Actions

Work Header

Deceptions

Work Text:

Lennier can feel the hush in the cabin as if it's a living thing, hunched-down and crawling over the floor. Heads turned to viewports are all still. He knows they'd be watching anyway - it's the third time he's made this journey and seen the station huge and spinning against the dark - but it's the ship beside it that silences them. And him, too.

He was a child the first time he saw a war cruiser. He remembers clinging to his teacher's robes, a fistful of gold cloth keeping him anchored and safe, but he remembers the ship itself better. Blue on white, all arcs and smooth, soaring curves, as though it was sculpted out of crystal, as though it was some rare and graceful bird wheeling round above them. Even then, of course, he knew what it really was, but faced with its beauty the knowledge thinned away like smoke.

And this is how it should be. The enemies of the Minbari should be struck speechless, should forget for a while the truth of what they are seeing. And this is how it is, still, even for Minbari, even for him, because he knows what that war cruiser means, and even he can't look away.

(Delenn's face, grainy on a secure connection. "There is a problem. Have you been told?"
"Yes - Branmer -" He'd heard, they'd all heard, the theft, the disgrace. The news reached Minbar a few hours before her call did, and Yedor was still spun and reeling - but he should not be. "People are saying the humans did this. Maybe Commander Sinclair, because of the war. Is it true?"
"Commander Sinclair is a good man, Lennier." And then: "What else?"
"The Warrior clans are angry. No, I - we are all angry, of course, I didn't mean -" He faltered, picked up strength from the barest hint of a nod, went on. "The Star Riders are talking of war."
She closed her eyes for a moment, and he didn't know what to say.)

She's late. He tells himself to be calm and lets the docking bay crowds flow past him, flashes of Warrior caste armour moving like dark fish through the mass of paler robes. More of them? Maybe - it's difficult to tell, and he hasn't been looking before, not like this. Maybe more of them in armour, sending a message to the humans. Maybe the message is for his own caste. Regardless, or trying his best to be, he stands still by the guard-rails and waits for Delenn.

("It will not come to that."
He wished he could have her certainty, and on this of all things, but there was so much anger, and the hiss of the word 'surrender' was hanging over the city like a foul, choking smoke.
"Lennier. Do you hear me? It will not come to that."
And for the first time, he found himself thinking: in her eyes, we are better than we are.)

And there's something more than fear. He admits it to himself only a little, at first, and then a little more when his transport lifts into the sky, and then finally all at once, as a gulp in his throat that he can't quite hold, when he sees the blue and white of the war cruiser. He doesn't want to live in a time of war, no. It's not that. He doesn't want to see the peace Delenn has worked for broken apart. But if it is threatened, by whoever stole Branmer's body, by all the voices clamouring for war, then he will stand by her, and if she needs him then he will be there. If. He doesn't want this - want is too strong, a bright, blinding thing - but if it is to happen, if it has to happen, then, maybe, maybe, a part of him will welcome it.

When he finally sees her in the crowds, she seems so small.

("I think," she said, "I will need you back on the station. As soon as possible.")

But: "It's over," she says. "The Warriors are preparing to leave." One hand on his arm, guiding him smoothly through the lines of waiting passengers. "I have told Alyt Neroon's aides to expect me."

He knows they would never harm her, of course he knows they would never harm her. He knows it will be safe. But his heels feel weighted, suddenly, heavy, and he doesn't want to face the Star Riders, and Delenn - Delenn, who lost an old friend to a sudden and terrible illness, and who lost him again to the Warriors claiming him as a military trophy, and who lost him a third time to whatever stole his body - Delenn, who will still go to argue with the Warriors for peace instead of mourning alone - Delenn should not have to suffer the accusations he heard on Minbar. "Are you sure -" he says.

"It's all right," she says, and they're there.

Only Neroon approaches them, the others watching from a distance. Two of them move as if to follow, and are sent back with a wave of one gloved hand. He doesn't acknowledge Lennier. "Satai," he says, bowing as the Warriors do, fist pressed into palm.

"Alyt." Only a slight incline of her head.

"Do you have further instructions for us?" His voice is clipped, and polite. He doesn't meet her eyes.

"No," she says. "I came to be sure that you would honour our agreement. You will, of course, take the good news of Branmer's fate to the clan leaders yourself?"

A good aide should have remained motionless and inexpressive as she spoke, showing no sign of surprise. Lennier remembers his place, but too late, just too late - he's already turned to look at her, breath drawn in for the question, and even though he catches himself before speaking, the words hang in the air. Now Neroon is watching him, a cold smile creeping onto his face. "Well," the Alyt says. And then, to Delenn: "As we agreed."

She nods, satisfied. "I will expect word from Minbar."

The next words he speaks are quieter. "Do you truly think this is the fate he would have chosen?"

Only the slightest of movements as she tilts her head back. "Alyt," she says, and doesn't try to hide that it's a warning.

"Whose memory are you honouring with this, Delenn? Did you -"

"Enough," she says, and he's silent. "You are still grieving," she says. "Grief can make us foolish, sometimes. Careless. You are not thinking clearly, Alyt." She never once takes her eyes from him, hasn't since they arrived in the hall.

"I will do as you have ordered," he says. "Satai Delenn. But I will not forget this. I will not."

"No," she says, "I imagine not." And then she smiles, just slightly, just enough. "But you will not raise this matter again. Not with your clan, and not with the caste leaders, and not with me. Is this understood?"

Neroon bows again, his head lower than hers, his voice hardly above a whisper now. "Yes. Satai."

"Then I will keep you here no longer," she said. "We wish you a safe journey." Her hand is light on Lennier's arm as they leave.

He has to walk quickly to keep up with her, close at her side as they turn into the main corridor. "Good news? Is -"

"Shhh," she says. "I'll explain."

And because he can't think of anything else to say, or maybe because he can think of too much that needs to go unsaid, he follows her in silence all the long walk back to her quarters, watching the light, lifting movements of the silk gauze that covers her sleeves. Mottled, blue on white.