Author's Note: Many thanks to all reviewers, I'm so glad you like this story! I was afraid it would be too weird for most people to enjoy, but I guess I was wrong.
Pierce the Darkness, chapter 5
Three weeks later
Legolas kissed Buffy on the forehead prior to leaving for the day, with his sack of smaller items to trade slung over his shoulder. She watched him go with much longing, wishing she could go with him instead of having to bum around their little makeshift home all by herself. She concentrated her acute hearing until the final whoosht of the door indicated he was gone.
"And then there was one," she sighed, and set about tidying up their little room.
Legolas really had acquired an impressive number of things in the week since they'd awoken; in her copious spare time, Buffy had begun categorizing it. Weaponry in one room, mysterious gadgets in another, and what she'd dubbed (to Legolas' annoyance) "kinky bondage stuff" in a third. It was, by far, the most full and she wondered what that said about his preferences, though she had managed to keep from commenting on it aloud.
Every once in a while he brought home a real gem, like the long woollen gown and thick socks and soft shoes she now wore. Their cot now boasted what he said were known as "frictionless" sheets and a blanket made of some thin, silvery material that worked better than any goose down comforter. Maybe he'll manage to get us some pillows today, she thought wistfully; she was tired of using folded-up clothes to rest her head on—waking up in the morning with the impression of a dozen metal studs on her cheek and forehead from another of the odd coats he'd found did not a happy Buffy make.
Legolas had been gone an hour— the cot was made neatly and any food left over from Legolas' spending orgy of the previous week was carefully stored on the little shelf over the sink—and already there was nothing left for Buffy to do. She fidgeting for a while, then gave brooding a try, but that was depressing and boring besides. How had Angel managed to stand so much of it?
Forcing her thoughts away from that equally-gloomy topic, she slumped into the chair to reread the book Legolas had found for her a few days ago. It was a testament to her absolute boredom that she would read it even once, let alone this many times. A glimpse at the title page had shown the book had been published in 2102, and the blurb on the back cover said it was one of the last editions that would come out in paper instead of data chip. The pages were yellow and crumbling, and Buffy was afraid to breathe too hard as she turned them for fear they'd melt to dust in her hands.
It wasn't even an interesting book; it was 300 pages nattering on about socio-economic development in the European Union once the United Kingdom had finally, grudgingly converted to the Euro as a form of currency. And yet it was all Buffy had to do all day until Legolas came home. She'd read it once a day since he'd brought it to her five days ago.
She hated this book.
Legolas, on the other hand, she was really starting to like. He was attentive and sweet, funny and cute, and always tried to bring some little treat home to her. She knew that without him, she'd have gone completely bonkers.
And so she read, and read some more. Then she had lunch, and read even more. An hour after lunch, a pain shot through her belly and she winced. Maybe I shouldn't have eaten that treel, she thought, heaving herself to her feet and making her way to the commode.
But nothing was forthcoming—she felt no urge to throw up, nor did she have to "use the facilities", and the pain didn't come again. Buffy decided it was a rogue gas pain and left it at that.
But an hour later, she felt the pang again, and this time, it was a bit stronger. It started in the small of her back and continued around toward her navel. Buffy felt fear streak through her as niggling misgiving burst into full-blown suspicion.
Another hour, and another pain. This time it was a definite squeezing sensation, and Buffy was forced to admit that she was, in all likelihood, in labour.
"Crap, crap, crap," she muttered, struggling to her feet. There was a wrench of something within her, a spasming of something deep inside, and then Buffy was aware of the infinitely unpleasant feeling of warm fluid seeping down her thighs.
Hauling up her skirts, she swiped her hand between her legs and sighed heavily when it came back stained red. "Crap," she said again, waddling to the sink to rinse it off. At least there wasn't too much of it, for now. She washed herself as best she could, then put on every pair of panties Legolas had been able to acquire for her, hoping it would help to soak up at least some of it.
What to do? She was alone, in labour, and bleeding. Legolas wasn't expected back for hours. Squaring her shoulders, Buffy went to the weapons room and rummaged until she found a small gun—she'd be damned if she were going out into whatever cold, cruel world awaited her beyond the door of Brown 32 without some sort of protection.
Hiding the gun in the wide sleeve of her outer robe-thingy, she made her way to the door leading to the stairwell and surveyed her choices: one set of steps up, one down—which to choose? Legolas was a creature of habit; she'd observed him going down before, and believed today had been no different.
"Upstairs it is, then," she muttered to herself, and began to climb.
When she opened the door to Brown 33 and stepped in from the stairwell, she was overcome with a reminiscence of the weekend she, Xander, Cordelia, Oz and Willow had spent in Tijuana after high school graduation. It had been "the" place to go to celebrate, and the boys had not minded its seediness with the usual obliviousness of the teen male but she and the other girls had not been impressed with the squalor or dirt.
Sadly, Brown 33 made Tijuana look like a luxury resort complete with spa, pool, and golf course. There was trash lining the hallways, and the smell of rotting food and urine and dead things hidden under the rubbish was strong enough to make her head swim. There was hardly any light at all, and Buffy was glad for her keen eyesight as she picked her way through the detritus on the floor.
Whores were plentiful, and they eyed her with a mixture of distaste and pity which she reciprocated heartily. The pains were gradually becoming stronger and more frequent. When Buffy finally entered a large open bay that seemed to be sectioned off into a brothel, gambling hell, and pub, she dragged herself into the dingy drinking establishment to collapse heavily into a chair.
No one she'd asked had seen Legolas that day, or else they were lying. Judging by how shifty most people here looked, she wouldn't be surprised if it were the latter.
A waitress with fresh stitches in her cheek approached and asked if Buffy wanted a drink. She demurred, pleading a total (and genuine) lack of money, but a male hand reached between the two women with a credit chip held jauntily between fore and middle fingers.
"Whatever the lady wants, on me," he said, and Buffy looked up to find a burly guy, obviously alien judging by his mottled orange-brown skin and formidable tusks, standing beside her rickety table.
"Just a bottle of water," Buffy said slowly, not taking her eyes from him. The waitress shuffled off. "What do you want?" she asked the guy, who seated himself across from her.
He smiled, revealing more outsized teeth. "A woman who doesn't mince words. I like that." When Buffy didn't reply, he forged on. "I notice you're expecting," he said, and she nodded, gritting her teeth as another pain lanced through her abdomen. "The father an Earther, too?"
"Mostly," she replied casually, but her eyes were narrow. "What about it?"
He shrugged, falsely casual. "Oh, nothing. I just know some people who'd pay pretty well for an Earther baby, that's all." He watched her through the haze of smoke in the pub. "Wondered if you might be interested in a transaction. You look in a bad way, like you need some money."
The waitress returned with the bottle of water. Buffy snatched it from her and stood with as much dignity as she could muster. "No," she said shortly, "I'm not interested." She didn't want this baby, but selling it to some shifty-eyed loser with dirty fingernails—oh, and tusks-- was out of the question.
"Pity," he drawled, hand at her elbow to steady her when her balance skewed and she almost tripped over her skirts.
Buffy jerked her arm from his grasp. "Thanks for the water," she said as neutrally as she could, and walked away as fast as possible. The selection of whores grew both younger and prettier the further she travelled from that area, and it was with a mixture of apprehension and relief that she spied someone who looked pretty damn close to Legolas' drawing of Belladonna.
She approached the tentacled being with caution. "Hi," she said slowly. "Are you Belladonna?"
The creature's flat, cobra-like head turned on the long, sinuous stem of its neck to peer at her a long moment before nodding. "And you, I wager, are Legolas' wife," Belladonna replied. Her voice was gorgeous, musical and lilting, and made the hairs on the back of Buffy's neck stand on end with its throbbing vibrancy.
She sighed and gave in to Legolas in the "now we're married" thing, at least for today. "Yes, I'm his wife, and I need to find him. Do you know where he is?"
Belladonna shook her head, a motion of pure grace that made her entire lithe form sway enticingly. "I have not," she replied, a note of regret in that voice. "He mentioned yesterday that he wished to explore the lower levels of Downbelow; to this point, only 32 and higher has he seen."
It figures, Buffy thought sourly. I have a 50/50 chance of choosing the right direction, and made the wrong one.
A contraction coursed through her then, making her gasp, and Belladonna's face seemed to crease in concern. "You are bleeding," she said, a singsong rhythm to her words that caused Buffy's head to whirl, She wondered if she had lost so much blood by that point that she was in serious trouble. "Remain here."
Belladonna slid away with an undulation of long, graceful tentacles, leaving Buffy standing there in the middle of Downbelow's most infamous area of harlotry. When she didn't return after about ten minutes, Buffy decided that she couldn't wait any longer and chose one of the corridors leading from the large room.
She made her way down it, glad to leave behind the whores but not so happy to see how thin the population grew out here, away from the hustle and bustle of commerce.
"Crap, crap, crap," she chanted, forcing herself to ignore the shaft of fear that lanced through her along with another cramp. Hadn't the head Drazi guy mentioned something about her not dealing well with pregnancy? If she didn't get to a doctor, both she and her hitchhiker could be in danger.
The contraction eased, and on the heels of it came agush of wetness. Buffy thought it might be her water breaking until she smelt the metallic tang of blood. "I'm in trouble," she said to herself, uncomfortably aware of the growing puddle soaking her skirts. The fabric clung wetly to her thighs and the smell, thick and heady, was making her nauseous. "I'm in a lot of trouble."
There was no one she could see in this corridor, no one to help her. Buffy slumped against the wall when everything spun around her. Finally, the world righted itself once more and she began to stumble down the corridor, leaning heavily against the wall.
She rounded a corner and lurched through a door; a family huddled there, thin-faced and dirty. Hope leapt within her at the sight of a mother with children; surely they'd help her? "Please," she began, her arms wrapped tightly around her belly. "I need—" A spasm wracked her, and she pitched forward, catching herself by grabbing the sleeve of the woman. "I need a doctor."
"The only doctors are in the Med Labs," the woman replied, pulling away and herding her children into the corner.
"Where are the Med Labs?" Buffy asked. Her mouth was dry and she was starting to get very cold, which was weird because her she sweating like a horse. Shock, she thought. I'm going into shock. This is very bad.
"At the other end of the station," the boy offered, his eyes huge as he watched her tremble.
"How far is it?" Really, it was like getting blood from a stone, Buffy thought, then winced when another little gout of that liquid coursed down her legs. Little blue dots danced in her vision and she thought that, just maybe, her internal comment had been in bad taste.
"Five miles," replied the girl, and Buffy fell back hard against the wall in surprise.
"How do I get there?" she rasped.
"You'll never make it," the woman protested. "We're on Brown 34, you have to get to Brown 1, then take the corridor to the core shuttle, then the shuttle five miles to the Med Labs." She blinked anxiously, her face showing a hint of sympathy for the first time. "You'll never make it."
"So I should just give up?" Buffy demanded. "No. I haven't been through all this just to die here, like this." She tried to straighten a little. "I'll make it. Just tell me which way to go."
"I'll take you," said the girl boldly, pulling out from her mother's embrace.
"Sarena, no!" the woman cried, bony hands reaching out to pull her daughter back.
"No, Mama," Sarena said, coming forward and slipping her arm around Buffy's waist. "She needs help. I'm tired of not doing anything."
Buffy leant gratefully against Sarena. "Thank you," she whispered, blinking against the grey clouds edging their way into her vision.
"Thank me when it's over," Sarena replied briskly. "Until then—" she gave Buffy a little shake "—you need to stay awake, and standing. I'm not strong enough to carry you." Buffy nodded, and they started down the corridor in a slow, crablike motion.
"Sarena!" the girl's mother called. "Sarena, come back!"
Marcus Cole raced down the central corridor from the Shuttle toward Brown 34. Belladonna had found him in a gambling hell in Brown 46, and had been vague and not very helpful in the manner typical of her people, but she'd managed to disclose the fact there was an Earther woman in dire straits in Downbelow.
And, Belladonna had added, she was the wife of the new chap who'd been making life miserable for Malein and the other scum that preyed on the Lurkers in Downbelow. For Marcus, that was as good a voucher as if Valen§ himself had given the woman his approval.
Still, he couldn't say he was delighted to have been interrupted.
"It never fails," Marcus said under his breath as he dashed down one corridor, then another, apologizing to the Centauri he plowed into in his haste. "The very minute I have a pint on the table before me, and duty calls." Dimly, he wondered when rescuing pregnant and hemorrhaging damsels in distress had become his duty but he supposed it was in the general job description for a Ranger, if one applied the definition generously enough.
He skidded to a stop at the place Belladonna had left the woman to find it deserted but for a grisly smear of blood on the wall. "A gruesome trail of breadcrumbs, indeed," Marcus murmured, and followed it to where the smear became a little puddle on the garbage-strewn floor. A woman and her son shrank back into the corner at his approach.
"The woman who caused this," he said. "What happened to her?"
"I don't know," she quavered, clearly lying, and Marcus heaved a sigh.
"Come now, madam," he began, but the boy interrupted.
"My sister went with her, to help," he said. "I'll take you to them."
"Yudo," the woman moaned, clutching at him.
"I'm tired of doing nothing, too, Mama," he told her fiercely. "I'll come back later."
He led the way down the corridor, speaking to Marcus as they ran. "She was bleeding everywhere. They were headed for the Med Labs."
"The Med Labs?" Marcus repeated, incredulous. "From Brown Sector? If she were bleeding that heavily, there's no way she would make it!"
"That's what we told her," Yudo said, a hint of humour lacing his voice as they stepped into the lift. "But she was determined… got this scary look on her face. I think she'd make it all the way to Ganymede€ if that's where the Med Labs were."
Marcus bounced impatiently on the balls of his feet as they waited for the lift to arrive at the main level, and huffed out a relieved breath when the door finally slid open, bounding from the confined space to the wide corridor…
…then came to a sudden halt at the sight before him.
Two women, one leaning heavily on the other and slightly bent over as she struggled to stand. But with her large belly, her centre of gravity was skewed and she began to pitch forward in spite of the girl's best attempts to stop it.
Marcus dashed forward and swept the pregnant woman into his arms before she could slump to the floor. She blinked wearily up at him and seemed to melt in relief at not having to stand under her own power any longer. "Beard," she muttered, lifting a hand to the neatly barbered hair on his face. Her hand fell limply away when she fainted.
"Yudo," he directed, "find Belladonna, tell her I've found her friend am taking her to MedLab." The boy nodded and returned to the lift. Marcus turned to the girl.
"Help me get her there, will you?" The bloody fabric of her dress had already stained the hand supporting her legs, and he grimaced at the hot, metallic smell of it rising from her as he began to run toward the core shuttle.
The girl ran alongside, and he glanced at her, surprised to see that she was not a teen as he'd thought but a young woman, perhaps as old as twenty— merely short and slight in the way that malnutrition tended to have with a person. Marcus made a mental note to talk Stephen into giving her a vitamin shot once they were in MedLab.
"What's your name?" he asked her as they jogged, flashing her one of his more debonaire smiles.
"Sarena," she replied, blushing a little. Marcus hid a grin; it was almost inconceivable that there was a female left in Downbelow capable of blushing, but there you were. He was charmed a bit in spite of himself, and wondered if there were some sort of job he could find her so she wouldn't have to return to the squalor of her home.
The PA system announced last call for boarding the shuttle squatting at the dock, and with a last burst of speed they stepped into it just before the door slid shut with a hydraulic gasp. Marcus sank onto a bench with a sigh of relief—he wasn't used to the 1,000 metre dash with a hundred pounds of hopefully-not-literally-dead weight in his arms.
Shifting her so she leant against his chest without needing too much support from his aching arms, he turned to Sarena. "When we get to the MedLab stop, you run ahead and tell Dr. Franklin she's coming, tell him to meet us with a stretcher."
She nodded and sprang to her feet with the energetic resilience of youth that Marcus feared he had not enjoyed in many a year. As soon as the shuttle shuddered to a halt, she launched herself down the hallway, following the signs pointing to MedLab.
Marcus followed at a rather more sedate pace. The woman in his arms was mumbling nonsense, about vampires and demons and then she said quite clearly, "I don't want to die again."
What an intriguing thing to say, Marcus thought. It was as if she had died before, hadn't been impressed, and wished to avoid the same thing again if she could.
"Don't blame you, love," he murmured. "Few of us actually fancy dying. Can't imagine any situation where I'd eagerly embrace the concept, actually." He glanced down at her impassive face, hoping for a response, but there was none. "Everyone's a critic," he groused good-naturedly, shifting his grip on her and heaving an audible sigh of relief when Stephen Franklin barreled round a corner with full med crew in tow. Sarena was at the rear of the group, her thin face anxious.
"You and your strays," Stephen gibed Marcus as the woman was taken from him and placed on a stretcher. "You can't keep this one, you know."
Marcus grinned. "Please, can't I, Dad?" he replied. "I'll be ever so careful, and walk her twice a day and always keep her water dish full." Stephen's laughter rang out in the hallway as he took over the woman's care, barking orders like the medical Napoleon he was as the team retraced its steps toward MedLab.
Which left Marcus alone in the hallway with Sarena. She ducked her head and dared a few hopeful glances at him, which made him unaccountably nervous.
"Er, right," he said, hating the tide of heat that coursed over the unbearded portion of his cheeks. "That's that sorted, then. Right." She opened her mouth to speak but he rushed on. "You can find your way back home, I'm sure. I have things to do. Important things. To do. Right. Right, then. See you."
And he dashed back to the core shuttle like a man pursued by the very devil, ruing his near-total inability to converse with females without making an utter arse of himself. For some reason, they made him feel like a mad idiot. Except for Babylon 5's second-in-command, that Ivanova woman. There was something about her that made him feel… good. Like God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world.
Marcus slumped onto the hard shuttle bench and closed his eyes. He'd always suspected coming to Babylon 5 would be a life-altering experience, and not necessarily in the good way. Alas for his uncanny sense of perception, and tendency to follow where it led.
He should have just stayed on Minbar.
G'kar hummed as he made his way to the meeting place designated by the smuggler. It wasn't that he was in a particularly good mood, no; just that he had seen Commander Ivanova and Ambassador Delenn forcibly "acquire" Londo Mollari from the glitziest casino on the station to participate in yet another endless, excruciating bout of interstellar politics with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. The type of thing G'kar was neither permitted nor welcome to attend since his demotion from ambassador of Narn to a mere citizen.
In spite of Londo's waving arms, G'kar had seen that the Centauri ambassador had been in possession of a rather fine hand and doubtless would have won quite nicely. Had those two formidable women not arrived and insisted he accompany them, that is.
"Accursed females," Londo had hissed when Ivanova took one arm and Delenn the other, propelling him from the casino and out into the Zocalo en route to the diplomatic conference room. "Unhand me, you willful, malevolent assassins of joy."
Delenn had looked amused at Londo's slurs upon their characters; Ivanova, bored. G'kar supposed one would have to search far and wide for insults that could burrow under the Commander's steely façade, possibly beyond the very Rim of the galaxy. His smile widened; there was nothing like a strong, confident woman, he always said. Then he thought of Na'toth, and allowed that there was something to be said for amenable, biddable females too.
Ah, here it was. G'kar stomped through Downbelow's never-ending drifts of rubbish to the shadowy corner at which he'd arranged to meet the smuggler; he'd continued to arrange for correspondence to pass back and forth from his people on Babylon 5 and their families back on the Narn homeworld. This data crystal he awaited so eagerly was worth more than a half-dozen Vorlon cruisers to him.
Thus he was displeased when the smuggler named a price to him that was three times as much as had been previously agreed upon.
"This is sheer thievery!" G'kar exclaimed in a whisper. "Do you not realize what this crystal's contents mean to my people here on Babylon 5?"
The smuggler, a typically disreputable-looking Earther, exuded boredom as his pale gaze flicked around the overhang. He didn't like meeting here, it was too vulnerable; the open side had only a metal railing to keep a person from tumbling to the open storage bay below. It was far too easy to be overheard, and there were rumours lately that Security officers weren't the only ones sneaking around Downbelow these days.
"I got expenses," was all he said. "There this new guy running around, keeps stealing things from Malein and handin' it out to the Lurkers, like some kind of goddamned Robin Hood." His snort of amusement faded when he saw no recognition of the joke on G'kar's face. "He was this famous medieval robber, he took from the rich and gave to the poor." Still nothing. The smuggler gave up.
"Anyway, Malein's expenses have gone up because of Robin Hood, and he's passing the savings on to you and everybody else." The thud of a body impacting a hard surface sounded just outside the storage bay they stood above, and the smuggler began to grow uneasy. "Listen, I gotta go. You wanna complete this deal, or not?"
A half-dozen men burst into the bay below them: five grubby Lurkers whom G'kar recognized from his more illicit dealings on the station, and one other fighting them all at once: an Earther, uncommonly (and commendably) attired like a Narn, and fighting (if G'kar were not mistaken) with a Minbari war pike. Also, if G'kar's keen eyes were not mistaken, he was glowing faintly. How fascinating.
The smuggler groaned. "Shit, it's him."
G'kar could scarcely tear his eyes from the site of the five experienced brawlers being held off with almost languid ease by the Earther. "Him?"
"Robin Hood." The smuggler began inching his way off the overhang. "You change your mind, you know where to find me." Then he faded into the shadows.
G'kar watched as the Earther ducked beneath the length of pipe swung at him by one of the group, spinning on his heel and catching his opponent in the side of the head with an elbow before vaulting off the ground with the pike and sending both feet smashing into the face of another of his attackers.
"Is it true?" G'kar called down to him.
The Earther glanced up at him, flicking the pike back over his shoulder at the fellow trying to sneak up behind him.
"Is what true?" Robin Hood asked. The pike connected solidly with the man's face and sent him tumbling back, clutching his face and wailing in pain.
"Is it true that you steal from the rich and give to the poor?" G'kar was enrapt by the poetry of his motions, the smooth grace of his fighting, and was aware as well of the fact that he was seeking only to disable, not to kill.
Robin Hood frowned, and shoved the butt of his pike into the belly of another of his attackers. "I have been known to do that," he said at last, quite modestly, and G'kar felt his heart swell with delight. Without a second thought, he launched himself over the railing and off the overhang to the grubby bay floor.
"Magnificent!" he exclaimed as he flung himself into the battle, brawling with abandon. "Long have I waited to find one who would fight for the light, instead of succumbing to the darkness."
Robin Hood's extraordinary blue eyes narrowed at him as he danced away from the swinging fists aimed his way. "I am not so pure as you seem to think, Narn," he grunted, releasing the pike from one hand to punch one man so hard he spun in a circle, then kicking him in the backside so he fell onto his face.
"No?" enquired G'kar, withdrawing his little PPG from his leather greatcoat and aiming it at the prone figure on the floor. "Then you will not mind if I just kill them all. Easier than beating them into their next incarnations, don't you agree?" The other four went still. It was one thing to fight with fists and a pipe; quite another when a phase pistol was involved.
Sighting down the barrel, G'kar was not at all surprised when Robin Hood's hand grasped his wrist and pulled it down.
"No," he said, face serious. "There has been enough killing." There was a sad resignation in his eyes, the sign of a man who has taken far more life than he was comfortable with. G'kar was quite familiar with it, himself.
He turned to the attackers. "Begone," he hissed, every inch the K'aree lord as his red eyes flashed. "Bother this man no more; he is now under my protection, and that of every Narn on this station."
"Malein will hear about this!" one of the men snarled, picking himself off the floor and swiping with the back of his hand at the blood streaming from his nose.
"Malein," scoffed G'kar. "The petty tyrant of a questionable empire. Tell him his reign is soon to be over." He turned and clapped a hand on Robin Hood's shoulder. "And that a new reign is soon to begin."
Robin Hood watched his attackers shuffle off before meeting G'kar's eyes. He seemed, by turns, both apprehensive and amused. "A new reign is to begin, you say?" At the other's nod, he began striding from the storage bay, and continued. "And who shall be ruling it? I trust you have some candidate stashed somewhere?" G'kar opened his mouth to reply, but Robin Hood continued, "It shall not be me."
"But you would be ideal!" G'kar protested, following after him. "If you are truly not out to gouge people, and interested only in making a decent living instead of capitalizing from the misery of others, I can think of no one better."
Robin Hood slanted him another look, this time one of patient humour. "Honoured I am, that you think so highly of me. But I have other, far more important issues to concern myself with at the moment." He continued down the murky corridor at a rapid pace.
"What can be more important than leading people who need you?" G'kar wondered aloud, darting around people to keep up with his quarry, who froze at hearing his words.
"I am no leader of men," he said softly. "That ability and destiny belongs to my friend, and my father. I am but an assassin."
"Come now," G'kar said, just as softly. The people around them seemed to fade into a great distance as they met each other's eyes, and G'kar knew then that he stood with a warrior, and a survivor: those eyes had seen far, far more than his youthful appearance would suggest. "Surely you are more than that?"
Robin Hood grinned suddenly, transforming his slender face from solemn to merry. "I am a husband, and soon to be a father. But more than that—no. Just a wanderer, now, displaced from home and hearth."
"And seeking both?" G'kar peered at him keenly. "With fighting skills such as you possess, you must have a dozen worlds clamouring for you. It would be no great feat to procure a high position, wealth—"
"I wish neither," Robin Hood interrupted, stopping abruptly beside the door to the stairwell. "Leave me now."
G'kar stared a moment more, determined to learn more about this mysterious Earther with, he now noticed, the unusual ears. Then he placed his closed fist over his heart and bowed slowly in the traditional Narn farewell. Robin Hood nodded shortly and disappeared into the stairwell.
G'kar waited a moment before following on silent feet—he, too, could be stealthy when necessary. Robin Hood was not to be seen, but he heard the distinctive whoosh of a door opening and dashed up the stairs just in time to see it close again. Brown 32, the door read—the level appropriated by those strange Drazi and protected so fiercely that all had ceased bothering to infiltrate it.
He waited yet another moment before opening the door, and stepping quietly in. This level, unlike all others in Downbelow, was almost sterile in appearance—perfectly clean and brightly lit. The corridor stretched before him in a long path of grey, broken only by a trail of something dark on the floor.
It was quite clear to anyone with eyes in his head that the trail of red droplets marring the otherwise spotless floor was Earther blood, and he wondered if he had somehow missed the fact that Robin Hood had been injured in his fight with Malein's hoodlums. Hurrying down the corridor, careful not to step in the blood, he slammed into Robin Hood when he flew from one of the rooms lining the hallway.
"You followed me," Robin Hood accused, dark brows snapped together in a fearsome scowl.
"Robin Hood," G'kar exclaimed, "you are hurt."
"I am not," Robin replied, already running back toward the stairwell. "The blood is not mine."
G'kar jogged alongside, waiting, but no more was forthcoming. "Are we… going to find this person who is injured?" he asked at last.
Robin Hood's jaw flexed, as if he were clenching his teeth. "I am," he replied tightly, increasing his speed as he wove through the throngs of people. "You are buggering off."
G'kar huffed and kept pace. "I am not." He watched as Robin Hood began questioning people, asking if they had seen a petite, heavily pregnant female. Ah, he thought, my new friend seeks his wife. Was it her blood I saw?
No one had seen her; G'kar felt it quite possible that even if they had, they would not tell this increasingly wild-eyed man, not with his reputation for thwarting Malein. The criminal's eyes and ears were everywhere in Downbelow; aiding and abetting the enemy would only bring misery.
He took Robin Hood's arm and pulled him into a shadow, the better to speak in private. Robin Hood snarled at him and clawed at his fingers, trying to free himself. G'kar's predator's nose detecting the scent of fear emanating from the man.
"Let me try," he said, trying to calm Robin Hood with his tone. "You have made more enemies here than have I."
Eyes wide, Robin Hood stared a long moment at G'kar before nodding his agreement. "My name is not Robin Hood," he said irrelevantly, and allowed himself to be led down the corridor.
"No? My acquaintance had told me it was," G'kar replied smoothly. He was now in his element, that of organizer of hidden alliances, purveyor of shady deals and holder of secret information. If this man's wife were anywhere on the station, he would find her. "I am G'kar. And might I say, you are to be commended for your excellent taste in wardrobe."
"Legolas," the other identified himself as they arrived at the lift and darted inside. G'kar indicated they wished to be taken to the main corridor level. "And my attire is not a matter of taste, but of necessity; this Narn clothing was all that would fit my height."
"It suits you well," G'kar replied, aware his voice had taken on that smoothness of tone it tended to do when he was trying to ingratiate himself. The lift came to a halt, and they bolted from it toward the platform where the shuttle docked. Now that they were in a more brightly-lit part of Babylon 5, it was easier to see their surroundings, and a reddish smear on the floor indicated that someone had bled upon it. G'kar stooped and dabbed up a bit on his gloved finger, sniffing it.
"Human," he said, offering his stained finger to Legolas. "Do you know the taste of your wife's blood? Can you tell if it is indeed her?"
Legolas blinked, recoiling a bit. "No, I do not. But I have a feeling it is her." He closed his eyes a moment. "It is quite a lot of blood that has spilt, and she is so small. She is strong, but I hate to think of her in pain, bleeding, and I am not with her."
G'kar placed his hand on Legolas' shoulder, trying to reassure him as the lift door opened. "You said she is strong, did you not?" At Legolas' nod, he smiled. "Then she will endure."
They stepped inside the shuttle, and Legolas jolted on his feet as it jerked into motion. G'kar tugged him down to sit on the bench; had he never been on the shuttle before?
"She will endure," Legolas said, then repeated again, as if to reassure himself. "She will."
§ Valen: Sacred person from Minbari theology, a Christlike figure of deliverance. Actually former Babylon 5 Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, sent 1,000 into the past from the year 2060.
€ One of the moons of Jupiter. Quite far from B5, incidentally.