One: A Knife in the Dark
"Attention. We are making our final approach. Please turn off all electronics and hyper relays, stow all carry-ons, drop any refuse into the aisle incinerators, and make sure your harness is securely fastened. We thank you for flying Omnia Transports. Welcome to Babylon 5."
Anyenn dutifully put his reader away. There had been words on the screen, and occasionally he had swiped at the corner to turn the page, but he hadn't been reading. The reader had been for the benefit of the other passengers, for anyone who might have glanced his way. It was important that he blend in and look like everyone else. Just another traveler, reading through a book that was probably boring, but a better way to pass the time than staring into space (literal or otherwise), or striking up an awkward conversation with a stranger. Just another traveler, like the hundreds who came to the station every day; merchants, hoping to sell their wares; itinerants, looking for a new home; con artists, planning new scams daily. Though Anyenn was none of those things. He was a believer, one of the faithful, a scion of his clan. Anyenn was a Warrior.
"ID card, please," the security guard inside the docking bay said, bored, not even bothering to look at Anyenn's face. The card was scanned, an acceptable light flashed, and then Anyenn was walking through the docking bay and into the station.
He knew he would never be leaving the station again. Not upright and under his own power, at any rate. The thought filled him with a vague and curious joy.
He had a room reserved, and he went there now. Tiny, with only a small bed built into the wall, a table and chair, a few drawers for belongings. Anyenn unpacked his bag - two changes of clothes went into the drawers, he placed a stone from his temple on the table, and the reason he was here he put under the mattress of the bed. He patted the spot reverently. Soon.
Anyenn would be patient. It would not do to rush, though he did not fear the woman at all, a weak, spineless thing, no doubt, like the rest of her caste. For the rest of this day, he walked through the station, putting the reality together with the maps and diagrams he'd memorized. Green Sector was the most important, so he spent the most time there. A panoply of alien species, a never-ending parade of faces. Ugly faces – Drazi, Centauri, Narn, the few Humans that ventured into this section. All ugly, all revolting to him on such a visceral level that he had a difficult time hiding his disgust. There, a Markab and a Minbari talking, smiling, even embracing – a travesty. Anyenn felt his hands clench into fists, felt his breathing quicken. Would that he could march over to them, thrust the Markab violently away, and ask his brother why he polluted himself in such a way... But that would draw attention, far too much attention. He could not afford even a second of such indulgence.
Ugliness everywhere. A sweltering curtain hanging all around, made of grossly large features, rough scales and sweaty skin, hair and claws and tentacles and the universe knew what else. Anyenn bought tea – weak, nearly tasteless, and he let it go cold. Its only purpose was to make him look as though he were there for a reason. Instead, he looked, and listened, and waited.
On the third day he saw her.
A Council meeting, another damned Council meeting, yet John realized he was actually looking forward to it. Londo would be screaming, G'Kar would be screaming, some of the other ambassadors would scream not even knowing why they were screaming...but it would be okay. He would deal with it, and even enjoy it in a perverse way. And the reason he would enjoy it smiled at him as he entered the Council chambers, that warm smile that he liked to imagine was a little warmer when she directed it at him.
"And how has your day been, Captain?" Delenn asked him as he sat beside her.
"Good, good." It had been anything but. A minor crash in the cargo bay had led to fighting that had nearly bordered on a riot; two calls from EarthDome had tested the very limits of his patience; a passenger ship called in, stranded and out of fuel six hours from the nearest jump gate; and that was just what had been on his plate before noon. But his day was good now, and John wondered not for the first time what exactly was going on between him and the Minbari ambassador. "Looking forward to the meeting?"
She gave him a look at that, something between resignation and amusement. "I will say one thing with regards to the other members of the Council," she said in that melodious voice of hers, that accent that never failed to make every single word something to hang onto. "They never fail to entertain."
This afternoon was no exception. Screaming, yes, and recriminations, threats, and a brief moment where it seemed physical violence were on the menu. John was able to forestall what would probably have been a hell of a show, though he'd broken his gavel. Now, finally, everyone was leaving. Dark looks, mutters, curses in alien languages as though everyone didn't know all the different curses at this point – he wondered how they ever got anything done. He lingered, leaning against the wall behind the main table, using the angle and opportunity to study Delenn's profile as she made her notes. When he'd been en route from the Agamemnon to Babylon 5, he'd been sent dossiers on the chief ambassadors. Delenn's picture and bio then had, of course, indicated a fully Minbari woman. Attractive for a Minbari, he'd thought at the time, mindful even then of the cruel equivocation. For a Minbari. Would he be quite so infatuated now if she were still as she had been, a Minbari through and through?
He didn't know. He didn't like to think about it, worrying that exploring that thought would reveal him as shallow, maybe even bigoted. He liked to think that nothing would be different, but sometimes he felt he was still stuck in that moment after she'd pulled back her hood, revealing dark hair surrounding a bone crest, a face no different from the picture he'd seen and yet utterly changed because of the context of her transformation. In that moment, he'd felt his heart stop, his world shift from one paradigm to the next, ten years of guilt and triumph and a world forever changed slam into his gut with almost tangible force, and the first glimmer of desire since the Icarus had been lost. Could any man ever truly overcome such a moment?
"Why are you staring at me, Captain Sheridan?" she asked, startling him. And he had been staring at her, so intently he hadn't even seen her notice. She finished up her notes and stood, smiling that enigmatic little smile that sometimes kept him up at night, in more ways than one.
"Do you want to have dinner tonight?" he blurted without thinking. John hadn't planned on asking, and she certainly hadn't expected to hear the question. He could tell by the way her eyes widened, the way the enigmatic smile slid off her face. "If you're busy, or..." he said lamely, and dear God was it good to see her shake her head immediately, even violently.
"No! No. No, I'm not busy," Delenn stammered out, and a delicious blush spread over her cheeks. "Would we be eating at the Fresh Air again?"
That was a good question. Part of John wanted to say yes, so she'd wear that black dress again. The number of times he'd jerked off to a fantasy that started with him taking that black dress off... But that was a dangerous path. If he were just one of the many EarthForce soldiers posted to the station, and she were just one Minbari resident among many, then he'd jump in feet first. But it was just too complicated, the way things were. Getting involved with her would be a mistake, no matter how much he sometimes wanted to convince himself otherwise. Asking her out to dinner was probably a mistake, too; when she'd invited him out on a date, she hadn't known she was asking him out on a date. He knew exactly what he was doing. So he changed his game plan.
"No, not at the Fresh Air. Nothing that fancy. I was just going to grab something on my way back to my office, if you wanted to join me." He didn't know why he wanted her to be disappointed at that, but she wasn't. Delenn just nodded and smiled.
"I would be happy to. I want to drop these off at my quarters first." She picked up her notes as she stood, a single graceful move.
He followed her out of the Council chambers, one hand hovering behind the small of her back without actually touching it; he wanted to guide her, but he didn't know what Minbari thought of such displays of chivalry, if they even had such a concept. They stopped in front of the lift and she turned to look at him, a quizzical expression on her face. A hint of a smile regardless.
"What?" He was completely lost. She always managed to make him feel like this, like he was a dumb teenager again who'd forgotten how to speak English.
"Where are you going?" The hint was something more now, the glow of the sun peeking out over the horizon. John had the obscure sense that she was teasing him.
"I was going to walk with you back to your quarters." Now she grinned at him, placed a hand on his arm for just a heartbeat.
"I thought you were going to stop and pick up a meal?" she asked, and she was definitely teasing him, and it was pretty damned unfair, he thought, since he didn't know how to tease her back.
"I was," he said, aware of the lift doors opening behind her.
"While you do that, I'll drop off my things and change out of these robes. I'll meet you at your office." She was going to change out of her robes…into what? Had he somehow managed to give her the wrong idea? Was he actually okay with her having the wrong idea? Had he decided the wrong idea was the right idea? Goddamned girls, they always did this to him, no matter how old he was.
"Did you want me to pick you something up?"
"That was the idea."
"Should I buy a Minbari…" He waved his hand in the air. He didn't have a clue what Minbari food was called. Gokk? No, that was a cat.
"Whatever you are buying, buy two." Delenn stepped into the lift and threw what could only be defined as a sultry look over her shoulder as the doors closed. Unfair, unfair, totally and completely unfair. She knew exactly what she was doing, she had to. Some things were universal.
It was with a spring in his step that John turned and headed back to Blue Sector.
Delenn took her time walking back to her quarters, trying to decide what she would wear. It had been the year before she'd confirmed herself as a member of the Religious caste and took her vows as an acolyte, the year each Minbari took to visit the planet, experiment and experience, to learn about themselves and the world, when she had last felt this...this...happy. Giddy, even. That year had also been the last year she'd worried about how she would appear to a male, the last year she'd fretted about which robes and what color. And now she had this infernal hair to deal with as well; for their evening at the Fresh Air, she had spent a solid standard hour just doing her hair. Ridiculous. And yet... She would gladly spend twice as long if it meant she would see that look on his face again, that look he'd worn as she'd approached his table. Stunned, appreciative, perhaps even desiring.
That is enough, Delenn, she chided herself. When she had invited Captain Sheridan to dinner, she had told him she wished to learn more about Humans, and that had been the truth. Then. That she'd had a wonderful evening, had forgotten her objective, and had become only interested in learning more about him was an unacceptable distraction for one of her station. She would change out of her formal robes, yes, but quickly and without fanfare. Then she would take a few moments to meditate, and regain her focus.
Delenn turned a corner, the long final corridor leading to her quarters. This section of Green Sector always seemed rather crowded. A Markab and a Narn were whispering, their hushed voices alone communicating more worry and suspicion than their words ever could; a Minbari held a reader, lounging beside a closed door; two Centauri were walking briskly her way and laughing their boisterous laughs as loudly as if they were alone.
All thoughts of focus, of distraction, even of Captain Sheridan, who never seemed to leave her thoughts for long these days, fled on swift wings. Delenn was sure her footsteps faltered for just a moment. She let her fingers loosen, and a sheet of paper slipped out of her hands and fell to the floor. She took another step, then stopped and turned to retrieve it. As she knelt, she glanced at the corridor behind. A split-second, but that's all she needed. She saw the backs of the Centauri; she saw the Markab and Narn, brows knitted, eyes glaring her way; she saw the Minbari, still reading, apparently unaware of her presence.
But that was a lie. Delenn turned and headed back in the direction of her quarters, her fingers gone cold. The Minbari was well-trained, but she had seen the way he'd angled his body as she'd passed, to keep an eye on her. And as she continued to walk, she sensed more than heard the Minbari start to follow her. She could continue past her door and enter the lift just beyond, but that risked putting her in a small enclosed space with the stranger. She could call security, but there was no telling how long they would take to respond. No, it was better to meet him on familiar ground. Delenn slipped her entry card out of her robes.
She had seen the stranger two days ago, in the Zocalo. He had been reading then, too, sitting at a table with a cup of tea in front of him. There were often new Minbari on the station; some came to visit her, to ask their questions, or simply to attempt to ingratiate themselves. The stranger had not, but that was not so unusual. Hers was a busy schedule, and she could not meet with everyone. Now Delenn wondered how many other times he had been there, keeping track of her comings and goings, and she simply had not seen. Her head had been too full of stars, remembering the way the Captain had smiled at her that morning, replaying the smallest of gestures – his fingers nervously tapping on the table; unzipping the collar of his jacket, his throat revealed; his hand raking through his hair. How many times had the stranger been right there in front of her eyes, though her eyes had seen nothing?
Delenn entered, the door swinging shut immediately after. She sighed a little in relief, and set her papers down on the counter. Perhaps she was just paranoid. She had become so used to people staring and pointing and following, maybe she was now imagining the attention when it didn't exist. "Lock doors," she announced, and the quiet click was more reassuring than she might have thought. "Call Captain Sheridan's quarters," she continued, meaning to tell him she would not be able to join him for dinner after all. Then she said no more, because by then she could hear the stranger's breathing.
She said buy two of whatever he was getting, but he didn't know what she liked. They'd eaten veal parmigiana (which had actually been flavored and pressed tofu and grain) and little fried pastries dipped in chocolate and garlic bread and some Centauri honeyed concoction when they'd dined at the Fresh Air, and it seemed that she liked it all. But he just didn't know – Anna had claimed to love peanut butter ice cream, his favorite, the first two years he'd known her until she'd finally confessed she hated it, had always hated it, and would always hate it. So John picked up two of quite a few different things. A couple slices of pizza, a couple salads, a couple big containers of spicy noodle soup – whatever she didn't want, he'd just send on to Garibaldi.
A minute to stow his jacket in the closet, to tidy up his desk, and to check on the station's status. John sat down, and looked through the ubiquitous paperwork. No matter how many docs he signed or passed off or even tossed, there never seemed to be an end to it. Might as well put this time waiting for Delenn to good use. He was halfway through the preliminary schedule for next week when the dulcet tones of the computer's voice rang out.
"Call from Ambassador Delenn." John sat his pen down with a sigh. This didn't bode well. "Put it through," he told the computer.
For a moment he heard nothing, and he stood and walked to the screen. Her quarters, but they were empty. John drew a breath to say her name, but before he could speak he heard a voice, a male voice. The voice spoke Minbari, and he didn't understand the words, but he didn't need to – he could hear the contempt, the hate dripping off every syllable. Was this the kind of shit she had to put up with on a regular basis? He knew some Minbari weren't happy with her transformation, but he had no idea it was like this. He didn't blame her for wanting to cancel, assuming that's why she'd called.
Then he heard several things in close succession. Delenn gasping; the sound of breaking glass; unnerving thuds. "Delenn? Delenn!" he shouted, but he saw and heard nothing else. John grabbed his PPG and was running through his office's vestibule when he heard a scream thick with pain, whose it was he couldn't tell, and then he was out the door. After the initial shock, his mind had cleared considerably; now it was just a matter of running, of punching a button on his link, of ordering security to Delenn's quarters, of advising them of the situation as far as he knew it.
It usually took him around twenty minutes to walk from his office down to Green Sector. He made it in eight.
Walking down the corridor, and there were any number of aliens milling about or standing in their doorways, doing their best to rubberneck. Security personnel and a Minbari nurse ran into Delenn's rooms up ahead; now that he was here, John felt dread pool in his gut like ice water. The gawkers made a path for him. It seemed the corridor grew longer and longer, her door up ahead never coming any closer no matter how much he walked.
It took a second after he entered to realize what he was looking at, and then he let out the breath he'd been holding in one long, shuddery exhalation. Broken things here and there. A figure covered in a dark sheet, though blood stained the carpet underneath. Delenn, sitting in a chair, calmly watching the nurse begin to stitch up a cut on her forearm. The cut looked shallow, but John still felt his heart leap up into his throat.
"Delenn?" She looked up at him, and for a split-second he thought he saw fear in her eyes – not residual fear from whatever had happened here, but fear directed at him, as though she were afraid of him – but then she just looked away, seemingly aloof.
"I'm fine," she said in answer to his unspoken question, her voice quiet and calm. The Minbari nurse looked up at John, a look that in other circumstances might even have been funny. It was a look one parent might give another, that said, she is not fine, but I can't argue with her anymore – you try. John turned to the man standing next to him and was surprised to see it was Zack. He hadn't even noticed him when he'd first come in.
"Can I have a minute?" he asked. Zack nodded, gave the others a jerk of his head toward the door, and within thirty seconds John was alone with her.
Delenn smoothed her fingers over the bandage the nurse had wound around her forearm. The sleeve of her robe was ripped open; it hung from her arm in ragged strips. Smears of blood still on her skin. John approached her gingerly, wanting to hug her so badly that not hugging her was almost painful.
"What happened?" he asked as gently as possible. She shook her head before she spoke, and he knew with a sudden rush of intuition that whatever she told him wouldn't be the truth.
"He asked to speak with me. This is not at all unusual. Once he was inside my quarters, though, he became quite…unsettled. I fear he may have had a mental illness. When I could not answer his questions to his satisfaction, he attacked me. I defended myself." John had thought she was avoiding his eye, but that wasn't the case. She was avoiding the body still on the floor. And then John got it – she had never killed anyone before. He'd seen that look many times on the faces of countless soldiers after they'd pulled the trigger for the first time. A wave of affection and sympathy rolled over him, and he put a hand on her shoulder. Delenn only accepted the gesture for a moment, though, before she stood and walked away, presenting him with her back. In Council meetings she always seemed so fierce, almost larger-than-life; now she looked so very small and fragile.
"Are you all right?" he asked, and this time she didn't answer. "You shouldn't stay here tonight. Why don't you pack a bag? You can stay with me."
"No," she said, voice firm. "I will rent a room."
"Are you sure? I just…you don't have to be alone." Delenn turned back to him then. A smile on her face, but it was sad, resigned. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she just shook her head.
Stephen was typing up his notes when John joined him in Medlab's morgue. The body of Delenn's attacker was now covered by a clean white sheet, looking much more at home in these sterile surroundings than it had in a pool of blood on her floor.
"You wanted to see me?" John asked. It wasn't much of a question; he would have followed up on this regardless. But Stephen's message had been odd, the doctor sounding strange to John's ears. Stephen pushed himself away from the console but didn't look John's way. What the hell is going on?
"Let's take a look," Stephen said, going to the body and pulling back the sheet. It was John's first good look. A Minbari male, tall and whip-thin. There was the familiar wavy blue line down the top of his head, marred by a darker blue bruise that ran down to his right eye. A few cuts within the bruise. John looked a question at Stephen. "She hit him over the head with something. Glass shards – probably a vase or something similar."
It was interesting, looking at the body, using it to figure out what had happened. Delenn had cold-cocked the guy first, and then she'd used a knife, probably the same knife the nut had cut her with, to open up the Minbari's throat. The wound was now pink and clean, but now John understood why there'd been so much damned blood all over her carpet.
"He tried to stab her," John said quietly. Anger filled his mouth, tasting like bile. He had the sudden urge to drag the corpse off the gurney and kick it. "She let him into her home and he tried to kill her."
Stephen lifted up a knife from an instrument tray nearby. A kitchen knife, wrapped in a plastic bag; John had one just like it. "Delenn said he went for this. It had been lying on the counter. He cut her arm, she hit him, and then she grabbed the knife herself." John nodded, but saw that more was forthcoming.
"What is it, Stephen?"
"This knife didn't kill him." John thought on that for a moment. Stephen turned away, busied himself with tidying up a morgue that was already well-tidied.
"Are you sure?" he asked. Looking at the wound, it was hard to tell how anyone could determine just what kind of knife would have done it.
"I'm sure. See how this knife had a broad base, then tapers down? The blade that made that wound was thin all along its length. More like a dagger than a butcher knife."
"So she handed you the wrong knife. She was in shock."
Stephen turned, and John saw with faint surprise that the doctor looked angry. "That knife came here along with the body, absolutely dripping with blood. His blood. No one just grabbed the wrong knife, and there wasn't another one in the room that had also just been used as a murder weapon."
"Hey, we're not talking about murder. This was self-defense." Stephen said nothing. He didn't have to; what he thought was written all over his face. "She called me just before it happened," John said in response. "I heard it. He was shouting at her, what I don't know. Then I heard the attack. It played out just like I said."
Stephen had a faint smile on his face, and it looked condescending, even patronizing, to John. "Delenn wouldn't kill someone," John insisted. "Not in cold blood, at any rate."
"I'm not making any claims as to what she may or may not have done," Stephen said, whatever smug smile there might have been now gone. "All I know is that when Zack and his boys showed up, she told us it had been a minute or two but no more since she'd ended the attack, which fits with the time when you called security. And when they arrived, they found that knife on the floor next to the body, covered in his blood. And I can tell you for a fact that knife didn't kill him."
John had always had a bad habit, ever since he'd been a little kid. When he heard something he didn't like, he just ignored it. If his mom asked him to clean his room and he didn't want to, he just blocked off the part of his brain that had heard her request until, ten minutes later, he could honestly say he'd never heard her ask. Most days he heard nothing but what he didn't want to hear, and had to deal with all his problems like the goddamned adult he was. But today, at this moment, he didn't want to hear what Stephen was telling him. He didn't want to connect any of the dots the doctor had laid out.
So John left without saying another word.
It didn't do any good, though. He kept working it over in his mind, replaying those few seconds he'd heard of the fight. The man's voice, and then…had he heard Delenn gasp out that scared little gasp first? Or had he heard the broken glass? Now he couldn't remember. If Susan had been there listening, she could have recalled each individual nuance and moment without a struggle, but already the call was fading away from his memory, all except for that gasp, that breathy little gasp. There'd been real fear in that sound, he'd bet his life on it. He didn't know what Stephen thought had happened – that she'd faked the whole thing? Called John just prior to establish a "witness" to her version of events? He felt dirty just thinking it; he'd only known her six months, but he knew she'd never murder someone in cold blood. She was fierce, yes, but entirely just. If he knew anything, he knew that.
A mistake had been made, that was all. Still, John found himself tracking down Zack Allan. He was reviewing SecureCam footage of Green Sector, and when John entered, he watched the Minbari brazenly follow Delenn right into her quarters. "Got what was coming to him," Zack muttered, running the footage back. John watched Delenn turn the corner and walk down the corridor; he hadn't ever seen her rec'd before, and it was strange, seeing her through the camera's flat, objective lens. She seemed more delicate, like a perfect porcelain figurine. The Minbari stranger was loitering next to someone's door, a reader in front of him, and even through the fish-eye angle John could tell he wasn't reading anything at all. Delenn took a few steps past, then dropped one of her papers. She turned, picked the paper up, then continued on.
"Did you catch that?" Zack asked. "It took me three views before I did." John shook his head, and Zack played the last few seconds back again. "Watch her eyes." As she turned and knelt, her eyes flicked up to the Minbari, so quickly and smoothly that it was hard to tell she'd even done it. Then she picked up her paper and continued on to her quarters, just as calm as could be. There wasn't even the slightest hesitation at her door, no visible indication she was nervous or worried or anything else. But somehow John could see that anxiety anyway. Something in the set of her shoulders, maybe, the angle of her chin.
"She recognized him," John said in a half-whisper.
"She's got ice water in her veins," Zack said admiringly, leaning back in his chair. "Here I've got a gun on my hip, and I probably still woulda run screaming to the nearest blue light."
John leaned against the desk. His stomach rumbled, but he ignored it. "What did the place look like when you got there?"
"You saw it," Zack said with a frown.
"Where was Delenn? What was she doing?" John asked, doing his best to make it sound as though he were just curious, and not asking a leading question.
Zack pulled up the notes he'd typed. John liked Zack, always had, but he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. But he was thorough, and a hard-worker, and John would take that over a brainiac any day. "She was sitting at her table, holding a towel to her arm. She was cool as a cucumber. If it wasn't for, you know, the dead body, I woulda thought nothing had happened."
"And the dead body?"
"He was right where you found him. I pulled the sheet back, made sure he was dead, wasn't gonna pop back up like a ghoulie in a slasher vid. Knife was there next to him."
"There was already a sheet over his body?"
"Yeah. Huh. I hadn't thought of that. I guess the Ambassador covered him up." Zack laboriously typed that into his notes. John actually thought that little detail proved that there was just some kind of mistake going on with Stephen's insistence another weapon was involved; Delenn had been made to defend herself with lethal force, and found it upsetting to the point that she had to cover what she'd done, couldn't bear to look at him. That didn't jive at all with the idea she'd planned a murder.
"Thanks, Zack." He clapped the man on the shoulder, made his way back up to Blue Sector. To his office, where he threw out the food, all cold and completely unappetizing. His stomach continued to rumble, but John didn't think he'd eat tonight. It took less than a minute to find the room Delenn had rented – for a week in advance, he saw, frowning. A little room, far too small and plain for someone of her rank, tucked away amidst countless others in the boundary between Red and Green Sectors.
He didn't know what was going on, but he knew it wasn't good. John made a few calls. He didn't think he'd be getting any sleep tonight, but he might be able to get some work done, knowing that Delenn's room was well-guarded.
She had packed a small bag. A few changes of clothes that she put in the narrow closet, shifts and underthings she stowed in the single drawer, necessary toiletries that marched along the ledge over the sink. One nightgown, which she now wore, sitting on the bed, staring at the door. Delenn found she couldn't take her eyes off the door. Every time she tried to lie down, roll over and close her eyes, she found the skin on the back of her neck tingling, and she had to roll onto her back and stare.
What she wanted, what she really wanted, was to accept the Captain's earlier suggestion, and join him in his quarters. If she were to lay on his couch, knowing that he were just in the next room, then, she thought, then she might be able to sleep. Unless he hadn't only invited her to his quarters. Unless he had also invited her to his bed. But the place that thought led was a place to which she could not travel. Not any more.
She had tried to meditate in the dark at first, but the shadows seemed to multiply, and he hid inside each. So she turned on the light. Her eyes were itchy and dry, and she was exhausted, but the idea of closing her eyes became more and more absurd. The door is locked, she tried to tell herself. Besides, no one is coming tonight.
Not tonight, no, but they would come. One after another, no matter how many fell and how long it took, until the task was complete. Delenn put her hand out to the tiny table beside the bed – the dagger was there, just where she left it. The handle was smooth in her hand, and the blade glittered in the lamp light. She studied it, not for the first time; it was as though she couldn't put it down. An intaglio etched into the metal, runes so ancient she couldn't read them, though she knew what they said. There had once been runes on the handle as well, carved into the leather, but centuries of use had worn them smooth.
She had sought permission for the Chrysalis. "Not yet," the Grey Council had said, ignoring the prophecies, the signs, the clear signal that the time was now. Not yet. Delenn had disobeyed, had gone through the transformation anyway. And now, it seemed, the Council regretted their earlier tacit approval. Not yet implied yes, but later. Had they simply been unsure what the Chrysalis actually entailed? Had they changed their minds when they'd seen her, looking more Human than Minbari?
You are no longer one of us. Anyenn's words rang in her head, a litany she could not escape. To remove you from the Grey Council was not enough. You have been judged Anathema. Your presence in our universe cannot be tolerated. I, Anyenn, of the clan Tei, of the Warrior Caste, have been sent to see the will of the Council done.
Delenn traced her finger down the blade. It was beautiful, a work of art, an artifact of the timeless culture of Minbar; it was also deadly. The millennia had done nothing to erase the sharpness of the blade, and it had slid into Anyenn's throat as easily as a warm blade through wax.
She wasn't yet sure if her ruse would work; even if it didn't, the command staff might choose to stay quiet to avoid a diplomatic crisis. It didn't matter either way. If she was asked, she would deny, she would obfuscate, she would even lie if she needed to. Delenn was going to put no one else in harm's way because of her. That Captain Sheridan would do his best to defend her she already knew, and the knowledge warmed her heart even as she made herself harden it against him. He could know nothing of this; she was afraid of the consequences should he find out. He was Starkiller, after all. No matter how hard he fought, though, eventually he would fail. Delenn couldn't let that happen.
Delenn replaced the dagger on the bedside table, and continued watching the door.