Disclaimer: All of the usual stuff - all the characters in this piece are owned by J Michael Straczynski, Babylonian Productions™ and Warners™.
Author's Note: This is what happens when it's a long train journey and you've run out of things to play with. Self-indulgent? Perhaps. Leave a review and let me know! Oh, and the title is courtesy of Messrs Jagger and Richards.
Her laughter is a beautiful sound. Warm, rich, musical. He hadn't expected her to laugh. And once he had heard it, he kept telling her things that he hoped would bring it again. An unexpected need. Stupid jokes, ridiculous stories, anything that would make her eyes crinkle - that would make her look at him again the way she had.
And now, in the silence broken only by occasional beeps from the computer and Susan's quiet breathing, he hears it again.
He has liked Delenn from the start. She has many of the qualities that he admires – strength, compassion, wisdom. And, yes, a sense of humour. And they do have things in common. That has come as one of the greatest surprises and yet it doesn't feel like a surprise at all. John Sheridan has never been a man to discriminate on grounds of race. That, evidently, is something that EarthGov has not yet realised and it suits him not to disabuse them of that illusion. Not yet. To them he is Starkiller as much as he is to the Minbari. Starkiller. Was that name in her mind when she first saw him? Did she expect a monster? And was she as intrigued by him as he was by her? Is by her.
But for different reasons now.
Susan talks in her sleep, he has discovered. A few murmured words in Russian. He cannot understand them but she doesn't sound happy. That comes as no surprise. There has been little in her life for her to be happy about. Sheridan considers waking her but she turns, one hand pillowing her cheek and settles again.
Delenn doesn't need a human dress to turn heads. She manages that every day without seeming to notice it. They have become friends and he likes that. He likes talking to her. Something else unexpected. They accept each other and she seems to need that as much as he does. He's stopped wondering about the reasons for the change she has undergone. Minbari do not lie but they do conceal and he knows that while what she has told him is the truth, it's just not the entire truth. That doesn't really matter any more. He learnt acceptance a long time ago.
There will be other dinners, he is sure of it. And when he finally falls into a few minute's uneasy sleep the thing that draws him into it is the echo of laughter.
The first time he had held her she had wept against his shoulder. The air had held the stench of despair and death. It had clung to her hair. Hours later, in her quarters, he had smelt it still. And after that, when Sebastian had finished with them and they had supported each other, enabling the other's stumbling steps, he had, briefly, held her to him. She had been shaking then, her skin cold and stiff through the thin silk of her robes.
And now today, her voice desperate when she had called his name, he had held her again. The only times she had ever been in his arms were when she was hurt. And that was wrong. Just once he wanted to know how it would feel to hold her when she was happy. When they were both happy. When she would return his embrace.
Ever since his confession to her he has thought of her and now he cannot ignore the impulse to return to her side.
She always holds herself erect, her back proud and straight. Steel in her spine. It's easy to forget that she is so delicate. He could encircle both her wrists with one hand.
There isn't a chair by the bed and he doesn't want to disturb her so he stands. And just looks at her. He wishes there was a lock of hair to brush away, any excuse to touch her face. Perhaps he no longer needs one.
His fingertips against her cheek are so gentle he can barely feel her skin. But it's enough for her breath to catch. He pulls his hand back; she doesn't wake, not then. But he's certain that there is the flicker of a smile. Or maybe it's just the light.
When her eyes do open they are unfocused, still heavy with sleep. And she says his name.
"You should rest."
Her smile is slow. "Will you stay? Just for a while."
Against the blanket her fingers move and he takes her hand. Cool and smooth and so fragile in his.
Everything looks subtly different. He can't quite place what it is but he is aware of the change – and is aware that nothing else has changed, not really, it's just him. Greater clarity is the best he can come up with. Even the stars seem to burn more brightly. He can see more of them.
But he doesn't really see them. They are in front of his eyes but the one thing that he sees, the one thing that is there above everything else, is her face.
He is not the man who left her. That was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do. Harder even than killing the thing that had been all that remained of Anna. It is true that she had died a long time ago. The woman that had worn her face was someone else. And even if it really had been Anna, his Anna... Even if there had been no Z'ha'dum and she had just come back for him...
He had loved Anna and the loss of her had been terrible. She had held his heart. But Delenn is part of his soul.
He has never consciously memorised the lines of her face but he knows them all, can recall with perfect clarity every motion, every tiny trait that is hers. He has tried, many times before now, to pinpoint the exact moment. At the Vorlon inquisition? His need to protect her had overridden everything else. But in that case it must have been before that. The night of their first dinner? Perhaps. But that had simply felt like an extension of something that was already happening. The first time they had walked through the gardens together? Or perhaps it had been that moment when a white hood had fallen away and he had seen a face that he knew he had never seen before and yet recognised immediately.
On the consoles lights flash, strange instruments let out unfamiliar sounds and the swirling vortex opens. He knows the view beyond it. He can feel it before he even sees it. He has come home. He has come back to where she is.
Her gaze is fixed, unbroken. She barely blinks, as though afraid that the split-second loss of contact will result in something catastrophic. Her fascination is absolute and he watches her with equal fascination. Even her breathing is quieter.
She hated the idea that he would choose her life over that of their child. She wanted him to promise that he would not make that choice – the only promise she has ever asked of him that he could not give. But he has made a new promise now, to both of them, that he will keep them safe at any cost.
He had thought that all the love he had was hers but he has found that there is more, because of her. Because of what they have created between them. They have a son. They have David.
"I can't believe he's ours." Sometimes he thinks she can read his mind.
"If he isn't, some other couple is going to be in for a very nasty shock."
She smiles, her eyes still focused on her child. "Look at him, John. Just look at him. He is so perfect."
A tiny scrap of life. He would do anything for him. "He is that." Her profile is clean and sensitive and strong. "And if we're very lucky, he'll take after his mother."
The corner of her mouth twitches. "No." When her eyes meet his they are filled with a fierce passion. "He is his father's child."
Her lips are always warm and willing. A moment, and her arms snake around his neck. Savour every moment. It was good advice. He still has to find the right way to tell her about it. She rests against him, head against his shoulder.
"Just one more minute."
He smiles, his cheek resting against her hair.
He has always loved to watch her sleep. It had surprised him that something so simple could be ritualised, but he had understood the reason why. You really can see the true face. And hers is beautiful.
Sometimes he would stay awake until his eyes refused to stay open, just watching her. Holding her.
Now, and for a long time before, all he can do is watch. An eternity that has gone past in the blink of an eye. He has so much to tell her, to show her. It is just how she had told him it would be all those years ago and so much more than that. He has spoken to her of it and sometimes he thinks she has heard him. He had promised he would never leave her and he has kept his word; he has walked by her side, unseen. If she walked the earth for eternity he would spend it with her there.
She is still beautiful. Through the distortion of time he can still see her true face, the one he knows, the one he has loved all this time.
He touches her face and he can feel her skin. For the first time, he can feel her warmth under his hand and he knows that the change has, finally, come. Her eyes open, calm grey with a storm in their depths.
"I'm here, beloved."
Every day he has stood with her as the dawn breaks. And in this moment, as the first ray appears, there is neither darkness nor light and he knows that they will never see another dawn. And in her eyes there is the same understanding. She stands beside him, brushes the dark hair from her face.
And her laughter is a beautiful sound.
Wild horses couldn't drag me away
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