Disclaimer: Babylon 5 and all its various characters are property of JMS/ Warner Brothers. Fair use, blah blah blah. Don't sue me. I just bought a house. I have a mortgage now, and stuff.
Author's Notes: I know what you're thinking. Sheridan and Sinclair, WTF? Please trust me and keep reading. This story is NOT SLASH (a thousand promises on this; rating is for cursing and violence only.) It's an introspective, sort of, on the evolution of Sheridan and Sinclair as people and as two-thirds of The One. War Without End established that the pair had met at least once before, during the Mars Riots; the canon novel To Dream in the City of Sorrows by Kathryn Drennan adds to that, giving a very vague account of the fact that Sheridan used to be kind of a bully and in his last year at Earthforce Academy, he took it fully upon himself to haze freshman cadet Jeffrey Sinclair mercilessly. That account was the inspiration for this piece. Enjoy.
Part I: Point of View Earthforce Academy, September 2238
It wasn't that John Sheridan enjoyed hazing the new recruits, exactly. It was expected of him as a senior cadet. It was a rite of passage, for both parties involved. It was tradition. It was—
"Hey, watch it, Plebe!"
OK, fine. It was fun.
Sheridan had made underclassman Jeffrey Sinclair his special project exactly four days, 17 hours and – he checked his watch – 23 minutes ago, after an unfortunate incident in the mess hall had left John's meticulously clean uniform covered in military-standard gray slop. Since then, the little worm had done an admittedly superb job of avoiding him. Now, at the close of morning Reveille, in a jostling herd of cadets trying to get to breakfast, an elbow caught Sheridan in the ribs and he smiled like the Christmas Grinch as he noted who the elbow belonged to. He reached out and clasped Sinclair's shoulder, shaking his head. "I thought I told you to watch it," he said, holding the younger man fast in his futile attempt to flee. Sheridan shook his head. "Uh-uh. See, you were almost in my way. Again!" There was laughter, and both cadets looked up, each hoping for allies.
Sheridan won. Two other senior cadets, one male and one female, stood by watching with bemused looks on their faces. They both stood with their feet slightly apart, arms crossed over their chests – not jumping in to help, but clearly there to back up any action Sheridan should choose to take. Good, he thought. I like an audience.
Observing that his prey had stopped struggling, Sheridan released Sinclair's arm and circled him slowly, eyes gleaming.
"I don't want any trouble."
It unnerved Sheridan to no end how level and calm the younger cadet's tone was. "That's funny. Plebes who don't want any trouble usually don't go looking for it."
"I wasn't," Sheridan mocked. He continued circling Sinclair like a vulture, noting with amusement that a hint of fear had crept into the other man's features. It was barely noticeable, but Sheridan saw it. He noticed a lot of the little things other people missed. It was what would make him a good soldier, and a good commanding officer as well. Someday. Today, he'd settle for using it to intimidate Sinclair. It was good practice. "If you didn't want trouble, plebe, you'd do a better job of not being in my way. What are you doing here, anyway? You don't have the stomach for combat, or the body. I heard you were a Mennonite. Aren't you supposed to be non-violent? A conscientious objector or some crap?"
"I was taught by Jesuits," Sinclair responded, his voice hitching slightly. Sheridan smirked. Yes, he was enjoying this quite a bit. It was going to be a good last year. "I'm here to learn to be a pilot like my father, and his father before him."
Sheridan raised his eyebrows. "Is that so?" He stopped his circling, gave Sinclair a once-over. Then, with no warning, he gave Sinclair a hefty shove, pushing him to the ground. Sinclair sputtered, drawing laughter from their observers. "Never correct me. Understood?"
Sinclair gulped, swallowed – the wind had been knocked out of him just a little by the surprise of the fall. After a moment he glared upward as Sheridan towered over him. At his full height, the senior stood more than six feet, and from this position he seemed taller still.
Sheridan gave the young cadet adequate time to respond… probably. When it became clear Sinclair would not do so, Sheridan crouched, brought his face within an inch of Sinclair's and spat quietly, "I said is. That. Understood?"
With a resigned nod, Sinclair huffed, "Yes," and began pushing himself to his feet.
But Sheridan wasn't satisfied. He stood, pulling Sinclair up along with him by way of a rough grip on one bicep. His tone was ominous when he spoke again, still too close to Sinclair's face for comfort. In fact, the freshman cadet noted with slight amusement that the other man had not brushed his teeth this morning and still had a hint of whiskey on his breath. "Yes what?"
"Yes, sir." It was a barely audible whisper, but it was a start. Sheridan nodded, stepped back from Sinclair and after another once-over, began to walk away. "See you soon, Flyboy," he called over his shoulder as his companions flanked him. He threw his arm around the woman and sighed contentedly.
"John," she admonished, "Don't you think you're being just a little rough on him?"
"Oh, Elizabeth, don't be so uptight." He pressed a hard smack of a kiss to her cheek, and she turned her head toward him to get a proper one on the lips. "You were hazed. I was hazed. It's part of being a freshman cadet. If I don't make him my bitch, someone else will, so he might as well get used to it. Besides, if you ask me, those of us who survive hazing come out stronger for it. I'd say I'm doing Jeffrey Sinclair a favor. Someday I bet he'll even thank me for it." He was grinning ear to ear as he pulled Cadet Lochley closer to him. Their male companion gave the couple a look and shook his head.
"Don't hold your breath."
Earthforce Cadet Jeffrey Sinclair was counting down the days until graduation. He was obsessed with it to the point of programming his wake-up alarm to give him the countdown at the start of each day. One day closer to freedom, he'd think as he rolled out of his bunk. But it wasn't his own graduation he cared so much about. Oh no. It was the presentation of the class of '39 that he'd celebrate with glee and jubilation – the day John Sheridan was presented with his commission and headed out into the wild blue to begin his military career – the day Jeff got his freedom.
But, as the overly chipper voice alarm reminded him this morning, it was only, "0530. This is your requested wake-up time. Today is Thursday, 17 September, 2238. Graduation is in 239 days."
Jeff sighed, clenched his eyes shut, wished for just five more minutes… but he knew that if he didn't get down to the shower room quickly, he'd miss his customary shower time and have to stand in line. And if he had to stand in line, he'd be late getting outside, which meant he'd chance running into the upperclassmen, which meant he'd chance running into… him. The sudden mental image of Sheridan's sneer from yesterday's incident following Reveille flashed across Jeff's mind and provided all the motivation he needed. Quickly he raised himself out of bed, stripped, wrapped a towel around his waist, grabbed his shower caddy and hurried down the hall toward the shower room.
The Academy dorms were all laid out in the same fashion – four stories, 24 rooms on each side of a long, colorless hallway, split at the halfway point by a latrine and shower facilities on one side of the hall and a meeting room on the other. Jeff lived on the third floor, room 310, Building 9 – not that it mattered. He only needed that information so that he remembered where to go and sleep at night. It mattered more that he knew John Sheridan lived in Building 10 – right next door. This had made avoiding him particularly tricky, but it could be done on most days.
Today, it turned out, was not such a day.
Jeff took a short shower as always, scrubbing away where it was most important and while doing so, mentally running over his schedule for the day. Assembly at the flag, then to the mess – and this time, he'd be sure to keep company among his freshman peers as he did not want a repeat of yesterday – followed by drills and a five-mile run. Then lunch, then some classroom instruction, then –
"Hey Pencil Dick. Hurry the fuck up."
The voice interrupted Jeff's train of thought. It was coming from just outside his shower stall. Can't be, he thought. He doesn't live in my building. What the hell—
"I said hurry the fuck up," came Sheridan's baritone again. "I know you're in there picturing me naked, and while I'm flattered and all, I'm not like that. I like girls!" The acoustics in the tiled room were excellent. Sheridan was talking quite loudly to begin with, and the way his voice echoed off the walls, Jeff was sure the whole floor could hear him, if not the whole building. "And if I were to give a plebe the honor of sucking my cock, it would be a female plebe. A hot one. Probably one who'd let my girlfriend watch. Sorry man, Elizabeth isn't all up on the guy-on-guy action." Jeff could feel his whole body was blushing. He hurriedly washed off the rest of the soap, turned off the spray of the shower and reached one hand out in the customary gesture to find one's towel.
The hook was empty.
And then the curtain to his shower stall was jerked open, a whoosh of cold air hitting his buttocks. He barely had time to worry about that as a chorus of laughter bubbled up from the line of men waiting for an open shower stall. He could feel Sheridan's presence just millimeters behind him now and wasn't surprised when the whisper came, a hiss against his ear. "Your dorm is co-ed, plebe. Elizabeth lives one floor above you. She likes it on top. That's not something you'll ever know anything about, though." Quiet laughter hot against Jeff's ear now. He feebly used his hands to cover himself. "You should be better about remembering to bring your towel."
"I didn't –"
"Yeah, you did. But lucky for you, I've got an extra one." Jeff glanced over his shoulder just enough to notice that Sheridan had one white standard-issue towel around his waist and a second wrapped casually around his shoulders. Unbelievable. "If you ask me for it real nice, I might just be willing to share."
Jeff rolled his eyes. "C'mon, Sheridan, knock it off. Haven't you had enough?"
There was a pause for consideration. Then, "Not hardly."
"Give me my towel."
"Mmmmmmm… no." The smile was evident in Sheridan's tone. The son of a bitch was enjoying this way too much. "For starters, it's my towel. Furthermore… say 'please' and maybe I'll consider it."
Another eye roll. Just get it over with, Jeff. "Please give me a towel."
"Sir," Sinclair repeated obediently.
"Now the whole thing," Sheridan prompted, as if leading a child. He removed the towel from his shoulders and twisted it idly in his hands.
"Please give me a towel… sir," Sinclair mumbled.
He was rewarded with a painful towel snap across his ass, followed by hoots of laughter from the doorway. "Get used to that word." The verbal assault followed the physical sting of pain. "You're going to be one level below me, taking my orders and kissing my ass your whole career. In case you were wondering, that starts now. Now get dressed." Sheridan flung the towel over the side of the shower stall for Sinclair to grab. The younger man did so and hurried out of the shower room, avoiding all the eyes that followed him. Two hundred thirty-nine more days, he thought. Hell, I'll throw his graduation party.