Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds'. But they are my words.
"It is not that I mind telling you, John. It is just that I thought it was considered impolite in your culture to ask."
Delenn leaned forward, her chin on her palm, elbow resting on the table. She was wearing Minbari robes this evening, shimmering brilliant shades of lavender and red. John hadn't even had to ask; they'd been taken directly to the secluded private table at the Fresh Aire Restaurant that seemed to be 'theirs'. Sometimes he was taken aback at how quickly they had acquired a table of their own; at other times he thought things between them were moving way too slow.
"I didn't mean it that way. I was just wondering how you came to be named ambassador. You seem, I don't know, young for the position." He belatedly wondered if he'd wandered into some sort of cultural no-go zone, and wished he could take back the question. These dinner conversations occasionally unearthed hidden minefields between them.
"I am around 60 of your Earth years old. Of course, Minbari years are longer than yours. When I initially came here, it was considered something of a...difficult assignment. Other Minbari were not that interested, but I have always been curious about other races, other cultures, so I did not mind. And, as you know now, I had other reasons for wishing to be here." She paused to take a sip of water from the glass in front of her. A waiter appeared, seemingly from out of nowhere, and filled her glass the instant she set it back down.
John nodded at the man, a trifle curtly. It could be difficult to carry on a conversation with people hovering all the time. At least the other patrons seemed involved in their own affairs tonight. He guessed that they were no longer considered a novelty, and so interest had waned. Either that, or he'd managed to put the fear of God into the staff and the regulars, and word had spread. He smiled grimly. There were advantages to being commander of the station. "It just seems odd, sometimes. I feel like I have known you a long time, and yet it's only been a little over a year. And you had a whole lifetime before I met you..."
"As did you," she interjected, with a smile that hovered somewhere between mischievous and reluctant. "It will give us something to talk about, will it not?"
"It may take a long while to cover everything." John smiled back at her. His hand started to reach for hers, which was resting lightly on the snow-white tablecloth near his own, but he stopped himself, picking up a spoon and restlessly tapping it on the tabletop instead.
"The Minbari believe age is a combination of experience and outlook. One may be young in years, but have experienced much in life; just as one may be old in years, but look on life with the wonder of a child. Chronological age means little to us. We measure maturity by the content of one's character, and what one does with the time you are given. One can live a full and meaningful life in a year, or waste a lifetime of years." She looked down at his hands, so restless, so active and strong. He always seemed to be looking for something to do, some problem to fix. Yet he listened so attentively, and remembered everything. A contradiction, and one she was willing to spend a good deal of time attempting to understand. "Your parents are both alive, and you have mentioned at least one grandparent. Do you come from a long-lived family?" She had studied human biology enough to know the averages, but she knew there was much variation. Their medical technology was advancing rapidly, but there were still limitations to their lifespans.
"Oh, my family manages about a hundred years, sometimes more, especially on my Dad's side of the family. I've got a while before I have to worry about it." His eyes twinkled at the intent look on her face. He loved that look. "How about the Minbari? I've never heard anything about your people's lifespan."
"Longer," she said briefly, then a little embarrassed, "I cannot know how that will apply to me, of course." Making a slight gesture towards herself, unconsciously touching her hair, and her crest; she went on, "Not now."
This time he did take her hand, and turned it palm upward, resting it inside his own. With his other hand, he traced the lines on her palm, his fingers lightly trailing down the center, from the base of her forefinger to her wrist.
She held herself stiffly, uncertain what the gesture meant, and afraid that any response would be the wrong one. But she couldn't help shivering slightly at the light touch, and flushing at her own reaction.
"This is your life line," he said, indicating a long furrow of chained circles. "It looks like you're going to have a long life." He indicated two areas with one finger, gently pointing to breaks in the chain. "If I remember correctly, the breaks indicate changes in direction, major changes. There are two, one about a a third of the way along the line, and one a little further on."
She stared at her hand in fascination. "Is this a gift of your people then? Like the Centauri seeing their own death in dreams of prophecy?"
"No," he laughed. "It's just a parlor game. Lizzie used to be quite good at it, and she showed me a few things. It doesn't really mean anything." He realized that he was still cradling her hand, and that it was now enclosed between the two of his. He also realized he didn't want to change that; not now, maybe not ever.
After a moment, she gently withdrew her hand from his, but he noticed that her fingers lingered on his, leaving them with almost a subtle caress. The silence between them grew and deepened, but it didn't matter. They could take their time. They had all the time in the world.