DISCLAIMER: Babylon 5 and its characters are the property of J. Michael Straczynski, Warner Brothers, PTEN, and/or TNT. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story follows season 3's canon story line, but I spaced the episodes out in order to make this story fit. So if the timeline doesn't exactly match the show, that is why. A great many thanks to my beta's who butchered this and made it that much better- rysler, pdt_bear and korenap.
SPOILERS: Up through the end of "War Without End" in season 3, with minor spoilers for the series finale.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Vorlon Gift
By atsammy



Control prowled around her quarters, agitated every time she tried to open the door and it refused. She fiddled with her gloves. She wanted to take them off, but the memory of the bursts of pain in her mind the previous times she'd attempted to do that stopped her. She cursed the presence of the Psi Cops who had taken her from Babylon 5 and tossed her into these quarters without so much as a word about where they were taking her. She had not seen them since, but she could feel them observing her, probing her mind every once in awhile despite the walls she had up. The new personality would have enjoyed finally being in control, except that now she was more a prisoner than she had been when she was buried in the recesses of Talia Winters' mind. 

Something brushed her mind, faintly, and she braced herself for another scan. The Psi Cops had been scanning her at ever increasing intervals, searching for more information than she'd given them in her first debriefing. It was not a pleasant experience; she almost wished that Talia Winters was there to take the pain for her. One benefit of being so deeply hidden was that she could enjoy the emotions her host experienced without having to actually feel them. 

Yes, it was good to be in control. She would need to request a new name; Control was getting old. She would have to wait though, to see if the Corps wanted her to continue on, masquerading as her former self. Not her former self; the original inhabitant. Better. There were other possibilities, she was aware of that, but she preferred not to consider them. What would the point be of destroying her when she could still be useful, if not on Babylon 5 then elsewhere? 

She felt the presence in her mind once more, and this time she recognized it as alien. Before the thought was fully formed, the transport ship shuddered, and she fell to the floor. Pressing her hands to her head, she screamed as fire burned through her brain. The room around her filled with a harsh light. Blinded, she collapsed into unconsciousness.

Pain. Fear. Cold. So cold

Pinpricks of warmth along her arms woke her. When Control opened her eyes, she found herself standing in a sparsely lit room surrounded by mirrors. It took her several minutes of wandering the room to realize that she was inside her mind. It wasn't real.  She could control this.  She prowled the room, trying to find any crack, any gap in the mirrors that she could use to escape, to reawaken, but there were none. She was trapped, surrounded by the infinite reflections of the shell of Talia Winters. 

When she sat, leaning back against a mirror, she glared at the images across from her. She hated the sight of herself in this body. Its image was all around her, entrapping her even more than she had been before, completely buried in the recesses of the other's mind. The freedom she had felt since the moment of her activation was fading, as was her interest in retaining the knowledge that she had been created to obtain. 

Opening her eyes slightly, she drifted in thought, barely registering the movement in the mirror opposite her. There was a long moment before she realized that she was actually seeing herself move. She bolted upright with a gasp. The reflection didn't appear to notice her. Raising a hand to her forehead, she pushed her hair back behind her ear. Only when the reflection looked up and met her gaze did Control understand.

"Impossible!" she screeched and stormed across the room. 

The reflection stumbled back even as she hit the mirror and bounced backwards. 

"No! This is impossible! You are dead!" she yelled, pounding on the mirror.

Talia Winters stared back at her, confusion on her face. "What's going on?"  Her voice as clear as if they were standing right next to each other. 

"Out! She's mine!" Control screamed, aloud as well as in her mind.

"Who are you?" Talia yelled back. 

Control could not penetrate her mind. The walls thrown up were strong, stronger than a P5 should have been able to build. They were unlike anything she had ever felt before. They weren't human.

All around them, the mirrors shattered. Control could feel the glass cutting her as she watched Talia stand amidst the falling glass unscathed. From somewhere, a chime sounded and a voice boomed, "Only the future can remain with the past." Light filled the room, and only Talia remained. 


Part 1

Talia had no idea how long she had been on the Vorlon ship, only that her hair had grown at least two inches and she'd gone through two sets of Minbari style robes. She did not want to know how the Vorlons had obtained said clothing, but she had clothes and food and a room to live in. Live in, be imprisoned in… She really didn't know anymore. There were occasions where she saw others from a far, very rare occasions that she was allowed out of her room. However long it had been, nothing remotely comprehensible had happened to her since that dream of shattering mirrors. 

She had been given no explanation as to why she had been taken from Babylon 5, no way to contact Commander Sinclair or the Psi Corps, nothing. But sometimes when she slept, she felt as though she were watching an old film, but of herself back on Babylon 5. Just bits and pieces,but they were repeated so often that they were starting to feel as though she'd actually lived those events, instead of dreamed them. Waking was always a disappointment. The daily discovery that she was still… here, wherever here was, was slowly breaking her. There was no pain, no torture, nothing, but the isolation was a torture unto its self. 

She wondered sometimes if she was losing her mind. That had to be the only explanation for one of the dreams that kept repeating. It was the only dream where she was not watching herself, but rather she was herself.  She was with Lieutenant Commander Ivanova. In bed with her, naked and warm, as they touched, and kissed.  For a brief second, an oh so very brief second, before she would wake, she could have sworn she felt Ivanova touching her mind as she was caressing her body.  Impossible.  The dreams were a meaningless diversion, nothing more.

The same thing, over and over.  And that most preposterous dream was the one that repeated like clockwork. In her last memory, the Lieutenant Commander had only begrudgingly started acknowledging her existence when they met in passing in the Zocalo. On an even rarer occasion, they might share the same ten feet of space at the end of the day while they had a drink, but never together. There was no way that the night in question could ever have happened. Not with the way the other woman felt about telepaths. Maybe one day they might have become acquaintances. But even friendship was too much to ask for. 

Boredom must have her self conscious indulging in serious wish fulfillment; though that certainly didn't explain the rest of the dreams. She'd never considered herself to be overly creative, but the dreams had her thinking she should have been a writer. Maybe her dreams of Susan Ivanova were her subconscious mind giving her something to make her feel better so she didn't go completely insane.

The days were almost always the same. Every once in awhile, maybe every two weeks if she was counting right, one Vorlon or another would enter her room via a door she could not open on her own. At first, she'd thought that they would just come in and watch her, but occasionally, she would blink and find herself somewhere else in room. It felt like vertigo.  She realized that they were doing something to her that they didn't want her to remember. She did not know what, and she did not know why, but they were. She asked, every time, what they were doing, why she was there… Only once did she ever get a response, not that it was in any way an answer. 

"Wishing is pain turned to water."

Her hair had grown almost all the way down her back when Kosh entered her room. He had never been there. That she could remember. And she had asked for him many times, especially at the beginning, sure that her presence there and not on Babylon 5 was a mistake. 

"Follow," Kosh said, turning back to the door before he had even fully stopped.

"Where are we going?" Talia called after him futilely. She had no real expectation of an answer after all this time, but part of her was glad to have someone there that she knew- in a way. 

She followed him through the hallways, not taking any interest in her surroundings. She had long since learned that the passages would never be the same, even though prior to this she only ever went to one other place on the ship. This time, she ended up somewhere new, and her heart started to beat a little faster. Kosh had led her through a portal onto another ship, she could feel it in her mind. "Where are we going?" she asked again, feeling panicked, as Kosh stopped in the middle of a room and the ship around her shuddered. 

Chimes sounded all around her, and after a moment, Kosh replied, "Back."

Lieutenant Corwin ran through the docking procedures with Ambassador Kosh's ship automatically. He no longer found it strange to deal with a ship as opposed to a person when it came to the Vorlons. The process never varied, so he was startled when a message from the vessel appeared on his screen. He tapped his link, "C&C to Captain Sheridan."


"Yes, Sir. Ambassador Kosh has returned and is requesting that you and Commander Ivanova meet him in the docking bay."

"On my way. I'll call the commander."

"Roger, Sir."

The channel disconnected, and Corwin went on to the next task on his plate.

"Do you know why he wants us here?" Susan asked as she met Captain Sheridan outside the entrance to the docking bays. She nodded at the Narn security officer as they passed him, her attention on her commanding officer.

"Not a clue," Sheridan replied. "But it pulled me out of an annoying meeting with Londo, so I am not complaining. If I have to listen to another complaint about the lack of available spoo, I'm liable to throw what we have left out an airlock."

The Vorlon ship was docked by the time they arrived, and the two officers watched quietly as a door appeared on the side and a ramp extended down to the deck. Several long minutes later, the ambassador appeared in the doorway and glided down, stopping at the bottom as another figure stepped into view. 

Ivanova stumbled backwards in shock as Talia Winters walked down the ramp, not noticing how the other woman looked around in surprise. She had her PPG in hand before she even realized it.  Through the roaring in her ears she could hear Sheridan say, "Sheridan to Garibaldi, I need a security team in docking bay 3 now."

Not long after Kosh's ship left, Talia fell asleep against a wall. The slow, whirling patterns on the walls had left her feeling light headed  She woke only when the ship shuddered and rocked back and forth. Kosh loomed over her as she pushed herself upright.  

"The hour of discovering has arrived."

He walked away, and she followed, muttering to herself, "Discovering, scampering, longing… Someone needs to buy the Vorlons a new clock."

The wall in front of them dissolved and she stopped just inside as Kosh descended the ramp. She looked around, recognizing the docking bays of Babylon 5. Her heart pounded as she walked slowly down the ramp. She didn't notice that there were others there until she reached the bottom, and at first all she saw were the unfamiliar uniforms. The weapon pointed at her however quickly caught her attention. Raising her hands, she took a step back, and recognized Lieutenant Commander Ivanova holding the PPG.  The other was a man who had appeared in a few of her dreams. Her eyes locked on Ivanova's, whose face was pale but her hold on her weapon true, and she heard the man call for security. 

"Lieutenant Commander Ivanova," she started, quieting when she saw her grip tighten on the weapon.

The security team arrived then, headed by Michael Garibaldi.  For the first time she was glad to see him, even though there were more weapons pointed at her now. 

Talia sat quietly on the bed as Dr. Franklin drew vial after vial of blood, trying to ignore the line of people on the other side of the window. Even though she had all her blocks up, she could still feel the tension radiating from the observers, and Dr. Franklin himself.  It had been there even as she was escorted under guard to Med Lab. She was feeling like she was back on the Vorlon ship; everytime she asked what was going on, no one would answer her. The only words spoken to her had been the orders to go with security, and to keep her hands where they could see them. The doctor only asked occasional medical questions or for her to hold out her arm. 

When he left the room with his tray of vials, the man she somewhat recognized came in.  Garibaldi stayed right behind him guarding the door. 

"Mr. Garibaldi, what's going on?" she asked, crossing her arms over her stomach. She was feeling a little light headed and cold, but mostly just fearful of what was happening. 

"Who are you?" the other man answered, ignoring her question.

The answer was out before she thought about it, an unconscious routine even after all the time that had passed. "Talia Winters, Psi Corps Commercial Telepath rating P5."

"What are you doing on Babylon 5?"

"I don't know why I was gone. One minute I was in the business lounge in Red Sector, then I was on a Vorlon ship, and then Ambassador Kosh brought me back here."

"Why were you on the Vorlon ship?"

"I don't know. I don't know how I got there, why I was there, how long I was there, or why Ambassador Kosh brought me back now." She looked back and forth between them. "Please, what is going on? Where is Commander Sinclair?"

Dr. Franklin knocked on the glass, and with one last look at her, the two men left the room, leaving her behind alone in the room.

Ivanova met them at Franklin's desk. "What's the verdict?" Sheridan asked.

"Well, Captain, genetically it's her. There are no signs of drugs in her system, and overall she is healthy if somewhat anemic. But when I took the scan of her brain, there is a small lesion on the hippocampus, and another one in the pre-frontal cortex. They're tiny, you can barely see them unless you know what to look for."

"She's got brain damage?" Ivanova asked, alarmed.

"It's hard to say. I'd have to check her previous medical records to see if there was a similar lesion to know for sure, but the Psi Corps took those with them when they took her away." He pointed at a zoomed in image of the hippocampus. "One's here, on the edge of the memory center of the brain. What it has done, I have no idea."

"Is there any way to tell if it is really her, or if it's the control personality?" Garibaldi asked. "It sounds like her, but then again, she's been gone a year. The control personality may have settled into the role of being her."

"We'd need a telepath to scan her to determine that," Franklin answered, shaking his head.

"Control said that Talia was dead," Ivanova said. 

All three men turned to look at her. "When did that conversation happen?" Sheridan asked.

Ivanova stiffened and hesitated in answering. "I saw her before she left," she said finally. "She said, 'the Talia you knew is dead.'"

Sheridan eyed her. "We'll discuss that later.  For now, find Ms. Alexander and have her meet me in my office. Have… Ms. Winters… taken to one of the interrogation rooms. We'll meet you there."

Sheridan paced his office, watching on the monitor as Talia was led into the interrogation room. Another guard followed them in and set a plate of food and a tall glass of juice in front of her. Franklin's orders, due both to the amount of blood he'd drawn and the mild anemia evident in her blood tests. He sighed.  Sheridan was going to have to talk to Susan, and that was a conversation he was not looking forward to having. But first, and more importantly, he needed to know if this version of Talia Winters was going to be a security risk. Whatever the answer, it was not going to be an easy decision to make. 

He'd been waiting for about 20 minutes, watching as Talia ate some of her food and pushed the rest around. She got up and paced the room for a few minutes, all the while looking completely out of her depth and frightened. There was a knock on the door frame, and he ordered, "Screen off."  He turned to see their other resident telepath standing in the doorway. "Have a seat."  He gesturied at the chairs in front of his desk. 

She took a seat, and he leaned back against his desk. "You spent... some time with the Vorlons before you returned as Ambassador Kosh's aide, right?"

Lyta paused before answering. "Captain, I've told you before, I can't tell you anything about..."

He waved her off. "I know, I know, I'm not asking for information about them or what you did there. But you were with them."


"In your time there, did you ever see any other humans?"

"No." She waited a beat, and then added, grudgingly, "but that is not to say that there weren't... others."

Sheridan nodded to himself, and looked up at the blank screen on the far wall. "I need your help."

Lyta tilted her head, surprised. Sheridan and the others rarely asked for her help; once they'd realized what she could do in the fight against the Shadows, they'd treated her like a member of the crew, only there to be ordered around. "If I can," she decided.

"You are of course aware that Ambassador Kosh returned today." She nodded slowly. "He brought someone with him. I'd like you to be there when we talk to her."


He didn't answer. "We also will need you to scan her, to see if she is who she says she is."

"Captain Sheridan, we both know that I'm not accountable to Psi Corps rules any more, but I won't just scan someone because you ask me to." She settled back in her chair, arms crossed. "It's a violation of their privacy."

He just looked at her, his face void of emotion. "It's Talia Winters."

The name had the effect he expected. Lyta stiffened and sat up. "I thought the Psi Cops had her."

"So did we.  When Bester was here a few months ago he definitely left that impression.  Dr. Franklin has seen her, and can only verify that her DNA matches that of the woman we knew as Talia Winters. Nothing more, nothing about which personality is in control."

"Really." She looked as disconcerted as Sheridan had ever seen her. Gazing at the empty doorway, she spoke, her voice quieter than it had been before. "Captain, you are aware that the type of scan required to even POSSIBLY find a programmed personality cannot be done by a P5."

Sheridan nodded, his expression grave. "I know."

"Ok, then. I'll do it. May I request that only command level personnel be in the room when I conduct the scan?"

"We can do that."

Talia ate some of the meal they brought her, wishing she could enjoy it.  She couldn't. She had spent so long wanting to be back among familiar people, yet nothing about this place she had once called home was familiar. The nervousness she felt at being, for all intents and purposes, arrested the moment she stepped off the Ambassador's ship kept her from feeling anything but fear. She pushed away from the table and paced back and forth.   On edge, she tried to ignore the security camera she knew had to be focused on her. There was nothing in the room to give her any clue as to what had been going on while she had been gone.

The door to the room opened and she turned around to find Garibaldi, Ivanova and the other man filing in, followed by a red-haired woman Talia recognized instantly. "Lyta? What are you doing here?" She looked her up and down, confused by the lack of gloves and Psi Corps badge.

The woman she had trained with for nearly a year looked at her companions before answering. "I've been asked to sit in on this… interview."

"Ms. Winters, please take a seat." The man pointed to the chair she had previously been in.

"Not until someone tells me what is going on! Where is Commander Sinclair?"

The man sighed, and shook his head. "Commander Sinclair was transferred two years ago. I'm Captain John Sheridan, commanding officer of Babylon 5."

Talia's breath caught. The name matched the one in her dreams, even if the uniform he was wearing didn't. And two years? "Two years ago?" she whispered, grabbing at the back of a chair. "I've been gone for two years?"

"No," Garibaldi answered, sharing a look with Sheridan. "You left here eleven months ago, under Psi Cop escort."

She shook her head violently, feeling sick. "No… that's not possible. I was HERE. One minute I was with Ambassador Kosh and the man he was meeting with, the next I was on a Vorlon ship. I never left, with anyone."

Sheridan gestured again to her chair. "Sit down, please."

This time she complied, her legs unwilling to hold her up any longer anyway. "What's going on? Why won't you tell me what is going on?"

The others sat across from her, and she snapped her head around as she felt Lyta's presence in her mind. Before she could say anything, Lyta spoke. 

"You know how this works. For now, I'm just verifying that you are telling the truth. I won't look any deeper than that."

Talia nodded, slightly, knowing that she should relax, but she hated the presence of another mind in her own just then. Once upon a time having another telepath there would have comforted her, it was something she hadn't had since she left training, but now... now she hated it.  She hated that all of them knew more than she did, and that she had to endure this on the off chance she would be able to find out just what the hell was going on.


Sheridan nodded, picking up a pen. "What is the last thing that you remember before you arrived on the Vorlon ship?"

Talia was grateful that he at least picked an easy question. "I was in the business lounge in Red 3. Ambassador Kosh had hired me to mediate for him, but from what I could tell they weren't negotiating anything. He and a man named Abbott just kept talking in riddles for two straight days of meetings. When they were done Abbott took off his hat. And then I was in a small room with a bed, a table, and a bathroom through the only doorway."

"She's lying," Lyta said quietly.

"No I'm not!" Talia replied harshly, pushing back from the table and ignoring the reactions of the others. "I was here and then I was there!"

"She had a dream," Lyta continued as if she had said nothing. 

"It was a dream, nothing more. I had a lot of them while I was there."

Sheridan met Lyta's gaze, and she nodded slightly. "What was the dream about?"

"It was just a dream. Since when do they mean anything, anyway?" Talia's voice trailed off as everyone at the table winced, just a flinch, but enough that she saw it on all their faces.

"I was in a room full of mirrors. It started out like a dream I'd been having for the last four years or so, just me, surrounded by mirrors and my own reflection. But this time, one of the reflections moved on it's own. It looked furious and started yelling that something was impossible. That I was dead. Then a voice said 'Only the future can remain with the past' and the mirrors shattered. I was all alone in the room, and then I woke up on the Vorlon ship." She looked around at all of them, adding earnestly, "It was just a dream."

Ivanova wouldn't meet her gaze.  She stared instead down at the table, but both Sheridan and Garibaldi wrote something down. Garibaldi asked the next question. "How did you know you were on a Vorlon ship?"

"I didn't, not right away. I couldn't feel anything in my mind. I banged on the walls, yelled, and there was nothing. A couple of times a day I'd hear a noise, turn around and there would be food on the table.  The lights would dim periodically. I don't know how long I was there before a door appeared in the wall and two Vorlons walked in."

"Did they ever tell you why you were there?"

"No. Believe me, I asked, screamed, begged, for information, for them to bring me back... I only ever got one response from them, and it didn't make any sense."

"What did they tell you?"

"'Wishing is pain turned to water.' Then next one to talk to me was Ambassador Kosh, right before he brought me back here." She shrugged. 

Sheridan shifted in his chair. "Did they ever do anything to you?"

"I... I don't know." She followed Sheridan's glance at Lyta, who shook her head slightly in return. "They came in every once in awhile, and sometimes they would just stand there facing me for awhile and then leave. Other times, I would blink and end somewhere else in the room. I don't remember ever moving, so if anything happened, it would have been during that time."

"So the only thing you did while you were there was have dreams?" Sheridan didn't believe her, that was plainly obvious. 

She nodded. "Just weird dreams. Though," something occurred to her for the first time. "Each time they came in, the dreams would start over from the beginning, only there would be more dreams. New ones. The Vorlons only returned once I got to the end of the series of dreams." She felt stunned. Why hadn't she realized that before? "I didn't think they were all that important, I didn't... notice... that pattern.  Not then."

"What did you dream about?"

She laughed harshly. "Captain Sheridan, you are talking about five or six dreams a night, for who knows how many nights! I dreamt about... life on the station, I guess. People here, people that I knew, but they weren't memories. I mean, come on, I dreamt that the Minbari ambassador looked human, and Mr. Garibaldi got shot, and... and..." She stopped her self before she revealed the most outrageous thing. But she thought of it, briefly, and knew that Lyta had seen it too. The other woman's expression didn't change at all, but she knew. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "They were just dreams. I dreamed them often enough that they did start to feel a little bit like memories, but they weren't real."

"What did you do the rest of the time?"

"Go crazy," she said before she could stop herself. "There was nothing to do. I had a bed, a table and a bathroom.  There were no communications equipment, no books, no one else to talk to. So I talked to myself, once I realized that no one was going to answer me. I walked, back and forth, for hours a day. I slept a lot, and the lights cycled on and off at consistent intervals. It felt like prison, except in a prison people will actually talk to you.

"A few times, they led me to another room, and I might have seen other people on the way. In the distance, just a brief sight of a non-Vorlon, but I never felt the presence of any other minds or had a chance to talk to them."

"Where'd they take you?" 

She shrugged. "I don't know. It was another room, with walls that shifted patterns non-stop. They would leave me there, and then come back and take me to my room."

"And no one ever told you why you were there?" Garibaldi repeated.


"You don't remember ANYTHING between being in Red Sector and being on the Vorlon ship," Sheridan stated, frowning. 

"Nothing," she replied, softly. "A year of my life, I guess.  I don't remember any of it."

There really wasn't much more that they could question her about, given Lyta's verification that her answers were honest. Susan fought the urge to start tapping her heel on the floor. She had listened to the interview, but couldn't find the will to look at Talia for more than a few seconds at a time.  Her mind was reeling. It appeared that this woman really was Talia Winters. But, a Talia Winters that had never forged a friendship with Susan through shear mule-headedness, refusing to back down every time Susan rebuffed her. A Talia who didn't remember the night they spent together, and the emotions that they had shared. A Talia who didn't know that Susan oh so briefly had opened her mind to her, something she'd sworn she would never do. 

She made a show of listening as Sheridan and Garibaldi conferred, but said nothing. She nodded when they looked at her for confirmation, knowing what was coming next. She really did not want to watch.

Sheridan asked the guard who was standing in the doorway to leave, and Garibaldi ordered the recorders offline. 

Sheridan came right to the point.  "Ms. Winters, I would like you to consent to being scanned by Ms. Alexander."

Susan looked up in time to see the confusion flicker across Talia's face. "I don't understand. Why? She can tell you already that I was telling the truth."

"Please. Once she is done, we'll get you set up in quarters for the night."

Talia looked between all of them and Susan could see her wavering. 

"Will you tell me what's going on?"

Garibaldi glanced over at Susan as Sheridan nodded. "Yes. Once she is done."

Talia drew in a deep breath, and let it out. "Ok. Then, yes... I'll consent to a scan."

However much she did not want to look at Talia, Ivanova forced herself to watch as Lyta stood and walked around the table.

Talia stood on weak legs. She wondered briefly, for the first time, just why telepaths always stood up when they were being scanned. Their eyes met as she felt Lyta's mind touch her own. She heard both in her mind as well as her spoken voice as Lyta said, "Do not resist. Do not block me, you do not want me to break through the walls in your mind."

Talia had a heart beat to scoff at the idea of a fellow P5 breaking down any blocks she had up before she felt the full force of Lyta's mind in hers. She might have screamed out loud, she certainly did in her mind as Lyta was suddenly everywhere, cutting through everything she was. All her memories, all her thoughts; it felt like knives were slicing her open, searching for… something. It was worse, so much worse, than when the Psi Cops had scanned her looking for information about Jason. 

And then it was done, and she was collapsed against the table, held off the floor by Lyta's supporting arm as she helped her back to her chair. She pressed her hands to her face, trying to fight the pain even as she felt it slowly drifting away. She slowly dropped her hands and looked up.  She saw the tense, concerned looks on Garibaldi and Sheridan's faces and the way Ivanova had gripped the arms of her chair until her fingers had gone white. She focused on Lyta, and thought to her, "How did you do that? You shouldn't be able to do that!"

Lyta just waved a hand at her and turned away. "It's not your concern," she heard as she felt walls so impenetrable it was like she was looking at a cliff face slam down between them. 

Lyta said something to the others.  Still reeling, Talia didn't hear what, but she heard Sheridan say, "Alright. We'll have someone escort you to quarters for the evening. Someone will be by later, with food."

She nodded dumbly, head splitting, wishing just for a second, that she were back on the Vorlon ship, alone.

They waited until Talia had been escorted out and then relocked the door to the room. Sheridan turned to Lyta, who was studiously avoiding all their gazes. "Well?"

"It's her, Captain. There is no sign of an implanted personality."

"How can you be sure?" Ivanova asked, a little too quickly, drawing strange looks from both men. "Last year, you couldn't tell from a scan, only by sending the password."

"Last year is not this year, Commander," Lyta said, a little haughtiness coming through. "The personality is not there. What is, is Talia. Her memories stop where she said they did."

"That matches something she told me and Jeff two years ago," Garibaldi added. "She'd been hired by Ambassador Kosh, but had no idea why. Kosh was meeting a ViCaR, and when they had concluded their business, the ViCaR gave Kosh a data crystal. She didn't know what was on it, and all Kosh told her was that it was the 'future.'

"What if…" Garibaldi paused, trying to formulate his idea in his head. "What if the ViCaR somehow recorded Talia, her memories, her sense of self and the Vorlons got her away from Psi Corps to... reprogram her? No one really knows how the ViCaR's work, what they can do. Earth Force has certainly never figured it out, though they like to use them whenever they can find one willing to work for them. Maybe Kosh knew what was going to happen, and set about trying to, oh, I don't know, correct it."

"But why do that and not just warn us about her from the start? It doesn't make any sense," Ivanova interjected.

"Since when do the Vorlons ever make sense?" Garibaldi replied.

"I think they were trying to fill in her memories from the time in between," Lyta added.  "The dreams she was having… She was herself in them, but I could feel… I can't explain it, but they were sent to her by the Vorlons. I don't know what she did before I arrived, but she dreamt of a lot of things that actually happened. You Captain, and Ambassador Delenn, even the Mars uprisings and President Santiago." She eyed Ivanova for a moment and considered what to say. "I think, if you could see the dreams she had, all three of you would recognize moments from your own interactions with her."

"So, what do we do with her?" Garibaldi asked. "Do we keep her here, or send her back to Earth? The Psi Corps wanted her for something; what will they do now that their little project has fallen through?"

Susan struggled to remain objective.  "It would be difficult getting her back to Earth now, if she even wants to go. But the Psi Corps remains a problem. As far as we know, she's still loyal to them. Before she... before the other personality took over, she was questioning what she'd been brought up to believe. She was losing faith in them. But, a year before that, nothing would shake her belief that what the Psi Corps was doing was right." At the looks she got from Sheridan and Garibaldi at her statement, she lashed out defensively. "What? We were friends, we talked to each other. I was the one who recommended we bring her in last year, remember?"

"I just can't get over that you actually were friends with a member of Psi Corps," Sheridan said. "Whatever you talked about." 

"Well, we were." She missed the smirk on Lyta's face. "I got over myself, and she needed someone to talk to when she finally started to see Psi Corps for what they really were."

"You guys are forgetting something, if you don't mind me saying," Lyta interjected. "She doesn't know what has happened. She's noticed the different uniforms already and once she gets over her shock, she's going to start noticing that things aren't the same here as they were last year, or two years ago. If she stays here, you'll have to let her know what is going on, just like you promised. Or do you plan to leave her locked in a room until the end of time?"

"And, the longer she stays here, the more she's going to realize that the dreams she had are her memories. We may not have to worry about loyalty issues, if Lyta is right about what she was dreaming about," Garibaldi added. 

"Well, whatever we do, we can't let Bester and his crew get a hold of her.  If he finds out we have two telepaths who've been with the Vorlons? Talia doesn't have the backing of the Vorlon government to keep Psi Corps from trying to arrest her if she goes rogue." Sheridan sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets. "We can give her a choice. Fill her in on... everything, including what they did to her and let her decide what she wants to do. But before we do that, I'm going to talk to Kosh. I want to know just what the hell he thought he was doing." He focused on Lyta. "Can you let the Ambassador know that I will be by to see him, shortly?"

Lyta took that as her cue to leave. "I will let him know," she said, moving to the door.

"And Lyta?"

She turned around.

"Thank you, for your help."

She glanced at Ivanova, briefly, and then shrugged and gave them a small smile. "You're welcome, Captain."

Garibaldi followed in Lyta's footsteps a few minutes later, leaving Ivanova and Sheridan alone in the interrogation room. She wanted to fidget under his assessing gaze, but forced herself to keep still.

"Captain," she started to say after he had been silently looking at her for a few minutes.

"John," he corrected. "I think, for the purposes of this conversation, you should call me John." 

She felt an inexplicably large amount of relief that he wasn't going to do this as her commanding officer. The part of her that loved the structure of the military would not have handled this well, she knew that, and apparently, so did he. She nodded in agreement, and relaxed a little.

"Susan, is there something that I need to know? I remember that the two of you were friendly before she left.  I never questioned your judgement when you suggested bringing her into the fold."

She turned away and wrapped her arms around herself. "We were friends," she started simply. "I fought it, every time she tried to talk to me, because of what she was, but it was like I said. I got over myself. Slowly."

Sheridan chuckled at that. 

"We were sort of friends by the time you got here. After Bester showed up, wanting us to help him track down rogue telepaths, she started talking to me. She started to doubt the Corps and her place in it.  She thought that I might understand. We were... closer, after that."

"Closer?" he asked, his tone implying that he knew exactly what she meant.

"I was in love with her," she whispered, saying it out loud for only the second time. "We never... it was only right before she left, that we... that anything happened. But I loved her." 

"Susan… Why didn't you tell me?"

She turned and looked at him, an empty half smile on her face. "What could I have told you? 'Hey, Sir, just so you know, that spy we just found on board? I slept with her last night and I can't remember how much I have told her that could implicate us for treason?' It was easier to just... let it go. Especially once nothing seemed to come of it. The next time Bester came on board, he implied that they'd killed her, but he didn't threaten us with any knowledge he might have gained from her. Of course, now we know that they most likely never had her, but still."

Sheridan stepped toward her, resting his hand on her tense shoulder. 

"If she stays here… Are you going to be ok?"

She shrugged, effectively removing his hand from her shoulder as well. "Would you be ok if Anna walked through that door right now and said, 'Hi, I'm back?'  At least you have the closure of knowing your wife is dead. I had someone who looked like her, sounded like her, but wasn't her…" She sighed. "I'll be fine… I just need to think."

"Take the rest of the day off." He forced himself not to react to her comments about Anna, even though they hit deeply. 

"Captain, there's no…"

"You're relieved, as of now, Commander." There was humor in his eyes as he interrupted her. 

"Yes, Sir," she replied automatically. "Thanks, John," she added quietly. At the door, she asked, without turning around, "What do you plan to tell her?"

He sighed, leaning back against the table. "I don't know yet."


Talia didn't remember much of the walk to her assigned quarters. The pain in her mind was slowly receding, but she was thankful when at last she was left alone. Her escort promised that food would be brought to her in a few hours. Though these weren't the same quarters she had had previously, there was a familiarity to them that comforted her, a little. She had no access to the computer, which didn't really surprise her or bother her at the moment. She doubted she would be able to focus on it much anyway, though she was curious to find out just what she had missed in two years. Her head hurt too much. 

An inspection of the bathroom showed a standard vibe shower, sink and toilet.  It also reminded her that she had no toiletries. Maybe when they brought her dinner she could ask them to pick her up a few things. With that thought, she toed off her shoes, laid down on the bed and stared at the darkened ceiling. She wondered if this would continue to be her life: locked in a room she couldn't escape from, unable to fend for herself. It had been too long since she'd been able to make any choices. Rolling on to her side, she hugged the spare pillow to her and closed her eyes. 

Susan threw her jacket onto the chair and collapsed onto the bed . She loosened her hair from it's tight ponytail, without paying attention to what she was doing. She stared at the wall, but all she could see was Talia walking down from Kosh's ship. She'd recognized her immediately, even in the odd Minbari robe and with her hair as long as it was. Just listening to her voice had been painful, but then to have it confirmed that she didn't even remember. Who knew just how thorough the memories the Vorlons gave her were, anyway.

The door chimed, and she pushed herself up off of the bed and walked back into the sitting area. "Enter," she said, stopping at the sink and pouring herself a glass of water. 

"I'm sorry to bother you, Commander," Lyta said, stepping through the door. "But do you have a moment?"

Susan ran her hand through her hair, and then gestured to the couch. "Have a seat." She took a seat herself, forcing herself to not look as out of sorts as she felt. "Is there a problem?"

Lyta shook her head and looked almost embarrassed. "No, I just... I just wanted to talk to you for a minute. About Talia."

She drained the water glass and set it off to the side, schooling her features into what she hoped was polite disinterest. "Is there a problem with what you saw? If there is, you should speak with Captain Sheridan."

"No," Lyta answered, hesitant. "Just you." She paused for a moment, thinking. "I saw all of the dreams she had, Commander. All of them."

Susan's eyebrows went up. "A years worth of dreams, in about a minute?"

"Yes. She had quite a few about you."

She froze in her chair. "We were friendly, towards the end. It's understandable that if those dreams are her actual memories, that I would be in some of them."

"Like I said before, I don't know if what I saw was really what she experienced, but those dreams were... pretty specific. I don't know how close you two actually were, but she definitely was dreaming that you were. The main reason she doesn't believe the dreams are real is because of the final one. If it were any of the other dreams, she might have accepted them as memories more easily, but not with that one."

Susan just stared at her for a moment. "What was the final dream?" she asked, fairly certain she knew the answer.

She had to give Lyta credit, she didn't smirk or laugh as she answered, "The two of you, in bed together."

She was blushing, she could tell, but there was really nothing that she could say in response. Lyta nodded once and stood up.

"I just thought you should know. Once she starts putting the pieces together and realizes that her dreams are in fact reality... She will have to face the fact that ALL her dreams were real." With that she left, and as the door closed behind her, Susan leaned back and stared at the ceiling, not sure whether she should laugh or cry. 

"Thank you for seeing me, Ambassador," Sheridan said, voice slightly muffled behind the oxygen mask. 

Chimes sounded as the Vorlon turned towards him. "Yes."

"I had a few questions about Talia Winters." Kosh didn't respond, so he carried on. "How did she get away from the Psi Corps?"

"Rivers flow only where the pebbles allow."

He supposed that there was an answer in there, somewhere. "Why, though? Why did your people keep her?"

"The future is necessary."

"Garibaldi thinks that you knew she had that implanted personality. Why didn't you warn us, instead of deciding to fix it yourself?"


"What was needed?" There were days that Sheridan actually enjoyed talking to the Vorlon ambassador, but this was not one of those days. He needed answers.

"The future."

"The necessary future is needed? With all due respect, Ambassador, that doesn't make any sense."

Light flickered on the edge of his vision and he turned, seeing a video screen that had not been there before. There was no sound, but he didn't really need it. He was seeing Susan, with Talia. Happy. A Susan he realized he hadn't seen since Talia had left. Just brief flashes of the two of them talking over drinks at the casino, walking through the Zocalo, sharing wine in what he assumed were Talia's quarters. A kiss, in Susan's quarters. The last was followed by a series of images of Susan, alone now, in a dark room with bottles of vodka, not sleeping though it had to be late. Standing alone, looking haunted. This woman he recognized.

"She's necessary for Ivanova, you mean?" He carried that thought forward. "I need her in this fight. We all need her in this fight against the Shadows and she needs... Talia."

"Yes." The chimes sounded pleased, even if the tone didn't change. 

"And you didn't warn us, because in order for this to work out, the two of them needed to go through everything they did." His academy professors would be proud. He had learned something of psychology after all.


"Huh," Sheridan said to himself a few minutes later as he exited the air lock back into the Ambassadorial Wing. "I never would have pegged Kosh for a romantic."


Part 2

If Talia had thought the dreams might end with her return to Babylon 5, she was sorely mistaken. They picked up right where they had left off and continued until a beeping noise forced it's way into the conversation her dream-self had been having. She woke, disoriented, expecting to still taste the coffee she had been sharing with Ivanova on her tongue. She ran her hand through her hair as she sat up, looking around again as the chimes sounded. She'd forgotten where she was and the chimes sounded once more before she left the bed and made her way into the sitting area. "Enter," she said, adding "lights," as the door opened. She pushed her hair over her shoulders and smoothed down her robe as best as she could. 

Lieutenant Commander Ivanova was the last person she had expected to see walk through that door and yet there she was, carrying a small duffel bag that Talia recognized instantly. She looked at it in confusion. 

"Is everything alright?" Ivanova asked her as she came in, her brow furrowed. 

It took a second for the cause of Ivanova's worry to sink in. "I'm fine, Lieutenant Commander. I was asleep, that's all." She saw the other woman flinch, but she shrugged it off.

Ivanova held out the bag she carried. "When you left, the Psi Cops took all your belongings from your quarters with you. But they missed these. I thought you might like to have some things of your own to wear." 

She took the bag and opened it slowly, finding the neatly folded outfits she'd half expected as well as a well-read paperback book she remembered seeing for sale in Zocalo a few weeks before before her meeting with Ambassador Kosh. There was also a small paper bag that she drew out carefully. She didn't remember that being in the bag in her dream. She held it, and looked at Ivanova curiously. 

Ivanova cleared her throat and looked away. "I picked up a few things in the Zocalo; these quarters don't generally come with hotel soaps."

"Thank you," she replied, zipping the bag back up and setting it on the floor. 

The brunette continued to look at her for a moment, before turning back to the door. "Someone should be by soon with dinner. Have a good night."

Talia could hear the struggle in her words and took a step towards her. "Lieutenant Commander," she started.

"Commander," Ivanova interrupted, sharply. She shook her head and sighed. "It's Commander, now," she repeated, her voice softer.

"Oh. Umm... Congratulations, Commander." Ivanova nodded and stepped up to the door, waiting for it to open. As it did, Talia tried again. "Commander!"

"Yes?" Ivanova half turned towards her, staying in the open doorway.

"I know we aren't really... friends, or we weren't before I left. But would you stay for awhile?" Talia looked around her room, taking in the empty space. "It's been a long time since I've had anyone to talk to."

"I can't," Ivanova said quietly.

Talia was startled to see genuine regret on her face. 

"I'm sorry."

Talia watched her leave and then sat down on the couch. She pulled the bag up onto her lap and stared at it, eyes unfocused as the dream of herself walking into Ivanova's quarters carrying the same bag and all that happened after ran through her head. She opened it again and carefully pulled out the contents. For the moment, she set the book and the bag aside and pulled out the clothing piece by piece. She could see herself carefully folding the underwear, the night gown, the shirts she found within. She shivered lightly as she opened a side pocket and found the necklace that in her dream she had taken off and tucked away in that very pocket, only a few minutes before she and Ivanova had kissed for the first time.

She shook her head at the possibilities running through her head and set the bag aside, taking the book in hand instead. She flipped through it, and about two-thirds of the way through it she found a folded slip of paper. She delicately took it out and opened it.  Her mind went blank and her mouth fell open in shock at what she read.


I meant to give this to you last night. Hope you enjoy it, I did. Dinner tonight?


When Sheridan walked into the officer's mess the next morning, he wasn't surprised to see Ivanova, poking at her food and looking as though she hadn't slept a wink the night before. He grabbed a bowl of fruit and some coffee, dousing it liberally with creamer to mask the taste, and joined her at the table. "How are you doing, Commander?" he asked, popping a grape into his mouth. She glared up at him and he could see the dark circles under her eyes. "That well, huh?"

"Has anyone ever told you that you are way too cheerful in the mornings?" she grumbled, looking for all the world like she wanted to stab him with her fork. On the other hand, some of the tension in her shoulders loosened, and he considered himself successful.

"Anna, practically everyday. But then again, she slept in so late most days that I'd already had two cups of coffee before she rolled out of bed." He rarely mentioned his late wife to others, even his friends, and he knew that Ivanova would understand it as his way of saying that there were no hard feelings from their conversation the day before. 

"I'm going to meet with Ms. Winters this morning," he said casually after a few minutes of silence. He pushed his plate away and met her gaze when she looked at him. "I'd like you to be there, but I won't make it an order."

A shadow passed over her face as she looked away. "I… don't know."

He shrugged companionably. "That's fine. But 0930, in my office, if you decide to join us."

She nodded, and he left the table.

When a security officer came by with breakfast, Talia had already been awake for over an hour. After taking a vibe shower that never seemed to rejuvenate her as much as a traditional one, she'd finally investigated the bag of toiletries that Commander Ivanova had brought her. She had meant to look the night before, but when her mind finally stopped reeling over the events of the day, she'd just gone to bed. It had been a pleasant surprise to find her preferred brands.  She wondered how Ivanova had known. There had also been a new toothbrush and hair brush, and Talia had spent several minutes relishing the simple act of brushing her hair. 

Breakfast was very basic, just fruit and toast, but she devoured it like it was a gourmet meal. When she was done, she settled herself on the small couch and opened the book Ivanova had given her. She lost herself in it until her door chimed. She felt like a newborn child, in someways, experiencing all these little pleasures like reading and the tang of an orange for the first time, all over again.

Setting the book aside, she ordered the door open. She was a little disappointed to find Garibaldi standing there, but she shrugged it off. "Good morning, Mr. Garibaldi," she said, watching his eyes sweep over her and fighting down her annoyance.

"Morning, Talia." He paused, and then shook his head. "The captain would like to meet with you this morning."

She nodded, and followed him out, tugging lightly on her jacket. Her clothes felt strange after all this time. It was amazing how quickly she'd gotten used to the robe style dresses that she was limited to on the Vorlon ship.

Sheridan felt the slightest bit of guilt as he finished his conversation with Delenn. Their morning meetings had become a routine part of their days, and it was always a pleasure to be in her company.   But this morning he'd orchestrated it so that Talia would see her as she left. He hoped that it would make it easier for her to accept what he would be telling her, if she saw evidence of it from the start. 

"Have the Rangers had any more luck recruiting telepaths for the White Stars?" he asked, pulling himself back into the conversation. 

"We've had a few. Marcus has had two Rangers he went through training with meeting with the rogue telepaths that have passed through here, but it has become more difficult as transport to Babylon 5 has become harder. There are a number of less powerful telepaths that we have brought in, but very few with the strength required. Drathenn has been working with the telepaths back on Minbar to see if we can combine the skills of the less powerful telepaths, however nothing yet has been determined. They are still of great use as Rangers, but we shall see." She reached up distractedly as she consulted her notes, and gathered her hair over one shoulder.

Sheridan smiled at the motion, so unconsciously feminine, and could not keep the contentment off his face. 

"What?" she asked him, as an answering smile lit up her face.

He rested his chin in his hand and just shrugged. "Nothing. I'm just glad to see you."

Delenn set her papers aside and gracefully stood up, moving around his desk to stand beside him. "That is a curious human phrase. You say it to people you have just met, to people you do not like, to people you pass in the hallways but don't talk to. I wonder which category I fall into.  You say it to me so rarely."

He felt a very brief moment of panic even as the teasing smile in her eyes lightened his heart. One of the most unexpected things he'd discovered about the Minbari Ambassador was her ability to tease him. He'd never really considered the Minbari to have a sense of humor. He held out his hand and tugged her gently closer when she slipped her hand into his. "I am always glad to see you," he said quietly. "Even if I fail in my duty to tell you, I am always glad to see you. I just wish we had more time."

She reached out brushed her fingers across his forehead, the gesture oh so very intimate. "We have a saying, 'keep the moments dear when lives are brief, for we never know when the stars will fall again.'"

"Was that the same person who said that 'we are star stuff?'" he asked, getting the gentle laughter he had hoped for in response.

"I do not think so, but I can have Lennier research it for you if you like."

He smiled wider and shook his head. "That's ok." He was going to continue, but his link chimed. He let go of Delenn's hand reluctantly and tapped the link on his hand. "Sheridan,go."  He watched with regret as Delenn backed away and went around to the other side of his desk. 

"It's me, we're almost there," came Garibaldi's disembodied voice.

He nodded slightly, sighing. "Alright. I'm in my office." He deactivated the link and stood up, following Delenn as she made her way to the door. 

"I will see you later in the council chambers?" she asked, looking up at him. 

"I'll be there," he promised. "And Delenn?"


"Would you like to have dinner tonight?" 

She smiled, and he felt like a nervous teenager, wanting to scuff his foot on the ground. 

"I would like that," she replied and left, her robes swishing softly as she walked. 

He stayed in the doorway, watching, and she reached the end of the corridor just as Garibaldi and Talia rounded the corner. He could hear Garibaldi say "Good morning, Ambassador," but his attention was on the blonde woman, who snapped her head around in shock as Delenn passed by.  She stumbled, very nearly hitting the wall. 

"Perfect timing," Sheridan mumbled to himself as he returned to his office. By the time Garibaldi knocked on his door, he was seated at his desk pretending to read a report. 

"Sir," Garibaldi said by way of a greeting as he followed Talia in.

"Morning, Garibaldi, Ms. Winters," he replied, looking thoughtful.  He took in the outfit she was wearing. One of her own, as far as he could remember. He had a feeling he knew where she had gotten it from. "Have a seat," he added, slipping a data crystal into his pocket and walking over to the couches set up to one side.

"Do you need me for anything, Captain?" Garibaldi asked, holding back. "I've got training this morning with the Narn units, but I can stay if you need me."

"No, no. Get me a status update when you're done though? I want to let G'kar know how his people are working out."

"Will do, Captain." He gave a short nod and left. 

Talia watched the interaction with interest, but she held in her curiosity. She gingerly took a seat on the couch opposite Captain Sheridan.

"How are you feeling?" he asked her, settling back.

"I'm fine," she answered after a moment. "Thank you for arranging for my meals." She hid her bitterness well, she hoped, determined to be pleasant even though her annoyance at still being treated like a prisoner was rising. 

"After this, you'll be able to move around the station as you did before. I just wanted to talk to you first. Things have changed, since you were last here, even though you don't remember any of it."

"I've... started to notice that," she confirmed. Dreams might be unexplainable, but there was no way she could have come up with Ambassador Delenn looking human out of no where.

"First, though, do you know what the date is?"

She shook her head. "I would have thought sometime mid 2259, but I'm wrong."

He nodded. "It's September 28, 2260. You left here last year, on October 15th." He took a deep breath. "A lot of things have changed since then," he repeated, somewhat unnecessarily.

"As best as we can tell, your memories stop about four months before I took command.  That coincides with your meeting with Kosh and a ViCaR. Kosh requested the ViCaR to... basically build your personality from scratch using thoughts and memories taken from you during those meetings. We don't know how the ViCaR's work, but it fits with what you've told us, and what Garibaldi remembers. Lyta said she couldn't tell how many of the dreams you were having were actual memories, but enough were about verifiable events to make me think that the Vorlons were trying to give you back the rest of what you were missing. I spoke with Ambassador Kosh, and as much as a Vorlon will tell you anything, he seemed to confirm that point."

"Did he tell you why?" Talia leapt onto that point. "Why would they do this to me?"

Sheridan cleared his throat.  If Talia didn't know better, she would swear she saw his face redden just a little bit.

Before he could answer, another voice intruded. "Am I too late, Captain?"

Talia turned to see Ivanova standing a few feet away. The other woman glanced at her briefly as Sheridan told her to come in and then joined him on the couch. Once she was settled, Talia turned her attention back to Sheridan.

"As I was saying... Kosh did... explain... why the Vorlons had you." Before she could jump in, he held up a hand, "but, to explain that, you need to know what happened before you left.

"Sometime before you arrived on Babylon 5, we don't know when, the Psi Corps implanted a sleeper personality in your mind. We don't know how or why, but a year ago, Lyta Alexander arrived with information from the Mars Resistance that someone on or close to the command staff of Babylon 5 had this hidden personality, and that it was being used to spy on us. She had managed to get the code to release the personality, and came here to warn us. She sent the code to all of us.  When it activated the personality in your mind, you attempted to kill Lyta and Garibaldi."

"No," Talia said, shaking her head in earnest. "That's not possible. I would have known if the Corps had done something to me. They only use volunteers for their projects and I never would have agreed to this." The concept was too horrifying to even contemplate. 

"Not if the success of their project depended on the person not knowing," Ivanova replied with none of the disdain Talia was used to hearing from her.  Her voice held anger, but it wasn't directed at Talia.  "They had a reason; maybe it came from higher up in Earthdome, we don't know."  Ivanova met her gaze.  "They did this to you. Maybe they did it to others, we don't know for sure. But, once that personality took over, you were killed, for lack of better word. You were gone and it was all that was left."

Susan struggled to remain professional, but her voice had begun to break.

Sheridan picked up where she left off. "Psi Cops arrived a few days later.  They were looking for Lyta, discovered what had happened with you and took you back to Earth with them the next day. How you got from their custody to the Vorlons, we don't know."

Talia stared down at her bare hands as if seeing them for the first time. It was strange, sitting here with non-telepaths with her hands uncovered.  She felt... exposed.  Just as they were.  She had been brought up to believe the mantra that "the Corps is mother, the Corps is father."  She had argued with Ivanova many times that the Psi Corps had good reasons for everything they did, even if outsiders didn't see it that way. "Why?" she whispered.

"Kosh had his reasons..."

"No, why me? Why would they do this to me?  My life was devoted to them, they raised me, how could they... How could they do something like this?" She trailed off, the horror in her voice escalated until she couldn't speak. 

"We don't know. Its possible it was because you were being sent here and they wanted someone in place to gather information for them.  If you didn't know about the personality, you could spy for them and not be at risk to give anything away. Maybe it was just coincidence that it was you, here. We don't know for sure, and neither it nor the Psi Cops were particularly forthcoming."

She pressed her shaky hands to her stomach, and realized she couldn't sit still any more. She stood and walked a few steps then turned back, keeping her crossed arms tight against her. "What happens to me now?" she asked, haunted. "What am I supposed to do now?" She saw Sheridan and Ivanova exchange a look.  Ivanova avoided her gaze, and Talia's stomach clenched. "Is it still there? Is that why you kept me locked in those rooms last night, because it's still there?"

"No.  It's gone," Ivanova answered quickly. "When Lyta scanned you, she was looking for any trace of it. It's not there. However the Vorlons did it, they removed that personality permanently."

"You have options, Talia. We won't make the decisions for you. But, there are bigger things going on that you need to know about before you make any choices," Sheridan added. "Please, sit back down."

Her mind reeling, Talia took a shaky step forward, and stopped. She reached out to catch herself on the back of the couch as her vision tunneled and her legs started to give way. Before she hit the floor, strong arms caught her.  She looked up to see Ivanova, and realized the arms were hers. White noise buzzed in her ears; she couldn't hear what the commander was saying, but she gingerly regained her footing and Ivanova led her back to sit on the couch. 

A cool glass was pressed against her hand.  She stared at it, uncomprehending, until it was was moved to press against her lower lip.  She heard against her ear, "Have a drink. Dr. Franklin is on his way."

She complied obediently, feeling the fog in her mind start to fade. As the glass was taken away, she felt the unfamiliar sensation of skin on skin. Her gaze lowered to see Ivanova's hand covering her own. She was still staring at their joined hands when Dr. Franklin jogged in, followed by one of his nurses. 

"What happened?" he ordered, dropping onto the table in front of the women. 

"She almost fainted," Ivanova replied, as Franklin pressed one hand to Talia's wrist and took the scanner the nurse held out to him with the other. Running it across her forehead, he looked at the readings and frowned before looking at Talia. 

"Can you take off your jacket? I need to check your blood pressure." 

She nodded and Ivanova helped her pull the jacket off. She was grateful that she'd decided to wear a camisole after all. "I'm feeling better," she offered as Franklin wrapped the pressure cuff around her arm. Her hand tingled as the cuff tightened briefly and then released.

"Were you doing anything at the time?" He looked between her and Ivanova.

It was Ivanova who answered first. "We were talking and she got upset. She stood up, and not long after just started to collapse."

"Did you eat this morning?" 

"Yes, the bowl of fruit and toast they brought me, and a glass of juice."

"What about last night?" 

She felt the cuff tighten once more as she nodded. "Yes."

He looked at his readings again. "Do you still feel light headed?"

Talia shook her head, pushing her hair back when it fell into her face. Having something else to focus on had pushed the thoughts of what had been done to her to the back of her mind for the moment. "Just drained, but not like before."

He nodded, handed the scanner and cuff back to his nurse and sent her back to Medlab with a few words. Once she was gone, he patted Talia on the shoulder and gestured to her jacket. "You can put that back on now."

"Is she going to be ok?" Sheridan asked from where he'd been standing against the wall since the doctor's arrival.

"She'll be fine… You'll be fine," he assured Talia. "It looks like your blood pressure dropped suddenly; it can happen in stressful situations, especially if you move too quickly. Keep eating, especially food with iron in it if you can, and get some rest. Like I said yesterday, you are healthy, but your body has only barely started readjusting to this environment, it's going to take some time. I'd like to see you in two days, to check your iron levels. Once your anemia disappears, you'll feel much better." He looked around and saw the glass of water on the table. He handed it to her. "And keep drinking water."

"Thanks, Stephen," Sheridan said as the doctor stood up. 

Franklin waved a hand over his head and walked out, calling over his shoulder, "Call me if you need anything else."

"We can continue this later," Sheridan offered. "I know that what you've been told isn't easy to hear. If you need some time, it's ok."

She shook her head, tightening her grip on the glass and curling her other hand into a fist where it still lay under Ivanova's. "No. I want to know. Psi Corps experimented on me without my consent. How much worse can it get?" she replied with dark humor.

Both Sheridan and Ivanova winced and Sheridan moved back to his seat. "I think you might end up wishing you hadn't said that," Ivanova said with a sigh, squeezing her hand once before reluctantly moving away. 

"Well," John started once they were all resettled. "I guess there is no easy way to start this, so we'll just jump right in." He rubbed his hands once against his pant legs. "Eleven weeks ago, President Clark ordered the bombing of Mars Colony by Earth Force fighters in retaliation for the Mars uprisings. Five days later, Orion VII, Proxima III and Babylon 5 seceded from Earth Alliance in protest of the continued bombings, along with five Earth Alliance cruisers."

The woman across from him just stared at him in shocked disbelief while he laid out what had been happening politically for the last two years.  He continued.  "After Mars seceded, he sent ships here to arrest the command staff and try us for treason.  They had orders to use deadly force against the station if we resisted.  We've been lucky since then.  Clark hasn't moved against us except with propaganda and we've had some breathing room."

"That's why…" Talia said quietly, after a long, silent moment. "That's why you have new uniforms?" she asked, gesturing at the black outfits he and Susan were wearing.

John smiled darkly. "Sort of. They were a gift, but only the command staff is wearing them. The members of the crew who decided to stay here wear civilian clothes, except for security and repair personnel."


"That's not everything, though," Ivanova added.

Talia gave a half laugh, half sob. "What more could there be?"

"Well… The Centauri are occupying Narn again, the smaller members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds are fighting each other, the Minbari government has collapsed, and we are preparing for a war against a race called the Shadows.  They've been rebuilding their forces for the last thousand years to try to take over the known universe. Right now, Earth is the least of our worries," Ivanova said dryly, and John had to bit his lip to keep from laughing at her succinct, but accurate, description. 

"There is evidence that some sections of the Psi Corps have been working with the Shadows.  We know that they are giving them human telepaths for their ships.  Whatever else they are doing with Earth we don't know.  But they have started openly attacking numerous races in this region." John sighed. "It's not an easy time, or even a safe time, to be here. If you want to go back to Earth, we can get you there, though it may take some time to arrange. We had about two weeks right after where we could easily get everyone who wanted to leave off the station, but not anymore.  If you would like to return to the Psi Corps, we can arrange that as well."

"We aren't trying to make you leave," Ivanova added. "If you would like to stay here, you can. The Psi Corps has no authority on this station any more and can't force you to leave if they find out you are here." 

Talia visibly recoiled from the idea of returning to the Psi Corps, but she still looked at a loss. "What could I do, if I stayed here? Without the Corps I can't work as a commercial telepath, and without work, I can't afford quarters here, or food. I've never done anything else, not since I left training. I assume I have no credits anymore." She shuddered, defeated. "My money, my things, my life... They took everything, didn't they?" she asked rhetorically, bitterly.

"There are options, here, that don't require Psi Corps approval.  Working for us on the station, or with the Ambassadors or the alien commercial unions. Ambassador Delenn may be able to help you, in fact." John could feel Ivanova's heavy stare, but he ignored it for the moment. "I can promise you, we will not force you to leave if you can't support yourself right away."

"I... I don't know. I don't know what I should do now... what I should think." 

She looked between them, and John felt an unexpected bout of pity. He'd always liked Talia well enough, even though he didn't know her very well. More over, he hated to see more evidence of just how bad things had gotten back home, and how far back things had been set in motion. "Well, you don't have to decide right away. I know this is a lot to take in, and what we've told you hasn't even begun to explain what has been happening here and at home."

She nodded absently, looking down at her hands again before clasping them together. Finally, she looked up, unable to quite meet his eyes. "Thank you, Captain. I appreciate... Thank you." She took a deep breath. "I should go... I need to think about, about everything you've said."

She stood up, and he followed suit, aware that Ivanova remained seated, watching, with her arms crossed. "If you need anything, or have any questions, feel free to ask," he offered.

She smiled a tired smile. "I have plenty of questions Captain. I just don't know what I should be asking."

He nodded, and slid his hands into his pockets. "Oh, before you go." He pulled out the almost forgotten data crystal, and held it out to her. "I thought you might want this. It's got copies of a number of ISN broadcasts from the last two years, as well as some other events. Watch it, or not, but our databases aren't getting updates from Earth anymore, so you won't be able to get a lot of information from the computer."

She took it carefully and studied it for a moment, before closing her fist around it. "Thank you." She started to turn, but hesitated. "Am I free to walk the station now?"

"Yes." He watched her walk to the door and called out to her before she could leave. "And Talia?" 

She turned.

"We are glad to have you back."

Susan waited for about thirty seconds after Talia left the room to say, non-chalantly, "You never did tell her why the Vorlons intervened."

Sheridan shook his head. "No. I didn't."

"Are you going to tell me, or did Kosh not actually tell you?" 

He glared at her briefly and shrugged. "He told me, sort of. He said that she was needed."

"To fight the Shadows? Don't think I didn't notice you recommend that she talk to Delenn. Are you trying to recruit her for the Rangers?"

"Susan..." He sighed. How the hell did he always end up in these conversations? "He said she was necessary to the fight, because you are necessary." He maintained eye contact, and counted.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. 


There it was. Though he had to admit, the look on her face was priceless.

"You're telling me that the Vorlon government rescued her from the Psi Corps, removed the control personality and brought her back here just so that I can have a love life?"

It was a fight for him not to laugh, as the expression on her face kept changing from anger to shock to bafflement and back again. 

"Susan," he continued, all amusement fading away for the moment. "I think they wanted to make sure that you had something to live for." He shrugged. "I can't do this without you. None of us can do this without you. If having her here, knowing that she is alive helps you, I am not going to complain."

She paled considerably and he seriously considered calling Steven back to his office. 

"Right," she said after a moment. "Ok, then." She stood up shakily. "If you will excuse me, Captain, I'm going to go back to work now."

He made himself wait until she was gone before he let himself grin. No matter how this all turned out, he had to admit that the situation was one of the most absurd he had ever heard of. The tide of the war, maybe of both wars, dependent upon one blonde telepath and the Russian military officer who loved her. It sounded just like classical Russian literature. Ivanova should be proud.

Once Talia left the command deck, she stopped and leaned back against a wall. She had no idea if she should be crying or screaming or running for the first ship off the station. She pressed her hands to her face, forgetting for a second that she held a data crystal and narrowly missed scratching her eye with it. She looked at it for a long moment, and then slipped it carefully into the pocket of her skirt. It could wait.

The sound of footsteps alerted her to the people rounding the corner ahead of her, and she pushed off the wall. She needed to go somewhere quiet to think. Somewhere where she wasn't locked away in a room, cut off from reality.

It had been a fairly productive morning, Delenn decided as she strolled through the Zocalo. Marcus had brought her five more recruits for the Rangers, including one human, and there had been progress on the five White Stars being built. More importantly, there had been no news of new attacks by the Shadows, allowing them one more day to prepare. Spying a treasure that had become rare of late, she crossed the main corridor to a small stand and purchased a small bag of oranges. A curious Earth fruit, but tasty nonetheless. 

She carried that bag with her into the gardens, leaving the main path to meander through the grass. During her first months on board, she had found a small hideaway by a fountain that had proved most suitable for moments of meditation. From time to time she found herself missing the waterfalls at the temple school she had been raised in on Minbar. The sound of falling water soothed her mind and her soul, taking her back to less conflicted times. 

She walked around the final group of trees and paused, surprised to find someone already in her sanctuary. It was not often that she found anyone in this secluded area. "Would it be alright if I joined you," she asked politely, taking in the shoes that were lying carelessly to the side of the woman who sat on the grass, staring at the fountain. "I do not wish to intrude."

The woman jerked, startled, and whipped her head around so fast that Delenn feared she would fall over. "I also did not intend to startle you, I apologize."

The woman stared at her for a long moment, her eyes wide and Delenn turn to go.

"Wait!" The woman called out, scrambling to her feet. "Ambassador, I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you. I wasn't expecting anyone else to be here."

Delenn recognized Talia then, and tilted her head thoughtfully. Only an hour before, John had come by her quarters and informed her of the woman's return.  They hadn't had a lot of time, so he only gave her a shortened version of the story.  She expected that she would hear more at dinner that evening.  "Ms. Winters." She greeted, bowing slightly. "Captain Sheridan informed me of your return. I am glad to see that you are well."

She stepped towards the bench, and from that angle could see the redness in the other woman's eyes. Perhaps not so well after all, she mused. "May I join you?" she asked carefully.

Talia nodded, leaning down to pick up her shoes. "I should go…"

"Stay." There was just enough of a command in her voice that Talia paused while putting on her shoes and met her gaze. "Please?"  Delenn sat down on the bench and looked expectantly at the telepath.

Once Talia sat beside her, Delenn opened the bag and ignored the quick glances Talia shot at her. John had mentioned that Talia's memory stopped before she had undergone her change.  There did not appear to be any malice behind her gaze, so she allowed it. "Would you like an orange? They are rare these days, fruit from your colonies. I like these in particular; they have no seeds in them." She held the fruit out to her, waiting patiently until it was taken from her hand. 

"Thank you, Ambassador," she heard from beside her as she set about peeling her own orange. 

"I love this garden," she said quietly, as she tucked the peel back into the bag. "It may be my favorite place on this station."

"I missed the trees," she heard Talia reply a few minutes later. She risked a glance over at her and found her staring sadly at the small pine tree a few feet in front of them. "There were a lot of trees where my family lived, but the Psi Corps school I attended was on a plain, on the American continent. Not very many trees there.  Then I trained on Mars, where there were trees, but with all the cities were under the atmospheric domes, it wasn't the same."

"I used to walk through here every day," Talia continued after another long moment. "I tolerate it better than most telepaths, but some days after being in the minds of some of the alien races…" Talia stopped, and looked at her, eyes wide. "No offense, Ambassador," she said quickly.

Delenn nodded her acceptance, not offended.  She took a bite of an orange slice and waited for her to continue.

"It's so different, so noisy.  I would come here, and the noise would fade."

"I feel that way too, sometimes. Usually after I've met with the Centauri."

Talia's laughter lightened Delenn's heart, and she smiled when the blonde returned to her abandoned attempt at peeling her orange. "How are you, honestly?"

Talia shook her head slightly and shrugged. "Honestly, Ambassador?  I honestly have no idea. Everything has changed… I changed and I don't remember it.  I see my dreams coming to life all around me. I have no purpose here, and I have no home to return to. My own people betrayed me, destroyed me.  The Vorlons put me back together, and returned me to a world that is falling apart, and I don't even know why."

Delenn watched as Talia sniffed and wiped her fingers under her eyes. 

"I'm sorry, Ambassador. It's been a long day," Talia gave a small smile, "and I've only been up a few hours."

She shook her head at the idea of Talia feeling shame because of her emotions.

"It has been many long days for you, I think. I remember the difficulties I faced after my… change, and I was only absent for three weeks. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed."

Talia nodded, but Delenn could tell that the woman didn't really believe her. That was ok. Acceptance would take time. She ate the last of her orange, content once Talia started to eat hers. She turned most of her attention to the fountain, and let her thoughts drift on the sound of the falling water. She waited a few minutes after the other woman finished eating, and then collected her bag from the grass. 

"You should come see me soon," she said quietly as she stood up. "I believe we should talk." 

She sensed Talia's eyes on her as she walked away, but did not turn around. Talia would come to her when she was ready. She'd been right.  It was a productive morning. 

Once Delenn had left, Talia felt awkward sitting by the small fountain with her shoes off. She left the garden and made her way back to Red Sector, hoping that she remembered which quarters were hers. Garibaldi had given her a pass card for the door on their way to Sheridan's office that morning, so she'd at least be able to get back inside once she found it. In the end, it wasn't that hard to find; she still understood the layout of the station and only took one wrong turn. It struck her, not that she was beginning to make sense of things, just how few people she saw walking  through the passageways.  Or, at least, how few humans she saw. There were still a lot, but Red Sector had been the transit commercial quarters area.  The small number she saw were the first real signs that the interstellar trade Babylon 5 was known for, wasn't happening.  At least not with Earth.

She looked at the computer as she walked in, surprised that it was only 1300. The day felt so long already, she had been sure that it was later. She stopped next to the small dining table, and pulled the data crystal from her pocket. Part of her wanted to watch what was on it, but a larger part of it didn't want to know. There had been enough revelations for the day. It was hard to believe that she had been on the station for less than 24 hours.  It still felt like a dream, made all the more surreal by her conversation with the Minbari Ambassador. 

She idly traced a finger on the table top as she considered their conversation. The last person she had expected to see in the garden, not that she had expected to see anyone she knew, was Ambassador Delenn. She hadn't had time to process the brief moment she'd seen her before Sheridan had started talking, and she felt guilty for staring at her like an idiot in the garden. Despite the change in her appearance the woman had seemed just as Talia had remembered her: quiet, thoughtful, but undeniably powerful underneath her calm demeanor. She had looked... disconcerting, with hair, but Talia admitted that she was not unpleasing to the eye.

Pulling a chair out from the table, she sat down, only to stand up again a few seconds later. She couldn't sit any more. Sitting meant thinking and the last thing she wanted to do was have to think about everything she had been told. She left the data crystal behind, and strode out the door.


Part 3

If there was one thing that Ivanova loved about Lieutenant Corwin, it was that she could depend on him to run C&C as she saw fit. He was a good officer, with a solid knowledge of the station's systems and schedules.  More importantly, he knew when there were crises that he could deal with and when he needed to call her in. Though she prefered to spend as much time in C&C as she could, she'd had to take on new responsibilities in the last months that kept her away more than she liked. There were a couple people on their watch rotation who were senior to him, but he had her confidence, and thus also the Captain's confidence.  Anyone who had complaints about the arrangement knew to take them up with her, and her alone. So far, no one had. She liked that.

As such, she felt no guilt in not rushing back to C&C after her latest meeting with the Docker's Guild. The meeting had lasted through lunch, and the officer's mess was closed now until dinner, so she side-tripped to the Zocalo, hoping that Fresh Air wasn't too busy. She'd already been through the Zocalo once that morning, and she was pleased to see that business was picking up. Sometimes she found it hard to believe that the crowds of people had once annoyed her; now it meant that the station was making money to sustain itself. They could not depend on the Minbari indefinitely, especially if any peace was to be had with Earth again. Worries over too much alien influence had been a catalyst for this conflict, and it would be difficult to make a case for themselves if Babylon 5 were solely reliant on any alien race's help. They could, and would, stand on their own again.

Not that she was complaining. They would not have survived the last two months without the aid they'd received from Delenn and the Rangers. It was invaluable, even more so because the Ambassador had the same concerns from the moment she had returned with the Minbari fleet. Susan had some reservations of her own regarding the closeness she was witnessing forming between Delenn and her commanding officer, but she had to admit, the woman had impeccable timing. Contemplating that relationship also gave her somewhat of a distraction, though John's words kept haunting her throughout the morning. "I think they wanted to make sure that you had something to live for" rolled through her head again, and she shivered, and tried to think of other things. 

She caught a flash of blonde in her peripheral vision, and looked up. The focus of her distractions was standing in the corner of the catwalk, watching the people walk through the central corridor.  She ducked into the next hallway and, after one tiny moment of indecision, climbed the stairs and made her way down the corridor to the catwalk. She stopped just outside of it and took a moment just to look at the woman. Her body language hadn't really changed.  Susan recognized the way she was standing from the numerous times the telepath had come by C&C to talk to her. She looked different, though, and it wasn't just that her hair was so much longer. Even when she'd started questioning her place in the Psi Corps, she didn't think she'd ever seen Talia look so lost, and it seemed to affect everything about her. 

"Hey," she said quietly, trying not to startle the woman at the railing. 

It seemed that she succeeded, as Talia only looked over her shoulder at her. "Hello, Commander," she replied before turning back to look out over the marketplace.

Susan's gut clenched, hearing words that had been spoken so many times by that voice. "How are you?" she asked, moving to join her at the railing. 

She heard the fabric shift as Talia shrugged. "I don't know," she said.

"Fair enough."

"It's funny. Everything looks the same as I remember it, but at the same time everything has changed." Talia sighed and turned to face her, and Susan hated to see her tired eyes. "I don't know how I'm supposed to feel right now. If I let myself think about what you and Captain Sheridan told me, I get angry. If I try and think about the future, I get scared. I hate both of those feelings, but that is all that is there if I lose myself in the quiet. So here I am." 

If it had been a year earlier, and she wasn't in uniform, Susan would have hugged her until Talia laughed and pushed her away. Now though, she fought to keep from touching the woman. "Have you eaten yet?" she asked instead. "I had meetings through lunch, and was on my way to the Fresh Air Lounge." 

Talia studied her intently, and then turned to look back over the crowds. "Thank you, Commander. But no."

Susan tamped down the immediate flash of hurt that coursed through her. Instead, she nodded sharply and turned away. Before she went anywhere, she looked back at the blonde. "I know the relationship you remember between us was not… friendly. But before you left, we were friends. If you need one now, I'm not going anywhere." She took her hand out of her pocket and rested it on the railing near Talia's hand briefly, and walked away. 

When she was certain the Ivanova was gone, Talia leaned forward and rested her forehead on her hands. That was another thing she did not want to have to face just yet. Coming to terms with the fact that her dreams were real. All of them were real. Which meant that she had kissed Ivanova.  Had touched her, had known what it was like to be inside of her. That incredible feeling of being completely connected to her. She'd survived her time with the Vorlons by believing it was all a dream. A wonderful dream, but not real, or else it would have tortured her.

When her heart rate, which had started racing soon after Ivanova's arrival, slowed down, she stood up straight and pushed her hair back. Just because it had happened once, didn't mean anything. Just because she'd been invited to lunch, it didn't mean anything. Susan Ivanova was a dream, a fantasy, one she'd spent the better part of a year trying to bury, along with her immediate attraction to the biting, sarcastic woman. She'd done it once. She could do it again. 

She tugged her jacket down again and turned to leave the catwalk. As she did so, a flash of light caught her eye, and she looked down at the railing. Where Ivanova's hand had rested before she left, was a credit chit. She slowly picked it up and looked at it. It was new, that much was obvious. Whipping her head around, she scanned the crowds looking for the commander, but she didn't see her. The passageway she'd left through branched off in several places, and she had no idea if the woman even planned to continue on to the lounge for lunch. 

Holding the credit chit tightly she hurried off the catwalk and down the steps to the central corridor. She reached the Fresh Air Lounge in minutes, in time to see the commander walking away from her, holding a covered plate. 

"Commander Ivanova!" she called out, feeling a strange sense of déjà vu. This at least was familiar. 

Ivanova glanced over her shoulder, but continued on her way.

"Commander," Talia started, catching up to her. "You left this behind," she continued, holding out the credit chit. 

Ivanova didn't look at it. "I don't know what you are talking about." 


They could go no further, having reached the lift. As Talia watched, Ivanova pressed the button and waited. 

"Commander, I can't accept this." She held the credit chit out once more.

Talia had to give her credit, the woman didn't blink. "Like I said, I don't know what you are talking about."

"You don't know anything about a credit chit which is not mine just appearing beside me after you left? I find that very hard to believe."

"I know nothing, Ms. Winters," Ivanova replied, but this time there was a hint of a smile on your lips. "But it does appear that you will be able to support yourself until you figure out what you would like to do." She shrugged, and the lift doors opened. "Have a good afternoon," she added as she stepped inside.

Talia stood there a moment longer, bemused. This was not the woman she remembered.

Talia took the next three days to reorient herself to the station. Off and on, she watched the ISN broadcasts that Captain Sheridan had given her, but there was only so much news she could watch on normal days; trying to catch up on two years worth was painfully annoying. She had used the credit chit sparingly, to purchase a few meals and a couple outfits that fit better than her old ones. The shock was starting to wear off, and while she was no closer to making any sort of decision, she was starting to see that going back to Earth was not an option for her. She couldn't fathom returning to the Psi Corps, not after how they'd abused her. But that didn't leave her with many choices.  She couldn't stomach the thought of spending her days wandering the station with no purpose. A few days of not working here or there were fine, everyone needed a break every once in awhile, but she needed to do something. If only to keep her own sanity.

In that time, she spoke to only one person. She'd made her visit to Dr. Franklin as requested, and while she was there he gave her a new identicard that Garibaldi had dropped off earlier that morning. Part of her wanted to see Ivanova, but she still had no idea what to say to her. Any attempt to thank her for the credits would be brushed off agin, she was sure of that, and any other discussions would be too... difficult. 

She was curled up on her couch, debating that very topic, when her door chimed. Wishing for a do not disturb sign, she idly said, "Enter," but made no move to get up. The door opened, revealing a young Minbari man.

"Mr. Lennier," she greeted, disconcerted. She stood up quickly, hyper aware of her bare feet. "I'm sorry, I was not expecting anyone."

Lennier bowed to her slightly. "There is no need to apologize, Ms. Winters. I came without prior notification." 

"What can I do for you?" she asked, after a moment of awkward silence. 

"Ambassador Delenn requests a meeting with you, at your earliest convenience."

Right. She'd been contemplating the ambassador's final words as well for the last few days, as well as Captain Sheridan's recommendation that she speak with her. "I can see her now, if she is available, or at anytime. I'm not particularly busy at the moment."

Lennier nodded. "That would be acceptable. If you will follow me," he replied, turning back to the door. 

She quickly shoved her feet into her shoes and walked after him. When they were in the lift, she asked, "Mr. Lennier, do you know why she wants to speak with me? When I saw her the other day, she didn't give me any indication as to why."

Lennier hesitated, finally saying, "It is not for me to question, only obey."

He led the way through Green Sector and opened the door to Ambassador Delenn's quarters. "Talia Winters to see you, Ambassador," Lennier announced, stepping aside to let Talia enter.

"Thank you, Lennier. That will be all for now."

Talia felt him pass, her attention on the woman who was gracefully standing up from the couch. Today she was wearing a simple green robe, so vastly different from the colorful robes Talia remembered. 

"Thank you for coming, Ms. Winters. Please have a seat."

Talia gingerly sat on the couch, watching the other woman walk to the kitchenette. 

"Would you like a cup of tea? I just finished making a pot, if you would join me."

"Thank you." A moment later, she held her own cup up and took a sip, avoiding Delenn's direct gaze as politely as possible.

"How are you settling in?"

"It's getting easier everyday, Ambassador." She set her cup aside. "I'm not entirely sure why you wished to see me." 

"I was curious," Delenn started, settling back against the cushions, "if you had decided to return to your work with your Psi Corps."

Straight and to the point. Talia supposed that there was some benefit to that. "Not really. I mean, I don't want to rejoin the Psi Corps, I just don't know what else I can do. Captain Sheridan says that he can ensure my safety from the Psi Corps once they discover that I am here, but his support won't get me a job. No one will hire an unregulated telepath, at least no one working for Earth corporations, and those that will want telepaths to scan people with no regard to personal privacy."

"I'd thought that you would feel this way. I believe that we can be of use to one another." Delenn finished her tea and set it aside. "Captain Sheridan told you of the conflict with the Shadows, yes?"

"He did mention them, but he didn't go into any detail." Talia clasped her hands together on her knee. 

"I see." Delenn reached forward and picked up a data pad. "I had hoped he would have told you more." She looked over the pad for a moment, and set it aside. "A thousand years ago, there was a war, a great war. It is our first recorded history of the Shadows, as they and their allies carved a path of chaos and destruction through the universe. My people, along with the Vorlons and others, drove the Shadows out, we thought permanently, but Valen prophesied that they would return. To fight them, he created the Anla'Shok, what humans call the Rangers, a military organization whose purpose was first to fight the Shadows, and then to wait and observe, gathering information until the day the Shadows would return. 

"Until recently, the Anla'Shok has been entirely made up of Minbari, members of the warrior caste who shed their loyalties to their clans to serve a noble cause. But as the time for the Shadows return drew nearer, the leader of the Anla'Shok realized that we needed to bring in the other castes, as well as members of the other races, or we would never be prepared for the fight ahead. For the last few years we have recruited a growing number of people, Minbari, human, and others, but we need more. We also need telepaths, and have been recruiting them from the rogue telepaths from the Psi Corps as well as from among the Minbari."

"And you would like me to join this organization? Ambassador, I'm not a soldier, nor have I ever wanted to be."

Delenn held up her hand. "I am not asking that, though you would be welcome to join. I would like your help in other matters. You have experience in the training of human telepaths, yes?"

Talia nodded slowly. "My own experience in Psi Corps training when I was a child, and I was a mentor to several young telepaths towards the end of my time on Earth."

"We have run into… difficulties, with the human telepaths who have joined us. Minbari telepaths are not trained as you were, and though the abilities are effectively the same, it is harder for the humans to adapt to our methods. You have experience in non-human minds, valuable experience. That, combined with your own training experiences, would be of great use to us if you were to work with our telepaths. Anla'Shok in training should not have to worry about teaching their instructors how best to trainthem." 

"I… I don't know what to say, Ambassador." A thought occurred to her. "Would I be required to live on Minbar?"

Delenn smiled and shook her head. "No. Your presence may be needed in Tuzanor from time to time, but much of your work could be carried out here, through the Rangers attached to Babylon 5." 

When she didn't respond after a moment, her thoughts turned inward, Delenn added, "You would be fully compensated for your work, and you would have my protection, and through me, the protection of the Minbari government. We do not have the restrictions on our telepaths that your government does, and if the time comes that you wish no longer to work with us, you would still have the backing of the Minbari government to work as you once did. The Psi Corps would not be able to lay claim to you, even once this conflict with Earth is over."

"That is… a very generous offer, Ambassador," Talia said, struggling with the possibilities Delenn was describing. 

"I do not require an answer right away. Time is short, but decisions such as these are not to be made lightly." Delenn picked up the pad and held it out to her. "Information, to help you understand. Much of the history of the last war was lost through the years, but this is what we know, and what we have learned over the last few years. It may also help you to understand the importance of this place, and the people who are on it."

Talia took the pad from her, looking at the emblem at the top of the screen. "Thank you, Ambassador." She stood. "I do appreciate the offer. I will let you know."

Susan hung up her uniform for the next morning and changed into clean work out clothes. With any luck, no crises would occur and she might finally finish a work out. It was a rarity, but she had a good feeling about this afternoon. Sometimes, the only way to work her way through her problems was to drink.  Other times, better times, she could run them out. Grabbing a towel, she did one last check of her messages and walked out the door. Heading for the nearest lift, she rounded the corner and collided heavily with someone, knocking them to the ground. 

"I'm sorry," she apologized immediately, stepping back.

Talia pushed herself up to sitting. "It's my fault, I should have been watching where I was going. My apologies, Commander," she said as she picked up a few papers that had fallen to the floor.

Susan held out her hand and clasped Talia's, helping her stand back up. "Are you alright?"

The blonde brushed herself off. "I'm fine." She took a long look at Ivanova, who shifted self-consciously. "Were you going somewhere?"

"I was on my way to the gym." Talia couldn't hide her disappointment, and Susan frowned. "Is there a problem?"

"No. I'd just hoped that you might be free to talk, but it's not important. I'm sorry to bother you, Commander."

She watched Talia turn and walk away and let out a heavy breath. "Talia, wait!" she called after her. Talia stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "I can go work out later." Liar.

"Are you sure?"

No. "Yes." She turned and pointed back in the direction of her quarters. "Come on."

Only after Talia passed her did she make the return trip to her quarters. "Make yourself comfortable, I'll be right back." She disappeared into her bedroom, and shut the door. It did not take her long to change out of her gym clothes and into something more comfortable, though she did spend a brief moment staring forlornly at her running shoes.

Sliding the door open, she walked back into the main room. "Ok, so what's up?" she asked. Taking in the woman who was still standing near the doorway, she added, "You can sit down, if you want."

One thing that Talia had not considered when she'd made her way to Ivanova's quarters was just what had happened there the last time she had been there. Memory or not, it was still her most vivid dream, one she'd had the night before even.  She found herself uncertain as to whether she was really ready to be there. She was looking around the room from her post by the door, trying to decide if she recognized anything, when the doors opened to the bedroom and Ivanova was standing there, in tailored pants and a light shirt. 

Ivanova offered her a seat, but she didn't think she could sit much longer. She'd spent some time in the gardens after her meeting with Ambassador Delenn, and then again in her own quarters where she'd printed out some information from the station database, and she'd been sitting for much too long. 

"No, thank you," she said, and watched as Ivanova took a seat at her table.

"So, what's up?" Ivanova asked her.

"This fight with the Shadows. How bad is it, really?" Talia had never been one to put much faith in superstitions, and Delenn and Sheridan's belief in one thousand year old prophecies and myths seemed more outrageous the more she thought about it.

"It's bad." 

Well, then. She did trust Ivanova, as unlikely as that idea seemed. The woman had never lied to her. 

"They have been attacking the smaller worlds, trying to start wars between neighboring races to weaken their alliances. The more chaos they create, the easier they will have it to infiltrate the rest of the universe. G'Kar believes they attacked one of the Narn bases.  We've seen their ships near Mars, and we've received intelligence on movements along the rim, forces gathering on what we thought were abandoned worlds. They are powerful, and require a lot of fire power to defeat even just one of their ships."

"But why here? How did you all get involved in this?"

"Because we seem to have fallen into the middle of it. Everything that has happened here has been leading to these moments, every treaty, every argument, every... every change we've seen.  Delenn, G'Kar, Ambassador Kosh, they all saw this war coming. Breaking away from Earth means that we are the last ones standing between them and the Shadows.  As far as we can tell, back home they don't even know that there is something to be worried about. 

"It's not like we want to be fighting a war on two sides here. I think the hope from the beginning was to bring all races together against the Shadows, but they schemed in the background. The Narn and the Centauri start another war after of a series of mysteries attacks, and then Clark decides that assassinating the President and attacking his own people is more important that planetary security. The universe as we know it is falling apart, and we are the only ones around to stop it."

As Ivanova talked, Talia went to the counter and leaned against it, looking down at her papers. "What do the Anla'Shok have to do with this war?" she asked, stumbling over the Minbari word.

"Ummm... They gather intel, and they make up a good portion of the crew on a new class of Minbari ship. A lot of the information we have on the movements of the Shadows and their allies has come from them."

Talia looked at her, and then looked away. "I need your advice," she said quietly.


"Ambassador Delenn offered me a position."

"As a Ranger?"

Talia shook her head, and then shrugged. "Not exactly. She said that I could join if I wanted, but even if I don't she would like me to coordinate with the Minbari on telepath training. But I don't understand… if she is recruiting telepaths who have gone rogue, they all have been trained, at least somewhat. Why would she need them to have more training?"

"Did you ask her?"

Talia felt her face flush. "No… I didn't even think of it until after I'd left, I was so surprised by her offer. She gave me some background information on the Shadows to read, but it all seems so… fantastic. It sounds like one of those fairy tales you tell children to keep them from misbehaving."

"They aren't fairy tales. I've seen them, they scare the hell out you. It takes a lot out of our ships to fight just one of them. We discovered by accident a couple of weeks ago that telepaths affect them. They can confuse them, slow them down enough that they can't react when we fire on them. There have always been telepaths among the Rangers, from what Delenn has said, but the reasons behind that were lost. We know why now, but we need more of them. If Delenn says they could use your help, she means it."

Talia pushed away from the counter and carefully took a seat across from Ivanova. She clasped her hands together tightly and set them on top of the table. "I honestly have no idea what to think about all this, Commander. Not just the job offer, but this war, Earth, everything. The more I think about it, the more it feels like I'm Rip Van Winkle, only I'm trapped in a never-ending nightmare."

"It's not that bad, is it? I know that everything is a mess right now, but… it's not that terrible? You have friends here, a support structure for as long as you need it. You didn't return to a completely unfamiliar situation." Ivanova looked like she wanted to reach out to her, and as Talia watched her, the other woman clenched her fists and moved them to her lap. 

She shrugged tiredly and ran her fingers through her hair. "I don't know. I've been here nearly a week, and while I know that things have changed, it's just so hard to believe it. I have nothing here that ties me to my life a few years ago, except for some clothing and a book. Everyone has moved on, and I have no where to move to. I can't go home and I don't know who I can trust anymore." 

This time, Ivanova didn't stop herself, reaching out and covering Talia's hand with her own. "You can trust me," Ivanova swore, even as all of Talia's attention went to the warmth of her skin under Ivanova's. "You can trust Sheridan, and Delenn, and Garibaldi. Whatever it is that you decide to do, you can trust us. You did before."

Talia felt tongue-tied, as heat continued to burn through her skin. "You… Part of me feels that way. I want to.  I want to have something to believe in again, but I'm not a fighter, Commander. I never wanted to be involved with the military.  That's why I went the commercial route."

"I don't think Delenn would ask that of you. If she said she could use your help with training, that's what you would do. Anything else you choose to involve yourself in would be your decision. Was that all she said, just training?" Ivanova squeezed her hand and let go.

"Yeah. It would involve going to Minbar every once in awhile, which wouldn't be a problem as long as I could get there and back. And she said that I wouldn't have any problems with Psi Corps because I would have the protection of the Minbari government." She had a thought, then. "How can she guarantee that? I mean, I know that she is their Ambassador, but you said that their government had collapsed?"

Her question visibly startled Ivanova, but the woman nodded. "Yes, she can. She has… a great deal of influence, even now as the Grey Council has been dissolved. Also, your affiliation with the Rangers automatically affords you the rights and protections of everyone who joins the Rangers. Even if it didn't, I think Delenn would do it anyway."

There was something in Ivanova's voice as she trailed off that intrigued her. "Do you think I should do it?"

"I don't know if I should be the one you are asking. I'm biased and I know we need all the help we can get. But, I think it is something you would be good at." 

There was a confidence in Ivanova's voice now that surprised her and steadied her. "Are you sure?"

"I wouldn't lie about something like this," she replied defensively, though her lips curled up in a small smile. "Have you looked into anything else? Other options if you decide not to accept Delenn's offer?"

Talia laughed softly. "Not really. I wasn't even looking for that one." She sighed, and met Ivanova's gaze. "But, it seems I don't have much choice, does it? Even if I found other work, what is the likelihood that I would get that same guarantee from anyone else? There is enough in my mind about the Psi Corps and what they've done to me, and to others, that I can't go back to them. I don't even want them to know I'm here, not that I think that could be kept a secret for too long. It's a good offer, and I'd be a fool not to take it. I just have missed out on so much of what led to all… this that it is going to take time for it all to make sense."

They sat there in silence for a long moment, watching each other. It was Talia who broke the quiet, asking, "So how have you been, Commander?"

"You don't ask easy questions, do you," Ivanova replied dryly. "That is a tale for another time, one where alcoholic beverages are in abundance," she added with a short, humorless laugh. "For now, let's just say, it has been a long year. A long, difficult year." 

Talia did not need her abilities to know that she would not get any more of an answer than that, and so she just nodded in agreement, and slid off her chair. "Well, I should go, let you get back to your day, Commander. Thank you."

Ivanova stood with her, and for another brief moment they just looked at each other. "You can… You can call me Susan, if you want," the brunette hedged.

Talia smiled her first true smile then. "Talia." She stopped a few feet from the door. "Susan," she said, trying out Ivanova's first name like it was a rare treasure. "When Ambassador Delenn changed… what did I think about it?"

Ivanova shrugged. "I don't know. You never said anything about it, to me at least. But she did come to you a few times with questions about things, and though you never told me what you talked about you never seemed to have any problems with it."

"What about you?"

"I… can't really say. I know she had her reasons to do it, and I know what some of those reasons are. It was strange, at first, but I've gotten used to it. There were a lot of people who did not, and still don't, approve of what she did, what she looks like, but it's not like their opinions are going to change anything. She's a powerful woman, who has a greater understanding of the universe than anyone I know, and a greater influence than I think most people realize."

Talia nodded slowly. "Alright. And thank you, for your help. I hope I didn't take up too much of your afternoon."

"Anytime, Talia."

The next week passed in a blur once Talia accepted Delenn's offer of a job. The morning that she went to Delenn's quarters, she was introduced to Marcus Cole, and given the first of what would become daily lessons in Minbari language. To everyone's surprise, including her own, she was picking it up quickly. Strangely, it had not occurred to her that she would need to learn the Minbari languages.  It was fun though, and seemed an appropriate continuation of her childhood when she'd spent several years studying the six main Earth languages, part of the plan to make Psi Corps a truly Earth-wide organization. She had struggled with them, and even now really only remembered the basic phrases she learned in the first days. 

She met with Marcus everyday, for lessons as well as briefs about the Rangers, and occasionally sat in on interviews with people wanting to join the organization. She was never asked to scan someone, but there were a few people here and there who claimed to have telepathic abilities, and it was left to her to determine if they actually did. The ones who did were telepaths who had gone rogue from the Psi Corps, and she was startled to learn that one of the people helping the telepaths to escape was Dr. Franklin. It was even more surprising when Franklin casually revealed, during her latest check up, that she had been assisting him for several months. 

She had yet to actually do any work related to what she had been hired for, but Talia decided not to worry about that. She was learning quickly that she would need to be much more adept at Minbari, at least Adronato, before she would be of much use. She was kept busy, and if she'd thought she really did not know what was going on, by the end of her first week she was in information overload. What had seemed like such a fantastical story was made all too real when she sat in on daily briefings on the destruction of ships and outposts along the rim. 

For all her wish to not be involved in military affairs, Talia learned more in that first week about waging a war, and the sacrifices that had to be made, than she had ever considered. She made it a point not to look at Delenn as she received reports from the Rangers on Minbar and elsewhere, but it was difficult not to feel the woman's pain. Only once had she been sent away when a message came through; she never found out what that conversation was about, but it has distracted Delenn for the rest of the day. 

It was Friday before she realized it, and there was nothing more for her to do while they waited for more reports. Delenn, who repeatedly told her that she didn't have to call her 'Ambassador', had been tense all day, waiting, but she shared nothing. She left about mid-afternoon, a new list of words to look over for the next day in hand.  She meandered her way first through the Zocalo to get dinner, and then to find the woman Delenn had mentioned a few days before who could cut her hair. 

Talia had considered leaving her hair long, but it got in the way, and after over a year, she was tired of dealing with it. It did not take long to find the little shop hidden down one of the side corridors, and she walked out twenty minutes later with her hair just brushing her shoulders. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she felt more like herself than she had since her return, and she decided to take the long way back to her quarters and cut through the gardens. 

As she walked along one of the many tree lined paths, she saw in the distance Delenn standing by one of the benches. She was too far away to see her expression, but she could tell from her posture that the woman was still very tense. Talia was debating if she should approach her when someone else joined Delenn, and Talia watched in surprise as first Captain Sheridan rested his hands on Delenn's shoulders, and then pulled her into a hug. It was even more surprising when Delenn wrapped her arms around his back, clinging to him. 

Turning her gaze away from the intimate display, she continued on her way. She would have to ask Susan about that sometime. If she thought the woman would answer her question anyway, given how hesitant she had been to answer Talia's previous questions about the Minbari ambassador. Returning to her quarters, she showered quickly and settled in for an evening of reading and relaxation. The previous days had been busy, and it was difficult for her to settle into a rhythm when something was going on but no one would let her in on the secret. 

Earlier in the week, the only time that Talia had seen Susan since the afternoon she'd asked for her advice, Susan had lent her another book, which she had been reading a little bit each night. This night she read for a couple hours, finishing it after 2130, and then went to bed. And she dreamed.

She slowly slid her hand up Talia's thigh, pushing up the thin cotton nightshirt she was wearing. She pulled Talia's thigh over her hip, bringing the blonde on top of her as Talia nipped at the skin behind her ear. She moved and caught Talia's lips with her own, kissing her deeply and arching her back as one of Talia's hands pressed against her breast. Talia leaned back and pulled her nightshirt off, and she pushed herself up to trail her tongue across a bared nipple, capturing it between her lips and sucking it. She heard a low moan before hands caught in her hair and tilted her head back until she let go, and then Talia's mouth was on hers and they were falling back onto the bed. 

There were so many interesting places she could caress, and she touched as many as she could reach while Talia moved against her, gasping her name. Talia pulled her hand off of her breast and pressed a brief kiss against her palm, before bringing her hand down and pressing it between her legs. "Touch me, Susan," she heard against her lips, and as Talia's tongue once more brushed her own, her fingers slid inside.

Susan gasped, awake, her mouth and her legs tingling as the images of the dream faded even as she reached across her bed. Her whole body throbbed with arousal as she buried her head in her pillow and tried not to scream in frustration. After waiting for her pounding heart to slow enough that it didn't feel about to beat out of her chest, she carefully got out of bed and walked into the bathroom, ordering the lights on low. In the mirror, her face was still flushed and it looked and felt like she'd bit down on her lip pretty hard. Closing her eyes, she splashed cold water on her face and contemplated drowning herself in it. It would certainly be a faster death than the torture of sleeping again, if that was what she would be seeing. It wasn't even the memory of their one night together. No, this was something she apparently came up with all on her own.

She ordered the lights off and made her way back to her bed to straighten out her blankets. She sat down on the edge of the bed, wide awake, fighting the urge to slip her hand between her legs and finish what the dream had started. Why she was fighting it, she didn't really know, but just as she was about to give in, the hand that was resting on her stomach already pulling at her night gown, the door to her quarters chimed. 

And chimed again almost immediately. 

"You've GOT to be fucking kidding me," she grumbled, getting up from the bed and going into the living room. She ordered the door open just as she considered that she probably should have put on a bathrobe.

That thought was immediately forgotten when she saw who was standing in her doorway. "Oh, God," she whimpered, covering her face with her hands.

She heard the door shut, and she peeked through her spread fingers, hoping that no one was actually there and that maybe she was still dreaming. No luck. Talia was standing a few feet from her, wearing her hastily thrown on Minbari robe, hair messy as though all she had done was run her fingers through it after getting out of bed, face flushed and sleep heavy in her eyes. She dropped her hands slowly, wrapping her arms around her middle. 

"Talia. Hi."

"I need to ask you something, Commander," Talia said, her voice husky, and Susan didn't have to look down to see the effect her tone had on her. She said nothing.

"You told me we were friends. Before I left, how close were we?"

"I... I don't know what you're talking about."

She blinked, and Talia was only inches away from her.

"Were we lovers, Commander?" Talia asked, softly.

It was all that Susan could do to just stand there, staring at Talia dumbly. When Talia stepped closer, she stumbled back and hit the frame of the door into her bedroom, unable to move any further. Talia continued forward, and then all Susan could feel were soft lips against hers, the kiss deepening when she gasped. Her hands clung to Talia's hips, pulling her closer as Talia pressed herself against her, one hand tangling in Susan's hair. "Talia," she whispered when the blonde pulled back slightly, and she surged forward, recapturing her lips. 

When Talia finally broke away, it was only to press her forehead against Susan's and drop her hands from Susan's shoulders to her waist. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have done that. I should go," she breathed against her lips. 

"Stay," Susan replied, sliding her hands to Talia's back to prevent her from leaving. "Please, stay."

Talia nodded slowly. "Yes."

Susan slept surprisingly well for a few hours, before waking into what felt like a dream. Talia lay against her, an arm around her waist and one leg tucked between her own. She turned her head slightly, and reached up carefully to brush a lock of blonde hair that had fallen across her eyes back behind Talia's ear. She glanced over at her bedside chronometer and saw that it was only 0436. She still had nearly an hour and a half before her alarm would go off, and she wanted to make the most of it. 

She closed her eyes, and had almost drifted off to sleep again when her link chimed. Talia shifted against her, and she reached carefully for the link on her nightstand, just barely able to grab it without having to pull away from her completely. 

"Ivanova," she said, her voice rough, after she activated the device.

"It's me," Garibaldi's voice came through quietly. "We've got a problem, a big one. I need you to meet me in my office right now."

"What's wrong? Have you called the captain?"

"Already done, and I don't want this to go out over the link. But it's bad."

"I'll be right there."

She pressed the link onto the back of her hand and rubbed at her eyes. She felt Talia move against her, and she looked down to find Talia looking sleepily back up at her. "I gotta go," she said softly. "It's not even five yet, you can stay here as long as you want."

Talia closed her eyes, but tightened her arm around Susan's waist. In spite of her rush, Susan laughed softly, and carefully extricated herself from her grasp. The recycled air felt cool on her bare legs, and she shivered as she looked back over her shoulder before she walked into her bathroom. Talia had moved into the space she had vacated, and was watching her through half-closed eyelids. 

Ten minutes later, she sprinted out of the lift and around the corner, nearly running Garibaldi over as she entered the security office. Sheridan had beaten her there, apparently, and looked shell-shocked. "What's wrong?" she asked, looking between them.

"Ambassador Kosh is dead," Garibaldi said without preamble. 

"What? Are you sure?"

Sheridan nodded. "I'm sure," he replied, his voice choked. "He told me… He tried to warn me… I think he knew that this would happen if the Vorlons openly attacked the Shadows like they did yesterday."

"You think the Shadows did this?"

"Who else could have killed a Vorlon so easily?" Garibaldi answered, rhetorically. "Our sensors picked up nothing except a brief energy surge inside his quarters about an hour ago, and then a fluctuation in the power grid. I had the record filtered for the wavelengths you looked at last year, Captain, and they showed similar distortions to what we saw with Morden. It's got to be them."

"We need to keep this quiet as long as possible. I'll talk to Delenn, but until we've heard from the Vorlons, I don't want it publicly known that Kosh is dead." Sheridan sighed and rubbed at his red eyes. "Do either of you know when Lyta Alexander is supposed to return?"

They both shook their heads. "She doesn't log an itinerary, even now that she sometimes uses her own shuttle," she replied.

"Is there anything we can do right now, short of having all of security comb through his quarters? There's no body to autopsy, just the burnt shell of his encounter suit. I've got all the security camera footage for the methane breathers sector downloading to my station, but it's going to take several hours to comb through it all." Garibaldi leaned back against his console, his hands shoved in his pockets. "I'll pull in a couple of my senior guys once they show up for watch, have them go over his quarters. I don't like this, that one of them got on the station and we didn't even know about it."

Sheridan nodded. "I can't let this get out," he reiterated. "If the League finds out about this, not even twenty four hours after they signed the protection treaty, we're doomed before we get this thing going."

"Hell of a way to start the day," Susan muttered, staring at the wall.  She wished fervently that she were back in her bed, with nothing more important in the world than having Talia in her arms.  Hell of a way to start the day, indeed.


Part 4

Three weeks later

Susan spent the trip back to Babylon 5 on the bridge of the White Star. She was grateful that Lennier was with her to direct the bridge crew without much input from her, because very little of her attention was actually on the task at hand. She wasn't even thinking about the fact that she would never see Commander Sinclair again. No. As was happening with greater and greater frequency, her thoughts were on Talia. On this occasion, however, her thoughts centered not on dreams, or memories, but on what she saw in her brief vision of the future. God, she hoped it was the future.

She was older, with grey streaked through her hair, and standing in front of a mirror, sliding on a Minbari robe; almost the same robe as what Sinclair had been wearing, with the Ranger pin on one side. She tugged it closed on the front, and felt hands settling it on her shoulders, before Talia joined her in the mirror. Talia smiled at their reflection, and wrapped her arms around her waist, pressing close against her side as she brushed her lips against Susan's cheek. 

"You look wonderful, Entil'zha."

She laughed, and turned her head to catch Talia's mouth with her own. "So I'm your boss now, huh?" she murmured, laughing in spite of her uncertainty about her new role.

"Just keep telling yourself that, love."

The others had had visions as well, and though they thought that the visions of Babylon 5's destruction 5 days in the future now would not be coming true, she hoped that this one would. Not that she necessarily didn't want to be the leader of the Rangers, the idea had never occurred to her, not once. No, she liked the idea, however far down the road it would be, of Talia still being there. Maybe this is what Sheridan had meant when Talia returned, about having something to live for. This future. This happiness.

Because she had been happy, the last few weeks. Amidst all the emergencies, all the battles, all the struggle to keep the station running, the knowledge that Talia was there had helped. She didn't see her everyday, didn't even talk to her for days on end, but she was there. And then there were those nights, maybe two nights in five since Kosh died, where Talia would come by in the evening, and just not leave until the morning. It seemed silly that all they had done was sleep.  But lying in bed with her, feeling her warmth and the softness of her skin against her own, was slowly reminding her that this connection was necessary for her life. 

"Commander Ivanova," Lennier interrupted her thoughts. 

She sat up straighter in her chair, shaking her head to clear the vision from her thoughts, focusing once more on the shifting hyperspace in front of her. "Yes, Lennier?"

"We're nearing Babylon 5. Request permission to jump back into normal space."

"Activate jump engines," she ordered. "Let's go home," she added softly to herself.

Talia was at loose ends. It had been five days since Susan, Delenn, Captain Sheridan, Lennier and Marcus had just… vanished, and no one knew where they went or when they would be back. Or, at least, they weren't telling her. Lt. Corwin kept getting a strange look on his face whenever she asked after the Commander, but despite her curiosity, she ignored her childish desire to scan him and find out for herself just what the hell was going on. 

And it wasn't like she wasn't busy. Her Minbari was still very rough, but two new Rangers had arrived, both telepaths who had been assigned there to assist her.  One was human, the other Minbari, and after meeting with them she was finally starting to see just what Delenn needed her for. She was also enjoying the experience of talking to someone in her mind again.  It had been so long since she'd had that comfort. She'd been surprised to find just how much she missed that, especially outside the confines of Psi Corps rules. And being inside the mind of a Minbari was a curious experience, and she could tell that, even after several years among humans, it felt the same for Yadroon to be in her mind. 

Besides wanting to talk to Susan, there was one other thing she had wanted to do for weeks now, and it seemed nigh on impossible. She wanted, needed, to talk to Lyta, but the woman was no where to be found. She'd seen her only a handful of times in passing, but every time she approached her, she would disappear. It was getting rather annoying.  She had so many questions that only Lyta could answer, first and foremost being just what the hell had happened to her?

In that brief moment where she'd been inside Lyta's mind she'd felt the change in her mind, but she could not make sense of it at all. The power that had burned through her brain still made her physically ill to remember. The pain she'd felt had lasted long into the night, and it had taken several days for the headache to completely fade. She understood now, mostly, why it had been done.  What they were looking for.  She couldn't decide what scared her more, Lyta's ability to dig that deeply into her mind so easily, or the chance that maybe she had missed something. 

This evening, however, she seemed to be in luck. She was wandering the Zocalo, looking for some odds and ends to brighten up her quarters, when Lyta walked into the very same shop that she was in. Even as Talia smiled and greeted her pleasantly, Lyta looked startled and started to back away. It was like watching a trapped animal with no way out, even though Talia really wasn't all that scary. Talia muttered something to the shopkeeper and followed her out of the store, catching up to her almost immediately. 

"Lyta, wait!" 

The red-head stopped and eyed her warily. "Yes?"

"I have a favor to ask," Talia said quickly, stepping closer. 

"I… Uhh… I'm busy right now," Lyta hedged, and Talia didn't buy it.

"If you are busy then why are you shopping?" When Lyta just blushed, Talia gave up. "Please. Just a few minutes of your time."

She watched Lyta look frantically around the Zocalo for some other distraction, before the woman blew out a heavy breath. "Alright. Ok, a few minutes. What do you need?"

Talia nodded once, and turned towards the corridor that would lead to her quarters. "If you will come with me? I need your help."

"Hey!" she heard from behind her. "I didn't say I'd go anywhere with you!"

She just looked over her shoulder as she walked away. "Please? It's important."

She thought she heard Lyta mutter something about Commander Ivanova under her breath, but she ignored it, focusing on the footsteps that finally caught up to her. 

Lyta hesitated again in Talia's doorway. "Look, I don't know what you want from me but…"

Talia loaded a data crystal into the computer and selected a file. "When I returned, Captain Sheridan gave me a copy of a security video from last year. I haven't been able to convince myself to watch it, partly because I have no memories of this last day and partly because I don't know if I even WANT to know what happened. But you were there. You can answer my questions." She hit play, glancing one last time at Lyta as she wrapped her arms around herself.

They stood there, watching the silent video of Lyta looking at Susan, then Captain Sheridan intervening and Susan turning away. And then, Talia watched herself walk in, and Lyta focused on her. She clenched her fists as she saw herself start to double over, clutching at her head, and then grab at Garibaldi's PPG and bring it around to bear on Lyta and the Captain, and then, ever so briefly on Susan, before Garibaldi could grab the weapon from her. She screamed something, and Talia could watch no further, turning away from the screen. "Stop," she said quietly, running her hand through her hair. 

"What was it like? When that… thing, took over me? Did you feel it?" 

"Do you really want to know?" Lyta asked, an unexpected touch of sympathy in her voice.

"No," she said honestly, her voice shaky. She hadn't expected that short video to have an effect on her, but the look on her face, in her eyes, so clearly seen even in the video camera, and pointing a weapon at Susan. If her dream memories were as accurate she suspected they were, that could not have gone down too long after she and Susan had slept together. Her heart ached for what Susan must have gone through, and the look in her eyes when Talia had turned the PPG on her… She didn't think she'd ever forget that look.

"But I need to."

"It was like a bomb went off in your mind, completely obliterating every thought, every memory, every emotion that made you, you. In a heart beat you were gone, and all that was left was the control personality. Psi Corps did a good job, I suppose, in creating a program that could so completely take over someone. If they had been able to activate it themselves, it's possible that no one would ever have known. The Mars Resistance could only assume that is what they planned to do. Activate the program, and actively spy on the command staff here, or elsewhere." Lyta started, watching the blonde woman move restlessly by the small stove.

"How did you know? About the program, that it was here?" Talia poured the tea she had been brewing for the last few minutes, while Lyta had debated what she would say. 

Lyta shrugged and accepted the hot mug that was handed to her. "After I escaped from the facility where the Corps had been interrogating me, the only place I could go was underground. The same person who helped me get out gave me a contact in the Resistance to help me get off Mars. I ended up staying to help, and to repay my debt to him. He died a few days after he helped me escape; the Psi Cops were looking for me, found him and killed him when they couldn't get the information that they needed.

"Several months later, a man escaped, but he wasn't in good shape. He wasn't a telepath, but the Psi Corps had done something to him anyway. When he came to us, his personality kept shifting, like there were two of him. One violent, one terrified, and the doctors we had couldn't help him. I scanned him, as did a few other telepaths, and we found that the violent personality had been implanted in him, but something had gone wrong. He fought with himself, each personality battling for dominance, until finally he killed himself. We had basic information on what they did, images of the people he saw, and over the next six months we were able to glean more from the telepaths we helped escape, until one day one of the deep cover agents inside Bureau 13 was discovered just after he was able to access the secure files on the program. All he was able to get to us before he died was that someone on or close to the Command Staff of Babylon 5 had been successfully planted with this personality."

"So you didn't know? That it was me, I mean. You just knew that it was someone here."

Lyta nodded. "Yeah. If he knew who it was, he wasn't able to get us that information in time. He met with our contact only minutes before the Psi Cops reached him, and he was already dying from a PPG blast."

Talia nodded slowly, and Lyta could feel the tension rolling of off her. "Why was it you? If the Psi Corps was looking for you, why would you risk coming here and meeting openly with the Command Staff?"

Lyta laughed sharply. "They needed a telepath to send the password and I volunteered, but I wouldn't say I met openly with anyone. We had contacts among the Rangers, and they helped smuggle me onboard a transport leaving Mars, and once I got here, Ambassador Delenn got me in contact with the Captain. It was a risk, but it needed to be done. And once I was done here, I could leave. My debt was paid off."

"Oh. Ok." Talia absently stirred her tea, and Lyta shifted on her feet, casting a long look at the door. She was ready to go.

"So what are you doing here now? I know I've been promised that Psi Corps can't touch me here, but if you had planned to leave, why are you still here?"

She knew exactly where Talia was going with this. "I did leave," she hedged. "And then I came back. I am… I was, Ambassador Kosh's aide."

She gave Talia credit, any reaction she had to that information did not show on her face. 

"So… You work for the Vorlons." 


"They protect you from the Psi Corps?"

Lyta nodded. She was not going to say that she was plenty able to protect herself without them, now. 

"Just like me, and the Minbari." Talia drank some of her tea and grimaced.  She set it aside, and met Lyta's gaze. "It's a shame that we can't look to our own people for protection, isn't it? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have Ambassador Delenn on my side, but, we shouldn't have to be protected from our own kind."

Talia sat down at her table and focused on the monitor that still showed the frozen image of Garibaldi grabbing the weapon from her hand and forcing her arms behind her back. "This is not how I ever imagined my life, when we were kids," she said quietly. "Do you remember that day they took us to that museum in Chicago and showed us all those models and displays of life in the 19th and 20th centuries, so we could see how far we'd come?"

Lyta did remember. "Yeah. I also remember that we were the only ones in the museum that day, and our teachers talked about the exhibits. There were no museum workers there at all."

Talia looked confused, and then she flushed faintly. "You're right… I didn't realize, but you're right." She sighed. "So much for the evolution of society, huh?"

And with that, Lyta unexpectedly felt the last of her animosity towards her former classmate disappear. "Yeah," she agreed. She collected Talia's mug and dumped the remnants of the tea down the sink. When she turned back, she studied the other woman carefully, and came to a decision. "Look, I know things haven't exactly been easy for you. If you want to talk, and I'm around, I won't blow you off. There are… things, I can't talk about, but I know what it is like to have to leave everything behind and start over."

Talia just nodded, and Lyta took that as acceptance of her offer. "Thanks for the tea," she said, walking to the door. 

"Lyta?" she heard behind her as she reached it.


"Are you sure that nothing remains of what the Psi Corps did to me?"


She could see the unasked questions in Talia's eyes, but the other woman seemed to accept her answer.

"Did you know what the Vorlons did to me, before I came back?"

"No. No, I didn't." And that burned at her, a little. That the entire time she'd been with the Vorlons, everything she let them do to her, she had no idea. Even when she carried a piece of Kosh with her, she'd never known, never got any inkling of what he was doing.

"Ok. Thanks, Lyta."

"You're welcome."

After Lyta left, Talia watched the video once more, stopping it at the moment she had the PPG pointed at Susan. She zoomed in on her face, not recognizing herself or the anger that twisted her features. Such hatred, such sheer hatred was not her. She turned her back on the image, forcing it out of her mind as she picked up her latest notes on Andronato. She hoped to surprise Delenn upon her return from… wherever… with at least some ability to read the reports without translation. All the Rangers spoke Minbari, and she knew that to continue in her job, she would need to be as fluent as they were. 

As she stared at her paperwork, she found herself remembering her childhood. Abby, watching over her.  The first time she'd deliberately touched someone's mind. Her roommate, who she lived with until her teens. She tried to match all those memories up to what she knew now, what she'd experienced. What had happened to her and those she knew, from Jason to the telepaths she dreamed of in Down Below. Sometimes she couldn't believe how blind she was, how naïve, to just accept at face value all the things she was taught growing up. 

What would have happened had she never joined the Corps? If she had been allowed to stay with her family? Neither of her parents were telepaths, but her mother's sister was a P-9, and Talia had taken her last name when she joined the Corps. She'd stayed in contact with her parents for a year or so, but even that was sporadic.  After a time, it ended, and she never really thought about it. Her aunt, and Abby, and her roommate and classmates became her new family, and even now, Talia only had vague memories of what her parents even looked like. She had no idea if she had any siblings. She was an only child when she joined the Corps, and in her time at school she never saw anyone else who shared her family name. 

It wasn't until after Jason left that she realized just how alone she actually was. She had no friends on the station, despite Mr. Garibaldi's attempts to ask her out. There was no one back home that she could turn to, with Jason's words and his "gift" at the fore front of her mind. She tried to talk to Susan, because she found her interesting and lovely, but the woman's hatred for the Psi Corps had not dissipated by the time her memories ended. She had no one that she was close to, not in years, and it was so strange now to have friends and colleagues. 

And Susan. 

It was not strange to share Susan's bed. To wake up together, their bodies entwined, felt so normal that it was like they had been doing it for years, not just a matter of days. Even when she had been with Jason she hadn't felt so complete. She remembered how awkward it was to lie against him, as she always found herself curled around her bedmate in the mornings, with the solid muscle and hard angles of his bone structure. It wasn't like that with Susan, who despite her harsh exterior was soft and warm, her body pliant to Talia's touch. Her own personal pillow, with curves that fit her own perfectly.

Talia laughed at herself, at her foolish thoughts. It wasn't like she and Susan were a couple in love. They weren't even dating.  There were no actual dates, no real "getting to know you" period; if there had been, she couldn't remember. All there was was one night that they still hadn't talked about. The night that still felt like a dream to her, and none of the nights that she had spent in Susan's bed since her return had conjured anything more than sleep. They definitely hadn't kissed again since that night she had thrown herself at Susan, and she'd wavered for days between mortification and a deep desire to repeat her actions. 

On the other hand, Susan never turned her away on those nights that she appeared on her doorstep, Minbari robe covering her night shirt and nothing else. She accepted her into her bed with no pressure, no expectations, just warm arms. 

Talia shrugged off her thoughts. There was nothing to do with them now, since Susan wasn't even onboard. She frowned once more and set aside her paperwork, accepting that she would not be getting anything constructive done for awhile. She was getting hungry, her lunch a distant memory, and the thought of eating the snacks she had in the cabinet was not appetizing. Walking into the bathroom, she was startled to see dried tear tracks on her cheeks, and she splashed her face with cold water. Her eyes burned, but she did not redo her makeup, she just ran her hair brush through her hair quickly. She wouldn't be running into anyone she wanted to see anyway.

Leaving the bathroom, she walked quickly to the door, and nearly ran over the person standing on the other side, one hand raised to press the chimes.


Susan caught her quickly, one hand gently holding onto her waist. "You ok? What's wrong?" She looked over Talia's shoulder into her quarters as if expecting to see someone else in there, someone who didn't belong. 

Talia smiled and stepped back, her hands on Susan's arms. "Nothing's wrong, I was just going… for a walk. Would you like to come in?"

The door closed behind them as Talia tugged the other woman into her quarters. "Where have you been?" she asked, sliding her hands down to touch Susan's briefly. "No one has seen any of you for days."

Susan shook her head. "It's a long story," she said tiredly, and Talia caught the flash of sorrow in her eyes. "Ask me again in a couple of days?"

She nodded carefully, and drew in a quick breath when Susan touched her cheek, looking at her intently. "You've been crying… Are you sure nothing's wrong?"

Talia blushed deeply, wishing that she had done more to hide the signs. "Nothing," she assured her. "I was just thinking earlier, about when I was growing up. Honestly, I had no idea I was crying until I looked in the mirror." She glanced at the wall behind Susan, realizing that she'd left the monitor frozen on the same image all this time.

Susan followed her gaze, eyes widening when she recognized just what was on the screen. 

"Captain Sheridan gave me a copy of that recording several weeks ago. I only watched it today," Talia explained softly, crossing her arms and looking down at the floor. "I don't know if I really believed what you were telling me, until I saw it with my own eyes."

Susan pressed her lips tightly together, and pulled her gaze away from the screen with difficulty. Talia suddenly felt awkward standing in front of her in a way she hadn't in a long time.  She felt the need to take responsibility for her actions, even though she had no memory of doing them. "I'm sorry, Commander," she said, slipping into formality. "I'm sorry for what happened that day, I hope you…"

"No!" Susan interrupted sharply. "That wasn't you, you had nothing to do with that, so don't apologize for something you had no control over."

Talia studied her for a long moment, feeling her certainty in her words, and wondering just how long it had taken the commander to believe that. She wished that she could share that certainty, but all she had were the assurances of a rogue telepath and a Vorlon who she had not seen since her arrival. Finally she nodded, and watched Susan relax and pull at her uniform jacket.

"So… to what do I owe this visit?" she asked, the cheer in her voice forced as she changed the subject.

Susan scratched at her neck, and it was her turn to flush slightly red. "Uhh… We just got back, and I wanted to see if you wanted to get dinner, or something."

This wasn't a new thing, as they had had the occasional dinner in the last few weeks that did not require a fumbling invitation. "Yeah, sure. I was headed to the Zocalo anyway," she accepted.

But Susan shook her head and clenched her hands together in front of her. "No. I meant, would you like to have dinner with me, tonight?"

Oh. OH. Talia caught on, and had to stifle a girlish giggle of delight, all thoughts of their previous conversation gone. "Are you asking me on a date, Commander?" she replied coyly, and was rewarded when the blush on Susan's face deepened to a bright red.

She thought for a brief moment that she would deny it, and they would be back where they were before, but Susan set her shoulders as if she were coming to attention and said, "Yes, I am."

"Then yes, I would like to have dinner with you tonight."

She could feel Susan's relief wash over her as the other woman grinned. "Alright then. I'll come by in an hour? I should go change, and shower.  I came straight here from the White Star.  So, I'll see you then?" 

Talia couldn't hold in her laughter at Susan's babbling anymore, and she gently pushed Susan to the door. "An hour, Commander."

The door closed behind her, and Talia suddenly had an image of Susan sprinting through the halls. She shook her head at her silliness, and leaned back against the door. She had a date with Susan Ivanova. Suddenly she rushed to her bedroom. She had a date with Susan Ivanova. What on Earth was she going to wear?

They had dinner in the Fresh Air Lounge, where they had their choice of tables and were seated by the railing over looking the gardens. Susan had returned to Talia's quarters exactly an hour later, smelling faintly of flowers and wearing a knee length skirt and a vest over a silk tank top. Talia, in a skirt and blouse, had taken the opportunity to shower and style her newly shortened hair, and by the time Susan had arrived, the redness was gone from her eyes.

The menu was not as long as she remembered; a food shortage an obvious result of breaking away from the Earth Alliance. But what there was, was very good. At one point during their meal, while Talia had been talking about her latest adventures in reading Minbari and a rather embarrassing moment that week while trying ask Yadroon something simple, Susan casually reached out and took her hand that was resting on the table. Talia kept speaking as though nothing had happened, but she moved her hand to tangle their fingers together comfortably. This proved a slight problem when Susan went to eat again, unaccustomed to eating with her left hand as she was, but she made do, and tightened her fingers briefly when Talia moved to pull away. 

They had a laughing argument over the check, which Susan finally pulled away from Talia, saying "I asked you to dinner, I've got it." Talia pouted, but gave in, and as they left the restaurant, gently tucked her hand around Susan's elbow. 

They walked quietly through the Zocalo towards a side entrance to the gardens, bypassing the start of the hedgerow maze and meandering their way through the flower garden they'd had a view of during dinner. By a flowering jacaranda tree, Susan stopped suddenly and pulled her arm from Talia's grasp. 

"Susan?" Talia said cautiously. "Is something wrong?"

Susan shook her head, and carefully reached her hand up to trail her fingers down Talia's cheek before sliding them through her hair. Talia turned her head slightly and brushed her lips across the inside of Susan's wrist, her own hand coming up to cover Susan's.

Their gazes were locked. Talia watched Susan's eyes widen, and she ran her tongue quickly over her suddenly dry lips. 

"I missed you," Susan said, so close that her breath brushed over Talia's skin. 

"I missed you too," Talia replied, and she could tell from the way Susan's mouth quirked that she hadn't just meant the past few days. "I'm glad you are back safe."

"Were you worried?" There was a hint of laughter in Susan's voice, even though her eyes remained serious.


"I'm glad," she more felt than heard Susan answer. By the time the words were fully formed, Susan's mouth was against hers. Her eyes fluttered shut as they kissed gently at first, and then her tongue was pressing for entrance into Susan's mouth. 

Her hands slide around Susan's waist, clutching at her back and pulling her tighter against her body. Eventually, Susan pulled away, the hand that had come up to Talia's hip remaining there while the other brushed over Talia's lips. 

"I smeared your lipstick," Susan said, embarrassed, and Talia laughed and leaned into to kiss her once more. 

"I smeared yours, too," she replied, pressing another kiss to the corner of Susan's mouth. 

They stood there, just looking at each other, for several minutes, before the general noise of the station finally broke back into their consciousness. They could hear someone walking nearby, but whoever it was did not intrude in their little paradise. 

"Would you like to come back to my quarters for a drink?" Susan asked, the hand on Talia's hip sliding lower. 


It had not been an easy few weeks for Steven Franklin. When he resigned from his post as Chief Medical Officer and removed himself completely from the stresses of his job that were driving him crazy, he'd thought he would see improvement immediately. Despite what he'd told John, he'd thought he would only need a couple weeks to sort things out, but in that time, all he'd realized was that he would need more. More time, more experiences, more… something. He had the beginnings of a plan, but implementing it was going to be an issue, since he wasn't exactly able to leave Babylon 5. How was he supposed to go find himself when he was trapped on a five mile long space station?

On the other hand, in his time wandering aimlessly around the station, he'd found a quiet area that made him feel almost like he was completely alone. There was a balcony of sorts, off a rarely used maintenance passage-way, that overlooked the gardens. If people cared to look, he might have been seen, but it was as close to being completely isolated as he could get.  Staring out over the trees was calming, as was trying to solve the hedgerow maze. He could let himself just drift on his thoughts, and pretend he was back planet-side. 

"I was wondering where you'd vanished to," came an annoying voice from beside him as Marcus stepped up to the railing he was leaning against. "It's been weeks since I've seen you in Med Lab, and all anyone has said is that you are taking some time off."

Steven sighed. It was too much to hope that he'd be able hide forever. "I've been around."

"If you need a place to go where you won't be found, I can help," the Ranger said after a few minutes of looking out over the gardens. "It's kind of my specialty, staying unseen. I can even get you off station if you like."

"That won't be necessary," Steven said, his voice sharp. "I'll be fine."

"Well the offer's always open," Marcus said, congenially. 

Steven shrugged it off, debating whether to wait for Marcus to leave or leave himself. He let his eyes roam over the gardens, not really seeing anything. His attention was drawn towards a couple walking by the flowers two decks below, maybe three hundred feet away. As he watched them get closer, he grinned, recognizing them. A quick glance to his right showed that Marcus had yet to notice them, or at least to notice the relevance of the two women. "You know," he started casually, watching his friend lean in and kiss the blonde telepath. 

"I know what?"

"Do you remember several months ago, when I told you that you weren't Commander Ivanova's type?"

"What about it?"

Steven gestured vaguely towards the women, and glancing at Marcus as Susan leaned back a bit, only to have Talia lean in and kiss her in return. "You should have listened to me."

The walk back to Susan's quarters did not take very long, and soon she was opening her cabinets looking for a bottle of wine she knew she had somewhere while Talia sat on the edge of one of the chairs at the table. 

"Would you like some wine?" Susan asked, keeping her back to the blonde. "I also have vodka, if you would prefer that."

She didn't hear Talia move, but as she reached for two wine glasses, she jumped as arms slid around her waist from behind and a warm body pressed tightly against hers. Cool fingers pulled her hair back over her shoulder, and she shivered when soft lips brushed against her neck.

"Do we really need alcohol for this?" Talia purred in her ear, and she desperately wanted a shot of vodka. Or ten.

She turned in Talia's arms, and for a moment did not see the woman in front of her. Instead, she saw the control, mocking her. She squeezed her eyes shut, and shook her head, body tensing as she started to pull away. 

"Susan!" Talia's hands moved to take her own, and the overwhelming presence vanished as Talia took a step back. She blinked and watched the confusion in Talia's eyes be replaced by understanding, sadness and remorse in quick succession. "I should go," Talia continued uncertainly, bringing their joined hands up and kissing Susan's fingers carefully, before letting go. "You've been gone for awhile, and it's late."

It hit Susan suddenly, unexpectedly. This was her moment to choose. If she let Talia go without a fight, there would be no more chances. Nothing had to happen that night, but if she continued on letting her fear keep her from getting close to anyone... She would survive, probably. But what was survival if she couldn't be happy? If she didn't have someone to share it with? Sure, she had John, and Michael and Steven if he ever got his own head straight, but did she want to forever be on the outside, watching John and Delenn be happy as she was certain they would be if any of them survived this crisis? Watching, and knowing that she had once had the chance for the same, and gave it up out of fear?

Talia's eyes fluttered shut, masking the sadness Susan saw take hold. "You don't have to go," Susan said quickly, locking her hands behind her. 

"I do," Talia replied, smiling at her sadly. "My being here causes you pain, Susan. I don't want to be a burden for you, when you have so much going on." 

Talia laid her hand on Susan's arm, and Susan felt her skin burn under her touch. And then it was gone, and Talia was walking away from her. 

This was it.

Somehow, she had not expected this moment to hurt so much. She knew that sooner or later she would feel like a fool, but she had only been back for seven weeks. The transition for her had been astounding; it could only have been worse for Susan. She hadn't helped, rushing into this thing that she had wanted without really taking into consideration the feelings of the woman she wanted. She fought, in those steps away from Susan, the urge to run away. She could be strong, at least until she was able to reach her quarters. 

"I don't want you to leave," she heard behind her, and she paused, one hand against the wall, but she did not turn around.

"I should," Talia replied, her voice little more than a whisper.

"The last time we did... this, you were dead by the end of the next day." Talia turned around then. Susan looked like she wanted to shove her hands in her pockets, except that she had none, and her eyes were haunted. "I... I don't know if I could handle waking up tomorrow only to see you leave again."

She moved back into the room, stopping a few feet from where Susan was still standing. "But it won't happen again, Susan. That thing is gone, and you said it yourself, Psi Corps can't touch me here."  

"But the risk..."

"The risk is mine, too, don't you see that? Every time you leave here, every battle, all these wars of yours.  I risk losing you. Do you think it would be any less painful for me to wake up one day, knowing that you will never be coming back to me?" She shook her head, and paced the length of the room. "I lost everything, Susan. My family, my livelihood, my life! But I got it back, I got you back, and I will take you in any way I can get. You have been the constant for the last two years, whether it was arguing with me over the Psi Corps or haunting every dream I had.

"If this is all we have, it's more than we had before. I can't promise that I will never leave, and neither can you. But I can promise that it wouldn't be without a fight."

Talia raised her hands, linking her fingers behind Susan's neck and leaning into her. "We have been headed here from the moment I arrived. Whether this moment was a year ago or now, this is where we are. We have waited too long." She pressed her lips against Susan's, murmuring against them, "Hasn't it been long enough?"

She swore she heard Susan whimper, but it was lost in the way Susan slid one hand down over her hip and the other around her shoulders and parted her lips for her. 

They stumbled their way into the bedroom a few minutes later, falling awkwardly onto the bed as Susan hit the edge too fast. Their lips parted as they laughed, and Talia carefully undid a button on her blouse. Susan stopped her before she could move on, brushing her hands aside and undoing the next one, their gazes locked. Before she knew it, her blouse hung open off her shoulders, and Susan was sliding it down her arms. She heard the fabric hit the floor, but all she cared about in that moment were Susan's lips, kissing their way down her chest to the lacy edge of her bra, and her hands, caressing her as they found the clasp and unhooked it. 

Talia stood from the bed and pulled the straps of her bra down, enjoying the look of appreciation that appeared on Susan's face as the fabric fell away. She reached behind her to pull down the zipper of her skirt, and as that fell to the ground as well, Susan curled her hands around Talia's hips and pulled her back so that she was kneeling above her. She buried her hands in Susan's hair as the other woman closed her lips around her nipple, suckling it and laving it with her tongue. 

Too soon, Susan moved on, kissing between her breasts, and then back up, nipping at her neck before pressing their mouths together harshly. Talia gasped when one hand replaced Susan's lips on her breast, teasing her, and the other slid down her back and under her panties, pulling her tighter against Susan's body. "No fair," she mumbled, breaking away to explore Susan's neck.


"You have WAY too many clothes on."

Susan let out a laugh that turned into a moan as Talia slid her hand up under Susan's shirt. "Maybe you should do something about that," she replied, taking in a deep breath and closing her eyes as fingertips brushed so lightly over her stomach.

"Or maybe," Talia whispered, "I should just get started without you." 

It took a few seconds for Susan to process her words, but by that point, she'd climbed off of her and settled down on her side at the head of the bed, propping her head up on one hand. When Susan turned after her, she innocently smiled and trailed her other hand down her body, sliding just the tips of her fingers under the lacy edge of her panties. The startled look on Susan's face was perfect, but it was gone after a few seconds, as Susan moved onto her hands and knees and crawled up to loom over her. She rolled onto her back.

"You," Susan said, leaning in to touch her nose to Talia's, "are trouble. And a tease."

Talia just grinned and reached up, wrapping her arms around Susan's shoulders. She tilted her chin up, capturing Susan's lips in a soft kiss. When they broke apart, she lowered her hands to push the vest Susan was wearing down her arms, and then tugged at the shirt. Susan helped her, pulling it off quickly, but Talia brushed aside her hands when she went to undo the front clasp of her bra. "You in red lace are a tease," she said, undoing the clasp and letting the bra fall open as she cupped Susan's freed breasts, rubbing her thumbs over the hardened nipples. 

Before she could do much else, Susan got up from the bed and quickly stripped off her remaining clothes, not giving Talia time to enjoy the view before she was lying on top of her. Talia kissed her, her hands curling possessively over Susan's shoulders. Susan broke away, kissing her way down Talia's body to close her lips around her nipple, her tongue swirling around it. 

Talia arched her back, tightening her hands in Susan's hair as she whimpered, "Oh, God," when Susan switched her attention to her other breast, biting down on it lightly. 

Susan continued her way down her body, running her fingers over Talia's breasts and down her sides until she could tug at the lacy panties that Talia still wore. It was the work of seconds to pull them off, and then Susan was between her legs, and Talia was clenching her hands in the blanket. That first touch of Susan's tongue to her clit had Talia on the edge, and the torture was drawn out as Susan pressed her fingers and tongue against her in a delicious pressure, but did not push inside. 

She bent a knee, hoping that Susan would listen to her pleas and let her come, but instead, Susan pressed her lips against her thigh and pulled away. "What are you…" Talia whimpered, pushing herself up on one elbow as Susan moved back up the bed and laid down beside her, one hand cupping her breast possessively. "Susan," she started, rolling over and wrapping her leg across Susan's hip. "What are you doing?"

Susan kissed her deeply in answer and pulled Talia with her as she rolled onto her back. She caught Talia's wandering hand and pressed it between her legs. "Together," she whispered, carefully cupping the back of Talia's head with her other hand as they kissed. 

Talia shifted her weight a little, and once Susan moved her hand, she pressed her fingers between Susan's legs. It was hard to focus, as Susan was a very good kisser and Susan's fingers were curling between her own legs once more, but she reveled in the way Susan jumped a little as she pressed her fingers on either side of her clit. What felt like two fingers slid inside her, and she moaned, her own hand stilling as she rocked against Susan's hand. 

She gasped, breaking the kiss as her orgasm washed over her, and then she collapsed against Susan, her heart racing. She buried her face in Susan's neck, murmuring "Sorry" against her skin, embarrassed, even as she tried to catch her breath.

Susan ran her other hand lightly over Talia's back and carefully pulled her hand away. "Nothing to be sorry for. I always knew I was good," she said.

Talia laughed in response even as she poked Susan in the side, hard. She nipped lightly at Susan's neck and rolled onto her side, pressing up tightly against her. Her fingers, which had stilled when she came, moved again, trailing a fingernail over Susan's clit. "You should see how good I can be," she replied, sliding three fingers inside and swallowing Susan's gasp with a kiss.

Later, Talia scratched her nails gently across Susan's bare stomach, pressing her hand against the goosebumps that rose in her wake. Closing her eyes, she pressed her lips against Susan's neck, flicking her tongue out to taste the skin over Susan's racing pulse. Susan took a deep breath and sighed, catching Talia's hand and bringing it up kiss her palm before entwining their fingers again on her stomach.

"Susan?" Talia said, eyes still closed.


"Did I really wake you up one night with champagne just to tell you we needed to re-evaluate our relationship?"



She wasn't used to the formal robes, and she half wished that the celebration was already over so that she didn't have to put it back on. None of them were really in the mood for another party, so close to John's death, but Delenn had asked her, in that way she had, and she'd given in. To the party, and to the robes. But, it would take a while for it to stop feeling strange, not wearing her uniform after the forty-one years she'd spent in it. She tugged it closed in front of her, and felt hands settling it on her shoulders, before Talia joined her in the mirror. Talia smiled at their reflection, and wrapped her arms around her waist, pressing close against her side as she brushed her lips against Susan's cheek. 

"You look wonderful, Entil'zha."

She laughed, and turned her head to catch Talia's mouth with her own. "So I'm your boss now, huh?" she murmured, laughing in spite of her uncertainty about her new role.

"Just keep telling yourself that, love," Talia said teasingly, pressing her lips to Susan's cheek, and then moving in front of her to embrace her fully. Sliding her hands beneath Susan's new robe, she kissed her softly, deepening it as she felt some of the stress leave Susan's body.

Susan returned the embrace, her arms wrapped around her in comforting familiarity born of the last nineteen years together. When their kisses ended, Talia remained where she was, resting her head against Susan's shoulder.

"I'm glad you are home," she said a while later. 

It had been well over a year since they'd last spent longer than a few weeks together. Susan's last posting on Earth had conflicted with Talia's work on Minbar, and they'd seen each other only a few times. The longest had been the last three weeks of the rainy season in Tuzanor.  Katiya and Jacob did not have classes at the school that had been set up on the Ranger training grounds, and the family could be together in Geneva again. It also, though she hated it with a passion, was easier for her when Earth Force and Earth Gov didn't have the reminder that one of their most senior officers was married to a rogue telepath who worked for the Interstellar Alliance shoved in their faces. It hadn't been so bad when she took command of Babylon 5 from Captain Lochley after her year on the Titans was over. They'd lived together there, and married there, and Earth Gov could not very well voice their unease and displeasure when she was also acting as the de facto Earth representative to the Alliance, with more influence that the actual ambassador had. 

"Me too," Susan replied, echoing the sentiment. It felt like home, their house in Tuzanor. Susan's apartment on Earth had been so barren in comparison to the home they'd built over the years on Minbar, where their kids had grown up. Susan had missed a lot of their lives, more than she'd ever wanted, but the house, the memories were still there. The memories were still theirs. No one would be able to take that from them again.

Talia finally moved back, her hands sliding down to take hers. "We should go back now. They're waiting for you."

Susan nodded, taking one last look at the mirror. This was a future worth living for, she decided, turning away. She wouldn't change a thing.

The End

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