"Okay, spill," Susan commanded. She guided an enormous chili dog into her mouth with an artistry and skill that John could only sit back and appreciate. Just about any other woman, he might pause for a moment and think about what else she could stick in her mouth like that, but this was Susan, and thinking about sexytimes with Susan was roughly equivalent to thinking about sexytimes with his own sister.
"Spill what?" he asked with his most innocent voice, paired with his most innocent eyes. Then he bought several precious seconds by shoving a forkful of lettuce into his own mouth.
Ugh, salad. Ugh, middle-aged metabolism. Ugh, Franklin.
"You know what," she mumbled through an additional bite of chili dog, delivered before the first had been fully swallowed. She pointed a finger at his face and waved it around. If they'd been in the mess, he probably would have been able to nip this in the bud, but they were in her quarters, where no one would see the XO giving her commanding officer all manner of shit.
"It's just my face, Susan," he retorted.
"Today at the meeting-" Susan was referring to the latest meeting of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, which had pretty much been the definition of fubar. "-it was like you couldn't remember what anyone was saying from one moment to the next. I might think you had a concussion."
"Just tired." Quite possibly the worst excuse ever. Susan had been with him not an hour after that meeting as they'd handled a docking snafu, and he'd been bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as usual.
Susan wiped her chin, leaning back in her chair and studying him. John poked his fragging salad. He knew what was up, why he'd been so distracted in the meeting, and Susan was going to apply her freaky all-knowing Susanness to the problem shortly. And then one of two things would happen.
One: she would be mean to him. She would make fun of him, and would probably tell Garibaldi, who would also make fun of him. This was what soldiers did. It would just have to run its course, until a new target stumbled along.
Two: she would try to help. This option was by far the worst of the two. He shuddered to think of what might result.
"It's a girl," she decided, knocking back half a beer.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Anything else, you'd just tell me. A problem with the station, a problem with EarthGov? You'd tell me. A problem with personnel? You bet your ass you'd tell me. But you're not telling me. Ergo, a girl."
"The fact that you are trying to have a conversation with me about a girl and you just used the phrase 'Ergo, a girl' means that this conversation won't happen," he said flatly.
John dumped the rest of his salad into the composter, uncapped two more beers for the both of them. He could hear Franklin's voice in his head. Do you have any idea how many empty carbs there are in beer? You might as well have eaten a greasy, cheesy, sloppy, delicious chili dog yourself.
"So who is it?" Susan went on, dogged and determined. John shook his head. "Who is it?" Chugged some beer, shook his head again. "Who is it, who is it, who is it?"
John sighed. He set the bottle down. He turned to her, looked at her, gazed at her. Took one of her hands and held it between both of his. "You know, Susan. Don't you know? It's you. It's always been you."
She blew a raspberry in his face.
"Christ, it's nothing," he said, slapping her hand away while she giggled. He grabbed his beer again, drank most of the rest of it. "And it's going to stay nothing and that's that."
"Why does it have to be nothing? You're allowed to bone a pretty girl."
"I know that."
"So why don't you?"
John studied his bottle. If only the answer could just be printed on the label. "It's complicated," he finally said with a shrug.
And then Susan did this thing that she sometimes did. She got very quiet, and her face got very still. If he didn't know any better, he'd think she was teeping him, but of course she wasn't. She just...figured things out. Intuition, death-defying leaps of logic, maybe some innate Russian magic. And then she nodded, smiled, and John knew he was done for.
"Ah, Sheridan," she sighed. "Probably fifty thousand eligible Human females on this station. And yet..."
"So does Delenn know you've got the hots for her?" There was something on Susan's face that made John think that maybe he wasn't the only one with hots for Delenn, but if she wasn't going to bring it up then neither was he.
"Oh, yes, we talk about my lust for her all the time." Susan grabbed the pillow behind her and smacked him in the head with it. "Frag off, you. I don't think Minbari do hots. She probably just thinks I'm brain-damaged."
"Well, why don't you just ask her out on a date? See what happens?"
"We've been on a date." John remembered that date. Delenn had asked him out, but she'd parsed it as this getting to know Humans better thing and he wasn't sure what exactly to do. He made a reservation at the Fresh Air because he didn't want her to think that having dinner with her, even in a strictly professional context, wasn't important. He'd put on one of his two suits, not wanting the dinner to seem like just another part of his regular job. But as he'd waited for her to arrive, he hadn't really thought of anything other than having a nice, sit-down meal with a pleasant, intelligent person he respected.
And then she walked in, wearing a tight black dress that hit her about an inch above the knees, the fabric cut out in a diamond over her decolletage, her hair pinned up and curled, make-up and dangling earrings, and John pretty much forgot to breathe. She'd said something about wanting to learn about Humans by wearing Human clothes, but there'd been a blush in her cheeks that hadn't been from rouge, and a sparkle in her eyes that wasn't an I'm enjoying this professional meeting sparkle but instead a this is a really really great first date sparkle.
After dinner, he'd wanted to kiss her goodnight, but what if it was actually just a Minbari eyes are shinier than Human eyes sparkle? So he'd dropped her off at her quarters, walked approximately a parsec back to his office, and slept in his desk chair. He kept thinking about the evening and smiling like a loon. In retrospect, it was surprising Susan hadn't Susanned him right then and there.
"You've been on a fucking date already?" Susan asked, upper lip curled up almost like she was disgusted with him. "Then why are we even talking about this?"
"It wasn't an official date. It probably wasn't one for her at all. We had dinner, okay, how's that? I don't know."
Susan shook her head at him, slowly. Judgingly. "You sound like a teenage girl."
John lowered his head in defeat. "I feel like a teenage girl."
"Do you want me to talk to her? See how she feels?" By the time Susan got to talk, John was shaking his head and waving her off.
"No. No! Please don't talk to her, Susan. Jesus." If he had to, he would throw her in the brig. But thankfully, she seemed to give in, slumping back as though he'd just taken away her favorite bottle of vodka.
The next morning, as John sorted through the messages that came in through the night, one anonymous text caught his attention. Babylons 1 and 2 had been designed with a text-only messaging system, and the nuts and bolts of that system were still present in the current voice and video messaging interface of Babylon 5. Most people preferred to look at the person they were talking to, or at least hear their voice, but quick texts were sometimes more convenient. The C and C staff had taken to texting as a primary means of communication, and sometimes the deck would be eerily quiet, the occasional tap of an overzealous thumbnail the only indication that there was actually a lively talk going on.
The only ID marker on the text was that it had been sent from a public terminal on Red Four at oh five thirty. John narrowed his eyes at what was undoubtedly a message from Susan, sent as she jogged her usual morning circuit through the station. There's a Centauri fruit juice – malorum – that she really likes.
John thought about calling Susan up that second and handing her ass right back to her. He thought about going to Garibaldi, finding out who Susan liked, scouting that man or woman out, then either teasing Susan mercilessly about it or "helping" her, too. Or both. And he thought about ignoring the text altogether.
Instead, he bought a bottle of malorum and, on a fleeting impulse, a bunch of flowers. None of those flashy sparkly weirdo alien flowers, but some nice respectable Earth daisies. And once he'd cleared his evening, he changed out of his blues and headed down to Green, keeping his mind clear because he didn't want to sound rehearsed.
She smiled like crazy when she opened the door.
Two weeks later, walking back to his quarters feeling slightly drunk after a two-hour make-out session, John stopped and fired off a quick text. Thanks for the help. I love you forever.