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acquaintance

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Delenn was feeling helpless, discouraged, alien to her own body. She had known that the Chrysalis would leave her changed and in the grand scheme of things, her new… hair… was hardly of importance, but it was ‘the last straw,’ as Sinclair might have said had he still been here. She’d had to fight her own people every step of the way – her clan, her caste, her council (her council). Looking into the mirror in despair, with Lennier well-meaning but no better equipped to help her – she simply reached her limit.

*

She knew that Commander Ivanova had better things to do; the woman had been trying her best to hide her exasperation, but - Delenn had seen the expression on her face and known enough about humans to understand its meaning.

Yet she was here, had spirited Delenn into her own quarters, unseen. She had let go of her unshakeable sense of decorum enough – as Delenn herself had swallowed her pride – to be naked in the… bath… with her.

The commander had gathered up her own hair and demonstrated how to get all of it wet, get a lot of foamy goo into it, advised Delenn to close her eyes so it wouldn’t sting.

No longer half-impatient as she’d been at first, she had consented to put her hands onto Delenn’s head (and Delenn had let her). And… after Delenn had taken the first step and rinsed once, she had started running her fingers trough the stringy strands to deal with the worst knots.

There had been some pain at first, although Susan had tried to be careful. Delenn’s bone ridge had initially puzzled her but together they had found a solution soon enough.

Deft fingers massaging a substance called ‘conditioner’into her hair and into her scalp, it was unlike anything Delenn had ever felt – but it was soothing.

Here was a problem that was being dealt with. Here was another sentient being who was on her side.

Tension seemed to seep out of Delenn with every speck of filth that vanished down the drain.

“My mother used to do this,” Susan let slip as she combed Delenn’s hair until it was dry – let slip: Delenn could tell the commander had not meant to say it.

Delenn reached up and ran a finger over the crown of her bone ridge, just enough for a small amount of fluid to emerge from it. “My mother showed me how to do this,” she offered, hoping Susan understood that Delenn recognized what a boon her admission had been.

(The commander’s tremulous smile was real, however quickly it vanished.)

*

The commander ought soon to go back to her shift. Delenn herself ought to go back to her correspondence. The skin around her fingers was beginning to wrinkle unpleasantly. Yet the water was warm, the sensation no longer as foreign. Susan had yet to ask for the time. Delenn could find no reason compelling enough why they could not sit and relax a little longer.

.