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Picking Up

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An hour after leaving Babylon 5, Talia sat on the ship feeling restless. Knowing Susan and Sofie were somewhere on board but not being able to see or talk to them was driving her crazy. Screw the rules, she thought defiantly, unstrapping her safety belt. She'd just have a quick wander, she told herself, and if she happened to find Susan along the way so much the better.

 

Susan put down her book in frustration. Sofie had dozed off half an hour ago, but she couldn't get comfortable. All she could think about was Talia; what was she thinking right now? What was she feeling? She was tempted to go find her, if only to see her smile for a moment, but she couldn't leave her daughter. As she looked at the empty seat across from her she sighed wistfully, wishing it were occupied by a certain blonde.

Not 5 minutes later, it seemed her wish might just come true. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Talia; it seemed impossible that in only an hour she could have already forgotten the extent of the woman's beauty, but it hit her full force. When Talia smiled at her, she thought she might melt then and there.

"Please, sit," Ivanova suggested, gesturing to the empty seat.

Talia sat and glanced at the wall. Smiling ruefully she admitted, "I always feel like passenger ships should have little windows, like in airplanes."

Susan chuckled at that. "I haven't been on a regular airplane since I was 8, just a few little jets. Ships like this feel normal to me now, especially after commanding a few myself."

The two women slipped into easy, superficial conversation for a while, each enjoying the simple pleasantries and the other's nearness. After a while, they got onto the subject of their lives now.

Susan explained that ever since Sofie was born she'd been looking for a stable place to raise her and finally seemed to have found one a year ago. She was running a small military base, with several other children including a boy Sofie's age. She wanted to give her daughter a home, the kind of life she missed having when she was that age. It sounded lovely to Talia, who couldn't remember ever having a home or family outside the Corps.

When it was Talia's turn to talk about her life, she explained that she worked as part of a group of loosely affiliated commercial telepaths on Mars, but that she was currently at the start of a month-long vacation. "Ever since they got their independence," Talia explained, "the Martians have been big on workers' rights. Things are a lot like they were in Europe a few centuries ago; 6 weeks' vacation a year, paid family leave, even socialized health care. Pretty different from things on Earth, although the government is still struggling to get stabilized so I'm sure it could change at any time. Mars has its advantages, but Earth still feels like home. That's why I decided to visit for a few weeks, after my trip to the station. It's funny after all the years I've spent off-world, but I can't help missing beaches and seasons and that proper Earth sunshine."

"So, you'll be on Earth for a while?" Susan tried to hide the hopefulness from her voice, but she couldn't hide it from her mind.

Talia smiled softly. "That was the plan. There's a certain woman I'm hoping to visit."

Susan stiffened. "I'm sure you'll have a lovely time," she said tightly.

For the first time all day, Talia saw the old familiar walls go up between them, and that simply wouldn't do. "She's an old friend of mine, but if I'm honest I hope she can be more than that, someday. I'm not sure yet how she feels about me," Talia reached out and grabbed Susan's hand, holding it gently and looking into her eyes, "but I knew how I felt from the moment we met."

Susan smiled shyly, an uncharacteristic flush colouring her cheeks. She squeezed Talia's hands and then let go, needing to pull back from the heat that was building between them.

After that, the conversation returned to the same casual topics as before. An hour passed easily, and when Sofie woke up asking about dinner they weren't far from Earth. Though the ship only seated a hundred passengers and was more than half empty, there was a small restaurant selling sandwiches and drinks. The three of them walked there together and sat at the only booth. Sofie begged for a milkshake, but Susan insisted it was too much sugar. Despite Susan's raised eyebrows, Talia ordered one herself, and when Susan looked away she slid it across the table with a wink. Sofie grinned as she took a sip before passing it back. Susan was far from oblivious, but she let it slide, not having the heart to disrupt their bonding.

Not long after they returned to their seats, Talia's official assignment completely forgotten, the announcement came that they were entering Earth's atmosphere and would be touching down in San Houston in half an hour.

Sofie was wide awake now, and pulled out a drawing pad where she began to doodle. The three of them settled into a comfortable silence, Susan pulling out a newspaper and offering Talia each section as she finished it. From time to time Sofie would show off one of her sketches, Susan and Talia taking turns asking questions. It was a simple evening, but for Talia it felt magical.

 

When finally it was time to put things away and prepare for landing, Sofie began to ask questions. Where were they landing? How were they getting home? How long would it take? And, most important of all, was Talia coming with them?

"If you came with us, I could show you my DollShip! John wanted to get me a DollHouse cause he says little girls love them, but why would you want a boring old house when you could have a spaceship to fly everywhere? And my doll's ship is the best ever! If you come to the base I'll show you and you can play with me. And I can show you my favourite trees to climb and we can have adventures! Pleeease?" The words tumbled out of her mouth in rapid succession, leaving no room for the adults to interject, even if they had known what to say. By the time she finished, Talia was barely containing her giggles. She glanced at Susan and they both burst into full-fledged laughter.

When finally the women stopped laughing, Susan turned to her daughter. "We're landing in San Houston, in Texas. One of the Lieutenants from base should be there to pick us up. Then it's just a short flight home, an hour or less," she explained. Before she was forced to answer any more questions, they felt the ship land and the announcement came that they could now exit.

Their things gathered, the three headed off the ship. When they made it outside, the small jet waiting for Susan and Sofie was easy to spot, but none of them moved that way just yet. Sofie looked up at her mother, and after a moment's gaze Susan turned to Talia.

Susan quirked her eyebrow as if to say, "Well? Are you coming?" Her confident smile was all the invitation Talia needed. A grin broke across her face, and a moment later it was mirrored on Susan's. Sofie squealed in delight and gave Talia a quick hug before running to the plane, leaving the adults in her wake laughing once again.

"Well Miss Winters, shall we?" Susan prompted. On impulse Talia linked her arm through Susan's and kissed her on the cheek.

 

If their pilot noticed a blush on his Colonel's face as they entered the plane, he had the sense not to mention it.