Post-season 5, AU from approximately "Meditations on the Abyss." Based on hearts_blood and rivendellrose's Minbari third gender AU. Minbari here have three sexes and sometimes bond in triads. Lennier is one of the third gender. Eventual John/Delenn/Lennier OT3.

It wasn't until three days after the last boxes were unpacked that Delenn realized that Lennier was avoiding her.

He'd become very good at subtle misdirection, she had to give him that, though whether it was from observing her for half a decade or from all that practice pretending he was not in love with her, she couldn't decide. She would have been proud of him if it were someone else she had set him to evade: someone besides herself.

Neither she nor John nor Lennier had great quantities of material possessions, but moving into their new home in Tuzanor still took a surprising amount of effort. Communications, power, sleeping quarters, office space, security concerns: Delenn was relieved at first when Lennier slipped temporarily back into his old role of personal aide. He was the invisible buffer that let her begin her new routine at the Anla'shok headquarters without worrying that no one would know when to cook dinner or whether there would be showers for the one and a half humans now in residence.

He was invisible, though, that was the problem. It was hard to find time to be with John, but at least she knew where John was: in his office, arguing with someone, most likely. She smiled fondly. She was happy: newly married, newly with child, leading the Anla'shok to a new era of expansion and peace. Her life lacked only one thing. There was unfinished business with her former aide, and when things were not right with Lennier Delenn felt unbalanced, as if part of herself were missing.

It was a mistake to leave this so long, she thought as she slipped between the hedges of the garden behind the house. It would have been better to settle everything before we left Babylon 5. Half-finished is hard to pick up the threads. But we ran out of time.

There he was, just under the blue-green leaves of the spreading dara tree, sitting on a low stone bench with his back to her. She recognized the meditation pose. His posture was perfect, the tilt of his crest carefully controlled. Even alone, his movements were as meticulous as if he were being observed by one of the teachers of his youth.

Delenn toed off her shoes and padded silently across the lawn. She settled onto the far end of the bench and watched him for a moment before his eyes flicked open to stare at the intruder.

His eyes widened slightly at the sight of her. His hands twitched briefly on his lap and his expression flickered between welcome and wariness before settling on a faint smile. He inclined his head. "Delenn."

"Anla'shok Lennier," she said, teasing gently. "How long were you planning to hide back here?"

His head jerked up. "I'm not hiding."

"I haven't seen you all week. Your reports, yes. You, no."

He looked away. "I must return to Captain Montoya on the Maria soon."

She brushed at invisible lint on the shoulder of his Ranger robes. An unconscious habit, from the days when they had lived in much closer quarters. "So sit and talk with me, ah'hela. I've missed you."

If she hadn't had her hand on his arm, she would have missed the slight flinch. "Delenn," he said. "Don't-"

Her hand tightened in surprise. "Lennier, what-?"

In a low voice he said, his eyes fixed on his boots, "Delenn, please don't say things you don't mean."

Delenn tried not to let her surprise show. The last time they'd talked there had been none of this anxiousness about him. He certainly hadn't flinched from her touch. Not that there'd been talking between them so much as body language: desperately careful touches, needy kisses, quiet caresses in between the formal movements of the conception ritual they had shared with John. Lennier had been perhaps a little abstracted, but neither tense nor afraid.

In fact she remembered him spread out on her bed afterward, pleasantly exhausted, spooning her and murmuring softly into her ear, while John had gazed at her with that slightly stunned expression she was coming to recognize as his response to really good sex happening in surprising circumstances-like strange Minbari rituals. Her husband and hela had even seemed less standoffish to each other over the next few days. And certainly the ritual had worked-

Surely a Minbari helas'dar could not be more confusing than a human male.

"Ah'hela. Dear one. Talk to me."

"That." His eyes, when he looked at her, were bleak, as if he'd lost something precious. "Don't call me such things. Please. I know you only needed me to create the possibility of a child. It would have been better to let you find someone else, someone who was not-"

"I did not want someone else," she said quietly into the choked silence. Then, "Someone who did not love me?"

He looked up at her sharply. "You don't understand, Delenn. I thought I could do what you needed. To be with you just once, and leave you to your life with...with him." He stared away through the trees again, unseeing. "Once was too much. Twice would not be enough."

Her heart clenched. It had never occurred to her to use his help once and send him away. She wanted him beside her. He was more than her right hand: he was her Minbari soul. She had trusted him when she trusted no one else; he had been the best of Minbar to her, and the closest of friends. Just once? They should be inseparable. Delenn and Lennier, like always.

"No," she said. She took his hand, clenched in his lap, and turned it over to rub circles on his palm. He shivered. "No, twice will not be enough."

"I wanted you more afterward than before," he said, ashamed.

"Yes." She felt a smile curving her lips despite his tension. "I think that's how it's supposed to work, ah'hela."

He shut his eyes tightly at that. My spouse, she was calling him. Did he understand? "I am not strong enough. If you do not send me away, I will tell myself that you mean it. All of it."

"You think that I would lie to you in this?"

" me. Perhaps to yourself."

Delenn looked down at their joined hands and thought wistfully of people who did this properly, the right way around. Like the rhyme from childhood-The first picks the second, the second picks the third; salas'dar, malas'dar, helas'dar. Wife, husband, third. She had chosen John, certainly, but John was human and oblivious to all of this. She had chosen Lennier, but he didn't seem to believe it.

"Do you know what I thought, the first day I saw you?" She reached out and tilted up his chin in the old familiar gesture. "I was shocked at Dukhat's patience. I wondered how my master managed to wait so long, if he found me as beautiful as I found you."

Temporarily thrown off his train of thought, Lennier stared at her. "I thought that was only a rumour."

"It was only once. The night before I joined the Grey Council. He said he had waited until I asked." You never asked, she left unsaid. "I used to watch you. You had the most beautiful hands. And the way you would look up at me when you asked for instructions. The way you said my name. As if you thought Delenn was a prayer."

She moved her hand to cup his cheek and he leaned into her palm, instinct overtaking his worry. "Sometimes you would be telling me something Vir had said that perplexed you, and I could think of nothing but how soft your lips looked and what I could do with them."

His face was still solemn but the bleakness was fading from his eyes. He was looking at her the way he'd looked that night she'd first assigned him to Captain Montoya's ship, all molten desire kept just in check by propriety. He turned his face and kissed her palm, and it was her turn to shiver. "Yes," she murmured. It was hard, with the memory of what his mouth really felt like, to continue, but she wanted him to understand.

"After-after the change, I did not think of sex or love for a long time. And then I did not think anyone would be interested. Other Minbari could hardly bear to look at me." Sleep with me so I will feel beautiful, was something she had never quite articulated, even to herself. So I will feel Minbari. Real. What would Lennier have said to that? He who had promised to follow her into fire? "John changed all of that."

She had known he was going to tense at John's name, so she said, "You know that I love him with all the human part of my soul. Have you forgotten that I am still Minbari?"

"You are Delenn," he said, his lips quirking in a half-smile. He still said it like a prayer, but not with such wide-eyed awe as he had used to. "Tell me the plain truth. What do you want of me?"

"Three is sacred. Be my third. Stay. Be our hela."

He bowed his head, letting her fingertips brush the back of his neck. There was a long pause, and she listened to his breathing. "I need to be in the Anla'shok," he said after a while. "I love you, but I cannot be your aide any longer. I am beyond glad for the years that I had with you. But I need something of my own. And if I were here all the time, your husband and I would drive one another crazy."

Don't say no, she thought. Had she ever seriously considered that he might say no?

He looked up at her then, and smiled. "Besides, a Ranger is much more suitable for you to have as a lover."

She couldn't help the laugh that bubbled up in her chest.

"I am yours, Delenn," he said. "Heart, body, and soul."

Delenn pulled him over by the front of his robes and kissed him. There was no ritual about it this time, no one to watch and be sure they did it right. Just their own fast breaths and impatient hands, and the speckled shade of the dara tree over their heads.

"Mine," she said, panting slightly, when she released him. He grinned, looking half the shy acolyte from long ago and half the confident young Ranger. "My Ranger," she said, tasting the words.

"We live for the One-" he said, and she cut off his smirk with another kiss. The bench very quickly seemed too narrow and too unstable. They surfaced again with him flat on his back on the lawn and her astride him.

"Twice is not enough," she said, smiling down at him. "But three times might be a start."

"Now, Delenn?" He was out of practice with the my ambassador is crazy look, she thought.

She looked about the garden, silent but for the rustling of the wind in the leaves. "You chose your meditation spot well. We may do what we like." She ran her hands up his arms slowly, and pinned them over his head. How many times had she daydreamed of this, in the last year of her old life?

He flexed his arms under her and rolled his hips up to meet her. "Don't hold back," he murmured, eyes shining. "Three times is a beginning."