Prelude to a Kiss

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

"But I did everything you said! Just like you showed me!"

Delenn and Susan were sitting at the tall table next to the kitchen area of her quarters. Susan was perched on the tall chair, one leg wrapped around the thin steel legs, the other tapping on the floor. She was going to be late for the staff meeting, but it was hard to turn down as heartfelt a plea for help as she'd received from Delenn first thing this morning. Even when she could barely keep herself on the unsteady chair, which kept tipping backward.

"Calm down. Tell me exactly what happened. I was off trying to find Lyta Alexander and missed the whole thing!" The delicate white china cup had no handle, and the hot tea inside transmitted its heat all too well. Susan picked it up gingerly and took a sip.

"He came out of nowhere...I didn't see anything until he was just...there." Delenn's face glowed with happiness, although Susan saw there was some other emotion lurking just behind the joy. "I still don't know how I got up the stairs! I started to say something to Lennier...he was right beside me, down in the crowd. But I could find no words, and then I was up there, with John."

Susan winced inwardly. Lennier had been acting oddly the past two weeks; almost relieved once the fleet was being readied for their quixotic mission. "It must have been quite a surprise," she said mildly.

"Oh, it was!" Delenn's lips curled upwards in happy memory, and her voice grew soft. "But then, when I reached him, I, well, it was wonderful, but..."

"No kiss," said Susan. "There were probably just too many people around, Delenn. It was the Zocalo! With a cheering crowd to boot! John's no exhibitionist. He's a bit old-fashioned that way."

Delenn protested, "The first time we were on the White Star, in full view of the crew."

"They were Minbari," answered Susan, "and under his command." She grinned at Delenn. "He could have alway ordered them to forget everything they saw."

"And they would have," replied Delenn, laughing. "I did not think I would ever get him out of the War Room. Or that he would choose that moment..."

Susan arched an eyebrow. "You gave him a fleet. Anyone's head would be turned."

Delenn tilted her head to one side and examined Susan. "He told me once I would turn heads. I believe the expression was I could give someone whiplash. Whatever that means."

Susan found herself at a loss for words. It was not a common occurrence for her, although one she was getting used to around Delenn. Finally, she said, "Well, I don't suppose the fleet thing would work twice anyway."

"I am building another one," mused Delenn. "But I did not intend it for that purpose." She smiled sadly. Her voice hesitant, she said painfully, "The thing is, I haven't seen him, not alone, not since his return." She started to turn her teacup around and around in its saucer, making the liquid inside swirl around in a circle. "He was so angry with me before he left, Susan. I am afraid he still is, and that now the reunion was over, he has reconsidered our relationship."

Susan was silent for a moment. It had been a tough one, Delenn's decision to withhold her doubts about Anna. But even though it was a betrayal, it was also the only thing that Delenn could have done. John would have beat the hyperspace record flying himself to Z'ha'dum if he thought there was half a chance that Anna was alive. Gently, Susan took Delenn's hand in her own, and said, "He loves you."

"I know," replied Delenn. "He told me, in the message he left. But you can love someone and still decide it is best not to be with them." Her face was pinched with misery and guilt.

Again Susan winced. That hit a bit close to home. Aloud, she said, trying to lighten the mood. "You just need to get him alone, and let nature take its course." Delenn looked as if that idea was both intriguing and terrifying. "It isn't like you haven't set it up the situation before."

"Always there were interruptions and distractions," Delenn said, almost pouting. "And you were one of the worst offenders."

Susan preferred her in this mood, but had to set her straight on one thing. "You'll need to apologize," she said firmly.

Delenn stared at her. "That would be rude. To insinuate that mere words can wipe out such an act. Would he not find it insulting?"

Susan shook her head. "Pretty sure he won't. I could be wrong, but you need to clear the air between you, and an apology's just the ticket."

Delenn shook her head, as if to clear away the unfamiliar idioms that cluttered it. "If you think it is right, then of course I will do it." She squeezed Susan's hand, which was still lightly holding hers. "I count myself fortunate to have you as my friend."

"That's me," Susan said, with only a trace of bitter longing stinging her tongue. "Specialist in human-Minbari relations. With a sideline in advice to the lovelorn." She smiled, hoping to hide the edge in her voice.

"Advice," replied Delenn, lifting Susan's hand to rest it against her own cheek. "And instruction."

Susan swore she could see a mischievous twinkle behind the fondness in Delenn's eyes. "All part of the service," she said gruffly. Unable to resist she turned her face into Delenn's palm and lightly kissed it.

"Would you accompany me then?" Delenn said, standing and smoothing her dress. "It is best to face these things right away," she added, straightening her shoulders.

Susan got to her feet, and barely caught the chair as it finally toppled. Righting it, she said without looking at Delenn, "Can't. I've got a meeting to get to." As they headed towards the door, Susan added, as if to convince herself, "Besides, three's a crowd."

In the doorway, Delenn bowed farewell to her friend, hand held over her heart, and solemnly replied, "To the Minbari, three is sacred."

Susan was halfway down the corridor before the words registered.