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18 September 2010 @ 08:12 pm
Metamorphoses Ch. 7  
It's been almost two months since I updated this!  So, considering that even I didn't remember what happened last and had to reread everything, Chapters One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.

Title: Never the Whole Truth
Specs: Babylon 5, John/Delenn, 6500 words
Rating: PG-13 for sexuality
Disclaimer: Dialogue from "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum" comes from JMS, not from me.

Delenn had never thought that she would tell him like this.  And watching him pace around her quarters, she realized that they had waited too long.  They should have confided in him months ago.  She could have set aside an evening and calmly and carefully explained everything to him; his questions would have been about the threat they all faced, how best to prepare for the long war ahead.  Now, however, his mind was clearly filled with turmoil.  He wasn't listening to everything she said, he was cutting her off, interrupting her answers, and his thoughts were focused on one thing: his wife.  Delenn struggled to keep herself calm even as a dull pain settled behind her eyes.

Kosh closed his iris, releasing John from the memory download.  John staggered, and without thinking Delenn reached out and grabbed his arm.  He pulled out of her grasp, insistent even as he struggled to regain control over himself.  "Anna.  The Icarus.  They found something.  They woke something up.”

“Yes.  Once awakened, the Shadows could not allow them to leave in case they would warn others,” she explained.  He had to know that there was no hope for rescue; he had to stay here.  She didn’t want to continue, but she knew she must.  “Those who would not serve...were killed.”  His face at that tore at her, and she realized just how insidious the things Morden had said to him must have been.  Then immediately hope reformed itself in his eyes.

“But were they all killed?  Delenn, maybe some of them were kept alive as prisoners.  Anna might still be alive.  Morden--”

“Must be released.”  She knew she was evading his question, his real question, the only question he wanted answered.  But she could not give him the answer.  She could not tell him the truth.  Yes, his wife might still be alive.  Kosh even believed it likely.

John could not know.

“After what you just showed me, how can you ask me to let him go?”

“Because right now they do not know how much we know.  The last time the Shadows lost because they moved too quickly.  Now they are being careful, gathering their forces slowly.  If you push Morden, sooner or later he will tell you what happened.  Then he will be killed.  You will be killed.  The Shadows will move now, before we’re ready for them.”

“How are they going to know?” he asked, disdainful. 

“Because Morden is never alone.  Listen to me.  Aside from the Vorlons, we do not have the First Ones to help us this time.  We are on our own.  We will have only one chance to stop them, and if we fail, billions will die.”  Now he was listening.  “There comes a moment when each of us must pledge himself to something greater than himself.  You told G’Kar he had to decide between revenge and the good of his own people.  Now you must make the same decision, Captain.  It will be the most important decision of your life.”  She didn’t know what else she could say, and watching John, she wasn’t sure what he would do. 

Damn Morden!  She had known what he was almost immediately, when he’d visited her a year ago.  If she could have done so without raising any suspicion, she wished that she had killed him then herself. 

John turned away from her, lost in thought.  Kosh moved her way, his iris opening slightly.  He said nothing; he did not have to.  The Vorlon slid silently out of her quarters.  Delenn waited, watching John closely.  His thoughts were often obscured from her, mostly because she still could not always accurately parse the many different interpretations any single human expression might contain.  But now she felt even more lost than usual.  It did not help that she was afraid: afraid that the Shadows would learn they were being watched, afraid that Morden would reveal what he knew, afraid of what John might do to him.  She was mostly afraid that John was lost to her.

Now he turned back to face her, and there was something in his eyes that she had never seen before.  Something hard, and mocking.  “Tell me, Delenn.  Tell me the truth.  Because Minbari don’t lie, right?”  Her stomach sank.  Now he would ask her about Anna, and she did not think that she would be able to lie right to his face, and she would not be able to evade his question again.  “Asking me to dinner, spending time with me - that had nothing to do with me, or even getting to know humans any better, did it?  It was about this, about the Shadows.  It was some kind of extended job interview, wasn’t it?”  She’d been so ready for him to ask about his wife that she was entirely unprepared for this.  It did not help that he was painfully close to the truth - she had in fact asked him to dinner to determine whether or not he was the right person to lead the fight against the Shadows.  He shook his head at the surprise on her face.  “I thought so.  What, you had to make sure you could trust me?  Afraid I’d run out and blab about the Shadows first thing?”

Three days ago had been a perfect day.  She had thought that they had begun to be more than colleagues, perhaps even more than friends.  Delenn could still remember his face just before he had left her quarters that night, his face when she thought that he might kiss her.  She could not reconcile it with the face before her now, the one staring at her with hurt and anger.  Feeling as though she’d been slapped, Delenn spoke without thinking, and regretted the words almost as soon as they left her mouth.  “You were Starkiller.  Why should I have trusted you with this knowledge without even knowing you?”

A long beat of silence.  He nodded, slowly, a smile on his face that made tears prick at the backs of her eyes.  “Right.  You know, I was beginning to think...”  He let out a sharp, bitter laugh, and Delenn dug her fingernails into her palms.  She would not cry in front of him.  She would not let him see her weak.  “It doesn’t matter what I thought,” he said, voice flat.  “You don’t have to worry, though.  I won’t leak your little secret.”  He pushed past her and out the door.

Delenn stumbled over and sat down.  She wanted to run after him, tell him that she had known she could trust him from the moment she first saw him.  That she had absolute faith in him.  That she never felt safer than when she was in his presence.  That she wanted to spend time with him not because she wanted to learn about Humans or to evaluate him but because he made her happy.

That she would gladly lie to him about his wife if it meant that she could keep him all to herself.

Feeling sick, Delenn went to her knees and lit a candle.  She would meditate, and pray, though she knew that neither would bring her any peace.

***

Three days earlier...

The ebb and flow of events on the station always fascinated Delenn.  For several weeks, it would seem that everything was happening all at once; crises, mysterious occurrences, fights, battles, wars.  She would be so busy she wouldn’t even have the time to be aware of how busy she was.  After her dinner with Sheridan, one of these whirlwind periods descended on all of them.  Working from the moment she woke till the moment she climbed into bed.  Dreaming of her work while she slept.  She saw the Captain, worked with him, spoke with him, but found herself thinking of him only as the Captain and nothing else; those nascent feelings that she’d only just begun to acknowledge were easily sublimated. 

As quickly as it had appeared, the latest busy period slipped away, and Delenn found herself contemplating several hours free as soon as this Council meeting ended.  At first she had thought to speak with Sheridan afterwards, see if he also had the evening free.  He had said that the next time they had the same evening off, they should spend time together again; she might suggest another dinner, more casual this time.  Or perhaps they could walk through the station.  But before she spent too much time considering her options, she came to realize that Sheridan was not in a good mood.  The Council meeting was routine; haggling over trade agreements and some complaints about the allocation of space in Green Sector.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Sheridan was short, though, biting off his curt answers, his jaw clenched.  Delenn didn't think she had ever seen him quite like this.

Then the meeting was over, everyone packing up and leaving.  Sheridan grabbed his folder and seemed to storm off, not even glancing her way.  Delenn swallowed her disappointment; he likely did not have the evening free, was probably very busy, and besides, she could not expect him to always take the time to greet her.  Now she had to resign herself to spending the evening alone, and could not think of anything she wished to do. 

The last of the others had left, and she finally made her own way out of the Council Chambers.  She hoped for and expected an empty hallway and empty tube, not wanting to make small talk.  Delenn turned the corner and was surprised to see Sheridan pacing in front of the tube, speaking into his link.

"Just nod and smile, but don't agree to anything.  If they want to press you, just tell them that everything has to be submitted in writing."  He clicked off, looking down at her with dark eyes, something in his face she couldn't interpret.  "Are you busy tonight?"

"No, I have no other duties."

"Do you want to do something?"  A flutter under her ribs at that, and Delenn gave herself a mental shake.  Why he made her feel like a nervous acolyte again, she did not know.  For some reason, she didn't want him to know he had that kind of power over her.

"You do not have more work to do?"

"Nah, I just made Ivanova do it."  She smiled then, hoping he had done so to be able to spend time with her, and not because he did not wish to perform whatever duty he had passed down to his second.  She walked to the tube, feeling his eyes on her, and she was doing it again, putting her hand up in her hair, unable to keep the smile off her face.  "I was afraid I'd missed you," he said, and they stepped into the transport.  "I figured you would come this way, but you didn't come and didn't come, and I decided you must have gone the other direction."

"I prefer to wait until everyone else leaves.  The other diplomats like to continue to complain if they can corner me in the corridor or in a tube."  He grunted at that, looking down at her, and Delenn wondered how she ever managed to get through the last two months without spending time with him like this - just the two of them, no work.

"So what do you want to do?  Are you hungry?  Did you have something in mind?"

"You choose."  He cocked his head at that, and Delenn felt another surge of that feeling she'd had after he'd left her at her quarters after their date.  She wanted him, without even knowing exactly what that entailed.  He was still looking at her.  "You choose.  Whatever you wish to do, that is what I wish to do."

"Okay."  A slow smile spread over his face.  "Green Two," he told the tube, and with a half second of weightlessness in her stomach - an entirely appropriate sensation, she thought - they were on their way.

***

"I thought a dog was a domesticated animal.  A pet."

"It is.  It's just what we call these."

"Why?"

"That's a good question.  There's a type of dog, a dachshund, that has a long skinny body.  I think that's where it comes from."

"So this is not dog meat?"

"No!  No, we don't eat our pets." 

Delenn looked down at the food in her hand - a hot dog, he called it - with distrust.  It simply did not look appetizing.  Sheridan was holding his own, covered with a bright yellow substance and some kind of chunky green concoction, and was grinning down at her in such contrast to his earlier mood that he barely seemed the same person.

"I don't know," she said, hoping he would understand and take her to a different booth.

"Here, try it with mustard and relish."  He waved at the booth's proprietor, a man with deeply etched lines in his face, and whose clothes spoke to a distressing lack of hygiene that Delenn did not appreciate in those who prepared her food.  The man slopped the same colorful condiments on her hot dog, and then Sheridan looked at her expectantly.

Delenn took the smallest bite she could.  Chewed.  She tried to concentrate on the taste of the bread, which was acceptable, and even the meat, which was too salty but not otherwise objectionable, but the other flavors were too overwhelming.  Sharp and bitter and acidic; she did not want to spit out a mouthful of food right in front of him, but she couldn't seem to finish chewing the bite in her mouth.  She shook her head, and Sheridan laughed, took the hot dog out of her hands. 

"No," she said, after finally being able to swallow.  Sheridan took an enormous bite out of what had been her hot dog - it was a good thing he was so attractive to her, or his eating habits would further turn her stomach. 

"Make her another one," he told the proprietor, still chewing his food while he spoke.  He took another bite before he finished swallowing the first one; she wondered when he had last eaten, that he was apparently starving.

"No, I am fine, really."

"Put just a tiny bit of ketchup on the end.  One bite's worth."  Another bun and tube of meat was handed to her, this one with a single blob of some bright red substance on the end.

"Food should not be this color."

"Just try it!"  Now he had moved on to his own hot dog, hers dispatched after only his third bite.  Delenn gingerly took another bite, and while this one was not as bad as the first, she still did not enjoy it.

“I’m sorry.  I will just eat it like this, I think.”  She tore off the part that still had the red on it - catch something - and threw it in the bin.  Sheridan made a face at that, and she wondered just how much room his stomach took up in his abdomen.  Delenn took a bite of just the bread and meat, and while it would never be one of her favorite foods, it would suffice for today.

“A plain hot dog?”  She nodded, and he made another face at that.  For a moment, she could see the person he had once been, twenty or more years ago, a boy on the cusp of manhood.  No worries, no duties, no obligations.  She would have liked to have known him then.

“Five more credits,” the proprietor said, emotionless, and Sheridan handed him the necessary disc.  Then they were walking down a corridor she had never before visited, and Delenn found herself becoming excited, wondering where he was taking her next.  She hoped it wasn’t to try more Earth food.   

They entered a large space, and for a moment she thought it was one of the agricultural rooms, but the green plant covering most of the ground was far too short to be a crop.  There were places to sit on two of the four sides, and she decided it must be some type of exhibition hall.  Sheridan finished off his hot dog, took off his jacket and draped it over a low wall, and unbuttoned his collar.

“Have you ever seen a baseball field before?”  She shook her head, and he started walking down the right side of the square.  She walked alongside him, enjoying the wide-open space - such a dramatic difference from the rest of her life on the station, cooped up in cramped quarters.

“It is a human athletic event?”

“Mmhmm.  And when you go to a baseball game, you always have a hot dog.”

“This is a ritual?”

“More like a tradition.  I remember the first time my dad took me to a baseball game.  I was, oh, eight years old, I think.  And Dad was never big on eating out, or spending money he didn’t have to, but that day we had hot dogs and peanuts and cotton candy and big frozen lemonades.  By the time I got home I was so sick I ended up just lying on the floor next to my bed.  It was the best day.”  That didn’t make any sense to her, but he looked so happy right now that she couldn’t help but feel happy herself.  He turned to look down at her, and she could see that there was some of that yellow substance on the corner of his mouth.

“You have...I don’t know what it’s called.  Here.”  She gestured to her own mouth.  He swiped at his cheek with his hand, missing the yellow entirely.  "It is still there."  Now he poked his tongue out, and Delenn had to look away, could feel her cheeks go hot. 

"Did I get it?"  She looked back up, and couldn't help the undignified laugh she let out.  His face, looking so innocent, eyebrows raised, a big dab of yellow something still on the corner of his mouth.

"No.  You would probably not have had this problem had you not eaten as though you had not seen food in a standard week."

"I haven't had a hot dog in a long time.  I forgot how good they tasted."  Now she made a face of her own at him, and he laughed, that loud laugh she remembered from their dinner.  He rubbed at his cheek again with the heel of his hand as they turned to follow the wall around the field.

"Stop.  Come here."  He obligingly leaned down, and she wiped at the corner of his mouth with her index finger, painfully aware of how close he was, his mouth only inches from her own.  It would be so easy to just lean up...

Delenn made herself take a step back, looking at the yellow on her finger.  Now what was she going to do with it?  "You didn't think that through," Sheridan said, sounding far too amused.  "Just lick it off."  She glared at him then, and actually drew in a breath to say you lick it off before she realized what exactly that would mean.  She wouldn't let herself think about that, and finally wiped her finger clean on the remaining half of her hot dog, now cold and utterly unappetizing.  She put it on the wall, ignoring Sheridan's grin.

"Not a hot dog fan, then?"

"I'm sorry.  I hope I do not offend you by disliking your ceremonial athletic food."  He chuckled, and she wondered if it was an accident when his arm brushed against her own.  They walked for awhile, then made another turn.  The last turn - they were headed back toward the entrance.  Would he then walk her back to her quarters?  Would that be the end of their evening together?  "Tell me, Captain, how does one play this base game?"

"Baseball.  It's pretty straight forward.  You have two teams.  One plays out here in the field.  A pitcher throws balls toward home plate, down there.  The other team takes turns batting, trying to hit the ball.  If you do, you run around the bases.  If you make it all the way around, that's one point.  The team in the field tries to throw the ball to a player waiting at one of the bases, and if the ball gets there before the runner does, he's out.  Three outs and the teams switch sides.  They go back and forth nine times."  That was straight forward? 

Sheridan retrieved a long skinny something, came back to where she was standing.  "Step back a little bit," he ordered her, and then he stood beside a flat white square in the dirt.  "Computer: activate batting practice.  Saved settings for Sheridan."  He held the wooden club up, knees slightly bent.  Delenn saw only a white blur pass in front of him, and he swung his weapon swiftly.  Nothing happened that she could see.

"Strike one," the computer voice intoned.  Another blur, and this time there was a crack as Sheridan swung.  Delenn could see the white object - a ball - fly up and behind them.  "Foul ball.  Strike two."  Sheridan rotated the top of the club in the air a few times, digging one of his shoes into the dirt.  Another ball came flying his way, and again, he swung and made no contact.  "Strike three.  Batter out."

"Damn it!" he said, hitting the club down on the white square.

"You are not very good at this game?"  He glared up at her, then pointed the club in her direction.

"I'll have you know I played varsity in high school."  Delenn reached out and grabbed the end of the club, pulled it out of his grasp.  "You ready to go?" he asked.

"Show me how to use this club."  A wonderful look on his face then - surprise and delight.  He gestured her over.

"It's a bat.  Here, stand right here."  She took his place next to the white square.  His hands gently touched her here and there - her shoulders, her wrist.  "Keep your elbow up.  Here, practice a nice easy swing.  You're dipping it down a little bit in the middle; keep it level."  Delenn felt ridiculous, swinging the wooden bat back and forth, but every time he reached out and brushed his fingers against her elbow or her back, she found that she didn't mind feeling a little ridiculous.  "Ready for some balls?"  She nodded.

"Computer: activate batting practice.  Beginner settings, softball.  Okay, just keep your eye on the ball, nice, easy, level swing."  She could see the ball coming her way, not in a straight line but in an arc.  Even though he had just told her to keep the eye on the ball, Delenn ended up looking at the bat, and swung before the ball even reached her.

"Strike one."

"That was good, that was a good swing.  Keep your eye on the ball."  His hand on her shoulder, moving her forward just a little bit.  The second ball came her way, and she kept her eye on it.  She was expecting to hear the same crack she'd heard before, but there was nothing.

"Strike two."

"How did I miss?"

"You dropped your shoulder; dipped the bat right under it.  Gotta keep it level."  There were too many things to try and keep in mind.  She changed her grip on the bat, pretended it was half a denn'bok.  And as the third ball came her way, she let herself fall into those familiar rhythms; more than fifteen cycles since she had last done any pike training, but the body remembered what the mind did not.  Crack!  The ball flew away from her, back the way it came.

"Double," the computer announced.

Sheridan laughed, coming around to look her in the face.  "What did you do?"  Delenn just handed him the bat, well aware of the smug look on her face.  She walked over to retrieve his jacket, and it was immensely gratifying to see the surprise and humor still written so plainly all over his face when she turned back to him.  "I'm serious.  You just...changed.  Everything about you - your posture, the way you held the bat, the look on your face.  What did you do?"

"Captain, did you really think religious caste Minbari did nothing but pray and meditate all day?"  She handed him his jacket, brushing her hair over her shoulder as she did so, and walked to the exit.  Even though she knew he would do nothing else, it still felt wonderful to hear him following along.

***

They walked in silence back to her quarters, Delenn aware of his eyes on her, clearly wanting to ask her more questions.  It was not yet that late; perhaps this time he would stay.  They could sit, and talk.  In private.

She opened her door.  "So what did you do?" Sheridan blurted out as she stepped inside.

"Come in and I'll show you."  He followed her in.  You should not be alone with this man in your quarters, Delenn.  That voice in her head, Lennier's voice; she pushed it aside.  Where was it?  Delenn could not remember seeing it since she'd been on the station, but it was here, somewhere.  She stood for a moment, letting the world drift behind her, casting her mind out into the seas of memory.  When had it last been in her hand?  Packing on Minbar, all her possessions into boxes; how little she actually owned.

"Can you not tell me?  Is it a secret?"  She remembered Sheridan then, standing and watching her.  She must have looked an odd sight, slipping into the lightest stage of meditation right in front of him.  But she knew where it was now, and walked over to her closet, moved a box aside to reveal another, and pulled it out.  Brought it out to him.  He turned it over and over in his hands.  Had he really never seen one before?  "What is this?"

"It is a denn'bok.  A fighting pike."  He held it up between his thumb and forefinger, looked through the circle right at her. 

"How do you fight with this?"  She put a hand on his arm, guided him another step into the room.  Looked to the left and right - yes, the way was clear.  She took a step back. 

"Hold it like this.  Out in front of you.  Now, rotate your wrist forward just like this..."  The denn'bok extended in a flash - she was expecting it, but Sheridan was not.  He jumped, staring up and down its length for a moment, and then laughed, a deep laugh that she hadn't heard before.  He gave the denn'bok a few experimental twirls, then looked up at her with such unblemished joy in his eyes that she felt pierced through with happiness.  She had put that look on his face.

"You know how to fight with this?"  She nodded.  "You're going to have to show me how," he said, holding the pike completely wrong.  He whipped it back and forth through the air, and he was going to break something in a minute.

"I will, but not in my quarters.  We will find you some actual targets, and not my possessions."

"We could go back to the baseball diamond.  Or is there another place you go to practice?"

"I have not practiced in many years.  There is a room I had in mind, though."  A space she had set aside nearly two years ago, primarily for the use of Minbari on the station, though it was open to all.  A simple room, with only thin mats on the floor; intended for meditation.  A small, private room.  Delenn took the denn'bok from him, condensed it back into the sleeve.  Sheridan held his hand back out for it, and she shook her head at him.  "Not until I am assured you will not stab yourself through."

"I won't play with it.  I just want to hold it."  She drew in a breath, thinking perhaps to tell him she was unaware that EarthForce posted children to such important assignments, when his link beeped.  For a moment Delenn thought he would ignore it, but he grudgingly lifted it to his mouth.  "Sheridan, go."

"Captain, this is C and C.  We've got a bit of an emergency here.  A collision inside the docking bay."

"Any casualties?"

"No, and no serious injuries, either.  But we've got a lot of debris to clean up, and the ships are piling up outside.  A lot of pissed-off aliens are wanting to speak with you, sir."

Sheridan paused, and Delenn couldn't help but stare at him; how fascinating, to be able to see someone else thinking.  It rarely felt like anyone she had to deal with actually thought.  "Where's Ivanova?" he asked.

"I called the Commander first, sir, but she..."

"She what?"

"She said she was busy nodding and smiling and that you could, um..."

"I can imagine the rest.  I'll be right up.  Sheridan out."  He sighed, turned to look at her with a half-smile.  "It never ends."

"It is unfortunate you do not have more subordinates to whom you could give your duties."

"Is that sarcasm, Ambassador?"  I love the way the corners of his eyes crinkle up when he smiles at me, she thought, and wondered if there were anything about her that made him feel the same way.

"I am never sarcastic."

"Well, you're right.  It is unfortunate."  The words came out in a far more serious tone than the words warranted, the pitch of his voice a little lower than usual.  He looked at her for a long beat, but she couldn't think of anything to say; her heart beating too fast, her mind a racing blank.  "You promise that you'll show me how to use that thing sometime?"

"I promise."  His eyes on hers, the barest nod of his head, a hint of a smile.  He turned to go, and Delenn took a step forward, spoke without thinking.  "Captain.  I was wondering if perhaps you would like to have dinner again some night."  She had expected his broad smile, not the level look he was giving her.  "I have learned so much about Humans from you, in such a short period of time.  I would like to return the favor, if you are interested."

"Of course.  I'd like that."  Something in his eyes then, and Delenn thought, this is it.  He would close the gap between them, a hand resting against her cheek, his face lowering to hers; his lips would press against her own, and it had been such a long time since she'd last been kissed she scarcely remembered what it felt like.  But he only let out a breath - not quite a sigh - and walked out the door.

Delenn stood right where she was for a long moment, bringing a hand up and resting it just under her sternum.  What had she been thinking, expecting him to kiss her?  He was the commanding officer of the station, she was Minbar's representative; they both sat on the governing Council.  More importantly, the battle with the Shadows was coming, and they both had parts to play.  She was being silly, and selfish; what she had seen in his eyes just before he left was probably nothing more than the recognition of those facts.

Still, she locked the door and dimmed the lights, and lay back against her bed.  Oh, how she wanted him.  After her change, she had done a lot of research into humans, far more than she'd ever done before.  She had read about human sexual practices, but that reading had been clinical, dry; it was quite different contemplating a specific practice, with a specific human.  There was already a deep ache between her legs, and she closed her eyes and let herself imagine Sheridan coming back into her quarters, walking slowly and steadily toward her.  Lowering himself on top of her, knees and elbows on either side of her body, pinning her down.  She imagined his kiss, long and deep.  She imagined their clothes falling away, his skin against hers, his hand behind her knee drawing her leg up to his side.

She unhooked the bottom of her robe, slid her hand inside.

***

Delenn walked down the corridor in Blue Sector that would lead her to the Captain's quarters.  What she was planning was in complete defiance of everything Kosh wished from her, but she found herself not caring in the slightest.  Besides the simple pique at the thought that Kosh always made her feel even less than an acolyte, a child hiding behind her father's robes, she knew that Kosh did not always understand how Humans worked.  Not that she was any expert herself, but she knew that Humans in general, and John in particular, would not appreciate being lied to, no matter the intentions. 

And not telling him was a lie, no matter how she tried to equivocate.  They could not expect him to be a leader in the coming war and treat him like an irresponsible child at the same time.  What he would do with the information would be his choice; she could advise him, hope that he would decide to follow a specific path, but she could not make that choice for him. 

There was his door.  Delenn stood in front of it, and she wanted to turn back and leave.  Knots in her stomach; it was hard to breathe.  She did not fear his reaction, since she already knew what it would be - frustration, anger, betrayal.  What she did fear was the choice he would make, and that she also thought she knew.  If there were even the slightest chance that his wife were alive, would he not go after her?  Even if she told him that Anna would no longer be Anna - which was not something she knew for certain, though she could imagine no reason why the Shadows would have let her live unmolested - would he still not attempt to rescue her?  He would leave, as soon as possible, and travel to Z'ha'dum.  No matter if he went with a single ship or a thousand, he wouldn't have the slightest chance.

He would die.

Minutes had passed, and still Delenn waited outside his door.  This was her choice.  Tell him the truth, and sentence him to almost certain death.  Hide the truth, and keep him alive, but at the cost of his trust, should he ever learn of her deception.  She did not even consider the war with the Shadows, the role John would play; she only thought of him leaving the station and never returning.  She only thought of never seeing him again.  Returning to the life she had lived before he had arrived, before the Chrysalis - she had thought herself happy at the time, but remembering it now, it seemed bleak, joyless.  How could she go about her day without the promise of seeing him, of speaking with him? 

Stop it, Delenn!  She had already made up her mind.  That was why she had walked here.  He deserved the truth.  She rang for entrance, then waited, feeling nauseated, terrified.  No answer.  It would be easy to assume that he were somewhere else in the station - in his office, in C & C, anywhere at all - and leave.  But somehow she knew that he was inside, just a few paces away, the wall between them. 

She pressed the call button.  "Captain?  It is Delenn.  May I speak with you?"  Again she waited, and again she was met with nothing but silence.  He did not wish to speak with her.  This was not surprising, but it still hurt, a sharp pain lancing through her worse than any physical pain she had ever felt.

Delenn turned to go, and his door slid open.  She hesitated a moment, then entered his quarters.

They were dark, almost entirely.  There was a light coming from a lamp in his bedroom that filtered through the glass partition, and she waited a moment for her eyes to adjust.  There he was, sitting on the couch to her right.  He did not look her way, only stared forward at nothing.  She could not make out much of his face in the low light, but what little she was able to see chilled her.

Now was the time to tell him.  What would she say?  Captain, I would not answer you earlier, though I led you to believe that there was no hope.  We assume that your wife is dead, but we do not know for sure.  She may still be alive.  She may be a prisoner on Z'ha'dum, subjected to torture, deprivation.  She may be in terrible pain.  She may have been changed, like Morden.  She may have been used in some horrible experiment, turned into something no longer even recognizable as Human.  She may be waiting for you even now, hoping for you to rescue her.  She may be dead, long dead, her body used for who knows what dark and evil rites.  We simply do not know.

John finally turned his head and looked at her, his eyes filled with anguish.  "I finally said goodbye to her.  I finally let her go.  Now this."  His voice broke.  "Are you sure she's dead?  Are you sure?"

She could see it in his eyes: he wanted her to say 'yes.' 

Delenn nodded, not trusting her voice.  John leaned his head back, his eyes screwed tightly shut.  He put a hand over his face.  She had not just lied by omission; she had lied straight away, right to his face.  She had never done such a thing before.  Delenn expected to be filled with shame, but there was none.  She only felt pain, his pain, as though it were her own; all she wanted to do was comfort him.  But she had no comfort to give.  She turned to leave.

"Please don't go," he said, voice hoarse.  She looked back at him, but he hadn't moved, still had his hand over his eyes.  She paused, uncertain what he wanted from her.  He dropped his hand, and the naked pleading in his eyes was enough to undo her.  She slowly sat down beside him, leaving space between them.  Her movements careful, as though he were a wild animal she had charmed, and he might spook and take flight at any moment.  She waited, but he did not speak, just let out a sigh that seemed to issue from his bones. 

She wanted him to look her way, to say her name, to take her hand; he did not.

She wanted to rest her head on his shoulder, to loop her arms around his waist, to whisper that she loved him; she did not.

They sat in silence, in the dark.
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(Deleted comment)
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on September 19th, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I have had 90% of this done for two weeks, it's just been the stupid beginning and end giving me trouble. And I love writing angst, so I don't know. I think I wanted to smack Delenn and tell her to just cowboy up and tell him the truth, so they could have their little fight and then make out or something.
enigmaticblues: delenn thinkingenigmaticblues on September 19th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
This was a fantastic chapter. (I caught up on the other 6 over on ff.net.) I loved the stark contrast between the giddiness of hot dogs and baseball, and the sorrow and hurt of the Shadows.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on September 19th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I kind of imagined this as the last time they would be able to have that kind of simple, carefree evening; then everything goes to hell.
xphilehbxphilehb on September 19th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
This is so great, to see an expanded version of how Sheridan and Delenn fell in love. I love how you are sticking with canon and giving very plausible filler. Such a great contrast here between the happiness of the baseball scene and the sorrow of the Shadows.
Shannonkungfuwaynewho on September 19th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Although I find myself bristling at always having to stick to canon, heh. If I had my own way, there would have been a kiss by now. I mean, seriously.