Title: A Line in the Sand
Specs: Babylon 5, John/Delenn, AU, 9800 words
Rating: R for language, brief sexytimes
March 13, 2233. Barcelona, EU.
Two recent Minbari immigrants were the victims of a vicious assault late Saturday night. Barcelona police have released few details, but it is believed that Halenn and Rayan, brothers, were ambushed on their way home after attending classes at the Universitat. The severity of their wounds is not known at this time, though they are still in stable but critical condition in Hospital Dos de Maig. This is the latest in a series of anti-Minbari incidents taking place the last six months in the Union.
A survey last week reports that 58% of EU citizens believe that Minbari immigration should be brought to a halt in light of the recent conflicts on Orion 7.
Laurence Adams, Global Press.
"Did you know that all of your hairs are not the same color?" Delenn was lying behind him on the bed, carefully combing through his hair with her fingernails; John was torn between wanting to surrender to sleep and wanting to roll over and ravage her. Since the latter was not an option, and he really didn't want to waste any time alone with her, he made himself stay awake. It was tough, though; he didn't usually have anyone playing with his hair, and it felt fantastic.
"They're not all blond?" he asked, wishing she'd snuggle up against his back a little bit more.
"Some are light blond and some are dark blond, and there is an area here where they look nearly white. It is very strange, the sight of all these hairs poking through your skin."
John opened his eyes to confirm that the only light on in the room was his desk lamp, which he'd set to low. "How can you even see?"
"Minbari have better eyes than Humans."
"So when it's all sunny and bright outside, does it hurt your eyes?"
"Our pupils contract the same as yours."
John rolled over to face her - she'd brought up something that had been bugging him since long before Delenn moved to town. "How come we still know so little about you guys? You've been moving here and we've been moving to Minbar for almost five years; our species met over fifty years ago. Besides the basics, there's not a lot of data out there on Minbari - your culture, your history, your biology. Trust me, I've looked."
"What have you tried to research? You can ask me any question you have - you do not have to use the computer."
"Why isn't any of that information there in the first place, though?"
"John, what did you wish to know?" She was smiling at him, so sweet, and John had to look down. He traced the stitches in his grandma's quilt, trying to think of a question; there was no way he was going to tell her that he'd been trying to figure out if his tab would fit in her slot. (Did she even have a slot? What if she didn't?) Delenn put a finger under his chin, delicately raised his face to hers. "Were you looking up information on Minbari sexuality?"
"No!" he blurted out, eyes darting over to his bedroom door. Mom and Dad were having coffee with Judith and Livia in the parlor, and he'd hear if anyone came upstairs, but he was positive that they were outside the door right this instant, listening. "No, I was..." But he couldn't think of anything, not a single thing. His mind was blank, like it had been sandblasted clean. He felt his ears go hot. But Delenn just smiled brighter, her finger running along his jaw.
"It's all right. I have done some research into Human sexuality. Of course, all of the information was readily available. I believe I learned more than I needed to. Quite a bit of it was...very strange to me."
"It's just...if we can't, you know. I mean. It's okay if we can't. That's not why I'm with you. That's not all I care about. I'd like to, of course. But."
"John, it's fine. Don't worry. We will be physically compatible." John tried not to throw a hand over his forehead and sigh out a whew!, but he could tell that Delenn saw it in his eyes. She leaned in to peck him on the lips. "To answer your other question, the truth is - I don't know. I would imagine our leaders do not wish any species, not just Humans, to know more about Minbari than is strictly necessary. We are a private people. It would be quite unseemly for strangers to be familiar with our rituals, our traditions. This is what I find so odd and yet fascinating about Humans - your openness. You even allow strangers to watch recordings of your mating practices!"
God. Delenn had watched some porn? She was shaking her head and acting like it had grossed her out, but there was a delightful pink flush on her cheeks. John moved the hand on her hip down to her waist, sliding it with just the right amount of pressure so that she would know it was deliberate. "It can be useful to watch those recordings," he said, pitching his voice low, wanting to see more of that pretty blush. "It's a good way to pick up some tricks."
Now she was the one toying with the quilt, and John let himself smile a nice, smug smile. When she'd said that they were "physically compatible," she hadn't said it as a hypothetical. She'd said it as though it were definitely going to happen. And when it did, he was going to blow her mind. But then she looked back up, her eyes right on his. "I would not rely on your Human recordings, John. They may help you some, but there is a great deal more involved when it comes to...what is the word? Seducing a Minbari." She leaned close, her lips just an inch from his. "I promise, I will show you whatever 'tricks' you require."
John didn't care if everyone came upstairs and hung out right here in the room with them - he rolled her onto her back and pounced. Delenn laughed into the kiss, and John decided that he was never going to stop kissing her.
Transcript of "That's Just the Way it Is," Episode No. 306, Original Broadcast May 25, 2233. Hosted by Raquel Stevens. Guests Russian Federation representative Nadia Romanova, European Union Parliament member Jules LeFebvre, and North American Congressman Julio Jimenez.
Stevens: Let's talk about Orion 7.
LeFebvre: I'm not sure what there is to talk about. The entire situation is a disgrace.
Jimenez: I agree. I think all we're doing is digging Earth into a deeper and deeper hole. At some point, we're going to have to draw a line.
Stevens: Ms. Romanova?
Romanova: With all due respect, it's far too early to declare the Orion 7 experiment a failure.
LeFebvre: Experiment? How can you begin to call that absurd and, frankly, embarrassing chain of events an experiment?
Romanova: I'm afraid I do not see what is so embarrassing about it. In fact, I would say that it has been a useful exercise - humanity would be well served by learning a little humility. We need to be reminded on occasion that we are not the center of the universe.
Jimenez: That's all well and good in theory, but all that's happened as a result of Orion 7 is that the rest of the galaxy now sees Earth as weak. That when push comes to shove, we'll back down.
Stevens: A fact perhaps born out by recent Drazi incursions into Earth colonial space?
Romanova: Ludicrous. There's no causal link between the Drazi's actions and the tension surrounding Orion 7, and you can't invent one just by wishing it to be so. The bottom line is that the majority of Earth's history is defined by one group of people - clans, tribes, nations, empires - deciding that they would take something that didn't belong to them - land, resources, people. It has always ended in bloodshed and misery. At some point, we must stop reaching out and expecting to take whatever ends up in our grasp. That includes Orion 7. Earth has no claim on that planet, no matter how much we'd like to argue otherwise. Just because we landed first, just because the first city was ours, doesn't mean that the planet itself can be owned by anyone. If we cannot share that land with the Minbari, how can we expect to share the galaxy with everyone else? We have to set aside our differences, our petty human desire to always win, to always be in charge, and learn to co-exist. It is the only way there will be peace.
LeFebvre: Peace? Tell that to the thirty-three colonists dead in New Corning's mine. Tell that to the over two thousand colonists - good, hard-working men and women - forced to relocate by a bunch of Minbari warrior thugs.
Romanova: We still don't know what happened at New Corning. Why are we so incapable of giving anyone the benefit of the doubt? Every investigation points to the mine collapse as an accident, pure and simple.
Jimenez: Or a Minbari attempt to kick the Humans off Orion 7 once and for all, so they can have the planet to themselves.
Romanova: But there's no proof of that! It's just a conspiracy theory.
LeFebvre: Feel free to keep your head buried in the sand. I've personally opened up a new investigation into the role the Minbari Grey Council took during the allocation of land on Orion 7. What little information we've already uncovered is, to be completely honest, terrifying. I think that people will be very afraid to learn just how close the Grey Council and certain parts of EarthGov have become - we're all going to have to become very vigilant, or before you know it, we'll start losing land on Proxima 3, and then on Mars, and finally on Earth itself. And I promise, right here and now, that I for one will not allow that to happen!
The audience applauds.
He didn't want to do it. He wanted to walk down to Mrs. Shrew's room, check in for ISS, and pretend that none of it ever happened. But John made himself keep walking to Sumalong's office, and every time he thought about turning around, he imagined what Delenn's face would look like if she discovered he'd backed out. The disappointment he'd see in her eyes.
John knocked on the door, feeling clammy and gross. After an eternity, the door clicked open. Sumalong behind his desk, looking grim. Coach Kaminski standing in the corner, arms crossed, looking grimmer. John sat down, all his energy devoted to keeping himself still. Don't fidget. Don't look like you're afraid you're going to catch on fire.
"Principal Sumalong, Coach. Thanks for talking with me."
"Of course, Mr. Sheridan," Sumalong said, perfunctory, and already John knew that it was a lost cause. But he soldiered ahead anyway.
"I said I wanted to talk to you about Nick McCarty and his eligibility."
"You mean the fact I lost my best receiver, Sheridan?" Coach wasn't happy, either. He was surprised she hadn't kicked him off the team, too.
"Nick was ineligible because of me. I promised I would help him out with Economics, since I took it last semester. He's been working really hard, but I'm the one who let him down. He's already done the assignment, and his grade's back up to a C. Please, give him another chance."
"Mr. Sheridan, as you're well aware, our eligibility requirements are exacting because we do not want this very scenario to take place. Your academics should be your priority while you are attending this school. Extracurricular sports are all well and good, but they cannot take precedence over your classes." Coach glanced over at Sumalong at that, and John saw his opening.
"Principal Sumalong, I agree. But the fact is that not everyone's an intellectual - which is why the eligibility requirements are for passing grades, not As. Nick is a smart guy in certain things, but you can't expect everyone to be good at everything. He's really good at sports, and that intelligence should be just as important as any other intelligence. It means so much to him, being able to play. Cut me instead." John looked at Coach, and put every ounce of sincerity he could into his eyes. "I mean it. I would rather sit on the bench - I'll even clean out the locker rooms. Just give Nick another chance."
Silence, as Sumalong and Coach looked at each other. Finally Sumalong spoke: "Thank you, Mr. Sheridan. We will certainly consider it." Was that it? Seemed so. John got up, not knowing what else to say, and left.
ISS. If school was usually boring, then ISS was some kind of horrible nightmare of boring. There was something vaguely comfortable about the small size of the room - cubicle, really - but that wasn't enough to combat the long hours all by himself, doing stupid assignments on his lectern. Since there wasn't anyone around to distract him, he got done early, so he read some essays on World War II. Of course, they would never cover anything interesting like that in class; it was all paradigms and cultural shifts and societal blah blah. Nothing like this - thrilling battles, great leaders, military strategy. The final bell ended up surprising him, and he checked out with Mrs. Shrew, then ran down to find Delenn.
She was chatting with Pretty Church Girl, whose name was Yvonne. John realized he'd been going to school with her since second or third grade, and couldn't remember ever talking to her. But she smiled up at him just as nice as could be, leaning up against the locker next to Delenn.
"Hey, pretty girls," he drawled, mirroring Yvonne's pose, liking the way Delenn blushed and looked down at her feet. "What're you up to?"
"I'm trying to get Delenn to join Theater Club."
"But Earth theater is completely different from Minbari theater!" Delenn protested. John could see her heart wasn't in it; that she was in fact tickled to have been asked.
"You don't have to know anything about theater," Yvonne said, grinning. "We just build the sets."
Delenn looked up at him, and he ran his finger around the arc of skin between her bone crest and ear. He'd learned that was a pretty sensitive area, and she bit her bottom lip in the most lovely way. "You'd have fun," he said, imagining her surrounded by friends like Yvonne, laughing and gossiping as they stapled muslin to wooden frames and painted crap scrounged from yard sales.
"I'll think about it," she allowed, and took his hand.
"Yvonne, you want a ride home?"
"No, thanks, John. I've got tutoring in the library. Have you ever thought about being a tutor? You're always on the honor roll, and you're great at math."
"I don't know. I don't really have time." Yvonne just nodded, gracefully letting him off the hook. John felt ashamed; he was always off doing dumb stuff with McCarty, or watching pointless vids. Two weeks ago he'd spent almost a hundred credits just screwing around in the arcade. "Maybe some time." Yvonne waved goodbye as she headed up the stairs, and John walked out to his car, hand in hand with Delenn.
George, sitting out on the front steps with his loser friends. They all looked their way as they passed. "Hey, Sheridan. Hey, bony." John felt his hand squeeze tight around Delenn's and he ground his teeth, but she kept pulling him forward, not registering that she had heard at all. He got her into the car and drove up to the baseball field before he let out a string of curses.
"John. He is an ignorant, unpleasant person. I do not care about his opinion of me."
"You shouldn't have to hear shit like that."
"Are you still grounded? You should probably drive me home now, so that your mother does not grow angry with you."
"She said we could go back to my house or your house. No naps, though. I couldn't tell if she was joking or not."
"Let's go back to my house," she said, clasping his right hand between both of hers. Then she brought it up to her lips, kissed the back of it. Something almost bashful in her eyes, hesitant. John thought about the other girls he'd been with in this car, and how nothing he'd done with any of them could compare with just the feel of Delenn's hands around his, the simple and surprisingly sweet things she would do just like that. Let George make fun all he wanted; he'd never be as happy as John was any time he was with her.
Look, I've been driving the mag-train between New York and Kansas City for almost fifteen years now. Not a lot of actual driving involved; it's almost all computerized. But every now and then you gotta take it off auto, and then you gotta be ready. Detours, bad weather, some crazy person raising a ruckus in one of the cars. But most of the time I can just keep an eye on the passengers, and I hear a lot of stuff. Stuff that no one thinks is being overheard, even though there're signs everywhere.
There's a guy who works in Philly, has a family in East St. Louis. Makes the trip every weekend. He's got a boyfriend in Philly his husband doesn't know about, and a girlfriend in Ohio his boyfriend doesn't know about. Can't keep any of it straight. Always buying the wrong gift for the wrong person, calling from the wrong phone, forgetting where he's supposed to be. But get this - he's never been caught. Says none of them even suspect. I go ahead and eat a nice, greasy meatball sub even though I'm supposed to be off all the good stuff, Marie somehow knows about it and gives me the third degree. She pulls it outta thin air, I swear.
Then there's the broad who's pocketed away almost a hundred thousand credits just knocking the payments clients make to her boss up to the nearest zero. When people are already paying five hundred or a grand, they don't notice an extra twenty bucks. She's gonna move to France, she says. Live on the beach. Wish I had the balls to pull something like that.
But the worst? The absolute worst? There's this girl, visits her mom in Schenectady once a month. Prettiest thing I've ever seen. Just absolutely gorgeous. Like one of them old movie stars, back when they used to film 'em in black and white. This girl could have anyone she wanted. Could just pick someone out of a crowd. I've seen men stare at her with a look in their eyes like they've never seen anything so beautiful in their lives. I've seen men trip over the seats, run into the doors. And who is she going with? A Minbari. Can you believe that? A girl as pretty as that, throwing herself away on some bony freak. Ought to be a crime. It's just not decent, mixing between species like that. Who knows what'll happen. I try to imagine what a baby would look like, and it just plain gives me the creeps. She's such a pretty girl. Ought to be a crime.
Delenn felt John calm beside her - he always seemed so high-strung, so full of energy. That first night, when they'd returned to her house after the fight at the arcade, he had told her that he sometimes meditated. Not enough, she thought. His hand was loose around hers, and she snuck a glance his way. His eyes were still directed toward the candle flame, but they were flat, unfocused.
Satisfied that John was well on his way to a deep meditative state, Delenn let his presence drift away, retreated within herself. She ran through the experience outside the school's entrance again. Hey, bony. What did those words make her feel? Shame. Anger. Why was she ashamed? She was proud to be Minbari. She would not change her heritage, her identity, for any reason. Where did the shame come from? Delenn went deeper, making herself brave those cold, dark depths. Shame only covered something else, a veneer thinly applied. What was the source of her shame?
She found it, seemingly locked away, and it was ugly to behold. Pride. Pride in something as subjective and forever changing as her physical appearance. She should take no pride in her appearance, as her body was simply the one given to her by the universe. She had no hand in it at all. The Human's remarks had wounded that pride, and for the first time, she had felt self-conscious about her looks, something she had always taken for granted. If the Human had found her attractive, he would not have said such a thing; therefore it followed that he found her unattractive. Repulsive.
There was the anger, blooming inside her, white-hot flames. Anger should never be driven completely out; it was good to feel outrage when outrage was just, necessary to use that outrage as fuel for unavoidable conflicts. But this anger did not feel just. It felt jarring, out of place. Flames scorching precious things. She was angry that George found her ugly. Why? Why did she care what he thought? Because of why he thought she was ugly - she was not his kind. She was Minbari. She was not John's kind. She was angry because his words reminded her of a more deeply buried fear, all tangled up with her pride - that John would not want her.
Delenn came back to the real world, letting her brain begin to accept outside sensory input once more. First the sensation of sitting on the ground. Then the candle light, flickering gently before her. John's hand in hers. John. Delenn turned to look at him, and found that he was already watching her, a curious look on his face she hadn't seen before.
"Hey," he said. Looking at him now, she could see no shred of disgust in his eyes, no glimmer that he found her unpleasing to look at. But as she always felt after meditating, Delenn was too raw, too open to censor her thoughts.
"Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked, wanting him to be honest. Still, she wasn't ready to see the slight shake of his head. Something inside her twisted, and she hadn't realized just how much his opinion meant to her.
But then he brought his hands up to either side of her face, cupping it gently. "I know it." It took her a heartbeat to work out, and before she could reply he was kissing her; soft, perfect kisses. Delenn resolved, as John brought one hand to the back of her head to hold her more securely, as he deepened the kiss, that she would never feel shame or anger again if someone made a rude comment. They didn't matter. Only this mattered.
Why did the Minbari cross the road? To steal that side of it, too!
John drove home, a bit earlier than he would have liked, but he wanted to get back before his mom came home from work. She had canceled his grounding without much comment, and he'd been too surprised at the time to say much more than thank you. He didn't want to go too far with it. He was still thinking about Delenn, and what she'd asked him, as he pulled into his driveway, and it took him a second to notice McCarty sitting on his front porch.
Shit. He hadn't seen him at all since their fight, since that wait outside Sumalong's office, since they'd both been suspended. He'd been afraid he'd run into him this morning when he checked in for ISS, but they never crossed paths. McCarty didn't stand as John got out of his car and walked his way, barely even looked at him. After a long beat, John awkwardly sat down next to him.
"I'm back on the team. Coach says I should thank you for it."
"No. I didn't...it was my fault in the first place, Nick. I haven't been a very good friend lately. You were right. I was so caught up with Delenn and I just...I'm sorry."
Silence after that. It occurred to John that McCarty hadn't actually thanked him - just said that Coach had told him to. Was he grateful? Had he forgiven John? If neither, was he at least willing to just forget the whole thing?
"Remember when I finally made it with Janelle?" McCarty asked. "I didn't think about anything other than those two wonderful minutes for the next week." John grunted, not sure where this was going. "So...you make it with Delenn yet?"
"No," he answered with a laugh.
"Come on. Third base?" John shook his head. "Second?"
"We're up to tongue. That's it."
"You fucker, I've known her for nine days."
"Probably just trying to put off her profound disappointment when she realizes you've got a dick the size of my little finger."
"Please. I'm hung like a horse."
"One of those little ponies they have monkeys ride at the fair?"
"You know, now that you've mentioned it, I've always wondered - do they have to give those ponies treats so they'll let you ride them?" McCarty laughed, shoved him over. John grabbed him and pulled him down the porch stairs into the yard, then raced around to the back - he knew McCarty would follow, he just hoped he could get to the garden hose before McCarty figured out the plan.
Minbari immigrant files lawsuit against Chicago City Council this week. Claims employment was unfairly terminated in wake of New Corning mine collapse. Lawsuit triggers march downtown. Protesters drew police response after Minbari temple was set on fire.
Yesterday had been the last day of John's suspension. Delenn was still confused by how the whole thing worked - he told her that he had to do something called "in-school suspension," which seemed a contradiction to her. Even though he had picked her up in the morning and taken her home after school, the three days themselves had been strange. She didn't like being in history without him, especially with George on the other side of the room. Sitting beside Jared was not the same. Jared did not wish to pass notes back and forth; he just played chess on his lectern.
But now things were back to normal, and Delenn felt at ease with her routine restored. It was hard to really believe that it had been only two weeks since she had begun school; it felt much longer than that.
I feel like I've been attending school with you for ages.
John grinned at the note, and seemed to consider his response carefully. She wasn't sure why, since he usually dashed off a reply without even thinking. He finally passed the piece of paper back her way.
That's because we're meant to be. You know that, right?
Delenn ran her hand over the paper, biting the inside of her cheek hard. The sharp metallic tang of blood in her mouth. She would not cry - she would not have cared if she and John were alone, but she did not want anyone else to see. How had he managed to put into so few words what she had been unable to fully articulate herself? He understood - completely. She didn't know why she had doubted that he would feel the same truth that she was coming to discover.
She could see he was looking her way out of the corner of his eye. She just nodded. Then she jotted down a few words, passing the paper back over, not needing to see his reply - she knew what it would be. Then she watched the clock, needing the minutes to tick by more quickly, unable to bear the wait.
Meet me in the auditorium next hour.
Time Magazine Cover Story - The Minbari Invasion.
August 2, 2233.
Rachelle Kovac, Foreign Affairs.
Go into any suburban mall, and you'll see the same thing in the windows of the hippest, most up-to-date stores: Minbari-inspired fashions. Sleek lines, bold patterns, jeweled embellishments. On the college campuses, sorority girls are trading in their mini-shorts and tanks for pretty flowing robes. This isn't a political statement, and yet this is how political movements always seem to start - not as a cataclysm, a shock to the system, but the slow, almost imperceptible growth of some paradigm shift. The high school soccer player who picks 11 as his number, who starts practicing using Warrior Caste warm-ups, and who makes a point of eating at the local Minbari restaurant isn't part of any kind of grass-roots acceptance campaign. He's just incorporating something new, something different, into his daily life. And in this way, change begins.
"We're seeing it all over North America," Livia Burke tells us. Burke, a Locator for the Minbari Immigration Agency's NA division, scouts out these hotspots of pro-Minbari sentiment when she's working with prospective immigrants. "However much the conservative media would like to play the idea that everyone hates the Minbari, that no one wants them here, the truth is that there are a lot of welcoming, understanding people out there. Which has always been the American way, if you look at history, and it's what made this nation such a great place."
Burke had planned to go into law, but a semester abroad on Minbar changed all of that. "I immediately fell in love with the culture, the people. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could. Of course, back then, there was no permanent immigration in place, so I came back home to Earth." When the fledgling MIA began to take shape, Burke was one of the first people to join up.
"Minbari move to Earth for any number of reasons. Some are looking for new economic opportunities. Some are as taken with Earth and Human culture as I was with Minbar. Some wish to try something new. Right now I'm working with a young woman who plans to spend a year attending high school here, because she wants to be a diplomat. What better way to learn about Earth than to live here for a year or two?"
Burke's job is a lot more complicated than just picking a city off the map. She wants to make sure that each Minbari immigrant has access to people from home, but doesn't want to overcrowd any neighborhood. Is that to avoid anti-Minbari attitudes? "Of course not. The truth is, assimilation is important. Most immigrants plan to settle permanently. That means they need to learn the local language, the culture. The last thing we want to see are Minbari ghettos growing up."
Minbari ghettos are exactly what worry some lawmakers. "The immigration quotas are just set too high," says Manitoban Senator Will Pratchett. "There's an influx of Minbari that just keep flooding in, year after year; they're eroding traditional Earth values, traditions, customs. We don't need our kids using Minbari slang, or waltzing around in robes - it's ridiculous."
Ridiculous it may be, but the trend shows no signs of stopping. Sixteen-year-old Madison Nguyen of Dallas, Texas buys everything she can that's even slightly Minbari-influenced. "I just love the way the stuff looks. It's not like anything else. When I go out, I feel so much more confident in my robes - it's not about them being Minbari, it's about how I'm not having my whole body out there for everyone to look at. And I think the way that Minbari look at the universe is something that more people should do themselves. There's a real lack of ego that, for me, is really comforting. I don't worry so much about everything I do. I know that I'm where the universe wants me to be."
The conflicts over the Orion 7 colony continue to build, leading some young adults to worry about a trade embargo - or worse, retaliation. "I've had people say mean things to me when I go out," Nguyen admits. "But I'm not going to let that change what I want to do. It's just bullying, you know."
Burke agrees. "Anytime something new is introduced, there's a backlash. People are afraid, they feel threatened. But there's no reason to feel threatened. In a lot of ways, Minbari are just like us. We share far more similarities than differences." And watching a group of preteens walk through the mall, drinking blue Centauri Fizzes, half of them in jeans and Religious Caste tunics, it's hard to argue with her.
Delenn enjoyed eating lunch with Yvonne and Jared. She didn't begrudge John eating with his other friends; she knew it would be unfair for her to monopolize his time. But she couldn't help feel a tiny twinge when she looked across the cafeteria to see him laughing with the red-haired girl. Lindsay. Her name is Lindsay. John's head was flung back, and he slapped his hand down next to his tray. Lindsay reached out and covered it with her own, and the twinge turned into a stab of something darker.
Are you feeling jealousy, Delenn? But why should you feel jealous? She trusted John, but still...she just couldn't help the burst of irrational anger she felt towards the red-haired girl. Lindsay.
"Hey, Earth to Delenn!" Yvonne's voice, playful. Delenn turned back, blushing. "I still can't believe you're actually dating John Sheridan."
"Because he's John Sheridan! He's just..." Yvonne didn't finish the thought, and looked John's way herself, a look on her face that surprised Delenn. Did Yvonne wish that she were John's romantic partner? It seemed so. But Yvonne smiled at her, as warm as ever. Delenn ate a small bite of her lunch - the words on the menu today made no sense to her, and the food wasn't very good. She looked at Jared, wanting to ask him about today's calculus homework that she had missed (kissing John in the auditorium, one of his hands sneaking inside my robes, gently cupping my breast), but he was looking down at his tray, scowling. Pushing his food around, which was strange; Jared usually ate even faster than John.
"Jared? What is wrong?" Before he could even answer, there was a brief pain on the top of her thigh. Yvonne had pinched her, roughly, and even now was barely shaking her head back and forth.
"What do you mean?" Jared asked, his eyes wide. He looked as though he were hiding something, and Delenn were on the verge of discovering it. Yvonne's fingers on her thigh again - what was going on?
"You're not eating your...oh, what is that color called?" She pointed.
"Pink," Yvonne said, patting her thigh.
"The pink. I thought you liked the pink."
"The applesauce? Yeah. Although did you want it? If you wanted it..." Jared was already bringing his tray to hers, and she let him scrape the pink stuff over, even though she did not care for it much. But it seemed to make him happy, so she swallowed it with a smile. Her mind was churning - there was something happening that she did not understand, and it would be at least until the end of the day before she would have the chance to ask Yvonne.
"Hey, um." Delenn looked up at the new voice - there was a boy standing by their table, and he looked familiar. Was he in one of her classes?
"I just wanted to let you know that, um." He paused, relentlessly rubbing the back of his neck. There was the ghost of a bruise on his cheek, and Delenn remembered - he was one of George's friends. He had fought with John at the arcade. He had been sitting on the steps when they had left school and George had called her that name again. Delenn felt herself shrink back a little bit, wishing that there was someone sitting on the other side of her, wishing that John were not on the other side of the cafeteria.
"George is my friend," the boy went on, and he wasn't meeting her eyes. "Or, he was my friend. I don't know. I just wanted to let you know I was sorry. I don't have a problem with you. So." Without waiting for any acknowledgement, he turned and walked away. Delenn felt like calling out to him, felt like following so she could thank him for his kind words, but she just sat there, stunned.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, classes demanding her full attention, work that required her to think in English one hundred percent of the time, which wasn't always easy. John was finally returning to his sporting practice, and had again invited Delenn to come observe him. It seemed to be important to him - no doubt he was like any young male, wishing to display his athletic prowess in some kind of mating ritual. Like llams spreading their jeweled tail feathers before the drab females. She made her way down to the field, which was painted with bright white lines. There were a series of steps that acted as seats, and Delenn found an empty space near the top. There were many other students out observing, although some paid less attention to the field than they did to their seemingly incessant chatter with each other. Watching them gossip reminded her that she had forgotten to ask Yvonne what had happened at lunch.
"And then she asked him to drive her back home, even though he'd already bought the tickets and everything. So rude." A boy and a girl sitting a few rows below her, not watching the players on the field at all.
"She's a total bitch, always has been. My mom actually asked me once why I never asked Lindsay out. Like I want to be eaten alive, Jesus Christ." Then they clammed up, glancing to the side. Delenn followed their eyes, and there was Lindsay herself, walking her way. Sitting down beside her, a wide smile that didn't reach her eyes.
Delenn had noticed that Lindsay had looked different today, when she'd seen her in history and then again at lunch, but hadn't been able to figure out why until now. Sitting right next to the Human, she saw that more of her upper body was covered than usual. She was wearing an almost exact replica of a Worker Caste tunic. She wondered what the Human girl would think if she knew that it made her look like a low-level industrial worker, the kind who kept the sewers clean.
"Delenn, hi!" Her voice was brittle, false. Delenn did not wish to speak with her, but it would be entirely too rude to not answer. So she bowed her head as shallowly as was permissible, glancing down to the field. John was running, and their eyes met - he waved with a sunny smile. "You're here watching Johnny?"
"Yes. He asked me to observe. Although I do not know the rules of this sport." Lindsay just looked at her appraisingly, and Delenn understood what the girl below had meant when she'd expressed no desire to be eaten alive; the Human did look predatory. Mean.
"So Johnny's pretty popular. Do you know what that word means?" Lindsay asked in a patronizing tone.
"It means that he is well-liked."
"Yeah. Or, at least, he was. But ever since he started going with you, he's just not as popular as he used to be."
"Is that so? I have noticed no difference."
"It would be kind of hard for you to, since you didn't know him before you came here, obviously." Delenn felt a wave of antipathy rise up; this Human girl was simply unlikable, and she could not believe that her physical charms were enough to overcome the distaste she clearly had to inspire in others. "I just thought you should know. That's all. I mean, you like Johnny, right?"
"He is my friend."
"Well, you wouldn't want him to be unpopular, would you? You wouldn't want to be responsible for his friends not liking him, would you?" Lindsay was watching the field, and to an outside observer would not seem to be paying attention to Delenn at all.
"If someone chooses to stop liking him because of with whom he chooses to associate, I cannot believe they were truly his friend to begin with." Lindsay turned back to her then, and whatever false charm she'd worn before joining her was gone. Her face was flat, her green eyes cold.
"You're going to ruin his life. Normal people don't go out with Minbari. That's just the way it is. He has plans. He's going to go to the Academy, he's going to be a General some day. That's not going to happen if he's got a Minbari girlfriend. If you do actually like him, you'll break up with him. Or you'll fuck him and get it over with, so he can get you out of his system and move on."
Delenn didn't see the field, certainly didn't see the two students in front of her who had turned around to openly watch and listen. She felt herself pick up her bag and stand as though someone else were operating her body from afar. She felt cold, her tongue too thick to speak. She hurried to the side of the steps, made her way down them blindly, only hoping she could get away and back to the school, to the female washroom, to a quiet stall locked up tight, before the tears overwhelmed her.
Hey. Hey, can I ask you something? Over here - I don't want anyone else to hear. Look, you wouldn't happen to have any bone porn, would you? Human-Minbari or Minbari-Minbari, doesn't matter.
Shit. This is the third fucking place I've been to. There's gotta be some out there. I know it'll never get put up on the adult channels. But you haven't heard of any crystals getting traded around?
I'm willing to pay. How much you want? Three hundred! Are you out of your fucking mind?
Fine, three hundred. Who's the bone? Hot damn, I was hoping for a Minbari chick. I heard their nipples are blue? Right, right, I'll see soon enough. Fuck, man, I'm getting hard just thinking about it. I owe you one. You ever get anything else in, you let me know.
The first time John looked up, Lindsay had just been sitting down next to Delenn, and something had lurched in his stomach, like he was afraid. He couldn't even figure what he was afraid of. Lindsay was just a girl, a sweet girl, and she'd been wearing a Minbari shirt today - maybe she was wanting to get to know Delenn better. He wouldn't have figured the two of them becoming friends, but the idea was kind of cool.
The next time he looked up, Delenn was gone, and Lindsay was sitting by herself, watching him closely. She waved with a wide grin, and John waved back. But he was worried now, and the simple joy he'd felt being back on the field vanished like it had never been there, and the drills and set plays went on forever. All he could think about was why Delenn had left, knowing that he was going to take her back home; the more he thought, the worse and worse his conclusions became.
His mobile was back in the locker room, and as soon as Coach whistled that practice was over, he ran back as hard as he could, wanting to get there first. Bad idea - he was winded by the time he got back, and he could hardly speak when Judith answered the phone.
"John, what is it?"
"Delenn...is Delenn there?"
"Yes, she called and asked me to come pick her up. Said she had a headache. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, just wanted to make sure she was home. I'll see you in a bit." John hung up as the other players started coming in, and he showered and dressed as quickly as he possibly could. Then he was speeding down the streets, and God help the cop that pulled him over. Thankfully none were lurking about, and he dumped his car in front of Delenn's house, ran up to ring the bell, shifting his weight from side to side anxiously.
"Come in, John." Judith closed the door behind him, then grabbed his arm before he could head downstairs. "Did you two have a fight?"
"No, no. I think...I think someone said something to her." Judith nodded, as though she'd been expecting his answer. She let him go, and John went down to Delenn's room. It was dark when he opened the door, and he crept in quietly. She was on her bed, and he carefully lowered himself beside her. She was on her back, and didn't look his way; he could see fresh tear tracks on her face.
"Delenn?" Her chin shook, and she brought her hands up, covering her eyes. "What did Lindsay say to you?" She shook her head roughly from side to side, and he heard a tiny sob escape. How could seeing her cry cause him physical pain? He reached for her, pulled her up to his chest, ignored the way she put a hand out to stop him. "It's okay, sweetheart. It's okay."
Then she was clutching at him, grabbing his shirt. She kissed his face, lips landing on his mouth and cheek in wet, indiscriminate smacks. "I love you," she gasped out between sobs, and the worry that had consumed him ever since he'd seen her empty seat vanished under a rising wave of elation. But she pushed herself back, wiping off her face, and would not allow him to follow her.
"I don't want to ruin your life." He could hardly understand her, her accent was so thick, and he blinked in confusion a few times, sure he had heard her wrong.
"You're not going to ruin my life. What are you talking about?"
"Lindsay said that people would not like you because you had chosen me as a romantic partner. She said that your future plans would not allow for a Minbari consort." There was rage at her words. John carefully put the rage in a box and set it aside; he would deal with Lindsay later. Now he reached out and gently ran his hand over Delenn's cheek, up and over her bone crest. Stroked the top edge.
"I love you," he said, and kept his eyes locked on hers. Made sure the words sank in, and then he moved closer to her, careful not to slide down the bed. He covered her body with his, gathered up everything he felt for her and put it into a kiss.
"But John..." she said, pulling away and shaking her head.
"No. I love you. That's all that counts." He kissed her again, hard, and this time he didn't let her go. She grabbed his hand and dragged it to her breast, and he gave it a light squeeze before he slid his hand under her back; he didn't know what else Lindsay had said to her, but there was absolutely no way he was going to pressure her to put out, not now, not even remotely. He kissed down to her ear. "I love you," he whispered again, and she drew in a ragged breath, her arms finally coming up around his waist, holding him tight.
They didn't hear Judith creep down the stairs to check on them, didn't hear her quietly pull the door shut.
16 September 2233. 0825 EST. Reports of explosion at White House. Emergency response underway. No information on injuries.
UPDATE: 0845 EST. A bomb was detonated inside the White House, location unknown. Twelve casualties reported so far.
UPDATE: 0930 EST. North American Lieutenant Governor Jennings calls White House bombing a terrorist attack. NA Governor Harrison's whereabouts still unknown at this time. Fifteen additional casualties bring total number up to twenty-seven.
UPDATE: 1015 EST. Security Designation Alpha now in effect. The District has been quarantined. All air traffic in and out has been grounded.
UPDATE: 1045 EST. Rumors that Governor Harrison is among dead. No confirmation at this time. Thirty-eight confirmed casualties.
UPDATE: 1115 EST. Governor Harrison confirmed to be among victims of White House bombing.
Fifth hour. Chemistry. Twenty more minutes to lunch; John was starving. They were taking notes on Chapter Three, which was about covalent bonds, and John had no idea what that meant. He kept reading the same paragraph over and over again. He'd get to the bottom and realize he didn't have a clue what he'd just read, his eyes skipping over the words without actually looking at them.
Fuck it. He let his mind drift back to the night before, making out with Delenn on her bed for two solid hours. A few times he came up for air and it was enough to click his brain back on, and he wondered why neither Judith nor Livia came for them, called them up for dinner; then he figured that Judith knew Delenn had been pretty upset, and decided to leave them alone. He didn't complain. Delenn slowly became less frantic, less upset, melted into their kisses.
She unsnapped her outer robe, draped it to either side of her body. "You don't have to. You don't have to," he said, but she just pulled him back down to her, settling his groin securely between her legs. He was hard as a rock, and she was so perfect and soft, and he couldn't help it. He tried to pull back, but her hands were insistent, pressed against the small of his back (God, she was strong), holding him down. He ended up humping her, unable to control himself, grunting into her neck. He needed her so much, and when he came he wasn't sure for a second whether he'd been inside her or not.
"Shit, shit, shit." Came right in his jeans, for Christ's sake. Delenn shushed him, kissing the side of his face, still not letting him go. So he gave up. He was going to have awful, crusty boxers, but it wouldn't be the first time.
"You're mine," she whispered, and there was just a hint of a question in it. He nodded, found her lips again.
"All yours. Completely."
Then of course they'd been summoned to dinner. Judith really did have expert timing. He'd expected to feel awkward then, awkward the next morning picking her up, but she acted like everything was perfectly natural, like dumb teenage Human boys humped her all the time. He'd tried one more time to apologize in the car, but she would have none of it, not even having the decency to let him feel embarrassed. He figured that somehow she'd known that he'd needed it, needed to be that much closer to her.
"John, eyes on your lectern." Ms. King was glaring at him, and he realized he'd just been staring off into space. So he started reading about covalent bonds again, and was finally getting somewhere when the intercom clicked on with a whine of feedback.
"Attention." Sumalong's voice, and it sounded really weird. "I have an announcement to make." Everyone was listening, looking around the room at each other. There was something in the air, some kind of tension, like an electrical charge. John thought that maybe Sumalong had turned the intercom back off, but no, he could hear breathing, what sounded like crying in the background. "There has been a bombing at the White House." Gasps, a little scream from the back of the room. "Governor Harrison is dead." Another few seconds of breathing, and then the intercom clicked back off.
Silence. Absolute silence. Then Cora Michalski started sobbing, big loud sobs, and everyone was yelling and talking and shouting all at once. "Turn on ISN!" in a chorus, and John realized that he was shouting it, too. Ms. King lowered the vid screen, clicked it on. Images filled the screen, and John felt the bottom of his stomach drop out. Half the White House was gone, nothing but dark wreckage, ugly smoke, flames that firefighters were still trying to put out. The reporter on screen was trying to stay calm, but kept having to take big, deep breaths.
"We don't know, we still don't know. It's absolute chaos here." They cut back to the anchors in the studio, and John had never seen them look like this - utterly lost, confused. That more than the shots of the White House made it clear to him that this was real, that this had actually happened. Someone had called in, talking about how tight security at the White House was. Then the female anchor put her fingers up to her ear, listening.
"I'm going to have to interrupt you, Dan. We're receiving word from the FBI. They have confirmed that the bombing was a terrorist attack. A communication was sent to the Post just prior to the bombing. The bomber was a Minbari, and wanted to send the following message."
John didn't hear the message. He threw himself out of his desk, ran to the door, was out into the hallway as the classroom erupted into angry screams behind him. Down the hallway, running. What did Delenn have fifth hour? Fuck, fuck. Half the classrooms he passed were in an uproar, and he heard one of them empty out into the hallway on the floor below. Psychology, Dr. Sloane. Just up ahead. John flung the door open, and what he saw imprinted itself on his brain; he'd never forget this, not as long as he lived.
Delenn in the corner, blood dripping from a cut on the top of her head. Her face white as chalk, hands clasped in front of her. Students screaming at her, things flying through the air. Chess Geek in front of her, a human shield; someone grabbed him, tugged him aside, and John knew the mob would kill her if they got the chance.
"Nobody fucking move!" he bellowed. And somehow, for God knows what reason, everyone stopped and turned to look at him. John felt something enter him, some kind of force; the top of his head felt hot, and he felt strong enough to bend steel with his bare hands. "Everyone listen." Voice quiet now, and he took in the faces turned his way, waiting. He could see it in their eyes: John will tell us what to do. We'll do what John says. "Whoever the stupid fuck was that just bombed the White House? He was crazy. He was a cowardly piece of shit. But that had nothing to do with him being Minbari. He could have been Centauri, Narn, Human. This girl in the corner? She's not responsible for what happened, no more than I'm responsible, or any of you are responsible. Delenn's the nicest, kindest, most fucking wonderful person I know, and I swear to God, anyone so much as looks at her funny, and you'll have me to deal with. I promise you, I will hunt you down and I will kill you. Is that clear? Is that one hundred percent fucking clear?" Nods. Wide, innocent eyes. John realized that there was a hum in the air, and he turned to see Dr. Sloane beside him, by the com panel on the wall. He had switched the intercom on. John listened - he couldn't hear shouting from any of the other classrooms, just dead silence all around.
He looked at Delenn, and her eyes were filled with tears. These were good tears, though. He turned to the com panel, spoke directly into it, knowing that his words were being heard by everyone in the school.
"We've got two options here. We can act like a bunch of reactionary assholes, or we can set an example for others. I don't want a war with Minbar. None of us should want a war with Minbar. But if we call out for blood, if we howl for vengeance, all we're doing is heading down that road. Maybe we're just a bunch of high school students, maybe no one important will listen to us - but we have a voice. And I for one intend to use it. So who's with me? Who else is going to stand up and say enough with this bigotry, enough with this blind leap to judgment? Who else is tired of seeing nothing but hate on the news, hate for anyone who's different? I'm going to walk out to the football field right now, and if you're with me, if you're ready to do something about it, if you're willing to be a positive force for change, then come with me. Just get up and walk out. That's all you have to do. We'll figure the rest out later."
Delenn was at his side. He took her hand, and they walked out into the hallway. Silence, still that heavy silence. They walked down the stairs. A few dozen students outside the classrooms, watching. McCarty waiting at the front doors. They left, walked out, through the parking lot, down to the field. John could hear them behind him, but he didn't turn, didn't look to see how many. The field was dazzling in the sunlight, all crisp green grass and bright white lines. He walked to the center, right on the fifty yard line, and then he turned to see who had followed.
There was a stream of students from the field all the way back to the school, still pouring out. At least three hundred, maybe more. Half the student body, and more kept coming. There was Chess Geek, and John grabbed him, hugged him. Yvonne ran up, arms around Delenn, sobbing into her shoulder. Mrs. Shrew pushing her way up to him, shaking his hand up and down so hard he was afraid she'd pull his arm out of the socket. Sumalong, still looking dazed, sitting down hard on a bleacher. People were crying, in clumps, hugging each other.
Delenn came back to him, her arms around his waist. "You saved me," she said, and he could barely hear her. Just held her close. He didn't know what was going to happen next. They'd figure it out.
( Chapter Six - Promises )