Specs: Babylon 5, John/Delenn, 4200 words
Previous Chapters: One, Two
“I don’t get it,” John said, hands on his hips, frowning down at the bed. “How do you even sleep on this?”
“It’s quite comfortable.” He turned his frown her way. His shoes were already off, his jacket hung up, his white shirt unbuttoned at the collar; Delenn assumed he would stay with her again tonight. It seemed unfair to ask him to sleep on the couch when she knew he had not had a comfortable night's sleep on the fold-down cot, but the couch would certainly be more comfortable to him than a Minbari bed. But he did not seem happy with her, not since she had told him of her plans to travel to Centauri Prime. He had paced from one end of the cell to the other as he asked her questions, grilling her like one of his men. And now he was staring down at her bed as though it disgusted him. “Please stay,” she asked, not meaning to. She didn't want to beg him, didn't want him to know just how much she needed him.
She was afraid he already knew, though.
“Of course,” he muttered, and then he lowered himself down on her bed with a groan. No, what had she done? They could not share a bed, they simply couldn't. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he groused.
“John...” She had ruined it, led him on, and he would be angry with her, even more angry than he was now. But he just shook his head and pushed himself back up to his feet.
“That's not even a bed. That's a torture device.” He put a hand to her shoulder, just for a heartbeat. The lightest squeeze. “I'm not going anywhere.” Then he made his way to the couch, on the other side of the partition but not out of view.
Delenn shrugged out of her robe, wondering why she felt so self-conscious, so naked. He had seen her in this nightgown last night. Seen her and held her, as though they were halfway through the rituals already. She knew he would see the blush on her cheeks; she could feel the heat herself.
“What's wrong?” he asked quietly. She hugged her arms. Last night she had been too hot; tonight she was too cold. “Delenn?” She shook her head.
“I just feel unsettled.” She laid down on her bed. It was uncomfortable to her as well; hadn't it always been uncomfortable? No one should need to meditate before being able to fall asleep. Sleep should come as naturally as anything. How many nights in her life had she spent tossing and turning on a bed like this? Too many. And this would be another one.
“It's going to be all right,” he lied. He knew it was a lie; she could hear it in his voice. Delenn decided to ignore it. She pulled the thin blanket up over her shoulders and squeezed her eyes closed. After a few moments, she heard John lie down on the couch. His clothes rustling, the cushions moving against each other, the barest squeak of springs. He was so close, but would never be any closer.
Would it be so wrong, to give in to temptation? If all went according to plan, after tomorrow she would not see him again for a long time. She might very well never see him again. Would any blame her for wanting a single night of joy, of pleasure, of love? Delenn felt a tear slip down her cheek. They would all blame her, of course. She was wicked, and foul, and a blight on the universe.
“Good night,” she heard John murmur. The sound of his body shifting again, and then all was still, save for the quiet hiss of the air recyclers. Delenn laid against the hard, unyielding bed and resigned herself to a sleepless night.
John called her after lunch. “We're putting together the escort for your shuttle now.”
“Good, good,” Delenn said, hoping she sounded more enthusiastic to his ears than to hers. It seemed she was – John smiled at her. Just a week ago such a smile directed her way would have made her melt inside, would have caused her to spend an hour in bed that night just reliving that moment over and over, feeling silly and lovesick. Now the smile only made her feel guilty, her stomach clenching.
“Part of me wants to fly with the wing, part of me wants to fly with you.” He pursed his lips, thinking. “I'm afraid if I leave the station, though, anyone looking for you will know something's up, if they hadn't already.”
“I think it would be best if you stayed here,” she said as gently as possible. There would be no real harm in inviting him along, save that it would compound her treachery. She wished to betray him as little as possible.
John didn't nod, only looked at her closely. He wanted to say something, she could tell, but he swallowed whatever it was. “I'll bring dinner. Around twenty hundred?” Delenn smiled briefly, though the thought of eating turned her stomach. “Okay then,” he said. He stayed on the line for another few seconds, saying nothing, but then again so did she. He finally punched a button and she was left looking at the Babcom screen, flat and blue.
Twenty hundred hours gave her plenty of time. It was only thirteen hundred hours now; Lennier was meeting her in two hours at the entrance to the brig, and she didn't need two hours to complete her preparations. So Delenn sat in front of the candles John and his staff had provided and turned down the other lights. Her stomach was a tight knot, and she couldn't seem to keep her hands from shaking. She needed to calm herself, to find the inner focus that had seemed lost to her lately. She needed to be herself if she were to have any chance of survival.
Delenn lit the candles and began to pray.
He didn't like it. He didn't like any of it, but his not liking it wouldn't change a thing. Lennier did not wish to call attention to himself by loitering in one place, but neither did he wish to miss Delenn when she emerged from the Human's penitentiary. Blue Sector was the province of the Humans, and of the EarthForce men and women in particular. Each one moved confidently here and there on his appointed rounds, epitomes of determination and discipline. Lennier had never been a warrior, but he could respect them all the same. Now, though, they threatened to expose Delenn's plan. That was a problem.
He needed to draw the guards away. If they saw Delenn leave, they would inform Captain Sheridan, and all would be revealed. But how? Delenn had left this portion of the plan up to him – he had argued strenuously for her to remain in the rented room, as it would make all of this much simpler, but she had seemed loathe to refuse Sheridan's offer. He had spent a considerable amount of time helping Commander Ivanova set up the room in the brig knowing full well that Delenn would not be staying there long. His only hope was that such a move would make them less likely to suspect anything was afoot. At least he had been granted temporary security clearance, and did not have to fashion a method of getting through the first entrance to the brig. But the guards, how to get rid of the guards? Lennier came to the final stretch of corridor realizing that he still hadn't a clue what he was going to do. He decided the simplest gambit was the best.
He carried a dagger. Not the one Anyenn had brought aboard the station – that remained in Delenn's possession – but a sharp one nonetheless. Lennier drew it out of his sleeve and jabbed the point of the blade into the tender skin above his eye, just over the brow bone. Warm blood trickled down and threatened to blind him; Lennier raked the back of his hand over the wound, smearing the blood around. It would look worse an injury that way. He tucked the dagger away and began to run, heading for the guard station.
The two looked up at him as he approached, hands already on their weapons, their faces hard. “An assassin,” he said, breathing hard. “He's coming for her. Hurry.” It was all true, of course; another assassin was definitely en route, and Lennier was not claiming to have actually seen him. Only one of the guards stood; it was foolhardy to hope that both would leave their posts. The woman spoke into the link on the back of her hand quietly and came Lennier's way.
“What's he look like?” she asked. Lennier shook his head. “I didn't get a good look. This way.” He started to lead the guard down the corridor, then stopped and turned back as though he'd forgotten something. She continued on without him, thankfully.
The other guard came out of the little post, also speaking into his link. Lennier could see through the clear door behind him – Delenn was coming. Alarm on her face, and she mouthed a question at him. Lennier didn't have the time to try and figure it out, though; more personnel would arrive at any minute. He approached the guard, knowing that he looked small and nonthreatening.
“We'll get a doc down here to look at that,” the guard said, and then Delenn came up behind him and put an arm around his throat. A split-second of shock, and Lennier used it to knock the weapon from the man's hand. He put a hand over his mouth, pinching his nostrils shut. The guard did his best to break free of Delenn's hold, but she was surprisingly strong, even considering that she was half-Human now.
“I'm sorry,” Lennier told the guard, entirely sincere. The man's eyes bugged out, and then they slowly closed. Lennier and Delenn dropped him carefully to the floor, and Lennier checked his pulse. Not as strong as he would have liked, but the station's medical personnel would take good care of him. Delenn pulled off his link and tucked it down into the front of the cloak she wore. She tugged the hood up over her head, then took Lennier's hand.
“You did well,” she murmured, and then they were running.
There was an service lift just up ahead, and the forty-five seconds it took to reach it was an eternity. If the other guard should return, if security should arrive... But they slipped inside while the corridor was still empty, and Lennier told the lift to take them down to the station's core. His heart was racing, a wild thumping he could feel throughout his whole body; Delenn still held his hand.
“You're hurt,” she said, looking at the blood on his face. Lennier shook his head. “There is very little pain. I am fine.” Very little pain wasn't quite true; now that they were on their way, the wound seemed to ache more than it had before. His left eye stung and watered; some blood had found its way there after all. But he would gladly shed even more blood if it were necessary to keep Delenn safe.
Once down on Blue Two, there was only a short distance to traverse before coming to the core shuttle that ran the length of the station. Once inside a car, they should be able to make their way down to the aft docking bay in Brown Sector where the shuttle was waiting for her. The service lift doors opened, and Lennier found himself holding his breath, but no one was there. Lennier felt the urge to run, but that would only draw attention to them should anyone cross their paths; not that two Minbari in this part of the station wouldn't draw attention as it was.
A woman in a brown uniform was loading something in the undercarriage of the monorail car as they walked up, but she spared them a single bored look and returned to her work. Lennier followed Delenn aboard, and they took up seats at the very back of the car. With luck, few people would join them. Even wearing a cloak, a hood obscuring most of her face, Delenn was very recognizable.
The universe seemed to be bestowing a great deal of luck, because once the journey began not only did few people enter the car, but there were few stops at all. Two Humans in blue EarthForce uniforms boarded, but they were young, and were only interested in whispering and giggling to each other. They never even looked their way. A Narn, long-faced and solemn, boarded in Red Sector, and promptly fell asleep. A Minbari entered just after, and for a moment Lennier felt real alarm, but she was a tiny, wizened thing, likely a hundred cycles old at least, and he could tell from the sash around her waist that she was a Trustee of the Empire, a collector of Minbar's cultural heritage, one who had spent her life poring through scrolls and crystals.
The old woman shuffled in their direction, leaning on a cane. Lennier felt Delenn tense beside him, but the old woman sat down a few seats away and pulled out a little silk purse from her robes. Tea leaves – she nibbled on one with a contented sigh. He heard Delenn let out a slow breath, and they both relaxed.
“How much did it cost to secure the shuttle?” she whispered. Lennier just shook his head. “It will be a debt to be repaid with favors, not with money.” The Brakiri pirate he'd bartered with was a devious one, but he'd had no idea to whom he was talking, and the promise of a shipment of fine Centauri Brivari ready and waiting in his cargo hold when the shuttle was returned was far too tempting an offer.
Suddenly he heard a voice, very close, male and harsh and slightly familiar. It was the link stowed in Delenn's cloak, and she grabbed at it. Lennier heard she's gone before Delenn fumbled it in her hand, pressing the right button to turn it off. They both looked up at the EarthForce officers sitting up ahead, but they must not have heard, because they were sneaking little kisses, not paying any attention to the back of the car at all. He was sure for a moment that it was just a ruse, meant to draw them out, trick them into being complacent, but one second turned into five, then ten, then thirty, and it became clear that no one else had heard after all.
He realized that Delenn kept reaching her hand just inside her sleeve. She must be keeping her own dagger there, he thought. But it wasn't her dagger at all; it had been Anyenn's dagger, the one he'd brought to kill her. Just thinking about it made Lennier shiver. She could have died so easily...
“Excuse me?” Lennier snapped out of his reverie, and looked up to see the Trustee standing just before him. Her face was lined with a thousand wrinkles, her eyes cloudy with cataracts. She smiled a nearly-toothless smile. “Would you happen to have any credits to spare? I left my purse in my quarters, and I need to buy a paper, you see.” It would be easier to claim poverty – he had to do so every day on the station, to one beggar or another, or he'd be bled dry – but he always had a difficult time saying no to the elderly. Lennier smiled, and reached down to one of his inner pockets.
He didn't see the old woman's fist come at his face, but he felt it. His nose broke as easily as a piece of dry tinder, and a gout of blood spilled over his mouth. Before he could even think of drawing his blade, the Trustee was climbing over him, spry and nimble. He tried to shove her away, but she was already drawing something from the top of her cane – a crystal ice pick, the point needle sharp. She held it high and screamed a word in the Old Tongue, then brought the weapon down. Delenn managed to twist away some, but not enough; the pick stabbed through her shoulder. The Trustee made to draw the length of it out and stab again, but Delenn grabbed onto her wrist and held it tight, keeping the pick right where it was. Lennier took the opportunity to draw his own weapon, and he held the dagger to the old woman's throat.
“Release her, or I'll kill you,” he said, his voice muffled, the words all soft. His face was a mask of pain, and he couldn't seem to draw in a breath. The Trustee only smiled at him, a fell grin that made his stomach turn to water.
“Ra'faleth, both of you. You'll die, you'll die.” She turned to Delenn, murder in her eyes, so Lennier drew the blade through century-old flesh and opened up her throat.
The nurse who cleaned her wound this time was a Human male, and he was barely able to do his job. He kept sneaking glances at her face, her hair, and most especially her bone crest. Perhaps he had never seen her before, save for newspapers and ISN. No doubt she looked quite different in person.
“This is gonna hurt,” he told her, and then he pushed a thin swab into the hole the ice pick had left behind. It did hurt, it hurt more than anything she could remember, more than the making of the wound itself, but Delenn clamped her teeth together and forced her face still. She would not give anyone the satisfaction of seeing her cry out. There were antiseptics on the swab, chemicals and compounds to clean the wound; thankfully the ice pick had not been poisoned, or she would be dead already. The nurse pulled the swab back out, and Delenn felt her fingertips pierce her palm.
“Time for the bandage.” The nurse pulled out cloths and tape and a sticky sheet of quick-skin to slap over the top of the little hole in her shoulder. Delenn shook her head.
“Heal it.” The nurse stared at her, brow knitted, until he realized what she was asking.
“Healing accelerator? It'll hurt worse than the swab, for the rest of the night, too.” He made no move to withdraw the syringe from his kit. Delenn had seen a Warrior injected with a healing serum once – he had screamed louder than a woman giving birth, and had wept afterward. Cells were not designed to knit back together so quickly. But she could not afford to have her arm in a sling for the next several days, not if she were to meet with another assassin.
“Do it,” she said, and as the nurse readied the syringe she saw John enter the small conference room where they had taken her. His face was hard, his fists clenched at his side. Delenn saw no more than that; she could not bear to meet his eye. It was just as well, though. The nurse chose that moment to carefully guide the long needle into the wound, his hand steady. Liquid warmth there, and it was almost pleasant for a second or two. The nurse continued to press the plunger down as he slowly pulled the syringe out, coating the interior surface of the wound with the healing serum. Delenn heard but did not see John suck in a sharp breath.
Then the pain came, a column of fire running through her shoulder. In truth it was no worse than the swab had been, and Delenn thought about smiling at the nurse. But the fire kept growing, burning hotter and hotter, and she found herself hunching over, trying to get away from it. The fire was inside, though, deep in her shoulder, running from the front nearly all the way to the back. She needed to get the fire out. She raised her right hand to reach over and pull it out, grab at her left shoulder and do something, but someone else's hand grabbed her before she could, holding her hand down firmly. Delenn couldn't see, blind from tears that spilled cool down her cheeks. She heard a sound in the air and slowly realized that it came from her throat, but before she could try and stop making the sound the darkness took her.
She was home, in her very own bed. There was a sweet smell in the air, and she was very warm. Then confusion set in. Where was home? Her quarters on Babylon 5? Her little sleeping cell on the Valen'tha? The Temple of Remembrance in the mountains above Tuzanor? Her father's house, in the river valley, behind the library and the market?
She was very warm. Too warm. Swaddled, and her arms couldn't move, she told them to move and they did not. Hot, she was so very hot, and the whole left side of her body hurt. Now that she aware of the pain, it seemed to bloom larger in her mind, until it consumed her.
“It's okay,” she heard, a man's voice coming from far above her head. Where was she? “It's okay, I've got you.” Someone had her. The pain and the heat and the confusion all coalesced into the certainty that whoever had her was the next, the third, and now he would finish the job the others had been unable to complete, and she could not even open her eyes to see.
Delenn tried to say no, tried to shout out, tried to pull herself out of the vice that held her and run to safety. Her lips wouldn't part, they seemed stuck together. The only movement she could manage was a trembling in her fingertips. Open your eyes and see his face at the very least. See the man who is going to kill you. She made herself look, even though the light was bright and stung her eyes and hurt her head terribly, even though her eyes seemed gummed together never to open again, even though she was afraid. She didn't recognize him at first; she had never seen him from this angle.
John held her, his face not far away at all but just over her own. His arms cradled her, and her head rested in his lap. He smiled as she looked up at him, and brushed his fingertips against her temple. “Hey. How are you feeling?” Delenn tried to answer, but her mouth was too dry, her throat closed up tight. John must have seen her answer in her face, because his smile grew a little wider, and he nodded slightly. “You'll be all right in another hour or two. I can't believe you did that. I saw a Marine get an accelerator shot once – he pissed himself and threw his head back so hard screaming that he cracked his skull open. They had to give him another shot.” There was something in his face she hadn't seen directed her way in a very long time, if ever. “You're a hell of a woman, Delenn, you know that?”
“Where are we?” she managed, and her voice sounded like an old woman's. John reached over her, to a table whose top she couldn't see, and retrieved a small bottle of water. He carefully tipped it over her mouth, and the cool moisture was such a relief she was afraid she would cry. Already the pain in her shoulder had become an ache, bone-deep and terrible, but something she thought she could deal with.
“Your little pirate ship, in Brown Sector.” Delenn knew she was just staring up at him, mouth probably hanging open unattractively. How did he know? Had he always known? “Of course,” he went on, “we're not in Brown Sector any more. We're two jump gates away from the station, in hyperspace.”
“Lennier.” It was not a question. John nodded. “I won't say that he gave you up, but I think he decided it was best you get on your way, even if I had to come with you instead of him. Last I saw him, Franklin was doing his best to get his nose to go back where it belonged.” He helped her sit up. She was still too weak to stand, but John didn't seem to mind. He put an arm around her waist, keeping her resting against his chest. No, no, this wasn't how it was supposed to go, she wanted to tell him, but she was just too tired.
John's voice was bright, almost cheerful. “And now it's just the two of us on our way to Centauri Prime.”