After Dinner Mint
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
The new commander of the Babylon 5 station walked slowly back to his office. After dinner, he had escorted the Minbari ambassador to the door of her quarters in the green sector. Taking the long way back gave him an opportunity to try to focus on the myriad of problems that jostled inside his head for priority. A decidedly uncomfortable evening awaited him, as he was attempting to sleep in his office chair. He fumed at that situation for a moment, but the feeling rapidly dissipated under the warm glow remaining from his evening with Delenn.
It felt slightly odd thinking of her as Delenn, as if they had reached first name status right away. The Minbari went by one name, or one name and a title or honorific. They had family names, clan names, but they seemed to be reserved for occasions he didn't know anything about. You would think after more than ten years their two peoples would know each other better. Then again that had been the purpose of their dinner together. For a moment he wondered what she would think if he asked her to call him by his first name, but the thought faded quickly into embarrassment. It might signify something different, maybe something more, to a Minbari, and he wasn't sure how he felt about that. Or how she would feel about that. A single name was the Minbari custom, and if it was one thing he'd learned about this job so far, it was that honoring alien customs was the best course. Besides, the name suited her. She didn't need a title or descriptor; she was who she was and that was enough.
As he reached the turn in the corridor that led to his office, he realized that the warm glow from the evening wasn't fading. If anything it was growing, and it reminded him of something. With a slight shock he found he was comparing this evening with other first dates. With Elizabeth it had been electric from the outset, a constant spark of battle and competition, exciting and exhausting. With Anna, it had been the rapid catch of tinder, flames leaping between them in a contained conflagration. It had burned constant and steady, like a lovingly tended home fire. With a brief flash of sadness, he realized they had been each other's home.
It wasn't like that with Delenn. Running one hand through his hair, he considered where he was going with this. This wasn't a train of thought he was sure he should follow, and he hesitated outside the door to his office, trying to decide. The feelings...they were familiar, but this was a totally new context. His own uncertainty made him smile. That feeling of hesitancy; it too was familiar. But he had never been one to run from anything; an obligation, a disagreement, much less an idea.
With Delenn it was like the small intense glow of candlelight; a straight, pure flame illuminating a new path to follow. As the door to his office opened, he felt something inside him opening, changing and unfolding. This new relationship might be alliance, friendship, or perhaps something more. Reaching into his jacket pocket, his fingers closed on a intricately folded piece of rice paper, enclosing a square, butter-yellow mint that had been left on their table at the restaurant. Yellow as candleglow, he thought as he popped the package into his mouth and felt the paper dissolve on his tongue.
Delenn removed the alien black dress and folded it into a small square bundle, which she placed carefully in a drawer set into the wall of her bedroom. It was unlikely she would ever wear it again, but the memories it contained were worth preserving. Pulling on a flowing white robe, she moved back into the kitchen area to make some tea. She felt the need to calm her mind after the events of the evening. How strange it had been to experience the sudden intimacy of connection with someone such as Captain Sheridan! It wasn't the first time she had felt that way, not even the first time with a human. Yet friendship with Jeffrey Sinclair had been built over time, developing and strengthening as they had come to know and trust one another. There had not been the sudden stab of recognition of this evening's outing.
Her hands automatically went through the motions of preparing water, tea, and cup. As she added the carafe of heated water to the etched glass surface of the waiting tray, she saw a small package next to it on the counter. Picking it up to examine it briefly she placed it on the tray next to the crystal canister containing the tea. Moving everything to the small table just outside the kitchen area, she laid out the essentials for the ritual. Removing a folded packet of tea from the container, she placed it in the cup, and poured the water onto it, reciting a prayer as she did so. She watched as the leaves of the packet unfolded in an intricate pattern, releasing the dried leaves and flowers that would flavor the tea. The packet blossomed briefly then faded and dissolved in the hot water. As she watched, she considered the warm glow that had settled inside her, and what it might mean.
Captain Sheridan was not the first charismatic and powerful man she had encountered in her life, of course. Sipping her tea, she turned her mind to consider others, both past and present. There was her old tutor Draal, currently serving as keeper of the Great Machine hidden deep in the planet below them. He had guided her footsteps early in life, showing her mysteries and revealing secrets hidden in the history of their people. Long nights they had studied together, spending hours crouched over tables half-covered with dusty scrolls. Lamplight had shone down on the smooth granite surfaces and mixed with the moonlight streaming in through the crystal windows of the Great Temple in Tuzanoor. Then there had been Dukhat, who had both challenged her mind and seen deep into her soul. He had become as close as a second father, but she had never understood him completely. Part of him had remained as remote as the distant stars they observed together on the ship that was home to the Grey Council. He loved to point out the patterns hidden in the starry depths of space; the Tree, the Book, the Ship. The holo-projector in the observation dome could show not only the stars as seen from Minbar, but the positions of new jumpgates as they were built, in an ever-shifting three-dimensional display. He had shown her how the network of gates was expanding and connecting the far-flung corners of the Universe. She sensed that he longed to journey there, and explore the known and the unknown. Neither of these, nor others she had encountered; Branmer, Sinclair...none had touched her in the same way as the station's new commander.
Setting her cup down gently, she shivered at the cold touch of prophecy. 'A bridge of understanding' she had declared herself to be...she wished she knew what that would entail. Picking up the neglected package, barely the size of her thumbnail, she unwrapped its intricate snow-white folds, revealing a pastel yellow square nestled within. It was a mint, she recalled Captain Sheridan telling her as he pressed it into her palm as they had left the restaurant. A pleasant ending to a pleasant meal, a human tradition, he had said. She touched the tip of her tongue to the surface of the candy and found it sweet, with a refreshing bite. The paper wrapping had fallen into her teacup, and swiftly disappeared into the golden liquid. Senn'tha tea was like distilled sunlight. As she savored the mint, she realized the glow engendered by the Captain's presence had temporarily banished the darkness she constantly foresaw. She allowed herself to bask in the warmth of the feeling. It felt like the light of the sun.