Disclaimer: Don't own it, never have, never will. Sure would be nice, though.
Author's note: On the surface, this is pure, unadulterated fluff. If you dare to look deeper, I was going for something in the same vein as "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars." I'd be interested to know (review, pretty please?) if I succeeded.
"Raaaawr! I am a Shadow vessel, and you will be afraid because I am big and scary with fangs and stuff! Raaaawr!"
"No! You big bully. I know who I am and what I want. Now surrender! Or be destroyed."
Five-year-old David Sheridan dropped his cardboard fighting pike from where he'd had it poised above his head and heaved an exasperated sigh at his Minbari friend. "You can't just say 'ok'."
"Because that's not the way the story goes," David replied, his tone clearly implying that this was the most obvious thing ever. "You're supposed to be all, 'No way!' and fight me before I vanquish you." He raised the toy weapon again, but his friend made no move to jump back into the fight. David rolled his eyes. "Come on, at least a little."
Shalenn – whose father was a respected member of the Anla'shok, and whose mother made way better flarn than David's own mother, if you asked him, which most people didn't – studied his friend for a moment. "Why do you always get to be the Army of Light?"
"Because I remember how the story goes."
"Oh." They stood in silence for a moment before Shalenn raised a play weapon of his own. "Surprise attack! Raaaawwwr! My lasers will get you! Pew pew! Pew!"
David yelped and took off running down the hall. His friend maintained pursuit through the Sheridan family's main living area, past the kitchen and around a corner, where both boys ran smack into the solid wall of muscled soldier-turned-politician that was Interstellar Alliance President John Sheridan.
David's laughter and Shalenn's 'pew pew' fell silent as they staggered back a step. John studied his son and the Minbari boy sternly.
"Sorry Sir," Shalenn squeaked.
David raised his eyes to meet his father's. It seemed a long way up. David was certain that if he lived to be 100 – which was probably about as old as his father was, given all the awesome things he'd done – he would never be that tall. The president remained silent, but the look on his face transformed from cross to bemused, and then in a swift motion, he let out a, "Raaawwr!" of his own and scooped both boys up in his arms.
Shrieks of laughter filled the hall. "Daddy!" David squealed, "You can't be a Shadow monster!"
You don't know the half of it, child. "Oh, I know. But I am something far worse." John carried the boys out to the living room, one slung over each shoulder like two sacks of potatoes. Their tiny fists pounded at his back and he hid a smile. "I am the most horrible, most dreaded…" He set them down squarely on their feet, "Tickle Monster!"
In glee the boys took off running in the opposite direction, shrieking happily as David's father chased them.
John could have easily tackled them both and tickled them into delirium, but he purposely kept his stride short, allowing their little legs to outrun him. He kept up the illusion of the chase until they rounded a corner and he heard the back door open and close. Then he stopped, leaned against a wall to catch his breath and shook his head in wonder. A broad smile still lit his face a minute later when again the back door opened and Delenn came down the hall.
"David and Shalenn appear to be holding a council meeting in the yard," she told him as she walked by. He fell into step behind her and followed her into the bedroom, where she proceeded to shed her Entil'zha robe and Ranger pin. "They are rallying their forces to 'unite against a common enemy' –" her tone took on a gusto as she repeated her son's words, then fell to teasing as she completed the sentence, "The Tickle Monster." Her arms encircled his waist and she raised one eyebrow at her husband.
"Mmm, I see. And did you happen to overhear when they are planning to mount their attack?"
"It may be awhile. It seemed they are having some trouble getting the Stuffed Gokk Ambassador to agree to the battle." She stood on tiptoe to kiss his still-smiling lips.
John pulled back to study her, eyes narrowed in mock suspicion. "Or maybe they've simply sent in Ranger One as a spy."
"If that were true, I suspect you might try to lure me to your side." Delenn closed the gap between their faces again, her tone husky against her lips.
"I guess I might at that," he rumbled, then latched his mouth to hers. The kiss was tender, hungry… she pulled away slightly to look at him through hooded eyes. The absence left him wanting.
"How was your meeting?"
"The Umbai delegation agreed to make reparations to the Brakiri for recent raider attacks." Delenn clasped her hands around his neck. "Vir sends his regards to you and David." She brought her lips to his again. "And it would seem one Entil'zha has fallen," she kissed him deeply, "to a most ominous new enemy." Another kiss, deeper still. He relished in the feel of her in his arms, her body pressed against his, her tongue searching his mouth. "I can only hope someone rescues me before I am completely… overtaken."
As if on cue, a high voice cried out from the doorway, "By order of the Anla'shok, I demand you release the hostages at once!" David stomped his foot in what he hoped was an appropriate show of authority. This was serious business.
John and Delenn rested their foreheads together and laughed quietly at the interruption. Then John raised eyebrows michieviously. Delenn gave him a slight nod of approval and he cleared his throat, then turned to face their son with as much evil authority as he could muster in the lightness of the moment.
"And if I refuse?" He raised his eyebrows pointedly at the boy.
"Then I will bring the entire Interstellar Alliance down on your head!" Another foot stomp, but David pulled back slightly, trying to determine his best course of action. His father had never quite mentioned how hard it was to face down an enemy who was bigger and taller than oneself.
"I see." John nodded and frowned deeply in an attempt to fight the laughter that was bubbling in his gut. "Well, that seems quite a task for one young ranger all on his own. Where is your comrade? Wasn't up for the fight?"
David dropped his play Denn'bok, admitting defeat. "He had to go home for dinner." On second thought, he raised his chin. "I could take you, though."
"Oh… I very much doubt that." John released Delenn, who stood back to watch her husband and son. A smile played at the corners of her mouth. John stepped toward the boy and swept him into his arms, then turned him upside down and held him by his lower legs. David's shirt fell forward over his face, exposing his tummy region, and his father preyed upon it with a relentless barrage of tickles. The boy cried out, in delight or protest, Delenn couldn't be sure which. Finally, words came through from the child among gasps for air, "OK, all right, I'm sorry! Si dramani, si dramani, I surrender!"
John let go of the laughter he'd been holding in and righted the boy in his arms, then rustled his mussed hair. "Someday, Davy."
"When I become Anla'shok."
"When I get a real Denn'bok."
"Can I play at Shalenn's house tomorrow?"
The change in subject jolted John and Delenn and it took them a moment to process it. They exchanged a look, each conveying a different message. Her eyes said, Before he becomes Anla'shok, we need to get a handle on his attention span. His sparkled in reply, If he plays at Shalenn's tomorrow, I'll cancel my 2:00 meeting.
"I will speak to Shalenn's mother. If she agrees, you may join them after Temple." Delenn stepped into the doorway to join John, who set a now-squirming David free.
"Good, because we have a council meeting." The boy led his parents to the living area, then stopped abruptly and turned to face them. They halted in their tracks and took note of the confused look on David's face before he continued. "You're going to have to tell him the Shadows story again. He always gets the end part wrong. I told him you can't just surrender." An exaggerated eye roll, then a shrug, and the boy was skipping off outside, leaving his parents to watch in wonder this marvelous, mysterious child who was their son.
"The greatest achievements of our lives, Delenn… are now the legends of bedtime stories and child's play."
"It is as it should be." She squeezed his bicep in reassurance. "As it has always been. Besides, I do believe, John Sheridan, that this is the greatest achievement of our lives."
"Mmmhmm." He took her in his arms. "I can think of a few things I'd like to achieve right now."
He nipped at her earlobe and whispered his response, then pulled back to watch the expression of shock on her face as she processed his proposal. "How long can we keep David out of the house tomorrow?" He added in his regular tone.
"Long enough, John. Long enough."