DISCLAIMER: Neither of these wonderful women or the universes that created them are mine, but one can dream. Warning: some slight domination play but nothing too heavy.
SPOILERS: Battlestar: Late Season 3, after Starbuck disappears. Babylon 5: Season 5 and onwards after Ivanova leaves the station and takes command of the 'Titans'.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Prompt: Chain of Command. Written for the cross my heart Ficathon as part of the International Day of Femslash celebrations.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Awaiting your orders
Not following orders had got her into this mess in the first place. Apollo had ordered her to break off the chase, hell he'd begged her. But something kept her going. All that stupid belief in her 'destiny'. The Viper was falling apart around her and her life support had been fragged when her ship had come tumbling out of the anomaly that had snatched her up she had been perhaps thirty seconds away from breathing hard vacuum. Starbuck had truly believed that this was it, that she was finally going to die, finally going to see what happened next and who was right about God, heaven and all that frack the humans or the Cylons.
The ship that picked her up when all her red lighted systems were going to black was the EAS 'Titans', an Earth Force vessel though she was still thousands of light years out from Earth itself. The 'Titans' was on a long range mission out on the edge of what they called Vorlon space, keeping an eye out for anything unusual. Apparently Starbuck's entry into their universe had qualified as such As for its captain, luckily for her Susan Ivanova was an act first ask questions later kind of officer otherwise she'd have been just so much space debris.
'God' proved to be something of an enigma though far from a disappointment. The crew of the 'Titans' had lost no time in filling the newcomer in on what had become known throughout Earth Force as The Ivanova Mantra: 'Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova's recommendations. Ivanova is God. And if this ever happens again, Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out."
In person, Ivanova reminded her strongly of Admiral Cain. As well as the purely physical resemblance of dark hair and pale skin, a lush figure barely tamed by the dark military uniform, the two women shared the same undercurrent of sadness, almost melancholy of one (she suspected) that had loved and lost through the most basic act of betrayal but Ivanova managed it without the edge of cruelty that Cain had manifested.
Starbuck stood at parade rest in front of the Earthforce Colonel who sat back in her chair and regarded her with frank curiosity.
"Our techs tell me that your ship is like and unlike anything we've ever seen before and somehow manages to be centuries behind and a couple of centuries ahead of our technology. They've also tracked your flight path as far as they could. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Lieutenant Thrace but you're a hell of a long way from home."
"Starbuck, ma'am," she said. "Most everyone calls me Starbuck. It's been my call sign since I was in the Academy."
A smile flirted at the corners of Ivanova's mouth. "Starbuck it is then. I'm afraid you're stuck with us for a while, Lieutenant. We're engaged on a deep space mission at present. We won't swing back past Babylon 5 for another eight months at least and won't see Earth again for another three years."
See Earth Starbuck felt her knees grow weak for a moment. She remembered the lush green grass, the cool moist air, the stars blazing in the wheel of heaven above them. Laura Roslin had been convinced that it was Earth they had stood on, just for a moment before they found themselves back in the ruined temple on Kobol.
"Lieutenant Starbuck " Ivanova indicated that she should take the chair opposite the desk. "These 'Cylons' you talked about when we brought you aboard. I can't find any reference to any alien race we've encountered going by that name and our database holds records of thousands of species. What can you tell me about them?"
"They are artificial life-forms robots. We the Twelve Colonies or at least our ancestors created their forerunners a couple of centuries back but something went wrong. We made them too clever, too much like us, I don't know. They rebelled, a lot of people got killed and we were poised to wipe them out when they just stopped fighting and vanished, went away some where. At least that's what we were told. This all happened before I was born. Turns out that the government was still keeping tabs on them in a way, there was some sort of treaty. It got broke and the Cylons attacked again, killed billions, almost wiped us out, this time in a Holy War. Seems like they'd got religion in a big way over the years. A few ships got away, banded together to form the fleet under the Battlestar Galactica and ever since we've been looking for the Thirteenth Colony for Earth. And they've been looking for us, wanting to finish the job. They look like us now, some of them at least, think like us. Some were even tricked by their own side to think they were us."
"Sleeper agents " Ivanova shuddered, remembering. "It's an amazing story," Ivanova said softly. "And I'm really sorry that I don't think either of us is going to find out the ending. What our tech's extrapolated is that not only did the anomaly you came through cross galaxies, it crossed the dimension between them. Are you familiar with the concept of parallel universes, Lieutenant?"
"A little, ma'am. I learnt enough science to get through the required courses at the Academy. So what you're saying is we're not from the same neighbourhood."
"Considering the time it took to get the science guys to break it down into words of one syllable so I could understand it: no. And the anomaly you came through has vanished. We have no way of getting you back to your own people, Lieutenant."
"Frack," Starbuck said softly. "And I was really hoping to be around long enough to see how it all turned out." She sat in silent reflection for a long moment. Ivanova didn't press her further realizing just how much the young woman had to process. She had lost everything after all.
"I'm not a prisoner, am I?" Starbuck asked at last.
"No, of course not," Ivanova said. "You are a guest aboard the ship at present. Medical has checked you out and cleared you and Lieutenant Baskins is waiting to take you to your quarters and get you kitted out with anything you need. When you're ready the tech squad would love to go over your ship with you."
"And then what?" Starbuck asked. "I'm not the kind of person to just sit around on my ar and twiddle my thumbs, I mean," she amended hastily.
"You're a pilot, you've flown combat and reconnaissance," Ivanova confirmed.
"I've logged thousands of hours flight time in a dozen different craft including experimental models," Starbuck confirmed. She couldn't resist boasting a little. "Haven't come across anything yet that I couldn't fly, from a crop duster to a Cylon ship and they're sentient, kind of like a pet dog if you know what I mean. And I've trained pilots, and strategized attack and search and rescue missions."
"Very impressive," Ivanova said drily. "It sounds like you could be a valuable asset to us, Starbuck. We'll take you through the training on our ships and see how you go. Although this is an Earthforce vessel we have a large contingent of civilians on board including some of the pilots. You'll be given the same status and contract. This means that you're not part of the military set up but you'll be expected to follow orders in an emergency situation."
A brilliant grin lit up the young woman's face. "Never had a problem following the chain of command, ma'am."
Somehow even on their short acquaintance Ivanova doubted that.
It seemed that Starbuck had been used to getting her own way one way or another. She was one to follow her instincts whether they were in line with military or ship-protocol or not. That she was usually right in the end was infuriating. Those same instincts and attitude made her the best pilot any of them had ever seen. Within weeks she was flying their Thunderbolt Starfury's as if she had been born to them. If there was a card game going on below decks, she was usually dealing. If there was a fight, she was usually at the centre of it. And Susan Ivanova couldn't stop thinking about her.
Another thing about her that intrigued Ivanova was that experience with the Cylons seemed to give her an understanding of the Vorlon technology aboard the Titans, of the heart (and as some whispered) the soul of the ship itself.
Ivanova found her in the middle of twilight shift crouched in the middle of the main hangar, her hand palm down on the floor, her eyes closed, head tilted slightly. Something about that expression was heartbreakingly familiar. The fact that she was another blonde (since Talia all her women had been blonde, since Talia this was the first that she might just care about as more than a few hours of fun and a warm body in her bed at night).
"You can hear it, can't you?" Susan asked. "Only a few of us can. But most of the crew can sense it our very own ghost in the machine."
"Some of the crew told me about the Vorlon. About how the ship remade itself over night. Some of them don't like to come in here on their own."
"I know," Susan said. "I don't know why it frightens them. I find it comforting. This ship is our protector."
"I don't know perhaps that's how it started with the Cylons. What if one of these days we ask it to do something it doesn't want to do?"
"I don't know either," Ivanova said candidly. "The Vorlons were around for a long time. They were capable of amazing and wonderful things. But they also made some terrible mistakes mistakes that we're still trying to clear up. I suppose we'll just have to deal with it when it happens if it happens."
"Yeah, I know I exchanged one bunch of genocidal aliens for another," Starbuck quirked. She gave the floor a final pat and got to her feet. "Seems like the proper thing to do to keep on the right side of him. Or do you also believe that all ships are female?"
"We always believed that Kosh was male but we had no proof either way," Ivanova said. "One of the many mysteries he liked to preserve. Look, erm would you care to join me for coffee in my quarters, Starbuck? I'd like the opportunity to go over the next set of reconnaissance missions with you. If you have the time "
"Of course, Colonel," Starbuck said smoothly. "I always have time for you."
Ivanova didn't know for certain if they were fooling anyone. This whatever it was had been going on between them for a couple of months now. It would have been different if Starbuck was part of the military set-up but she was officially a civilian. There was just something about her something primal and fierce, a fire within that made her feel things she hadn't felt since Talia died. With Marcus it had been love as duty there wasn't any other way to respond to that kind of devotion. But this this was like nothing she had experienced before. She had no idea where it would lead or how long it would last.
But damn, right now it was good.
The door had barely closed to her quarters when Starbuck grabbed her and turned her back to the wall and pressing herself against her as she roughly kissed her, her hands already loosening Susan's hair from its regulation braid. Susan let the pilot take the initiative for a moment or two Starbuck really was an excellent kisser then she pushed and twisted them until it was Starbuck whose back was against the wall. Ivanova used her marginally superior weight and height to her advantage holding the other woman in place.
"Lieutenant," she said softly, lifting her leg slightly so that her knee pressed against Starbuck's centre. "Do I have to remind you again just how the chain of command works on this ship?"
Starbuck's cocky grin modulated into her 'good officer' face. "No ma'am. Awaiting your orders, ma'am."
"Very good, Lieutenant," Ivanova stepped back, going to sit on the edge of her bed. Starbuck remained where she was against the wall.
"Undress, please. Here, where I can see you," Ivanova said, indicating a spot about three feet in front of her. Starbuck swaggered across the room towards her and slowly opened the closure on the collar of her coverall. She toed off her sneakers revealing shapely bare feet. Drawing things out, she fiddled with the tag of the zipper for a moment, her eyes locked on Susan's before slowly dragging it down until she could shrug her shoulders out of it letting the ship's gravity field do the rest of the work for her as it slipped down over her slender hips pooling around her feet. She stepped out of it and kicked it out of the way. Underneath she was wearing a grey sports bra and boxers and her old dog tags. She stood at parade rest staring straight ahead.
Ivanova got to her feet, circled Starbuck, drawing a finger along the top edge of her boxers. "I was right about you," she said. "I knew you'd be trouble wouldn't be able to follow the simplest of orders." Standing behind Starbuck she slipped her hands under the waistband of the boxers and eased them down over the roundness of her buttocks smiling as she heard Starbuck's breath hitch. She let her hands slide around and up until they covered Starbuck's breasts, pinching and rubbing her nipples through the cotton material of her bra. "Lift up your arms," she instructed. Starbuck did so and Ivanova eased the garment up and over her head, letting it drop to the floor. Starbuck stepped out of her boxers and resumed parade rest. Ivanova whispered kisses across the soft skin of Starbuck's shoulder and neck, the young woman ever so slightly tilting her head to better accommodate her touch. Susan pressed her fingers against the soft pelt of curls at the junction of the other woman's thighs, picking up the extra heat and hints of moisture. She let a cocky grin of her own flash across her face for a moment. Her other hand trailed up from Starbuck's abdomen tracing the taut muscles beneath the skin up the strength of her sternum to the lushness of her breasts, cupping one and then the other, rubbing her thumb over the straining nipples. She could hear Starbuck's breathing deepen, change, knew how much self control it was taking for the other woman to stay still. Her hands still moving over Starbuck's skin, never truly losing contact with her Ivanova moved to stand in front of her again.
"Now undress me," she ordered quietly. Starbuck stepped forward and reached to undo the collar of Ivanova's uniform, her fingers gliding along the line of Susan's jaw for a moment, dark eyes serious, unfathomable. She undid the top two buttons of the jacket then moved to the right cuff, her fingers tracing the length of Susan's palm, to the tip of her middle finger then back to the pulsepoint. She undid the buttons, lifted Susan's hand to her face, pressing her lips to her palm for a moment before resting it against her cheek, her eyes closed. They held like that for a long moment before repeating the action with Susan's left cuff. Holding her gaze again she unloosened the rest of the buttons down the front of the jacket and eased it off Ivanova's shoulders. Instead of letting it just drop to the floor as she had with her own clothing she took it over to the dresser and placed it carefully on its hanger. It might not be her uniform, but it was still a uniform. Returning to stand in front of Ivanova she smoothed her hands over the firm yet generous curves of her arms and chest under the white t-shirt before her fingers slipped down to the waistband of Ivanova's trousers and she undid the belt and the fastening before pulling the t-shirt loose from where it was tucked in feeling the muscles twitch beneath Ivanova's skin as her fingers skimmed over her bare flesh as she lifted the shirt up and with Ivanova's silent compliance off over her head, Ivanova's long dark hair tumbling down over her bare shoulders. Starbuck dropped to one knee in front of the other woman and unlaced her boots, allowing Ivanova to brace herself against her as she eased first the right boot and then the left off her feet and then the regulation black socks. She finished unfastening the fly on Ivanova's pants and pulled them down and again, as Ivanova stepped out of them, picked them up, straightened them out and carefully placed them on the hanger.
Ivanova met her half way back across the room and kissed her just as thoroughly as Starbuck had kissed her earlier. Starbuck's hand was between them, her fingers pressed against Ivanova's mound, rubbing against her through the material of her boxers. Ivanova sighed and bit gently into Starbuck's shoulder her fingers tracing the bold lines and curves of the tattoo that covered her upper arms shoulder and back, the scars and imperfections that spoke of too many battles, too many bad landings, too many wrong decisions.
"I do like your body art. I presume that it means something to you? It's not just art for arts sake."
Starbuck kept silent, her eyes fixed on the viewport in front of her. Ivanova had not yet given her permission to speak and she wasn't falling for that one again any time soon. A bright pink and gold proto-nebula splashed across the blackness like paint on a canvas. Couldn't tell what it was yet but in a couple of million years
"Permission to speak freely, Lieutenant." Ivanova's fingers tiptoed down her spine, vertebra by vertebra, resting at last in the dimple at the base of her spine, circling softly in a holding pattern.
"Most of them symbolize things that have happened to me, to my people, things I don't want to forget," she said. "The wings are obvious; I suppose all I've ever really wanted to do was fly. Or be a professional pyramid player. And someone I was close to has a matching tat, a sort of wedding band I suppose. The concentric circles are a mandala that I've seen in my dreams since I was a child. It means something important, something to do with my search, with the way to Earth for my people. Other tats are symbols for the twelve colonies for the pyramid team I follow, memento's of relationships I've had, decisions I've made good or bad " Starbuck shuddered, remembering that one night with Admiral Cain both of them more than a little drunk. She had also asked about the tattoo's and Starbuck had told her more or less the same story. She didn't have the wedding band or the wings back then of course. Or the Pegasus on the curve of her hip where Cain's hand had rested when they kissed. One night of relative normality before it all went to hell in a handbasket. Starbuck prayed like she had never prayed before that this time with this woman it would last. It wouldn't be forever Starbuck was too hard headed to believe that. Nothing lasted forever, not in her world. Already in her head she was planning how to commemorate this relationship on her skin once it was over. Something to remember, something for future lovers to trace and touch and puzzle over. Her breath hitched as Ivanova's finger traced around the line of her hip, arrowing down to the dark blonde hairs at the top of her cleft, the dark haired woman's body pressing close to her back, her arm sneaking around her waist, holding her in place against her, palm flat against her belly.
"An eventful life," Ivanova whispered, nuzzling the strong tendons of Starbuck's throat and shoulder, teeth grazing, tongue laving the sweet pale flesh. "And not over yet."
Starbuck could just make out their reflections on the glass of the viewport. Pale ghosts entwined, dark and light, stardust and nebulae swirling through their essences.
"Lieutenant " Ivanova's gaze was questioning. Starbuck realized that her attention had drifted.
"You're thinking too much."
"Sorry bad habit."
"Very Russian, if I might say so." Ivanova's fingers drifted across her skin again, down her arm to take her hand. Starbuck did not resist as she was pulled towards the bed.
"Let's see just how good you are at following orders, Lieutenant "
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