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Story Notes:
Disclaimer: Original characters belong to JMS and WB. This story is written for entertainment purposes only, not for profit. Song 'Drops of Jupiter' written and
preformed by Train.

Timing: Directly following the episode "Lines of Communication".

Spoilers: Everything before and including "Lines of Communication".
April 2261



Chapter 1



The Universe continues to explore the unrest of civilizations throughout its vast expanse. Minbar and Earth, millions of light years apart, struggle with similar yet different circumstances. Philosophical, deadly wars are eminent for both planets. For one final night, Babylon 5 remains a safe haven for the savior of each race.

When morning draws near, Ambassador Delenn will depart for Minbar in an attempt to rebuild the Grey Council and deliver her planet from civil war. At the same time, Captain John Sheridan will continue his fight to free Earth from a treacherous, dictatorial leader. But tonight, the couple will spend one last evening together, neither knowing when they will meet again.



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John Sheridan leaned back against the soft cushions of the sofa in his quarters, stretching out his long legs, in a conscious attempt to relax. Closing his eyes for a moment, he tried to squelch the image that formed in his mind – the last time he spoke to Delenn. Unfortunately, the image was still ingrained into the forefront of his memory. He drew a ragged breath, trying not to think about her departure for Minbar in the morning. He asked her to stay but, in the end, agreed she was right; she could make a difference for the future of her people. Well, at least, she had agreed to have dinner and spend the evening with him. She had given him two hours to ready himself, while she completed the remainder of her ambassadorial duties.

Looking around the room, John inhaled the savory aroma of dinner in the oven and scrutinized the dimmed lights, the lit long burning candles placed throughout the living area, and the clock indicating fifteen minutes remaining until her arrival. He'd already showered, changed into casual clothes, and busied himself with cleaning the areas that had been neglected for the past several days. Now, with nothing left to do, he leaned forward and retrieved the old book of poetry from its new home on his coffee table. Due to years of contemplation and struggle by its owner, the pages were worn into a natural bookmark. As he leafed through the volume, it opened to the one poem that had most haunted his youth. The poem that caused the young military student the most problems, as well as the lowest mark he had ever received at the Academy. He now marveled at the simple poem and thoroughly grasped the abstruse meaning of the authors' unprecedented tribute to love and cosmic mystery.

The poem was very old, and its meaning remained a mystery to John until he read it again a few days ago. He grappled with these verses for months in his English classes at the academy many years ago, never understanding the authors' meaning. The piece had haunted him for years until the book was misplaced, seemingly never to be seen again. Then, like the miraculous return of a message in a bottle cast out to sea, the leather bound book had returned several days ago, in a shipment from his father. After reading the poem again, he finally grasped the deeper undertones. The lyrics reminded him of Delenn, his feelings for her, and the fears he tried to hide when she was near.

He needed to find a way to share his feelings with Delenn. He remembered part of his conversation with Reverend Dexter, several months ago. In the midst of the shadow war, the Reverend compared the Captain to the troubled officers of the Minbari War – the ones who had isolated themselves due to their self-imposed burden of responsibility. Such officers were unwilling or unable to express their concerns or fears and became consumed with worry and self doubt. John smiled as he recalled the Reverend's analogy for an overburdened mental state – an overflowing worry tank – and the solution – communication. Expressing your thoughts, fears, and desires might not change reality, but it would unburden the soul . . . if only a little. This conversation held a special place in John's heart, because it led him to take the next step in his relationship with Delenn. After the Reverend left that night, John continued to sit in the dim light of his office reflecting on his current situation. Yes . . . his worry tank had been full, and yes . . . it would be nice just to have the company. And the only company he wanted was Delenn. That night began his journey toward Delenn and her heart, as well as their first kiss. After that, he consciously opened up to her a little more every day.

Maybe tonight he could let her into his soul a little more. He needed her to understand how much she meant to him. True, he continued to participate in her rituals, and she agreed to his engagement, never removing the diamond solitaire that symbolized his vow of commitment. Seeing his ring on her finger always brought a smile to his face and a feeling of euphoria deep within his soul. But that wasn't enough. Now she was going into a deadly situation, with no guarantee of return, and his own future was uncertain. Therefore, he vowed to make this a perfect evening. It would, he hoped, provide a sustaining memory for each of them in their greatest time of need . . . the future.

Suddenly, he remembered something that he had forgotten to take care of before their uninterrupted evening together could begin. He stood and walked toward the Babcom system. "Sheridan to C and C," he stated with authority, as he patiently waited for the computer to follow his command.

"C and C," Commander Ivanova announced as the Babcom system activated, bringing her picture on the screen. "Can I help you, Captain?"

"Ivanova, I just wanted to check in and see how things are going."

"Let me transfer this call to your office. Hold on a minute."

While waiting for Ivanova to switch monitors, he tapped his foot and tried to run his hands through his hair in frustration. He chuckled when he touched the side of his head. Funny how he kept forgetting that he had cut off all his hair. 'Old habits die hard.' He straightened his posture and assumed a neutral expression when he noticed Ivanova had appeared back on the screen.

"John, everything is status quo and quiet. Too quiet. Makes me wonder what's gonna happen next."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. Listen, since it's so quiet, I'll be incommunicado until morning, barring any emergencies."

Ivanova raised a questioning eyebrow. "Why? What's going on?"

He could tell she was trying to hide her amusement. "Oh hell . . . nothing's wrong, Commander." He knew if he didn't remain calm, his exasperation would show through. He took a deep breath and sighed. "Susan, I just need the night off, okay? I want to have a peaceful dinner and relax for once. Aren't you the one who's always telling me to take a break?"

"Yes," she affirmed, with a nod.

"Well, I'm taking one! Don't call me unless it's absolutely necessary. I trust your judgment . . . so handle everything that you can. Understand?" He hoped his authoritative tone wouldn't be undermined by the pleading note in his voice. He knew that Susan would eventually remember the flight clearance that Lennier had delivered for Delenn's departure in the morning. In fact, he could see understanding dawn across her confused features as she began to smile.

"Oh . . . Now I get it." To his chagrin, she continued tormenting him. "Will you be alone or are you having company?"

He stared in shock as she gave a smug wink. "Commander, that's none of your business," he declared, then broke the stern fašade with a laugh. He knew when he was caught, and Susan never missed anything. "Look, just don't interrupt us unless you have to, okay?"

"Sure, John. Have a great evening. Tell Delenn I said to have a safe trip." As he glared at her, she laughed. "C and C out," she ordered, severing the connection.

John turned away from the screen knowing he would have to pay back this favor or endure endless torture. Ivanova could be ruthless. Good thing they were friends, or he might be worried.

Looking around the room, he checked the clock. Only five minutes until Delenn's arrival. Any amount of torture would be worth spending time with Delenn. An evening with his Delenn, his fiancÚ, his future, his life was worth anything.

John walked over to the table and inspected the dinner candles. The tapers, long and slender, would burn faster than the other candles, and remained unlit. Deciding the time was right, he lit the candles. "Perfect."

Delenn was always on time unless she notified him otherwise, so he took the dinner out of the oven, placed it on the table, and filled the glasses with her favorite juice. Memories of his last disastrous attempt at cooking flooded his mind, and he was glad he had ordered take-out. Ordering from the Fresh Air Restaurant was becoming a habit whenever Delenn visited. The chef, Pierre, was an expert in the different races and cultures of the station knowing perfectly which foods would be compatible and pleasing for the couple. And most importantly, Pierre knew how to keep quiet.

As the hour struck, the door chime sounded, signaling Delenn's arrival. John smiled and commanded, "Come." The door cycled open, revealing the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. "Hello, Delenn."

As Delenn entered, she tilted her head in greeting. "Hello, John."

He reached out for her hands as he bent forward to kiss her cheek. "I'm glad you agreed to have dinner with me. I missed you." He pulled back to gaze into her lovely face.

Delenn stretched her arms around his neck as he grabbed her waist, pulling her toward him for a more appropriate welcome home greeting. He brushed his lips across hers lightly at first, but the kiss soon turned intense, laced with passion and love. All too soon, he broke the kiss and drew her closer, wishing he never had to let go. "I really did miss you, Delenn," he whispered, his voice raspy with feeling.

Delenn moved back just a little. Looking deep within his eyes, she could see the intensity of his feelings. His smoky, hazel eyes reflected love, admiration, passion, and a small hint of insecurity. If she stared long enough, surely she would see the depths of his soul. Wondering what he saw in her own eyes, she placed her hand on the side of his face and smiled. "And I missed you." Deciding to lighten the mood, she took his hand and brought him to the table. "Dinner looks and smells wonderful."

"Good. Let's sit down and eat before it gets cold." Pulling out the chair, he helped her sit at the table.

"This is very good," she professed, a smile twitching at the corner of her mouth and a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "Please tell Pierre that it was exceptional and I enjoyed it very much."

"You know me too well." He chuckled ruefully.

"Maybe so." She smiled back at him.

Dinner continued, interspersed by quiet conversation about station gossip and events that had transpired during her absence. Both participants steered clear of depressing topics, such as, impending conflicts, Mr. Garibaldi's behavior, and her eminent departure.

As dinner came to a close, John shifted in his chair and cleared his throat. "So . . . did you finish all you duties?"

"Yes," she answered. Concentrating on the remainder of her meal, she knew he would continue to ask indirect questions instead of being forthright. He still avoided discussing personal topics. She hoped he would soon feel more comfortable, realizing he could ask her anything.

With a soft, repentant sigh, he continued with the pretense of eating dinner, pushing the food around his plate. After a few moments of silence, he glanced up at her. "Do you have everything packed and ready to go?"

"Yes," she confirmed, holding back an amused chuckle at his discomfiture.

"Have your flight plans been cleared with Susan?" he went on, obviously dodging the question he really wanted to ask. He licked his lips and gulped down the remainder of his juice.

The evening was much too short for this game, so she decided to end it. "Yes." She rose from the table and walked toward the living area. Turning back toward him, she tilted her head in contemplation. "John . . . is there something you want to ask me?" She watched as his expression changed from nonchalance to apprehension, as he rose from his chair. Speaking quietly, she tried to assuage his fears. "We have known each other for a very long time, John. Do you not know by now that you can ask me anything?"

Normally calm and composed, even in the heat of battle, John felt almost overcome with nervousness, and an anxious knot formed in the pit of his stomach. He walked slowly toward Delenn, offering his hand and gently pulled her down to relax on the sofa beside him. Deep cleansing breaths had been known to purify the soul, so why did he still feel so . . . apprehensive? His anxiety could only be due to his unasked question – how long could she stay with him tonight?

He knew she was leaving in the morning – but he wanted to spend every possible moment with her until then. Taking another deep breath, he forged ahead. "Yes, Delenn. We have known each other for a very long time, but sometimes I don't know what's okay to ask or how to ask it. I . . . I only wanted to know how long until you had to return to your quarters and prepare for your trip. This will be our last night together for a while. I just didn't want you to leave yet." Giving her his best pleading puppy-dog face, he murmured, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"

She had suspected this question was uppermost on his mind. She only wanted him to be honest. Glad that he had finally spoken plainly, she decided, as the Earth saying goes, to put him out of his misery, but not before teasing him a little. "Well, let me see . . ." She pretended to ponder while she tapped her finger against her chin. "My official duties are finished . . . Lennier has delivered my flight plans to Susan . . . I have everything prepared for my departure . . . but you already know these things."

He looked toward her with an expression that asked forgiveness. "I know," he whispered, lowering his head.

She reached out, placing her finger under his chin, raising his head so she could gaze into his eyes. "John, you can always ask or tell me anything. I will always understand and forgive you," she assured him. Playfully, she smiled, glanced upward, and then assumed a contemplative expression again. "I believe that I am completely prepared for my departure. The only item on my agenda is . . . to spend the evening with you. I can stay as long as you like."

"Really?" he asked, sounding breathless. His eyes glowed, and his face lit up with the most handsome smile she had seen in a long while. With the preceding war and the impending conflicts of the future, he had not smiled much lately. She was glad to be the cause of his happiness.

"Really!" She mimicked his delight. "I am at your disposal."

He reached across the couch pulling her into a hug. "I'm so glad," he whispered. "If I had my way, you'd never leave." Moving back, he looked into her eyes. "You just let me know when you're ready to leave, okay? And I'll walk you back to your quarters."

"Consider it done." She smiled and placed a feather light kiss on his cheek.

He gently cupped her own cheek in his hand, and she turned her head and kissed his palm. John had such beautiful hands, with long, tapering, sensitive fingers. Hands that held both strength and tenderness, hands that capably performed so many tasks.

With that last thought, her intrinsic sense of order took over, and she glanced toward the table and the remnants of their meal. "Let me clear things away."

"No!" He shook his head. "Look, you relax while I do it. I won't be but a minute. Okay?"

"Are you sure you do not want me to help?"

"No. I have a system. Sit back, relax, and get comfortable. I'll be right back." With obvious reluctance, he stood up and walked toward the table.

While he was busy with the dishes, Delenn took the opportunity to observe him. She grinned at his method of cleaning. John's 'system' consisted of throwing everything either in the trash or the sink for later disposal. Looking around the room, she noticed that he had tidied up his living quarters, presumably, in the last two hours. Suddenly, she noticed an unfamiliar book on the table. She picked it up, glancing at the writing displayed on the open page. She tried to read the passage, but her knowledge of the language was limited. She studied the language, history, and beliefs of Earth in her spare time, but a few of these words were beyond her level of understanding.

John finished the light cleaning, hoping she would ignore his haphazard approach, and turned toward her. He saw that she was engrossed in his favorite poem. He watched as her expression changed from understanding to confusion. He loved the way her forehead scrunched together when she concentrated, trying to understand another cultural difference.

He returned to his place on the couch, close beside her. "Did you enjoy the poem?"

She looked up into his face, acknowledging her appreciation and bewilderment. "Yes, very much. But there is a great deal I do not understand. Will you read it to me and explain the meanings behind it?" She noticed he looked dazed at her request. "Is there something wrong? You do not have to explain if you do not wish."

He shook his head. "No . . . it's okay. I was just . . . lost in a memory. It's a long story that you probably don't want to hear. But I'll gladly read the poem to you."

She handed him the book. "About your long story . . . I would very much like to hear it. I enjoy hearing your memories and learning about your life." She touched his hand. "We do have all night."

"Yes, we do," he agreed. "Well, if you really want to hear it . . ." He shrugged and waited for her reply.

"Of course. Please continue." She nodded and snuggled next to him.

He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to his side. Resting the book on his leg, he hesitated for a moment. Yes, he could tell her anything. Perhaps this would be the perfect opportunity to disclose his deepest passions and fears.

Thinking back, he could remember certain events like they had happened yesterday. "Let me see . . . I found this book back when I was in my third year at the Academy. I was twenty-one years old and thought I ruled the world. My friends and I were high on life and thought nothing could go wrong. Well, that was before we entered Professor Thoreau's poetry class." He laughed at the memory. "We used to call him Old Man Thoreau. Meanest teacher we ever had. Anyway, we had to take this mandatory poetry class. Even today, I don't understand why. Something about making us more culturally rounded."

She chuckled. "That sounds like a wise assessment."

"Ha, ha." He smirked and rolled his eyes, then resumed his tale. "The class wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. Some of the stuff they made us read was . . . okay. But the worst was the final exam. We each chose a style of poetry and picked a title out of a hat. Of course, I went with what I thought would be the easiest – musical poetry." He laughed at Delenn's confused expression. "Musical poetry is a poem that was written as a song and performed to music. There's not much difference between the music here on the station and the music of our ancestors. The only problem is that some bright person listed the ancient song lyrics in a book and forced unsuspecting students to read it."

Delenn smiled as his face twisted into an expression of sarcasm. "Now I understand. I can imagine what type of student you were." When he pouted, she caressed his hand, causing him to smile. "Please continue," she coaxed. "I am greatly enjoying your story."

He loved to see her face light up when she was pleased with him. And she did seem to be delighted in the conversation. Still, he hesitated. "Are you sure you want me to keep going? This is a really long tale." At her nod of approval he continued, "Well, in my youthful ignorance, I thought, how hard can it be to decipher a song? Then I got the song 'Drops of Jupiter'. I had to search several bookstores before I found a book of poetry that included it. Actually, my Dad found it. We spent a weekend visiting antique book stores looking for it. We'd just about given up when he found this book, hidden behind a shelf."

Delenn felt a rush of sympathy as she saw how his expression had turned to one of longing and fondness when he thought of his father. It had been such a long time since he had heard from his family. They were currently hiding from the Earth president, quite rightfully fearful of their safety. She turned slightly toward him, placing her hand tenderly on his chest. "Are you all right?"

He smiled but adverted his eyes. "Yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking about my folks. I miss them." The words came out slowly, haltingly, and she could hear the ache in his voice.

"I know." She frowned and shook her head. "I did not intend to bring up distressful memories tonight. I am sorry."

"No, don't be. They were all good memories. And . . . I'm glad you're here. You're the only one I want to talk to about this kind of stuff, anyway." He grasped her hand, intertwining their fingers as he leaned forward to place a butterfly kiss on her lips.

"Thank you. I am glad . . . that you are glad . . . that I am here."

John picked up the leather bound volume from where it had fallen onto the couch and ran his finger down the embossed cover. He leafed through the pages – the paper coarse and brittle under his fingers – until they naturally fell open to the correct poem. The musky smell of the yellow pages wafted into the air, reminding him of his mother's attic. "After Dad and I found this book, I spent weeks studying this poem. This was the biggest headache I had while I was in school. No matter how often I looked at it, I never understood it." He shook his head and snorted. "Old Man Thoreau was less than happy with my essay. I passed the class but failed the final. For years, this poem haunted me until I misplaced it. Lost forever . . . or so I thought."

He could see the confusion in her eyes, again. "I do not understand. If it was lost forever . . . how did you find it again?"

"While you were away, I got a package from home. Of course, it arrived really late. Dad shipped it before the embargo began. Guess it was lost in transport. The postmark was dated well over a year ago. No thanks to the postal service, but it finally arrived. There was a letter and this book. Dad said he found it in the attic and thought I might like to have it again." He smiled. "I think he hid it from me years ago. I spent too much time obsessing over the poem. So much that I thought my head was going to explode."

She laughed, remembering the time she told him his head would implode if he tried to relax. "Yes, I can see that happening."

"Oh, you! Very funny." He joined in her laughter. "I never did figure it out until a few days ago. It was, well, an epiphany. I opened the book, read the poem, and . . . finally understood."

"Now that you understand the poem, will you read it to me . . . and . . . explain the things I do not understand?" She wanted to hear his voice, to share in his newfound comprehension.

He glanced toward the clock and noticed the late hour. Hesitant to explain his feelings – to reveal so much of himself – he decided to see how much she wanted to know. "It's getting late. Are you sure you want to go into this now?" he asked, hearing the note of trepidation in his own voice.

With a gentle nod of her head, she urged him to continue. "I have no place to be until my Whitestar leaves in the morning," she stated, reaffirming her longing to spend the entire evening with him. Her pale blue eyes pleaded with him to feel her desire.

He smiled, understanding her request. Yes, she was content and intended to stay until he asked her to leave. Of course, that would never happen. If it were up to him, she would never go. But no matter what happened between them tonight, she would in fact return to her home world in the morning, departing with a dangerous objective. His heart ached at the thought of her upcoming absence. It was unfair to ask her to stay on Babylon 5 and remain safe, but he had asked her all the same – an act of panic. He wouldn't make that mistake again. Indeed, he did remember who she was . . . and what she could do. She had saved his life many times in the past, a trend that would probably continue in the future. Nevertheless, he worried about her and wanted to protect her. As any good husband would.

Husband. At that thought, he smiled as he gazed deeply into her eyes. They were mesmerizing, so expressive . . . the ancient Earth poet Shakespeare might have had Delenn in mind when he called eyes "the windows of the soul." Indeed, everything about Delenn was almost overwhelmingly beautiful to him.

But how could he tell her the depths of his feelings? This poem would provide the perfect opportunity, but he was still reluctant – and scared. Just plain scared. He tried to reassure himself – to call up the internal voice that had gotten him through everything from his first day of kindergarten through the fiercest battle. 'I might as well just jump right in. What could possibly happen? The worst is that she could think I'm a total sap. Might as well go on and get it over with.' Besides, he didn't know if he would ever see her again. Neither of them knew what lay ahead in the dark future. No, as difficult as it was to be completely open and honest about his feelings, her never knowing how he felt was an even more frightening prospect.

He reached out and grasped her delicate hands. Raising them to his lips, he placed light kisses along her knuckles. Then, gently lowering their hands, he leaned forward to kiss her full red lips. The kiss was gentle and sweet. He could easily get lost in the sensations she evoked in him – but there wasn't time for that. He pulled back, feeling a nervous flutter in the pit of his stomach. "Okay. I'll read the poem. But, you have to understand that I've only come to these realizations recently. And just because I tell you my feelings, doesn't mean they're well-grounded. Do you understand?"

Still reeling from the feeling of his wonderfully soft lips on hers, she had to force herself to concentrate. She lost all capacity to think when he looked at her with those soulful eyes and kissed her with all his love. She had been staring at his soft, smooth, full lips and didn't process what he had said. Realizing he was waiting for a response, she shook her head. "No . . ." Her voice trailed off, waiting for him to explain.

"Human emotion is complex and confusing. Believe me; I know it can be difficult to understand." He paused, concentration furrowing his brow. "What I mean is that sometimes our insecurities or fears make us feel a certain way that might not be logical. We think that the emotion we are feeling in our heart is true, but if our mind takes over, it realizes that the fear is unfounded. That's not a very good explanation, but does that help?"

"Yes, I think I understand a little more. Please feel free to express yourself completely and . . . honestly. I will never judge you. You do know that, do you not? I love you and only want you to be yourself."

Her declaration of love always brought a fullness to his chest and butterflies to his stomach. He took a deep cleansing breath, calming his nerves. Smiling a little nervously, he began the controversial analogy. An explanation that she would find refreshing, troubling, or maybe a little of both. He hoped she wouldn't find it too upsetting and leave.

"This poem caused me so much trouble because I was young and inexperienced. But when I picked it up again, it was like magic. I understood what Professor Thoreau was trying to pound into our thick skulls all those years ago. The author wrote the poem, reflecting on his own experiences. But each person needs to evaluate a poem based on what they feel. Every reader has to let a poem wrap around their consciousness and create a personal awareness." He laughed self-consciously at his textbook explanation. "I guess I paid more attention in class than I thought I did. That's what our teacher was trying to tell us. But until recently, I don't think I had the right experiences to appreciate this poet." His voice barley audible, he added, "Not until I met you."

Delenn glanced at him, her face clearly portraying her confusion. "Me?"

"Yes, you. Your love, guidance, and way of looking at the universe have changed me; made me a better man. And I thank you for that."

His revelation brought a delicate smile to her face, while filling her heart with passion and desire. "You are welcome. But remember, you have done the same for me. Your love has led me to the place that I am today. Never forget . . . that I feel the same about you . . . as you do about me."

"Yeah, I know." He smiled and reached for her hand. "It's just that when I read this poem again, it reminded me of you. Of the way I feel about you and the fears I have of losing you." He knew his voice was laced with sadness.

"John, you will never lose me. I love you. Remember, we will always be together in the place where no shadows fall. We are destined for one another," she whispered, remembering that she would probably lose him first. With only twenty years left of his life, time was short. The little time that they had left should be spent together, not apart and on separate planets. One day soon, perhaps, they could live in a time without war – a time of peace, together.

Since John returned from Z'ha'dum, Delenn thought regretfully, he avoided the topic of his impending death and the changes he had undergone due to his experience. She had approached the subject earlier that day, when she told him she was returning home. She tried to explain her feelings. He listened when she told him that he needed to be dangerous to rebuild his home world. He also didn't deny that it would be easier for him to take chances and be ruthless if she were not around. No, he didn't want her to go, but he said he understood why she must. But much remained unsaid. Now, she made a silent vow to soothe his fears and reaffirm her commitment to him before she left in the morning.

"I know, Delenn. We will be together . . . always," he replied, mostly for her benefit. If anything happened to her, he wasn't sure how long he could go on living without the other half of his soul. "Remember the conversation we had in the war room earlier? Oh, I forgot. It's not a war room anymore, is it?" He was relieved that the shadow war was over, rendering the war room unnecessary; but distressed that it was now needed to provide the truth in opposition to the propaganda being spread by President Clark's regime. He chuckled when he remembered Delenn's observation that humans redecorate while the Minbari have cities that remain the same for centuries.

"No, it is not a war room anymore. It seems that you redecorated during my absence."

"Exactly. Well, Delenn," he hesitated, "when I explain this poem to you, maybe it'll address some of the questions you want answered. If it doesn't, you can ask me anything. I know I've been avoiding talking about certain things, but I feel like I'm ready now. All right?"

Her voice broke as she spoke, "That is fine, John. Please continue."

He was puzzled by her expression, and wondered what was going through her mind. Uncertain, he whispered, "Are you all right? I'm sorry; I didn't mean to become morose. That isn't what I intended for our evening together. If you'd rather do something else, I'll understand."

Taking a moment to arrange her thoughts, she briefly touched his chest. "No, it is all right, John. I did not expect this . . . but I do want to know; to understand more about your heart, mind, and soul. Remember; it is the way of things. If we are to continue with our commitment to each other, it is best that we learn all we can about one another." Her voice was strained with the tears that she wouldn't allow to flow, as she stumbled over the words. "Twenty years . . . is . . . not enough. I wish we had more time."

He looked away, realizing they shared the same apprehensions. "I know . . . and I'm sorry," he whispered. Ashamed of causing her pain and sorrow, he remembered something she said to him when he was lost in the time rift of Babylon 4. Giving him a warning from the future to carry him through the tough times ahead, she had told him to treasure the moments, to savor them for as long as he could, for they would never come back again. She was right. She was right about many things that night. He didn't take her advice about Z'ha'dum, and as a result he died there. He wouldn't fail to heed her wisdom again. He vowed to remember the things she said and to enhance their future. He just needed to make sure they had a future.

Studying John's thoughtful and somewhat sad expression, Delenn's heart ached at the change in his demeanor. She could tell he was lost in the past. Hoping to comfort and soothe him, she slid closer, wrapped her arms around his neck, and pulled him close. He placed his head on her shoulder with a sigh and returned her embrace. The book fell to the floor, unnoticed, as she caressed the back of his head and placed a light kiss at the base of his neck. "It is all right, John. I have accepted this fate. It is just that when I found you again . . . I felt such loss. But now our paths have crossed and merged. We are to become one. We will have to find our way together. And to do this we must trust one another and reveal ourselves."

"Mmm . . ." he mumbled. This felt so right, to have her in his arms. He never wanted to let her go. He tightened his embrace, pulling her still closer, breathing in the soft scent of her hair, a fragrance that reminded him of the lilacs in his mother's garden. "There's so much I want to tell you, if I could just figure out the right words."

The mood had shifted to a place neither wanted to visit tonight – a state of sadness, loss, and pain. A silent tear traveled slowly down Delenn's cheek. "You are doing fine, John." She pulled back, deciding to confront the palpable darkness head on. She understood his heart as well as she knew her own and she knew exactly how to lighten his mood. Smiling into his cloudy features, she recited the phrase that always got his attention. "John, as you know, when Minbari become close, as we have become close . . ."

Hearing her mention the ceremonious phrase that always led to a ritual, his eyes rolled upward and he shook his head. "No, no, no, no . . . not another ritual!" He began to laugh. "Delenn, you're gonna kill me with these rituals!"

She joined in the laughter. "But . . . it is our tradition," she whined teasingly, but with tenderness. Turning serious, she decided to give him an announcement he could accept. "You will be happy to know that we are in the middle of the revelation ritual. It is called Ack'Nowl. It is used when saying goodbye or until we meet again."

He uttered the only coherent thought in his mind. "You're kidding?" He couldn't believe that they had almost finished another ritual, and he hadn't even realized it. Catching on to her ploy, he considered the ramifications and narrowed his eyes. "And just how do we finish this ritual?"

"No, I am not kidding." She smiled at his boyish phrasing. He clearly wanted to make her happy, but he couldn't hide his look of trepidation. Smiling, she decided to make it easy for him. "We have become close . . . but have yet to fully commit to one another. So, before a long period of absence, we must reveal our greatest fear and reaffirm our commitment. As we spend the evening together, we continue to . . . as you say . . . get to know one another better. There are several ways in which this ritual ends. It all depends upon which rituals have already been performed and upon the course of our conversation."

"So, we just keep talking? And when the time is perfect, you'll explain how to end the ritual. Is that right?" he deduced with eagerness, anxious to complete another ritual with ease. He would do anything as long as it didn't include an entourage of other Minbari. Privacy was definitely the key to getting through her traditions.

"Good." She nodded. "You understand. Now, let us continue with your poem. It seems that we have become distracted from our goal this evening." Her voice was wistful, as she yearned to hear his deepest thoughts and secrets. Bending forward, she retrieved the book from its resting-place on the floor. Placing it in his lap, she guided his hand to the cover. "Please read to me, John. I love to hear your voice."

TBC
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