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Delenn of Mir and John Sheridan
Lost and Found
Chapter 1: Compromise
"Why are you still here?"
"I'm not going. I've changed my mind, Susan."
"You can't just change your mind like that, Delenn," Susan Ivanova said, joining Delenn on the single balcony bench, Delenn feeling no need to add more. She didn't want visitors, not here, not even Susan. It was their special place, her and John's, where for one fleeting moment of each day, he reached out to her and she was no longer alone, no longer lonely.
But Delenn didn't notice Susan join her, too busy watching the setting sun, mind in the past.
"We've gone over this before. You agreed, remember?"
Delenn looked at her hand and the diamond ring that still sparkled upon her finger.
"I'm not ready, Susan. I should've never allowed you to talk me into it."
"Not ready?" Susan turned to her right to face Delenn, taking her hand in her own. She ran a finger over the wedding ring and spoke gently.
"It's been seven years, Delenn."
"I know how long it's been. I don't need you to remind me." Her voice was hard and she tried to free her hand from her friend's grip, but Susan was having none of it.
"You know what I mean and stop tugging like that before you bruise my pike hand. You may be part Human but you still have much of the strength of a full Minbari."
"Then release my hand and leave. I didn't request a meeting with the Anla'Shok Na. Go, Ranger One, and I'll see you tomorrow for our usual morning debrief."
Susan didn't release Delenn's hand which frustrated her even more. Delenn knew perfectly well Susan knew she would never hurt her just to have her way. The woman was as stubborn and persistent as ever, making her an excellent Ranger One, but a most annoying friend.
"You can't get rid of me that easily, Delenn. I don't even know why you try. You shut me and David out when John first died, I accepted it then, but I won't accept it now. Hell, I should've never left you alone then. Except for Alliance business, you became a near recluse."
"Minbari must observe a year of mourning, Susan. You know that."
"I do, but you, my friend, observed two years of mourning. And would have gone on, for God knows how long, if David didn't get you to snap out of it."
"Yes, that son of mine thinks he's my father instead of my son."
"He loves you, Delenn, and only wants to see you happy."
"I am happy, can't you tell. I'm boiling over with happiness and mirth," Delenn said, standing, forcing Susan to release her grip.
She walked to the edge of the balcony and looked out into the graying sky. Night was approaching, as was a commitment she made a month ago. A commitment she now regretted, a commitment Susan had talked her into.
Delenn placed her hands on the cool railing, her shoulders and back perfectly erect, rigid. Was she happy? She'd used the word but it was mocking, meant to push and annoy Susan. But Delenn knew Susan too well. They both knew each other too well for this conversation to end without some concession being made on both their parts.
Delenn felt Susan's presence next to her. "He wants his mother back," she said, reaching for Delenn's hand again. But this time, she simply placed hers overtop of it, rubbing a soothing finger across her tense knuckles.
"I've been right here. I've always been here when David needed me, Susan, and I always will. The two of you are all I have left, all I care about."
She had spoken the truth but only a partial one, Delenn understanding the subtext of Susan's words.
"You're very good at that," Susan said.
Delenn didn't bother asking the expected follow-up question of 'Good at what?' She didn't want to know or hear but, of course, Susan, being Susan, would continue whether Delenn gave her an opening or not.
"John warned me that last night. Explained a few things I needed to know if I was to help you get past his death and serve as Ranger One to your President."
"I don't want to hear it, Susan."
"Too bad, you're gonna hear it anyway. You have a way of neatly sidestepping questions or issues you don't wish to directly address. Hell, all Minbari do, I suppose. You tend to only say as much as is required and nothing more. And you have an amazing knack of appearing to appease one while having offered very little, looking past the current predicament and planning long term. That's what made you a great Entil'Zha and an even better President. Big shoes to fill, I assure you."
"Make your point, Susan."
She already had but Delenn wasn't in a conciliatory mood.
"John had more than twenty years to figure you out and only one night to bring me up to speed; otherwise, you would've had my mind spinning, burying me in partial truths, Minbari logic, and tons of distracting paperwork, missions, and alien rituals."
"I'm pleased you feel that John adequately prepped you for the job as my babysitter," she said, her voice soft and tart.
"Babysitter, bodyguard, friend, Delenn, whatever you require, I'm here for you, you know that."
Delenn turned to Susan, her face an emotionless mask, cracking around the edges, threatening to break if Susan kept pushing.
"You have me and David, Delenn. You were right there. But you also have yourself. And it's high time you started taking care of yourself, started living beyond us, beyond the Alliance, beyond . . ."
Susan cut her sentence short, but she needn't have, for Delenn knew the rest.
"Beyond John," Delenn finished.
"Yes, beyond Sheridan. He wouldn't want you to be alone forever."
He had told her that, many times in fact, before he went beyond the veil. But Delenn knew he was only saying those words for her benefit, he didn't truly believe them. His heart wasn't in it, hollow, empty words that mean nothing to a Minbari. And she had told him she wanted no one else. She meant it, then and now.
Susan studied Delenn, her eyes soft but firm.
"If you won't do it for yourself, then do it for David. He may be a grown man but he still needs his mother. In some ways, when John went off on that White Star to die, David lost him and a part of you as well. It's not fair, Delenn, and you know it."
Susan didn't learn that from John, Delenn thought, for he would never go for her jugular like that. Yes, a well trained Russian dagger to her heart—effective and bloodless. Curse the woman.
"You're no better, Susan. You have no right to push this on me. You've never gotten over Marcus's death, a man who loved you but whose love you didn't acknowledge until his death. And yet you expect me to turn my back on twenty years of memories and simply move forward as if they . . . he never existed."
The words were harsh, deliberately so, but quite true, Delenn's last defense.
Susan stiffened, her hands balling into fists, a faraway look appearing and then quickly disappearing.
"You're one hell of an opponent, Delenn, and that almost worked. But my being a spinster has nothing to do with this, although I'm sure you'd love to turn the tables, put me on the defensive."
"We're not opponents, Susan, we're friends. In fact, since John's death you've become my best friend. I don't know what I would do without you."
Truth but also tactic and as soon as Delenn saw Susan's smiling eyes she knew her friend knew it as well. What had John told her? Curse them both.
"You know we can continue this duel until we both grow grayer and older or come to a compromise."
"Compromise?" Delenn asked. "I don't trust any compromise that's preceded by that smile of yours, Susan. You may know me, but I know you equally as well."
"So you do," she conceded and then regarded Delenn with a smile of warmth and infinite respect.
"Let's hear it, Susan, before you threaten to call my son and have him bestow one of his famous David Sheridan lectures, sounding too much like his father for me to argue."
Susan laughed and admitted, "I was saving that gem as my last ditch effort to get you to see things my way. And God knows, David's got the Sheridan gift for long winded, over the top proclamations. Good thing he's good with the denn'bok; otherwise, I don't think he would've survived Ranger training."
"True," Delenn said, allowing for a weary smile. "Now, about this compromise of yours, what does it entail?"
Susan took a slow breath before she next spoke. "If you follow through on tonight's commitment, regardless of the outcome, I'll back off and ask David to do the same."
"What's the catch?"
Another slow breath. "You must give me your word you'll not try to sabotage the damn thing. You must go into it with sincerity and an open mind. Can you give me your word, Delenn?"
Delenn didn't want to give Susan her word, for that was how she got herself in this mess. Delenn actually had no intention of not going because she had indeed made a pledge. In spite of that pledge, she also had absolutely no intention of performing the ritual in good faith.
"I'll go, that should be enough for you."
"Well, it isn't. I need a vow from you, Delenn. I've never known you to go back on a vow, and I don't think you would, even to spite me."
"Did John tell you that about me?"
"He did, but I already knew that myself," she said with a smug wave of her hand.
Delenn returned to the bench and took a seat, the sun having fully disappeared in the night sky, a chill in the air and her heart.
"Fine," she said coldly, "you have it and I have yours. When I return here tomorrow, I'll be free of the lot of you and we'll never speak of this again."
Susan took an audible sigh of relief. "You don't make my job easy, Delenn, I can tell you that."
"Easy, Susan, you have no idea. I just agreed to betray my marriage vows, my husband, my beating heart."
She looked at her friend then but knew she could never understand. No one understood, not even David.
Susan took a step toward Delenn but Delenn stilled her with one raised hand. "Go now, Susan. I think you've done enough for one evening. I'll see you tomorrow."
"But—'' Susan started.
"I'll be fine, just go. I need to meditate before I leave and I don't need you hovering about with those guilty eyes of yours."
Susan reluctantly moved to the balcony doors. "I'll have a transport sent for you with two Rangers. They'll take you there and wait until you're ready to depart the following morning or earlier if it isn't going well."
Delenn absently nodded, mind no longer on Susan but the pending ritual. She heard the balcony door open and close a minute later and she was alone. So utterly alone, and she cried, the darkness unable to absorb her pain.
TO BE CONTINUED
Author's Note: Okay, this story just popped into my mind and wouldn't let me rest until I gave some form to it. It's still a mental work in progress and hopefully the end result will please you and me. If you think you know where I'm going with this, keep it to yourself, and let me know at the end if you were right.