Delenn buried her nose in the flowers again. The small petals brushed her cheeks as she inhaled, her fingers tightening their grip on the stems. Earlier, she’d stood with her hands on her hips for ten minutes as she debated which ones to pluck and bind together with string. She’d settled on a handful of daffodils. They smelt delicate, and Delenn’s shoulders sagged.
The door slid open in front of her. Sheridan’s room was dimmer than the corridor and she stepped closer. It looked the same it always did—clean, inviting, and distinctly Sheridan. Delenn hesitated at the threshold, rolling the flower’s string between her thumb and index finger.
He rushed out from the backroom, brushing at his hair. He wore what Delenn had come to learn was a cable-knit sweater. Ivanova had laughed when Delenn tried to describe it to her once. She had the damnedest gaps in her vocabulary, she thought.
“Sorry, I didn’t want to leave you waiting in the corridor. Come in, please.”
The warm of the room pulled her in, ridding her of any chill from outside and dusting her face pink. Her shoulders sagged farther. The carpet swallowed the sound of her footsteps as she met him in the middle, the rectangle of light on the ground from the door disappearing behind her.
She held the daffodils out to him.
“Flowers?” he asked.
“For who else?”
She’d discovered the tradition of bringing flowers from Lennier, who’d learned it from Garibaldi. It had seemed silly—Garibaldi playing a joke on Lennier—but the look on Sheridan’s face told her it must hold some deeper meaning for humans. Delenn decided she’d bring him flowers every day simply to see that expression.
“Thank you,” he said, hands coming up and hovering as if the gift were too delicate for him to touch. “No one’s ever brought me flowers.”
She furrowed her brow. “This seems wrong. You’ve never received flowers, yet here I stand offering them without knowing what they mean.”
He pressed his hands over hers, the stems firm under her fingers. His skin was hot, and the pink from Delenn’s cheeks spread. She leaned closer and he didn’t lean back, the daffodils keeping their chests apart.
“They mean whatever you want them to mean,” he said, breath swaying her hair.
“Oh. Then they mean… I was thinking about you.”
“I believe you already said that.”
“Right,” he said, and smiled. “Gotta put them in water.”
“Or they will die, yes.”
He drew back, but the smile remained. He took the flowers with him, walking to the kitchen and opening a cabinet.
She pulled at her sleeves and cleared her throat softly.
Delenn found herself focusing on the strangest things when with him. Dishes clanked as he searched for a suitable vase, and Delenn looked at his socks. She couldn’t remember if she’d ever seen him without shoes on before.
“I decided to order out tonight.” He gestured toward the countertop. A platter sat, decorated with blocked cheese, crackers, and the small sandwiches Sheridan picked up whenever he wandered past that particular restaurant. He claimed the cook assembled them just right.
Clasping her hands together, Delenn said, “Before we eat, could I ask you something?”
Placing the flowers in a tall coffee mug and setting it on the counter, he nodded, making his way over. His forehead creased down the middle and he cocked his head. She waited until he was in front of her again.
“Do you know how to dance?”
He bit his lip as if, somehow, he’d been dreading the question, and nodded. “Not well, I’ll warn you.”
“I should explain,” she said, shaking her head. “Most human customs I’ve learned from Lennier, so the other day I did some of my own research. I found the idea of slow dancing fascinating and thought I would ask you to teach me. If you would like, of course.”
“Of course,” he said, extending his hand to her.
“I think we need music first.”
“Right!” Jogging to the computer, he asked for some classical earth music. A soft song with a swinging rhythm joined them.
He jogged back and offered his hand again, bright smile on his face. “Try this again?”
Their hands met and he pulled her closer, a small tremor giving away his nervousness.
“I’ll lead,” he said, “So just do what I do.”
Guiding her palm to his shoulder, he settled his on her waist. Their fingers threaded neatly together as they began to sway. Her skirt breezed back and forth, brushing at her ankles, tickling them. After a few seconds, she leaned her head against his chest, listening and wondering if his heart beat as fast hers.
Once they’d fallen in sync with swaying, the stakes raised when he drew back and lifted her arm. She followed as best she could, spinning under her arm when he tipped his head toward it, and allowed him to get them reoriented after the new move.
She stepped on his foot then stuttered back.
“It’s okay,” he said, smiling, tugging her back to him. “I’m surprised I haven’t done it to you yet.” Warming close again, she titled her chin up to watch him. “Once, at a school dance, I stepped on a girl’s toes so many times she called her mom to pick her up.”
“That is horrible.”
He nodded. “Yeah, it was.”
“You have gotten considerably better since then.”
The rhythm of the music did not quite match their swaying, but she paid it no mind. Her thoughts centered on his face as his teeth worried at his lip. The flow set by him let her dwell on the moment, yet she wished him to be present as well; not buried as he tried to perfect their dance.
“Hmm?” His eyes flashed to hers.
“May I lead?”
“Uh, sure.” Their hands shifted positions. “Be warned though, it’s not as easy as I make it seem.”
She put on a serious face and said, “Of course. I will remember that.”
The music, having run its course, began again. Same song. Delenn took a moment, counting in her head to the song, and then directed their bodies to the left with, what she mentally dubbed, the downward rhythm. They moved to the right with the upward rhythm and they were on track.
Autopilot kicked on and she looked up, joining the moment.
“This is very nice,” she said, happy to see his brow no longer furrowed and his lip unworried. “I shall return the favor one day.”
“Well, you’re much better at this than I am. How about you lead from now on and we’ll call it even?”
“I would not mind this agreement, but it does imply a next dance. Are you aware of this stipulation? I would be in debt to you if there was not another dance.”
“Oh,” he smiled and tucked her closer. “I’m aware of the implication.”
The room didn’t matter to Delenn, the food didn’t matter, the music didn’t even register. She was with John and he with her. The universe had aligned just right for once. Delenn could not understand at that moment how anyone could believe the universe was a cruel place; not when this had been allowed to happen.
Her heart continued to pound against her chest and she wished to never open her eyes for fear it would end this. Could every day be the same as this, she wondered. She knew it couldn’t, but for the first time, she permitted herself the indulgence of believing it could be.
When the music began its third loop, they separated. Their bodies like magnets, she pressed her mouth into a line as she forced herself back. His clenched fist hinted the same effort on his side.
“Lovely,” she finished for him.
“Dinner?” he gestured toward the food again.
“Would be most welcome.”