Chapter 17: Epilogue
They were all stunned. Shocked. And Chimir was the cause. David seemed torn between wrapping his robust arms around Chimir in a debilitating hug or using his very long and strong fingers to throttle him for ruining what should have been a simple family dinner welcoming Susan home from her honeymoon.
Anatoly, for his part, was a very wise man indeed. He kept all thoughts to himself, continued to eat, while his wife roared, swore, and paced her displeasure from one end of the dining room to the other.
"What in the hell were you thinking, Chimir?" Spinning to face him, Susan answered herself. "You weren't thinking. You can't just drop a bomb like that and think we'll all smile, nod, and say, 'That's great, welcome to the family, say hello to John for us, now pass the flarn, please.' ''
And then there was Delenn. Chimir glanced in the direction Delenn had gone—presumably to her bedroom. The urge to run after her raged deep within. The protective warrior in Chimir compelled him to his feet when Delenn ran from the room. But a growled warning of, "Don't follow," from David halted his movement. The "or else," was implied in the angry and, yes, hurt look the young man leveled on him.
So he returned to the table, and there he sat with a nervously eating Anatoly, an entranced David, and a crazed Human female who vacillated in her curses—Russian, English, and Androndato running together to create a new language that was all Susan Ivanova.
Chimir had never felt so uncomfortable, but he didn't tell the truth to make himself feel relaxed, good, or even happy. He was already happy, had been in that ecstatic, blissful state the last month—ever since the day of Susan's wedding, when Delenn submitted.
Yes, she had submitted to herself. And, Valen bless him, Delenn had even admitted that she loved him.
I love you.
Those beautiful, long awaited words reverberated in his head, his soul, his heart. And, for once, she'd kissed him. Him. And there was no guilt, no shame, no regret he could detect in her eyes, her voice, her body.
I love you.
A month. A month of quiet talks and long walks. A month of brief, stolen lunches and extended, glorious dinners. A month of sweet hugs and kisses and burning, suppressed passion. A month of happiness. A month of lies.
I love you.
Not a lie exactly, but not the truth either. Telling Delenn was never part of the pact between John and Chimir, but the more time he spent with Delenn—like a real courting couple—the more the desire for her to know the truth weighed on him. Until today, when he'd finally decided to lay down his burden.
If this fragile, new relationship with Delenn was going to be built on a foundation of marble, instead of sand, they all had to know. They all had to accept. There was no shame in what he'd done, the circumstances forced upon him. And there was no man who loved his family more than John Sheridan. They needed to know that as well.
If the truth ended in the dissolution of Chimir and Delenn's courting, then so be it. She needed to know, had a right to know, full disclosure necessary and so utterly dangerous.
But Chimir was never one to run from himself, his destiny, or inevitability. And it was inevitable, this metaphysical, spiritual truth that swung like a pendulum between them all. One swing to the right and Delenn looked into his eyes seeing Chimir. Two swings to the left and she glimpsed Sheridan. An inevitable, wholly improbable truth that Delenn couldn't or wouldn't entertain. But it was there between them, in her curiously probing eyes.
I love you.
And he loved her, too. So much in fact, he would risk it all. Tempt fate and the universe itself by giving Delenn the ultimate gift—truth.
"You're driving us all crazy, Susan, with that pacing." Anatoly reached for his wife, arm outstretched, smile thin but loving. "Please sit. No good can come from such theatrics."
Anatoly held her stern, agitated gaze, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, those hostile eyes of hers softened. And Susan placed her hand in that of her husband's, allowed herself to be gently pulled to him, and she sat.
Apparently, David thought so as well, a muffled "Russian snake charmer," coming from his end of the mahogany table.
And there they all sat, stilled tongues and squared shoulders, cool, appraising eyes locked onto Chimir. Great. Wonderful. Now, if only Delenn would return, her green eyes would make it a consensus, bringing the ratio to four against one.
Chimir inwardly shrugged. Manageable odds, he thought.
And then even more silence.
Chimir felt as if they were all waiting for something. For him? What else did they expect him to say? Except for revealing that Susan knew more than she'd led on, he'd told them everything. Susan could make her own confession, although, Chimir was pretty sure Delenn and David would put all the pieces together.
And just when that thought came to him, David stood and came to stand beside Chimir. The young man towered over him, his too-Delenn eyes absorbing Chimir's very essence, causing a part of Chimir's soul to twist in fatherly recognition.
And it took all of Chimir's self-control not to stand and meet the silent challenge, David's standing form a position of power to Chimir's seated one. But Chimir didn't move. In spite of his posture and menacing visage, David wasn't truly challenging Chimir. Many a battle had been lost and wars waged over perceived insult and pride.
Chimir refused to be a casualty. Nor would he allow David to fall prey to his own conflicting emotions. So he submitted, accepting the silent interrogation, their eyes locked—not in a battle of wills, but in battle for understanding, for truth, for enlightenment.
And at the end of that long, dark, and lonely tunnel, David slowly emerged, his right hand creeping to his side and finding Chimir's hand. David's hand was warm and sweaty, his long, thin fingers wrapping around Chimir's and squeezing.
"Thank you." The words came out in a whispered sob. But it was the unspoken ones that ripped through Chimir's body, tearing at his heart with the force of a late in season winter storm—fierce, wild, and unexpected.
Thank you, Dad, for coming back, for loving me, for being selfless.
And thank you, Chimir.
He heard them all and Chimir stood, pushing the chair back. And then he and David were facing each other, tears in their eyes, understanding conquered, truth achieved, enlightenment gained.
Then Chimir was being hugged. And all those years of loneliness, a man without a mate, a child, a family of his own, was slowly poured into him. An empty shell filled with an invisible but substantive glow of life, David's life, David's forgiveness, David's acceptance.
And when David Sheridan released him, Chimir knew the power of a son's love. And in that moment, he truly knew John Sheridan, the Human soul that fueled his Minbari one.
"Thank you," David said after releasing Chimir. David took a step back and looked over his right shoulder at Susan. "Thanks for helping Dad get his data crystal to me. That message meant the world to me, Aunt Susan. David faced her fully, placed his right hand over his heart and stretched his left arm out, hand up, palm out. Susan stood, mimicking the gesture. The silent "I love you," a gentle gossamer strand running between them.
David returned his attention to Chimir, his face serious but warm. "You'll find Mom on the balcony. It's her favorite place, one she goes to often when she wants to meditate or simply watch the sun rise."
Chimir hazard a look at Susan, who was, paying them absolutely no heed, her husband having captured both her attention and her willing lips. Chimir shook his head, the image of a hostile, belligerent Susan much easier to swallow than the weak kneed, in love newlywed before him.
"Get a room you two," David said laughing, and then held his stomach and made a retching noise. "I'll never be able to keep my dinner down if you keep doing that. Ew."
The joking David moved away from Chimir, his voice becoming more animated as Susan responded to his taunting.
"You were gone a month. That should've been more than enough time to dot every I and cross each T. Although," he said, retaking his seat at the head of the table, the one his father used to occupy, "sex isn't spelled with either of those letters, not even in Andronato."
"Well, if I have it correctly, David," Susan said, her voice tart, "you and Malan are only up to ritual three, which means you aren't up to much of anything these days. No dotting of Is or crossing of Ts."
Susan's rich laugher and David's snort reached Chimir before he opened the balcony doors. "I bet you got that one man, or should I say one hand show down pat . . ."
Chimir didn't hear the rest, the glass doors serving as the perfect sound nullifier.
The sun was just beginning to set, but the waning day was still relatively warm, the first glimpse of spring. The official day only a week away; and Chimir wondered if the new season would herald new blooms or old rain showers.
Chimir sighed, tucked his hands in the pockets of his black tunic, and sat down.
In front of him Delenn stood, her hands on the railing, back to Chimir. There was nothing more for him to say. He'd said it all in her office a month ago and in her dining room today. A male could only do so much. Chimir could only be there for Delenn, if that was what she wanted. Otherwise . . .
"Our people," Delenn began, her voice low, back still to Chimir, "believe in the cyclical nature of life. We believe the universe puts every soul where it needs to be, even when the soul in question doesn't understand. We believe that all life is sacred but no one soul is more important than any other. We are equals, equally chosen, equally destined, equally loved—the part no greater than the whole."
Her blue and white robe swayed delicately as she gracefully turned to meet Chimir's eyes; Delenn's shining with unshed tears. "I—I don't understand, Chimir."
She didn't but Chimir did. Delenn wouldn't. Selfless people never comprehended such things, too busy giving, never wanting or asking for anything in return. He and Sheridan, however, weren't so magnanimous, and neither was most of the universe.
Chimir went to her, opening his arms, Delenn—thank Valen—filled them without hesitation. Chimir sighed again, holding Delenn close, breathing in her sweet ginger scent, her long hair warming his pale face.
"Oh, Delenn, you have no idea how much you are loved."
She shook her head, a brief sob breaking free. "No one should be loved that much. The universe is not at my beck and call; such exceptions should never be made."
Chimir hugged her tighter and placed a soothing kiss to her cheek. The woman was a stubborn saint who truly didn't understand her vital place in the universe. He wondered if she'd even grasped the magnitude of how much her decisions—even the ones she regretted—had irrevocably changed life on Minbar, for the better. How much her strength and determination had impacted his life, and the lives of everyone she's ever come into contact—up to and including Valen himself.
Of course she didn't, for if she had, Delenn wouldn't be quietly sobbing in his arms, denying the truth. She was special. She was the one. And all the men in her life had known it—her father, Dukhat, Lennier, Sinclair, Neroon, Marcus, John, David, and him. They saw, they knew, they believed—in her.
Delenn, however, well, she was Delenn, and that truly said it all.
"Who are you?" the Inquisitor had asked her decades ago. "Delenn," had been her simple answer. And for that she was punished, maligned. But Sebastian—that wretched creature Chimir only saw in John's memories—was wrong. Her answer wasn't unacceptable, nor was it simply a name. It was her, and she was it, and it and her transformed the universe and, yes, the universe was at her beck and call, even though she had never, would never summon it to do her bidding.
No, but the men that loved her had. They'd come to her rescue, given of themselves as she always gave of herself. She still did, a stable Minbar, a successfully run Alliance, and a well-loved David Sheridan proof of her tireless effort.
But she would never see. Chimir knew that with certainty. But she would accept, he knew that as well. Delenn was far too pragmatic not to.
Finally, Delenn straightened and wiped the tears away with the sleeve of her robe, looking somewhat embarrassed at her break in decorum. She'd get over that as well, Chimir thought. In time, Delenn would accept that there was no emotion she couldn't share freely with him. But he was a patient man.
"Do you think they've had dinner without us?" she asked, smiling up at Chimir with those sparkling green eyes of hers, the ones that invariably made his heart pump that much faster.
"Anatoly is probably on his third course but I'm sure they won't mind foregoing dessert until we've eaten."
Chimir turned toward the balcony doors, offering Delenn his arm. She happily took it, giving him a different kind of smile this time. He paused and stared down at her, a quizzical look forming on his face. Delenn laughed and his heart contracted at that, too. Was there anything this woman could do that wouldn't result in some part of his body standing up and paying attention? Probably not. Thank Valen.
"What is that look all about?" he asked.
"I was just thinking about dessert," Delenn answered with a coy smile. "And rituals," she added, pulling him to the closed doors.
He opened the doors for her and they both entered, Chimir sliding and locking the doors behind them. And the sound of laughter and talking was just as enthusiastically wonderful as they'd been earlier.
"Which ritual?" he asked, grabbing Delenn before she got too far away from him. There was no way he was going to allow her to get away with that little tease and leave him hanging for the breadth of an entire meal. She was up to something and he wanted to know what. And—Valen help him—she was giving him that same smile again, the one that was doing wonderful things to his body. The one that made him want to do wonderful things to her body.
"I hear," she said, placing her hands on his chest and leaning in, "Warrior Caste has an interesting variation on the Shan'Fal." Delenn kissed his chin, cheek, and then his quivering lips. "I think I would very much like to find out for myself. A research project, if you will."
Chimir returned the kiss, breathing in her sensuality, wishing suddenly they were alone in the house, but not caring who could walk in on them. The living room, where they were now, was empty and dark, but across the hall was the dining room where three laughing people could interrupt any minute, or not at all.
Chimir prayed for no interruptions. He prayed even harder that his time away on the Valen'tha wouldn't put too much of a hindrance on the mating rituals. Because, if he interpreted Delenn's words correctly, she'd just suggested the Shan'Fal, which was definitely a mating ritual.
Had she decided that they were past the courting phase of their relationship? Her words and, yes, the way she was kissing him, suggested as much. Did he dare to hope? He was and he did.
"When?" Chimir breathlessly asked. But he kissed Delenn again before she could answer, pulling her to the sofa and onto his lap.
She laughed when they landed ungracefully, her arms coming up around his neck to steady herself.
"I have to first formulate my hypothesis before I undertake the experiment."
"Experiment?" Chimir asked. The woman was maddeningly playful when she was happy. Delenn hadn't been truly happy in far too long and Chimir vowed to do all he could to keep her that way. But this teasing of hers, well, he knew a little something about torture techniques.
"Yes, a comparison," she said in answer to his question.
"Ah, a then and now type of experiment."
"Exactly," Delenn responded quickly; then she gasped and moaned.
"I see that's still one of your centers of pleasure." Chimir touched Delenn there again, making her squirm and moan into his mouth when he kissed her.
"That's not fair," she finally got out, glancing about the room to make sure they were still alone and that no one had heard her low cries of pleasure. "Every woman is sensitive there, Chimir, that proves nothing."
"What about here? And here? And, yes, Delenn, here?"
Chimir covered each would-be scream with his mouth, denying Delenn that release, but giving her another.
Oh Valen, she whispered, slumping weakly in his arms when he'd finished with her.
"We can conduct the experiment even better—and longer—when we're both naked and alone."
"Shan'Fal—Warrior Caste style?" Delenn asked, getting her breathing under control.
Chimir kissed her soft, wet lips. "Yes, but without the witnesses and" he kissed her deeply, passionately, placing her hand where he most wanted her to touch him. Delenn's eyes widened at his obvious state of arousal. "we can go as far as we like."
"So I've heard," Delenn said with a wink, and then jumped to her feet, avoiding Chimir's hands when he tried to prevent her forward progress.
"Now that we've had dessert," Delenn said, walking away from him, her coy smile back, "I think we should join the others and have dinner."
Chimir took five deep breaths, readjusted his pants, grateful for the extra room, and stood. Delenn was going to drive him crazy and he couldn't wait for her to take him as her mate.
"Soon," was her echoing reply.
"Come to bed, beloved," Delenn said, moving over and patting the empty space.
Chimir gave her a dubious look and Delenn couldn't keep the laughter from flowing. To her amazement—and relief—she'd been doing a lot of that the last nine months. Her husband, on the other hand, didn't look as pleased as she felt.
"I don't think I can sleep on that bed, Delenn. I know I agreed, but I didn't realize it would be so . . . so . . . flat," he finished with a shake of the head. "Maybe we should have one of the house servants pull my bed out of storage tomorrow. We can sleep in one of the guest rooms tonight."
Delenn shook her head and Chimir's grimace deepened. They had only been married three months, two of which Chimir had spent on the Valen'tha, trying to convince the Grey Council of the wisdom of having the ruling body of Minbar on the planet instead of hovering in outer space, away from its people. It was an unprecedented suggestion, but one in which Chimir thought would put the Grey Council in a better position to stay in touch with its citizens.
Delenn, of course, agreed. The idea fully formed after many late night conversations between them, Chimir using her as a silent or shadow Satai. She didn't know exactly how she felt about that, but she often wondered if Valen and Lorien foresaw this peculiar arrangement. Again, unprecedented.
Delenn crawled out of bed, her green nightgown sliding silently over the silk sheets. She hadn't seen her husband in two months and she'd gone through a lot of trouble to order the bed from Earth. Delenn understood Chimir's skepticism; she was just as uncertain the first night she'd stayed in John's quarters. But there were certain things that was much easier to do on a flat bed.
Delenn intended to teach him and he would learn all the pleasure she was ready to show him, the Warrior Caste version of the Shan'Fal not as thorough as that of her own caste. While Delenn had indeed reveled in their lovemaking, she was nervous, out of practice, and more than a little worried.
The source of her concern was the same as it had been when she went through the Shan'Fal with John. In that case, she worried if he would think her body too Minbari for his taste, and thus unappealing. With Chimir, her concerns were the reverse. In both instances, she was shown to have fretted for nothing. Neither cared about such trivialities; her hybrid form pleasing to both.
But then there was also the knowledge that Chimir held the essence, the soul of her John. To be honest, Delenn had found that fact to be more than a little disturbing. But once she meditated on the odd turn her life had taken, she'd realized that it was John who had taught her it was okay for her to move on with her life.
He'd come to her almost two years ago in the guise of Chimir, still clinging to her and their former life together as much as she clung to those memories of old. But in that space of time, in the weeks that followed, he'd reminded her how good it felt to laugh, to enjoy one's friends and family, to treasure oneself and not take anything or anyone for granted.
John had given her a new outlook on life even when she fought against the revealed perspective. He'd brought closure and contentment to their son, renewing David's faith in his father's love, giving him the courage to start a life with Malan.
Delenn moved close to Chimir, taking his cold hands in her own, and kissing each palm. He was so nervous about this new arrangement and infinitely appealing.
And John had given Delenn Chimir. He'd sanctioned their union, freeing Delenn of any lingering guilt about her feelings for Chimir. And she loved him even more for that overwhelming gesture of love. How could she not, he was—after all—her soul mate.
But there was Chimir now and Delenn loved him as well—deeply and passionately.
"Come, my love."
Delenn turned, pulling Chimir with her, encouraging him to sit and then lay. He did both, appearing as rigid as any board. That would soon change though, Delenn thought, leaning over her husband.
She placed two pillows under his head, adding a bit of slant and lift. Chimir smiled in gratitude, his hands coming up to her face. "I've missed you," he said, his smile widening, eyes lowering to her mouth, and then lower.
"Not as much as I've missed you."
He ran his hands through her hair, Chimir's fingers sliding over scalp before finding where her bonecrest merged with the rest of her head. It tingled, the way it always did, the nerve endings especially sensitive if touched in the right spot with just the right amount of—oh, yes—pressure.
"I assume you're completely moved in."
Delenn nodded, her eyes closed, the pleasurable vibrations making speech difficult. Chimir knew this and he had no shame in showing Delenn—repeatedly—how well he did on their then and now experiment.
"Another science project, Delenn?" he asked, bringing their mouths together. He tasted delicious, his lips smothering her own, tongue gliding easily and possessively in her mouth. Chimir's hands slipped down her back, cupping her backside and pulling her fully atop him.
And Delenn's head began to spin, a not so slow burn coursing its way from the pit of her stomach to the demanding ache between her legs, which she opened, straddling Chimir.
At the feel of the different position and Delenn's lower body suddenly flush against his own arousal, Chimir's eyes flew open. Delenn smiled at his shocked expression. And she was even more pleased when his large hands found her hips and began a heavenly massage.
She leaned over and kissed him, her lips lingering on his neck then his chest, and finally his muscled stomach. And if she went farther—the way Delenn wanted to—it would be over all too soon. Pleasure center number twelve could wait. She would get to it, but she had other things on her mind.
"A demonstration," she said, "not another science project. I already know the result, even if you don't."
Chimir was breathing heavily now, the benefit of their current position and the horizontal bed now dawning on him. "It's a lot easier this way, more pleasure without so much concentration required while on a Minbari bed."
"I'm beginning to see that," Chimir said, watching as Delenn slid to his thighs, opening, and then removing his night robe. He sat up, one strong arm holding him upright, while the other managed to help Delenn off with her own sleep garment. Then they were both naked, Delenn's eyes feasting on the hard, muscular body under her own.
And to her growing astonishment—if not embarrassment—Delenn was captivated by the way her body responded to Chimir's. One touch—sometimes even a look—and she found herself taut with desire, like she was now; her need to join with him on the most physical, sensual level overpowering and immediate.
Delenn pushed Chimir onto his back and crawled up his body like a lion stalking its prey. But he was no defenseless deer to be hunted and cowered. No, Chimir was a warrior and would give as good as he got. Thank Valen.
And then she joined them, their bodies melding together as one, as their hearts already had. This was a demonstration, but one Chimir would actively participate, his role essential to an outstanding conclusion.
But that conclusion, those closing words of a Shakespearean play, or the last aria of an English opera, weren't quite ready to be uttered, bellowed, or screamed to the waiting heavens.
But when it was over, when the curtains were drawn and the theatre quiet, two lovers remained, the reverberation of their demonstrable act of love, act of passion, act of submission, shattering the last vestiges of sorrow with the power of their faith.
Thank you very much for reading. What started out as a simple idea grew in complexity and depth. It was definitely not intended to last seventeen chapters, but once I started, I realized there was a deeper story to tell. The characters evolved, as did the story they wanted to have told. I took my cues from them, so blame John, Delenn, Chimir, David, and Susan if the story didn't follow the path you thought it should (LOL).
Anyway, I appreciate the support and those who went the extra mile by sharing your thoughts by writing a comment.
Whew, I think I can take a much-needed breath now.