Title taken from the Harry Chapin song 'Corey's Coming'
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
The Minbari have a saying: Laughter breaks a kiss but heals a heart.
Delenn had been out to visit the fleet a dozen times already. The written progress reports she received were adequate, but she felt it was important to give the project her personal attention. At the same time her presence provided the Anla'Shok with moral support. The ships were being added a squadron at a time, and test missions were run at each expansion. It was important that the fleet be ready to act both efficiently and as a unit when they were called on to participate in the coming struggle.
She had taken John on a shuttle to the White Star. At first he'd continued voicing his complaints, but soon he settled into an exhausted trance, staring out the window at the distant stars. Once aboard the White Star, the ship swiftly moved away from the station and entered the blind rush of hyperspace, traveling to the rendezvous point only a couple of jumps away. It felt as if time were both flying past and crawling by. She wished that the journey would never end, and at the same time, that they were already there.
Once in hyperspace, John had roused himself to again tease her with questions, trying to find out their destination. Delenn had merely asked for his patience, and he had granted it, falling silent. It was easy to be silent with him. John Sheridan was a man of action, used to command, adept at looking at the broad outline of history and at developing overarching strategies of war and of peace. Delenn found it remarkable; this ability to keep an expansive view in mind, while at the same time focusing on the immediate task. It was like a type of meditation. Even more remarkable was his ability to simply be still. As the chaos and tension in their lives ebbed and flowed with the progress of the war, she valued that more and more. It was important that they connect in the stillness. That was where intimacy was found; in stillness, and in laughter. Of late both of these had been in short supply.
The last few days it seemed their relationship had changed, both deepening and expanding. The change had begun after the men of faith had arrived on the station, carrying their information on the situation back on Earth. Before their visit, John had been distant, absorbed in his conduct of the war. Ivanova had taken over as much of the running of the station as she could, but some of that work had still fallen to John. His responsibilities multiplied, and multiplied again, keeping him fully occupied. It was necessary, but it was not wise.
Delenn had tried over and over again to distract him, to allow him the time necessary to process all that was going on. He needed that time to re-center himself so that he did not lose himself in the work. She had been preoccupied with the Rangers and the League, but had repeatedly put aside time to spend with John in an attempt to ease his burden, only to be kindly but firmly rejected. She had been shut out, and it had hurt. But then all that had changed.
Looking over at John's long form stretched out in the command chair of the White Star, she saw his eyes had closed. Delenn wondered if he had fallen asleep. Abruptly she turned away; once already she had watched him sleep, her hidden intentions subverting and compromising the ritual. She had vowed not to do so again. The next time she would speak, and he would understand her actions.
Resuming her vigil at his side, Delenn thought back to the realization that had brought them here. He had sought out her company and requested her input, and it had touched her more than she could say. It was time, past time for her to open up and reveal what was hidden. All the secrets made her uneasy. The more John treated her as trusted partner, the more difficult it was to keep information from him. As hard as it was for her to share knowledge, it was equally hard for him to share uncertainty.
"Are we there yet?" John's voice was stretched and extended by a mighty yawn. Smiling up at her, his face was creased with sleep, eyes still half shut, lashes soft against his cheek. This easy familiarity sent a thrill through her. She had a sudden vision of his face relaxed in sleep as he listened to the sounds of falling rain, and her own face softened in response.
"Almost," she replied, restraining herself from smoothing his hair, slightly tousled from his nap.
John got up and walked around the back of the chair, looking at the silent crew and blinking lights. Quiet efficiency marked the Minbari workers, and there was nothing for him to do. So he joined Delenn, who was standing by the command chair, leaning on the arm, and said again, with barely leashed curiosity, "I wish you would tell me what this is all about, Delenn."
"It is a surprise," she replied, looking forward to the revelation.
After the briefest of explanatory preludes, and on the receipt of a subtle signal from the navigator, Delenn gave the command to leave hyperspace. Wonder and relief filled John's eyes at the sight of the multitude of ships floating outside the viewport. She rejoiced in his pleasure, all the while dutifully explaining the existence of the fleet and the reasons for its concealment. His appreciation was heartfelt, with no hint of resentment.
Hope, dimmed by weeks and months of endless retreat and retrenchment, flared between them. Delenn chafed at the restraints still incumbent on her, restraints that continued to keep them apart. She wished fervently for an end to barriers, and to secrecy, and to war. Especially the war; she hated it, and hated it most for what it was doing to the man she loved.
Oh yes, she loved him. That was the truth and unexpected wonder of it. Delenn had admitted it to herself long ago, but tradition and her native reticence warned against saying the words; not out loud, and not to him. Not yet.
"I don't know what to say," John said, his eyes full of gratitude, relief, and something more.
He looked so young, and so happy. She found herself drawn in, closer and closer, like a planet falling out of its orbit, spiraling in towards the sun it circled. Barely able to conceal the desire that threatened to consume her, Delenn longed to touch him. Say nothing, she thought to herself. Do nothing. Caution held her back. It would be like touching the sun. She would burn, and lose herself in the fire.
"Then say nothing," she replied, echoing her internalized admonition. Their worlds lay between them; a war lay before them. It was not the time or place. It was never the right time, or the right place. Unable to stop herself, Delenn gently touched his cheek with the back of her hand. His skin was as warm as her hands were cold. And John reached out for her, pulling her into his embrace, enfolding her in his world.
Delenn remained vaguely aware of the other Minbari on the bridge of the ship. But as she fitted herself against him, the hum of the machines and the quiet rustle of their robes receded from her conscious mind. When his lips sought and finally found hers, that other world disappeared. The fleet, the ship, the crew, the war...Nothing remained, nothing except the two of them. A sudden wild joy blazed through her, and she suppressed an unlooked-for smile of sheer happiness. Laughter threatened to break the kiss she'd waited for so long. Later, soon, afterward, always...they would have an eternity to laugh. Together.