A Friend in Need

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

Lyta Alexander walked quietly down the corridor of the White Star towards her quarters. They had given her one of the small guest rooms; and she was thankful for that. After her ordeal, she needed a place to be alone. The Minbari were a wonderful people but their enforced communality sometimes drove her crazy. They had rituals and meditative training which they used to maintain their privacy, even when working and living in close quarters. She had her own ways of blocking out others' thoughts and emotions, but when she was this drained of energy it was difficult.

As she passed the archways to the crew sleeping rooms and the small communal mess, she wondered if it would help if she stopped off in the medical area for some kind of painkiller. Her headache hadn't diminished since it had begun, when she'd blocked the Shadows' defense probes while simultaneously trying to establish a link with Sheridan on the surface. When Delenn had grasped her bare hand, opening her mind and heart to assist Lyta, it had hurt as much as it helped. The mental and vocal call had gone out with greater force, but the addition of another mind to the mix had increased the burden on her powers. She had to fight to keep their minds separate, and protect Delenn from any blowback when the Shadows finally noticed they were there.

The voice in her head kept echoing…the other two women had heard the voice of their long gone fathers. She hadn't told them whose voice she heard. She wasn't sure she would ever tell anyone. As she approached a closed door on her right, she suddenly felt battered by a wave of grief so strong it almost knocked her down. Clutching at a low railing along the wall, she fought to shut out the emotional storm. Once she'd regained control, she started on her way, but then she hesitated. Going back to the door, she pressed the recessed button under the doorlock.

"Yes?" The voice within was strong and low. As she suspected from the mental signature she'd read, it was Delenn.

"It's Lyta." She said, thinking rapidly what would be best to do. "Would you mind if I came in for a moment?"

The door opened without hesitation and she stepped into the dimly lit room. There were candles on the low table near the center of the room. A traditional tilted Minbari bed was at the back of the room, partially shielded from the main living area by a frosted glass partition. There were no chairs, just two dark blue cushions on the floor on opposite sides of the table.

"Can I get you something?"

Lyta jerked her attention back to Delenn. Her voice was tightly controlled, and if she hadn't been able to mentally sense the wild sorrow behind the polite words, she might have thought the Minbari woman was dealing well with what had happened. "No, I'm fine." She gestured towards the cushions, "May I talk to you? I wanted to explain something about what happened. On the bridge."

"Of course." Delenn resumed her seat, folding her legs gracefully under her, and indicating that Lyta should as well. Lyta sat down awkwardly with her legs to one side, thinking to herself that she'd always disliked sitting on the floor. One of her legs always eventually fell asleep, and she hated that pins and needles feeling when it came back to life. She put her mental barriers firmly in place, and thought for a moment about where to start. Delenn seemed willing to wait patiently for her to speak.

"I wanted to thank you," Lyta finally said.

"For what? I have done nothing." A faint note of bitterness coloured the last word.

"On the contrary, I was honoured by your trust. Not many people would voluntarily open themselves to a telepath. It took a great deal of courage."

"It was nothing." The words fell between them like a stone. "I only wished to help."

"You did! You helped push the message farther than I could ever have done alone."

"Yes. Well. It did not matter in the end."

Lyta could hardly bear the desolation in her friend's words. "We don't know that he didn't hear it, just that he had no way to respond."

Delenn sat in silence, watching the candle flame dance to an invisible wind. Lyta started again, "We will be connected for a little while; that's another thing I wanted to tell you."

"Connected? In what way?" Delenn's eyes showed the first flicker of interest since she had fled the bridge. She also looked a little wary.

"I'm afraid when you touched me, and opened yourself up, it established a connection between us, a bond." She hurriedly added, "I've blocked as much of your thoughts and emotions as I can, and the connection will fade with time."

Delenn nodded. "I am not concerned. You have proven yourself to be an ally…a friend." She added the last word with some surprise.

Lyta looked down at the table. "You've supported me in the past. When I came back to the station, with the news of the spy close to the command staff…you didn't hesitate to help me."

"You asked, and there was no reason to deny the aid you sought." Delenn forced out the words. "You have helped us against the Shadows. You came on this journey, to help us find…to find out…to…" her voice faltered, growing thick with tears. She rose, and started towards the kitchen. "I will make us some tea."

Lyta stood and followed her, deciding to push the issue. "How do the Minbari deal with grief?"

Delenn busied herself, turning on a single light, putting out cups and a delicate ceramic pot on a silver tray. The water was soon boiling. "We fast. We meditate. We mourn." She looked at Lyta then, her eyes filled with tears and suspicion. "In private. Can you read my thoughts?"

Lyta shook her head, "The emotions are spilling out around the barriers, but your mind is your own. I have no wish to pry." She looked at the woman, whose hands were shaking as she tried to pour the hot water into the teapot. "I can listen, if you'd like to talk." Taking the kettle from Delenn and placing it on the counter, she said, "Humans have various rituals of mourning. There's one where you offer a sympathetic ear. There's one where you offer a shoulder to cry on."

Delenn looked down at the tray, and said in a monotone. "I did not believe the reports. I could not believe them. But now I have seen for myself; the destruction, the evidence of the explosions-- that great, gaping hole with only darkness held within." She looked at Lyta, her pupils black and wide and wild in the dim light. "He died alone, in the dark; didn't he?"

"I don't know," Lyta said in pained honesty. "I don't know that we ever will know exactly what happened."

"I thought I would be able to tell…that I would feel it if he died. But now he is gone, and I feel nothing."

"That's not true." Lyta said firmly.

"No," Delenn whispered. "It is not. I am finding the Minbari rituals…difficult, at this time."

Her voice stumbled on the words, and Lyta could tell she was crying, although she couldn't see the tears in the flickering light. "Try a human ritual then," she said. Gently putting her arms around her friend, she held her as she wept.