Closed Position

Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.


"Let your eyes half close, and your heart beat over my heart."

William Butler Yeats


"I hate these things," muttered John Sheridan under his breath to his second in command, Commander Susan Ivanova. Both were in their dress uniforms, Sheridan's replete with medals he seldom bothered to display, and Susan's with creases ironed to precise angles. They circulated among the crowd, greeting ambassadors, envoys, members of trade delegations.

"Remind me who this reception is for again?" Sheridan whispered.

Susan looked at him with exasperation. "You know very well…two new ambassadors have arrived from Gaim and Brakir. Their counterparts are going home for debriefing and a short vacation, and will return in a few months. We are honoring both their departure and their replacements' arrival. It's all part of the job, Captain. You must have known that when you accepted the position." She paused to smile and greet the Drazi ambassador's aide.

"Like I had a choice," Sheridan shot her a glance, his expression mutinous. Looking past her shoulder, he said suddenly, "Excuse me a minute, Commander." His voice had lightened along with his mood. He strode off into the crowd.

Bemused, Susan watched him politely but firmly make his way across the room to where Delenn and Lennier stood chatting with several of the League members. She shook her head, and made her way over to the orchestra. The reception was being held in the ballroom at the Fresh Aire restaurant, and she'd arranged for music, and a demonstration of Earth style dancing. She sincerely hoped it didn't cause a diplomatic incident. Sometimes customs didn't traverse the differences between species very well. They'd done something similar when Jeff Sinclair was still in charge, and Londo had nearly caused a riot when he got drunk and tried to show everyone the Centauri version of the tango. The resultant disaster involved more than the usual four extremities, the Abbai ambassador, and a fruit basket. She chatted with the orchestra leader, and noting that the food had been cleared away, gave the instruction for him to start the music.

The dancers the restaurant had hired came to the center of the small dance floor, which ended at the glass wall that separated the restaurant from the garden. People were still talking quietly, and finishing their food, but they were watching the couples move about the floor. It was going well. The group of dancers had two spokesmen who would describe the dance, then perform it, slowly at first so everyone could follow the steps, then in the proper time. She found herself swaying slightly to the music. She hadn't danced in years, unless you counted that exhibition with the Lumati ambassador.

When the demonstration was over, the lead dancers invited the assemblage to come and try the various styles. Some came forward, and soon there was jostling and swaying and a great deal of laughter. She could see the Captain and Delenn on the far side of the room, watching. They were standing very close together. Susan frowned; they were being a little obvious. There was still a problem with xenophobes and nativists of all kinds, Nightwatch types included. Then, to her consternation, she saw the Captain lead a seemingly reluctant Delenn onto the dance floor. He stopped by the orchestra leader, said something, and then the band started a slow waltz.

"I do not know how to dance, John. This is not going to be amusing for you, watching me trip and stumble." Delenn was smiling, but there was some anxiety in her eyes.

John smiled down at her. "No one as graceful as you are could not be a good dancer. You just need some practice. Besides, this one is easy, you just have to do what I do."

"Only backwards? And in these shoes?" She looked down at her high heeled boots, then over at his dress shoes. "It seems a bit unfair."

"Life is unfair. But there are compensations." For instance, holding you just became part of my official duties. He put one hand around her waist, and took her hand with the other. "Put your hand on my shoulder."

"Like this?"

"That's right. Now, follow my lead, and listen to the beat of the music. Slowly at first; we can speed it up once you're comfortable with it."

They moved slowly through the steps and turns, and she quickly learned the movements, and was then able to concentrate on the music, and the feel of moving in concert with the tall man guiding her steps. It was like a ritual; the actions were automatic, and it freed the mind to focus on what was important. What seemed most important at the moment was the way the two of them moved as one, but retained their separate roles within the confines of the dance. She was startled out of her warm glow and pleasant reverie by his words.

"This was considered a scandalous dance in its day, you know."

She looked up at him, amused by his mock solemnity. "Then why are you teaching it to me? Do you desire a scandal?" Then, she added, more seriously, "Is it improper among your people to dance like this?"

"Not since the 18th century!" He twirled her around. "You see, formal dances before this one involved no actual contact between the man and the woman."

"No?" She said thoughtfully. "That sounds more proper, but it does not sound so appealing as this."

"No, it does not. This, by the way…" He twirled her again, then pulled her in close, while continuing to follow the music. "This is called the closed position."

"Closed?" She suddenly found it difficult to breathe. They had not been moving that swiftly that she should be out of breath. "The opposite of open? Or perhaps you mean close, as in distance?" She looked up, into his eyes, which were fixed on hers. "You are certainly not far away," she commented softly.

"Getting closer." He swung her away again before pulling her back to him, then whispered in her ear, "Not nearly close enough."