Still Living

By Leyenn

RATING: G

PAIRING: Susan/Delenn, (previous Susan/Talia, John/Delenn)

CATEGORY: For the Christmas 2003 GiftFic challenge.

SPOILERS: 'Divided Loyalties', 'Sleeping In Light'

SUMMARY: Delenn wakes up gay. (No, honestly, don't run away!)

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Fifteen fandoms and you'd think I'd get lucky at least once...

ARCHIVE: Want, Take, Tell.

******

It was a very strange thing to notice, the way Susan stood. Two exact, measured steps from the rail of the balcony; breathing slowly, in and out, in and out, as if she might attempt to inhale the sunset itself.

Very strange to only notice it now, months after first watching her slip out there after they ate together, when she thought her absence wouldn't be missed.

Very strange to find that it was missed, and in truth of fact, intensely so. Odd to realise that. Very, very odd, and more than a little disconcerting.

Unsettled, Delenn slipped silently out of the shadows and back into the house.

It wasn't, she resolved as she rifled through her papers for something to do, that she didn't realise what was going on. She knew enough of Human complexities to put a name to the feeling, and enough of the extraordinary society being built around her to realise it was nothing to panic or fear. That Susan was female hardly entered into it, except to know how this might be received should she mention it. There had been the confession of all those years ago, and since then - well, even a lonely figure such as Susan Ivanova had never pretended celibacy. There had even been Minbari, one or two briefly in the last year, since Susan would never offer such favors to those who served under her even despite frequent insistence that no Anla'shok would ever see it that way. Susan was still young, especially among Minbari, and so lonely; any could see the shadow of it around her, however she tried to conceal it. No one would begrudge her the comfort of even fleeting companionship if she asked.

But she refused to ask, and Delenn understood; deep inside where she didn't like to think of it, where it was almost too much to bear, she knew why. Most Minbari were telepathic, to some small if inefficient degree - most joined Minbari knew the fluttering sense of a lover's mind in the darkness when all else in the world was quiet. Delenn knew.

She also knew, though it burned to think of it, what it could be like when that was gone. And how no one, no other, could ever give back what was lost forever.

Marcus had never understood that, and at the time she had not been wise enough herself to explain. She wasn't certain Susan had even known herself, back then... not as she knew now. As her friends had watched her realise, over the years passing.

The words swam before her eyes as she tried to concentrate, listening to that level breathing outside.

Twenty years... or a single, bright night? And after either choice, to cling to that unreachable memory until death, because it was too exquisitely loved and too sharply painful to let go.

Delenn could not let go. It had barely been a year, against the twenty they had spent together. John had uselessly insisted in those last blessed months that he wanted her to be happy, whether that meant alone or otherwise - her protests of even speaking about it had been truthful, still were. She had only borne Susan moving in because the house was so terribly, terribly quiet.

And yet...

And yet. Something in her muttered that into her thoughts. And yet I watch her the way I watched him, sometimes. And yet I listen for her breath and her footsteps to make me feel...

"Delenn?"

Ironic, listening for her approach and not hearing it at this one moment. "Susan."

"You look tired. Something up?"

She shook her head quickly. "No more than usual." A gesture to the couch opposite was unfinished before Susan had taken her usual seat, feet tucked up and the robes she never seemed to remove these days draped around her. "And your day?"

"Twelve more strapping young hopefuls, beaten into shape." Susan offered her a sardonic, so very Human smile. Only friendship told her how it was a little too bright, stretched over the words. "One of them's a teep. Pretty strong. P-nine, she says."

"You sent her to the correct classes," although it was an idle statement more than a question. Of course.

"Alisa's taking her on." She watched the way Susan's fingers twitched at fabric, her robes or the cushions; it was always a sign that she needed a drink, and yet she wouldn't. Not in a Minbari home, despite Delenn's insistence that she could read a clear label as well as any Human would.

"I can send to the compound for something, if you'd like." It was a regular offer: tonight it felt almost a request. Anything to break the oppressive air that seemed to press on her tonight.

"I'm fine." Susan met her eyes evenly, tonight, bolder than usual when speaking the lie. Delenn had long ago forgotten to take offense. "Really, Delenn, I'm-"

"Fine, yes, I know." The way her throat tightened was disturbingly familiar, even if it had been so many years since feeling it so intensely. "I... am not 'fine', Susan."

"No." She watched every detail of that rise to the carafe in the corner of the room; the way Susan's fingers wrapped the glass, the flow of water, the way Susan placed it, half full, back on the table without taking a sip and didn't turn around. "I guessed that."

"This telepath today, reminded you." She didn't say of what, or who. "Do you know... that you... remind me, sometimes?"

Susan turned her head but didn't look at her, eyes almost closed against that. "Damn."

"It hurts," and yet - and yet - it didn't, somehow, it felt almost numb to speak of it now. Perhaps numb was even an improvement. "I miss him so terribly, and no one would ever be the same for me, and... and yet, I-"

"Would you do me a favor and just - not say it?"

Very, very unsettling things began to float in her thoughts on that word, 'favor', knowing how Susan had spoken it before over her brief arrangements, knowing what it had meant. And if there had been anyone, anyone else she could turn to... but there wasn't. And her life, her choices had made it so. So terribly lonely, the two of us. Perhaps he knew...

"Yeah, he knew."

She blinked her gaze upward in startled pain. "Susan?"

"He knew, all right?" Still she would not turn around, her eyes raised instead to the wall. "He... John... he knew what it'd be like for you, what it's like for me. He went through it with Anna. I watched him go through it, for almost a year." Her fingers moving to grip the glass as a distraction. "The way I've been watching you. And don't think he didn't come to me once or twice, either, after a few too many, when things got too much, when-" pulling the glass to her, gripping it harshly. "When he couldn't bear the next second of being alone, either."

Unsettled was no longer the word. Something wanted to crack inside her, she felt it. "I... he never spoke of that to me..."

Susan's laugh was sharp, without any humor, and a blanket of comfort. "It would've been like sleeping with my brother even if he'd been my type." She shrugged. Her voice sounded tightly spoken. "He'd cry himself out on my couch, I'd throw him into bed and crash out on the floor. If he ever even remembered after the vodka I poured down his throat it'd have been a miracle."

Delenn watched tears fall on her cheeks, then, as she turned around and offered a smile that spoke only of pain. "Can't exactly do that with you, can I?"

"I..." She should have known, of course. She should have known it as a mistake; that what this traitorous part of her pleaded for was no more possible than what she needed to replace. "It was not what I was asking of you."

Susan Ivanova looked at her with a soft shake of her head. "But it's all I can give, Delenn."

She watched in silence, the way Susan lifted the glass to her lips. The way she sipped at water that needed to be something else, and disdained the taste with a glance through the balcony to the compound below.

The way her fingers curled into the fabric of her Ranger cloak thrown across a chair, twitching as she folded it around her like a shield. The way her eyes burned with a loss that she, Delenn Sheridan, knew so terribly, terribly well could never be made to go away.

"Go get some sleep."

She watched in silence, the way she walked out of the door.

******

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