Specs: Babylon 5, John/Delenn, AU, 6600 words
John had convinced her to sign up for an art class when they enrolled for the second semester. Delenn didn’t feel she was a very artistic person, and even though objectively her sketches and studies appeared at least the equal if not the superior of the other students’ work, it seemed to her that her art was inauthentic. The piece she was currently working on, an exploration of the human form, as demonstrated by Mustafa at the moment, should have been pouring easily from her pencil, requiring no thought. She should have found herself gripped by an unavoidable desire to express whatever emotion the sight of the lanky teenage boy inspired in her. Art should not be cold and logical, but something unbound, something reckless, something free. But Delenn did not seem to have that particular quality, and it bothered her.
She carefully used her thumb to measure the proportions between head and body again, and found that she had made his torso too long. Careful application of a gummy piece of rubber and the offending lines were removed. She consulted the appropriate section on proportions on her lectern again, and began to draw.
“Delenn.” John’s whisper, oddly loud. She loved him, she truly did, but he was not the most subtle of creatures. “Hey, Delenn.”
“I am concentrating,” she told him, glancing back up at Mustafa. The horrible boy had moved again, and was now giggling at the group of students nearest to him, who were giggling right back. Delenn could not understand what was so endlessly humorous about posing for study – all he had to do was sit atop the table and meditate. She could not conceive of an easier way to earn the arbitrary “points” each class’s instructor depended on in order to assign the equally arbitrary “grades.” She would have liked to tell him to sit still, but Mustafa was one of the students who did not like her. In fact, even now, as she looked back up to calculate the angle formed by his arm resting on his knee, he noticed her and rolled his eyes. She ignored him; Delenn was now quite good at that.
John passed her a note. I want to Shan’fal you. She flipped the note over and ignored it.
She went back to her sketch. Now that the proportions were correct, she began to work on adding the finer details. Hands were still rather troubling, but Delenn was satisfied that her efforts were more than adequate, especially considering that John’s attempts at drawing hands were particularly laughable. Sometimes he did not even draw the correct number of fingers.
“Delenn,” John whispered again. She ignored him. He had worked very hard to make her decide to sign up for this art class, and it still rankled her that he had only done so because he wanted a chance for them to, as he put it, “goof off.” She had sacrificed Earth Government to take Introduction of Art; she had been quite looking forward to learning the intricacies of the Human’s governmental system, since it differed drastically from the Minbari form of government. That type of knowledge would be very useful to her in the future, when she studied to become a diplomat.
“Delenn.” She slid his note under her lectern, and started drawing the folds in Mustafa’s shirt. John tapped the top of her lectern with his pencil. “Did you read it?”
“It is not a verb, John.” Shading was her favorite part, and she could allow herself to work without focusing quite so intently. That was why she was able to tell that John had gone very still, and was simply watching her. She found his close scrutiny much more difficult to ignore. Delenn managed a minute, maybe two, but finally could not help but look up at him. He smiled, then stuck his tongue out at her and wiggled it from side to side.
In Valen’s name. Delenn felt her cheeks go hot, and felt an answering heat elsewhere. She would have thought that his crude pantomimes and sometimes vulgar words would no longer affect her so, since he had been “Shan’fal-ing” her for six weeks now. But rather than become inured to his physical charms, she found herself ever more addicted to them; more sensitive rather than less. His smile had become a grin – he was well aware of how he affected her, and the only consolation was that she had comparable powers over him.
She nodded to answer his question, and went back to working on her sketch. A few minutes, and then she remembered something; she pulled his note out, wrote a question and passed it over.
Don’t you have basketball practice after school?
Too long to wait. I’ll explode.
You are entirely too dramatic. I do not wish to skip any classes.
I’ll do that thing you like.
You always do. That is not sufficient motivation.
That thing you like NO HANDS.
They were only reviewing in Anatomy and Physiology anyway, and she had an A. It would be perfectly acceptable to skip.
Higgins couldn’t believe the press hadn’t got wind of it yet. She supposed it was good timing – the White House rebuilding was scheduled to end in an elaborate ceremony and dedication in three days, and that was all the news seemed to be covering. Which worked for Higgins just fine; the press seemed to do nothing but get in her way. Sometimes she wished that the press would just report what she wanted them to report. ISN in particular could be a real thorn in her side.
But not today. Today, as far as ISN and all the rest of them knew, the administration was worried about the White House ceremony and the upcoming vote on the tax reform bill, and that was pretty much it. People had short attention spans, anyway; few things endeared “the people” to Higgins, but that was one of them. Oh, they still hated the Minbari plenty, but the feverish rhetoric had died down, and it was only the extremists – on both sides – that were still harping about it.
Which meant that Higgins and a few others were able to slip into the spaceport with little fanfare, and now they were on their way to the Io jump gate, to rendezvous with a similar group of Minbari officials – not the Grey Council, unfortunately – well away from any inhabited systems. They were going to meet on the Minbari ship, which rankled Higgins; as far as she was concerned, the Minbari had started this whole fragging mess, and they should be the ones groveling, not EarthGov. But the Minbari had steadfastly refused to have the discussions on the Achilles, so President Nsedu had grudgingly agreed to this set-up. Higgins knew even this last-ditch effort was probably going to fail, but she was going to do her best, by God. If it came to war, let it be on their heads.
Eighteen hours to prepare for the meeting, and normally Higgins would go over film. She would study the speech patterns of the people she would meet with, study how they constructed arguments, what got them riled up. She would try to find weaknesses, and know what weapons to bring. But she didn’t have any film on the Minbari. Most of their communiqués were straight text on data crystals; she knew the late Governor Harrison had met with a member of the Grey Council, Duke-something, a few weeks before he had been assassinated, but the meeting had come to nothing.
Just like this meeting would come to nothing. Higgins should have tried to stay optimistic, but she knew there was no way the train hurtling toward Earth was going to be stopped. Not now, not after everything that had happened. Oh, they could give up Orion 7. The Minbari fever-dream of peaceful cohabitation was never going to happen, but EarthGov might just pull the colonists off the planet entirely. Which would never happen, and would be a cowardice worse than full surrender in any war, but it was the only way to avoid war that Higgins could think of. And she was not authorized to offer such a thing.
The shuttle docked, and Higgins drew in a deep breath. She had never been on a Minbari ship before, and she didn’t know what to expect. Not these clean, spare lines that were vaguely Art Deco, vaguely East Asian. Not this polite and deferential aide who greeted them and led them to a small, informal room. Higgins didn’t expect to sit on a pillow on the floor or to be offered a fragrant cup of tea. She was used to conference rooms and back alleys, screaming purple-faced men and ominous threats.
For the first time in a long time, Higgins felt that curious buoyancy that long ago had been the reason she’d gotten into this job in the first place. She felt hope.
John woke up ten minutes before his alarm went off, and spent the time stretching and luxuriating, thinking about how goddamn perfect his life was. He’d snuck over to Delenn’s last night and was still feeling slightly tingly. He could already smell breakfast being cooked; waffles, he thought. The team had one regular season game left – the Cougars, who had won a single game in the last two years. This way the sucky seniors would get to play, and he’d be guaranteed a win for his last home basketball game. He still had all As. The City Council was preparing to vote on a measure that would add the Minbari to the Anti-Discrimination laws they already had on the books; he was going to give a speech or something at the open house next week, and he was going to be awesome. Well, after Dad helped him out some.
Then it was just a couple months till Spring Break (he’d already started researching; he wanted to take Delenn someplace nice – maybe Rio), and baseball would finally start. His last season. He knew he wasn’t good enough to play in the Majors, and probably not good enough even for triple-A. He’d be able to get on a college team, but he wasn’t going to college, so this was it. And he planned to make the most of it. Maybe the National Championship was beyond reach, but he’d be damned if they didn’t play (and win) the State Championship.
Beyond that, though…. He hadn’t talked to Delenn yet about her plans after the school year ended. She hadn’t mentioned anything, either. He didn’t know if she was planning to attend another year, or if she was going to travel, or go to college. John wouldn’t let himself even think about the possibility that she might go back to Minbar after school let out in May. Every time his mind started heading in that direction, he just cut it right off at the pass. She loved him; he knew that. She wouldn’t just leave him, never to see him again. However they had to compromise, whatever they had to do, they’d do it. John knew that. He couldn’t believe otherwise.
Shower, breakfast, finding all his shit, and then he was gone. Thankfully his mom left for work before he left for school, so she wasn’t around to ask him why he was now leaving the house ten or fifteen minutes earlier than he used to. “John!” Delenn always looked so delighted to see him. He’d found a dead-end street a few blocks from her house, and they parked down at the end of it. Sometimes he took her into the backseat and took his time; today he just climbed on top of her, loving her delighted giggles as he groped her mercilessly.
His life was perfect. He had never been happier. And when Principal Sumalong called Delenn to his office during art class, John didn’t have any idea that the world was about to end.
It came down to two demands. One demand was Minbar’s – the Grey Council wanted Orion 7’s resources to be evenly divided, regardless of which colony labored to gather them. The other demand was Earth’s – President Nsedu wanted a strict division between the two colonies; the Minbari would have the polar caps and the northern latitudes of the largest continent, and Earth would have the equatorial regions and the small island chains, and never the twain should meet.
Neither side would compromise. Higgins offered everything she was authorized to offer, and some things she wasn’t; she called back to EarthDome incessantly, asking for more leeway which she was never granted. Could the Minbari establish their own mine on the equator? No – that would be part of the Earth colony. Would the Minbari purchase the heavy metals they needed from the Earth colony’s mine? No – they preferred to barter their own resources. Would the Earthers accept deuterium and plutonium in trade for the heavy metals? No – the Earth colony had no interest in trading with the Minbari colony, and would remain self-sufficient.
Round and round they went, and after six days Higgins finally returned home crushed and despondent. Nsedu read her report while Higgins cowered in the President’s office, mortified that in the end, she hadn’t been able to do her job. Two irreconcilable demands were going to be all it took to throw a wrench into the whole process.
“So that is it,” Nsedu said, leaning back in her chair, tossing Higgins’ report down on the desk as though it were dirty.
“Just let them build their own mine,” Higgins blurted, too frustrated to care anymore. “There’s no reason to go to war over a mine.”
Nsedu stared, for so long that Higgins started to squirm. “The equator is part of our territory. The Minbari have no right to any of the resources in that area.”
“No, Miss Higgins. On this I will not compromise. We have compromised enough. I have already taken steps to reverse some of the…ill-advised decisions of my predecessor.”
“What do you mean?” Higgins felt herself grow a little cold.
“Earth and Minbar are too dissimilar. Our peoples were not meant to intermingle so freely. The business with Orion 7 has demonstrated that quite amply.” Nsedu stood, went to her window, and looked out. The view here was stunning; the Alpine peaks as rugged and beautiful as they’d been a thousand years ago. With a jolt, Higgins realized this view probably wasn’t that different from what her counterpart might be seeing this very instant back on Minbar.
“The longer they stay here, the more they begin to think that we should live side by side, and the more problems we will have in the future. Time to stop it now.” Higgins waited, watching the quiet line of Nsedu’s back. It became clear that the conversation was over, and Higgins stood and left. She had failed.
When Delenn didn’t come back from art class, John didn’t think too much of it. When she wasn’t at their table at lunch time, he was a little concerned, but figured that she was just having to do something with her exchange student status. Papers to sign, or whatever. Or maybe she was doing something about colleges – that perked him up, and he ate his pudding, humming a little, mind skipping on to something else.
He was sitting in Galactic History, taking notes out of the textbook, when Yvonne came in to get him. She should have been in Sociology with Delenn this hour. Her face was white, but her eyes were puffy and red.
“It’s Delenn,” she said, and started crying. John didn’t bother to ask questions, or even get permission from the teacher. He just gathered up his stuff and followed Yvonne out the door. Just before he left, he caught a glimpse of Lindsay smirking in the corner – if he found out she had anything to do with why Yvonne was crying, with whatever had happened to Delenn, then she would have to answer to him, and it wouldn’t be pretty.
Yvonne led him through the halls to Delenn’s locker – Delenn was sitting on the floor in front of it, calmly taking out the few books stacked in the bottom and putting them in her bag. She seemed composed and calm, but upon seeing her Yvonne started sobbing loudly. John felt his arms break out in goosebumps.
“What are you doing?” he asked, sitting down next to her.
“Cleaning out my locker.” She fussed with the order of the books in her bag, taking them out and putting them back in. She wouldn’t look at John, not even when he put a hand to her face.
Then she told him.
In the three years since his father had been promoted to a desk, John had been to his office building one time, and even then he had ventured no further than the lobby. Now he strode through the corridors as though he owned the place, and found his dad huddled in a conference room with everyone else who worked there. The faces that turned his way as he entered were stunned and blank.
“Did you hear?” John demanded. His father walked over to him, hands out in a placating gesture, and John was suddenly filled with so much fury that it felt as though his heart were going to shake right out of his chest. “Don’t tell me to be quiet, and don’t tell me to leave.”
“I’m not, John. Let’s just go to my office.” He already had a hand on John’s elbow, leading him away. John did not want to be led away, but he was still lucid enough to know that he wasn’t really angry at his dad, and that yelling at him wouldn’t do any good.
“They can’t do this.”
“They already have. It’s done, John.” David sat down behind his desk, and John noticed the bags under his eyes, the pallor of his skin.
“You knew. You knew this was going to happen.”
“No. We knew that the talks weren’t going well, and we knew that something was going to happen. But not this.”
“Dad.” And John tried to continue, tried to argue his case, but seeing his dad slumped low in his chair, he knew that for the first time in his life, his dad was not going to be able to make things better. He wasn’t going to be able to make a call or two, trade a couple favors, maybe send the right gift to the right person, and work everything out. John felt his throat go tight, almost as though it were closing up, and he stuck out a blind hand to find his own chair.
“Oh, Johnny, I’m sorry.”
They sat in silence for a minute or two. John’s mind was racing, but he couldn’t seem to settle on any one thought. “What if…” he started, and found that his mouth was dry, too dry to speak. With the telepathy that both his parents seemed to have when it came to him, David silently passed him a glass of water. “What if I married her?”
John held his father’s stare, chin held high. He felt as though his old man were trying to get a glimpse of his soul. Finally, David slowly shook his head.
“Why not? Why wouldn’t that work?”
“Even if you found a judge that would do it – and you should know that there hasn’t yet been a legally recognized marriage between a human and a member of another species – it wouldn’t change anything. Son, listen to me. If there were something I could do, I’d already be doing it. But the President has made up her mind.”
“I won’t accept that.”
“You have to.”
But John was already gone.
Delenn hadn’t let John touch her. When she returned to the house (yesterday she would have said it was her house, but that was no longer true), she did not allow Judith to touch her. Livia was not home, and likely would not be home any time soon, but Delenn would not allow her to touch her when she did return, either. She did not want hugs, or kisses, or hands on her at all. She did not wish to speak to any of them; Judith, at least, understood that. Delenn had finally had to raise her voice when John would not stop pestering her with questions. The hurt look on his face when he dropped her at the house threatened to penetrate the wall she had carefully built up, but Delenn did her best to ignore the look just as carefully. She also ignored the way he leaned over to her, the way he reached a hand out for her. He had planned on exiting his vehicle and walking her to the door, she knew that, she knew him so well, but she said, “Don’t,” and he did not.
Now she was in the basement room that yesterday she would have called her own, packing her things. Principal Sumalong had told her only an hour ago that the President had ordered all Minbari residents and immigrants and guests – every single Minbari on the whole planet – to leave. The President did not care to where they went; they could return to Minbar, or to one of Minbar’s colonies, or to another planet. They could conceivably even go to the disputed colony on Orion 7. But they could not stay on Earth.
“I am so sorry, Delenn,” Principal Sumalong had said, wringing his hands. “You of course do not have to return to class.”
“Livia called you? She did not call me?”
“I did not speak with Ms. Burke.”
Livia still had not called Delenn, as she folded her robes and packed them away. The longer Livia did not call, the higher Delenn’s wall became. Obviously the other Minbari on the planet were more important than one single adolescent. Delenn understood; that did not mean she forgave.
Her robes were packed, except for one to wear tomorrow, and one to wear the next day, which would be the last day. It took her much less time to pack what was in the lavatory; most of the items had been purchased here on Earth. She would not take them with her. Delenn walked back into the bedroom, scanning the walls and tables and shelves. That clock was not hers; it was Judith’s. And that painting was not hers; Livia had purchased it.
The blue stuffed animal was hers. John had given it to her. The first thing he had given to her, the very first day they had known each other. Delenn was studying it, wondering why the feel of its synthetic fur did not bring tears to her eyes, why its shiny little eyes didn’t make her curl up and weep, when she heard the front door upstairs open and close. She could not make out the exact words, but she recognized the timber and cadence of John and Judith’s voices. Then his thundering steps coming down the stairs. He threw her door open, but did not enter. She could feel his eyes on her back.
“One of these days you will trip and fall, and hurt yourself,” she said, tracing the stitches that made up the bear’s little mouth. It was smiling at her. Delenn put the bear down before she ripped its smile off.
“We’ll go out into the country.” His voice was hoarse. He had been crying. “We’ll just find some little cabin and we’ll hide.”
“They know I’m here, John.” She wouldn’t turn to look at him. She didn’t want to look at him. She didn’t want to see his Human face, which would be twisted and ugly, all the emotions written there clearly for anyone to see. “I am a registered exchange student. If I do not show up at the spaceport the day after tomorrow, they will know.”
“Then we’ll refuse to go!”
“No!” Delenn spun on him then, whatever wall there had been in ruins at her feet. He actually took a step back, his eyes wide, which somehow made her even angrier. “We will do nothing! I will go to the spaceport and I will go home, and that is all that will be done.”
“And I do not wish to hear any more of your silly, stupid ideas. There is nothing you can do. There is nothing that you could have ever done. I will go home, where I will not be stared at, where no one will call me names, where I will be the same as everyone else…” Delenn stopped, aware that she was crying, crying too hard to continue speaking. John’s arms were around her, strong and solid. In two days, she would never have the opportunity to feel his arms around her ever again.
Ever since she had begun to study their language, Delenn had been fascinated by the Human’s use of idiom. The way that they could describe so many things by using words that made no sense, or meant something else, or were hyperbolic, never failed to bring a smile to her face, once she had parsed the true meaning. For the first time, though, Delenn was glad that Humans used idioms for a reason other than that they amused her, because there was no equivalent expression in any of Minbar’s languages to express the way she was feeling.
Her heart was broken.
His mom hadn't even bothered lying when she called the school the next morning. "John's not coming in. Today, or tomorrow, or the next day. I don't know when he'll be back. No, he's not sick. What do you mean, why isn't he coming in? Are you an idiot?" He wasn't sure whether she'd actually said the last - that was how Lizzie had reported the conversation going, but it may have been exaggeration on her part. John didn't find any of this out till that evening, when he, Delenn, and Judith went back to his house for dinner.
Delenn had not stopped touching him at any point in the last twenty-four hours. Even at the dinner table, she would not release her grip on his hand. Normally he would have complained - it made cutting up his food a whole hell of a lot harder - but he didn't have much of an appetite. Lizzie didn't either, apparently. She just pushed her food around, when she wasn't staring at Delenn with watery eyes.
"Will you wait until Friday?" John's mother asked, pushing her own food around. Only Judith had really eaten; mechanically, and with no indication that she'd tasted a thing.
Even though the question had been directed to her host mother, Delenn answered. "No. We will go to the spaceport tomorrow evening." The conversation ended after that.
Now Delenn was perched on the side of his bed while John paced back and forth. The muscles in his legs felt like they were on fire; he wanted to jump out the window and run. To where, he had no idea. Maybe straight to Geneva, so he could grab the President and shake her, shouting why? why? why?
"John. Please come sit down."
"What, and just pretend like everything's normal? Nothing's wrong, so let's just cuddle?"
A beat, and John thought she wouldn't answer. "There is no reason for you to be angry with me," she finally said, her voice only a little reproachful. It was hard to let out the breath he was holding, and he could practically feel his lungs shake. His chest felt tight. He forced himself to walk to the bed, to sit down next to her. His stomach hurt. Delenn put a hand on his back, gently stroking between his shoulder blades. He winced, and she jerked her hand away.
"I would stay if I could," she said.
They sat for a long time. He couldn't have said how long. Long enough for Judith to leave; long enough for the house to grow still around them. At some point she had taken his hand, or he had taken hers. He imagined that he could feel her pulse just as he felt his own, the rhythms identical.
Finally John clutched at her, unable to understand how he'd kept himself from grabbing her for this long. "I need you," he whispered harshly. "Please." A long moment, and he was sure she would extricate herself from his arms, sure that she would leave him. He wished he could take the words back. But Delenn only nodded, twisting around so she could slide her hands under his shirt, pulling it off. They were both well-acquainted with undressing each other; it didn't take long at all.
He made love to her, and it should have been joyous. It should have been perfect. Instead it felt like giving up, and when he came there was no pleasure in it at all. John fell asleep with the taste of ashes in his mouth.
The drive took three hours, and they were both the longest and shortest three hours of John's life. Judith was driving; he and Delenn were sitting in the backseat. Mom and Lizzie were following in their own car. Dad and Livia were both working, of course. John hadn't seen his father since his visit to his office. He'd thought that maybe he'd come home to at least say goodbye to Delenn, if nothing else. But he hadn't, calling instead to tell John's mother that he was going to Geneva on the next shuttle. Which meant that he also hadn't said goodbye to John, though of course he didn't know that yet.
Delenn didn't know, either. She was gripping his hand tightly, so tightly it almost hurt. Judith kept glancing back at them in the rearview mirror, her own face tear-streaked and red. She was probably wondering why John looked so at peace, why he wasn’t crying himself; Delenn was probably thinking the same thing.
He hadn’t packed anything because he didn’t want Mom and Lizzie to know, but he had emptied out his savings. McCarty had given him a grand on top of that. When they got to the ticket counter (his mom had raved for a solid hour last night about how EarthGov wouldn’t even foot the bill; no, the Minbari deportees had to buy their own tickets, and fly commercial), after they’d gone through all the checkpoints and security stops, John was going to buy a ticket himself. Wherever Delenn was going, that was where he was going, too.
It should have been a two hour drive, but the traffic became horrible as they got closer and closer to the spaceport. John couldn’t figure out how there could be that many Minbari within the radius the spaceport would serve, but as they made their final approach, he finally saw what was going on. Crowds were assembled everywhere, and they were cheering. Cheering. As they stopped at the curb and handed the cars over to a parking bot, one group was close enough that they could hear them. “Get off our fucking planet!” “Now you’ll get what you deserve!” John took all of Delenn’s bags; he was afraid she was going to be sick.
Inside, he expected the Minbari to cluster together for comfort, but instead, they all stood separate, as though to seek each other for safety would be the final indignity. There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of cops and security personnel trying to keep the peace, but the protesters-cum-partiers kept sneaking in. John kept his arm tight around Delenn. If he hadn’t kept looking at her to make sure she was all right, he might have thought her to be made out of stone.
Once Delenn bought her ticket, the rest of them wouldn’t be able to follow her any further into the spaceport. The human women were crying, even John’s mother. He wouldn’t let himself look at her. Instead he looked at Delenn, and she looked so much like she had the first time he saw her that it was almost like traveling through time. She was so small and fragile looking, with her pretty little robes and the big bone around her head; her face was chalk-white, unreadable.
They finally made their way to an agent. The man’s face was exultant, and John had to dig his hands into his pockets to keep from punching him. “One ticket to Minbar,” Delenn said, her voice almost too quiet to be heard.
“Really? I never would have guessed,” the agent smirked, and from a great distance John heard his mother draw in a breath. He shook his head, still not looking at her; he didn’t want security to haul them out if anything should go wrong, and if his mom started screaming at the ticket agent, that would definitely make things go wrong. “Destination?” the agent asked.
“Yedor.” Delenn did not hand the man her credit chit, but instead laid it down on the counter. Her fingers trembled; John couldn’t tell whether she was desperately fighting to keep from crying, or if she were absolutely furious. Maybe both.
John took a deep breath, then pulled his own credit chit out of his pocket and set it on the counter next to Delenn’s. “Same destination,” he said, proud that his voice didn’t break. He was aware of Delenn’s head jerking around to stare at him, and he was aware of the women behind him crying out, but for some reason he ended up just looking at the ticket agent. The man’s smug smile was gone, and he stared at John in complete shock.
“What?” he croaked, as though his circuits had been blown.
“I’d also like a ticket to Yedor.”
“John, no!” His mom’s voice, quickly followed by her iron grip on his arm. She did her best to tug him back, but he dug his heels in. “What do you think you’re doing?” she hissed. He could hear Lizzie behind him. “Mom? Johnny? Mom?”
“Do not sell that ticket,” Miranda ordered the ticket agent, who had yet to pick up either chit. She grabbed John by the shoulder, and managed to make him face her. “Stop this, now. You’re acting like a child.”
“No,” he told her, putting out a hand blindly. Delenn’s hand was right there; he didn’t need to see to find it. Her fingers were still trembling, but they stopped when he enfolded them with his own.
“You are not going to Minbar.”
“Yes, I am. Book the flight,” he said to the agent. He held the man’s eyes with his own, and knew that he was a better, stronger man that this one, and that he would do what John told him to do. He had only felt like this once before, right after the White House bombing, when he had talked to the students over the loudspeaker. He felt as though there were nothing he couldn’t do.
“This boy is a minor,” his mom explained to the agent. John looked over - Judith and Lizzie had been moved away from the counter by two security officers. Lizzie was crying, staring at John with a dumbfounded look on her face. More security officers were coming their way. “I am his mother,” she went on. “I am not allowing him to purchase this ticket.”
“I’m seventeen years old, I can buy a spaceship ticket if I want. You can’t stop me.”
“John, I am not discussing this with you! You are not going to up and fly to Minbar. And do what? Have you even thought of what happens next?”
“I don’t care.”
“I will send your father after you on the next flight out. You are not going to throw your life away--”
“How can you say that?”
A portly security officer came up to them. “What’s the problem, here?” she asked, hands on hips.
“There’s no problem,” John answered. “You may need to escort my son out,” his mother said at the same time. And then Delenn was tugging on his hand, and when he looked back at her he saw that she was serene, her eyes clear and her face bright. Beautiful. She reached up and put a hand to the back of his neck, drawing his face down close to hers.
“John. This is not the time.”
“You have school to finish. The Academy to attend. You cannot become a pilot if you do not graduate from the Academy.”
“I don’t care.”
“You must think about your future, John. The things that are important to you.”
“Nothing is more important to me than you.”
Delenn studied his face then, locking her eyes with his in a way that no one else, not even his parents, was able to do. As though she were seeing more than just his face, but the very core of his being. “Two days ago, I felt the same despair that you are now feeling. But we were not brought together by coincidence. The universe knows what it’s doing. We will see each other again.”
John shook his head, even as he knew that it was over, all his ridiculous dreams and plans. He hadn’t let himself say goodbye, had refused to consider it, and now the goodbye was upon him and he was completely unprepared. He dumbly watched as Delenn took her ticket, and as his mother retrieved his credit chit. Delenn led him away from the ticket counter, past the cluster of security officers and cops watching them closely, and toward the entrance to the main terminal. Twenty feet until he would have to say goodbye to Delenn and watch her leave, unable to follow. Fifteen feet. Ten.
Delenn stopped, and she started to hug him. John held her at arm’s length. “Don’t go,” he begged.
There was nothing else to say. He hugged her tight, the brooch made out of his class ring digging into his chest. He kissed her, and whatever she might say, he knew that this would be the last time he would ever kiss her. He didn’t know what the future might bring, what might happen in five years, in ten, but he knew that if they did ever see each other again, they would be different people. They would never have this again.
Delenn was the one to end the kiss, and she was the one to let him go. She walked away, one last look back at him. Then she was gone. John stood there and watched anyway, some part of his brain stubbornly insisting she would be back in another ten seconds. Ten seconds would go by and he didn’t see her, so he counted again, and again, and again. Finally, his mother came up and gently took him by the arm. He supposed she led him out of the spaceport and to their car; he wouldn’t remember the journey the next day.
Driving back home, the sky black and overcast. No stars. Back on the interstate, and John saw a truck pass them - they honked and shouted and screamed. “Bye bye, bones!” painted on the windows. John made his mother pull over. He stumbled down into the ravine at the side of the road and threw up in the bushes.
( Chapter Nine: The Best Laid Plans )