I did, and I thought he would go to Z'ha'dum to find her, and leave me alone. But it hurt him far more when she appeared out of nowhere, and he went there anyway. I can still feel his hands gripping my arms, his voice shouting, 'why didn't you tell me?'. Oh John, you're well revenged.
I know why I did that. I was wrong, but I loved him and I didn't want to lose him. I told him, and I thought he understood. He forgave me. I need to forgive him now.
If only I knew why, if only I understood!
I knew about Anna. He loved her, and she was dead. I felt honoured to step into the place where there was so much love. Lochley? It makes me uncomfortable, but it was all a long time ago. Many people have done foolish things in their youth, and been forgiven.
If only he'd told me.
If I cry, I won't stop. I mustn't cry.
Why don't I ask him to explain? I don't know.
Yes, I do. Because I might be more hurt by the answer than by the lack of one.
He can't simply have forgotten. No one could forget their first wedding day while they were preparing for their third. No one I would want to be married to.
He couldn't have thought I'd leave him if I knew he had a wife still alive. He would never have brought her here if that had been what was keeping him silent.
I try to imagine he simply shirked the conversation. But it doesn't make sense. Even if he couldn't bring himself to tell me before the wedding, as soon as he thought of her as Ivanova's replacement, he was honour bound to tell me. I didn't just have a right to know, I had a right to be asked. To deny me that right, to store up all this hurt and all this pain, just because he didn't want to have a conversation which might have been a little difficult? I can't believe it.
It was so calculating. Letters to write, forms to fill in, arrangements to make. Did he even arrange for ISN not to pick up the story? It must have taken days.... weeks. All the weeks we were together. So many times he could have told me. I think about him sending off the transfer request. When he sent that, knowing he hadn't told me, knowing he hadn't asked me, what was he thinking?
I'm afraid it was deliberate.
I'm afraid he did it to deny me the chance to object.
Would I have tried to stop him, if he had asked me? It's so hard to know, now. There's so much hurt obscuring everything. If John really believed that having her here was important, if he really believed it would help heal the wounds of the war, I hope I would have said yes. I know I would have said yes. Harder, perhaps, to take it all in at once than if I'd known about her from the beginning, but if he'd asked me directly and offered me the chance to say no, I'd have known I had nothing to fear.
What do I fear? What am I afraid of?
I'm afraid he'd rather risk all this pain, even risk our marriage itself, than risk not getting his own way over having Lochley on the station.
If that's what he has to tell me, I don't want to hear it.
I have to stop crying. I can't let him come in and find me like this.
What if the reporters find out?
I don't know why they haven't discovered this already. They even published John's wedding pictures with Anna the day he became President. There must be some records of his marriage to Lochley.
What if I had first discovered this from ISN, or read of it in Universe Today? What if I had gone out one day to find that the whole station was talking about it? What if anyone had realised that I didn't know?
The scandal would have been dreadful.
The scandal still could be dreadful.
I know what they'll say. John will be accused of secrecy, of dishonesty, of favouring his former wife for an important position. Nepotism. It's an ugly word. And some of them are worse, some of them don't care what they say so long as it catches attention, so long as it hurts. Why should John want a former wife here when he is just newly married? Maybe he has discovered that the Minbari changeling can't compete with a real human woman after all?
I know that's not true. My soul and my body tell me that's not true. But it won't stop them saying it. It won't stop me thinking about it.
It won't stop people believing it.
Oh Valen, let them not find out!
I began this because of prophecy. I began this to atone, because it was fitting that the one whose hands were stained reddest with the blood of the slain should be the one to become the bridge to the other half of our soul. I have no right to give up this destiny.
I have to make this marriage work, for the sake of Earth, and Minbar, and the Alliance, and the child who is not yet conceived who will truly unite us all. I have to.
The child is not yet conceived. It must be soon, but how can I bear to let him touch me? On our wedding night he showed me so much that was joyful, so much I had scarcely imagined. Now, when he touches me, all I can think of is him doing these things with her.
He knows, I think. He knows my body isn't doing what it did only a short week ago. I must try to pretend, to feign the joy I no longer feel. I have to go on.
I have to stop thinking about why he did this.
It's getting better, I think. As the days go by we slip back into the habits we'd just begun to form. I can think about other things.
I think about the past.
I think about that terrible day when Kosh sent the Inquisitor. If John hadn't come to save me that day, disobeying my direct command, I would have died. I remember what he was ready to suffer for my sake. And I remember the real test - that there was someone who was willing to suffer for my sake. If there had been no one, nothing I could have said or done would have made any difference. I would be dead.
I think about the day he came back from Z'ha'dum. I thought he was dead, and I wanted to die. Then he came back. I was afraid he wouldn't forgive me, but I'll never forget what he said. "How could I love so much, and not forgive."
How could he love so much....
I think about the future.
Perhaps everything will be all right when we get to Minbar. When I don't have to look at her every day, reminding me of all the things I just don't want to think about. I'll get used to it.
I'm getting used to it already. Each time he says something kind, each time he comes up behind me and kisses my hair, each time I see him smile, it gets a little better.
I can go on like this.
So long as I don't think about why.
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