Author's Notes: I hope this ficlet isn't a disappointment. I swear, the story had a point when I started writing it. It just kind of got lost along the way. *sheepish* But I figured I'd share it anyway--it still works as a slice of life little thing, I think... Not betaed.
Olivia hovered in the waiting room outside Marcus's office for a long, long time before she finally announced herself to the Minbari who was serving as his administrative assistant. It had been a long time since they'd known each other and he was one of the heroes of the Shadow War now. They weren't supposed to have heroes in the war that followed, the war that came to Earth, but Marcus was well known for his role in that, too. He'd saved Susan Ivanova's life, apparently nearly dying in the process. Why would a man like that want to waste time with a woman who was just a teacher?
Of course, Marcus was a teacher these days, too, though on a rather grander scale than she was. He was helping to shape the new, changing Rangers. Or rather, Anla'shoc. I'm on Minbar, Olivia reminded herself. I ought to use Minbari terms. But still, he probably wouldn't even remember her. After all, all they had in common was...
Just thinking about it still hurt. Olivia had lost nearly everyone she knew. If she hadn't gone off world to visit Earth just a few days before the attack, she'd have died, too. For years she'd thought every last person on the planet had been killed. Only near the very end of the war, when the news coverage had opened up a bit, had she learned that Marcus Cole was still alive.
It had taken her a long time to get leave to come to Minbar and even longer to work up the nerve to actually make the trip. But she had to see him, if only to know, really know, the way you only could in someone's presence, that he was alive. So she took a deep breath and stepped up to the assistant's desk and said, in a voice so tentative she could hardly hear it herself, "Would you ask Anla'shoc Cole if he has a moment to see Olivia Ryerson?"
The Minbari inclined her--his? Olivia had trouble telling the two apart sometimes--head politely and relayed the request. There was a long pause before Marcus agreed. Olivia wasn't sure what to think of that.
But when she opened the door into Marcus's office and stepped inside, the meaning became clear. His eyes widened in almost comical disbelief and he jumped up from his chair and came around the desk in a rush before suddenly stopping an arm's length away. "Olivia?" Marcus asked, voice high with disbelief.
She couldn't help grinning, more relieved at his reaction than she could have said. "Why so surprised?" she asked. "I announced myself and everything."
Marcus laughed. "So you did," he said. "But I assumed it must be a different Olivia Ryerson. With billions of people out there, there are a lot of repeats and...and I thought you'd died. On Arisia, with everyone else."
"I thought you did, too. I only found out you'd survived when I saw you on the news," Olivia said quietly.
Marcus's hesitation finally broke and he stepped forward that last pace to wrap her in a hug. Letting out a long breath, Olivia hugged him back and found herself suddenly choked up. It'd been so long...
They pulled away from each other after a minute and Marcus backed up to perch on the edge of his desk, gesturing for her to take a chair. "How did you survive?" Marcus asked after a moment, gently.
"I was off planet. I'd been meaning to visit Earth and I left on the trip just a few days before the...the attack." Marcus nodded, but said nothing. "And you?" Olivia prompted.
"Me?" he seemed startled. "Oh. I rather thought you'd know the story. My brother was a Ranger, you see. He got me out. Made me promise to carry on the fight he'd started."
Sudden hope surged. "And he...?"
Marcus glanced away from her. "William didn't make it."
Olivia could feel her heart clench and was surprised at the intensity of the disappointment. Even one more survivor would have been such a gift... But there was Marcus, and that was more than she could ever have asked for. "I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I should have known."
His expression sliding into sympathy, Marcus leaned forward and put a hand on her cheek. "You couldn't have known. He very nearly--" Suddenly Marcus looked up and over her shoulder at the open office door. "Neroon!" He exclaimed, his whole face lighting up. "I wasn't expecting you. What happened to the meeting?"
Olivia twisted around in the chair and froze. This Neroon was absolutely the most intimidating Minbari she'd ever seen in her life. He was powerfully built, his bone crest was more complex and spiky than any she'd seen before, and he wore a solid black uniform that had a distinctly military cast to it. It didn't help that he was scowling fiercely, first at her and then at Marcus.
"Helon failed to appear," Neroon said. His voice was deep and rich--and edged about with irritation. "Again."
Marcus sighed, apparently familiar with this complaint. "Remind me again why you can't just remove him from the panel? You're clan leader, after all."
Neroon's frown deepened. "Not all of the Warrior Caste are pleased to see their children finding their calling among the Anla'shoc, Marcus. You know this. Helon may not be entirely reliable, but he is...familiar to the others, and he is in favor of collaboration with the Anla'shoc. I cannot be the only voice speaking thus."
"Right." Marcus's eyes fell on Olivia. "I'm sorry," he said suddenly. "My manners are failing me again. Neroon, this is Olivia Ryerson. I knew her on Arisia. Olivia, this is Neroon, my mala."
"Mala?" Olivia asked, feeling a little foolish.
"I believe the Human word," Neroon said, striding past her to stand by Marcus, "is 'husband.'"
Olivia watched, frozen with shock, as the Minbari placed a hand on the back of Marcus's neck and proceeded to draw him into a long, deep kiss. The shock faded and embarrassment began to replace it as the caress went on, far longer than any usual hello. Even between spouses. Even between newlyweds, Olivia thought after another moment.
Finally Marcus was released, a little breathless and definitely dazed. By the time he'd recovered, Olivia knew she was wearing an amused smile on her lips. He looked at her and blushed a little. "Do I need to leave the two of you alone?" she teased.
Neroon shot her a glance that suggested that yes, she should. Marcus was a little more diplomatic. "Do you have time to have dinner later?" he asked. "I don't know how long you're here, but I'd love to catch up and I have other...commitments for the afternoon."
"I'd love dinner," Olivia said, standing. "Will it be you and me, or the three of us?"
Marcus glanced at Neroon. "I'll let you know."
Olivia nodded agreeably and left the office, discreetly shutting the door behind her. She nodded politely but absently at the Minbari assistant on her way out. Imagine! Marcus, helping to train a whole bunch of-- well, she didn't know quite what the Anla'shoc were, but she'd heard them called warrior monks--and married to a Minbari.
Strangely enough, it was that second one that seemed the most odd. Not because his spouse wasn't human, either. It was just that Olivia had never thought that Marcus would marry anyone. He always seemed so isolated. Not aloof, really. He was never cold about it. But you always got the feeling that you weren't the person for him, even when it seemed like he thought you were.
It made her wonder how he and Neroon had met, that they'd managed to make a connection that went both ways.