Author’s note: This is sort-of-but-not-really a companion fic to my story, “Five Ways Garibaldi Followed Sinclair Back Through Time.” Sort of because the concept of Mah’hel is introduced in that story, but how Valen gets his Mah’hel is different in this one. All Minbari names/words are taken either directly or interpretively from the Minbari dictionary at jumpnow.de.
Written for: lizardbeth_j on LiveJournal, for fandom_stocking.
Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
That funny little alien, Zathras, has disappeared and it’s probably just as well. This is something he and Jeff have to work out on their own, preferably without an audience.
Michael’s not stupid. He may not know as much about Minbari culture as Jeff, but he sure as hell knows enough to know the role Mah’hel plays in Valen’s story: Ma’fela, male lover. Surprisingly, he’s okay with it. After all, it’s not like it’s the first time he’s thrown everything away to follow Jeff. Nor is it the craziest thing he’s ever done for him. Hell, if Lise knew, she would probably laugh and say she’d seen this coming a long time ago.
Jeff’s the one who’s going to have to get used to the idea. He’s the one who tried to sidestep fate by sending Michael back to Babylon 5. Garibaldi doesn’t know what instinct it was that made him disobey Sheridan’s direct order and turn back around, catching up just in time to get caught up in the time shift, but he’s damned grateful for it. He wouldn’t have missed this for the universe. This is the moment he was born for.
He just has to convince Jeff of that, and if Zathras’ cryptic warnings are anything to go by, he only has a limited amount of time in which to do it. (Ironic, considering they’re time traveling.)
Good thing it’s only his second favorite thing in the universe he has to leave behind.
“You gonna give me the silent treatment for the next thousand years?” Garibaldi asks dryly.
Jeff turns. Even with this new acceptance, it surprises Michael how quickly he’s turned on by the power and grace in his friend’s body and movements, something that was always there but is only enhanced by the way the brown silk Minbari robes fall around him. (Huh. So maybe that little obsession with how Jeff put his pants on wasn’t just idle curiosity after all.)
“You shouldn’t be here,” Jeff answers gruffly.
Michael snorts. “Oh, please. If I wasn’t supposed to be here, I wouldn’t be here. What, did you think you were just gonna find a Mah’hel at the corner grocery store or something? Did they even have grocery stores on Minbar a thousand years ago?”
Jeff’s eyes darken. “Michael–” he starts, warningly.
That’s Jeff for you. Always trying to play the Lone Ranger (and frankly the Minbari didn’t exactly help matters by slapping the “Ranger One” title on him). Garibaldi closes the distance between them. “It’s the hair, right? You’re worried that because I’ve already got less hair than you, I might make a better Minbari after all and they’ll all decide to follow me instead.”
Jeff’s mouth twitches, despite his best efforts to remain stern. “Michael–” he repeats, but his tone is softer in spite of itself.
Oh, hell, might as well get right to the point. “Is it the sex? ‘Cause while I admit I’m no expert on Minbari anatomy, as far as human intercourse goes, I’m told I’m pretty damn good. And don’t try telling me you don’t find me attractive either, ’cause c’mon, who wouldn’t want a piece of this?” He grins, waggling an eyebrow suggestively.
Of course, he has no idea if this’ll even work. They are both, after all, a good twenty if not forty years older–physically anyway–than they were this morning. But hey, nothing ventured and all that, right?
“Mich–” Jeff starts to repeat yet again, but he’s definitely smiling this time. Michael cuts him off with a kiss, and not a gentle one either. It’s the hungry, devouring kind that leaves even him a little frightened by its intensity. Jeff’s pulled up flush against him, close enough for Michael to tell that whatever else his destiny may be, Jeff Sinclair is definitely no Jesus.
“See?” Mike gasps once Jeff realizes what he’s doing and pushes him away. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Damn it, Michael, don’t you take anything seriously?” Jeff explodes, his face darkening again. “I didn’t want this for you. I had Sheridan send you away so you wouldn’t have to spend the rest of your life a thousand years away from friends, family, everything you know, in a culture you barely understand–”
“Hey, if it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for me: you’ve got a lot more to lose than I do, and that hasn’t stopped you from going.”
“I had the chance to make my peace with what I’d be giving up; you didn’t.”
“Only because you didn’t give me that chance!” Michael almost shouts. “But that doesn’t matter, because it wouldn’t change a goddamned thing. I still would’ve made the same choice, and you know that. What you didn’t think about was that it was my choice to make, not yours.”
There’s a physical distance between them again, one that he knows Jeff put there deliberately. Damn it: if the man can’t even believe that Michael would willingly follow him to the ends of the universe, how the hell is he going to convince an entire planet to do so?
But then that’s the difference, isn’t it? Jeff’s a leader of men, he always has been. He’s never had a problem seeing his duty clear and following it or convincing others to follow him if it’s for the greater good. But he’s never understood why. He just does it because it’s what’s expected of him. But it’s one thing to lead armies over a cliff because destiny demands it. It’s something else when it’s someone you love.
The idea that Michael is here because he wants to be, not because history or destiny or even friendship or love demands it of him…that’s something that would probably never even occur to Jeff.
As if to confirm that, Jeff answers dryly, “I wasn’t aware that either of us were being offered a choice.”
Garibaldi shakes his head, advancing on his friend again. Well, he’ll just have to make it occur to him, because if there’s one thing he’s not willing to spend the rest of his life doing, it’s watching Jeff dodge him out of some misguided sense of guilt.
“You really think if I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t have said ‘damn the consequences’ and gone back with the others?” he demands. He grabs Jeff by the shoulder, spins him around and pins him up against a bulkhead. “You know me better than that.”
“You didn’t say ‘damn the consequences’ and go back to Mars,” Jeff protests. “In spite of what it cost you.”
Oh, good grief. “Because I was right where I wanted to be.”
“You lost the love of your life–”
“I lost the woman I loved,” Michael corrects him. “Not the love of my life. You’re the love of my life, Jeff. I think you always have been.” He’s never voiced the words aloud before. Maybe he’s never even really thought them. But a part of him has always known it’s true.
The way Jeff is staring at him, though, it’s apparently news to him.
“If I could’ve found a way to spend my life with both you and Lise, I probably would’ve been the happiest guy in the universe,” Michael admits. “But I was never not gonna choose you, Jeff. Not then, not now.”
And there it is, finally. Acceptance: if a little tinged with wonder. “Michael–”
Michael interrupts. “If you don’t feel the same, that’s okay. I can wait. Forever, if I have to, as long as I can do that waiting here, with you. Not a hundred centuries in the future.”
“Michael, you damned idiot.” Jeff’s smiling again, but there’s something different in that smile this time. Just like there’s something different in the hand that reaches out to touch his face. Touch it in a tender, possessive way that makes Michael want to explode out of his skin. Damn. He can’t remember the last time he got this stiff this fast. (Guess that answers the age question.)
“If I didn’t feel the same, would I have tied myself in knots trying to protect you?” Jeff demands.
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Michael asks dryly. “Because knowing you, y–”
This time, Jeff is the one who shuts him up with a kiss.
From there, it’s pretty much a race to see who can get naked faster. (Answer: Michael, who is wearing a lot fewer layers.) Part of Garibaldi hates that it has to be this way. If there’s anyone in the universe with whom he’d want to take his time, take it slow and cherish every second, it’s Jeff. But there isn’t time. They have a chrysalis to build and a metamorphosis to undergo, and both have to be completed before they arrive at their destination. A sort-of-quickie might not be his first choice for their first time, but when the alternative is waiting until they arrive in the past, he’ll take what he can get. Michael might have made his peace with spending the rest of his life as Valen’s lover (and sharing him with a wife so he can have all those descendants he’s got running around the galaxy), but at least once he wants to be with Jeff as Jeff.
And, hell, intentions aside, the way Jeff is touching him doesn’t exactly do much for his staying power anyway. He wants this more badly than he’s ever wanted anything. More than he ever knew he could want anything. And having it? That blows even wanting it way out of the water.
It only surprises him that he didn’t figure that out a hell of a lot sooner.
Destiny. Not a word or a concept he’s ever had much use for. But then, there’s a lot of things he never had much use for that the last few hours have forced him to reevaluate. Like Valen: now that he knows the truth, for the first time he understands why the Minbari revere him so much. Because he too would follow this man into darkness, death, fire, and all that other crap. Hell, he already has.
Looking at his long-time best friend and new-minted lover, Michael finds himself pondering the Minbari name he’ll carry for the rest of his life: Mah’hel, his strength.
All things considered, it’s not a bad destiny to have.