At the Last
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
Lennier had finished his task on the bridge and was heading to the cafeteria, when he found his steps heading towards Sheridan and Delenn's quarters. Although his broken leg and other injuries had healed, the pain in his heart had not abated. He had come to the uneasy conclusion that his declaration of his true feelings to Delenn was best ignored. They had not discussed it, of course. There were prescribed rituals for initiating such discussions, which neither of them had begun. Technically, he should not even be around her, especially not alone. By Minbari tradition, his clan elders, or hers, or her mate's, would have stepped in, and established what the parameters of any further relationship between them would be. In all likelihood, there would be no further contact. He found that he could not live with that outcome, and so, his decision was to act as if nothing had been said. It would have eased his heart to ask her to speak the words of forgiveness, to agree with him that she had not heard his words, but that way laid danger. If she did not agree, and forced the issue; asked his clan to intervene, asked him to beg Sheridan for forgiveness, asked him to renounce his declaration; he knew he could not do it. He would fail her, as he had failed to fulfill his vow to stay by her side. He was caught, trapped, between love and desire on one hand, and obedience and service on the other. Bound by his own rituals and his own heart, he remained fixed in the moment of his failure.
She had indicated on the ship, obliquely, that she was willing to let things stay the way they were; to act as if she had not heard his words. The only question in his mind was whether he would be able to go back, to retain their friendship, with the words he had spoken echoing in the background. He had managed to speak calmly with her on the station, offering his escort for the Sheridans' relocation to Minbar. He knew it meant a great deal to Delenn that he did so; it signaled that he wished to move beyond what had happened. In the medical facilities, waiting for his leg to heal, he had spent a great deal of time working on his firewall; the rituals and meditations that took him back, at least partway, to the acceptance and peace he had found in his training. He wasn't able to use his journal this time; the pain was too raw to write out, although he made spotty entries to keep up the history of his journey, only occasionally falling into despair on the pages. Filling in the gaps would come later, with the perspective that distance from the events would bring. So he hoped. Pressing the touchpad outside her quarters, he steeled himself against the possibility that they would both be present. Sheridan was clumsily restrained in his presence, but no amount of formality could hide the love that radiated from the couple. It was blindingly painful, and obvious to anyone with eyes, even those who did not wish to see. Intense relief flooded through him when she answered the door, and smiled. She was alone.
"Lennier!" she cried. "Come in. What brings you here this time of night? Sit down, please!"
"I was just coming off my shift, and thought I would see how you were adjusting. Were you able to find everything you wanted? I know some of your belongings were put in storage for the journey." He sat at the opposite end of the couch from her; a safe distance, he thought to himself.
"Yes, I have everything I need. The packing would have been easier with your assistance. Still, I am glad you were able to accompany us. Will you be assigned to Minbar, have you heard? Have you seen the new Alliance headquarters there?"
"No, I am looking forward to seeing it. I do not know where they will send me after I report to the Ranger Academy." He looked around the room, "Is your husband not here then?"
She laughed, "I had to send him out for a walk. He is so restless tonight, and I had some work to do…"
Lennier made a gesture as if to rise and leave her to her tasks, but she put out one hand, restraining him. "Please stay. There is something that I have wanted to tell you. This seems as good a time as any."
He cocked his head towards her, wondering at the mixture of joy and uncertainty in her voice, reminiscent of when she had told him of her engagement. She was smiling, eyes bright, and yet her hands were twisting the material in her dress, indicating a high level of anxiety. Bracing himself for what was to come; he still couldn't believe his ears when she said...
"I'm…that is, John and I…well, it looks as if we are expecting a child."
Lennier's face froze in an enquiring smile as his mind processed her announcement. Before his silence became awkward, he managed to say, with some sincerity, as he knew how much this would please her, "That is indeed wonderful news. May I offer my congratulations?" She smiled in relief, and his heart constricted as he realized that she had expected a less than pleasant reaction from him. "May I ask when you learned this news?" He wondered to himself if Sheridan had been foolish enough to send both his wife and unborn child into danger with that misbegotten trip to Minbar.
"After we got back from Centauri Prime. While you were still recovering." She went on, "Not many people know yet. Stephen, obviously, and John's family. You are the first person I have told directly. I wanted you to know, and to hear it from me, so you could share in my joy." She looked at him steadily, as if trying to assess his true feelings.
Truth to tell, he wasn't sure what he felt beyond shock. Children were a rare and precious gift to his people, and he knew what it would mean to her to provide her clan with one. Then his mind slipped back in to gear, and thoughts raced along a tide of fear and resentment. The child would be fatherless shortly after maturity. The child would be a comfort to a bereft Delenn. The child would be the ultimate symbol of the joining of their races. The child would be a pariah on Minbar, where the xenophobes still held some considerable sway. Then a horrible thought came rushing in, and he couldn't help himself asking, with quiet urgency, "Delenn. Forgive me if this is too personal a question, but your well-being is important to me. Is there any danger to you in carrying this child?"
She looked away for a moment, then back at him. "You may ask, of course. That is not a problem. Not for you." She hesitated, and then went on, "No one can know for certain. There is a possibility there may be issues. My change was not complete; I am still partly Minbari, biologically." At the look in her friend's eyes, she hastened to add, "I do not believe there will be any major difficulties, Lennier. Do not look like that!" She didn't want to bring John's vision from the future into the conversation, if it was even true. Her certainty lay outside of that vision, and came from somewhere deep within herself. Unconsciously touching her abdomen, she said reassuringly, "I know it will be all right! I don't know how, but I feel certain this child will be born, and all will be well. You must have faith."
Lennier looked at her, unable to sort out his tangled thoughts for a coherent reply. He had always found her faith inspiring, and been proud when she turned to him the few times she had faltered. That had not happened often as of late, of course. She had someone else to turn to, someone who had touched her more intimately than he ever could, or would; someone with whom she would now share that most personal of tasks, raising a child together. He was mute in his agony, and stood, bowing deeply to her. "I must go," he finally managed to choke out, and headed for the door.
Once in the corridor, his inchoate emotions crystallized into an irrational anger, directed at Sheridan. How dare the man put Delenn, the wife whom he supposedly loved so dearly, into danger, time and time again! She had very nearly died on board that ship, with only himself there to care for her, while Sheridan was off trying to stop the war started by his own stupid promises. Lennier strode off, letting his doubts and fears and shame coalesce into burning rage. Now, Sheridan put her life in danger again. No doubt he desired the child as a legacy, or perhaps as a reminder for her, when he left her behind so early in their life together. Did he ever once think of her? She had sacrificed, and cried, and bled, for so many others, her entire life…with what to show for it? Her marriage was the subject of gossip and ridicule back home; her actions misunderstood, her accomplishments drowned by the aura of near-godhood that Sheridan had acquired. Now she might well die in the attempt to bring a human-Minbari hybrid of some kind to life. He turned the corner, thinking he heard a noise. That was when the Universe brought him face to face with his nemesis; calling his name, asking for his help. Taking in the situation at a glance, as he had been trained to do, he began a motion towards the door release, which would free Sheridan from his gas-filled prison.
He hesitated, his hand grazing the touch-sensitive pad; then his heart hardened within him. Let him be damned, he thought to himself; and backed away. He turned on his heel, and fled back down the corridor.
There is an old Minbari saying: Ill wishes rebound. Let him be damned…and so, in the instant between heartbeats; he was.