TITLE: Education
AUTHOR: Sabine
ARCHIVE: Anywhere
SPOILERS: "Objects in Motion" / "Objects at Rest"
SUMMARY: The meaning of devotion.
DISCLAIMER: JMS is god. Ivanova is god. I write fanfiction.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Punk cheered! Pene swooned! And also thanks to Gail
Morse and Liz Barr of Zendom fame, because I had to get off track to get back on track
SOUNDTRACK: Appropriately, Alanis Morissette, "Hands Clean"

Flat on his chest and his chin dug into his forearm, not so young anymore, not so strong,
not built for this, he thought, and his back hurt. Too long since he'd been in a module like
this. Long enough since he'd gone this way, back home.

"She still talks about you, Lennier," Captain Ivanova had said. "All the time. She forgave
you years ago."

"I haven't forgiven myself yet," Lennier had said. "Please don't tell her you've spoken
with me."

"I won't," she said, she always said. "Just know that she misses you."

"And the President?" Lennier would ask, because it was important to feel the knife twist,
to remind him. Ivanova would look away.

"John doesn't hold grudges," she'd say, but he'd been Anla'shok long enough to recognize
what was hidden in her words.

"Of course," Lennier would say. "Thank you for your time, Captain." And he'd leave her
office, or the commissary, or the lawns, and he'd feel her watching him as he walked

He spent the first three years alone. News of strange happenings on Centauri Prime kept
him clear of their space though he promised himself he would offer support to any who
needed him. Selfishly, he prayed no one would. And in the dark times when that
wounded him, when he was tired of being ignored, he drove deeper toward the outer rim,
as far as he could go until he was sick with his own insignificance.

Out there, he'd forget to eat. Forget his schooling, forget his prayers, forget to meditate.
Faint, dizzied by the thin air and his shuttle would wake him up and turn him around,
back to the nearest outpost world.

He tried to drink. It made him sick. He tried wounding himself but it never hurt enough
and the scars faded too quickly. He spent the first three years selfish, cursing his stupidity
and his fate, but when he felt his control of language slipping he knew it was time to
revisit civilization.

He spent the next three years on Earth, in school. He told himself it wasn't for the easier
access to news of the President's actions and he forced himself to read the business and
sports sections of Universe Today before turning to the front page. Centauri Prime was
getting darker by the day. The President traveled often, and Lennier didn't let himself
think about Delenn alone. The Rangers' influence grew under Sheridan's care. Lennier
studied art, mathematics, music.

The Persephone, Ivanova's ship, came home often, and whenever she was on Earth she'd
find Lennier and buy him dinner. The first time she looked for him he ignored her
communications and letters, afraid for how she'd react to his betrayal of Sheridan. When
she finally tracked him down, he was astounded to learn she hadn't heard about it.

"John doesn't tell me everything, you know," she'd said. "Plus, I think he and Delenn
would have wanted to keep this quiet. To protect you. I'm sure they know you didn't
mean it."

"We mean everything we do," Lennier said, and for a moment he was sure he saw a
shadow cross Ivanova's face. "In the moment, each of our actions is intended. It is only
our response to those actions, and the consequences of those actions, that can bring about
forgiveness. And sometimes, not even then."

"I'm sure they forgive you," she'd said. "You're Delenn's aide, her closest friend except
for the President --" Lennier bit his tongue. "She's not going to let a little thing like this --

"Not such a little thing, Captain," Lennier said. "Not for them, and certainly not for me."

The rest remained unsaid, because it wasn't simply forgiveness he sought out here across
these years and light years. Delenn would forgive him, he knew, but he could not forgive
himself until he was able to shake the feelings he had for her. Until he was able to look
into her eyes and not fell the tug of proprietary ownership. And not feel the fire in his gut.
Not flush. Not clench his fists to keep from touching her unwittingly. Until the dreams
had gone.

He graduated with honors, the first Minbari at the Sorbonne to do so. Human girls took
him to see moving pictures, and afterward they'd rest their heads on his shoulder on the
tube train and they'd invite him in when they got home. Politely, but always soundly, he
would decline.

"You mean you've never had a girlfriend?" Ivanova asked him once. Lennier nodded.
"Amazing. I mean, you're pretty cute for a Minbari."

Lennier smiled. "Thank you, I think." He didn't tell her how much it meant to him that
she said so. He didn't tell her that he was mired and biased and all strong women
reminded him of Delenn. He didn't tell her that he saw Delenn in her eyes too.

"I mean, I could understand back when you were a priest, though it never seemed to stop
Delenn --" Ivanova was saying, and broke off with a frown. "Sorry."

"It is all right," Lennier said. "It's been a long time." Someday, he knew, he would say it
didn't affect him. But still the thought of Delenn's husband brought back only one picture,
only Sheridan's face behind the reinforced glass and Lennier with his hand over the
controls. Lennier with his hand at his side. Sheridan trapped, dying. Lennier running

"Six years," Ivanova said. "And this business with Centauri Prime -- if you went back
you could rejoin the Rangers. The IA needs all the help they can get."

"No," Lennier shook his head. "I can no longer serve the Anla'shok. My betrayal of
Entil'zha sealed that fate."

Ivanova looked at him. "You just don't want to," she said. "You're afraid. Sheridan and
Delenn forgave you years ago. Ball's in your court."

Nine years, he'd promised himself. Three times three. Three alone, three in training and
he was no closer to acceptance than he'd been when he took off from the White Star in a
shuttle and didn't look back.

He was schooled now, but no wiser, and the sight of his own body grown soft and weak
disgusted him. The fighting pike was strange in his hand now and his Anla'shok robes
gathered dust in an Earth storage facility. The next time Ivanova's ship came to Earth,
Lennier asked her to take him aboard.

She taught him martial arts, human calisthenics, taught him to use a PPG, taught him to
use his own fists. She was older than he was but she still knocked him flat with ease, and
when he'd struggle to his feet, sweating, he'd see Delenn's strength in Ivanova's face.

He wanted to serve at her side, because she accepted him and because he had not
betrayed her.

"I have to go," he said, two years later. "I cannot stay here."

"Up to you," Ivanova said, her hands wrapped around a cup of coffee. She leaned on the
kitchen counter in her stateroom and tipped her head to look at him. "Where are you
gonna go?"

"I am not certain," he said. "Please thank your crew for me; they have been most kind.
And thank you, Captain. For all your help."

"You're my friend, Lennier," she said. "Anytime. And if you go to Minbar --"

Sheridan's face loomed before him, teeth clenched in anger behind the President's
perpetual inappropriate smile.

"I'm not going to Minbar," Lennier said.

She gave him a Starfury and he went to Narn.

The dreams still came, and if anything they were stronger now. Serving Ivanova had
distracted him for a time, but now, among strangers, he saw Delenn every time he closed
his eyes.

Sheridan didn't know, couldn't possibly know the depth of her personality. Couldn't
appreciate the nuances of her tenderness, the subtlety of her humor. Delenn was a
masterpiece, a symphony of strength and emotion and wit and grace. Next to her,
Sheridan was a jarhead thug hiding behind ancient victories and learned diplomacy. An
accidental hero, unworthy of the title Entil'zha next to Delenn.

Lennier rented an apartment on Narn and the last eight years sailed out the window. He
was back where he started. When he slept, he dreamed of Delenn's touch, and her face,
and he woke up wet.

One evening on the dark streets of the capital, a Narn warrior handed Lennier a copy of
the Book of G'Kar and asked if he'd read it.

"I served with G'Kar on Babylon 5," Lennier answered. "But that was a long time ago."

She dropped to her knees. "You have met the great G'Kar! Please, sir, tell me, what was
he like?"

Lennier looked at his feet. "He was...honorable," he said. "A consummate warrior, an
excellent writer and a fine man in all rights."

The warrior girl looked up at Lennier. "I know you," she said. "From these pages. You're
Mr. Lennier. You served with Ambassador Delenn."

"Yes," Lennier said.

"She is among our holiest alien figures," the girl said. "G'Kar had profound respect for

"She is worthy of profound respect," Lennier said, extending a hand to help the girl to her
feet. She looked at him squarely.

"Then you must have also served with her husband, President Sheridan," she said. "You
are truly blessed."

Lennier swallowed. "I imagine I am," he said. The wind whistled through craggy red
rocks and Lennier shivered.

"There are rumors of a dark presence on Centauri Prime," the girl said in a low voice, her
hand around the hilt of her sword. "Do you know what the President's plans are for that

Lennier raised his shoulders as he'd seen the humans do. "I have not seen the President or
Delenn for quite some time."

She nodded as if she understood. "Theirs are not matters for common folk such as you
and I. But G'Kar had faith in their union, and the Narn people have faith in this Alliance
under Sheridan and Delenn's careful command."

"Yes," Lennier said, because he couldn't think of anything else to say. She stepped a little
closer and he backed against the stone wall to let a sand rover speed past. His robes blew
against his legs.

The girl wasn't finished. "Among the Narn," she said. "There is nothing more powerful
than the union of two forces who are stronger together than apart. G'Kar saw that in
Sheridan and Delenn, the Starkiller and the Entil'zha. I would love to hear more about
them, Mr. Lennier -- if it's not too much trouble, would you be willing to come speak at
my book group this evening? I know our people would appreciate your perspective."

Lennier shook his head, his back pressed against the wall. "No, no. I can't. I apologize --"


"I apologize, Na'Quom. I cannot stay. I must --"

She grabbed his arm. "Five minutes of your time, please," she said. "Tell me what they
were like, during the war. Tell me how G'Kar served Sheridan and Delenn. Tell me about
how Sheridan and Delenn fell in love."

"I'm sure that is fully chronicled in the text," Lennier said, handing her back the book
with trembling hands. "It was very --"

"But you were there!" she said, gripping his wrist more tightly. "You served Delenn
before their union. You saw them fall in love, you were imbued with the power of their
passion and you'll be --"

Lennier couldn't listen any more, and he wrested free. "I must go. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

He tuned out her shouting as he took off down the street back to his dormitory.

The pillow couldn't shut out the sound of her voice and the curtains drawn tightly over
his windows only allowed him to see Delenn more clearly in the dark. There were
wrinkles around her mouth as she frowned at him and Sheridan was still smiling that
terrifying smile. Lennier reached for his commlink and asked the Narn central
switchboard to locate Ivanova's ship.

"I have done a terrible thing," he said when she picked up. "I need to go back. Now."

"Hey, hey, Lennier. Calm down. What happened?"

"I need a ship," he said. "I must return to Minbar and pledge my allegiance to Delenn and
the President, if they'll take me back."

Ivanova's laugh was a welcome rumble through the commlines. "Of course they will,"
she said. "So listen. I can't get back to Narn any time soon, but there's a Ranger ship on a
resupply run that should be in your sector in the morning. I'll put in a word for you, get
them to spare a transport module."

Lennier's chest tightened. "Rangers."

"They don't know what happened, Lennier," Ivanova said. "Don't worry about it."

He took a breath, drew himself to his full height. "Then I will tell them," he said. "The
Anla'shok are trained in forgiveness. Enough time has passed."

"Good for you," Ivanova said.

He lay flat on his chest, his chin digging into his forearm, fingers tracing the module
controls. The Anla'shok had not spoken to him for the two days he was aboard their ship,
but that wasn't important now. His back hurt, he'd been awake for nearly forty-eight
hours and he was still several thousand lightyears from home.

He'd been so foolish, all those years, serving her. He hadn't known the meaning of
servitude, and he had certainly not understood the meaning of love until he saw it
reflected back at him in the Narn girl's eyes.

Because Delenn was beautiful, yes, breathtakingly so, and his stomach still tangled when
he thought of her hands, her neck, her lyrical laugh. And still he ached for her, but he
knew that he could no longer expect that to pass, ever. So he would embrace it, make it
part of him, make it easier to serve her and her husband, to follow them wherever their
destiny might lead.

Because he loved her like fire but he respected her more, and he never hated Sheridan,
not really. It was simply that, like the Narn girl, Lennier had seen in their union
something so powerful it hurt to touch it, and it hurt more to know that he never could.

Foolishly, he'd thought that letting Sheridan die would soothe the pain, but the truth was
it would only make it worse. Because the universe had conspired to bring Delenn and
Sheridan together, and the universe would fight back if something interfered.

So, instead, he would love them both.

The module sped on toward Minbar, and Lennier closed his eyes. He had thought of
sending a message ahead to announce his arrival, but the words wouldn't come and he
knew he had to see her face.

They had a son now. David. Eight years old and already training with the Anla'shok,
Ivanova said. Lennier looked forward to meeting him.

"Hello, David," he'd say. "I'm an old friend of your parents'."