Partners



Later that evening, John had shown up at her door. He seemed upset, and simply said he wanted to get something straight. She let him in, disregarding the lateness of the hour, and the fact that she had already put on her sleeping robes. Minbari nightwear wasn't, what was the word....skimpy? like some she had seen for sale in the boutiques in the nicer sections of the Zocalo. Her cheeks burned at the memory of some of that clothing. Humans were certainly an inventive people, and apparently uninhibited, at least in private.

"Would you like some tea?" she asked, wondering what had him so agitated. Then again, after the attack on the station, barely turned away when she arrived with assistance; it wasn't surprising that he was unsettled. When he didn't immediately answer, she moved closer to him, the lavender silk of her robe rustling loudly in the silence, and said, "John, what is it? What is wrong?"

"I can't stop thinking about it. What you said. After the battle, when I kissed..." he paused, and seemed to be searching for words.

"My hand," she ended his sentence. She looked down at her hands, hanging loosely at her sides, and felt again the burning warmth of his lips. Raising her right hand, and looking at it thoughtfully, she wondered again what the gesture signified to him. It had seemed meaningful, almost intimate, to her. After they'd separated and gone on to fulfill their respective duties, she'd had to fight the impulse to raise her hand to her lips, to see if any of the warmth was left, to taste him, if only secondhand.

Now she reached out that same hand to him, placing it gently on his arm, and said, "It was a thoughtful gesture. But what did I say to disturb you so?" Her mind raced, trying to recall exactly what she had said. It had been difficult to come up with the proper words. That wasn't usually a problem for her, but this time it had been different.

"You called me...your partner." His eyes were focused on her face, and he took her hand, holding it gently within his own. "That word has many meanings in my language. I need to know how you were using it."

"I..." she looked at him, suddenly wide-eyed, as one possible definition occurred to her. Hesitantly, she asked, "What meaning did you take from it?"

"Perhaps a different one that you intended," he said, releasing her hand, and smiling at her, with embarrassment and a little sadness.

She moved closer to him, reaching up to run her finger along his jawline. "My people have a saying, 'Truth exists before thought, and thought before speech.' "Before movement also, she added silently, her heart beating wildly. Her hands seemed to be moving of their own volition. Is that how it had happened to him, when he had kissed her? His actions had seemed so deliberate, so purposeful, so right. Her motions now, and her previous choice of words, did not seem to come from conscious thought, but from some deeper impulse.

Her voice was hypnotically low, and as she brushed up against him, he felt like she set fires everywhere she touched him. The gown she was wearing covered her from high-necked collar to the floor, but the soft material clung to her as she moved, revealing more than she might realize. He leaned into her soft caress, and closed his eyes. Trying to remember that she came from another world, another culture, he pulled away; but her disappointed sigh, barely heard, was universal in its implications. Slowly, carefully, giving her every chance to protest, or move away; he put his arms around her, and she fit herself into his embrace without hesitation.

He spoke over her head, his lips brushing her hair, "Partners?"

She paused for an instant, knowing full well what he asked of her. Then she said, "We Minbari choose our words carefully, believing ourselves bound by them." He was waiting patiently as she sorted through her thoughts and emotions, and she loved him for it. "Sometimes the Universe selects our words for us. It is wise to listen when this happens." She looked up at him, held securely in the circle of his arms, and said, "Yes, John. Partners."