Captain Sheridan looked at his second in command. Standing straight, her hands clasped behind her back she stared out in to space. He shivered where he stood. Iím glad youíre on my side, Susan Ivanova, he thought. Indeed I am. Since the death of Talia Winters, Ivanova had withdrawn into herself. The first couple of months her friends had seen her change from being in pain and agony, to something maybe even worse, unemotional acceptance of the universeís unfairness. Professional and efficient, she faced the fact that they were at war, and she was determined on winning.
ĎA person who has nothing to loose is the worse enemy.í
The words popped up in his mind from no where. His first CO had said the exact words many years ago. At that point her didnít have a face to put on those words, now he did: Susan Ivanova. He looked at her again, saw how tense she was and he wished that there was something, anything, he could do, but he knew there wasnít. She had gambled and lost and there was nothing left for her but to fight. He knew she would stand by his side until the end, she would never let him down. He only hoped he could do the same for her. He sighed and she turned and faced him, her face showing no emotions at all.
"Good morning, Commander."
"Captain, the latest report. Itís not good, but not exactly bad either."
"Thank you, Commander. Iíll read it in my office."
She quickly walked over to her station and punched a few buttons. Professional and efficient, yes that was a good description of her, he thought.
He left C&C and headed for his office. Sitting down behind his desk, Sheridan couldnít let go of his thoughts about Ivanova. He had seen her lose her last hope when Garibaldi disappeared. Heíd known that Michael was the only person Ivanova had let in after the loss of Talia, and now he was gone too. He slammed his fist down on the desk. PSI Corps, they where the reason for all this.
He got up and walked over to the window. Looking out he thought back, back to when he had last seen Ivanova smile. It had been the week before Lyta came onboard, the week before everything had started, the week before Talia was lost to them.
We killed her, he thought. Not Lyta, but us, me. I ordered it. Damn, it was hard sometimes. He knew Ivanova didnít blame him, but that didnít stop him from blaming himself. Still he knew there was nothing he could have done. The damage had already been done. Talia had been doomed from the day she first came onboard the station, this secret thing hidden inside of her.
She entered the garden and quickly looked around. When she found the place more or less deserted she let out a sigh of relief. Slowly she started to walk, breathing in the fragrant smell of exotic flowers. She passed her coffee bushes and she nodded as she saw them growing bigger. Gently touching the leaves she felt the tears starting again. Youíre pathetic Susan. For gods sake, pull your self together. She started walking again.
No one knew, and she was glad. If they would, they would never have let her be alone today. She looked up into the artificial sky.
Artificial, that was all she was, she thought. No thatís not true. Talia had been real, if only for a short time, but what they had shared had been real.
Suddenly feeling very tired she sat down on one of the stone benches and rested her head in her hands. She no longer had the strength to fight the pain inside and slowly the tears started to fall down her cheeks.
Why did you have to leave me? You were the only one I had left. Why did they have to take you too?
Today would have been a day of celebration, Taliaís birthday.
Susan sobbed and wiped her tear streaked face. It was no use, nothing could change the past. And as far as she was concerned she didnít have a future. Of course there was still the war. A good fight was always something to take her mind of the memories. Memories of a happier time, a time when she still knew how to laugh, still enjoyed being alive. Now it didnít matter to her anymore. If she was the next one to join her loved ones in Ďthe place where no shadows fallí as Delenn called it, she would be relieved.
No Susan Ivanova didnít have the sparkle for living any more. She had lost for the last time. Now she only had to win the war, then she would go too.
She got up and slowly walked back to her quarters, back to the memories, and the wolf.
"Ö so, you have to go in my place."
That had been half an hour ago. Now she was standing in front of this strange and very upset Minbari. She tried to stay calm as he complained. ĎThe fine art of diplomacyí, remember that Susan. She smiled at him and finally he relaxed and laughed.
"I like you. You are trouble."
"Thank you. Thatís the nicest thing anyone has said to me in days."
Together they walked through the magical place that was Epsilon III. When she looked at the Great Machine, as she stripped off her jacked, she wasnít so sure anymore. I donít like this, no, I donít like this at all, she thought, but there was no way out of it. They had to find the First Ones, and she was here to do the job. She took a deep breath and walked the last few steps up to the machine.
"Remember, what ever you do, donít stray from the path."
She nodded and closed her eyes and let her mind meld with the machine. At first she fought it. It was so powerful and it scared her.
"IÖ canít breathe."
"Look for the path and open up your mind."
She did as he said and then she could see it. It was magnificent. She let go and felt a tingle in her stomach as she started her journey into the unknown. It seemed to go on forever when suddenly it stopped and she could see a planet. It was so beautiful.
"I know this place. Sigma 957."
She looked around enjoying the feeling of being one with the universe. Iíll never be able to enjoy flying my Starfury as much after this, she thought. Then she felt it. Darkness, power, terror and it was pulling her in. She tried to resist, but it called her name, dragging her towards it.
"Draal, something is wrong, Iím not alone!"
"Itís the enemy. Look for the path. Pull away! I canít pull you out without killing you."
She tried to fight it, but it was impossible, it was just too strong. Before sheíd been cold, now she felt as if she was burning up. I canít do it! She panicked and tried to pull away.
You can. A soft voice whispered to her.
Susan, listen to me, follow my voice. Iíll show you the path. Just follow me, Susan, follow the sound of my voice.
Susan felt as if an angel had spoken to her.
Talia? Susan didnít know she had not said the words aloud, but spoken in her mind. Is it really you? Yes, Susan, itís me. Now listen to me, youíve got to follow my voice or youíll die.
It doesnít matter to me if I die or not. If I do, then weíll be together again. If youíre here that must be the reason. Itís my time to go.
No Susan, youíre wrong. You have to fight it. Look for the path.
Why? I donít want to. I want to be with you.
You canít. Not now. Soon, but not now. Please Susan, follow me. Iíll show you the path.
No. I want to stay with you. I need you.
Susan turned to the darkness again and let it pull her in. Closer and closer, she felt the darkness surround her.
No! SusanÖ Iím not dead.
Susan turned at the sound of Taliaís voice and then she saw the path. It dragged her in and before she knew it she was on her way back. The sound of Taliaís voice was gone, only a soft echo remained in her mind. Iím not dead. Could it be true?
Draal guided her back and when she finally stepped out of the machine she was drained of all her strength. He looked at her in a very strange way.
"What you saw, no normal human mind should have been able to see."
"Later. I have to get back. Can you record what I saw? What happened to Earthforce 1?"
"Then do it. Please."
Somehow she managed to get back and after checking in with Sheridan and Lieutenant Corwin she was on her way over to the Minbari docking bay. Entering the Whitestar she looked around for Lennier. He was nowhere to be seen.
"He couldnít make it."
Oh no, not him, please god, not him. She cursed silently and turned to face Marcus Cole, the most annoying Ranger in the known universe.
"I need someone who speaks Minbari."
"Well, youíve found him."
That was four hours ago. Now her head felt like it was about to explode. Did the man ever shut up? God heís irritating, she thought.
"Marcus, would you mind? Iím having a major headache here."
"Of course Commander"
She lost herself in thought. Could it really have been Talia? Or was it the Shadows playing tricks with her mind? She wasnít sure. Still this gave her a little hope to hold on to. No, Susan youíre kidding yourself. Youíre trying to hold on to something that is doomed. Talia is dead, you saw it yourself. That Ďthingí is what sheís become, that is if she is alive at all.
Susan didnít know that her thoughts were mirrored on her face. She looked like she wanted to kill someone, Marcus thought. She needs to loosen up a bit. I could give it a try, he thought. Ivanova was a very beautiful woman and heíd found himself being drawn to her form the moment he met her. Only problem was she didnít notice it. He sighed and started to walk towards her.
It was not a good idea.
Lyta, itís Susan can you hear me?
Commander? Is that you?
The answer was a shock to Ivanova. It worked, it really worked. She hugged herself and reached out to Lyta again.
Lyta I think we need to talk.
Iíll be right there.
Susan closed her eyes and a shiver went through her body. She didnít know if she could trust Lyta Alexander, but right now she didnít have a choice. The sound of the door startled her. She called out and the door swished open. Lyta smiled at her.
"Hi Lyta, and please call me Susan."
Ivanova motioned for her to sit down next to her on the couch. Clearing her voice she started to tell Lyta about what had happened in the machine.
"Iíll be honest with you, I donít trust you and I hate the idea of letting you into my mind, but I donít think I have a choice."
"I know how you feel Susan. Itís hard for me to accept, but I understand. I promise I wonít pry while Iím in your mind."
"I need you to verify something that happened to me out there. It is very personal and if I hear you telling anyone, Iíll personally kill you. Is that clear?"
"Understood commander. How longÖ how long have you known you were a telepath?"
The words were spoken softly to not offend. Lyta looked at her, waiting for Susanís answer.
"Iíve always suspected it. My mother did, thatís why she kept moving me from one school to another. Iíve been a latent telepath all my life, but not anymore. You know I can block a scan, I did it to you. Still you never told anyone. Thatís the only reason youíre here tonight. I think you might hate PSI Corps. almost as much as I."
"I donít think thatís possible. I havenít lost as much as you have to PSI Corps. You have a very good reason to hate them."
"I know and one day Iíll find a way of getting even with them."
"What can I do for you, Susan?"
"Today when I was in the machine something happened. The Shadows were there and they tried to pull me in. Draal couldnít help me, but someone else did."
"How? It canít be. I mean, sheís dead."
"I heard her voice and she showed me the way back. This is what I want you to verify for me. I want you to scan me and tell me if itís real or if itís been planted there by someone. Can you do that?"
"I guess so. It shouldnít be too hard, but youíve got to help Susan. If you block me it will be very painful for both of us. You have to trust me. Can you do that?"
"I guess I have no other choice."
Lyta removed her gloves and reached out and took Susanís hands. She inhaled deeply when their minds touched. Susan gasped and instinctively she tired to block her.
Susan, relax, let it go. You have to let me in.
"Talia?" he whispered. Shock written on his face.
"Shhh." She silenced him with a finger on his lips. "Itís OK Michael. I understand. Iím so sorry. Do you want me to leave?" She smiled at him and stroked his cheek.
"No, stay." He kissed her gently and put his arms around her. She felt so warm and soft. Itís been a long time, he thought. Too long. "Talia, I thought I would never see you again. Bester told us they had... killed you."
"I know. They wanted you to believe that."
She put her head on his chest enjoying being close to him. Her hand absently caressed his arm. Their eyes met again and Garibaldi bent his head and kissed her. Again and again their lips met as his hands touched her soft body and he felt her shiver in his arms.
"Talia, you really want to do this?"
"Yes Michael, yes I do. Iíve been alone for so long. When I found out about you being here, I couldnít believe it at first. I knew I had to see you... had to be close to you again." she whispered softly.
"Hush Talia. Iím here. Itís OK." He hugged her close and tried to send out strong encouraging emotions to her, knowing she would pick up on them. She sighed and he knew heíd done the right thing. "Talia, what about Susan?"
"I still love her Michael, I always will, but sheís gone and even if we by some small chance would meet again, she... she doesnít love me anymore. I could feel her hatred Michael, so strong. Love and hate at the same time, it was terrible. I hated myself so much in that moment and yet there was nothing I could do." Her head was resting on his chest and he could feel her hot tears against his skin. He gently stroked her hair, trying to comfort her. She looked up at him and saw his gentle smile. "And you, I always cared about you Michael, you know that. I think I have loved you for a long time without realizing it. Not like I love Susan. What I feel for you is something else, warm and gentle..." He cupped her face and brought their lips together.
"Make love to me Michael. Make me feel like Iím alive again, make me... whole again." the words were whispered into his mouth.
He slowly put her down on the bed and just looked at her for a long moment. Talia was the most beautiful woman heíd ever seen and heíd known from the moment he met her that he was in love with her. To lose her to Susan had been hard, very hard. And then Susan had given her back to him, in a way. He would always cherish that night with both of them. It had been the most erotic experience in his life. He saw Talia smile at him and leaned down and kissed her. Her slender arms circled his neck, pulling him closer. He kissed her face and neck sending shivers through her body. He could hear her sigh and felt her move her legs against his. She moaned softly as he covered her right breast with soft kisses and he enjoyed the sound of it. Her nipple hardened under his touch and he closed his lips around it. Talia whimpered at the wonderful feelings she felt running through her body.
"Oh Michael, it feels so good. Yes, oh more. Please." she whispered.
He let go of the nipple only to start the same slow torture on the other one. She was making soft noises now and he felt her small hands caressing the back of his neck. He remembered how heíd wondered what it would feel like, to be touched by her. The times sheíd done it, had been too few. Michael felt her taking his hand and pushing it down. He knew what she wanted and eager to touch her, he gently stroked the damp blond curls. He groaned.
"Michael please!" she whimpered. "I need you."
He slowly parted her lower lips and felt the welcoming warm wetness. She inhaled deeply and her body arched to meet his hand. His fingers found her clit and started to caress it in long deep strokes. She pressed herself against his hand and he could hear her breathing getting heavier. He looked at her, enjoying the passion he saw in her eyes. She reached out and took his now erect penis in her hand, her fingers closing firmly around him. He gasped and she stroked him faster. He leaned in and kissed her again. She bit his lip and sucked it into her mouth. He could feel her hand on him increasing the tempo and he pulled away from her mouth.
"Talia, slow down a little will yaí." he panted and gently covered her hand, making her stop. She looked at him and smiled, but she removed her hand from him and sat up.
"Itís been so long Michael. I canít help if I get a little bit too exited." She smiled at him and firmly pressed him down on the bed before she quickly straddled him. She bent down and took his now throbbing penis into her mouth. He cried out and his body jerked. She slowly moved her lips up and down his hard shaft. He circled her waist and moved his hands up to cup her breasts. He squeezed them gently when he felt her tongue swirl around the top of his aching manhood.
"Talia." he moaned. "What ever you do, donít stop."
He took a firm grip on her waist and pulled her closer until she was straddling his face. He pressed his mouth against her wet sex and heard her cry out softly. He sucked hard on her clit and felt her mouth around him again. Her whole body was shaking and he knew she was close. She pulled away and turned around. Their eyes locked and he held his breath as she slowly lowered herself onto him. He felt her wetness surround him and he put his hands on her waist to steady her. When about an inch of him was inside of her, she suddenly stopped. He inhaled deeply and in one swift move he lowered her onto the bed and entered her. She cried out at the slight pain mixed with pleasure. He stopped and looked at her face.
"Talia." Her eyes were closed and her body shivered. "Talia, did I hurt you?"
"No love. Itís just been a long time. Please Michael make love to me." She opened her eyes and smiled at him. He felt her move against him and he picked up on it instantly. He pulled out and just looked at her for a moment. His eyes widened when he suddenly heard her voice inside his head. ĎDonít hold back Michael. You wonít hurt me.í She smiled and he was filled with a tingling feeling. She nodded at his questioning look. ĎYes this is how you make me feel. Now please make love to me.í He inhaled deeply and plunged back inside her again. She cried out again and her back arched. He felt her long legs circling his waist, pulling him closer. He wouldnít be able to hold back for long now. She matched his moves like a dancer and he felt himself reaching the edge rapidly and then he cried out and felt her body shudder in his arms. They had reached the edge together. Finally he felt the last spasm echo through his body and he fell down on top of her. She enjoyed the feeling of his weight. Their lips met, she could still taste herself on his tongue. It made her shiver again. He rolled so she came to rest on top of him. She smiled down at him.
"I love you Talia."
"I know. And I love you Michael." She put her head down to rest on his chest and felt his warm hands caress her back. "I always will."
They fell asleep like that. Content and safe in each others arms, knowing that what ever happened next, they would have each other.
So they thought...