Disclaimer: John Sheridan, David Sheridan, Delenn, Dr. Stephen Franklin, Lennier, Tannier, and pretty much everything else in this story belong to J. Michael Straczynski. I made up Lathann, but made-up Rangers are a dime a dozen. No copyright infringement is intended, but I think I've decided that if JMS wants to sue me and use the money to fund a B5 feature film, that'd be fine.
Author's Note: This was going to be a Mother's Day story – and failed. Then it was going to be a Father's Day story – again, fail. Now it is just an everyday story about an everyday event, because people have babies all the time. However, I'm a firm believer that there's nothing "everyday" about John and Delenn's lives, including the birth of their son. They're an extraordinary couple… so their son is getting an extraordinary entry into the world. Tissue warning, probably.
The Eleventy-Fifth Hour
Chapter 1 – D-Minus 16 hours
"Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen; few in pursuit of the goal." – Fredrich Nietzsche
"Entil'zha Delenn. Can I bring you anything?"
Delenn looked toward the door to her quarters on board the White Star and smiled at the Ranger who stood there. He was young, perhaps the youngest Minbari among the Anla'shok, and she knew his name as she knew all of her Rangers. His eyes were lowered slightly, and it made her think briefly and painfully of Lennier and his first days with her, when he had refused to meet her gaze as he felt it was disrespectful. But this was not Lennier. This was Lathann of the Family Enfil, hand-picked to travel with her on this mission because she knew that if she asked him not to mention the mission to John, he would do as she asked. "A nice… big… tall glass of water, if you wouldn't mind, Lathann," Delenn responded, pausing as she kicked off her shoes and put her feet up. The room was minimally decorated, as was the Minbari way, but she had requested this particular chair and footrest be brought aboard for her own comfort. "And… some Gal'sha." She paused to think, and Lathann began to exit the room. "And –"she held up her finger, and he stopped. "Is there any se n'kai left?"
"The rest of those, then. Peeled." She made a face at the thought of eating the peel of this fruit. It made her stomach turn. "Definitely peeled."
Lathann nodded. "As you wish, Entil'zha. Anything else?"
She paused to consider. "No, that will be all for now. Thank you, Lathann. You have been most helpful."
The young Minbari bowed as he exited, leaving Delenn alone.
A slow smile crept across her face and she folded her hands over her swollen belly as she felt the life inside her begin to shift and kick. "You are awake, little one," she said softly. A sharper kick, or maybe a punch – she couldn't tell where his feet were anymore. "Yes, yes. Lathann is bringing us a snack. And don't worry. This mission is over, and we are headed home. There is nothing for us to do now but rest." She ran her hands over her stomach absently. She had found in the course of her pregnancy that this gesture was oddly relaxing. "Your father would be most cross if he knew what we have been up to while he was away. So. I have sworn the crew and Lathann to secrecy, and that just leaves the two of us. I expect you will not mention anything?" More movement and another kick. She chuckled. "Good. You are learning early to listen to your mother." She groaned and shifted onto her side, allowing her eyes to drift closed.
Interstellar Alliance President John Sheridan strolled off the White Star that had been his home for the past week and a half, rubbing at his face. He felt awful. He hadn't been able to reach Delenn for the past three days, likely due to the distortions of hyperspace, and he was worried about her. He hadn't slept well since leaving home and, he noted as his hand scraped over sandpaper skin on his cheek, apparently he'd also forgotten to shave for a couple of days. On top of that, he was jet lagged. What time was it on Minbar? He had no idea. It was dusk…ish… He shook his head - he was still on Narn time.
But none of that mattered. He smiled in spite of it all as he strolled toward his and Delenn's home, a quiet utopia off the back of Interstellar Alliance Headquarters. The treaty negotiations and humanitarian effort he'd been to Narn to oversee had taken less time than expected, and he was home a day early.
The first indication that anything was amiss was the look he got from Ranger Tannier, who was guarding the front entrance to their home. "Tannier?" He questioned. "Something wrong?"
The Minbari Ranger averted his eyes and moved to stand in front of the door. "You're home early, sir."
"Yes, and if it's all the same to you, I'm exhausted. I would like to go inside, have a shower, and then sleep for about ten light years. And," he added, raising a finger, "I miss my wife, who will no doubt be very glad to have me home early so that I can resume my position as her personal slave. Now. If you don't mind…" He stepped forward, and Tannier grudgingly moved aside to allow him to punch in the access code.
"Sir, there's something I should really…"
John moved past Tannier and stepped into the kitchen. His home was oddly dark and quiet. Delenn must be asleep, he thought to himself. Perfect… nobody needs to twist my arm to get me to join her.
But the bedroom was empty, and it was as he turned away from the door that he noticed Tannier had followed him inside. "She's not here," the Ranger admitted now.
"Yes, I can see that. When did she step out? Any idea when she'll return?"
"Yes, sir. Well. You see, sir…"
John narrowed his eyes. "Out with it, Ranger Tannier." He wasn't a military man any longer, but his commanding-officer-no-nonsense tone was ingrained on his psyche and he still took advantage of it to assert authority. "What is going on?"
"Entil'zha Delenn is… she took one of the White Star fleet, you see, and…"
"She. Did. What?" John wheeled on the Ranger now, his face red with frustration.
"She thought she'd be back long before you," Tannier explained hastily. "And… she was rather adamant, Sir. There was no talking her out of it."
"Well did you even try?"
"Yes, Sir, you see she—"
John shook his head and began to pace the hall. "For God's sake, Tannier, have you looked at her recently? As remarkable as it might be to be the parents of the first child born in hyperspace, I think our lives are exciting enough already. Besides, I… I would very much like to be there." John sighed heavily and softened as he took note of Tannier's expression. "But… I know as well as anyone how stubborn she can be when she has put her mind to something… all right. Where did she go, and when will she be back?"
"She took Ranger Lathann and the crew of White Star 7 into Centauri space three days ago to answer a distress call," Tannier imparted.
"Well, that would explain why I haven't been able to reach her here. What was the nature of the distress call?"
"It was of Minbari origin, and it came directly to your quarters… sir."
"Minbari? A… stranded cruiser? A White Star? What?"
Tannier looked away. "I think you should call Entil'zha Delenn," he said quietly.
"Believe me, she is next on my list. But I want answers. Delenn has been uncomfortable, swollen and sleep-deprived for the past month, and in the two weeks before I left for Narn, she seemed perfectly content to nest and let me wait on her hand and foot. Now, what could have possibly happened that would bring her not only out of our quarters but off-world, in a White Star, into Centauri space with only one very green Ranger and a skeleton crew?"
"The signal came from a solo Minbari flyer," Tannier responded. He was carefully studying the floor as he spoke.
"A solo flyer, all alone in Centauri space? Must've taken a wrong turn somewhere. Who was the pilot?"
There was a long, agonizing pause. Finally, Tannier – not because he wanted to squeal, but because he was Minbari, and Minbari do not lie – replied in a barely audible tone, "Lennier, of the Third Fane of Chudomo."
John took inventory of his emotions as the name of Delenn's former attaché was spoken in his home. Anger? Resentment? Yes. Guilt? No, not guilt. Pain? Sadness? Definitely. "Lennier," he breathed, and the memory came flooding back: The flight to Minbar from Babylon 5; his restlessness and midnight walk; the reactor leak; Lennier's moment of betrayal that had nearly cost John his life. He had fled after that, and except for one brief transmission to Delenn just after he ran, they hadn't seen nor heard from him since.
"Are you… OK, Mr. President?" Tannier reached out an arm as he took note of Sheridan's face. All the color had drained from it; Tannier had learned that for humans, this was a most troubling sign. He thought perhaps Sheridan might faint.
After a pause, Sheridan met Tannier's eyes and nodded. "Get me an open channel to White Star 7, Priority One."
"Right away Sir." Tannier nodded and turned to exit the First Couple's bedroom, throwing one last worried look over his shoulder before he departed.
Alone, Sheridan leaned against the wall and lifted his eyes skyward. "Fine, you got me. I don't care that she went. I don't care about Lennier," he told whatever deity might be listening. "Just bring her back to me safe and sound. I think you owe me that much, huh?" There was no response, of course. He nodded, though, as if forming an understanding with the universe, and pushed himself off the wall, walking out the bedroom with purpose.
Delenn's face filled the Com screen by the time he reached his office. "Delenn, what the—"
"You're home early." There wasn't a touch of worry or guilt in her voice – nothing but love, and it melted John's anger in an instant. "As you so precisely say… I am busted."
"Busted," John agreed with a nod. "What you did was dangerous, Delenn."
Delenn evaded this comment. "I suspect Tannier has filled you in on all the details."
"All of them except the most important one. Why, Delenn? You were taking a huge risk!"
"The doctors assured me last week that I am still at least three weeks from giving birth. And now the danger has nearly passed, and I am on my way home," she returned.
The anger was beginning to boil in his blood again, slowly but surely. "You didn't answer my question."
Delenn set her face, brow creased slightly, with a fire in her eyes that left no room for argument. "Because in spite of what happened six months ago, John, Lennier is my friend, and he remains a trained member of the Anla'shok under my command. His engines had malfunctioned and he was stranded in Centauri space, which may or may not have been a safe place to be, and I was the only one he felt he could contact for help. If you had been home, I would still have gone."
"But then—then I could have gone with you! I could be there to take care of you, to ensure your safety, to—to be there in case… in case the baby decides now is a good time to make his grand entrance."
"I have been talking with him at some length. We have both agreed that this would not be a very wise decision."
It unnerved John to no end how calm Delenn was about the situation. He wanted to fight. He wanted to yell, to scream, to tell her she shouldn't have gone… but she was holding his gaze and despite the clenching and unclenching motion he was making with his fists… he couldn't be angry with her when she looked at him like that. He took a moment, a couple of deep breaths, to compose himself before asking, "How far are you from home?"
"Two jumps," she responded. He watched as she looked down at her belly and knew, though he couldn't see her hands, that she was caressing it. I should be there to do that, he thought. I miss doing that. "Another eleventy-five hours, and then I, and our child, will be back home, where you can dote on us as much as you please."
John did some quick mental conversions. He hated the Minbari's base-eleven counting system. "All right, fine. But you rest," he instructed, giving her a slightly scolding wag of his finger.
"Yes, John. Of course, John," she patronized with a gentle laugh.
"I love you." The passion in his tone subdued her laughter.
"And I love you. I'll see you soon."
John took in her face a moment longer before ending the transmission. In the silence, he turned a slow circle in his office and wandered out to the main living area. Tannier had gone back to his post outside the door. The house was eerily quiet, and John couldn't think of anything to do. Since arriving on Minbar, his life had revolved only around his work and caring for his wife. Suddenly he had neither. He had… free time. And he couldn't think of any way to fill it but to sit down… and wait.