Ceremonies

Minor spoilers for Voices in the Dark (B5:The Lost Tales)

Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.

Delenn softly closed the door to her sleeping son's room, and walked into the living area of their suite. She was tired. It had been an extremely long day, and they had returned late from the temple. David had been yawning in the flyer, and had barely protested as she helped him get undressed and ready for bed. He had literally fallen into bed, eyes closed before he hit the pillow, and was now sleeping soundly. She envied him; she strongly doubted she would be able to sleep anytime soon.

She still couldn't believe how upset, almost angry, John had been when she told him she would not be attending the tenth anniversary celebration of the founding of the IA. Oh, he'd put a good face on it, but she could tell he was still unhappy at her decision to stay. She just didn't feel she had much choice in the matter. When Callenn had called, and told her he had finally decided to hold David's Naming Ceremony, she had been overjoyed. When he told her what day he had planned for it, her spirits had just as quickly fallen. "Why not a week later?" she had asked her clan elder. But his response had been certain and swift; it was now or never. He had added, smugly, that it was, of course, her choice to make.

Minbari children were given names at birth, but since the infant and child mortality rate was high, over the centuries, it had become a custom, then a tradition, and finally an established ritual, to give them their adult name when they reached six cycles. It was an important moment in a child's life, and the child's closest relative was required to attend. The all-day ceremony took place in the clan temple, in the presence of as many clan members as could be assembled. David was nine Earth years old, almost seven Minbari cycles, and Callenn had been avoiding naming a date for months now. She felt sure he had picked this day in the hope they would not come; hoping that the ceremony would not be held, and thus David would not be recognized as a 'true' member of their clan. She had been equally determined that the ceremony would take place. Rubbing her eyes, which were scratchy with fatigue, she sat on the couch, waiting for John to call. He should be reaching the station soon, and he had promised to let her know he had arrived safely. As she waited, she thought back to their conversation the night before….

"What do you mean, you're not going to be able to go?"

Delenn winced slightly at the tone of bewildered disappointment in her husband's voice.

"I told you, Callenn contacted me today. He has finally set a date for David's Naming Day. Tomorrow. He has put it off for months now, and will not change it. It is a direct challenge to me, to us, but I see no alternative. Not if David is to be accepted in Minbari society."

"Tell me why that's so important. It's not like they've accepted him up to now!" John regretted his statement as soon as he made it. Delenn looked away in pain; he knew she blamed herself for David's isolation. Other Minbari children his age were mostly away, being educated in temple. There weren't many human children around IA headquarters either. He supposed it was a solitary life, but it seemed to suit his son, who had always gotten along well with adults. His best friends were his parents, the Rangers, and his tutors. He started again, "You know we chose to raise him as human, because biologically at least, he is human. Why does he have to do this? He'll confirm this choice when he's thirteen…why worry about this ceremony?"

Delenn tried to pick her words carefully. "I want him to follow our rituals, so the choices are his own. If he deviates from them, the choice will be made by us, or by my clan. His position is unique, and difficult. I would like to allow him all the options I can, as long as I can."

"But a Naming Day? He already has a name!" He continued, a slight note of suspicion coloring his voice, "You weren't planning on changing it, were you?"

Delenn laughed, "No, no I wasn't." She took John's hands in hers, "We are raising him as human, but his home is here on Minbar. If he attends the rituals, even if he chooses 'humanity' as his caste, he will be accepted as a Minbari who made a choice. Not a human who rejected his Minbari heritage."

John shook his head, "I will never understand all the ins and outs of this."

"That is because we are making it up as we go along. Just as I had to, long ago, when I made my own choices." She reached one hand up to caress his face, "Which I have never regretted since you came into my life. It is only a few days. Surely you can survive that long without me."

He grimaced, then smiled, "I suppose. But it won't be the same. I wanted you to come with me. Damn Callenn anyway! I don't suppose it would any good if I went over there and.."

"No," Delenn said quickly, laughter rippling in her voice, "No good at all. He is a stubborn man, but fair. He doesn't deserve to face your wrath. He is doing the right thing, after all." She pursed her lips in annoyance, then added wryly, "Although it has taken him long enough to do it."

John leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "I suppose you're right. I'll live--but I still don't like it. You should be there; the Alliance would never have happened without all your hard work. I was just along for the ride."

"I will be there in spirit. I am always there with you, you know that."

He nodded his head in reluctant agreement. "All right then. You stay. You know David will hate this, don't you?"

"I promised him ice cream."

"The last of what Liz sent us? I was saving that!" John laughed, kissed her again, and said, "You're perfect, you know that?"

"I am not perfect, but it pleases me that you think so."

And that was how it had ended. He had still been upset in the morning, but also excited to be leaving Minbar. He had become comfortable with her culture, but she knew he would enjoy getting away for a while. Locating the IA headquarters on Minbar had been the only practical thing to do. They could have stayed on Babylon 5, for awhile longer; but it was really too small for what they were trying to build. There was Earth, but there were too many hard feelings after the civil war. Narn was re-building; Centauri Prime was still in disarray after the death of the Emperor. Minbar was the only real choice. However, they both knew it was also for her sake. John wanted her to be among her own people, when he would eventually have to leave her. If she had been on Earth, or Babylon 5, or any other planet, or anywhere in neutral space, it would have been harder than here, among familiar surroundings, on her own home world.

So she waited. He would call; she knew that. Still, she was nodding off when the chime finally sounded.

"Honey? How did it go today? Did David behave?"

He sounded tired. Deep satisfaction, tinged with relief, washed over her at the sound of his familiar voice. She answered, "He did fine. I think he's been watching you performing your duties. He had the same look on his face…polite interest underlaid by boredom."

"Are you sure he didn't learn that from you? So…you didn't change his name?" The laughter in his voice soothed her soul.

"No, I did not. He remains David Sheridan. How was the trip?"

"Except for the ubiquitous journalist, it went fine. Delenn, I have a question, well, a favor to ask…"

"What is it?" To herself she thought, as if I would ever deny you anything.

"I want to invite someone to stay with us for a little while. Well, maybe a long while. Depends on how things turn out…"

"Who is it? Not Colonel Lochley! Is she desirous of some respite from her duties?" Delenn noted, with a sense of self-amusement, that she felt some reluctance at the idea of this particular guest.

"No, it's that Centauri prince, the one they sent to the anniversary celebration--Prince Vintari. He's just a kid, but I think…there's a long story behind it, but I'd really like him to come home with me."

"You can tell me all about it when you get back. Please extend my own invitation to him."

"I knew you'd say that. Well, I'd better get along to the party. Elizabeth says they have a load of dignitaries for me to shake hands with." He paused for a moment, then cleared his throat and went on, "I miss you so much. I don't know how I'm going to make it through the next few days without you."

Delenn smiled back, although once again her heart was pierced by the awareness of the years she would have to spend without him. "You will have to muddle through. I'm sure David and I will find someway to occupy ourselves. Keep safe, and call me when you can."

"I will. Good night, my love."

"Good night. I love you." As the screen went black, she rose and walked to her room, alone.