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All Love is Unrequited

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Susan Ivanova's pillow smelled like the clean and floral scent of Talia Winter's shampoo. It was a simple scent, but with each inhale, there was an uncomfortable tugging sensation in her chest as though a deep and compelling need were rising to the surface. She had not always been close with Talia- Hell, she hadn't even been polite to her in the beginning- but it recent days she found herself trusting the telepath with more and more of herself, something she's never thought she would do. By some stroke of fate, by the will of God even, Talia had been brought to Babylon 5 and into Susan's life.

Talia had earned her trust, though it was no easy feat. All of the distrust, disgust, and fear borne into her by her mother's suffering at the hands of PsiCorps had placed seemingly insurmountable barriers between them; but Talia was patient, and kind, and respected Susan's privacy. She did not push her or take what was not freely given. Talia was a product of her upbringing, but not even the PsiCorps could steal away Talia's gentle nature. Susan's heart warmed to her, and the wall of ice she built melted just enough for Talia to slip in.

Now she was here and sharing a bed with her. The air recycling unit in Talia's quarters was malfunctioning and she had needed a place to stay. Of course Susan offered up her home. What kind of person would she be if she were to leave a friend with no certain accommodations? And her bed was big enough for two, so there would be no real benefit to having her sleep on the uncomfortable couch. At least, that was what she had thought at first, but it was 3 A.M., Earth Standard Time, and Susan was still awake. Her chest ached in an odd, but not wholly unfamiliar way. She could hear Talia's easy breathing, her soft form covered by a thin nightslip and the comfortable blankets. Her hair shone faintly in the dim light of the room.

Susan sighed and rolled over onto her back, closing her eyes to the sight of her companion. There was a low voice from the other side of the bed.

"Still awake, Susan?" She swallowed the lump in her throat.
"I can't sleep." Talia took a deep breath and turned to face her.
"Me neither. What's keeping you up?" Her throat tightened painfully.
"It's something that I have a hard time talking about."
"It's fine. Take your time with it. You can tell me when you're ready." There was a long pause.
"Everyone who I love either leaves or dies." Talia stopped and thought for a moment.
"What exactly do you mean?"
"My mother, my father, my brother, Malcom, even Sinclair. Everyone is gone, and I fear the people I love next will follow suit."
"Garibaldi and Sinclair aren't going anywhere, if they can help it. They're as stubborn as they come, and quite determined to survive."
"It's not just them I'm worried about. I'm... I'm scared you'll leave, too."

Talia didn't say anything for a while. Susan looked over and saw that Talia's hand had inched towards hers, but she pulled away. She wasn't wearing her gloves, and wouldn't risk intruding in Ivanova's thoughts. Susan's heart pounded uncomfortably, but she didn't stop Talia's retreat. She had secrets to keep- ones that could endanger her, her crew, and even Talia herself. It didn't stop her from wanting to scoop up the other woman's hand and intertwine their fingers, though.

"I'm not going anywhere," she croaked finally. "Though I must admit that I didn't think you cared so much."
"I didn't, at first." Talia laughed bitterly.
"I wouldn't have guessed."
"I've not always been the kindest person to you, and for that, I'm sorry. But I want you to know that you've become important to me, and I trust you, Talia. Against everything that I've learned from my past, I trust you, and I never want to lose you."

Fear made the words hard to form, but once she started, they all came pouring out. Talia's eyes glittered brightly in the darkened room. There was a look of shock to her face, but her cheeks glowed warmly against her pale skin.

"I- I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything at all. I just wanted you to know."

The two laid there in silence. They said nothing, each taking a moment to think and to compose themselves. With each passing moment, Ivanova's heart sank a little more. She should have been more tactful, waiting for a better moment, for better words.

"Susan?" Talia said in a small whisper. Susan's head rolled over to look at her. "I think... I think I'd like to kiss you, if that's alright."

Her breathing stopped, and then started again with a shudder. A bundle of nerves tightened in her stomach, though her heart began to soar. It was risky- making contact like this meant risking having Talia inside her head- but this was something that she wanted too much to pass up. She gave a small nod as Talia propped herself up on one arm and placed a hand on Ivanova's cheek. Her hand was soft and a bit clammy, untouched by manual labor. Susan pressed her cheek more firmly into the touch, cherishing it. Slowly, Talia lowered her face downwards and gently landed her lips upon Susan's.

Though her hands were cold, Talia's lips were much warmer than she had been expecting. The faint floral fragrance became stronger as Talia's hair fell around her face in a thick curtain, brushing against their skin. All the tension in Ivanova released, and all that was left was just her and Ms. Winters. Her arm raised up and she placed a hand at the back of Talia's neck, her thumb tracing over her flesh. The kiss deepened, and Susan lost a bit of her hold on her mental blockade.

She felt Talia's mind run across her own like honey and milk. She felt then what Talia must feel. Curiosity, a sense of closeness, and a few small notes of desire. Talia maybe hadn't thought about the two of them being... together before, but she wasn't opposed to it. Ivanova's heart ached slightly, but her hope pressed the pain from her mind. Talia poured through her bit by bit, but when she came across the memories of Susan's mother, she pulled away, breaking the kiss suddenly. Their breathing was shaky.

"I trust you," Susan said. Talia pulled in the corners of her mouth into a look of concern.
"Maybe so, but any secrets you have, I want you to tell me in your own time, in your own way." Ivanova thought on this for a moment and agreed.
"I suppose that's only fair to the both of us." Talia smiled at her sagely. "In any case, we should get some rest."

The two of them laid down for the evening, though it was a long time before either of them fell asleep. Susan laid there, watching the clock tick on, knowing that she only had precious little time before she would need to wake up to man her station. Still, there was too much on her mind. Slipping from her nightgown and pulling on a nearby set of clothes, she left for a walk. Maybe it would clear her head.

Before she left, she turned back to look at Talia's sleeping form. Maybe she was a part of PsiCorps, but she was still her own person. She was still Talia.