DISCLAIMER: I don't own Babylon 5 or any of the characters represented in the show. They're owned by someone else who isn't me. No copyright infringement is implied/meant/deliberate in any way, shape or form, and no money is changing hands/no profit is being made, etc.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

In Space No One Can Hear
Your Heart Break

By Del Robertson


"Does the phrase No Way In Hell ring a bell?"

Sheridan visibly cringed as her growl echoed throughout the confined space of the transport tube.

"Commander Ivanova," Sheridan let out an exasperated sigh. "You're being unreasonable."

Susan straightened to her full height, stared her commanding officer dead in the eye. "I don't think I am."

"Oh, for Valen's sake! It's only one night! Can't you just put your differences aside and act like a mature adult for a couple of hours?"

The transport tube slid to a stop. The Captain and the Commander exited, stepping out onto the Zocalo. The rows of shops were streaming with activity. Casually, they walked amongst the shoppers and vendors, the captain nodding occasionally in acknowledgement at passersby. With the holiday coming up, every shop was bustling, brimming with reds and pinks and whites. The increase in traffic did nothing to soothe Ivanova's mood. She scowled as a passing Narn carrying a five-foot tall stuffed teddy bear jostled her.

"Don't make me suffer because you don't have the balls to just ask her out."

"What?!?" asked Sheridan, cupping his ear.

Ivanova rolled her eyes. She briefly considered screaming out at the top of her lungs in a crowded shopping center that the C.O. of Babylon 5 was lacking a decent set of testicles. Then, she reconsidered her career options and settled for grabbing him by the elbow, steering him across the square. They came to stop beside one of the cafés with a high balcony overlooking the Zocalo. They stood beside the wall, the brick coming up to their shoulders. Above that was a railing with three pipes decorated with red and pink streamers running the length of the balcony. Approximately twelve tables lined the balcony, covered with red checkered tablecloths.

The height of the wall effectively placed Sheridan's and Ivanova's heads even with the feet of the café's patrons. If either of them had looked past the railing, they would have noticed boots, high heels and various other assorted footwear at their eyelevel as the patrons dined on the balcony. And, if they would have looked even closer, they might have realized that one set of those shoes belonged to the station's resident telepath, Talia Winters. As it was, neither of them noticed. So, as she sat there innocently sipping her afternoon tea, she inadvertently eavesdropped on their conversation.

Ivanova clasped her hands behind her back in her standard at-ease fashion. Taking a deep breath, she readdressed the statement. "You only want me to do this so you can have a legitimate excuse to ask DeLenn out."

Ah, so the Captain's attempting to arrange a little romantic rendezvous with his favorite Ambassador. How sweet! Talia's ears perked a little at the direction the conversation was heading. She simply loved romantic endeavors.

"Well, I just feel that the Ambassador would feel more at ease if there was more than one couple present for dinner. That way, she wouldn't feel awkward, it being her first Valentine's experience, and all."

"So, ask Garibaldi."

Poor Susan! Undoubtedly the Captain is pressuring her into asking someone out. I wonder who? A tiny smile played across Talia's lips as she took another sip of her tea. I know; I'll bet it's that hot-shot Starfury pilot she can't stand! The one that wears that pretentious yellow scarf!

"I doubt if she'd accept the invitation. She isn't attracted to Mr. Garibaldi."

She? Talia felt her body reflexively tighten.

"Well honestly, Captain – Who is?"

That earned a little smirk from the Captain. And Ms. Winters. Ivanova was right. The man was going bald, developing a paunch, and had no sense of sophistication about him at all.

"Ah, but for some reason – and Valen only knows why – " Sheridan paused. " – Ms. Winters' is very much attracted to you." Talia's tea nearly spewed across the room. As it was, she found it necessary to hastily grab a napkin, cover her mouth with it. "And, I strongly suspect the feeling might be mutual."

Talia's eyes went wide. Well now, this is getting interesting! Let's see her deny it now!

"I don't know what you're talking about." Ivanova folded both arms defensively over her chest, glared at Sheridan. "Even if you were right – and I'm not saying you are – but if you were, it would never happen! That woman is the most annoying, infuriating, condescending – "

"I know. You have so much in common that way." Sheridan smirked. "Bring her. Tomorrow night."

Ivanova's eyes narrowed to tiny slits. She felt her blood begin to boil. "Is that an order, Captain?"

"If it needs to be, Commander." Sheridan hated bringing rank into this discussion. He thought they could handle the situation as comrades. But, if the Russian Commander wanted to do it the hard way – "Seven sharp at Magellan's. With Ms. Winters. That's an order."

Ivanova gave one of her patented growls, mumbled something beneath her breath.

"What was that, Commander?" asked Sheridan. "I don't think I quite heard that."

Again, Ivanova muttered beneath her breath.

Sheridan's face grew suddenly red, the veins in his neck bulging. I'll be damned if one of my staff is going to get away with insubordination! His voice raised considerably as he addressed Ivanova. "Repeat what you said, Commander Ivanova! Word for word!"

Around them, several shoppers stopped to stare. Very rarely did they see the Captain lose his temper. And, even more rarely did they see the Commander struggle to contain hers. A few of the wiser patrons inched away before she yelled her response to Sheridan.

"I said: I'd sooner kiss a Pak'ma'ra than date Ms. Winters!"

An audible gasp rose up from the crowd. Then, a deafening silence.

"Don't hold back, Commander." Ivanova's face visibly blanched. Sheridan and Ivanova both looked up, cringing at the sight of the telepath seated at the table directly above them. "Tell me how you really feel."

Sheridan discreetly coughed, covering his mouth with his hand, turning his attention to the suddenly fascinating brick wall in front of him. Ivanova closed her eyes, exhaled loudly, wishing when she opened them again, she'd be somewhere outside the nearest airlock. Wisely, the accumulated crowd didn't make a collective sound.

Slowly, Ivanova opened her eyes. She was still standing in the middle of the Zocalo. The Captain was still standing beside her, although he had suddenly turned a brilliant shade of crimson. And, Talia was standing above her, blue eyes flashing mercilessly. Gloved hands were clutching the railing so tightly Ivanova suspected Talia's palms might have bruises on them come the morning.

"Ms. Winters – " Looking up, maintaining eye contact, Ivanova slowly approached, both hands raised palm up in what she hoped was a non-threatening gesture. "I - "

" – Have made your point quite clear, thank you, Commander." Talia's words couldn't have sounded any colder if she'd dipped them in ice before hurling them at Ivanova. Wordlessly, she reached for her teacup, taking it from the tabletop. She made a point of leisurely raising the cup to her lips, then instead of sipping her tea, she dumped the entire contents on the Commander's head.

Ivanova grabbed a silk scarf from a nearby vendor's stand. The merchant started to protest until a glower from the Commander made him bite his tongue. Briskly, she wiped at her hair, her face as warm tea ran down her forehead, over her nose. Roughly, she rubbed at her eyes. "Where is she?" Ivanova growled at Sheridan as she removed the makeshift towel.

"Gone." A disparaging look from Sheridan. "Wouldn't you be if someone just took a PPG and shot you through the heart with it in a public forum?"

"Damn!" Ivanova cursed, throwing the scarf to the ground.

"Exactly." Sheridan's tone softened. "You hurt her, Susan. Find her – make things right. I don't care what it takes, just make sure you do it." He began to walk away, turned and looked over his shoulder at Ivanova. "And, that is an order, Commander."

For the second day in a row, a scowling Commander Ivanova stalked through the Zocalo. This time, however, she didn't have Sheridan to rein in her temper. More than one shopkeeper that morning had felt the volatile Commander's wrath. As she entered Moriarty's Fine Emporium, the owner visibly cringed.

"Ah, Commander!" He put on his most charming smile, sidled up to Ivanova. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Ivanova scowled. Why couldn't they just leave her to shop in peace? For the thirteenth time that morning, she explained her quest. "I need a Valentine's gift."

"Ah. And, whom may I ask, is the lucky recipient?"

"No, you may not ask!" barked Ivanova.

Moriarty visibly jumped, caught off-guard by the Commander's fierce bite. He'd heard from the other shopkeepers she was a real bear, but presumed they were exaggerating her demeanor. He knew from past experience that the second-in-command of Babylon 5 could be a little rough around the edges, but he thought even she couldn't have anything against Valentine's Day. Especially if she were shopping for something for that certain someone special.

"I only ask so that I may guide you in your gift selection process, Commander. How can I suggest a suitably appropriate gift if I don't know the young lady in question?"

Ivanova arched an eyebrow, mumbled beneath her breath.

Leaning in closer, Moriarty smiled sweetly. "I'm sorry, Commander, I didn't quite get that. Whom did you say?"

Ivanova's ire – and voice – rose considerably. "I said, Talia Winters!" She quickly glanced around the shop, lowered her voice to a more respectable level. When she spoke again, it was through gritted teeth. "I need to purchase a gift for Ms. Winters." She closed her eyes, as if the mere mention of the name caused her physical pain.

"Oh, my! Aren't you the lucky one?" Moriarty rubbed his palms together delightedly. "I know at least a dozen potential clients who would give their eye teeth to be purchasing a Valentine's Day gift for the delectable Ms. Winters."

"Then why don't – " Ivanova paused, clamping down on her words. Her mouth had already gotten her in enough trouble with Talia, no reason to risk farther compounding the problem with a slip of the tongue. " – you recommend something romantic?" she amended.

"Oh, I have just the thing!" The shopkeeper stepped behind his counter, ducked behind a blue drape covering the entrance to the back office. "A shipment from Centauri-Prime arrived just this morning. It's the latest thing, guaranteed to please the most discriminating of women."

Standing in the middle of the shop, hands clutched behind her back, Ivanova surveyed her surroundings. She had been in so many stores, tried so many "perfect gifts" that had "just arrived" in stock. She was quite certain that all these "new" ideas had been around for centuries. They were all the same gifts, just with fancy, new labels and shiny packaging. "I'm sure whatever you recommend will be fine," Ivanova called out, cringing even as she said it.

"Ah, here we are!" Moriarty reappeared from behind the curtain.

Ivanova turned to looked at what he was sure was great and wonderful gift put in the backroom for just that certain customer. She had heard the spiel thirteen times that day. And, thirteen times, she had seen every standard-run-of-the-mill gift she could imagine. So, as she approached the front counter, she expected to see a teddy bear – or roses – or chocolates – or any of the other countless items she had seen earlier that day.

Her eyes went wide, mouth dropped open in shock. The shopkeeper was standing behind the counter, his find proudly laid out on the glass display top. Stunned, Ivanova found herself drawn to the counter, unable to take her eyes away.

"Isn't it magnificent?" He asked, sensing Ivanova's interest. "It's completely pliant and flexible. Works with any type of standard-issue harness. A remote control device enables the user to select temperature, color and length." Preening like a peacock, he slipped the small remote control device out of a burgundy colored velvet bag. "Best of all, the device is easily disguised in the palm of your hand, or easily concealed in a pocket. You can go – " he pressed a button. " – as small as two inches. You know," he winked, smirked, "For those tight, hard to get into places." He pressed the button again, made an adjustment. "Or, you can go as big as fifteen inches." The device changed, lengthened dramatically. With a flourish, the shopkeeper extracted a ruler from beneath the counter, held it against the product for emphasis.

"What the fuck - ?"

"Exactly." Again, with the wink and smirk. "Fuck her with this, Commander, and she won't soon forget this Valentine's Day." He noticed the Commander's scowl slowly returning. "Did I mention we gift wrap?"

Ivanova dragged her feet dejectedly as she shuffled along the Zocalo. She had been a fixture in the marketplace since early morning. And now, by late afternoon, she had visited every single shop. Her mood had considerably darkened; observant shoppers hastily moved out of her path as she approached. Shopkeepers and patrons alike breathed an audible sigh of relief as she ducked into Carlyle's.

It was a normally quiet restaurant, serving a variety of food cafeteria style. Today, though, it was packed. Ivanova knew it could get quite crowded around lunch time, but she'd thought that by waiting until after three in the afternoon – and by not going to one of the more romantic settings on the station – she wouldn't be bombarded by couples celebrating the occasion.

She waited patiently in line, grabbing a hot sandwich and a cup of synthetic coffee. She grimaced at the thought, mentally wishing she had her coffee beans from the hydroponics bay. Her own brew always tasted so much better. Well, of course it did. After all, she made real coffee, not that artificial stuff they served everywhere else on the station.

As she paid the cashier, she turned, scanning the room for a free seat. Preferably away from the rest of the patrons in an inconspicuous, dark corner where she could be alone. That's when she saw her. Talia Winters. Sitting at just such a table in the back corner of the room. She appeared to be alone. As usual, thought Susan. Sitting at a table for four, picking at her sandwich while reading a book.

Resolutely, Ivanova made her way across the crowded restaurant. She paused in front of Ms. Winters' table. Tray in hand, she stood there, patiently awaiting Talia's acknowledgement. When she received none, she not-so-subtly cleared her throat. With an obviously irritated glare, Talia looked up from her book.

"Pardon me, Ms. Winters, but is this seat taken?" Ivanova asked, pointing to the chair directly in front of her.

"As a matter of fact, Commander Ivanova, it is."

Both of Ivanova's eyebrows arched in surprise. "What about this one?" she asked, indicating the chair directly across from Ms. Winters.

"It's taken, too." Talia didn't even bother to look up from her book this time.

"Hunh." Undaunted, Ivanova pointed to the remaining seat. "Surely that one's not taken, as well?"

"Yes, it is."

"I don't see anyone sitting with you."

"Nevertheless, the seats are taken."

"Well," Ivanova grabbed the nearest chair, pulled it out from the table, "It seems to me that if a seat is taken, someone should at least be sitting in it."

This time Ms. Winters did look up from her book. The glare she leveled at Commander Ivanova could have disintegrated an entire squadron of Starfuries. "If you were going to sit down anyway, why did you bother asking if the seats were taken?"

"It was meant as an icebreaker. I didn't think you'd actually refuse to let me sit with you."

Knowing that the Commander was entirely too stubborn to be easily put off, Talia resigned herself to expressing her displeasure with Ivanova's actions with a simple exasperated sigh. Languidly, she picked her bookmark up off the table, inserted it between the pages she had been perusing. Placing the book facedown on the table, she demurely folded her hands in her lap, settled back in her chair. Her eyes swept over the Commander's frame, assessing her from head to toe and back up again.

"And, is there a particular reason you expected me to grant you permission to join me?"

"Well, I have been trying to apologize to you all day." She flashed what she hoped was a rakishly charming smile. "Since you won't accept any of my gifts, I thought I'd best try in person."

Talia leaned forward, clasping both hands on the table in front of her. She leveled her gaze at Ivanova. "Are you doing this because Captain Sheridan ordered you to?" the words came out bitterly cold.

"No, I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do." Ivanova moved her own hands forward on the table, laying them atop Talia's, feeling the cool leather beneath her hot palms. "I said some things yesterday that I shouldn't have."

"You mean like when you said I was annoying, infuriating and condescending?"

The Commander had the nerve to look indignant. "That was a private conversation that you shouldn't have overheard!"

"Then perhaps you shouldn't have been shouting it all over the Zocalo!" Ms. Winters snatched her hands from beneath Ivanova's, returned them to her lap.

The Commander sighed loudly, raked a hand through her hair in frustration. She stared at the Psicorps representative for several minutes before trusting herself to verbally respond. "If you heard that part of the conversation, it's safe to presume you heard the rest." At Talia's affirming nod, she continued. "Then, you know that the Captain thinks I'm attracted to you."

Eyes narrowed to tiny slits. "And, as you made abundantly clear to half the station yesterday, nothing could be farther from the truth."

Ivanova needed a moment to think about her answer. She knew what she wanted to say, she just wasn't convinced it would come out of her mouth right. She'd already made one verbal blunder, she didn't want to add insult to injury. Stalling, she lifted her cup of coffee to her lips.

Suddenly, she was jostled from behind. Her elbow took the brunt of the impact, rattling her coffee mug. Hot liquid splashed over the front of her uniform. "Hey!" she shouted, jumping to her feet, angrily swiping at her dress blues with a linen napkin. "Watch what you're doing!"

"So sorry." A Pak'ma'ra dressed in a flight suit produced a handkerchief from a pocket. Attempting to wipe at the Commander's uniform also, the Pak'ma'ra continued, "My apologies. Terribly clumsy."

Ivanova brushed the helping hands off her uniform, swatting them away as they made another attempt at wiping her front. "Just forget it, okay?" She abruptly sat back down at the table, ignoring the Pak'ma'ra's further attempts at apologizing. She noted smirk on Ms. Winters' face as she waved the annoying Pak'ma'ra off.

"Clumsy bastard." Ivanova mumbled as the Pak'ma'ra ambled away. "He shouldn't be allowed to fly a spaceship."

"Was that a male?" asked Talia, blinking. "I thought he was a she."

Ivanova glanced at the retreating Pak'ma'ra's backside. "I'm not sure," she shrugged. "I just assumed it was male because of the flight suit."

"That's a pretty narrow minded opinion you have, don't you think?" Talia's eyes narrowed. "Before you accuse me of being condescending, I suggest you look in the mirror."

Another loud exhale. Ivanova looked away. She slowly counted to ten, then turned her gaze back to her companion. "Look, there's something you need to know about me." Grey eyes stared hesitantly at Talia. Voice husky with emotion, she continued, "I don't like being pressured. And, I don't like being backed into a corner. My first reaction is to lash out."

"I'm afraid that doesn't come as any great surprise, Commander. I've noticed from experience your tendencies to become defensive when dealing with conflict."

Ivanova visibly flinched, then subtly nodded in agreement. "You're right. That's probably common knowledge to someone with your expertise at negotiations. You can probably read me like a book." That earned a twitch of a smile from Talia. "But, did you know that I also tend to be defensive even when the issue is true?" At the blank look, she elaborated. "Sheridan's right. I am crazy attracted to you. But, I didn't appreciate him pressuring me into asking you out."

"So – " Talia leaned forward again, clasping both hands on the tabletop. She stared Ivanova dead in the eye. " – you expect me to believe that you've been attracted to me all this time and you just haven't said anything about it before now?"

"Not this whole time, no. When I first met you, I couldn't even stand you." Ivanova flashed a roguish smile, pressed on. "But, after I figured it out – every single time I thought about telling you – I felt like you were pressuring me."

"Which triggered your defensive streak."

"Exactly." The Commander smiled broadly, leaned back in her chair.

Talia stared impassively at Ivanova. "Uh -huh. And, isn't it terribly convenient that you just felt the need to disclose all of this now, when you need me to accompany you to the Captain's Valentine's dinner with DeLenn?"

"That's not the reason." She noticed the glare. "Not the only reason," she quickly amended. "Look, truth is, I would have told you. But, I would have done it at my own pace, in my own way. I just got so angry when Sheridan pushed me." A long silence hung in the air as they both contemplated the ramifications of Commander Ivanova's confession. "I want you to go with me to dinner tonight. Not because Sheridan commanded it. I want you there because it's a romantic restaurant and it's Valentine's Day and I want you to know how I feel about you."

"I'm not sure I'm convinced."

Ivanova noted the phrasing. Realized she hadn't said she wasn't convinced. "That's why I've been sending you gifts all day."

"I suspected they were bribes. I've been feeling such anger towards you ever since yesterday." Talia bit her bottom lip, glanced around as if checking to see that no one was eavesdropping. Conspiratorially, she leaned forward, lowering her voice. "In all honesty, Commander, you get under my skin like no one has ever done before. At times, I feel like you are the most charming, considerate officer in all of Earthforce. And, at other times, you are so infuriatingly aggravating that I just want to scream at the top of my lungs." She stared at her hands laying palms down on the table, noted ruefully that they were shaking with emotion. Another visible reaction to the daunting Commander. She mentally ordered herself to calm her nerves. Regaining some semblance of her composure, she glanced up at the patiently waiting Commander. "With each gift that arrived today, I felt you were pouring salt in the wound. I found myself wanting to hurt you the way you hurt me."

"Understandable." Ivanova nodded her head appreciatively. "Although, I think decapitating the teddy bear may have been a bit extreme."

Talia smiled wickedly. "My first instinct was to shove it out an airlock."

Ivanova grinned at the notion of a little teddy floating in deep space. Somehow, the idea appealed to her devilish sense of humor. "Come to dinner with me."

Talia's smile fell. "You hurt me." She said softly.

"I know. I'm sorry." Susan swallowed roughly. "What do I have to do convince you I mean it?"

Softer this time. "You embarrassed me in front of half the station."

"It was stupid. I didn't mean it." Eyes pleaded desperately. It's ironic, two days ago, when she wanted me, I wouldn't have given her the time of day. Today, now that she wants nothing to do with me, I'm pleading with her to forgive me. "I'll do anything to prove to you that I'm in love with you."

Even softer this time, barely louder than a whisper, "You said you'd rather kiss a Pak'ma'ra than date me." Tears welled up in her eyes, threatening to spill over, run down her defined cheeks. Her heart ached. She'd wanted the brooding Commander for so long. But after yesterday, she wasn't sure she could trust Susan Ivanova with her heart ever again.

Magellan's had gone overboard, decorating for Valentine's the way only the most elegant restaurant on the station could. An eight-foot tall ice sculpture of Cupid towered over the guests as they were escorted into the restaurant. The lights were lowered, making the candles at each table not only romantic, but also a necessity. Red and white candles strategically lined the perimeter of the restaurant, giving an added air of ambience to the dining experience.

In the back of the room, seated at a table for four beside an artificially replicated waterfall designed to resemble the one on Gamma Five in the city of New London was Captain Sheridan. He'd been on his honeymoon to New London. It was touted as The most romantic spot in the universe. Dolphins and seals swam freely in the cool waters, undisturbed by tourists as they played. Visitors were invited to eat a picnic lunch on specially designed blankets placed along the bank of the waterfall. Each blanket was strategically located well away from the next and could be converted into a tent, providing the maximum amount of privacy available to couples. Staring at the luminescent rainbow colors, he imagined the day he would share the waterfall with DeLenn. The real one on New London, not the highly impressive, although decidedly lacking imitation at Magellan's Restaurant.

Sheridan took a long draw from his glass of wine, glanced at the woman across the table. Her hair was down, long chestnut strands flowing over both shoulders. Eyes sparkled in the candlelight, reflecting the effervescent glow. She caught him staring, graced him with a shy smile.

"I'm impressed." He spoke softly, raising his glass to her in a salute.

"So am I." Sheridan glanced up as DeLenn and Talia rejoined them at the table. Susan rose, pulling out the chair nearest her own. As Talia sat, she diligently moved the chair back in. "It's really a rather lovely restaurant."

"I have never seen such a breathtaking waterfall," DeLenn agreed, marveling at the structure. "I didn't realize there was a restaurant on the station that was this elegant, Captain."

"The décor is magnificent," agreed the Captain. "But, not as impressive as you two lovely ladies."

The Captain looked at their companions. DeLenn was wearing a flowing silk design with pearl tones decorating the pink pattern. It didn't appear to touch her anywhere except at the neckline. Her hair was swept up into a hairdo that fell over her headband and down in tiny ringlets. Ms. Winters had opted for a simple, yet elegant form fitting black gown. A burgundy jacket complemented the gown perfectly. Her hair was worn down, styled around her ears, showing off spectacular ruby earrings that matched her jacket.

"Thank you, Captain." Talia responded in kind, saluting with her glass of white wine. DeLenn merely blushed beneath the compliment. "Although, I must say, you and the Commander are looking rather handsome, as well."

She was surprised when the tips of the Captain's ears tinged a bright pink. She had thought it would take more than a simple compliment to make the Captain of Babylon 5 blush.

"Thank you, Ms. Winters." He was suddenly glad that he had opted for the tuxedo. He wasn't sure given today's styles that it would be an appropriate choice. After all, he didn't want to look like some old relic that wasn't with it. "Although, some of us could have put more effort into it."

Talia followed his gaze. No doubt, he was referring to Commander Ivanova. She had arrived at her door a half hour ago wearing her dress uniform. The dark grey material perfectly complemented the steel grey of her eyes.

"I think Commander Ivanova makes a very striking figure in her uniform, Captain." She brushed her fingers over the shoulder of Ivanova's uniform. To her delight, Susan tolerated the touch, not pulling away in the slightest. "And, I'm afraid my last-minute acceptance of her invitation didn't leave her enough notice to go shopping."

Sheridan grinned, leaned across the table. "Just between us, how did the dashing Commander convince you to come tonight? I'll bet she had to spend a pretty penny in the Zocalo to make up for yesterday's blunder."

Ivanova visibly blanched at the insinuation. "Captain – " The word came out as a low, menacing growl.

"The Commander knows better than to try to win my affections by bribery, Captain Sheridan." Talia reached out reflexively, her hand landing atop Susan's forearm, fingers moving along taut flesh in what she hoped was a soothing manner. "I'm not so easily swayed by chocolates and pretty flowers." She kept her tone pleasant, knowing that the woman seated beside her was seething with barely restrained anger. She just hoped she could distract the Captain with her idle banter long enough for Susan to get her temper reined in. It wouldn't do for the second in command to threaten to throw her superior out the nearest airlock. "It takes more than store bought gifts to impress me."

"Really, Ms. Winters?" Sheridan leaned in, inching closer to Talia. "Tell me, just what does it take? What did Commander Ivanova do to impress you?"

Talia glanced around conspiratorially. Leaning even closer to Sheridan, she lowered her voice so that only those at their immediate table could hear. "She kissed a Pak'ma'ra."

Sheridan's face went instantly red as he spewed his brandy across the table. Coughing uncontrollably, he desperately dabbed at his mouth and chin with his linen napkin. "Oh, my!" Was all DeLenn said, trying her best to dab at the brandy on the tablecloth with her own napkin.

Ivanova looked at Talia, mouth wide open in shock. "I can't believe you told them that."

"And, I couldn't believe it when you walked across a crowded restaurant, spun that Pak'ma'ra around and kissed him full on the mouth," Talia laughed. "When you said you would do anything to prove your love for me, I had no idea – ."

"Him?" Ivanova's eyebrow arched. "Did we settle that? I thought you felt strongly that the pilot was female."

"Those flight suits are pretty much unisex; who can tell?" Talia shrugged. "Besides, I thought given that you kissed him and I didn't, we'd go with what you decided."

"I'll bet that was priceless!" Sheridan exclaimed, finally managing to bring his coughing under control. Speechless, feeling as if she was missing the punch line, DeLenn merely sat demurely at the table picking at her spaghetti. They changed the subject, making an attempt at small talk. However, every once in a while a chortle and a snicker would issue from John.

Ivanova merely glared at her commanding officer, mentally fantasizing about payback for the whole fiasco he had started. All for the sake of his precious Valentine's dinner with DeLenn. She was plotting fifty ways to kill your commander when she felt a presence beside her at the table. She glanced up, expecting their waiter.

Her eyes went wide as she looked up into the face of a Pak'ma'ra. It was standing there, wearing the same brightly colored flight suit from earlier in the day. Clutched in one large hand was a suitcase. A dozen crumpled roses were tucked beneath the Pak'ma'ra's other arm.

"Husband saw kiss." She breathed out loudly. "Knows you in love with me. Threw me out on rose bouquet."

The Pak'ma'ra held up the crumpled roses for emphasis. Commander Ivanova was in shock. She sat there, not knowing what to say, what to do. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm not sure how to tell you this, but I'm not in love with you. I was just – "

Susan's words were cut off as she was hit squarely in the face with the roses. The Pak'ma'ra said something in her native tongue, then abruptly turned, waddling off towards the nearest exit. She shoved random restaurant patrons and waiters alike out of her way as she cut a path through the restaurant, leaving a mass of chaos and destruction in her wake.

Ivanova gingerly picked at the bouquet, attempting to detract the clinging thorns from the front of her dress uniform. Beside her, Talia was torn between trying to remain sympathetic towards the Commander's plight and laughing her head off at the same time.

Sheridan looked at Ivanova sternly. "Commander – "

"I know! I know!" Ivanova roughly grabbed the roses, tossed the crushed flowers onto her plate. Groaning, she cupped her face in her hand. "Make it right."

The End

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