It wasn't until he saw the flash of color moving through the trees that John realized why he had come to the garden every day for the last week, and what he had been hoping to find here. Or who, rather. Logically, he supposed anyone could be wearing something that shade of royal blue, but he knew it was her. Stepping over the short, decorative fence at the edge of the rocks, he headed forward into the trees.
The tiny patch of forest wasn't as wild as it might have appeared. This was an intensely cultivated area in the station, nearly as much as the agricultural sections. The majority of the station's oxygen was generated here, and the undergrowth was the perfect place to manufacture fertilizers. John was keenly aware of the sensors and surveillance pods everywhere – this was an area that seemed designed for secret assignations, hidden rendezvous, and any other matter of clandestine goings-on. If nothing else, there was an ever-present reminder to stay on his best behavior.
Not that he really needed the reminder. As much as he liked Ambassador Delenn – and she was by far his favorite of the primary ambassadors, not least because she was the prettiest – she remained the representative of Minbar, just as he was the representative of Earth. Even too close a friendship would be dangerous, let alone any vague, random thoughts he might have had about candlelit dinners and long, uninterrupted conversations. Yet here he was, tromping through the station's little forest, hoping to see another glimpse of blue.
When John found her, she was resting against the base of a genetically-engineered oak, a flat stone thickly covered in moss as her seat. Delenn was reading, a book for pleasure he thought, and something about the way her dark hair curled down underneath her chin made his breath catch for a second as he watched her, mostly hidden in the shadows.
He didn't think he made any noise, and he knew he hadn't moved an inch, yet she looked up all the same, right in his direction. Caught. John smiled a bit sheepishly and moved forward to join her.
"I thought I saw you when I came in. I don't want to disturb you, though."
But Delenn was smiling, too, warm and welcoming. John felt so at ease around her, yet still found himself not quite sure what to do or say around her. He knew exactly what he would do if she were fully human, but he never knew what her comfort level was, how formal he should be, what she expected. The uncertainty made him a bit awkward, as it did now, hovering in the trees like some kind of Peeping Tom.
"You're not disturbing me at all, Captain. Please, come sit." She patted the rock next to her, then scooted over an infinitesimal amount. The universe is putting you where it wants you, he told himself. Delenn said so, and it sounded nice, so clearly it's true. The universe wants you to sit all smooshed up next to her in a dark corner of the forest by yourselves late at night. That's just the way it is, John. He joined her, and one of his knees cracked as he carefully lowered himself to the ground.
"That did not sound pleasant," she commented idly. John noticed that she had set her tablet to the side, and the eyes that watched him were anything but idle. He shrugged and grinned. "Getting old," he said, but the way she blushed and looked down at her lap told him that maybe he wasn't that old just yet. John wondered, for the very first time, if she had to remind herself to stay on her best behavior, too. That was an encouraging thought.
"It has been a busy week," Delenn said. John couldn't help but wonder if he would ever reach a point where the cadence of her voice, that accent, didn't command every single speck of his attention. "I have not seen you since-"
"Star stuff," he finished for her, and they smiled at each other like two stupid puppies. "That, um, made quite the impression on me."
"Did it?" He had made her day, he could hear it in her voice. "I was not sure if you would..."
"Understand the concept?" She was better than most, but he knew that most Minbari still didn't have the highest opinion of humans.
"Appreciate it," she corrected. Her body was warm against his, their bodies flush against each other. The overhead lights had been dimming for half an hour, signaling the approach of station night. That false night had fallen now, and someone standing five feet away, unless they had some IR specs on, would not be able to see them. Even so, John found himself wishing she had picked a willow tree instead of an oak.
"When I was young, I traveled for a little bit. Studied here and there. I even studied in Tibet for awhile, actually. Buddhism reminds me some of what bits and pieces of Minbari spiritualism I've been able to decipher. The idea of being made out of the same molecules as the stars? Well, that's just science. But going from there to the thought that we are the universe? I don't know, it just...makes me happy to think that."
Was she leaning against him? He couldn't tell. More than anything, he wanted to reach down and take her hand, so he made himself fold both his hands together in his lap. "Everyone is made of stars," she murmured, and John knew that no matter what happened in the future, he would never forget this moment. "Sentience is, in some respects, the inevitable byproduct of the supernova. This becomes a fact both miraculous and prosaic." She paused for a few heartbeats, and John could almost hear her thinking. He waited, feeling at the edge of something, some revelation.
"Everyone is made of stars," she repeated. "But in the week since we last spoke, I have come to a new conclusion. Some people..." And now she paused again. John waited, patient, and he shifted to look at her fully. Just enough light shone through the dark forest to glint in her eyes, which she turned up to him now. John found himself holding his breath. "Some people have stars in their souls. More than just the matter of the universe, they hold its consciousness, its essence, in their very being. Do you think they realize what they hold?" John didn't know what she was asking. He wasn't sure he would have been able to find the words even if he had known. Instead, he thought about kissing her, even though that was the stupidest idea he'd probably ever had. Maybe she felt the same way, because he could feel her breath on his face, and her gaze dropped from his eyes, and he started to lean in...
His link beeped.
They both sat there, frozen. Someone's tinny voice came out of the link, asking a question he didn't hear at all. The universe is saying it's not time to kiss her just yet, buddy. Fragging universe. John cleared his throat and angled himself away just a little. The question was something just out of the ordinary enough that C and C wanted to check with the CO first, but still routine enough that he had the situation sorted out in less than a minute. Figures.
But by the time he was done, Delenn was standing, one hand fiddling with her hair. She had retrieved her tablet. John felt a pang of guilt. He had interrupted her quiet, private time, and now she was leaving. He thought about asking to walk her back to her quarters, but that would just postpone this moment, trying to figure out exactly how to say good night.
"I will see you tomorrow, at the Council meeting?" she asked, in a tone that said she was afraid he might say no.
"I wouldn't miss it."
They walked out of the forest together, back to the rock garden, back to the real world. He had a feeling the real world wouldn't be able to interfere forever. If there was a star in his soul he thought there was one in hers as well. And if two stars wandered too close together, they ended up locked in a dance from which neither would ever escape.
John found himself whistling as he walked.