"...people throw rocks at things that shine."
-Taylor Swift, 'Ours'
Susan Ivanova picked up the thick-walled squat glass in front of her and tapped it on the counter indicating her desire for a refill. The Drazi bartender walked over, unscrewing the cap off a tall bottle and pouring a stream of clear liquid into the glass. He paused, looked at her quizzically, then poured another shot over the melting ice.
She pushed her credit chit towards him, and he picked it up to run it through the scanner. Returning to her, he handed it over. "Three doubles are the limit, Commander," he said when she laid it back on the counter. "Station rules."
"I knew I should have hit DownBelow instead," muttered Susan. She stretched out her hand to take it, then paused to let the red abrasions on her knuckles rest against the smooth cool surface of the glass. Resisting the urge to suck the wounds, she knocked back half the liquor in the glass, enjoying the burn as it flowed down her throat. It was just beginning to take the edge off the burn in her heart.
"I have always wondered if the alcohol is meant to blur or sharpen the mood," remarked Delenn as she took the seat next to Susan at the bar. The Drazi bartender drifted over and set a frosted glass of water in front of her. She thanked him in his own language, and waited until he had moved on to other customers before she turned back to Susan.
"Either or both," said Susan, holding the ice-filled glass against her forehead and wishing her head would stop aching.
Delenn exclaimed softly as she saw Susan's hand. "You are hurt!" she said.
Susan gave a short laugh. "It's nothing," she said. "That documentary was quite the hatchet job. I have to admit, I didn't really want to hang around and see John's reaction. What did he say?"
"He said nothing," Delenn answered a bit sadly. "Not to me. The impression I received was that he wanted time to himself, perhaps to meditate on the issues the program illuminated."
"What issues?" exploded Susan. "And what illumination? It was a pack of lies, start to finish." She looked moodily at the melting ice in her glass. "Sooner or later the truth will come out. It has to."
"Not necessarily," replied Delenn soberly. "But we know the truth, and that must be enough for now." She took a small sip of water. "But issues were revealed. Issues with Mr. Garibaldi, for example." Her voice was steady, but Susan noticed that her friend's hand shook as she set down her glass.
"I've dealt with that problem," said Susan, unconsciously flexing and clenching her fist. "Ow," she exclaimed.
Delenn pulled loose a swath of fabric from inside her robe and dipped it into her glass. She took hold of Susan's hand and wrapped the cool damp bandage around the swollen knuckles. "Has this injury something to do with your 'dealing' with Mr. Garibaldi?" she asked. "I hope it did not come to a physical interaction," she added in alarm.
"You should see the other wall," quipped Susan glumly. "I didn't hit him, if that's what you're asking. I wanted to, mind you, but I took it out on his quarters instead. I still can't believe the stupidity of the man! How can he think the Captain has a god complex!" One side of her mouth twisted in irony. "That is, any more than any ship captain has a god complex."
Delenn smiled briefly at this appropriate characterization. "Mr. Garibaldi's resignation was unexpected, but understandable, given his explanation. But this view into his inner thoughts was disturbing. He has chosen a different path, as is his right, but I did not think he would publicly undermine our efforts as he now has."
Susan looked uneasy but stoutly proclaimed, "Disgruntled ex-military. Says he quit but who knows? No one will pay any attention to him."
Delenn shook her head. "Your President Clark has carefully prepared the populace for an alien threat. Mr. Garibaldi is known to have been part of our inner circle, and his words will have weight." She picked up her glass and took a long swallow, draining the cool water. She spoke precisely. "The documentary was careful to preserve John's reputation as a war hero, while giving an explanation for his decision to break away from Earth."
"That explanation would be you," stated Susan grimly.
"And Lorien," added Delenn. "It is a strategic move on your government's part. She toyed with her now empty glass. "I was reluctant to accede to the joint interview with the man Randall. I have not had good experiences with your human media in the past."
"No," agreed Susan. "But I suppose the Captain thought it was worth a chance." She smiled at Delenn. 'A little truth is better than none'-that was the idea." Tentatively she placed one hand on Delenn's shoulder. "And how are you doing? It got a little personal there at the end."
Delenn lowered her head, hands now clenched in her lap. "It was...painful. To have such an interpretation placed on our...relationship. To have it broadcast to your people. We do not handle affairs of the heart this way on Minbar. There is a public aspect, of course. Approval is sought from the elders of each respective clan. There are rituals performed with observers. I know it is done differently with you." She twisted her hands briefly. "It distresses me that John's family may have seen that piece."
"Anyone with half an eye could see you two are in love," protested Susan. "And John's people know him better than anyone." She patted Delenn's shoulder awkwardly, then returned her grasp to her own glass, taking a deep draught of the now dilute vodka. Delenn hadn't answered, so she sighed inwardly and searched for more comfort to offer her friend. "I met Ambassador Sheridan once, you know."
Delenn looked up at this admission. "Oh yes? Where was this?"
"A reception on Io. Visiting diplomats passing through. John's father had just retired and was coming through Io on his way back home from Proxima. He was invited to a reception; I was there to provide some security and keep an eye on things generally. We talked briefly. He was very sharp, in an observational sense, very tuned into people. You could talk to him, and often found yourself saying more than you meant to say. He invited confidences." Susan seemed briefly lost in memory, and she gently touched the gold earring that hung in her ear.
Delenn listened with interest. "He must have been an able representative of your people. Much of the job of diplomacy consists of listening rather than talking."
Susan nodded. "That's it. You remind me a little of him actually." Delenn looked surprised and pleased at the same time. Susan continued with a grin, "In any case, I don't think you don't have to worry about the in-laws."
Delenn wrinkled her nose at the phrase. "I much prefer the Minbari term, 'parents-of-the-heart'. They are one's chosen family, rather than those to which you were born. When Minbari marry, the couple chooses their joint clan affiliation together, and it may be either that of the woman or of the man."
"Very enlightened of them," replied Susan, a very slight slur loosening her usually crisp diction.
"It is our way," said Delenn, slightly uncomfortable. "But what of others who watched the program? Will they not come to their own conclusions about John's and my relationship? Will it hinder your quest to wrest the control of your government from President Clark and those who support him?"
"Maybe it'll help. If enough people still have brains in their head," replied Susan. Softening her belligerent tone, she added, "We're not that evolved, Delenn. We still throw rocks at things that shine. You've found something other people might envy, that's all. Don't let worry about the big picture dim your current, or your future, happiness."
A faint color stained Delenn's cheeks for a moment. "It is good advice. I thank you," she said, standing and after a moment she placed one hand over her own heart, and raised the other palm to face Susan.
Susan wait a beat, then stood and grasped Delenn's hand in her own, placing the other on her slight friend's shoulder and pulling her into a quick hug. "Shoo," she said gruffly. "The Captain will be done sulking by now and want to talk." A quick return pressure, and then Delenn was gone in a whirl of silk.
Susan sat back down and tapped her now empty glass on the counter. The Drazi approached, polishing a glass in one hand with a cloth in the other. He was shaking his head at her, trying to preempt the question. She leaned forward and said pleasantly, "Another double, if you care to continue breathing."
Susan Ivanova sipped at her drink, watching the crowd and wondering at the way life at the basic level continued no matter what was going on in the big bad world. Friendship, love, relationships; they all just went on, war or peace, space station or planet, human or alien. All the bad things went on too; petty disagreements, dislike, and yes, envy.
Susan wondered what was going to happen next. If they all survived the upcoming confrontation with Earth, which was by no means assured, things would change. Again. Garibaldi had already struck out on his own. Stephen had his own work, which would go on with or without the approval or permission of EarthGov. John and Delenn would always have each other. But win or lose, she would likely be left with a career in tatters, and no one to fall back on but herself. Finishing her drink, she looked at the glass, the reflection of the crowds dissolving in the melting ice. There was too little light in the world. Whatever lay in her future, she'd work to preserve it. She wouldn't be the one to throw rocks.