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Glimpses from a Data Crystal, frozen in Time
#2 - Dancing


He leaned closer to his wife and smiled at her. "Tell me what's fascinating you so much?" She didn't turn her head, still staring intently at the dance floor.

"That beautiful couple." Absently.

"Which one?" He smirked and made a sweeping notion at the packed space under the fluorescent lights, moving like one entity to the hammering beat. The club was crowded tonight, the usually slow, classic rhythm exchanged for a pulsing, modern style of music that he personally found hard to get used to. But this was the first vacation in six years they'd managed to go on together, and he was determined to enjoy each and every single minute until his wife had to leave again. His ship would wait for him; hers wouldn't. But until then, they still had three days and nights in Key West.

"Tell me again why we absolutely had to come here instead of going to Hawaii, or Mauii, or..."

"Because those islands are horribly commercialized today, no native culture whatever, and I refuse to wear several layers of sun-protection cream and swallow antihistamine pills each day. You know that. And I wanted to relax. And spend a lot of time with you." Her light, tender smile softened her words, and he felt the familiar tightening in his chest that smile could still provoke.

He raised his eyebrows and teased her: "Of course we could have also gone to Deneva III and visited the archaelogical dig..."

"As if I didn't see enough digs on the job -- and meet enough xeno-archaelogists to last for a century! But then, we could have also attended the annual VotEMW meeting in San Francisco..."

Now it was his turn to roll his eyes, "Oh dear god, not a thousand horses could drag me there. Veterans from the Earth-Minbari war, ranting and raving about the Battle of the Line, would-be-politicians like that Clark guy from Chicago blaming the boneheads for every economical crisis they can think of..."

"Sometimes I don't know where I am with you," she smiled a little bit sadly, "on one hand you were one of the strongest supporters of a peaceful conclusion to this horrible slaughter during the War, on the other hand you still hate them, but strangely not enough to support racial opportunists like Morgan Clark. You are a man of contradictions, my dear."

"And you are a true cosmopolitan, Anna, I know. If all people and all races were as naturally curious and forgiving as you, EarthGov wouldn't need destroyers -- or even EarthForce, at all. And I'd be out of work and could follow you around, hopping from planet to planet, raising our ten love children and cooking spoo for you when you came home at night."

"Oh, you!" She nudged him playfully with her elbow."Hey, look, over there! These are the two I meant before."

The dancing crowd down on the chrome platform had thinned a little, due to a slow instrumental song with just the suggestion of a beat. The holographic projectors didn't show the mad swirling planets any longer that had made him nauseous before, instead they projected slowly dancing pinpoints of light, like a starfield in space.

The couple stood out in the younger, "in" Earthborn crowd. No hairstyle in the latest fashion, no body paintings, no glued-on jewels accentuating their cheekbones. Just two men in perhaps their early thirties with short, almost military haircuts, clean shaven and relaxed, dancing close together. Their clothes were tight and accentuated their trim, fit bodies without being indecent or flashy. Their graceful movements were a joy to behold, and he noticed many female eyes following them interestedly.

"Too bad. Seems they're both already taken." He grinned at his wife and pantomimed wiping drool from his chin. She glared at him first, then her lips twitched, and she grinned back. "I still think they're interesting."

"And might I ask why, apart from the obvious, that is?"

"You, Mr. EarthForce Commander, should notice it immediately. They're military. And spacers. And EarthForce as well, I bet."

He looked back at the dancing couple. His wife was right.

The taller one had dark, almost black hair and a bearing that spoke of both feral grace and astonishing body control. An officer. His tight dark chinos and loose white shirt accentuated his lean, muscled build. The man's serene, intent face seemed oddly familiar to him, and he was racking his brain over that fact while he concentrated on his companion. The other man was perhaps two inches shorter and bulkier. He had a receding hairline, light brown hair in a buzz cut and wore grey shimmering pants that contrasted with his black sleeveless west and his bare, muscled arms. He was smiling and talking animatedly, unconsciously following his partner's lead. He was moving enthusiastically, but less gracefully and had an air of constant watchfulness about him that practically screamed 'security detail'. They were evidently at ease with each other, but not totally at ease here in the club, and their touches had a hint of underlying wonder that made him think they'd went out dancing together for the first time.

It was hard to be certain in the fluorescent lights and the flashing holo emitter, but their skin tone suggested a paleness that spoke of a long time spent under a stellar vessel's artificial lights.

"Yeah, spacers. And I know the taller guy -- must have seen him a couple of times at EarthDome Central... I just don't remember the name..." He looked at his wife for help.

"Sorry, can't help you. You know that for me, one EarthForce officer looks like the next -- apart from one exception, of course." She leaned closer, her eyes twinkling, and kissed him deeply. He consciously relaxed his hands and didn't press her as close to him as he wished. She would leave him again in three days, and a small part of his brain screamed at him to keep her close, to keep her here, to stop her from boarding her ship, for God knew what might happen out there in space, on the Rim. He squashed ruthlessly the little voice screaming 'danger'. He was not a caveman. He would respect her career and her lifelong dream -- after all, he had wanted an equal partner, not a housewife or a subservient baby machine. She would come back.

She always did.

***

When they left the club about two hours later that night, they virtually stumbled across the same couple in the entrance hallway. This was the upscale part of the Key West club mile; the bars, clubs and amusement centers didn't have back rooms or private booths, and the rooms rented weren't charged by the hour. So any kind of touching that included more than simple kissing either happened somewhere else -- or in the hallway where the club managers made sure it didn't last too long or got too involved.

The two men were kissing deeply, passionately, with a hint of desperation that was achingly familiar. He took Anna's arm and led her around them, wordlessly asking her to be quiet. So he heard the words not meant for him: "Jeff, how can we live without this ever again? Not only to see you, but to be able to touch..." The underlying pain touched him deeply despite his discomfort he'd not even admitted to his wife, that he thought it wrong for two men to love each other, and he looked away quickly.

So not only lovers and members of EarthForce, but evidently also officers serving one under the other in the chain of command... and in a flash of memory, he was able to recognize the face of the tall, dark-haired man.

"Now I know who he is, Anna," he whispered to her as they stepped out of the building.

"Who?"

"The taller one. Jeffrey Sinclair, hero of the Battle of the Line, now commander of Babylon 5."

"That was him?"

"Yes. We at EarthDome always thought he didn't have any feelings. Guess we were wrong." John Sheridan gave his wife a bittersweet smile and kissed her, allowing a hint of his own despair to shine through.

Three days and the Castor would leave for the Rim, to a dig on Cervarubias X. Unbeknownst to them both, Anna would be offered a transfer to the Icarus there. By then, he would long be aboard his ship, the Agamemnon, not knowing that he wouldn't see Anna again for a long time...


"Babylon 5" ficlet by allaire mikháil, 1.420 words, Jeff Sinclair/Michael Garibaldi, other POV (c'mon, guess! <g>), rated PG
Dedicated to Jess, for the 'Key West' reference. ;-)
And to Gail, for giving this her beta reader's seal of approval, too, and all that in such a short time! Thanks! And I swear, next time, I will use a spell-checker first before I send it to you -- but I guess that's my fault for writing this at work! <g>
Intended to become part of a longer story, later on. Hence the title.


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