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Hold Back the River

Chapter Text

One crisis after another.

That was how Captain Sheridan had once described life on Babylon 5. Or at least, it had been something to that effect – Lennier couldn’t remember the exact phrasing he had used, and he did not currently have the energy to try to recall it.

Delenn and Marcus had somehow managed to get ahead of him again. Lennier quickened his pace to catch up to them, his feet feeling heavier with each step. He marveled at how Delenn managed to keep going through everything she had been through recently – the recent ordeals and continued worries had not seemed to slow her down one bit. Only two weeks ago she had been lying in a bed in Medlab, recovering from a knife wound inflicted by one of the horrible men who had taken her hostage on the station. Just thinking of them made Lennier’s blood feel too hot inside his veins. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his anger at the people who had captured and hurt Delenn, or his anger at himself - at how completely useless he had been throughout the entire ordeal. When he’d heard she had been taken, it had been as though his entire world had ceased to turn. He had felt so very lost, not to mention how scared he had been for her. Throughout the whole thing, he hadn’t allowed himself to even consider the fact that Delenn might die. Because if he had, it would have meant the end of his whole world. But his inability to accept what was happening had prevented him from doing anything to help. Instead, he had just continued as normal, doing the last thing Delenn had assigned him to – preparations for the rebirth ceremony. Could he have been any less helpful? Retrospectively, everyone – Captain Sheridan, Mr. Garibaldi, Sargent Allan - had of course reassured him that there had not really been anything he could have done to help. He wasn’t security; he didn’t know the ins and outs of the station like they did. But that didn’t stop Lennier from feeling as though he had failed Delenn in some way. It was quite possibly one of the worst things he had ever felt.

And then Delenn had been lying in Medlab. Doctor Franklin had told them all from the beginning that the wound was not life threatening, the knife having missed all of Delenn’s organs. But she had lost enough blood to weaken her greatly and keep her in bed for several days. Lennier had not moved from her side the entire time, save for the rebirth ceremony. (It was, after all, an important practice in the culture of the Religious Caste to provide comfort to the ill and injured – that was what he had told anyone who had asked.) After the ceremony, Delenn had slept for nearly a day. When she had finally woken and seen Lennier sitting there, she had asked if he had been there the entire time. He had lowered his eyes and said honestly that he had, and then she had laid her smooth, pale hand on his arm and murmured, “my good, dear, loyal Lennier.” The warmth he had felt in his heart at those words had almost, almost drowned out how awful he had felt about his lack of utility during the hostage crisis. He could not deny that he secretly wished her feelings toward him would go a bit beyond appreciation of his loyalty. But through his actions, he had made her happier. And that was all that truly mattered – wasn’t it?

Lennier watched Delenn speaking with Marcus as he hurried to catch up with them. Seeing her now, refined and confident and in control, made it seem as though nothing had ever happened. It was…Lennier was tempted to use the word miraculous. But then again, everything about Delenn was miraculous. While Delenn had been in Medlab, he had, of course, needed to shoulder the extra work, but once she had been released, she had carried on with her responsibilities without so much as a stumble in her resolve. And the work had kept coming, between the station’s break from Earth and the fact that they were, after all, on the brink of war with the Shadows. That was inevitable, a question of when rather than if. Lennier could not remember the last time he had gotten a full night’s sleep. It had definitely not been more recently that Delenn’s abduction, and probably even for some time before that. And he hadn’t slept at all during the time she had been in Medlab – between the working and the praying and the worrying, he simply hadn’t had the time. The Minbari were a physically hardy race – they could go for several days without food or sleep, and Lennier had done so in the past. But now he could feel the exhaustion beginning to overtake him. Over the past day or so, he had found himself growing progressively tired, and now he felt as though he could barely put one foot in front of the other. He was so close to being able to go back to his quarters and properly sleep – despite the looming war and all their troubles, Babylon 5 seemed to finally have reached a, albeit undoubtedly temporary, lull. They just had to finish checking in with Marcus on the Rangers’ activities, and then at long last they would be free to rest. Lennier had been looking forward to it with increasing readiness all day – he was going to mediate, and then sleep for hours and hours.

Suddenly, the walls of Green Sector began to swim before his eyes, and he found himself needing to blink several times to correct his vision.

Make that sleep, then meditate. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so tired. The side of his middle finger happened to brush the cut on his forefinger and he stifled a wince. Two days prior, he had managed to catch his hand on a loose nail on a wooden chair at a bar in Down Below where he and Delenn had met Marcus in an effort to be covert and vary their meeting places. They had just risen to leave and he had grasped the back of the chair to push it beneath the table – like his many rituals preserving tidiness and order, it was a habit he had formed in temple. He had felt the sharp end of the nail slice into the tender area along the inside his left index finger, close to where it met his hand. Luckily, Delenn had not been looking at him, but Marcus had seen him yank his arm away. As soon as Delenn was out of earshot – a mere couple of steps away in the noisy bar - Lennier had uttered a Minbari phrase that, had he said it in temple, probably would have gotten him sent to bed without supper, and shaken his hand roughly to try to disperse the pain. He could already see little rivulets of blood streaming from the cut.

Marcus had laughed. “You’re going to be doing penance tonight for that one, mate. Does Delenn even know you know that word?”

“What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” Lennier had shot back with a bit of a glower. Marcus had laughed even harder. Lennier had allowed himself a dry chuckle, then held a napkin to the cut and kept the rest balled up in his hand so as to hide the small injury from Delenn – if she saw it, she’d undoubtedly ask what had happened, and right then she had had too many other things to focus on to concern herself with something so insignificant.

But, insignificant though it was, the small cut now throbbed annoyingly. As a monk, Lennier had been trained to compartmentalize pain and discomfort, even in profound forms, and not let them influence or affect him – to allow this was to lack discipline. However, his exhaustion seemed to be marring this ability, much to Lennier’s dismay. That a tiny cut should be such an annoyance was rather shameful.

He did his best to push his tiredness and discomfort from his mind, as he had been trained to do, and went to stand next to Delenn, who was listening as Marcus gave accounts of the findings of the Anla-shok, in general and coded terms, since they were in public. Marcus liked meeting in public – he said it better allowed him to monitor what was going on around him. Lennier thought that he was actually doing more monitoring and Marcus was doing more talking, but he kept that thought to himself.

“I’m to head out on a mission – I leave tomorrow, and I imagine I’ll return with further instructions and information. I’ll check in before I leave the base on Minbar, but then I’ll need to keep radio silence for quite some time. But my duties aside, we’re really just waiting for them to make the next move,” Marcus said. The identity of ‘them’ did not need to be spoken.

“We will be patient,” said Delenn softly. “Our networks are in place, and we will know the instant something happens. Thank you for your report, Marcus – you have done well, as have all the Anla-shok.”

Marcus smiled warmly. “We live for the One, we die for the One. I am, however, quite pleased that this way of life has brought me here.”

Delenn returned his smile – it lit up her sweet gray eyes and kind face. Lennier loved seeing her smile, even if it wasn’t directed at him. But was it just him, or did that smile seem slightly blurry?

Delenn turned to him then. “Come, Lennier. It looks like the universe might just continue to exist without our direct interference tonight. I think it is time for some much overdue rest, don’t you?”

He tried to agree with her, but to his alarm, the words would not come. Suddenly, the walls were moving again – bobbing up and down in front of his eyes, as were Delenn and Marcus. He blinked fiercely, but this time it did no good. He tried to step backward, but his feet would not respond to his brain’s commands.

“Lennier?” Delenn’s voice sounded worried, and Lennier could imagine that it was reflected in her eyes. But he could not know for sure, because now the whole of Green Sector seemed to be spinning much faster than the station actually rotated, and Delenn’s face was swirling in front of him, as was everything else. He didn’t realize that his legs had lost their ability to support his weight until he was halfway to the ground and Marcus’s hands were beneath his arms, lowering him to the floor of the hallway.

“Steady, steady,” murmured Marcus, guiding him slowly to the ground, then propping his torso up gently against the wall. Lennier allowed him, feeling suddenly very weak and shaky. There was no way he could fight back to try to reclaim the scattered threads of his dignity. He rested his head-bone against the wall and shut his eyes, willing his vertigo to subside.

“Lennier.” Marcus’s voice entered his consciousness, and Lennier felt the Ranger’s calloused hand shaking his arm gently. “Lennier, can you hear me?”

Lennier knew that the Rangers were trained in basic emergency medical response – it was a vital skill to have in a battle situation. Marcus was checking to see if he was conscious.

“I’m all right,” he mumbled, his eyes still shut. It might not have been an accurate statement, but it was his default one. The moment he had found out that he was to work for Satai Delenn of the Grey Council, he had determined never to complain about anything – after all, someone as important as she had much bigger things to worry about than anything that could possibly be affecting him, and it was an honor to serve her, no matter the price. Now that he had worked for Delenn for nearly two years, he had, as he had recently admitted to Marcus, fallen in love with her. Not just with her, but with her view of the world. Delenn saw the best in everyone, tackled every day with optimism and grace, and had the most beautiful, infectious smile. To make any sort of complaint to or ask anything of someone like that seemed like a terrible thing to do, so Lennier didn’t. Ever.

But it did not take any particular perceptive skill to know that Lennier was not telling the entire truth this time. It wasn’t a lie, so he wasn’t breaking that rule – he was sure that something was all right with him somehow. He just was not sure what that was right now.

“No, you are very much not all right.” Delenn’s voice was close to his face – she had obviously knelt down next to him – and it was fraught with worry. Lennier hated himself for being the cause of that. He opened his eyes slowly to look at her, bracing himself for the continued spinning of the hallway, but to his surprise and relief he found that his environment now seemed stationary and clear. So did Delenn, who was indeed kneeling on the floor in front of him, her hand clasping his, concern etched across her features.

“Marcus, there is a BabCom unit further down the hallway. Go and call for Doctor Franklin,” ordered Delenn calmly. Marcus nodded and was about to turn away when Lennier found that he was finally able to coherently speak again.

“That’s really not necessary. I just…had a bit of a dizzy spell. I’m fine now.”

“Lennier, you need to see the doctor…” Delenn insisted.

“And I will,” he reassured her. “But I can walk to Medlab myself. I really am fine now.” And he was, or at least so it seemed. He still felt a little weak, but other than that, perfectly normal, save for the constant presence of his exhaustion resulting from a desperate need for sleep.

Delenn seemed apprehensive, but she allowed Marcus to help Lennier slowly to his feet. Lennier took a moment to steady himself, holding onto his friend’s arm, but then found that he was able to stand on his own. He started to take a step in the direction of the transport tube that would take him to Blue Sector – toward Medlab but further away from his bed – but stopped when he felt Marcus grasp his shoulder. Lennier turned to look at him, allowing himself just the tiniest of glares.

“What, mate, did you think I was going to let you walk there yourself?” Marcus’s grin was cheeky and affectionate. “If they found you several hours from now collapsed in some random part of Blue Sector, how d’you think I’d feel?”

Lennier didn’t see fit to even qualify that with a response, nor would he have had the energy to argue if he had. He just sighed in resignation and allowed Marcus to walk very closely next to him, where he could easily catch Lennier should his legs give out again. They had walked several steps when Lennier realized that Delenn was walking along his other side.

“Delenn, you don’t need…” he began, but she silenced him with a small wave of her hand.

“Of course I do,” she said earnestly. “I need to make sure you are all right, Lennier.”

Why? Thought Lennier. Because you need your aide in good working order? Or because we are friends? Or… He strangled that train of thought. Who was he to question her motives? Or to tell her what she needed or needn’t do? He started to apologize for his impudence when he saw that she was smiling at him – a smile full of concern and affection. And suddenly he couldn’t think of anything to say, so he smiled back, which seemed to diminish the worry in Delenn’s eyes just the tiniest bit. At least he had done something right.

The short walk to Medlab was uneventful, but Lennier was puzzled and rather embarrassed by the episode in the hallway. A Minbari monk turned diplomatic aide who couldn’t keep his feet when he got a little tired was of no use to anyone, especially not to someone as important as Delenn. But he couldn’t understand why it had happened – it wasn’t as though he had never been tired, or even run ragged, before. But his body had never rebelled in such a way in the past.

Marcus ushered him through the door of Medlab and to a chair, into which Lennier sank gratefully, while Delenn sought out Doctor Franklin in his office. After a few seconds, the two emerged.

“Hi Lennier, Marcus,” said the doctor nodding to each of them. “Lennier, are you able to stand up?”

Lennier did so successfully in response to the doctor’s question, ignoring Marcus’s proffered arm this time. Franklin nodded, satisfied.

“Good. Let’s get you to an exam room.”

Lennier followed him into a small, windowless room. The doctor motioned to the examination bench, clearly indicating that he wished Lennier to sit on it. Lennier would rather have lain down and fallen asleep on it – the tilted bench was not terribly unlike a Minbari bed – but he resisted the urge and instead perched on the edge with his legs dangling off the side.

“Delenn tells me you collapsed a few minutes ago?” prompted Franklin as he gathered some tools from the counter.

“I…I suppose that’s what happened, yes,” replied Lennier, keeping his gaze respectfully downcast as the doctor turned to face him.

“And do you remember what happened?” The doctor pulled up a rolling chair in front of Lennier so he was more at eye level, but Lennier still stared at the floor. A lowered gaze was a sign of respect in Minbari culture.

“I just felt very dizzy and weak for a moment,” Lennier murmured, the experience cemented in his memory. “The room was spinning, and I suppose my legs just stopped holding me upright.”

“And now?”

“I feel fine,” insisted Lennier. “It’s like nothing ever happened.”

The doctor grinned mischievously. “Let me guess. You’re completely fine and you’re only here because Delenn insisted you come.”

Lennier did look up at him then. “I truly believe the only medicine I am in need of is a good night’s sleep, Doctor.”

Franklin nodded. “I bet you haven’t had much time for sleep recently, with Delenn being injured and everything else that’s been going on.”

Lennier sighed. “That would be…correct.”

“Uh huh. However, I seem to remember about three months ago, you were lying in my Medlab in a coma. And when I released you and told you to look after yourself, you…”

“…did my job.” Lennier narrowed his eyes a little, his tolerance for the doctor’s banter rapidly declining with his level of wakefulness. Franklin seemed to pick up on this and backed off.

“I get it. I know what it’s like to have a demanding job. There are some times I don’t want to count the number of hours I’ve been awake.” He selected a penlight from his instrument tray. “However, collapse of any kind is a cause for concern, or at the very least investigation. And since you reported dizziness along with it, I want to do a quick exam and make sure your neural pathways check out. You had a hell of a knock on the head three months ago, and I want to make sure what happened today wasn’t a result of that.”

Lennier nodded. After his own stay in Medlab following being involved in an explosion which had left him unconscious for nearly two days, he’d gotten rather accustomed to being poked and prodded and having a penlight shown in his eyes a great many times. It was by no means his favorite activity, but he didn’t suppose he minded it very much anymore. But he had hoped it would be over for a while.

The doctor ran his vitals scanner over him, tested his reflexes, used the penlight to make sure his pupils were the same size and constricting and dilating normally, and made him read from a chart on the wall to test that his vision was indeed back to normal.

“Well,” said Franklin finally, “I can’t seem to find anything wrong. If you had actually lost consciousness or if you were still feeling dizzy, I’d be more worried. But for now my diagnosis is exhaustion, and the treatment is a good night’s sleep. Does that sound doable to you?”

“It sounds wonderful. Thank you, Doctor.” Lennier slowly lowered his feet to the floor and bowed respectfully to Franklin before heading back into the main area of Medlab where Delenn and Marcus were waiting. Delenn was saying something to Marcus and still looking anxious, but when she saw Lennier and Franklin emerge from the exam room, she hurried over to them.

“Doctor, is he all right?”

Franklin smiled reassuringly. “I think so. No fever, pulse is normal, neural pathways check out. I think he’s just exhausted – which I believe might be best treated with a morning off,” he said, his voice heavy with suggestion.

“He shall have the entire day,” Delenn assured the doctor before turning to Lennier and laying her hand on his arm. “My poor Lennier, I’ve worked you much too hard lately. I’m so sorry – I feel responsible for this whole thing.”

Lennier regarded her with alarm. “Delenn, it wasn’t your fault at all!”

Delenn didn’t argue with him, but Lennier suspected that was more because she did not wish to upset him, not because she agreed with him.

“Can he go, Doctor?”

Franklin nodded. “Yeah, he’s good to go.” He turned to his patient. “Lennier, if you collapse or feel dizzy again, I want you to come right back here, okay?”

“Yes, of course.” Lennier agreed readily with the doctor to avoid further upsetting Delenn. Thankfully, she at least seemed satisfied with that, and they took their leave. Delenn thanked the doctor again, Lennier bowed, and Marcus waved.

“Well, I’m off,” said Marcus when they were in the hallway. “I ship out to Minbar early in the morning, so I’ll see you when I get back.”

“Be safe, Marcus,” said Delenn warmly. “And please keep me updated.”

“I will,” Marcus reassured her, and then turned to Lennier. “Take care of her, but take care of yourself, too, all right?” There was no patronization in his voice, only warmth and friendship, so Lennier afforded him a half-smile.

“I will. Say hello to the homeworld for me. And…thank you.” He figured he didn’t need to say what for, and he was grateful when Marcus didn’t press him to do so. Marcus might have had a bit of an ego, but this was won over by his compassion toward his friend, who had clearly damaged his dignity enough for one day.

Marcus left, and Delenn and Lennier headed for the transport tube. Lennier was thankful to finally be heading back to his quarters, but what Delenn had said in Medlab still bothered him.

“Delenn?” he said quietly as the transport tube rushed toward the ambassadorial wing of Green Sector.

“Hmm?” She sounded as though she had been deep in thought.

“It really wasn’t your fault.”

She turned to smile at him. “That is sweet of you to say, Lennier.” She meant it – that much was obvious. But the answer still didn’t satisfy him. However, the transport tube reached their wing before he could further press the matter.

“Come, I will walk with you to your quarters,” said Delenn once they had exited the lift. Lennier started to protest, but she quickly quieted him. “Please allow me to do this, Lennier. I will feel better once I know you are safe in your bed.”

Lennier lowered his gaze in deferment to her. If walking him back to his quarters made Delenn feel better, then by Valen, she could do so. Never mind that he should be doing that for her.

They reached Lennier’s door and he was about to slide his key into the lock when he remembered something.

“Delenn, I was supposed to remind you of your meeting with the Brakiri ambassador tomorrow afternoon.”

“Yes, of course. Thank you.” She sounded as though she would have forgotten had he not mentioned it. “But I meant what I said in Medlab – I am giving you the whole day off tomorrow.”

Lennier shook his head. “I can be there. I’ll get plenty of sleep with just the morning, and I can meet you in your quarters at 14:30 for the meeting at 15:00. You’ll need someone to take notes for you.”

Delenn began to protest, but then pressed her lips together in a small smile. “All right. You are decidedly much more stubborn than when you first came to me, did you know that?”

One corner of Lennier’s mouth quirked upward. “Well, I have a very good mentor.”

The ring of Delenn’s laugh was like the sweetest of music to him.

“Good night, Lennier. Please sleep well.”

“Good night, Delenn.” He bowed to her and let himself into his quarters. He barely remembered to kick off his shoes before he mounted his angled bed, robes and all. Lennier was asleep almost before his eyes were fully closed, but even in his dreamless sleep, he had the oddest sensation of the darkness of space’s eternal night being even closer to him than usual.