Chapter One: How I Disappear
AU, from Atonement, S4, onwards. Set in 2270 (with memories from 2260)
Some dialogue from the episode Atonement, written by JMS, and some Minbari terms adapted from the Minbari-English dictionary by J. Hightower
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
Delenn ra'Valir sat bolt upright in her narrow tilted cot, breathing heavily, her hair damp with sweat. She had been dreaming again. She reached over to the small plain wooden nightstand by the bed, and poured herself a glass of water from a crystal pitcher. Drinking it slowly, letting herself come back to this time and this place, she let her mind wander through the memory of the dream, knowing if she did not work through it while awake, it would only return to haunt her again.
Not that it wouldn't anyway, she thought, carefully replacing the glass on the table. It wasn't like she hadn't dreamed this a hundred thousand times in the last ten years. Dreaming of the Dreaming: she almost laughed aloud at the irony. This time had been different, however. This time the dream had started before the day her life changed, before the day her dreams had disappeared.
The sun was not yet up, and it was hours before the house would be astir. Her position entitled her to a single room, so she was alone, and wouldn't disturb anyone by getting up, and lighting a candle. Taking one down from its niche on the wall, she set it on the table by the pitcher, and lit it, pausing to admire the way the light danced in front of the glass. Settling into a cross-legged position on the stone floor, the cold leaching up through her thin white robes, she dropped into a meditative state, trying to recall what she had dreamed this time. Dreams are one way the Universe speaks to us. In her case, she thought it might be a form of punishment as well.
She'd been standing on the bridge of the White Star, listening to her enemies speak in the voices and words of her friends. Part of her knew John was there; she always knew when he was there. Lorien's hand hovered near her temple, an electrical discharge from his fingers raising the hair on her head. He was broadcasting their thoughts, and the images the Shadows and Vorlons were using to communicate with them, to everyone in the fleet. In her mind, she could hear the First One saying, 'This is all I can do. The rest is up to you.' But then, something different had happened. She had opened her eyes, frozen in place, unable to move, and looked into his face; old, wise, weary beyond the telling. He said to her, 'Do not let him go alone.'
Back in her cell, her eyes flew open again, and she studied the heart of the flame as it burned on the table, set slightly above her head. This was not a memory. Lorien had never said those words to her on that day or any other day. Shaking her head to clear it, she tried to return to her dream, not wanting to relive the rest, but knowing it was necessary to purge it from her waking mind. As her breathing slowed, she returned to her Day of Atonement, in the early morning of the day after she and Lennier had entered the Dreaming...the first time.
She had lain awake for hours after leaving the Dreaming with Lennier, going over and over her friend's words. And that is why you agreed to become one with Sheridan. You are still grieving for your actions, still guilty over the death of so many humans...you are trying to atone for your mistake. Lennier was right, there was no way that her clan would see their account of her vision in any other way. They would refuse to let her return. And John would never understand what had happened, and why she would have to stay.
But why had the Dreaming shown her the dreadful day when Dukhat had died, and she had spoken the fatal words that led to the death of millions? What had that to do with her love for John? Knowing it was not self-sacrifice that motivated her, she went over and over the scene in her mind. Finally she realized that she was missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Determined to decipher Dukhat's last words, she got up and headed for the Whisper Gallery once again. Passing Lennier on the way, she gathered him up in her wake, and forged ahead. Callenn caught them just as they were sipping from the goblet once again.
Delenn had initially fumed at Callenn's refusal to come in with them. The man was a coward, she thought, a stickler for protocol, and a fool. At least Lennier had come with her; her loyal faithful Lennier. When they managed to get close enough to hear Dukhat's words, her heart rejoiced as she finally comprehended his meaning. Her old Master had wanted her to know her heritage before he died; but he could not have known what it would mean to her. It meant everything to her.
As they exited the gallery, she went up to Callenn and told him what she had heard. She spoke to Lennier, asking him for confirmation of her account. Glancing back at Callenn, wanting to see the expression on his face as he understood what her newfound knowledge meant, it took her a moment to realize that Lennier had said nothing. Turning back to her friend, she said, "Lennier?"
He would not meet her eyes, looking down at the floor in a parody of their first meeting. She touched his arm, and said, "You must speak, Lennier. Tell Callenn what you heard. Tell him what Dukhat's last words to me were." Silence met her plea, and she began to feel the first beginning tendrils of panic twine around her heart.
Callenn approached Lennier and said, friendly yet troubled. "You were her Guide. You must tell what you saw, and what you heard. How else can we judge the meaning of the Dreaming? It can wait until I gather the clan elders however. Let us convene in the main chamber of the temple, in, shall we say, two hours? Then we will hear." He bowed deeply first to Delenn, and then to Lennier, and left them alone, except for the two guards outside the entrance to the Whisper Gallery.
Delenn pulled Lennier aside, and demanded, in a low fierce tone, "What does this silence mean? You were there! You heard what he said, that I was a Child of Valen! You know what that implies, do you not?" In the face of his continued silence, she protested, "My clans' fears of genetic impurity are baseless in my case. I already contain at least some small portion of human DNA. There is no reason for them to prevent my joining with Sheridan." She gripped his arm tightly in agitation, "Will you speak?"
"I will speak to the elders, as I said." Then Lennier said to her, pity in his voice, "I did not hear Dukhat's words, Delenn."
"How could you not hear? You were right there! Right there with me!" Delenn looked at him, shocked by his statement. Considering this unexpected lack of support for her story, she thought rapidly. "I will need proof of Dukhat's statement. Will you help me access the records of the Grey Council?"
"I do not see how we can do that. The Council may have been disbanded, and is now barely functional, but the security at the Hall of Records remains in place. Besides, what would I be looking for?"
"There are records hidden there that go back a thousand years. I have read of Valen's children, and their history, as far as it is known. If we could show the elders this at least..."
"I will try." Lennier looked at her, his expression carefully neutral. "Delenn, I must ask you...have you considered that you misheard, or are misinterpreting what you heard? A Child of Valen might mean an actual descendant, or it might mean a spiritual heir. You were the first to befriend Sinclair, and you led him to Minbar, and eventually accompanied him on his final journey to meet his fate. It might have been meant as...a metaphor."
"A metaphor!" Delenn almost spat out the words. "This is not a philosophical exercise; this is my life!" Realizing the guards were having difficulty not staring, she lowered her voice and ordered, "Go to the Hall and get those records. Please, my friend." Lennier bowed to her, making the sign of the Triluminary, and left.
She had gazed after him, still stunned by the turn of events, some deep part of her knowing he would find nothing. It became clear to her that there was a distinct possibility she would not return, that she would remain on Minbar, subject to the will of the elders, and of Callenn. Returning to her room, she decided she must be prepared if this was to be her fate. Two things were needed; a message to the past, and a message for the future.
He had returned empty-handed, and together they faced the questioning of her clan elders. It began calmly enough, she told her story, of the two trips into the Gallery. Then Lennier spoke, confirming all she said except for the words of Dukhat. Her final presentation of her case echoed in the still chamber, sounding weak and increasingly desperate. When she was done, the elders had them led outside to await the final judgment.
They sat in silence, avoiding each other's eyes. It didn't take long, and Delenn knew this to be a bad omen. Returning to the main chamber, she took her position in the center of her clan, as they stood in a circle around her, feeling like a prisoner in the dock, awaiting word of her sentence.
"We have considered the Dreaming in all its aspects, and we find that your taking this human as mate was the result of your guilt, and a means of atonement, rather than the calling of your heart. You will stay here, among your clan, on Minbar, and never return to Babylon Five. You may contact the man Sheridan, to inform him of this, or not, as you wish. But you must never contemplate joining with him. This is the decision of your clan." As the others in the room muttered their approval, he continued, "The words you say you heard from Dukhat were surely meant metaphorically, rather than literally." He stepped towards Delenn, almost scorched by the fiery pain on her face. "It is the best thing for you. You cannot join with someone for such a reason. It would be unfair to you both." He raised one hand, and indicated the temple around them. "You are a person of intelligence and wisdom. Your knowledge and experience will serve us well, and you will be able to serve our people here as well as you did there." Seeing she was about to protest, he went on, "Remember. If you expect others to submit to your authority, you must submit to those placed in authority over you. I know you want to serve, and we will welcome your advice and counsel."
Lennier spoke to her then, trying to make her see his position. "It is the right thing. You are respected and valued, here at home. All your plans, those ideas you hold dear, can still be accomplished. I will remain by your side, to help you implement them." He smiled at her, trying to comfort her with his words, and his presence.
They are pleased by this outcome, she thought dispassionately, feeling oddly disconnected from everyone in the room, as if she was encased in glass. And Lennier...Lennier wanted this to happen. Then, like the light of the sun blazing over the horizon, the realization struck her. He must have heard Dukhat's words; and told Callenn. They had agreed on this interpretation of the Dreaming. Lennier had lied to save her the disgrace of joining with an off-worlder. He wanted her to stay, and he wanted to stay with her. 'Always', he had said when they left, and that is what he had arranged. Looking at Callenn's face, and the faces in the group around her; her family, her clan, those closest to her by blood and descent; she realized they were all pleased and happy for her. They had spared her a horrible fate. Hysterical laughter boiled up in her, and she barely kept it inside. Marcus had told her once the humans had a saying-- 'You always hurt the ones you love.' They loved her, and they had hurt her more than they would ever know.
"I'm afraid that will not be possible."
The voice echoed in the room, deep and resonant. Everyone turned towards the entryway, and the whisper ran around the circle. Sal'ierae ra'Valir, went the refrain, the Sisters of Valeria are here!
"Can we be of service, Sal'ier?" asked Callenn, polite, if confused. "What is not possible?"
The three women approached Delenn. Two stood to either side of her, and the third, her blood red robe falling in folds to the floor, faced Lennier, her face hidden by the deep hood that shrouded her face. "I spoke to you, young one. We allow no males in our temple, and so you will not be able to continue your service."
Lennier looked at Delenn, questions raging in his eyes. She smiled at him slightly, lips white and eyes as cold and opaque as window glass rimed with frost. When she spoke, she spoke to Callenn. "I anticipated your decision. I deplore it, and although I am bound by my word to obey, it will be the last time. I will renounce my clan allegiance, and pledge myself to Valeria." She stood unwavering in front of him, a pillar of fire and icy rage.
"You do not need to do this!" said Callenn, veering between astonishment and disappointment.
"I will not submit to your authority again." Her voice was flat with finality.
Then she turned to her former aide, and her former friend. He stood, defiant, unrepentant, but fear pooled behind his eyes.
"Su'a shah-t ri, Lennier." She then bowed to each of the three women, and keeping her place between the two flanking her, she followed the leader of the Sisters out the door, head held high. This chapter in her life was now closed. She was beginning the next chapter on her own terms.
Lennier did not move as the others in Delenn's clan shuffled out of the chamber. Su'a shah-t ri, she had told him. You are dead to me.