Disclaimer: I don't own anything or anybody in this story, but I do own the story. Comprende? Gracias.
Author's Note: Apparently, my muse is working overtime these days… I figured I wouldn't have anything new for quite a while, but, well, here you are. Set in Tuzanor, 2269ish. This story is otherwise known as "John and Delenn in a Sit Com." I didn't intend to structure it that way when I started out… but that's how it ended up. Funny, that. Meant to be realistic but cute, fluffy and happily ever after, but I must admit I had a lot of fun making them fight. Rating is for cursing and for implied sexual activity in the final scenes... otherwise it's pretty safe.
He was a surviving leader of the Dilgar War, the Minbari War, the Shadow War, the Earth Rebellion and the Telepath War. He had faced some the greatest darkness in history and lived to tell the tale. In battle, he was a great strategist, an excellent tactical thinker and, when need be, a great shot and a calculating killer. But these days, he fought battles much closer to home, and in the Parenting War, at the Battle at the Top of the Stairs, John Sheridan had just taken a big loss. As he begrudgingly accepted the doctor's diagnosis of a broken ankle, John was already planning his next move against his worthy adversary – a 3-and-a-half-foot-tall, one-of-his-kind wonder who liked the color green, was occasionally afraid of the monsters in his closet and had a nasty habit of forgetting to put his toys away.
"You'll need to stay off your foot," the Minbari doctor informed him. "These will help. They're not our tradition, but I have treated enough Rangers to understand they are yours." He presented John with a set of crutches.
John nodded, his face set in a deep, unwavering frown, and with the help of the doctor and Delenn, slid from the examination table and steadied himself on the accursed ambulatory aids.
"Su'nahan, Hela'mer Kilier." Delenn bowed politely and John gave a curt nod. Delenn frowned at her husband's impoliteness in turn. A look at his wife's disapproving face and John pulled his lips tight and bowed as best as he was able. He had adapted Minbari customs years ago, and they now came naturally to him – Delenn was right, he was being rude.
"Su'nahan. Thank you," he said in English, and allowed Delenn to direct him out of the medical facility and to a waiting transport that would take them back to Interstellar Alliance headquarters, to their home.
Inside the shuttle car, John set his jaw in silence. Delenn took one look at him and took up a cross expression of her own. "There's no need to be rude, John."
"I'm in pain," he bit back. There was a long silence. "How many times have I told him to put his goddamn toys away?" He asked, not entirely sure whether he was directing the question at Delenn or if it was rhetorical. "When I gave him that soccer ball, it was so I could teach him to appreciate Earth sports, not so he could use it to send me to an early grave."
"It was an accident," Delenn replied. His mood had quickly darkened hers, and now John was reasonably sure they were either already having a fight, or were headed very quickly for one.
"You're always protecting him," John accused, his voice rising slightly. "He is five years old. That's old enough to learn to put things away when he's asked. And if he can't, then he's old enough to be punished for it."
Delenn's nostrils flared with a loud exhale. "You're just angry because you are hurt."
"No, I'm angry because he doesn't listen. I'm angry because we shouldn't protect him the way we do. He is old enough to learn that there are consequences for his actions, Delenn; old enough to learn that the punishment should fit the crime, and we have an obligation to teach him that. We'll spoil him if we don't."
"I will take him to temple this afternoon while you rest," she answered, trying very hard to keep her tone at a reasonable level, even as his was rising in anger. "He will pray and do penance –"
"No," John cut her off. "Now, we agreed that we would integrate both our cultures in raising David. And with regard to discipline, we've tried your way and it clearly hasn't worked." He gestured toward his useless foot. "We're all very lucky this didn't turn out worse than it did, and I intend to put a stop to it before anything more serious happens."
They rode the rest of the way home in uneasy silence.
"These are for pain." Delenn popped open the bottle she held. "One every four hours."
"It's not that bad. I told you, I don't—"
"You told me you were cross because you are in pain. That means it is worse than your pride will let you admit."
He glared at her, trying to refute her logic. He couldn't do it, which only succeeded in enraging him further.
"When David refused to take his medicine for his ear infection last year, I hid it in his food. Would you like me to do the same for you?" She raised her eyebrows at him. The anger still radiated from both of them, causing distance to stand between them like an invisible fence, and his stubbornness was doing nothing to dissolve it.
"Fine." He held out his hand palm up, and she placed a tiny yellow pill in it. Obediently, he popped it in his mouth and washed it down with a swig from his water glass. "Satisfied?"
"For now." She set the bottle down on his nightstand next to the glass of water.
"Good. Send David in here. It's time he and I had a little chat."
"Later." She glared at him.
"Now," he challenged.
"Later," she repeated, her features set in a deep frown. "Your medication will begin to work soon, and it will make you drowsy. I suggest you get comfortable." She pulled back the covers to their bed roughly and moved as if to help him lie down.
His exhaled loudly, a slight growl behind it. "I can take care of myself."
She gave him one last fiery look before spinning on her heal to exit the room. As if to punctuate the conversation, she slammed the door shut behind her. In turn, alone, John picked a pillow up off the bed and hurled it across the room.
This was an excellent plan until he realized that it was his pillow he'd thrown, and now he had to hobble over and go get it. He could never sleep on Delenn's pillows. They were too soft. Cursing under his breath, he maneuvered around the bed to the other side and tried to lean down to pick up the pillow.
"Aaaaarugh!" He winced at his own uninhibited cry of pain. For pete's sake, he thought to himself. I've been hurt much worse than this and managed to keep my wits about me. What the hell is happening? I wake up one day and my body is betraying me, falling apart right from under me.
He was undisciplined. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, as loud as he wanted and for as long as he wanted. He was disrespectful. He was…
John shook his head, unwilling to let it go that easily. I was certainly never as bad as this, he thought as he finally managed to kick the stray pillow up onto the bed with his good foot.
Just like a soccer ball. Goddammit.
He punched the pillow down onto the bed and then less than gracefully lowered himself into a reclined position. Once his foot was safe, he threw his head back against the pillow and punched at the mattress beneath him. And then… God, I'm tired. The fight washed out of him for now, and he surrendered to the exhaustion, closing his eyes.
John was vaguely aware, though he wasn't sure how much time had passed or whether he'd fallen asleep in between, of the bedroom door creaking open. "Delenn?" He asked. His foot was throbbing. He didn't want to fight anymore. He wanted her here with him in their bed, her strong, comforting nature dulling the pain.
But it was not Delenn. "Daddy?" A small voice questioned, barely a squeak of a sound. John was lying on his back, eyes cast toward the ceiling, but he could hear the footsteps of his son as they tentatively approached the bed.
John licked his lips – his throat was exceedingly dry. A side affect of the medication, he supposed. "David. Do Daddy a favor and hand me that water glass, hmmm?" His voice was gruff and he felt like he'd swallowed a bunch of cotton. He was groggy and hurting and couldn't be entirely sure that this wasn't a dream.
That was, of course, until David reached for the half-empty glass of water on the nightstand and somehow managed to push the glass onto the floor, splashing water onto John and shattering the glass on the floor.
"Awww… Damn it, David!" John exclaimed before he could stop himself. He turned his head and body toward his son, anger coursing red-hot through his veins.
The boy had rarely seen his father angry, but he knew enough about emotion to recognize the look on John's face. It brought tears instantly to his eyes. "I'm sorry!" He exclaimed, taking a step back from his father's anger and from the puddle of water at his feet. He squatted down as if to try to clean up the mess, but John shook his head and reached out with one long arm to pull the boy away from the broken glass.
"You need to learn to be more careful!" He exclaimed now, staring into the pools of hazel that mirrored his own. "There's broken glass now, and I don't want you hurt. This is exactly the problem. You don't pay attention and you don't think!" John could feel the vein in his neck throbbing and he knew his skin was flushed dark red in anger. He had a fleeting thought that he should relax a bit, that he knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of a father's anger, but… he was exhausted, and hurting, and now there was a mess, and all of it seemed to trace back to David. He shook his head. "Go to your room," he said gruffly. "And stay there until I come talk to you."
David stared at his father for a moment, tears streaking down his cheeks, and then turned and ran from the room. As he fled, he dropped something on the floor of the bedroom. John couldn't tell what it was, and at the moment, he didn't care. He threw himself back on the bed and mentally recounted every single curse word he knew.
Sometime later, having elected a favorite, he was settled firmly into a mantra of, "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" when the door opened again. He didn't look up to see who it was.
Wordlessly, Delenn entered the room. She cleaned up the mess on the floor and set a new, full glass of water down where the old one had been. These tasks completed, she looked down at her husband and heaved a long, exasperated sigh. Then she crossed the room again to pick up what David had dropped in his hasty retreat. Still not saying a word, she set the folded sheet of paper down on John's chest, being sure to put just enough firmness in her touch that he would know she had placed something on his person. He looked up at her then, and she gave him a pointed look in return, first deep into his eyes in a way that indicated she was still not happy with him, and then at the paper on his chest. John took the hint and picked it up.
The paper was folded in half. In their child's unmistakable shaky hand on the outside were the words, "Get well soon, Daddy!" In spite of himself, John felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth and his anger dissipate slightly. He opened the card. Inside, David had drawn a picture of his father - presumably, if John was to believe his entire face was covered in a Santa-esque gray beard and that his hair was white – wearing a big black boot on one foot and lying down much like he was now. The drawing showed a slightly smaller figure – David – sitting next to John. The two figures had giant red smiles on their faces. "I'm sorry your foot is hert," David had written on the side opposite the picture. "I promis to take care of you til you are bedder. Then I want to learn about socker. Love, David." The rest of John's anger washed out of him and he closed his eyes, rubbing at them with his right hand as his left held the card.
"He wanted to bring it to you himself," Delenn said now, sitting down next to her husband on the bed. John shifted slightly toward the inside of the bed to give her more room. "I told him to wait, but… he must have slipped by me when I wasn't looking." She shrugged innocently.
"You mean you deliberately turned your back just long enough for him to disappear," he corrected, clenching his jaw.
"John." She turned onto her side to face him and palmed his cheek so that he was forced to look into her eyes. "We need to talk about this."
"About which part? The soccer ball? The glass? The things that have happened before today that have been equally careless on his part?"
"About us. We are still arguing," she informed him, as if to bring him up-to-date on the day's events. "Until that argument is resolved, we will not be able to properly deal with David – today, or any other day."
"You don't get to tell me when we're fighting." He shook his head. "I know when we're fighting."
"Yes. And right now, I don't want to fight. I refuse to fight. I don't have the energy to fight. Some combination of the above, all right, just please…"
"We may not be fighting now, but we are having an argument."
"They're the same thing."
"No, they are not." She sat up slightly. "This issue with disciplining David is an ongoing argument between us. Earlier, we were most definitely fighting about it. We have fought about it in the past. We will fight about it in the future. Battles, John, in a war that will not end until we find a peaceable solution."
John took a long time to consider her words. They were very well crafted, as though she'd been considering them for some time – deliberately grounded in familiar territory, a battleground, something to which John could relate. "And if we don't resolve it, the casualty will be a price I'm not willing to pay," he said at last, finishing the metaphor. "I meant what I said. I want to speak with him. Prayer and penance is not working and—"
"I agree." Her interruption cut him off abruptly. His tone had been rising with each word, and now he simply stopped and stared at her.
"I hate when you do that."
"That. That – agreeing with me! I am angry. I have a right to be angry. I—"
"You are hurt."
Delenn drew her lower lip between her teeth and looked away briefly. Then she brought her hand up and gently took the card, propping it open on his nightstand. She ran her hand through his hair, down the side of his face, fingers grazing his goatee before she stretched out beside him, her left arm coming across his middle as her right continued to caress his face and head gently. "I agree that my way alone is not working," she said softly, the fingers of her roving hand finding his earlobe and fingering it gently. He found himself instinctively surrendering to her touch, years of practice coming into play as she carefully sought out the places on his upper body that would relax him. "I agree that he is undisciplined, even for a child of his age. But I do not think this is all you have been angry about today, hmmm?"
He grunted, folding his left arm behind his head and bringing the right one out to cover her left where it rested on his stomach. "I… just… hate feeling like this."
"Like what?" She pressed.
"Like… like this," he repeated, gesturing to his injured foot. "Helpless. Useless."
"Having one temporarily inoperative limb does not make you useless, John Sheridan."
"Well, it feels like it to me. I've never been like this before, Delenn. I've never been… so dependent. I'm a soldier. I fight like hell, and when I fall down, I get back up and come back twice as hard. I don't know how to do this. It feels unnatural. So yes, I do feel useless. I already felt useless before, and then that pain pill knocked me out so hard… a thermonuclear bomb could've taken out half of Minbar and I'm pretty sure I either would've slept through it or been too groggy to give a damn."
"Then perhaps that is what you need to learn from this."
"What?" There was a slight edginess in his tone again. He hated when she was so profoundly vague, and right now he had absolutely no patience for it.
"That there is no shame in asking for help. That there is no shame in admitting your limitations and asking others to do for you what you cannot do for yourself."
"I love you, John. I admire you. I respect you. But you have always been this way. You insist on doing everything yourself and not letting anyone help you. I have seen this put your safety – sometimes your life - in jeopardy. You are independent, sometimes to the point of carelessness." Her eyes sparkled as she met his gaze directly and drove the point home. "Almost like someone else we know."
He closed his eyes and sighed in surrender. "I hate when you tell me I'm right and then say things like that." His eyes opened again, finding hers and offering apology ahead of his words. He reached up to palm her cheek, his thumb stroking over the smooth skin briefly in silence. "I'm sorry," he whispered at last.
"As am I." Her voice was no louder than his. She leaned down to capture his lips in a gentle kiss. He continued to stroke the side of her face, closing his eyes again and deepening the kiss as his fingers tangled in her hair.
She pulled away from him as his other arm snaked out to pull her down on top of him. "Not yet." She put a finger against his lips as they parted, and he groaned inwardly. "We're not finished."
"I think we are." He tried to reach for her again.
"No. First, we need to agree on what to do about David, and then you need to speak to him."
"How about we make him a sibling? That should fix the problem. Give him someone to torment other than the two of us, hmm?"
"You are very lucky your negotiating skills are better in the political arena than they are in the bedroom." She moved further from his grasp, situating herself at the foot of the bed. "How is your foot?" She rested her hand cautiously on the injured appendage, thumb stroking lightly over the boot that encased it.
"Hurts," he admitted, annoyed that she had been able to shift so quickly from the possibility of intimacy to business as usual. "But on the subject of admitting my limitations and the need for someone to help me… I can think of at least… three ways… that you can help me make it feel better."
Delenn shook her head at him with a smile. "Tell you what. We fix this problem with David, we end this little war we are having between us, and then we will try out those ways. And maybe a few others," she suggested with a sly smile and a barely noticeable wink.
John laughed. "And maybe later you could teach me to be a better negotiator in the bedroom. It seems you have that well in hand."
David was sitting at the head of his bed, his knees drawn up and hugged against his chest, when John quietly opened his son's bedroom door and hobbled into the room. The boy watched him carefully, and John made a show of looking around. The floor was absolutely spotless, cleared of all David's toys. The walls were still the light blue color that John and Garibaldi had painted them in the months before David's birth, but the furniture had changed – the crib had been replaced by the bed David now sat upon, and the small chest of drawers they'd originally purchased had been replaced by a larger wardrobe last year that easily allowed David's Minbari robes to hang and would do so for several years before his height outgrew it again. Finally, his eyes landed on his son. "Hey, Sport," he said softly.
David looked at him but did not respond. He didn't need to. His tear-stained cheeks said it all.
John cleared his throat and maneuvered to David's bed. He set his crutches down and then lowered himself into a seated position beside his son. The boy looked at him cautiously out of the corner of his eye, but still he said nothing.
"Thank you for cleaning up your room," John began in the same soft tone. "And for the card. That was very thoughtful."
"Nu'sental," David mumbled against his knees.
John nodded in acknowledgment. "You know, you are the only 5-year-old I know who can speak and write in two languages," He observed, taking his cue from David's use of the Minbari you're welcome. "That's a real accomplishment, Davy. I'm very proud of you."
David only nodded in response.
John sighed. He stared at the opposite wall. "I'm sorry I snapped at you before," he began. "You were trying to be helpful. It was an accident. I was… frustrated and tired, and I took it out on you. I really am sorry," he repeated, looking down at his son. He pulled his good leg up to his chest to mirror his son's position, the other stretched in front of him, restricted by the boot. David was looking back at him, giving him eyes that plainly suggested he wanted to come closer but was afraid. John held his arms open for a hug.
In turn, David inched closer. He came within a few millimeters of John and then stopped and gave his father the tiniest of hugs before he sprang back to a safe distance again.
"I know you can give bigger hugs than that, Davy," John challenged. "And I sure could use one about now."
David shook his head.
"Because… I broke you. And I broke the glass. I break everything," the boy said.
John continued to hold his arms out for a bigger hug. David was eyeing him quizzically. "I told you, the glass was an accident. And… yes, you should have put your soccer ball away. But I should have turned on the light instead of fumbling around in the dark. If I had, I would have seen the ball and moved it out of the way."
"It doesn't matter. It was my fault." The boy was behaving very much like his mother, John thought. His mind was set and there was no convincing him otherwise. John gave up and put his arms down.
"OK. Will it make you feel better if I agree that this –" he gestured to his foot – "was your fault?"
David seemed to consider this. He again pulled his knees up to his chest and balanced his chin on them but did not respond directly.
"The bigger problem here," John continued without an answer, "is that you have developed a bad habit of not listening, of not doing what you're told. And that ends right now." His tone had taken on an edge, his pointer finger gesturing to emphasize the appropriate words. He could hear his father clear as a bell across 40 years of memories… I didn't understand when my father did it to me, and you won't understand until you become a father yourself. "How many times yesterday did I ask you to please put away your toys before you went to bed, hmm?" David's lower lip was trembling, but John clenched his eyes shut against his instincts and kept on going. "How many times did your mother ask you? How many times have we each asked you, politely, with a please and a thank you in English and Minbari, in the last week?"
"A lot," David finally whispered.
"Exactly. Now… you've had it pretty easy around here. Your mother and I… have given you a lot of slack… I think mostly because… because you're our only child. We both love you very much, Davy, and we both still look at you and see this perfect little baby that we brought home five years ago. But… you're not a baby anymore." John gritted his teeth a moment before plunging onward. There was something else his father had said… this is going to hurt me a lot worse than it's going to hurt you. And damn if the old man wasn't right. "You're a big boy. And that means… you do the crime… you do the time."
"You're taking me to temple?"
"No, not this time. That hasn't seemed to have any effect, so this time… this time we're going to try it a different way, a Human way. You are grounded, David." He watched his son mull over the alien word. "For one week."
"I have to lay on the ground for one week?" The boy squeaked, turning huge, unbelieving eyes on his father.
In spite of the situation, John laughed. Here was another aspect in which David was so much like his mother, taking new foreign words at their literal interpretation. "Not exactly. It means… you go to temple, you come home, you do your lessons, eat your meals with your mother and me, do your chores, go to bed, and that's all. No vids, video games, no friends over to play."
"That's… sort of the point." John reached out to touch his son's shoulder. "It will give you lots of time to think about what you did to get yourself in the situation and to figure out how to avoid it in the future. But… I think it will be fine. I'm going to be laid up like this for awhile, and while Mommy is off at work, I'm going to need someone to help me out around here."
David pulled back and bit his lip, shaking his head slightly. "I can't."
"Oh, sure you can. For instance. I think that what I would really like right now, what would really make me feel better, is a big hug from someone who really loves me." He held his arms open and his son shook his head. "Come on… I told you. I need your help. And this is something I know you can definitely help with. I won't break. I promise." Tentatively, David moved closer and put his arms loosely around John's middle. "Harder," John urged, his arms resting on David's back. "I told you, I won't break." David tightened his hold, then after a moment, tightened it further. John smiled and pressed a kiss to the top of the boy's head. "There! See?"
"You feel better?"
"Yeah, Davy. I feel better."
"I'm sorry about the ball."
"I know. You're still grounded."
"But afterward… When you're done being grounded and when my foot is better… I would love to teach you all about soccer. And… baseball. Baseball's my favorite, but harder. I need to round up a few more props for that one, and probably some of your friends to play along. Meanwhile, I think I have a book we can look through to get us started." He smiled at his son and rustled his hair before carefully getting up from the bed and balancing himself on his crutches. "I love you, David."
"I love you, Daddy."
"All right. I kept my end of the bargain."
"So I have been told. David has already started a list of all the ways he's going to help you. So…" Delenn helped John settle back on their bed and ran her fingers through his hair with a smile, "I believe we have compromised quite well. He is grounded, as you say, but he will be doing penance at home."
"Hm." John gave a slight laugh. "We make quite a team, don't we?" His eyes followed her as she came around the bed and stretched out next to him. When she was settled, he leaned over and pulled her into a tender kiss.
She pulled back after a moment. "Pain pills," she suggested.
John groaned. "Other methods," he countered. In persuasion, he kissed her again, deeper, his hands tangling in her hair as his tongue slipped past her lips to explore her mouth. She didn't resist, causing him to smile into the kiss. Slowly she lowered herself down beside him, entertwining his one good leg in both of hers and situating her upper body over his while keeping his injured foot free of the passionate embrace. "Mmm… your bedside manner is something I could definitely get used to. I think this… 'letting people help me' business… has its advantages."
"You're feeling better, then?" she teased, pulling back from him slightly.
"Starting to. But, um, I think I need… a little more… care…" He took her hand and kissed her fingers gently before guiding it further down to where he wanted her most. "And we were fighting," he reminded her. "And now we're not. So this… is make-up sex and…" He leaned up to capture her lips again, "Feel-better sex."
She smiled knowingly. "Or maybe… it's just because I love you very much?" Now she took control of the kiss, and of the placement and action of her hands, and she smiled as she felt his body relax and surrender to her touch. "Not so bad at all, is it?" she whispered against his neck. He groaned in appreciation as she sought out a sensitive spot just below his earlobe.
"Uh-uh," he grunted. No, he thought in the moments before he felt her hands loosening his clothing, I could definitely get used to this.