A Quick Flash of Illumination
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
Chief Garibaldi was rising up and down on the balls of his feet, a habit he'd acquired at some point in his colorful and varied career. It was a means of dissipating nervous energy. Not that he had any reason to be nervous, it was just a routine status report. As he awaited Captain Sheridan's attention, he idly tried to remember when he'd started this particular nervous tic. Then he began to pay attention to the rhythm. Both feet at once, up on the ball, down on the heel; two quick motions, followed by one slow--what did that spell in Morse code? He was a little rusty on the old codes, maybe he should look it up when he got back to Security Operations. It might come in handy. He was just starting to wonder if the rhythm was from a song instead, when he was startled to hear the Captain speak close by his ear.
"I said, if you're quite ready, Mr. Garibaldi?"
Sheridan's voice was smooth and pleasant, but Garibaldi didn't need the heightened senses of a good security operative to hear the tone of impatient command in the question. He started in on his report, listing the problems he'd encountered and the solutions he'd already implemented. The station was crawling with groundpounders, and that was a sure recipe for trouble. He'd been on the other side in the past, granted a brief leave after weeks spent crammed with thousands of other grunts in a crowded transport. Steam needed to be let off, and his job was to keep the lid on several dozen pots already to boil over. When he was done with his thorough but concise summary, he added, "'One more thing you need to know. There was an incident earlier with Ambassador Delenn."
Sheridan's eyes narrowed as he replied in suddenly clipped tones, "Oh? What kind of incident?"
"A couple of guys got in her face, made some remarks. It blew over pretty quickly. Bit of a dust-up first though." Garibaldi's ears had pricked up in interest. Sheridan's face maintained its mild expression, but his body had gone very still and tense. The Captain was concerned...more concerned than he'd expected. He considered the possibilities. It could be Sheridan was merely worried about the potential diplomatic ramifications. Unable to resist, Garibaldi decided to prod his superior a bit, and see what would happen. "Don't worry, she wasn't hurt," he began. He didn't get any farther.
"Hurt? Was this incident violent? Who was involved? What exactly happened? Where the hell were you, and why weren't you on top of it? How did you let it even get that far?" Sheridan voice rose in volume and increased in force with each jackhammer question.
Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, Garibaldi thought. But it was an extremely interesting reaction. Sheridan's face was turning a lovely shade of red. "Delenn's fine. A soldier stepped in and took on the group that had stopped her, and she slipped away. She found me, and the Sargeant Major and I broke up the fracas. It wasn't much of one. I had two of my guys escort the Ambassador back to green sector, and doubled the guards at the access corridors to the ambassadorial area to make sure it stays off limits."
"Good," replied Sheridan curtly, obviously controlling his voice, which was still stiff with unwound tension. "Make sure it doesn't happen again, Mr. Garibaldi. We don't need any complaints from the ambassadors on top of everything else. The General and his men will be gone soon. Dismissed."
Garibaldi saluted, and left the Captain's office as quickly as possible. He'd heard that the Captain and Delenn had been seen together a couple of times in what seemed to be non-business situations. Making a note to look into those rumors, he walked off, laughing softly at the situations some people got themselves into. You wouldn't catch him getting serious about someone practically unattainable. Better to keep things casual; free and easy, that's the ticket. Heading back towards the Zocalo, his thoughts turned toward the soldier who'd stood up for Delenn. She was a good looking woman, and from the evidence, she had a pretty nice right hook. If he saw her again, he'd be sure and thank her for saving him a good deal of grief.
Captain Sheridan stood quite still for a moment after Garibaldi left. The rage that had flooded through him was subsiding as quickly as it had come. Looking down at his hands, still clenched into protective fists, he wondered at the intensity of his own reaction. The anger had hidden a pang of fear that Delenn might have been injured. He didn't like the idea that she might have been frightened or even just made uncomfortable. Flexing his hands to relieve the tight muscles, he stared at the taut tendons and raised veins. If he'd been there, what might he have done? From his reaction, he might have charged into battle to protect her. Shaking his head at his own misplaced chivalry, he wondered what she would have made of that response. She seemed committed to the peaceful mission of this station, but he'd had first hand experience of the kind of violence the Minbari were capable of, and he suspected there was steel hidden beneath her velvet demeanour. He briefly leaned forward, resting his hands on the back of his office chair, letting the remainder of the adrenalin wash out of his system. It had been a quick flash of illumination, shining a spotlight on the growing depth of his feelings.
How had she become so important to him? And what in the world was he going to do about it?