Disclaimer: I don't own anything, I'm just borrowing things for a while and I promise I'll put everything back exactly how I found it when I've finished. Well, almost exactly how I found it. ;)
Several things were well known to everyone on Babylon 5. For example, Londo was fond of gambling; G'Kar liked his women; Garibaldi was prone to playing practical jokes; and Ivanova…well, Ivanova hated mornings with a passion.
Unfortunately, two of those facts collided on a regular basis, always over breakfast and usually resulting in the cry of 'Garibaldi, you're a dead man!' echoing through the station's corridors.
Equally unfortunately, Garibaldi wasn't alone in his tormenting of Ivanova. The Commander was his loyal partner in crime, and therein lay the problem. Ivanova could exact revenge any number of ways on Garibaldi with ease, but Sinclair was a different matter entirely.
As Ivanova dressed that morning, her mind contemplated every possible way she could get her own back on both of them, simultaneously cataloguing everything they had done to her over the past couple of weeks.
There was the morning Sinclair had lulled her back to sleep with his quiet voice, and while napping, he and Garibaldi had swapped their breakfast plates for empties. Then they had woken Ivanova up and made her believe she had slept through the entirety of breakfast.
Then there was the time Ivanova had gone to breakfast to find Garibaldi eating alone. Two minutes later, a second Garibaldi walked into the Mess Hall, sat down and began eating breakfast. Both Garibaldis talked and acted in the same way, eventually forcing Ivanova to leave for fear she had gone insane.
The next day, two Sinclairs showed up and as Ivanova had no belief whatsoever in the Doppelganger effect, she began to smell a rat.
There was the time they had swapped the sugar for salt, causing Ivanova to spit her morning coffee everywhere, especially down her uniform. And since her other jacket was being cleaned, she had to spend the day without one. She was not amused.
And not forgetting when they had cleared all personnel from the corridors that led from Ivanova's quarters to the Mess Hall, and then from the Mess Hall to the Observation Dome, making her believe she really was all alone in the night.
Their latest prank involved all breakfast rations being accidentally substituted for the contents of Pak'ma'ra stomachs. When Ivanova asked how the hell that had happened, Garibaldi's explanation - seconded by Sinclair - was that Dr Franklin wanted the stomach contents to experiment on, but somehow there was a mix up in shipping. Breakfast was now being experimented on the med lab while stomach contents were dish of the day. Ivanova decided - wisely, she thought - to skip breakfast and all other meals for the day after listening to that. It wasn't until much later she found out no such thing had happened, and that the 'stomach contents' were just pureed breakfast foods.
So Ivanova had taken to eating in the relatively safety of her quarters, plotting her revenge as only a pessimistic Russian could. Suddenly, the answer came to her; simple but effective, and utterly sweet on the revenge side of things. She would, however, need one tiny bit of help first, and she knew exactly who to ask.
Everything was in place. Ivanova knew it was childish of her, and that in many ways she was sinking to Garibaldi's level - which was a feat in itself - but she couldn't let the humiliation of being tormented by him and Sinclair any longer.
Ivanova entered the Mess Hall at six am sharp, much to the surprise of the other officers. But there was a good reason; she didn't want anything in The Plan to backfire.
One minute later, Delenn appeared, followed by Lennier. Ivanova looked mildly surprised. "Good morning, Ambassador, Mr Lennier," she greeted them.
"Good morning, Lieutenant Commander," Delenn said. "Are you sure it is alright for us to be in here?"
Ivanova nodded. "Of course, don't worry about it. Please, sit down."
"My apologies, Lieutenant Commander, but I have some urgent matters to attend to," Delenn replied. "Would Lennier be a suitable replacement for my presence?"
"There is no replacement for your presence, Ambassador, because you are unique, but Mr Lennier will suit the purpose just as well," Ivanova said.
Delenn smiled. "I see you have been taking lessons from Commander Sinclair."
"More than you know," Ivanova replied, also smiling. "Have a good day, Ambassador."
Ivanova knew that Lennier would be more than up to the task, which was simple in itself; he was to provide her with a watertight alibi. Unfortunately, Ivanova knew from her earlier chat with Londo regarding some items important to The Plan that Lennier could bore the plates off the outside of the station. He was a nice enough young man, but he could drone for Minbar and Ivanova doubted she would be able to stay awake long enough to complete The Plan. She would, however, soldier on like the Russian she was.
"Delenn was vague on the nature of this meeting," Lennier said, a little nervously. "How can I be of assistance?"
"I want to know more about you," Ivanova replied.
Lennier immediately looked panicky. "I do not think that is a good idea."
"Mr Lennier, I am not going to take you to a bar or a casino, you will not damage yours or Delenn's reputation in any way, and you won't get into any sort of trouble," Ivanova reassured him before adding quietly, "At least I hope not."
"Very well, where would you like me to start?"
"At the very beginning," Ivanova replied dryly, wishing her coffee was laced with whisky and that the butter on her toast contained vodka. It would make the time pass more quickly, she thought.
A little after six thirty am, when Ivanova was fighting the simultaneous urges to snore loudly and knock Lennier unconscious, Sinclair and Garibaldi were climbing out of bed and going into the bathroom, in separate quarters, of course.
After they had inspected themselves in the mirror to make sure their faces hadn't changed overnight and gone through the gruelling task of shaving, they both got into the shower. Garibaldi was prone to singing badly while in the shower, while Sinclair practiced a form of meditation that would allow him to get through the day without killing anyone. As a result of their preoccupation, neither noticed what was going on outside the bathroom in their quarters.
At the same time, the water turned ice cold, causing Sinclair and Garibaldi to swear and jump out of the cubicle. They tried to adjust the temperature, but cold it remained. Cursing their thoughtlessness at forgetting to bring a towel or a robe into the bathroom, both walked into their bedrooms starkers to get their comm links.
Garibaldi was the first to sense something was wrong, probably due to his security training. He knew something was missing from his quarters and his senses went on alert. Sinclair also noticed something wrong, but it was a different something. He knew, as soon as he got into his bedroom, that he had gone into the bathroom with clothes on, that he had dropped them into a pile on the floor, and that there was definitely a towel waiting for him. And it had all gone.
Which was precisely what Garibaldi had deduced. Frantically, he turned his quarters upside down looking for other clothes. Semi-frantically, Sinclair was doing the same. There wasn't a scrap of clothing in either of their quarters.
Then they noticed what had been left on a chair. Garibaldi's eyes widened and he shook his head vigorously while muttering, 'No way!' Sinclair raised his eyebrows and fought the urge to inspect what had been left for him.
Finally getting control of himself, Sinclair stuck his comm link to the back of his hand. "Sinclair to maintenance." Silence. "Sinclair to security." Silence. "Sinclair to observation." More silence. "Not again," he grumbled. "Sinclair to Garibaldi."
"Jeff! Thank God, I thought I was goin' crazy!" Garibaldi exclaimed.
"Michael? Are you okay?"
"Fine, except someone's taken all my clothes!" Garibaldi told him. "The shower's freezing and no one else is answering."
"Same here," Sinclair replied, frowning. "Hold on a second. Sinclair to anybody."
"Is there a problem, Commander?" Ivanova answered, her voice the auditory picture of calmness and professionalism, no hint she was about to start another war by viciously murdering Lennier.
Sinclair nodded. "Yes, there is. The water in my quarters is freezing. Same with Garibaldi."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Ivanova replied.
Sinclair frowned some more. "Can you send maintenance to fix it? My comm link seems to be malfunctioning as well and I can't raise anyone except you and Mr Garibaldi. And can you send security to mine and Garibaldi's quarters?"
"May I ask why, sir?" Ivanova asked.
"Someone has stolen our clothes," Sinclair told her, his voice laced with mirth.
"That's a shame. Didn't the thieves leave you anything?"
Sinclair eyed the skimpy Centauri dancer's costume with distaste. "Nothing that could actually be worn."
"I'm afraid my hands are tied at the moment, Commander," Ivanova replied. "Matters of diplomacy."
"Is there a problem?"
"Lieutenant Commander Ivanova," Sinclair said suddenly, "You wouldn't be responsible for this, would you?"
"Me, sir? I resent that accusation. I have been here in the Mess Hall since six o'clock this morning. Ask Mr Lennier."
"Alright, so you didn't do this yourself, but still…."
"You know, I forgot how much I enjoy a peaceful breakfast," Ivanova mused.
Everything clicked into place at once. "I see," Sinclair said. "I don't suppose saying sorry would cover it?"
"Not quite, sir, but this will."
"I could have you up on charges, Lieutenant Commander," Sinclair told her.
But Ivanova could hear the laughter in his voice. She knew he was her commanding officer, and a fairly serious person in many ways, but she also knew he appreciated a good joke and that he could laugh at himself.
"You could, sir."
Sinclair smiled at her defiance. "But you know I won't."
"Thank you, sir," Ivanova replied. "Would you like me to tell you where your clothes are?"
"I assume we have to get them ourselves?"
"That was the general idea."
"Run around the station naked or wearing a Centauri dancer's outfit. Very slick, Lieutenant Commander," Sinclair said, shaking his head. "I'm guessing you had help with all this?"
"But you won't tell me who."
"It wouldn't do you any good, Commander," Ivanova said. "Do the words 'diplomatic immunity' mean anything to you?"
Sinclair smiled dryly and nodded. "Plenty. Alright, Susan, you win. No more practical jokes at breakfast."
"Thank you, sir. And Mr Garibaldi?"
"I'll tell Michael," Sinclair promised. "Now, our clothes?"
"In the Zocalo," Ivanova replied. "Have a nice day, Commander."
Sinclair closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Did you hear all that, Michael?"
"She's evil," Garibaldi replied in awe.
"I know. But we deserve it."
"True. So what's it to be, Jeff? Birthday suit or something so thin you could spit through it?"
"I'll go for the outfit," Sinclair replied. "It's not much, but it might cover something. I still have an amount of dignity to try and preserve."
"See you in, what, ten minutes?" Garibaldi asked.
Sinclair laughed. "I'll race you there."
Ivanova sat back in her chair looking extremely smug. "Excuse me, but I do not understand something," Lennier said.
"Mr Lennier, I appreciate your help, but I don't have the time to explain anything right now," Ivanova replied. "I'm too busy gloating quietly."
Lennier nodded and stood. "I understand. I am glad I could help. Good day, Lieutenant Commander."
Ivanova inclined her head. "Mr Lennier."
When he was gone, she allowed herself a rare grin. When the Commander got over the façade of being annoyed with her, he would be proud. She had managed to get Londo and G'Kar to work together in the united interest of revenge, mainly because it wasn't against each other. G'Kar had a way of getting into the quarters - Ivanova didn't ask how - and Londo supplied the dancer's outfits. Between them they stripped the quarters of clothes and took them to the Zocalo, apparently laughing all the way.
"And so they should be," Ivanova muttered, thinking of the amount of credits she had paid them. But it was safer than owing either of them any favours.
"I thought I might find you here."
Ivanova looked up. "G'Kar."
"How did it go?" he asked, sitting down.
"Very well, thank you," Ivanova replied. "And thank you for your help. I still can't believe you and Londo managed not to kill each other."
G'Kar smiled and leant forward. "I will tell you a secret in exchange for allowing me to participate in this plan of yours. As a person, he is quite tolerable, and we are not that different. But he is Centauri, and that cannot be changed. Our races are destined to hate each other for all eternity, and there is much blood between Mollari and I especially."
"Maybe. Maybe not. Time changes many things, Ambassador, even the need for revenge."
"Perhaps. "What is it you Earthers say?" G'Kar asked. "Revenge is a dish best served cold, am I right?"
Ivanova nodded. "You're right, but I've always found revenge is best served with toast. Would you like some?"