March 24th, 2258
They are in the Casino, and he buys. When the bartender asks what she'll have, she orders a double vodka, because she is Russian, and because her father died yesterday.
She doesn't volunteer anything, and he doesn't ask. After she's done with her vodka and he with his water, they say goodnight and she goes straight to bed.
As she's lying awake, she thinks that it was nice to have someone to be silent with.
July 16th, 2258
As an apology for the trick he played on her that morning, he offers to buy her a drink. Despite the fact that she has already laid her plan for revenge, she accepts, because hell, there's no point in passing up a free drink.
They start talking about what they've heard of the problems on Mars, but when he mentions a childhood trip to the planet he made, they get sidetracked into stories of their youths. He tells a good one about too much flour, a cake recipe of dubious origin, and a girl he was trying to impress, and she finds herself giggling, which she hasn't done since the eighth grade.
She is almost sorry the next morning when he is twenty minutes late to the command staff meeting, muttering something about a computer error that had set his clock an hour behind, reprogrammed his shower settings, and finally locked him in his quarters until his second could let him out with a security override.
January 29th, 2259
They are in Earhart's waiting for the captain and Franklin, and she buys as a thank you for saving her life that day. She insists he have something other than water, because she is celebrating. He orders orange juice, she thinks just to annoy her, because ever since Captain Sheridan came aboard, she's been offered orange juice every twenty minutes and she's starting to hate the sight of it. Their conversation is easy and filled with laughter, and she is glad he is coming back to work.
April 7th, 2259
It's just the two of them meeting for dinner because both Sheridan and Franklin had to cancel at the last minute, and she is sitting at a table intended for two. She notices Vir walk by, winking broadly at her, and spends a few moments wishing she'd worn her uniform instead of the casual skirt and blouse she has on. In addition to Vir, God knows what grist the junior officers will put into the rumor mill when they see her and Garibaldi having what is obviously a non-business-related dinner together.
But then he finds her at the table and smiles, and she decides she doesn't care what stories everyone else at the Eclipse concocts. Michael is a good friend, and if people make unwarranted assumptions, she knows a dozen different ways to send them out an airlock.
June 12th, 2259
They have just come from seeing a movie together at the theatre in the Zocalo, and are having a drink in a nearly-empty watering hole nearby before calling it a night. While they drink, they dissect the film. She thinks the romantic subplot was unnecessary and that the two characters worked better as good friends; those who want to read in a love story everywhere need a hobby. He claims that only someone without a soul could say such a thing. She says that as a Russian, her soul is attuned to tragedy, not romance.
At that moment, G'Kar passes by, a human and a Centauri woman on either arm, and makes an elaborate show of not disturbing them, a prurient grin on his face.
She scowls, and Michael laughs, admitting that she may have a point. Although then again, he asks, is it such a stretch for others to construe their current circumstances, and all the other ones like them they've shared over the past two years, as scenes in some kind of drawn-out courtship?
Despite not having drunk nearly enough to even get tipsy, she blames the alcohol for making her ask if he's ever thought about making it into one.
In response, he leans over and kisses her softly. The night lasts a lot longer than either of them expected.
August 5th, 2260
They haven't seen each other in more than a week, and they don't make it to the bar. They barely make it to the bed.
November 19th, 2260
They are in her quarters, working, working, working. That's all they do lately, because fighting a losing battle against an ancient evil takes an incredible amount of planning.
The fourth time she stifles a yawn, he gets up and walks into the kitchen. She's trying to pay attention to supply lists, and doesn't really notice he's gone until he comes back and places a cup of coffee under her nose.
Gratefully, she drops her pen and takes the cup in both hands, not having realized until just then exactly how desperate she is for caffeine. "You looked like you needed it," Michael says when she raises her eyes to meet his gaze. He indicates the matching cup in his hand. "So did I, for that matter." Smiling, she thanks him, and they get back to work.
April 16th, 2261
She is reading from the Haggadah, and Michael, John, Delenn, Lennier, Stephen, and G'Kar are listening intently. She finishes the kiddush, and tells everyone to drink the cup of wine or grape juice sitting by their plates.
Last year at Passover, they had been in the middle of a secession, and she had let the observance fall by the wayside. This year, though, after everything they have just gone through with the Shadow war, she feels the ritual of the Seder is particularly apropos. From the sheen in their eyes as G'Kar reads about the karpas and the salt water, she thinks the others at the table would agree.
She asks Michael to read about the matzoh. Holding the book in one hand and the matzoh in the other, he recites, "Behold the bread of affliction our ancestors ate when we were slaves in the land of Egypt. Let it remind us of people everywhere who are poor and hungry. Let it call to our minds people today who are still enslaved and without freedom. May all in need come and celebrate Passover with us...."
December 31st, 2261
Just before midnight, they toast to the success of the Alliance along with Stephen, Delenn, John, and G'Kar.
This has been the hardest year she's ever experienced, and she has lost so much over the course of it. But as the new year approaches, she looks at her friends, at Michael, and the station she will officially command in thirty more seconds, and still counts herself lucky.
February 28th, 2262
He's not actually with her at the little bar in the depths of Red Sector, but she's doing a good enough job replaying their argument in her head that he might as well be. When she finishes her drink, she barely has to look up before the bartender gives her another, then scurries away from the wrath that looks imminent.
And she is wrathful. She can't stand to be protected like a child, and Michael being Michael, there's nothing he'd rather do than swaddle her in bubble wrap and set an armed guard over her. Her life being her life, they'd squabbled about his white knight urges before; it was only a matter of time until the blowup came, and here it is.
This time it's because he wants her to let Lieutenant Xang, the leader of Alpha Wing, supervise the testing of the new Starfuries EarthForce has given them rather than going out in one and doing it herself. Technically he's in the right; regulations clearly state that it's Xang's responsibility. But she loves flying, and the thought of trying out what new capabilities these birds have makes her palms itch for the feel of a joystick. He'd still thought she should give it to Xang, and that was the point when she'd left.
She looks at the ring her drink has made on the bar and sighs.
Her righteous anger is ebbing, leaving her feeling much like her half-empty glass. She supposes he has a point. A small one. As captain of the station, it's not really her place to be testing new equipment, no matter how tempting it is to have all that power and maneuverability at her fingertips. And as annoying as Michael is when he gets like this, she loves him at least as much as she loves flying. She can let this one go.
Besides, she can always have Xang and her crew do the first round of testing, and then take one out herself when they're relatively sure they won't blow up with someone at the stick. She thinks they could both live with that.
May 3rd, 2263
He hands her a steaming cup of tea and asks how she feels.
"Horrible," she replies, taking the tea and attempting to inhale the steam through her stuffed up nose. It doesn't work, and she stares glumly at the cup.
She feels him settle on the bed beside her, holding his own cup. "You don't have to stay in here," she tells him. "You'll catch it."
"Hey." He wraps his free arm around her shoulders and kisses her fevered scalp. "In sickness and in health, right?"
September 6th, 2264
She clinks her glass of fruit punch against his matching one and eyes the Earth Alliance ambassador's martini with envy. Avoiding alcohol for the past eight months hasn't been too bad, actually, but she does miss vodka.
The ambassador is speaking about something to the little group that has gathered around him at the reception, but she isn't paying attention. What she'd really like is a chair, or better yet a place to lie down; her back has been hurting essentially non-stop for weeks now, and she can't even take an aspirin for it.
The little person inside her turns and kicks, apparently as uncomfortable as she is. "Me too, solnyshko," she murmurs, resting a hand on the bulge of her stomach.
She feels Michael's hand on her back, rubbing discreet circles into the overtaxed muscles. "You want to get outta here?" he asks.
"I'd love to, but I still have make the introduction."
"Corwin can handle it."
"Corwin's in C&C."
"He can put Harriman in charge long enough to get down here and spout some platitudes." She shakes her head, and he frowns. "Sus..."
"Michael, I'm fine. We'll leave as soon as I introduce him, and that's only ten minutes from now. I can survive." He still looks unhappy, and she pokes his arm. "You know if I don't, he'll be offended, and God knows what that will do to our relations with Earth." Despite the outcome of the war, the economic relationship between the station and Earth Alliance still necessitates they at least try not to piss off the diplomats.
Finally he nods. "At least sit down until you have to talk."
His hand still on her back, he leads her away from the crowd. They wind up seated on a couch in a little alcove at the rear of the room, mostly shielded from the view of everyone else at the reception.
When he puts his arm around her shoulders, she grins. "You just wanted to get me to yourself."
He smiles slyly. "The thought did cross my mind," he says, before leaning in to kiss her.
She is late for the introduction.
December 14th, 2264
Their crying daughter has woken them up—for the second time that night—twenty minutes before the alarm. It's no use going back to bed at that point, so while she's feeding the baby, Michael makes coffee. When it's ready, he joins her back in the bedroom, sitting next to the two of them on the bed.
After a few sips, she sets the cup on the nightstand and rubs her bleary eyes. "She has to make it through the night eventually, right?" she says.
"That's what I hear," he replies. "I'll believe it when I see it."
Despite the sleep deprivation, she actually does like this. When it's just them—her family, she thinks with giddy delight—she doesn't bother with her mental blocks, and she likes to feel their emotions wash against her mind. There's Sofie's soft baby contentment as she nurses, and Michael's exhausted excitement. Three months in, and they're both still alternately thrilled and terrified by this parenting thing.
She starts to list to the side, her eyes drooping closed. Michael's shoulder is right there, and she leans her head against him, thinking she might doze a bit. John said that one day she'd miss these times; once she starts getting a full night's sleep on a regular basis again, she can see herself wishing for another moment like this. Almost. At present, she thinks it would be just as nice after a reasonable amount of sleep.
Michael shifts to let her have better access to his shoulder. Her eyes are mostly closed, but in her small remaining field of vision, she sees him rest a hand gently on their daughter's thin fuzz of dark hair. When she has more energy, she'll tease him about how similar they look. For now, she's going to pretend a million things aren't waiting for her in C&C and try hard to save this moment for remembrance.
In the quiet warmth of their home, they are silent together as the early morning hour ticks by.
I don't know you except in the way
A traveler knows a traveler;
The way a station can tempt you to stay
And spend some time inside it.
Stay where we are,
Washed up at some corner bar.
But I swear I've never been this far before.
— Hem, "Pacific Street"