Never Alone

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

"Ambassador Delenn!"

Delenn paused in her walk through the Babylon 5 gardens on her way to a meeting with the Gaim ambassador. Captain Sheridan was hailing her, and she waited for him to come within normal speaking distance before she replied. "How may I help you, Captain?" She smoothed her robes, and just stopped herself from checking that her errant hair was neatly in place.

Captain Sheridan walked rapidly towards the Minbari ambassador, admiring the picture she made in radiant blue silk against the soft green of the trees. They were coming into leaf again, and she seemed to complete a perfect portrait of spring. "I wanted to thank you for your part in the incident with the Streib." He gestured for her to continue, and fell into step beside her, matching his long strides to her more sedate pace.

As they walked, she smiled up at him, and said with sincerity, "It was my pleasure. I was glad to be of assistance, especially after..." Her face clouded, and she broke off mid-sentence, then continued in a troubled voice, "I only regret that we were unable to save the other captives. Our previous experience with the Streib did not end so badly."

Sheridan replied seriously, "You couldn't have known. Besides, it is never a good policy to negotiate with kidnappers. I would have handled it exactly the same way." He noted that her expression lightened, and he was pleased to see it. Pausing at the entrance to the Zen Garden, he indicated the quiet area and the unoccupied bench, "I've noticed you here before. The kare-sansui is very peaceful."

Looking at the whirls and lines of light grey gravel and sand surrounding the carefully placed stones, Delenn answered, "Mine is a world sculpted from rock and crystal, formed by rushing water and the passage of time. This feels Minbari to me, yet we have nothing like it at home."

Sheridan looked at her keenly, noting the way her voice lingered on the last word, and the sadness behind it. "Did things go well on your visit?"

Keeping her eyes focused on the stones, Delenn answered in what she hoped was a neutral voice, "Not as well as I had hoped." Her voice fell, and she added, almost in a whisper, "Perhaps somewhat worse than I had expected." As she spoke, she walked towards the observation bench which was placed at a specific angle of view in front of the garden. He had followed her, albeit a step or two behind. Glancing back at him, her face sober, she deliberately turned away again and faced the garden. "I think I will stop here a moment. I have a great many things to consider." Her face averted from his ,she sat down gracefully, her robes flowing about her and settling into place. She sat to one side of the bench.

The pain in her voice was subtle but obvious. Sheridan thought for a moment, then reached a decision. He joined her on the stone seat, carefully keeping his eyes directed forward to allow her the privacy of her emotions. "I think I'll join you for a while. It's been a long day." He waited a moment for her reaction. Receiving none, he courteously offered her the option to refuse his offer of company. "You're usually alone when I see you here. Would you prefer that I leave?"

"No!" she responded quickly, stealing a quick look at his profile. He seemed to be absorbed in studying the stones. "That is, I have no wish to be alone. Not now...I mean, not at this moment." Looking up at him, she added softly, "I would like you to stay."

Looking out at the sculpted sand, Sheridan remarked, "The first time I saw one of these gardens, I was told that the rocks represent mountains, and the sand, the sea. Sometimes I think the rocks are ships, and the grains of sand are the endless stars of deep space." Somewhat embarrassed at this flight of fancy, he added, "You know, I don't even know who takes care of this place; who rakes the gravel every day. Someone in Facilities, or Hydroponics, I suppose."

Delenn seemed struck by his analogies. "So is it a world in miniature, or the universe writ large? I have studied the texts on this type of garden, the 'dry landscape'. It is meant to stay the same, to never that correct?" She looked at the human, whose friendly presence was somehow reducing the weight on her heart.

"I think so. But it only stays the same if we work to keep it that way. And if we stay in the same place, view it only from this angle." He added, enjoying the conversation, "There is one garden of this type with fifteen stones. Due to the way they are placed, only fourteen are ever visible."

"That is fascinating." Delenn looked again at the patterns written in the stones, both large and small. "We call this concept 'the deception of appearances'." Looking back at him, she asked seriously, "What if you wish to see the hidden stone?"

"Then you have to change your perspective. Your position, or your viewpoint, maybe even..." His comlink chimed, and he paused to answer the call. After a brief exchange with C&C, he said, "I'm afraid I'll have to go soon. I'm off duty, but I had to call a staff meeting to discuss some recent developments." He wondered why he'd told her that; that meeting was was meant to be on the QT.

Back straight, hands loosely clasped in her lap, she remarked, "I thank you for sharing this time with me. With all that has happened of late, I imagine that your hours are fully occupied."

He looked down at her, trying not to let his heart show in his smile. "Not so busy I can't take the time to admire the beauty here." He didn't take his eyes off her face, wondering if she understood what he meant. He watched as her eyes searched his face in return, as if looking for something. The connection between them strengthened; he could feel its pull, as inexorable and incessant as the moon's tug at the waves. Holding his gaze steady, he realized if he knew what she wanted he would get it for her. No hesitation. No questions.

Delenn broke the contact with an deep intake of breath, and looked back out into the garden. Touching his hand with her own, she pointed to his left, indicating two grey-green stones, placed close together. "I have read that for every leaning stone, there must be a supporting one."

"I can't tell which one is which," said Sheridan, studying the jagged vertical peaks surrounded by concentric waves of sand. "Looks to me as if they are supporting each other."

"You may be right. Perhaps they have reached a point of balance, each dependent on the other, a unit stronger together than apart." She felt strangely relaxed, and somehow relieved, as if she had momentarily laid down a great burden.

Her voice was low and hypnotic, her words measured and full of meaning. As silence embraced the two of them, Sheridan reflected on her words, and the patterns they formed in his mind. Circles of sand and parallel tracks of gravel wove in and out of the massive stones, which had been artfully arranged both to hide and to reveal. Gradually the peace of the place eased the tension that remained coiled inside him. His mind stopped racing in its effort to nail down all the ramifications of the support he had promised to General Hague. It was funny how entering into a group conspiracy left him feeling so alone. But I'm not, he thought, remembering how she had come to his rescue, and somehow feeling he had also come to hers. Not any more. He could feel the gentle pressure of her body, leaning lightly against his own.