Disclaimer: All of the usual stuff - Babylon 5 is owned by J Michael Straczynski, Babylonian Productions™ and Warners™.
Author's Note: The next offering for the Valentine series for no_shadows_fall.
The sound of her breathing is low, gentle, its easy rhythm something he has become so accustomed to that when absent he cannot sleep. He does not sleep now, but only because watching her is too great an attraction.
Her face is revealed in all its strength: wisdom is there; and tenderness; and the humour that lies beneath it all, and is usually hidden behind formality and control, is more visible. Her sleep is usually peaceful, only rarely disturbed by nightmare or worry. And those nights he is there to hold her, to keep her safe until the tempest passes. Tonight she is peaceful, almost smiling, and he thinks that her private dreams must be happy ones without wondering what they are.
Her breath catches as she moves, rolling onto her side and her arms automatically reach for him; she settles against him, fitting herself into the familiar contours of his body. Dark hair brushes his face and he rests a hand against her head, the tips of his fingers on the smooth curve of her headbone. She shifts again, her breathing shallower.
'John? Are you awake?'
'No, I'm asleep.'
Another soft sound in her throat and murmured words that he cannot catch but whose meaning he can guess.
'What are you doing?'
'Nothing - just watching you sleep.'
She tilts her head, just enough that can she make out his face more clearly. 'That is not how the ritual goes: it is the female who watches the male.'
'You know, that's always seemed very unfair. It's not equal. Why should you get all the fun?'
'Fun?' Her tone is gently teasing and he laughs.
'Okay, maybe I get a bigger kick out of watching you than you did out of me.'
'Did?' Her lips push out slightly, her head tilting, considering this. 'What makes you think that I do not still watch you when you do not know it?'
'I guess I should have seen that coming - you watched me when I didn't know it to begin with.'
'So is this your revenge?'
He smiles. 'They do say revenge is sweet.'
Very sweet, she thinks, when his lips find hers; and everything else blurs, slips sideways, the way it always has, the way it still does, each time he kisses her. 'And what do you see in my face while I sleep?'
'Ah, now that would be giving too much away. A man has to be allowed some mysteries - anyway, have I ever asked you what you saw?'
Her lips are pursed for a moment. 'No,' she admits, 'you never did.'
He kisses her lips, relinquishing them only reluctantly. The one thing he cannot see while she sleeps are her eyes - deep and clear and beautiful. 'I think I prefer looking at you while you're awake, though,' he tells her. 'It's easier to tell what you're thinking. Not much, but some.'
She laughs softly. 'I still cannot always tell what you are thinking during the day.'
'Mm. For instance, I can never tell what is in your mind when you have that look of intense concentration - you always had it during the council meetings on Babylon Five.'
'That look? That was because I was imagining what you'd look like naked.'
More soft laughter breaks from her lips. 'And once you had seen me?'
'I was remembering what you look like. Still do, actually. All those ISA cabinet meetings? I have no idea what's happened in any of them the past three years. I just sign the papers they give me.'
'I do not believe that.'
His eyebrows rise. 'Are you calling me a liar?'
'No; but I believe that you are ... stretching the truth?'
Breath catches in the back of his throat. 'Maybe - but not that much, trust me.'
She moves against him, her body already moulded to his but still finding areas of closer contact. She runs her fingers along the ridge of his collarbone, dips them into the soft hollow at the base of his throat.
'You want me even in the middle of a cabinet meeting?'
He arrests her wandering hand, imprisoning the fingers between his. 'Just so we've got this clear: I never not want you.'
'I find that a very satisfactory state.'
'I'm glad to hear it.'
He moves them both, holding her, and she feels the welcome weight of him against her. She revels in the taste of him, in the warmth of his hands on her skin, and her body arches to meet his; and she watches the light flare in his eyes and the hair fall softly across his forehead. And later, when he finally sleeps, she will continue to watch.
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