By Frieda W. Landau





   This is my first (and probably my last) slash story. It's a Susan/Delenn story that takes place three years after Sleeping in Light. A random remark from a friend gave me the idea. I had no intention of writing such a story, ever, but somehow, I did. I think it works. I hope you do too.

   I'd like to thank my beta readers, particularly Lynne, who nagged at me to finish it. :-)

   As always, all feedback - positive and negative is welcome.






   Ranger One sat at her desk in Valen's House scowling at the report in front of her. Today was the third anniversary of her predecessor's death. And in a little while she was going to have dinner with his widow. There was a ritual _ isn't there always, with Minbari _ but Delenn had promised it was brief. She wasn't sure she could handle this. She didn't want any reminders of the death of John Sheridan. But she had promised Delenn. Susan Ivanova shook her head ruefully. Ever since that 'bad hair' day so long ago, she had given in when her friend pleaded with her. And Delenn hadn't asked anything of her in a long while.

   "At least this time there won't be any embarrassing questions, I hope," Susan said out loud. She still had vivid memories, and a coffee_stained shirt, of the time Delenn asked her to explain the correct human etiquette concerning oral sex. "Is it proper for the female to swallow?" Delenn had asked. After wiping up the spilled coffee and throwing out the remains of the broken cup, Susan had stammered and hemmed her way to an answer. Delenn had listened intently and thanked her. But Susan always had a sneaking suspicion that her friend was gently teasing her for her assumption that the Minbari was sexually naive.

   The comm broke into her reminiscences. "Yes, Lennaran, what is it?"

   "The new recruits have arrived. They are waiting for you in the Chapel," the Ranger training instructor informed her.

   "I'll be right there. Have my flyer prepped and ready to leave as soon as we finish."

   Damn! She had made it a point to greet each new Ranger class upon arrival. She couldn't make an exception today, even though it meant she would not have time to get out of uniform before going to the President's House. She'd have to bring along a change and shower when she got there. Delenn was sure to have a spare guest suite for her to use.


   "Entil'Zha," Ranger One said, bowing her head in respect as she entered. Whenever she was in uniform and others were within earshot, Susan was always formal in addressing Delenn.

   "Welcome," Delenn said, just as formally.

   She told the house guard to return to his post and indicated that Susan should follow her. Once inside the small sitting room adjoining the Presidential office, Delenn smiled.

   "Thank you for coming, Susan. I was afraid you would change your mind at the last minute.." She motioned to the corner table. "Would you like a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, perhaps?"

   "Wine?" Susan was confused. She picked up the crystal decanter that stood next to the Minbari teapot. "Since when do Minbari serve wine?"

   "Minbari do not. That is a special wine for special friends. Read the label on the bottom of the decanter."

   "Garibaldi Private Reserve, 2275. Number 2 of 100" Susan read aloud. "Garibaldi? As in Michael? As in Edgars_Garibaldi Vineyards?" She asked, wide_eyed. "Delenn, do you have any idea how rare this is? And how much a bottle costs, if you can find one for sale?"

   "So I've been told," Delenn said, amused. "Michael has been sending us a bottle every year for the past ten years. John used to save it for special occasions."

   She paused for a moment, remembering. Susan said nothing, but gently touched her friend's shoulder. Delenn smiled wanly.

   "I am all right, Susan, really." She poured some of the wine into a delicate goblet and swirled it so the dark, red liquid reflected the light. She handed the glass to Susan, who took an appreciative swallow. "Michael still sends a bottle. Sometimes I have a small sip or two. I do not seem to have the usual Minbari reaction to alcohol, which, I suppose, is not entirely surprising. I have developed a taste for it." She shook her head and smiled. "Unfortunately, any more than a small amount and I go to sleep almost immediately." She paused, then added, almost to herself, "That is not always a bad thing."

   Before Susan could respond, Delenn pointed to Susan's carryall. "Would you like to shower and change now? You can use the guest room in the private quarters. I too have to change for the ceremony. Finish your wine. There is no hurry. And afterward, we will have dinner."

   "Delenn, just what is this ceremony? You never told me what I'm supposed to do or anything."

   "All you need do is stand beside me, as my friend. The ceremony marks the official end of the mourning period for me." Delenn started through the door to the hallway that lead to the private quarters of the house.

   "Wait a minute, shouldn't David be here too, or Liz or his parents?"

   "The rituals for children and siblings are different. And the Sheridans are not Minbari. It is all right, Susan. I asked you to come because I did not want to be alone. If you are uncomfortable, I will not insist." She turned to go.

   "Don't be silly, Delenn. Of course I'll be with you. I just wondered what it was all about."

   "Thank you, my friend." Delenn said quietly. "I will see you in one hour, then." She smiled and walked out.

   Susan poured herself another glass of wine. "I have a feeling I'm going to need this before the evening is over," she murmured under her breath. She stood at the window overlooking the fountain in the midst of the sand garden that sheltered in the northwest corner of the great house. Finally, she put down her glass and walked out to prepare for the ceremony.


   Susan tossed her carryall on the bed and surveyed the room. It seemed to be a blend of Minbari and human elements, like the rest of the house. The bed was Minbari, wide enough for two, but it could be lowered to lie flat, presumably for human guests. The seat beneath the broad window overlooking the gardens was strewn with cushions whose colors echoed those of the flowers outside. A small work table with a comm unit built in occupied one corner. The door at the far end opened into a small, but well_equipped bathroom, with both a stall shower and a Minbari cleansing station. Turning back toward the bed, she noticed a robe draped across a comfortable looking chair. A bathrobe, probably one of Delenn's. And probably too small. She picked it up and held it against her. The bottom puddled on the floor. Definitely not Delenn's then.

    "John's," she said aloud. "I can't wear this." For a moment she panicked, dropping the robe and looking wildly around her. She started for the door. "Get hold of yourself, Ivanova. It's just a robe, for God's sake. You're acting like you've committed sacrilege or something by even touching it." She walked back to the chair. "Delenn doesn't have a problem with it. She left it for you. So use it." Still, she hesitated. Finally, shaking herself, she picked it up and put it on the bed. She quickly stripped off her uniform and underwear. She hesitated again, then put on the robe and headed for the bathroom.


   Susan was sitting at the window, watching the play of colors from the setting sun against the mountains and brushing her hair, when Delenn knocked.

   "John's old robe is the only one in the house that would fit you," Delenn said when she came into the room. "I hope you don't mind."

   "Mind? should I?" Susan hoped she sounded more sure than she felt. "Am I late? I thought the ceremony wasn't for another half hour yet."

   "No," Delenn said, smiling at her. "There's plenty of time. And anyway, we will not start without you. I came to give you this robe." She shook out the bundle in her arms. It was a typical Minbari ceremonial robe, white with minimal adornment and an attached hood. "You can wear it over your clothes, or change afterwards. I will call for you in thirty minutes." She smiled again and walked out.

   Susan picked up the ceremonial garment. It was lightweight, some sort of silk perhaps. Light enough to wear over her clothes. She didn't really feel like changing again. She took off the bathrobe, John's robe, and folded it carefully before placing it on the chair. She opened her carryall and pulled out a dark blue dress with long skirt and low_cut bodice. Lace panties and bra, of the same cobalt blue as the dress, were next, and then heeled sandals of a soft, buttery leather. Susan preferred civilian clothes as unlike her uniforms as possible. She was fastening gold earrings, her only jewelry, when Delenn knocked again.

   "Come on in," Susan called without turning around. "I'll be ready in a minute." She gave her hair, hanging in soft curls on her shoulders, one last brush. "There, I'm all set," she said and faced her friend.

   Delenn was dressed all in white, with a white lace overdress. She held out her hand. "Come, everything is prepared."

   "You look gorgeous," Susan blurted out. "But isn't that the same dress you wore the day John...uh...left?"

   "Yes," Delenn said, patting Susan's arm. "Does that disturb you? I am sorry. I thought you knew. White is the color of mourning for my caste." She walked over to the window. She gazed at the mountains, lost in thought. Without looking at Susan, Delenn said softly, "I wore this when John left. He too thought I looked beautiful."

   "Delenn, I didn't mean to distress you," Susan began.

   "You haven't. I wore this deliberately that day. I wanted to follow at least one of our traditions." She paused. There was a catch in her voice when she continued. "When John chose to ...go...the way he did, alone into space, I could not perform the usual rites. I could not mingle his last breath with mine, so his soul would take a piece of mine with him. I could not prepare his body. I could not stand vigil for the three nights. I did not have the comfort of the ordinary rituals to ease my grief." She turned away from the window.

   "That is why tonight is so important to me. It is the only ceremony I can perform for him, and for me." She held out her hand again. "Come, it is time."


   The household temple, which stood at the back of the compound near the guard and staff quarters, was larger than most. Susan stood at Delenn's left side in the center, in a space that could easily hold 200. The only light was the tall candle Delenn held aloft. She began to chant, softly at first, her voice gradually rising to a high, keening note. Susan could only make out a few words. The language was archaic, from the time before Valen. But she did not need to understand. The tune spoke of grief and pain and an empty heart.

   Susan turned as she heard movement behind her. Nine figures, robed and hooded in white, entered, each bearing a triangle held at arm's length. They circled the two women three times, the bells on the triangles drowning out Delenn's chanting. One of the robed figures stepped forward. He chanted a few phrases, which were echoed by the other eight. Delenn responded. The three-way dialogue continued for some time. Delenn seemed to be resisting. Again, Susan could only catch a few words or phrases. The nine seemed to be urging Delenn and she seemed to be resisting. Finally, Delenn bowed her head. She blew out the candle, plunging them into darkness.

   Before Susan could react, Delenn took her hand and squeezed gently. "Wait," she whispered. The word seemed loud in the silent darkness.

   Suddenly one high, clear note of a bell rang out and the space was filled with light. To Susan's dazzled eyes, there appeared to be hundreds of candles and torches, in every alcove and on every pillar. When her eyes grew accustomed, she saw that most of the light came from recessed fixtures. Only a large, three-sided table held candles. It was set with the customary items for a rebirth ceremony. The nine robed figures, now revealed as temple acolytes, sat on two sides. Two empty seats waited on the third side. Another bell rang out, lower then the first. Three white-robed females stepped out of an alcove. They escorted Delenn through a small door. After a moment's hesitation, Susan followed.

   She stepped into a small room where the three were helping Delenn remove her white robes. She smiled at Susan, but said nothing. Susan smiled back and settled into a corner. When Delenn stood only in a thin, white shift, the others brought out garments such as Delenn normally wore. While two helped her with the gold dress and red and gold overdress, the third folded the mourning dress in a ceremonial manner, using words and gestures Susan could not understand. With a final tug and brush, Delenn adjusted the usual ceremonial robe that went overall. The Minbari who folded them, gave the mourning robes to Delenn, who bowed as she accepted them. Motioning Susan to follow, Delenn walked back into the temple.

   The na'fak'cha began normally as far as Susan could tell. She had only experienced two, one after Delenn was stabbed almost twenty four years ago on Babylon 5. She wondered idly whether Delenn still had a scar. The second was the one that was part of her installation as Ranger One. She snapped back to attention when she realized Delenn was saying something to her.

   "Sorry, what did you say?"

   "Please take this to the altar to Valen, the one by the third pillar from the door," Delenn whispered. She bowed and handed the mourning clothes to her friend.

   Susan bowed in return. She had lived on Minbar long enough to know that one always bowed in such situations. She carried the robes across her arms to the altar, where one of the Minbari females who had helped Delenn dress took them and bowed in turn. She then motioned for Susan to return to the table.

   Susan sat next to Delenn as the ceremony continued. The President of the Interstellar Alliance looked pale, but composed. Susan breathed a sigh of relief. Delenn heard her.

   "I am all right, my friend. There is no need to be concerned."

   "I wasn't concerned... exactly," Susan started to say, but a look from one of the acolytes silenced her.

   Finally, Delenn pushed back her hood and proclaimed "And so it begins."

   The others bowed and withdrew. Delenn took off the ritual robe. Susan did the same. Together they walked out of the temple.


   Susan poured the last of the wine into her glass. She raised it in salute to Delenn. "L'Chaim," she said. "To life."

   Delenn raised her glass in turn. "To life." She took a small sip. "And that is all the wine I should drink, or you will have to put me to bed." She grinned. "Which one does not expect to be among the obligations of a guest in a proper Minbari household." Susan laughed and reached over to pick up her friend's glass. "And this is too good to go to waste," she said as she poured the remainder into her own glass.

   Susan realized she had laughed a great deal during dinner, which was not what she expected at all. She wasn't sure just what she had expected. She had been apprehensive, anticipating awkward conversation while both women tried to avoid the subject of John Sheridan. Instead, Delenn had talked freely and easily, recalling amusing incidents involving John and his friends. Perhaps there was something to all those Minbari rituals after all.

   "Dinner was delicious, thank you for inviting me," Susan said, emptying her glass. "Thank you for coming. Come, we can have tea in the small sitting room." Delenn rose. "I have a surprise for you for dessert."

   She led the way to a well-proportioned room not far from the private guest suite. The comfortable looking chairs and couches were human in inspiration; the rugs and wall hangings were Minbari. Candles provided the only light, but the room was cozy, not dark or dim. Delenn sat on the couch near the window that looked out to the mountains of Tuzanor, bright in the light of Minbar's twin moons. She motioned for Susan to take the large armchair opposite. Another motion and a waiting server placed a large, covered tray on the low table between the two women. He bowed and left silently. Delenn lifted the cover with a flourish.

   "Chocolate cake!" Susan was delighted. "I haven't had chocolate cake since I came to Minbar. I didn't even know there was any to be had."

   "Consider it a reward for your patience during dinner when you did not ask me about the ritual, although you wanted to do so."

   "I didn't think it was so obvious," Susan said around bites of cake. "But now that you mention it..."

   "Very well, what do you want to know."

   "Well, the ritual itself. The two parts of it. I got the impression the first part was older, more primitive somehow."

   Delenn took a bite of her cake while she framed her answer. "It is older, much older. It comes from a time long before Valen, a time when the clans warred among each other and lovers often followed each other in death."

   Susan sat spellbound as Delenn told of those times, a time so remote and barbaric, it was hard to remember that she was talking about Minbar. Delenn spoke of how the souls of those who died were reborn and the belief that if lovers did not die within a short time of each other, they would not be united in the next life. And how at the end of the old ritual, the mourner would often die. Then Valen came and taught that true soul mates would never be divided in other lives; they would seek each other out in every incarnation.

   "The na'fak'cha was added to the old rite, when Valen's teachings came to be accepted by most." Delenn took a sip of tea and another bit of cake. "There are those who still cling to the old beliefs, but they grow fewer every generation."

   "I'm glad you're not one of them," Susan said.

   "I am not, but it wouldn't make a difference. I promised John I would live out the balance of my life. And he promised he would wait for me to join him, no matter how long, before he leaves this time for another life. He is waiting for me. I am certain of that, more certain even than of my own name.

    "But he would not let me grieve for him, Susan. He is the other half of my soul and he would not let me grieve. He wanted the day to be a happy one. And I wanted him to have that. I could not deny him. It took all my strength and will not to cry, not to plead with him, not to call out to him when he left. He would not let me cry for him then. I have not been able to cry for him since."

   Susan did not know what to say. She moved over to sit beside her friend. She patted her hand, helpless to do anything else. Suddenly, Delenn began to cry, silently at first, the tears streaming down her face. Susan wrapped her arms around her and drew her against her.

   "It's all right, Delenn. It's all right to cry. Cry for him now." Susan stroked her hair and back. "It's all right."

   Delenn started to cry in earnest, with great wracking sobs that shook her slender frame.


   Susan continued to stroke Delenn's hair as she held her. Gradually, she became aware that Delenn was not crying, that she had stopped crying a while ago. But Delenn's head was still pressed against her breasts. In fact, Delenn was...oh Lord!... kissing the top of Susan's right breast. Kissing and softly nipping and....Susan took Delenn's shoulders and gently pushed her back. Delenn looked up, eyes wide and surprised.

   "Does this not please you? Am I doing it wrong?"

   ", you''re doing it right," Susan managed to stammer.

   "Then what is the matter?"

   "Delenn," Susan tried once more. "Delenn, what are you doing...I mean why are you doing this.? I mean...I like it but...." Susan trailed off as Delenn moved closer again.

   "The body has needs of its own, Susan," Delenn said gravely. "And those needs must be met for the soul to be in harmony."

   "Yes, but...." Susan was still incoherent.

   "After the death of a mate, it is not uncommon among my people for the survivor to turn to a close friend at such times. I thought...." Delenn trailed off, suddenly shy. She swallowed and continued. "I thought that you and I, since we are friends and since we are both alone...." Again, she trailed off.

   Susan tilted her friend's chin upward. "You thought that we each other?"

   Delenn nodded. "There is even a brief ceremony for such times."

   "Of course." Susan said deadpan, then grinned.

   Delenn smiled in relief. "Then you are not angry with me?"

   "Angry?" Susan shook her head. "Never, not with you." She hesitated, then looked directly into Delenn's eyes. "Delenn, if you are sure about this..."

   Delenn nodded again and said firmly, "I'm sure."

   "Well then, what's this ceremony? I hope it's brief because frankly, you're making me very horny."

   "We can't have that," Delenn said gravely and then spoiled the effect by laughing with delight. She took Susan's hand and held it to her heart. "The ceremony is very brief. Only a few words. We can say them on the way." With her other hand, Delenn reached for Susan and kissed her gently, but firmly, on the lips. "Come."

   Delenn did not let go of Susan's hand. She held fast to it as they said the words that sanctioned and sanctified their desire. She continued to hold it as they walked to the guest room where Susan had changed earlier. Once inside, Delenn still did not let go.

   "It's okay, Delenn. I'm not going to run away. You can let go now."

   Delenn dropped Susan's hand as though stung. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."

   "Hey, take it easy. I don't bite," Susan said. "Except for pleasure," she added with a wicked grin.

   "I'm afraid I'm a little nervous. I've never done this...I mean...I've never made love before...I mean...I'm not sure of what to do..."

   Susan kissed her very softly. "I know what you mean, Delenn. It's all right."

   "But, I don't know what to do," Delenn said earnestly. "How will I know if I'm pleasing you? I want to please you."

   Susan did not let her amusement show as she gently caressed the other woman's face. "If something gives you pleasure, then I'll probably find it pleasing too. After all," she touched Delenn's breasts lightly, "We've got the same parts in the same places, so..." She stopped suddenly. "We do, don't we?"

   Now it was Delenn's turn to be amused. She smiled. "Yes, Susan, we do. Those 'parts' are completely human."

   Susan returned the smile. She held out her arms. The two kissed. Tentatively at first, then with more assurance. As their tongues explored, so did their hands. The kisses intensified. Susan stroked Delenn's hair. When she rubbed the crest accidently, Delenn shuddered and pressed herself closer. Susan was intrigued. She tried to contain her own arousal as she deliberately stroked between the flutes of the crest until Delenn began to moan. "Now there's a 'part' that we don't have in common," she thought.

   Delenn recalled her attention by pushing the top of the dress off her shoulders to fondle her breasts. Delenn rubbed and squeezed through the lacy brassiere until the nipples hardened. She tried to push the dress further down when Susan stopped her. Taking hold of Delenn's hands, Susan kissed the palms.

   "I think we should get undressed now," she said breathlessly. "I'll prepare the bed. You don't mind if I make it flat, do you?"

   Delenn shook her head. She tried to catch her breath. As Susan adjusted the bed and drew back the covers, Delenn took off her clothes with shaking hands. When she had only the thin shift remaining, she hesitated. Then she removed it in one swift motion.

   "I'm ready," she said, with only a trace of uncertainty in her voice.

   Susan's back was turned as she stepped out of her dress, letting it drop to the floor. She turned around, starting to say something, when she saw Delenn standing there, naked, with the light of the two moons shining on her. Delenn's skin was pale, more ivory than pink. Her breasts were full. The aureoles were a dusky blue, as though the skin were translucent and the blue veins underneath showed through. The erect nipples were a lighter shade. The pubic mound also appeared tinged with blue, with a light sprinkling of hair, like fuzz on a peach. She seemed to shimmer in the moonlight.

   "You are so beautiful," Susan whispered reverently. "I never knew... you are so beautiful."

   Delenn smiled. When Susan started to remove the remnants of her clothing, Delenn stopped her.

   "Please," she said. "Let me do it."

   Sitting on the bed next to Susan, Delenn slowly removed Susan's brassiere. Wherever her hands touched, her lips followed. Then she trailed kisses down to the top of Susan's bikini briefs. Susan started to get up, to allow Delenn to pull them down, but Delenn pushed her back against the bed. She smiled and lifted Susan's right foot. Starting at the arch, Delenn kissed her way up her friend's right leg until she reached the soft, sensitive skin on the inside of the thigh. She nuzzled the area briefly and then turned her attention to the left leg. When she reached the thigh again, she raised her hands to Susan's hips and traced the pattern of the briefs. Susan was moaning and thrusting her hips.

   "Delenn, you're driving me crazy. Where did you learn that?"

   She gasped as Delenn's skilled hands rolled the briefs down. Again her lips followed her hands. Delenn kissed her hips, her pelvis, everywhere but where Susan most wanted to be kissed. Susan moaned louder. Her thighs were slick with her own moisture, her labia engorged. Suddenly Delenn climbed on the bed. She pressed herself against Susan. She kissed her mouth fiercely and held her tightly.

   "Wait for me, Susan. Wait for me," she pleaded.

   "I'll try," Susan said panting.

   She rolled so that Delenn was beneath her. As they kissed, Susan rubbed Delenn's nipples until she whimpered. Susan lowered her mouth, sucking first on one and then on the other nipple and licking and gently nipping the tender skin surrounding them. She caressed the curve of her waist and hip and then caressed her belly. Delenn started making little, whimpering sounds. Susan's hand reached the baby fine hair that covered Delenn's mound. Pressing the heel of her hand against the base of the pubis, Susan traced the pattern of the outer genital area. Delenn was as wet as she was. Susan inserted first one finger and then another. Delenn tightened around the fingers, thrusting upward with each stroke. Delenn ran her hands down Susan's body. She squeezed and kneaded Susan's breasts, rolling the nipples between her thumbs and forefingers. Still fondling one breast, she placed her other hand between Susan's legs. She rubbed the clitoris and Susan's moans drowned out her own sounds. The women rolled again, so they were facing each other. Delenn pulled Susan up to kiss her. Their lips bruised against their teeth. Their tongues thrust in time to the thrusts of their hips. Suddenly, Delenn broke free. She slipped down to suck on Susan's left breast.

   "Oh, that feels so good. Yes...." Delenn responded by sucking harder.

   Susan began to kiss and lick Delenn's crest. Delenn was panting now. Susan rubbed and stroked and thrust her fingers into Delenn. With her other hand, she squeezed Delenn's firm buttocks. Delenn was doing the same to Susan, thrusting and squeezing in unison to the movements of her own body.

   Suddenly Delenn bit hard. She cried out as the spasms spread from her pubic regions throughout her body. She started shaking uncontrollably, giving out inarticulate cries and moans. Susan roared. He cries mingled with Delenn's as her own body found its release. They held on to each other, riding the crest of their orgasms together.

   Breathless and with racing hearts, they held each other until it was over. Delenn looked at Susan. She started to say something, but Susan stopped her by kissing her. She stroked her back.

   "Shhh. Don't say anything now. Just let me hold you close."


   Delenn sighed contentedly and smiled at Susan who was lying by her side, idly tracing the line from her throat to her breasts. Delenn grabbed the hand and brought it to her lips. She kissed the back of Susan's hand gently.

   "Thank you, my friend, for the comfort of your body," she said softly and pressed the hand to her heart.

   Susan looked at her. Without removing her hand, she asked "Is that part of the ritual too?" She tried to keep her tone light, but did not entirely succeed.

   Delenn shook her head.

   "Then it should be," Susan declared. She took Delenn's free hand and pressed it to her own heart.

   "And I should say something like 'for the friend of my heart, the honor and the pleasure is mine'."

   They stayed like that for a few moments, each with her hand held against the other's heart, until Susan grinned wickedly.

   "But, judging from your reactions a little while ago, I think the pleasure is yours, too."

   Delenn laughed and squeezed Susan's hand before letting go. She sighed again and snuggled close to Susan. Delenn was almost asleep, her head pillowed comfortably against the other woman's shoulder. Suddenly, Susan sat up.



   "What did that mean, in the ritual, about being outside of time?"

   "What?" Delenn blinked and opened her eyes. Susan was looking down at her, eyes grave.

   "The ritual, before we went to bed. If I understood it correctly, we agreed that whatever happened between us would occur outside of time."

   Delenn sat up, brushing her hair out of her eyes, and faced Susan. "I told you, it is not uncommon for us to turn to a friend." She paused and smiled, until Susan smiled back. "But these sorts of arrangements do not always work out." She was serious now. "In order to preserve the friendship, it is agreed that afterward, if it is not satisfactory to one or both, or if they do not wish to repeat, they can consider that it never happened in this world. It happened while both were in another life. It is similar to when we tell someone 'I did not hear your words.' It is a way of saving face, as you say."

   "I see." Susan looked down at the bed, carefully avoiding her friend's eyes. "And what about tonight? Is the clock ticking?"

   Delenn lifted Susan's head. She kissed her firmly. "Very loudly. Can you not hear it?" She pulled her close and kissed her again.

   Susan asked, "And after tonight? What then?" But she did not pull away.

   "What will happen, will happen. But I will never deny tonight and if tonight is all there is, it will always be a joyful memory for me. And I hope for you, too." She cupped Susan's left breast. "As for me, I would not mind a repetition." She squeezed the breast. "Starting now."

   Susan laughed. "Are you always this insatiable? Never mind, don't answer that. I'll find out for myself soon enough, I suspect."

   She pushed Delenn back against the pillows. Delenn giggled until Susan stopped her with a kiss. The frenzied urgency of their earlier coupling was gone, replaced by lazy caresses and soft kisses. They explored each other with more assurance, stopping to savor unexpected reactions. Delenn discovered Susan was ticklish at the nape of the neck. She nuzzled and kissed until Susan was helpless with laughter. Susan, fascinated by Delenn's crest, determined to find out just how sensitive it was. She rubbed and stroked between the grooves, varying her touch from feather light to firm. At first, Delenn was amused. But as Susan continued, and as her touch became more sure, Delenn began to moan and shudder.

   "Please, Susan...please..." she gasped. "Please, stop or ...oh..oh..."

   "It's okay, love, it's okay...." Susan whispered.

   She pulled her close, raising them both against the pillows so that she could slip one hand between Delenn's thighs. Without stopping the caresses to her crest, Susan began to rub. Delenn's moans increased in pitch and volume. She climaxed with a loud cry.

   "Yes," Susan shouted with her. "That's it, yes. Come now. Yes. Yes."

   She held her close until Delenn stopped shaking. When she could speak again, Delenn turned to face Susan. "Your turn now." Delenn smiled and fondled Susan's breasts. "So lie back and enjoy it."

   Susan grinned. "Is that an order?" She gave a mock salute. "Aye, aye, ma'am"

   Delenn laughed and pushed her down into the pillows. She proceeded to methodically and thoroughly stimulate every center of pleasure she could find on Susan's body. At first Susan laughed, amused by her friend's determination. Soon, she was gasping and panting. She tried to say something, but Delenn held a finger over her lips.

   "Shhh. Don't talk," Delenn admonished. "Feel."

   She spread Susan's legs with her hand. Satisfied that Susan was ready, Delenn lowered her head. She sucked and nipped at her friend's clitoris and then thrust her tongue into her. Susan began to thrash and buck her hips. Delenn grabbed her buttocks and held her tight against her. Her hair tangled with the dark curls on Susan's mound. She sucked and thrust and squeezed until Susan's inchoate cries merged into one, long, high note of triumph. Even then, Delenn did not stop. When she could feel Susan start to relax, Delenn gave her one last kiss and raised her head.

   Susan lay collapsed against the pillows, trying to catch her breath. Delenn lay down next to her, almost as exhausted. Finally, Susan turned and kissed her on the tip of her nose.

   "Hey, I thought you never did this before," she teased. "But you have the right instincts."

   "You did say that if something pleases me..."

   "I'll remember that in the future." She put her arms around Delenn. "I think we could both use some sleep about now. I know I can." She kissed her tenderly. "Goodnight, Delenn. Sleep well."

   "Goodnight, dear friend. Sweet dreams."

   They fell asleep in each other's arms. They awakened once, a few hours later and made love again, slowly and quietly, before returning to sleep.


   Susan awoke at dawn. Delenn was gone. Throwing on the borrowed robe, Susan went in search of her. She found Delenn on the balcony at the west wing of the great house. Susan hesitated. Delenn looked so serene with the rays of the newly risen sun gently caressing her face. Delenn turned and smiled at her.

   "I was just telling John about last night. He's pleased I have such a friend to comfort me." She patted the place on the bench beside her. "Come, sit beside me." Seeing the look on Susan's face, Delenn smiled again. "I am not mad, Susan. Ever since he passed on, I have felt John's presence here with me at this time. I often speak to him when I feel the sun on my face." She patted the bench again. "Come, sit down."

   Susan sat down gingerly. As the sun warmed her, she relaxed. Whether it was the effect of Delenn's words or the aftermath of last night, Susan could swear she felt a strong, masculine arm around her shoulder. She smiled at her friend, but said nothing. The two women sat side by side in silence as the sun rose higher in the sky.





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