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A Moment Before Flight

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Susan paused by the door to John's quarters, hand hovering over the chime. How many times had she come here, to argue about logistics or strategy, or just to talk? She supposed they were technically her quarters now, though she knew she'd never move into them.

In the end, she keyed the override instead of signalling. They weren't anyone's quarters. Stephen had asked her to meet him here, and would be expecting her. (Besides, she'd walked in on John in enough weird situations, in the old days. Call this old time's sake.)

At first Susan thought the rooms were empty. Boxes and drawers were pulled apart like Stephen had left in the middle of going through them, and she didn't hear anyone moving around in the bedroom. Then Susan looked to her left and saw a frozen picture of John on the screen. He looked younger, happier, still eyes somehow sparkling with enthusiasm and hope. Susan's breath caught, and she almost didn't see the figure sitting beneath the screen, her back to it, and her arms wrapped around her drawn up knees and head dropped so that her hair covered her face.

It was Delenn, of course, and Susan understood why Stephen had called her. She didn't say anything, just crossed to the comm alcove and sank down on the floor in front of Delenn. Her knees popped, and her thigh muscles reminded her of how little sleep she'd had in the past week.

When they'd sat facing each other for a few minutes, Susan said, "So, if I sit here any longer, my foot's going to fall asleep."

"Minbari learn to control the rigidity of their veins," Delenn replied, not raising her head.

"That's wonderful."

Delenn looked up enough to see out from under her hair. Susan would have expected that she was crying, but her eyes were dry, and now crinkling in a smile. Susan wanted to ask if Delenn was okay, but of course she wasn't, none of them were. Susan may have begun to accept the truth, and to realise that they must keep forward or perish, but that didn't make losing her best friend easier.

"I begin," Delenn said, and Susan waited, expecting the rest of the sentence, but for a long time none came. She really was starting to lose feeling in her toes. Finally Delenn started again, "I have taken the first step on a new path. It is dark, and I do not know the way."

Susan sighed. "I know the feeling. The important thing is to keep walking."

"Yes," said Delenn. "I understand that now. Only I feel a little dizzy."

Susan had heard the rumour that Delenn wasn't eating; people had been implying that she should do something about it for days now, like Susan had the damnedst idea how to help, when she was barely eating herself. Now, she said, "Uncle Yossel used to say 'worries go down better with soup than without.'"

"Then we will have soup," Delenn answered. She stood in one smooth, inhuman movement, and held her hand out to Susan.

Getting pulled up by Delenn felt a bit like being on a space elevator with wonky dampeners. Susan's knees popped again. As she stood, she realised that she too was hungry. "I'll treat," she said, "Earhart's has a borshch that you'll swear they put actual cabbage in." As long as you didn't think too hard about G'Kar's supply chain, or the origin of its "vegetables."

"Thank you," Delenn said. "I would like that." She did not let go of Susan's hand until the came to the door.