Shan F'al: Behind Closed Doors (Part Two)

By Peej

This story is a gap filler for the episode "Racing Mars," and as such, may contain minor spoilers for that episode.

Hello, everyone. Here, finally, is part two of "Shan F'al: Behind Closed Doors. I apologize for making everyone wait so long, but the revisions I mentioned when I submitted part one turned into a major rewrite. jms has frequently said that his characters do things he hadn't intended, taking the story into unexpected directions. It seems that they do this even when they are borrowed by someone else.

Finishing this part of the story has taken even longer than I expected for many reasons. With a full time job, a husband and a couple of kids, it's always difficult to find time to write when I can be fairly sure no one (especially my 9-year-old) will wander into the room to read what's on-screen, but the last few months have been full of other events and responsibilities which have left even less time for indulging in my hobby. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that real life has been more than usually intrusive lately.

Okay, enough apologizing--my beta reader says I do way too much of it. I decided I'd better get chapter two into shape for submission for many reasons, including the fact that I've received several "Where the @#$&*! is part two?" e-mails lately, and they're beginning to take on a tone that makes me glad you don't know where I live! ;-)

Part 3 is basically finished, but I want to give my beta-reader one last look at it before I submit it. That should be out within a week, unless those aforementioned real-life events demand even more attention than they have so far. There will be more chapters, but I'm not sure how many. After part three, though, I can't promise that part four will be out in a hurry--there are just too many things I have to deal with.

This section immediately follows the events in part one. I hope you enjoy it. As usual, comments and feedback are appreciated.

PJ January 25, 1998

Babylon 5 and its characters are the property of J. Michael Straczynski and Warner Brothers. No copyright infringement is intended.


Delenn's eyes lingered on John's face a few seconds longer, then she turned to pick up the crystal table. As she rose from the floor to place the table on a counter, John scrambled to his feet, wondering what was next. Despite his impatience, he had to admit that the ritual was intriguing . . . frustrating as all Hell, but intriguing. Delenn opened a cabinet in the wall and took out a bulky white object, which she began to unfold onto the floor. As he watched, John saw that it seemed to be the Minbari equivalent of the Japanese futons he'd seen in the history vids. When she returned to the closet for several wedge-shaped pillows of various sizes, he breathed an audible sigh of relief . . . it appeared that he wouldn't have to worry about the slanted bed after all.

Hearing him, she looked up questioningly, and he found himself flushing as he stammered, "I, um, I thought we were--I was just afraid that . . . " He trailed off and looked at her helplessly, not wanting to offend her by seeming to criticize her culture.

She laughed as comprehension dawned. "You were worried about how we were going to . . . manage things . . . on a narrow, slanted bed, hmm?" She walked toward him and slid her index finger along the line of his jaw before continuing, "As I told you, our beds are quite comfortable when one is in the proper meditative state." She smiled again. "However, while meditation is quite conducive to sleep, it is less appropriate while engaging in . . . um . . . more physical activities. For what we are going to do tonight, a . . . less precarious setting is preferred, so that we may give our full attention to one another."

She had been idly playing with his vest as she spoke, straightening its edges and smoothing its folds, without really seeming to be aware of what she was doing. Her touch was beginning to have an effect on him, and he grasped her hands to halt their movement over his chest. "Um, Delenn, if I'm not supposed to touch you yet, maybe you shouldn't be this close to me."

She glanced down, seeming almost startled to see where her hands were. She looked slightly embarrassed for an instant, then her lips curved into a teasing smile. "I did not say that you could not touch me . . . I merely meant that it was not yet time for you to begin to remove my clothing."

He grinned, entwining his fingers with hers. "You mean I do get to do that eventually?"

"When it is the proper time," she answered, with a smile which was becoming more seductive than teasing.

"I see. And is 'the proper time' likely to be sometime this century?" he asked, with an even larger grin.

"Not if you continue to interrupt the ritual," she chastised, trying to look serious.

"I won't say another word all night," he laughed, as he kissed her forehead lightly. "Please, go on with what you were doing. I wouldn't dream of interfering."

She placed her hands on her hips and looked at him sternly. "Do you realize how many words you have already said, so soon after vowing that you would not speak for the rest of the night? If you do not take your promises more seriously than that, I am not sure that I wish to continue with this."

She looked so serious that he was somewhat taken aback. "Uh, you *are* teasing, right?"

She shook her head slightly and smiled as she responded, "Oh, John, of course I was teasing. As you said, it has taken us a long time to get to this point. Do you really think that I could be so easily dissuaded from finishing what we have begun?"

He took her hands in his and pulled her slightly closer as he answered, "Delenn, the combined forces of the Vorlons and the Shadows couldn't keep you from finishing something you set out to do. Sometimes I think I'm marrying the most stubborn . . . er, I mean, determined, woman in the universe."

"No one is marrying anyone until this ritual has been completed satisfactorily. So, do you think you are finally ready to continue?"

He hung his head like a schoolboy who had just been disciplined and nodded obediently. His forlorn expression was marred by the twitching at the corner of his mouth, and she couldn't keep herself from laughing. As she pulled his head down for a quick kiss she whispered, "We can play games like this all night, or we can try to complete the ceremony before the end of the century. The choice is yours."

He pulled her close for a more thorough kiss, then released her and stepped back. "Let's get on with the ritual . . . these aren't exactly the kind of games I had in mind for tonight."

Smiling, she turned to walk away, but he took her arm to stop her. "Delenn . . ." She turned back, puzzled.

Suddenly, he was completely serious, and he looked deeply into her eyes. "I love you. You have to know that already, but I don't tell you often enough."

Her smile transformed her face as she reached out to caress his cheek. As always, it made his breath catch, and he remembered the first time she had done it. He had just agreed to allow her to go into the Markab isolation area, against his own better judgement. He had been surprised-- no, shocked-- that she had touched him so intimately, but his own reaction had affected him even more deeply. He had called her back, wanting to say something, but he couldn't find the words to express what he was feeling. "Call me John," was the best he could manage, but they had both known he meant something more.

Her hand on his face . . . such a little thing, but it had awakened something. It had taken him a long time to recognize it for what it was, longer to believe those feelings could ever bridge the gulf between them, longer still for him to act upon what he felt. Even then, he had been hesitant, cautious, until his experience on Z'Ha'Dum had shown him how important she had become to him. Their path had not been a smooth one, but tonight, finally, they were committing themselves to each other for the rest of their lives.

He covered her hand with his and turned his face to kiss her palm. Her eyes were glistening as she stepped forward to brush his lips with hers. "I love you, John," she whispered, holding his eyes for a moment before she pulled her hand away and returned to what she had been about to do.

She walked to the dressing table and picked up an ornate crystal bottle, then settled herself on the futon. As she put the bottle down, she looked up at John. "Would you like to join me?" she invited, indicating that he should sit facing her. He sat down carefully, wondering if there were any particular etiquette to this. She had situated the mat as far from the door as the small room allowed, which made him a little less worried about being heard by the people waiting outside her bedroom. When he had learned that they wouldn't be completely alone, he had resolved to be as quiet as possible, but he wasn't sure how well he'd be able to keep that resolution when things began to get more . . . interesting. Trying not to make noise was going to be inhibiting, he complained inwardly, then he sighed as he reminded himself that there were restrictions on their lovemaking tonight and decided that a little inhibition might not be such a bad thing. He decided to stop worrying about what they couldn't do and start enjoying what they could, and looked to Delenn for further instructions.

She had been watching him, and he wondered just how much she had guessed about his feelings. She gave him a slight smile, then composed her features and began, speaking formally, "Through meditation, we have prepared our minds for our discovery of each other. It is now time to begin to prepare our bodies."

She cupped his face between her hands, then slid her fingertips down his throat to his collarbone. Watching his face, her own expression serious, she laid her palms on his chest and slowly, deliberately, moved them down to his stomach. He shivered as her thumbs brushed his navel, and saw her lips part as her breath caught in response to his reaction. She moved her hands apart, slipping them inside his vest, then moved them back up his chest, finally pushing the vest off his shoulders. He lifted his arms to allow her to remove it completely, but was otherwise motionless, letting her lead. He found what she was doing to be highly erotic, and for once he felt no desire to hurry things. Her eyes followed her hands as she undressed him, and he wondered what she was thinking. She had seen him without a shirt before, during the sleep-watching ritual, but there was a subtle difference in the way she looked at his body now. Her eyes were more curious; her gaze seemed to linger as it moved over him.

She placed one of the pillows beside her. "Lie down," she instructed him, her voice a husky whisper.

He complied, his eyes never leaving her face. She repositioned herself so that she was kneeling with his legs between hers, then settled back onto the lower part of his thighs. She leaned forward and placed her palms on his chest again, this time moving them slowly down to his waist. When he felt her fingers began to tug at the drawstring of his trousers, he closed his eyes, his mouth dry. Her hands slipped inside his pants to encircle his waist, and his breath caught as he felt her smooth palms sliding down his sides, pulling off the pants. He lifted his hips to help her, but his body was responding to her touch and his growing erection strained against the clingy fabric. The cloth twisted itself around his swollen penis, stopping her from pulling it farther down. After a final, fruitless tug at the material, she let go, then pulled her hands from beneath his hips and stopped as if uncertain what to do next.

He opened his eyes and almost chuckled at her perplexed expression, but when she shifted her gaze to his face he saw that she seemed genuinely distressed by what had happened. She had seemed so self-possessed, so comfortable with the ritual, that he was surprised to see her so disturbed by something so trivial.

Suddenly, he realized that her self-possession had been due to the ritualized nature of what they were doing. She had probably studied the ceremony well enough to know what to do, what to expect, and things had been proceeding more or less as she had thought they would. However, when the pattern was interrupted, she was at a loss. He guessed that it wasn't time for her to begin an intimate exploration of his body, and she couldn't figure out how to finish undressing him without touching him. He reminded himself that this was all new to her; things she had said had made him almost certain that he would be her first lover. She might have an abstract knowledge of what the ritual entailed, but he doubted that she had seen a naked Human male before. He reached up to touch her cheek softly, hoping to reassure her. "You're not supposed to touch me yet, are you?" When she shook her head, he continued, "Do you want me to do it?"

She shook her head again and took a breath. "That . . . that will not be necessary." He closed his eyes, thinking that she might feel less inhibited if he were not watching her . . . and besides, the lack of visual input seemed to heighten his sensitivity to her touch. He felt her cool hands on his body again and jerked when her fingers brushed through his pubic hair as she slid them under the twisted waistband, then he sighed in pleasure as they slipped around his penis to grasp the edge of the cloth and pull it free. Her touch was light, fleeting, but it was enough. By the time her hands moved back to the sides of his hips to complete her task he was fully erect.

As she finished undressing him, he opened his eyes and lay still, waiting to see what she would do next. He felt her hands sliding back up his legs, thumbs moving along the insides of his thighs, then moving apart again to glide along his hips before meeting again over his navel and continuing up to his throat. Even though she had avoided touching his genitals, his arousal intensified as her hands slid lightly over his body. It felt strange to be completely naked while she was still dressed, to be passive while she took the more active role, but he couldn't remember ever having experienced anything quite so erotic. "Maybe the Minbari actually know what they're doing with all this ritual stuff," he thought to himself.

He waited for her to continue, his eyes moving over her. She was so beautiful, especially tonight, dressed in the revealing clothes, her exotic face softened by desire . . . and her touch, the feel of her hands on his body . . . it was all he could do not to reach out for her; he wanted her, wanted to pull her down to him, tear her gown open and push her back onto the floor, feel her naked under him, her hips rising to meet him as he thrust inside her until they both screamed in release . . . He'd do nothing of the kind, of course, and he was a little disturbed that the thought had even crossed his mind. "Get a grip, John," he upbraided himself, "You're not some horny teenager, you're a grown man and this is the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with."

He realized that she was no longer touching him and he lifted himself on an elbow to look at her. She had moved to his side, and she half sat, half reclined there, one arm outstretched to support herself.

She was looking at him, her eyes moving curiously over his body, and she was breathing faster than she had been a moment ago. He wondered how he looked to her; did his body seem strange, alien? Or did it excite her the way hers excited him? She still wore her gown, but the clingy material hugged her breasts so closely that he could see the shape of her nipples clearly, even to the slight pucker of their aureoles, and her wrap skirt had slipped open, revealing one leg to the thigh. She took a ragged breath and turned to face him, her arousal unmistakable. Her lower lip was caught between her teeth, her eyes wide. They searched each other's eyes, then almost simultaneously, each reached out a hand to stroke the other's cheek. She moved her hand over his face, letting her fingertips linger on his lips, then she took a deep breath and leaned down to slide one arm around his neck, pulling him toward her as she moved closer to kiss him.

At first, her mouth only brushed against his, then she opened it slightly to catch his lower lip between her own lips. She pulled at it softly, catching it again when it slipped free, then gave his upper lip the same attention. They shared soft, nibbling kisses for a time, then he put his arms around her to pull her closer for a deeper kiss. She melted against him, and they both sighed as body pressed to body, separated only by the thin fabric of her gown.

They were lying down now, facing each other, and she slipped one arm around his back, holding him more tightly, while the other hand held his head, crushing his mouth against hers. He was surprised by the passion of her kiss and the way she moved against him, and was even more surprised when her hand moved down his back to his hips, pressing him closer. She had always been responsive to his kisses, but she had never taken the initiative as she was doing tonight. He definitely didn't understand this ritual; just moments ago, she had been reluctant to touch him, and now . . .

Had they suddenly crossed some ceremonial threshold, making them free to explore each others' bodies? Her behavior suggested as much, but he had not expected it so soon. He had been careful not to let his hands move below her waist, but now, encouraged by the way she was touching him, he began to caress her hips. The silky gown slid sensuously beneath his hands, making the soft warmth of her skin seem even more exciting. She moved against him in response to his touch, and his arousal intensified rapidly in reaction to the friction against his penis. She grasped his face between her hands again and kissed him almost desperately; his lips, his eyes, his forehead, then she moaned softly and arched her neck so that his mouth was against her throat. Her abrupt shift from inhibition to abandon didn't make sense to him, but who was he to argue? She was making what she wanted abundantly clear.

He could feel her trembling in his arms as he kissed the side of her neck and the hollow of her throat, and his lips moved lower, following the edge of her gown as it plunged between her breasts. She sighed in pleasure and slid her hand along the back of his neck, up into his hair, to hold his face against her.

His hand moved to her shoulder and began to pull down one side of her gown as his kisses traveled back up to her throat. His lips traced her collarbone, then followed the hand which was pushing the gown lower down her arm. With a sound that was almost a whimper, she dropped her arm to let him push the gown down further, baring her breast. As his mouth found hers again, his hand found her breast, its nipple hard under his fingers. She moaned deep in her throat and her hands tried to tangle themselves in his short hair as she pulled her mouth away to gasp for breath. He kissed her throat and her back arched as his mouth moved lower, kissing her breast, pulling her nipple into his mouth. She whimpered again and pulled his head against her, then he heard her gasp and felt her body stiffen as her hands dropped to his shoulders and she tried to push him away.

"John, no . . . please, John, stop . . . don't . . . "

Had he heard her right? Was she really telling him to stop? She wasn't struggling, didn't seem to be putting a lot of effort into her attempts to push him away, but he could hear the pleading in her voice and knew that she really wanted him to stop what he was doing. He forced himself to release her and gritted his teeth in frustration as he lay back, trying to get himself under control.

She sat up, gasping, eyes stricken, hand covering her mouth as if she couldn't believe what she'd been doing. His eyes moved over her, to her still bare breast, its nipple swollen and wet from his mouth. She followed his gaze and reddened, then crossed her arms over her chest and turned away from him.

He felt himself growing angry as he watched her shoulders rise and fall while she struggled for control. Whoever had designed this ritual had to have been a sadist, or a masochist, or both. This was driving him crazy, and it finally seemed to be getting to Delenn. How could anyone tolerate this? It was impossible, it was inhuman, it was . . . exactly. It wasn't Human. It was a Minbari ritual, and for all he knew, their physiological responses, their sexual arousal patterns, could be totally different. Maybe it wasn't difficult for them to keep starting and stopping like this . . . although, judging from her reaction, Delenn wasn't finding it any easier than he was. When they were both breathing more normally, he sat up and tentatively reached out to touch her shoulder. "Delenn, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"

She interrupted him, shaking her head. "No, I . . . I am sorry. I should not have-- I didn't--" She drew a deep breath and turned to face him. He was surprised by how calm she appeared, compared with her appearance of a few moments ago; it was going to take him longer regain his own composure. She took another deep breath and began again, looking him squarely in the eye. "I should not have kissed you. It was not a part of the ritual. I just wanted--"

She closed her eyes and swallowed, then looked at him as she continued. "I was unprepared for my own reaction when we . . . when I . . . felt your body touching mine. I didn't expect to feel the way I did-- I didn't know I *could* feel the way I did. I didn't know that it would be so hard to stop. You were not to blame, John. You only did what I allowed you to do . . . what I . . . wanted you to do." Her voice was almost a whisper as she made her final admission, and his anger faded as he realized that what had happened hadn't been a deliberate attempt to frustrate him.

He reached out to take her hand and stroked it as he said softly, "Look, Delenn . . . why don't you just tell me exactly what happens during the rest of the ritual so I'll know what to expect and won't do anything I'm not supposed to . . . or," he said, making his voice teasing in an attempt to lighten the mood, "let you do anything you're not supposed to do."



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