"What are you staring at?" Delenn asked, the corner of her mouth quirked up in a vague smile. She almost always wore that vague smile these days, and it was one of the many things John found himself staring at. The faint bulge that had begun to poke through her robes was another; also the glossy spill of her hair, the soft fullness of her cheeks, the tantalizing hints of cleavage even her formal robes couldn't quite conceal. He stared at her a lot these days, and he loved when she noticed, because it gave him an excuse to kiss that cleavage, those pretty pink cheeks; to nuzzle the back of her neck and breathe in the scent of her hair; to run his hand possessively over that faint bulge.
John had expected to feel homesick – for Earth, for space, most especially for Babylon 5. He'd expected to find Minbar dreary and cold and strange. He'd expected to be treated like some kind of intruder. But so far he'd been welcomed, by inhabitants and planet alike. He loved the location of the Alliance headquarters and their own personal rooms, nestled between two mountain peaks. There was nothing quite like waking up in the morning and going out to the balcony, looking down at the city below, watching it slowly appear out of the morning mist. He loved the clean, crisp air. He loved the shocking bursts of color, always surprising – a stunted, twisted tree with bright yellow blossoms peeking out of a crack in a glacier; an acolyte hurrying to temple, a blood-orange sash tied around the waist of her white robes; a dusky slate-gray bird resting outside their bedroom window, its belly a shade of blue exactly the color of the sky on a hot Earth summer's day.
"John," she said again, narrowing her eyes at him. "You are beginning to make me feel self-conscious."
"I was just thinking about how much I'd like to take you back to bed," he said, which was always the truth, even if it weren't precisely the reason he'd been studying her.
"Do you think of anything else?"
"No," he admitted, grinning at her, loving how after all this time she still blushed a little. Then he did consider it for a few moments, but they both had meetings this morning. And he had a meeting later on that was a sham, something to fill up his schedule and give him an excuse to run around the city without her becoming suspicious.
Delenn didn't really care for surprises, which of course meant John loved surprising her as often as possible. They finished their breakfast, he kissed her for a little while, and he got his first two meetings out of the way. Then he was on the hunt. And trying to find what he needed in Tuzanor, whether it was ingredients for dinner or more obscure items like today, was always a bit like a scavenger hunt. He did end up finding the last few odds and ends he'd been looking for, though at one point he had to call one of his aides to help him figure out how to get back home.
He didn't bother trying to make anything fancy for dinner. Delenn preferred her flowers to be alive and in the ground outside where they belonged. She wasn't particularly keen on jewelry. He'd bought her chocolates once and she'd eaten them with the tight-lipped smile he recognized from the time she'd pretended to like his flarn. All in all, she made it tough for him, she really did.
He heard her come home. "John?" she called, and he met her in the entryway. She was tugging off her outer robe, and he gave her a hand. "I'm glad you're here," she said.
"No, just…difficult. And long." He pressed soft kisses on her temple, down her cheek, along her jaw. She sighed and pressed herself against him. John held her, thinking not for the first time that he was quite possibly the luckiest man to have ever lived.
"Did you want to eat first, or do you want me to draw you a nice hot bath?" he asked, rubbing her back. She hummed a little in thought, her breath tickling his neck.
"Both," she said, and he knew she was only joking, so he took great pleasure in leading her back to the bedroom, drawing a bath, and undressing her. He liked to treat it like a ritual, kissing each new area of skin as it was exposed, taking his time, running reverent hands all over. John helped her into the big tub, even though she wouldn't actually need his help for a few months yet. Then he got their plates, and sat down right on the floor next to her; she smiled as they ate, that smile that said she hated to let him indulge her just as much as she secretly loved it.
He dried her off and rubbed oil onto her belly, and wrapped her up in her silky home robes. "Let's sit outside," he suggested, knowing that since she was all warm and full she'd be amenable to nearly anything he'd suggest. Delenn was observant, and he knew she wouldn't fail to notice the bow he'd attached to the door of one of the rooms they hadn't found a use for yet as they walked that way.
"John?" She reached out and touched the bow with a careful finger, as though it were going to bite her.
"Happy Mother's Day," he said, enjoying watching each emotion play itself out on her face. Her eyes widened just a little – surprise. That faint smile – pleasure. A glance his way under lowered lashes – suspicion.
"I am not yet a mother," she said, precise as always.
"Semantics," he said, opening the door. She stayed right where she was. "A technicality."
"This is an Earth holiday?"
"I know that you know that it is. Don't pretend that you didn't look up every single Earth holiday after what happened last Christmas."
"It is not my fault that your…Christmas toe looks like a poisonous Minbari plant."
"Yes, John. Mother's Day isn't for another three days." Those suspicious eyes again, and she was killing him. Why hadn't she gone into the room yet? What was she waiting for? "You haven't filled that room with chocolates, have you?"
"In three days you'll be getting ready for your trip to Yedor, and in five days I'll be leaving for the Narn homeworld. Tonight is the last night for awhile we'll have to ourselves. Delenn, will you please just go inside?"
But she still didn't move. She touched the bow, pushing it against the door and watching it spring back. Her eyes were thoughtful. "Why do you give me gifts, John?"
"Is that a trick question?" She just looked at him. "Because I love you."
"But I already know that. This makes four occasions each year where you will feel it necessary to give me gifts? John."
"I want to."
"I know," she said, sounding exasperated. She smoothed her hands over the front of his shirt, and he could tell she was doing her best to choose her words carefully. "And I appreciate the sentiment, I do. But it is…extravagant. You will feel as though you must do something different each time, something bigger and better." John started to protest, but she cut him off. "I know you. You will drive yourself to distraction trying to surpass your previous efforts. That is not what I want."
John nodded slowly, trying to ignore the way her words stung. She must have seen it in his face anyway, because her hands were there on his cheeks, making sure he was looking right at her. "That you take the time to get lost in the city looking for just the right crystal means so much to me." John frowned at her. "Your aides did not betray you. I was contacted by three separate people hoping to lend their assistance. You…stick out, I think is the expression."
"The gesture means as much, if not more to me, than the gift itself. Do you understand? That you set aside a day and wished to show me how much you loved me – I need nothing more than that." John kissed her, doing his best to show her how much he loved her just with this – his mouth claiming hers, his arms tight around her, wishing like always that he never had to let her go.
"Delenn. Please come look inside." It wasn't the first time he'd kissed her into his way of thinking, and she let him take her by the hand and lead her in.
John stood in the doorway and watched her make a slow circuit of the small room. There were three high, narrow little windows on the far wall, letting in gaudy sunset light. In front of the center window he had hung the mobile he'd spent the last month making. (Well, paying other people to make on his behalf.) He'd run out to find the last little crystal today, and Delenn gently touched it now – len'task, a silvery mineral that looked more like a metal than anything else, but it allowed the light to pass through it clearly, casting a bright glow on Delenn's face. It was traditionally used by the Warrior Caste in their ceremonial weapons; John couldn't help but hope that his son would be a warrior.
"One of the chains is empty," she pointed out.
"It'll depend on when he's born. Whatever month it is back on Earth, he'll have a certain birthstone." He knew she'd like that – Minbari loved tradition more than just about anything else. She continued her survey of the room.
John hadn't wanted to make all the decisions on his own, so the walls were still bare. But there was a chest on the floor that she knelt by, and seeing her unconsciously put one hand under her protruding belly as she did so made his throat feel a little tight. The chest was plain, put together from bone-white driftwood. Inside were two toys – one was a Minbari toy that didn't look like a toy at all but some kind of medieval torture instrument. Delenn grinned when she saw it, and took it out and vaguely shook it. "I had one just like this when I was a child," she said.
"Just like it?"
She nodded, examining it, and the smile on her face died. She ran her fingers over the handle. "I made these marks. The pictogram of my clan." Delenn looked up at him then, something almost like fear on her face.
"You told me that when you became an acolyte, you gathered your childhood things and gave them to the temple to be dispersed. I tried to track them down; this is the only one I found." She studied the toy again, and he wasn't sure what she was thinking. John still had the tendency to want to fill a silence up, so he bit his tongue and stood still. The light streaming through the mobile crystals spread over the walls, an aurora contained right here in this room. A blue fan was spread over Delenn's back; her dark hair was falling in loose waves; her profile seemed too perfect to be real, a painting done by one of the great masters – altogether John had the feeling he was catching a glimpse of something no mortal man should ever see. She was an elf queen, wise and mysterious, terrible and beautiful; he shivered a little.
Delenn didn't see him shiver; she pulled out the other item in the chest. She sniffed the leather, experimentally put her hand inside. "My old ball mitt," he explained, not sure if she recognized what it was.
"How did you get it out through the quarantine?"
"I didn't. It's been in my foot locker since I left for the Academy."
Delenn replaced the mitt in the chest and closed the lid. She knelt there a few moments longer, and it looked to him like she was meditating. Smoothing her hands over the lid, her voice was thick and tear-stained. "John." He stepped toward her, ready to hold out a hand, but she ignored it and stood on her own. "John," she said again; he didn't think she'd ever said his name with recrimination and reproach.
He was the one to put his hands on her face. "What did you say once? If I had to lie on a beach with nothing to do, my head would explode. You have no idea how much I look forward to an opportunity to do something really special for you. Four times a year isn't enough; I'd do it every day if I could."
Delenn shook her head, tears spilling out onto her cheeks; John kissed them away, then covered her mouth with his own, swallowing whatever protest she was going to make. Then he whispered against her lips. "I know exactly how many Mother's Days I'm going to have with you. I just want them all to be perfect." She nodded, and he knew how much it pained her to do so. Her arms went around him tightly, her fingers digging into his back and it almost hurt, but it was good.
Fierce hugs gave way to equally fierce kisses, and he drew her down to the floor. They christened the nursery in the same way they'd made the child who would one day live in it. John watched her face as she moved above him. The sunlight had finally died away, and the moons hadn't yet risen; he could catch only tantalizing glimpses of her eyes shining down on him. The warmth of her mouth pressed against his was a benediction. Afterward they laid there, the carpet soft beneath them. Delenn drew symbols on his chest, Minbari words he didn't know, but understood all the same.
"Stars," he said, and Delenn leaned up to look at him – he couldn't see the look, but he knew exactly what it was anyway. "Look," he told her, gesturing up at the ceiling. She put her head back down on his shoulder, and he smiled at her indrawn breath. He'd painted the ceiling a dark blue nearly black, and supervised the workers who'd installed the twinkling little lights all over. "If you stood on the back porch of my childhood home and looked up into the night sky, that's what you'd see." The night watched them both as he pointed out the constellations.