Autumn Leaves

By Laura Bellamy

Disclaimer: All of the usual stuff - Babylon 5 is owned by J Michael Straczynski, Babylonian Productions™ and Warners™.

Author's Note: The second of five prompts, this is for tegdoh, who prompted some Sheridan/Delenn with the theme of 'Autumn Leaves'

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Tuzanoor, 2268

Their breaths frost on the air, frozen, like moments in time caught for a few seconds before fading to nothingness. There are so many moments to be had and so little time. Another summer has already passed, the city moving into the prolonged autumn where the vibrant green gives way to the golds and reds that seem to glow as deeply as the crystal walls of the citadel. The leaves on the ground have been formed into great drifts - some carried by the wind, others swept up by the officious keepers who tend the grounds around the presidential complex.

And as everywhere else in the known universe, the soft mounds of leaves prove irresistible to a small child. David's shrieks of delight acting as counterpoint to his father's husky laughter.

Delenn stops for a moment, watching the small sturdy figure of her terrifyingly precocious offspring as he launches himself into one of the neat piles, slivers of gold swirling upwards and eddying on the air. His exuberance still astounds her at times: he is far louder, far more chaotic than the Minbari of his age; his personality eclipses them. He is his father's child. The resemblance between the two is remarkable, especially at times like this when David's face is filled with laughter and the soft brown hair falls across his eyes. Grey eyes. John always says that they are his best feature. His mother's eyes.

David's voice pulls her back, calling to her to enjoy with him the exploration of the leaf pile. And she goes to him, almost running, the frigid air stinging her eyes and whipping colour into her cheeks. When she reaches him she catches him, holding his hard little body against hers for as long as she is able before he wriggles out of her arms. She watches him and laughs, reaching up to brush the hair away from her face.

It is a simple gesture, inconsequential, but it is always the simplest of her gestures that have the greatest power; John watches her, studies her as though trying to memorise her although that is not necessary. He already knows her by heart.

The graceful economy of her movements is matched by her dark robes, the only decoration her brooch and the rings on her finger catching the rays from the low sun - and the one curl of gold that has tangled itself into her hair

Autumn has turned the trees to flame: the annual display would put even the spectacle of a New England Fall to shame. Long before they made the move to Tuzanoor and he had first seen its beauty, its mystery, he had wished to love the city for Delenn's sake; he has come to love it for himself. It has become his home; but then home will always be wherever she is.

When Delenn gives up on nominally controlling David's impulses she turns to John again and finds him with a look that is both intensely concentrated and strangely removed.

'John?'

His eyes move slowly from David, now happily investigating a mud puddle, to her and she remembers the first time he studied her face, his gaze unwavering, and even though the words she had spoken then had been meant for all she could not help but direct them at him. But even then he had not been so absorbed in watching her as now.

She touches face, fingertips light against his skin. 'What is wrong?'

He takes a breath, looks slightly astonished by her and curls his fingers around hers. 'Nothing. There's nothing wrong. You're the greatest happiness of my entire life, you know that? You and David.'

She has always believed in the strength of words but cannot always master them and now his have stripped her; there is nothing to answer this but he expects no words in return. He can find her response elsewhere. Her hair smells of the cold but her breath against his lips is sweet and he tastes her, her warmth, her promise.

It is David who calls them again, demanding their attention; one moment dissolving into another and a different kind of happiness. The sun is sinking fast, red streaking the sky and mist starting to twine itself through branches. John pulls the leaf from her hair and it falls idly to the ground; his arm around her shoulders hold her close to him and when David runs to meet them the child uses his free hand as an impromptu swing. They walk quickly for home, leaving behind the cold and the few already-bare trees standing amidst the gold.

Fin

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