The soft sound of singing pulls me from a strange dream I am more than happy to leave behind. I'm not surprised at all that her side of the bed is empty. The insomnia has kicked in again about a month ago, but she refuses to try anything to stop it. And so I wake most mornings to an empty bed and cold sheets.
Slipping into my robe and slippers, I make the bed out of habit, smirking as I blatantly resist the perfectly crisp corners that she has always preferred over the years. It's not my fault that she was the first one out of bed. If she wants it perfect, she can stick around.
~You're up to something.~
I chuckle, but ignore her silent query, and head downstairs to the bright, open kitchen of the house we're staying in. Three solid weeks of solitude and bliss are better medicine than anything Stephen Franklin could ever prescribe. The scent of heavily peppered bacon, hash browns, and toast wafts up to meet me halfway down the stairs, my stomach growling loud enough that I blush profusely.
~Good morning to your stomach, too. Scrambled or fried eggs this morning?~
~Over easy, if you don't mind, and slightly runny whites.~
She turns to face me as I step into the kitchen, a look of disgust greeting me. "Did you have to ruin breakfast already, Talia?" She gags, but accepts my embrace anyway. "I swear I'm going to start making you cook breakfast from now on."
"Then you should have stayed in bed," I say as I pass her to pour a cup of coffee, "instead of getting up at oh-dark-thirty to pace in the garden again."
The frown and self-disgust would be obvious even if I wasn't a teep. Leaning against the counter, I sip at my coffee, waiting for her to speak. She already knows what I'll say, considering we've had this particular discussion every day for the last week and a half. For that matter, I know everything she'll say as well, but sometimes she tries a different line of attack.
"Talia, have you ever noticed a pattern to my bouts of insomnia?"
Okay, this is definitely a new line of attack. I can feel the skin wrinkling between my eyebrows as I frown at her question. Another long sip of coffee works psychosomatic wonders toward waking me up as I ponder this new concept. After what feels like several moments, but probably isn't, I shake my head in confusion.
"Okay, then let's just look at this current bout," she says softly, guiding me to the table. When I settle in my usual chair, she goes back to bring our food over. "Five years ago today, Lyta Alexander came onto Babylon 5 with this big story about a Psi Corps mole on the station. Do you remember that?"
All too well. The memories of being kept out of the loop until the very last minute still rankle, even as I understand why they did it. A deep breath and another sip of coffee help to smooth over the rawness of that seeming… And then it hits me. The faintest hint of a smile ghosts across Susan's lips when she realizes that I have at least figured this out.
"Everyone thought I was the one with the Control program."
The smile fades then, a look of resignation crossing her face. "No, Talia, you were the one with the Control program," she says softly, projecting a sense of calm toward me. "Kosh and Lyta were able to reverse it before Psi Corps found out it had been activated. Don't you remember that Ironheart added that failsafe kill switch when he gave you his powers?"
Frowning, I try to think back. I remember everything prior to that specific day with perfect clarity, and pretty much everything afterward. So much about that exact sequence of events when Lyta tested me for the Control program is still hazy enough to me to just consider it a strange dream. But I fight to delve back into the memories, brush away the gauzy spider webs that protect me from the truth. "I should have remembered that, damn it!" My growl startles even me, but it dissipates the moment her hand rests warmly on mine.
"Control took a lot out of you, Talia, and we knew that you might have some memory issues." She smiles and squeezes my hand. "I just… When this anniversary comes around each year, I relive it in my head, and I worry about all that I could have lost if they hadn't been successful in deactivating and removing the Control program." She pauses, chewing at her bottom lip, and won't meet my gaze for a moment. When she does, there are tears in her eyes. "I don't know if I ever told you this before, but I had to divulge my teep status to Lyta that day so that I could help fix you. Lyta Alexander has been walking around all these years with that knowledge about me, and it's terrified me. It gets worse on this anniversary."
"But you said Lyta's got all those powers from Kosh and the Vorlons." The words come softly from my mouth, so softly I almost wonder if I've even uttered them until she nods slowly. "That she's stronger than any other Telepath known to mankind and several other races."
Susan nods again and takes a long sip from her own coffee. The woman can practically inhale boiling liquid if it's flavored with those damned beans, not that I'm any better. I can practically feel the wheels turning in her head as she mulls over something she wants to say. The teep in me wants to just go into her mind and read what I want, then leave. The lover and partner in me wants to wait it out, to let her tell me what she wants when she's ready to do so.
"We'd barely slept together for the first time and Lyta shows up with this story of someone being so violated. I feared it was me, even more than I feared it about you." She takes another deep breath, and I can feel the fear battering against my shields. "I wasn't ready to share you with anyone else, not the Talia that I saw in private. So having to divulge our relationship status in front of John, Michael, and Stephen, not to mention Lyta, it was a bit unnerving. But I did it because I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if we didn't try to get you back from Control."
Nodding slowly, I reach across the table to squeeze her hand. "I'm sorry that I keep forgetting these things that you tell me about that day, Susan. You have the patience of a saint to put up with me for that."
"That has nothing to do with it, Talia. I will remind you as often as you need to be reminded, even if it means explaining my insomnia every year. Do you know why I have no issues doing that?"
"Because you love me?"
The corners of her lips curl up into a lazy smile and she leans forward to brush my lips with hers. "Because I love you. It's worth every single painful minute of reliving that day to know that you're still here with me to be reminded just how much you mean to me."