DISCLAIMER: The characters of Babylon 5 belong to J. Michael Straczynski, not to me. No copyright infringement was intended.
SPOILERS: Set after “A Race Through Dark Places” and before “Divided Loyalties”
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
We Are Made of Stars
She wondered sometimes what it would feel like when she died. Would there be an instant of clarity before the cold of space took back all that belonged to it, claimed once again her body, made of the same substances as the stars that hung suspended all around her? Or would there simply be nothing; no thought, no feeling, no memory, only the cold, like the chill of the vodka as it slid down her throat, promising forgetfulness and sleep?
She had once dreamt that she would be buried beneath the hard soil of St. Petersburg, that the blinding white of snow would cover her, warm her, even in death. She knew that would never come to pass now. Everyone was gone; her mother, father, brother.
There was no one left to stand over her open grave and drop a handful of black Russian earth onto her casket. No one to say a prayer and light a candle for her departed soul. But what did it matter? Her soul had left Earth long ago.
Now she only existed out here, floating among the dying embers of a million suns, in this spinning fortress of metal. Two hundred and fifty thousand beings lived here; they loved, fought, hated, desired, and sometimes died here, and yet, she was completely alone. She had buried her heart under a barrier as hard and impenetrable as the frozen ground of St. Petersburg and there was no one intrepid enough to try and dig through.
Almost no one.
The name spun through Susan's mind like a comet through the blackness of space, trailing behind it the beauty of dreams that could never be more than star dust.
Talia. A slender taper of gold, she lit a flame inside Susan's mind that, try as she might, she could never fully extinguish, illuminating desires long hidden in shadowed corners. Desires for companionship, for affection, for love.
The irony of who Talia was, of what Talia was, never escaped Susan, schooled from a young age to "tell no one". Of all the souls on this station, her wayward heart desired the one soul whose very existence threatened her own. A soul who, in the twisted scheme of the universe, saw through all the sham and pretense of Susan's life and still wanted her.
Pouring another large shot of icy vodka, Ivanova allowed this morning's conversation to roll across the screen of her mind like one of Garibaldi's old movies, one of the ones about doomed lovers that always left the stalwart Security Chief hiding a stray tear or two.
"Commander?" Talia's silvery voice never quite left Susan's mind.
"Ms. Winters. What can I do for you?" Susan answered. Around them the chaos of station life swirled, but the two women stood within a seemingly sacred circle of calm amid the tumult.
"Have dinner with me?" Talia asked, her grayish blue eyes bright and as ever, oddly hopeful.
"You never give up, do you, Ms. Winters?" Susan asked, her tone intentionally amused, the glimmer in her eyes not so much laughter as fear.
"No, Commander, I don't. Call me stubborn if you like, but there are some things, in my estimation, worth waiting for," Talia smiled, showing just a hint of teeth white against the dark red of her lips. "Besides, what possible harm could come of two lonely people sharing a meal?"
"You're assuming that I am, in fact, lonely, Ms. Winters," Susan countered lightly, the truth of the statement a dull ache behind her breastbone.
"Perhaps I was wrong, Commander. Still, even those blessed enough not to be lonely must have some free time to spend with those less fortunate than themselves, don't they?" Talia smiled, easily going along with Susan's obviously false suggestion.
That persistent voice of doom in her mind didn't have a prayer in Hell of drowning out the other voices, the ones of longing, of desire, of need, the voices that tickled her ears and kept her up at night, musing in their silken tones about how soft Talia's skin must be. The voices that whispered about the spun silver and gold of her hair and the storm blue-gray of her eyes; about that smoky voice, the one that seemed able to reach into Susan's chest and wrap around her heart. Those were the only voices she could hear now, and they were all screaming, "yes", at the top of their lungs.
So, Susan did the only thing she could. She said no.
She said that she had to work, that duty shifts had been changed, that she regretted that she simply didn't have the time, but both of them knew that she was lying. Talia smiled at her, that sad, understanding smile that ripped away a layer of Susan's heart like the bandages her mother had put on her cuts as a child, pulling away scab and skin as they were removed.
Now, sitting in the living area of her quarters, Susan took another long swallow of vodka, rolling the icy liquid on her tongue, tasting the black earth of her beloved Russia. Swirling it around her mouth, she could feel the cold, harsh rains that fell from a sullen sky, soaking into the hard ground. She could smell the ozone laden air, metallic and tangy, intermingled with the musky scent of the soil. Underlying it all, she savored the iron of the potatoes, grainy and slightly sweet, lifeblood in more ways than one. Odd that all the smells and flavors of a country could be distilled into a bottle of clear liquid, a liquid that brought with it both memories and oblivion. Susan's Russian brain appreciated the irony of it.
Still, before oblivion came, she was left with the memories and the longings for things she could never have. Her parents and brother alive again. An end to the conspiracy and bloodshed. The sight of the spires of St. Petersburg rising against the impossible blue of a perfect winter's sky. The one woman she had ever truly desired, ever hoped to love. Fantasies, dreams, memories, desires. All futile. All hopeless. All she had left.
Susan took another drink, and another, willing that promised oblivion to come. The bottle was half-empty when the chime to her door sounded. She considered not answering it, but curiosity won out.
"Good evening, Commander," Talia said softly, standing somewhat shyly in Susan's doorway. "I know that you said that you were busy, and I know that I am intruding, unannounced, on your valuable free time, but I was hoping that you might at least agree to have a drink with me."
"You're a little late for that, Ms. Winters," the words left Susan's lips before she could prevent them. "I have already had several drinks."
"Then I guess I have some catching up to do, don't I?" Talia chuckled, moving with an easy grace past Susan and into her quarters. Sitting down in the spot that Susan had just vacated, Talia picked up the bottle of vodka.
"A glass, Commander?" She asked, those grayish eyes twinkling with amusement, although Susan could just see the slight apprehension beneath the flippancy.
It occurred to Susan as she sighed and reached on the shelf to pull down another glass, before crossing to Talia's side as she waited patiently on the couch, that there was without question an equally satisfying oblivion to be found in those lush red lips and supple arms. Perhaps it was time to find out if on that mouth and in those arms she could find all the scents and flavors of another country, one that she could call home.
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