the turmoil of Babylon 5, two lonely souls search for that one,
Standard Disclaimer: The characters of Babylon 5 belong to
J. Michael Straczynski, not to me. I assure you I would have
never let Talia leave. No copyright infringement was intended.
As my bank account can attest, no profit was made.
Further disclaimer: The characters of Hester Prynne and
Arthur Dimmesdale are taken from Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic
American novel, "The Scarlet Letter". No copyright
infringement or literary impugning is intended.
Spoilers: Set in March of 2259, a day or two prior to
"A Race Through Dark Places".
Rating: Purely PG. After all, don't you want me to leave
something to your imagination?? *g*
Pairing: Susan and Talia. If the idea of two women finding
love and comfort in one another amid the uncertainties of life
troubles you, you are clearly in need of far more dire things
about which to worry. May I suggest you adjourn to CNN
and read about all the things of much greater import than can be
found in my poor, inadequate tale ?? In other words, some
priorities are in order.
Author's note: This is my first attempt at writing about the
world of Babylon 5, so I apologize for any and all errors or
inconsistencies in details, timeline, etc. This is not intended
to be a technical sort of tale....the only intricacies that will
be discussed are those of the mind and heart.
Note: The title and premise of this story comes from the
above poem by Anna Wickham, an early 20th century American poet.
"Envoi", in this instance, is French for message.
Comments and Kind Words: email@example.com
God, thou great symmetry,
Who put a biting lust in me,
From whence my sorrows spring,
For all the frittered days,
That I have spent in shapeless ways,
Give me one perfect thing.
all one. The vast macrocosm, the all
of everything, held safe in the hand of God, no different than the small
blue marble clutched tightly in the none too gentle grasp of a small
tow-headed child. Both inviolate, both easily shattered. The universe,
conceived in chaos, reined in by the sheer will of soldiers and the
blind guesswork of scientists, understood only through the unbending
faith of believers. It provided less than it promised, took more than it
needed, teaching a brittle aesthetic to those willing to be taught, and
crushing the souls of those who dared to defy it. It told furtively,
with a seductive whisper, of majesties and joys beyond imagining, and
then in the same lilting murmur, revealed horrors and sacrileges to
freeze the blood, its breath warmly caressing the listener's cheek. In
its eternal gloom, only an occasional light gleamed forth, a glimmer
faint and sputtering against the coming dark.
Babylon 5 was one of those few faint glows against
the encroaching shadows. A symbol of hope in an increasingly
disconsolate universe, the station hung gracefully in space, dangling
above the spinning world of Epsilon 3 like a baby's mobile: enticing and
fantastical. The station seemed fragile and ephemeral against a backdrop
of boundless black cloth, punched through with holes. Far off in the
distance of space, beyond this small section of the fabric, the cloth
was patterned here and there with brilliant, swirling masses of purple
and red and gold, bejeweled with spinning globes of green and blue and
Within the frangible walls of metal dwelt a quarter of a million
souls. Each had come to this place for a different reason, and yet, in
some inexplicable way, that reason was the same. Each individual soul
was seeking something, something that could be found only amid the
tumult and strife of Babylon 5. Some sought after riches, others for
their place in the vast workings of the universe; some sought out old
enemies, determined to settle ancient wrongs, while still others
searched for sanctuary and expiation. Sometimes, just sometimes, a
courageous, foolhardy few pursued the fleeting possibility of love and
Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova, Second-in-Command of Babylon 5, stood in
Command and Control, watching absently as the last of the Narn
freighters made its way towards the docking bays. Her shift was winding
down, after the absolute pandemonium of the morning, when Murphy and his
minions had had a grand old time with the command crew of the station.
Upon more than one occasion, Ivanova had begun to make a list of all of
the various and sundry ship captains, contentious aliens, station crew
and annoying ambassadors she would like to personally toss out the
nearest available airlock. Being Russian, Ivanova had a clear
understanding and reluctant appreciation for the perverse workings of
"I can only conclude that I am paying off karma at a vastly
accelerated rate," she had muttered more than once, as apt a
conclusion as any for the continuing font of turmoil and tribulation
that made up life on the universe's last, best hope. Hope for what, as
ever, remained a trifle unclear.
"Corwin, C&C is yours," she said somewhat brusquely,
turning away from her perusal of the stars to face the young Lieutenant.
"Yes, Ma'am," Corwin replied, his eyes only meeting
Ivanova's briefly before sliding down, ostensibly to check his control
panel, but mainly to avoid the glare of those intense blue orbs.
Nodding briefly, Ivanova strode purposefully towards the Zocalo, the
main thoroughfare of this spinning city of metal. The sector itself
seemed to be an entity, inhaling, exhaling, expanding, contracting,
spreading its arms wide in a welcoming embrace. Taking a simple breath
drew in a lungful of sounds and tastes and smells, some familiar as a
baby's cry, and others whispering of mysteries yet to be discovered.
The marketplace showed the truth of Babylon 5; its incredible bounty
and its astonishing lack. The finest of fabrics hung in splendor next to
the simple cloths of the poor. Booths and stores filled with handmade
goods, clothing, food, supplies of every variety, stood, row upon row.
Restaurants, redolent with the spices of alien worlds, drew the visitor
in, promising culinary wonders never before imagined. The noise was a
constant, steady hum, a pulse thudding ceaselessly, weaving itself into
a syncopated rhythm that sounded in time with the visitor's own
heartbeat. People, huge masses of them, moved as part of the entity,
traversing the narrow passageways as if life-blood flowing through its
Carefully making her way to one of the small cafes that lined the
main walkway, Ivanova wearily threw herself down at a corner table. Her
indigo eyes gazed absently at the teeming throng as they made their way
to and fro, a madding crowd comprised of every known species in the
galaxy. Giving the waiter her order, Ivanova found her attention caught
by the gleam of silvery gold hair amidst the steady stream of people
making their way through the clogged artery. In the briefest of
instants, just as her mind registered the identity of the owner of that
cap of silver, Susan felt a familiar sensation of attraction slip across
her consciousness, a gentle nudge under the table of her mind, before
she pushed it forcibly away.
Talia Winters was Babylon's resident commercial telepath, a
representative of Psi-Corps, an organization which was, in turn, the
resident boogey-man of Susan Ivanova's dreams. The organization was
responsible for the regulation, training and control of all telepaths in
Earthforce Alliance. Mutual fear and distrust between the psionically
gifted and normals had brought forth that particular bastard child, an
offspring that had quickly become more and less than either of its
parents could have wished or dreaded.
Anyone displaying telepathic talents had two choices. Join the Corps
and embrace their unusual, some might say, warped, outlook on the world,
or take "the sleepers", drugs that inhibited and controlled
telepathic abilities, drugs that unfortunately left in their wake little
remaining trace of what the individual had once been.
Susan Ivanova's mother had been one of the legions of latent
telepaths who had been forced to take the drugs. In the end, even that
most powerful of emotions, motherly love, had not prevented her from
sloughing off the remnants of a now joyless existence and finally
securing a modicum of peace. Her mother's death had left a gaping wound
in Susan's young life, one that even her brother Ganya and her father
could not fill. All because of the detested Corps.
Added to Ivanova's burning enmity was unbridled fear, fear that one
day Psi-Corps would learn her own terrible secret, a secret about which
her mother had admonished a young Susan over and over..."Tell no
In the face of such singular and basic hatred, Talia Winters had not
stood a proverbial snowball's chance in hell. The fact that the telepath
was a genuinely kind, warm, compassionate woman whose only goal seemed
to be attaining Ivanova's friendship mattered not a whit. Nor did the
intense feelings of attraction and grudging respect that Talia unearthed
in her. The sins of the father were held, without logic or reason,
against this particular fair-haired child.
Still, as Ivanova watched the blonde telepath attempt rather futilely
to make her way through the quagmire of bodies, she couldn't help but
feel a rush of sympathy. It was evident from the pained expression on
Talia's face that the forced exposure to so many minds, so many emotions
and thoughts and jumbled voices coming at her from all directions was
proving too much for even her trained, professional blocks.
As she came within a few yards of Ivanova's position, Talia looked up
suddenly, seemingly cognizant of Ivanova's perusal. Their gaze locked
for a transitory moment, cobalt orbs staring into eyes that were shaded
the stormy blue-grey of the sea after a gale. Susan felt her breath
catch almost painfully in her throat at the expression of intense
loneliness that shuttered across those clouded mirrors of the soul, as
the truth of Talia's existence was made all too apparent in that
To subsist here in this rotating fortress of metal, with two hundred
and fifty thousand minds, and yet, be completely isolated, not only by
the strictures of your own reality, but by the unfounded fears of
others, must be the most desolate of lives. The knowledge that she had
done her utmost to salt an already painful wound sent a sliver of pain
through Ivanova's heart. Without conscious thought, Susan raised a hand,
beckoning to the telepath to join her.
The emotions that flitted across Talia's face were plain enough for a
child to read, as her head titled to the side a bit in contemplation of
the unexpected offer. Confusion and doubt warred with hope, though both
those armor clad foes were quickly subdued by the slight, ever
optimistic figure in white, weaponless and without shielding, its own
need to believe held like a shining sword before it.
Making her way through the milling mass of bodies, Talia finally
reached the cafe, hesitating for a second or two in the doorway, as her
intrepid heart attempted a tactical retreat. She had been rebuffed by
the lovely Commander so many times, that it was almost beyond
comprehension that Ivanova had actually requested her company. Screwing
her courage to the sticking mark, she moved forward, smiling shyly,
sinking with relief into the seat across from Ivanova, her mind
registering an exhausted release from the turmoil of minds and thoughts
that had battered against her blocks.
"Commander." Talia smiled warmly in greeting.
"Ms. Winters," Ivanova replied with a slight incline of her
head, "Would you like something to drink?"
"Thank you, Commander, that would be lovely," she
responded, watching the graceful arch of Ivanova's arm as she motioned
for the waiter.
In the awkward silence that ensued as the black and white clad server
wove his way through the tangle of tables towards their place in the
corner, Talia's mind slipped back to the first instant she had laid eyes
on the stunning Russian. Moments of epiphany are rare, for some, coming
only once in an entire lifetime, bringing with them understanding,
knowledge, elation, and absolute, joyful clarity. Such was the moment
when Talia had first seen Susan Ivanova.
To Talia it had always seemed that if life was merely an elaborate
puzzle and our sole purpose was to complete the conundrum, that she had
been given an incomplete set of pieces with which to work. No matter how
hard she tried, no matter how extensive her search, there was always one
essential piece missing, right in the center of the puzzle. Without that
one piece, the puzzle was empty, incomplete, the picture meaningless and
unclear. Standing in the C&C of Babylon 5 almost two years ago, a
tall, chestnut-haired woman had turned to face her. Suddenly it was as
if a voice had resounded inside her mind, a gentle query, asking,"
I believe this is the piece you were looking for, is it not?"
Ivanova's derisive words that day, "I'm in the middle of
fifteen things, all of them annoying," had snatched the piece
roughly from her grasp. Still, before it was so ruthlessly purloined,
Talia had felt it slip effortlessly into place, had seen the glorious
picture it completed, and she was determined that sooner or later she
would convince the stubborn Commander to hand it back to her.
"What can I get for you, Ma'am?" the waiter's voice cut
through her reverie, bringing her back to the present with a minor
"Just some water, please."
Turning her eyes to the taciturn Commander, Talia wearily lifted the
corners of her generous lips again, the exhausting events of the day
causing the smile to be just a tad less bright than normal.
"So, Commander, how are things in the C&C today?" she
began conversationally, hoping to draw Ivanova out of her heavily
"Irritating, annoying, maddening," Ivanova replied, pausing
for a moment as if to consider her choice of words, "Yes, I think
that sums it up quite nicely."
"Must be something that's going around," Talia murmured
with a rueful smile, "I seem to have had that sort of day
Ivanova's only response was a quirk of chestnut brows against the
smooth skin of her forehead.
As the waiter set the tall glass of water down in front of Talia,
Ivanova found herself wondering what the hell she had been thinking in
inviting the lovely telepath to join her. The one person on the station
who posed the greatest threat to Ivanova's peace of mind, and, if she
would only admit it to herself, to her heart.
As the silence between them began to grow longer and more profound,
Talia decided that perhaps a more direct approach was warranted.
Steeling her courage, she met Ivanova's veiled expression.
"I hope you don't mind my asking, but why did you invite me to
join you, Commander? I mean, you haven't seemed all that responsive to
my overtures of friendship in the past, so it does seem a little strange
that you would invite me to have a drink with you," she asked
quietly, her eyes never leaving Susan's intense stare.
"To be perfectly honest, Ms. Winters, I'm not quite sure,"
Ivanova breathed finally, after a long moment of contemplation. "I
guess, well, I saw you trying to make your way through that mass of
bodies, and you looked so isolated," her voice trailed off for an
instant, then regained a modicum of its former strength,
"Well, I guess, against my better judgment, I felt sorry for
Talia sat, weighing the Commander's words, her ears attuned to a
sound that she knew only she could hear, the low, tremulous, somewhat
mournful sound of the ice that had existed between them for so long,
beginning to crack. The corners of Talia's full lips turned up in an
ever so slightly self-mocking smile.
"I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies then,
Commander. After all, pity is marginally better than outright hatred and
dislike, so it would appear that I am making progress," Talia
replied gently, her eyes warm as they met Susan's. Seeing the warm glow
in Talia's eyes, Ivanova couldn't help but chuckle softly.
"Ms. Winters, don't tell me that you are one of those people who
thinks that progress is always a good thing?" Ivanova asked, her
serious tone belied by the quirk of her lips and the twinkle that lit
her brilliant blue eyes.
"Not generally. But, in this particular instance, I am willing
to accept it as such, Commander. I mean, we've managed to have a
ten-minute conversation without you threatening to toss me out an
airlock. How could I not see that as progress?" Talia smiled back.
"I hesitate to be the one to point it out to you, but at some
juncture you may want to reevaluate your criteria for friendly behavior.
Somehow, I don't think that not offering to toss you out an airlock
should be put on the same list with 'remembered your birthday' or 'went
on vacation together'," came Susan's rejoinder, the twinkle in her
eyes even more pronounced.
"One step at a time, Commander, one step at a time. Don't forget
that eventually even the solid stone of the Great Wall of China gave way
to the inevitable force of the wind. One tiny grain of sand at a
time," Talia responded, the barely noticeable tilt of her perfect
jawline the only indication of the true measure of her resolve.
Susan felt a shiver of apprehension ghost along her spine, even as
her mind registered an astonishing feeling of intrigue and intense
attraction to the beautiful woman sitting opposite her. Ivanova had been
aware of Winters' interest in her for quite some time. It wasn't as if
Talia had ever made the slightest effort to hide it.
Had Talia Winters been anything but a member of Psi-Corps, Ivanova
was certain that she would have succumbed to the blonde's stunning good
looks and warm personality long ago. But, like Hester Prynne's scarlet
A, the emblem of the Corps that Talia wore on her collar marked her as
assuredly as dangerous to Susan's mortal being, as Hester had been to
the Reverend Dimmesdale's immortal soul.
Watching the way the dim light of the café threw into detailed
relief the flawless, exquisite curves of Talia's face, Ivanova realized
that she had increasingly less and less ability or desire to withstand
the temptation of this woman. Tracing the sensual curve of Talia's lips
with her eyes, Susan could have sworn she felt the touch of a slender,
gloved hand in her own, leading her, unresisting, into those dark woods
where the good man of the cloth had found both paradise and eternal
A crushing sensation of terror spread across Ivanova's chest as the
full weight of her own thoughts and feelings came into startling
clarity. The need to run, to protect herself overwhelmed her. Her body,
however, betrayed her, refusing to move from the intoxicating proximity
of Talia's presence. Only her mind and her tongue responded, using the
only weapon she still had in her arsenal, unkind words.
"I didn't realize that you had a million years or so at your
disposal, Ms. Winters. That is how long it took the wind to wear down
those stones, isn't it? Don't tell me that along with its other devious
plots that Psi-Corps is now experimenting in immortality?"
Talia's day had been one deluge of dissension after another. The
heavens had opened up, pouring down a curtain of petty emotion and
suspicion. The showers had filled the bucket of her mind, drop after
drop. Drops of enmity and anger, of capricious promises and nefarious
intents, of long-hidden hatred and barely concealed mistrust, each
falling with a tiny splatter inside her mind, till the water had reached
the very brim, precariously threatening to overflow at the fall of
another single drop.
That drop fell, with a hollow resonance, from Susan's lips. Talia
imagined she could see it descending, reflecting and refracting the
light, one perfect tear-shaped bead of apprehension and misplaced fear,
tumbling through space. Finally, with a deafening splash, it met the
combined volume of the bucket. All of the pent up emotions, all of the
dismissive gestures and unkind words, all of the looks of distrust and
dislike, all of the real and imagined slights were sent barreling over
the rim to rush through Talia's mind like a runaway river careening
along steep canyon walls.
Ivanova watched her words register in Talia's storm colored eyes. She
saw the warmth fade, as surely as the light of the sun disappearing
behind foreboding clouds, followed quickly by something Ivanova had
never seen, the sudden, blinding flash of dangerous lightning. In the
past, Talia's reaction to Susan's rudeness had always been one of
resigned sadness. Tonight however, Ivanova could feel the crackle of
electricity in the air as Talia spoke.
"Tell me, Commander, I've often wondered, does it give you a
sensation of pleasure, or perhaps some feeling of superiority when you
say things like that to me? It must bring you some kind of
perverse gratification," Talia's voice held none of its usual smoky
inflection, tinged as it was now with slender tendrils of ice.
"I never asked you to be my friend, Ms. Winters. In fact, I have
made it impossibly clear to you that I want nothing to do with you. You
are the one who has continued to make overtures of friendship where none
are desired," Ivanova answered hotly, taken aback as she was by the
intensity of Talia's response.
"You're right, Commander. I kept trying to convince myself that
you couldn't possibly be as narrow-minded, as self-righteous, as
prejudiced as you appeared to be. Obviously, I couldn't have been more
wrong. I honestly thought that, given enough time and enough
understanding, you would be able to look past this badge and these
gloves and see me for who I am, not what I am.
"I stupidly believed that if you would only allow yourself to
get to know the real me, that the rest wouldn't matter any more, that we
could be friends, that we could help each other not be so lonely. But, I
see now that that is as likely to happen as the Centauri suddenly
viewing the Narn as their equals," Talia words flew at Ivanova like
knives whirling through the air, "You might want to remember that
the next time that you sit in judgment of the Centauri, Commander."
"I am not...How dare you suggest that I am like that.... I'll
have you know...," Susan sputtered, the force and vehemence of
Talia's defensive attack robbing Ivanova of coherent speech.
"Let me ask you something, Commander," Talia interrupted,
completely ignoring Ivanova's attempt at a response. "Are you so
blessed, do you have so many people in your life that you can truly call
friend that you can so carelessly, so callously toss aside the gift of
friendship when it is offered to you? If that is true, then I must
admit, I envy you. I don't have that luxury. I never have and I never
will. Goodbye, Susan. I promise, I won't trouble you again."
Rising from her chair, Talia met Ivanova's eyes, beyond caring if the
Commander saw the fierce shimmer of tears in her own tempest tossed
orbs. All of Ivanova's answering anger, all of the sharp retorts that
lay, ready to spring to action, on the tip of her tongue died suddenly
and completely at the sight of the immense pain and unbearable
loneliness on Talia's exquisite face. Pain that she, Susan Ivanova, had
caused. Intentionally, willfully caused in order to save herself.
As Ivanova watched Talia walk away, the elegant line of her back
disappearing into the now dwindled crowd of the Zocalo, Susan began to
honestly examine what it was from which she was trying so desperately to
save herself. Talia had offered her friendship and affection. She had
implied, with every warm smile and every kind word, the promise of
companionship, of desire, of happiness, and perhaps even of love.
Even balanced against long held fears and prejudices, the litany of
possibilities did not appear as the spectral enemies she had been
attempting to convince her own mind they were. Warring inside that mind
were two voices. One was her mother's, repeating endlessly the same
somber warning, "Tell no one." The other, this one younger and
stronger, sounding oddly like her brother Ganya's, grew ever more
fervent, intoning passionately, "Don't let her go."
"I'm sorry, Mama," Susan whispered as she made her way to
the door of the cafe and out into the Zocalo, her face determined as her
eyes scanned the crowd for a glimpse of that slender, blonde figure.
One Perfect Thing
Talia sank down weakly on the hard, cold stone bench. As she had
walked away from Susan Ivanova the tears that had been welling in her
blue-grey eyes had spilled over, running down the smooth planes of her
face like rain along a windowpane. She had moved almost aimlessly
through the crowd, unconcerned at her destination.
For once the voices, the emotions of all those other people were
silent in her mind, eclipsed by her own suffering, as feelings of grief
and anguish leveled every wall she had erected to protect herself. The
agony was so intense she could feel it radiating out from her mind and
her heart to the very tips of her fingers, her hands, still encased in
soft leather, aching and cold.
Part of her welcomed the inundating waves of pain. Eventually, the
numbness would set in and then, she would be able to simply crawl inside
herself and curl up amid the waist high drifts of cold, relentless
sorrow and allow her heart to shrivel and die in the frigid air. To have
be given a glimpse of all she had ever desired, to know that the means
to salvation lay just beyond her grasp and to be aware that whatever
chance she might have been offered to attain that perfection had been
foolishly squandered was more than Talia could bear.
"Alright. I give up. You win," she whispered to Fate or God
or whatever force controlled the petty lives of men.
She sat in an isolated part of the station's garden sector. Looking
around at the burgeoning life surrounding her, Talia gave a bitter laugh
at the irony of her unconscious choice of refuge. While all about her
was the warmth of new life, of buds opening shyly, of friends and lovers
strolling together through the rows of flowers, along the edges of soft,
green grass, inside her mind was only a desolate plain, swept by fierce
winds and sheets of ice and snow.
Talia tried, without success, to determine why she had reacted as she
had to Ivanova's words. They hadn't been the first unkind things that
the commander had said to her. They hadn't even been the most unkind
words that Ivanova had hurled her way. In the past, Talia had always
taken the Russian's rudeness in stride, biding her time, certain in the
knowledge that eventually the lovely commander would soften towards her.
"Well, you can be certain of something else now. You can be
certain that you've lost this time, for good," Talia acknowledged
harshly, as fresh tears followed the tracks of their fallen brethren
down her elegant cheekbones.
Time had no meaning as Talia sat unmoving, becoming one with the
unyielding stone beneath her, the remorseless cold stealing up to wrap
around her heart. The recitation of regrets and recriminations from
within her mind played on and on, a mournful dirge without beginning,
She had removed her gloves and her badge, even though she was
strictly forbidden by law to be out among 'normals' without them. The
symbols of the Corps were too much for her to deal with right now. She
knew that it was hatred of the Corps that had pushed Ivanova away from
her from the outset. Now that any hope she might have had with the
beautiful Commander was gone, Talia could hardly bear to look at the
Lost as she was in the overwhelming crush of emotion, her eyes didn't
register the appearance of two uniform clad legs in front of her. It
wasn't until the figure knelt, reaching out a gentle hand to cup her
chin, raising her gaze to meet two darkened sapphire eyes, that Talia
realized that she was no longer alone.
"Talia? Talia, can you hear me? I've been looking for you all
over the station. We need to talk about what just happened," Susan
Ivanova said gently. Talia's eyes were unfocused, her face void of
Ivanova had been searching for the blonde telepath for hours now,
having methodically scrutinized every private, out of the way area of
the station that she thought Talia might have gone. That insistent voice
inside her head had not allowed her to falter, urging her on in what had
become a quest to find the other woman. Now, staring at the dull grey
eyes, empty of their usual warmth and light, Susan muttered softly in
Russian, cursing herself for having been the cause of such unnecessary
Ivanova knew instinctively the instant that recognition dawned in
Talia's eyes. Her hand was still resting tenderly along the telepath's
gently molded jaw, her palm warm against the coolness of Talia's skin.
Susan felt the rush of emotions from the blonde. The sheer intensity of
the sadness, the depth of her loneliness, the fierce wave of shame and
self-recrimination were so strong that Susan felt them as a physical
blow, rocking her back on her heels.
The majority of Talia's blocks had been brought down, brick by brick,
by the relentless onslaught of emotions over the past several hours. It
would have been impossible for anyone in physical proximity not to
experience the immense sorrow that held court within the empty chambers
of Talia's mind. Still, Ivanova was shocked by the encounter, her first
instinct to run, to get herself to a safe distance, as ever, her
mother's warning ringing in her head.
Talia's eyes met her own for a brief moment, before looking down,
that blonde head again bowed by the utter weight of those runaway
feelings. Susan knew that she had to speak, had to offer some words of
comfort and assurance but before she could articulate her jumbled
thoughts, Talia spoke, that smoky voice quiet and tremulous.
"I realize that it probably doesn't matter to you, Commander,
despite the fact that for some reason you're here right now, but I need
to say this anyway. I am sorry, deeply sorry for what I said to you
earlier. It was uncalled for and I had absolutely no right to say it. I
don't know what came over me, or why I reacted the way I did. I guess it
was just the proverbial straw, but that is no excuse for my
behavior," she said slowly, the slight tremor growing more
pronounced as her words continued. "You've made it abundantly clear
how you feel about me, but I can only hope that you can find it in your
heart to forgive me for my callous remarks."
If the intensity of experiencing Talia's emotions had felt like a
palpable blow to Ivanova, the words that poured forth from the telepath
proved to be a solid knockout punch. Talia was apologizing to her? The
universe swung about, all akilter at the absurdity of the moment.
Susan had been the one who had been amazingly rude, from the first
instant of their first meeting. Susan had been the one who had
continually been abrasive and belligerent, the one who had actually left
rooms in order to avoid being in close proximity to the telepath. Susan
had been the one who had taken a rare moment of civility and uneasy
companionship and turned it into yet another moment of callousness and
disregard. Yet, Talia was the one apologizing, apologizing to Susan for
telling the truth.
The utter preposterousness of the situation, the subtle irony of it
was acknowledged with a self-deprecating nod in Ivanova's Russian brain.
As the feeling of shock wore off, Susan could see that her lack of
response had served to deepen Talia's despondency. Clearly she assumed
that Ivanova did not and would not accept her apology.
"There is a distinct possibility that you may be correct in some
of your assessments, Ms. Winters," Ivanova said softly, the proud
Russian still unwilling to admit to actually being wrong, "well,
not the parts about me being anything like the Centauri. That is
completely ludicrous. But I may have been less than open-minded, and I
will admit that my actions towards you haven't always been particularly
kind or even civil. In other words, you have nothing to apologize for,
Talia. So, no, I don't accept it."
Susan's words hung between them for a brief eternity, until finally
Ivanova could see Talia's pale eyebrows knit together in a frown against
the smooth skin of her forehead. Slowly that golden head lifted, until
Talia's eyes met the Commander's in a look of disbelief and
Susan felt a flicker of amusement as she watched the emotions flit
across Talia's face, as the telepath registered surprise, then
bemusement, then amused outrage and lastly, immeasurable relief as the
full meaning and import of Ivanova's words became clear to her. It was
like witnessing storm clouds fleeing before the brilliant light of the
sun as Talia became fully cognizant of what had just occurred, her
glance taking in the sight of the dignified Second-in-Command
practically kneeling at her feet.
"So, you're not angry with me?" Talia asked after a
"No. Well, we will have to discuss the whole Centauri remark at
some point, but in general, no, I'm not angry with you," Susan told
her with a quirk of her lips.
"And, may I safely assume that the fact that you actually came
looking for me means that there is a distinct possibility that you don't
actually dislike me as much as you have been trying to make me
"I would say that that would be an accurate assessment of the
situation," Susan replied, pushing up off her heels to seat herself
on the bench next to Talia.
"May I also assume that there is a chance that, given enough
time, you might actually come to like me, that we could be
friends?" Talia asked, the barest inkling of a smile just touching
Turning to look at the lovely blonde, Ivanova realized that if she
was unable to trust this impossibly kind, loving creature, then the
possibilities of her trusting anyone were quite bleak. The soft,
tentative glow of returning warmth that emanated from Talia's eyes held
the truth of who Talia Winters was. In those eyes, Susan saw promises of
faithfulness and loyalty, of unswerving affection and an inability to
harm. To put it more concisely, Susan saw love, undemanding, unwavering.
"I think there is every possibility that we may become very good
friends," Ivanova smiled warmly.
At Talia's answering smile, Susan rose to her feet, dusting off the
pant leg of her uniform, before straightening and with an even more
brilliant smile, proffering a hand to the beautiful blonde. She had
noticed that Talia had removed her gloves. She chuckled softly to
herself as she realized that she really didn't care.
"I don't know about you, but all of this emotional upheaval has
left me with quite an appetite. Would you care to join me for dinner,
Talia?" Susan asked sweetly.
"It would be my pleasure, Susan," Talia answered,
hesitating for just a second before slipping her bare hand into
Ivanova's gentle grasp.
Feeling the cool, smooth skin slide softly against her palm, the
slender fingers linking gently with her own, Ivanova knew with sudden
clarity the secret that men and women had discovered down through time.
She knew what had led the good Mr. Dimmesdale down that untrodden path
towards those dark woods. She knew what had ordained that he stray from
his faith and the strict admonishments of his church to find that secret
place among the trees.
He had been seeking what we all seek, a reminder of why we are alive,
a glimpse into the heart and mind of God. A brief, bittersweet, soul
quenching taste of that rarest and most precious of elixirs, love.
Within its sheltered walls lie the possibility of redemption, and the
promise of untold joy.
Tugging lightly on Talia's hand, Susan Ivanova led her companion
through the now darkening garden. The dusk was descending slowly as the
artificial lights began to mimic approaching night. All around them, the
bright hues of the plants and flowers faded to mere shadows of
themselves. Stillness fell over the sector, as those few remaining
visitors strolled quietly, or sat in poses of reflection or meditation,
affected just as the vegetation by the gradual settling of twilight on
Within the walls of Babylon 5 dwelt a quarter of a million souls.
Each had come to this place for a different reason, and yet, in some
inexplicable way, that reason was the same. Each individual soul was
seeking something, something that could be found only here, out among
the stars. Some sought after riches, others for their place in the vast
workings of the universe; some sought out old enemies, determined to
settle ancient wrongs, while still others searched for sanctuary and
expiation. Sometimes, just sometimes, a courageous, foolhardy few
pursued the fleeting possibility of love and redemption.
For each of us there is one thing in the universe that is ours and
ours alone, one thing that completes us, one thing for which we would
forfeit our very soul. One thing beside which all others pale. One
and Kind Words
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