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in the vast architecture of time

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The fourth time Delenn meets River Song, it is at a ceremony commemorating the end of the Shadow War. Delenn walks over to her, hands her a drink of champagne - too sweet for her, but John swears by it - and smiles.

"Hello," River says, cheerfully. "Have we met?"

"I - yes," Delenn says. "You . . . " Delenn doesn't know how to explain it. How could she not remember?

"I'm sorry, I'm a time traveller, it plays merry hell with the social relationships. I believe this is my first time meeting you."

Oh. "So you know what is going to happen," Delenn says.

"Not really," River admits. "I'm as lost as anyone."

This touches something in Delenn, and so she offers her hand in the human fashion. River takes it.

"I am Delenn," she says. "And we are friends, you and I."

"Well, glad to hear it," River drawls, grinning. Delenn smiles back, tentatively. River is wearing the uniform of the station's fighter pilots. She looks . . . young. Too young.

"Did you fight in the war?" Delenn asks. River's smile falters.

"Yes," River says. "Yes, I did."

"It has been a few years, but it is still hard to move past it, I find," Delenn says, gently. She's seen this look from many who fought in the war. "The images . . . recur."

"They do," River allows. "I don't - I frankly don't know why I came here, given that I still feel," she hesitates, "this way."

"You came because you needed to find others who would know how you felt, and who would feel the same," Delenn offers. She hooks an arm around River's elbow. "Come, sit with me. We'll get away from the crowd."

River nods, and looks grateful. Delenn is grateful, too.

-

The second time Delenn meets River Song, in a restaurant on Babylon 5, she is laughing and kind, and although she recognizes Delenn she denies ever having been to Minbar.

"You've mistaken me for someone else," she says, shaking her head. "But do sit down, I hate eating alone. Tell me all about yourself."

No one has ever asked this of Delenn before; it strikes her as a strangely demanding way to begin a conversation. She puts it down to her still-halting understanding of Earth idiom, and resolves to ask Commander Sinclair about it next time she sees him.

"There is a lot to tell," she begins, unsure.

"Ooooh, excellent," River says, shifting closer. "I do adore a good life."

-

The fifteenth - or is it sixteenth? she's lost count - time Delenn meets River Song, they are twined together in bed, pushing at each other's skin as if trying to find a way through it to the person underneath. River's mouth is hot against her, caressing the sensitive spot above her navel, the damp warm place where her inner thigh joins her body, the ridges of bone along her hips, and Delenn cannot remember being known so well, being exposed so thoroughly, not since her husband died all those years ago. She touches River wonderingly, finding for herself all the places that make River shudder and gasp, going by trial and error.

"We are going to do this again," Delenn breathes, shocked, as River's strong competent hand finds her sex, rubs in just the way Delenn likes best.

"Oh my yes," River agrees, and fits her mouth to the space just below Delenn's ear. "Many times."

-

The last time Delenn meets River Song, she already knows that she is going to die. She's not surprised to see her; though you can never predict River's arrival, you can always, in a strange way, count on it. There's a blue flash and then River is standing there, on the road outside the medical facility.

"So you know what is going to happen," Delenn says.

"No," River says, and Delenn can see tears on her face. "I'm as lost as anyone."

Delenn takes her hand, walks with her through glimmering crystal streets filled with Minbari, with humans, with aliens of all kinds.

"Did I ever tell you," Delenn begins, in perfect English, hoping that this is the right time to tell, "about the first time we met?"

-

The first time Delenn meets River Song, there's still a splatter of Dukhat's blood drying on her sleeve. She hasn't had time to change. There are things to do, plans to make; the Grey Council is meeting soon. Delenn strides right by her at first, just another robed and hooded figure on the city streets. But then a hand reaches out, takes firm hold of Delenn's shoulder, and Delenn cannot help the surge of hot fury that blooms within her at the thought of being detained. She turns quickly, wrenching her shoulder from the stranger's grip, curling her hand into a fist at her side, ready to strike. She is unaccustomed to this feeling, this rawness within herself; some distant part of her is horrified to know how out of control she is.

"Wait," the woman says, and now Delenn can see under her hood she notices that she's alien, of some species Delenn has never met before. She looks rather like a Centauri, but with hair covering her head and falling down over her shoulders; the strangeness of her presence here on Minbar gives Delenn pause. She tries to breathe.

"Who are you? Why do you delay me?"

"Professor River Song," the woman says quietly. "And I'm your friend, though you don't know it yet." She speaks perfect Religious-Caste Minbari, without even an accent.

"Indeed." Delenn feels each second as it passes her by, each moment that she does not take revenge for the grave act of violence that has been visited upon them.

"Yes," River Song says, earnestly. "And, listen, Delenn - I know that what you do today can't be changed, but I wanted you to know: there will be forgiveness for you. From me, from others. From my people. You won't always feel this way."

"And who, if I may ask, are your people?" Delenn demands, almost spitting. There is no time for this; she has to go.

River Song fiddles with a device strapped to her wrist, then glances back up at her. Her smile is sad. She reaches out to touch Delenn's cheek, fleetingly, haltingly.

"Humans," she says, and then disappears in a flash of blue light.

Delenn blinks away the afterimages, then puts the encounter from her mind.

She votes for war.