The Warlock popped out of the jumpgate, and Captain Susan Ivanova's hands tightened on the rail at a too-familiar sight: Babylon 5, spinning off in the distance.
When the orders had come in to make a pit-stop at Babylon 5 the Warlock's last port of call before returning to Earth, Ivanova had been tempted to toss them out of an airlock, or send them back with a few choice words scrawled on top. She'd taken this assignment to get away from her memories, bad and good alike; she'd planned to come back for a visit someday, but not yet. Not when the wounds were still this fresh.
But she hadn't. Maybe she didn't need to prove to anyone at Earthdome that she would only rebel against authority when absolutely necessary, but she needed to stay in the clear with herself -- and with all the soldiers under her command. There had been a little grumbling about loyalty and traitors the first month or so of the voyage, a few side-eyes in the mess hall; the last thing she needed was to give anyone reason to think their initial distrust had been correct. So she'd gritted her teeth and set the coordinates. Now, with the station looming ever nearer, she punched the buttons to call up C&C. "Babylon 5, this is the Warlock, coming in for supplies and shore leave."
A familiar face popped up on the viewscreen. "Warlock, you are cleared for-- Commander!" Lieutenant Corwin's blue eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. "Or, uh, Captain. Captain Ivanova?"
Susan couldn't help but grin at his surprise. "The one and only. Good to see you, David."
"Well, ah. Same here, of course." He sent her a quick smile, then looked down at his console, turning back to business. "I've sent coordinates for approach and docking, so you're all set. So." He looked back up with hopeful eyes. "Stop by if you have time?"
"Wouldn't miss it," she reassured him, and herself.
Between docking, setting up the resupply and maintenance crews, and readying the rotations for leave, it was over an hour before Ivanova stepped off her ship and into the arrivals lounge. After the reaction from C&C, she had half-expected to see Corwin waiting for her there, or perhaps Zack Allen. Instead, she was met by a woman in uniform, light brown hair pulled back in a braid, hands clasped behind her back: Captain Elizabeth Lochley, the new station commander.
Or, new to her anyway, Susan reminded herself; Lochley had been in command for just over a year now. "Captain," she said, stepping forward with a brisk nod.
"Captain," Lochley echoed, tilting her head. "Welcome back to Babylon 5."
She put out her hand, and Susan took it in a firm handshake. "Thanks," she said. "Nice to finally meet you in person."
Lochley raised an eyebrow. "That was going to be my line." She let go of Susan's hand and made a vague gesture that seemed to encompass the whole station. "You left quite an impression around here."
"After four years? I should hope so." Susan forced a quick smile, which Lochley returned. She started walking into the Zocalo, and Lochley fell into step beside her. "But I've heard a fair bit about you, too. I've known John Sheridan a long time."
"So you have," Lochley said. "I presume you know the backstory, then."
"He told me that he'd recommended you for this command, and why," Susan said. "Classic John, really. Building bridges, then blowing them up--"
"And then building newer, stronger ones behind him." Lochley finished the thought with a wry chuckle. "He spoke highly of you, too. Highly enough that I'm surprised he didn't offer you this job."
Susan stepped out of the flow of traffic, under a tree with a bench right next to it. "Who says he didn't?" she quipped; Lochley frowned, and Susan quickly shook her head. "But-- no, actually he didn't. He knew I needed a change of scenery after the war. Besides, I think he was right to bring in someone new. Someone who stayed with Earthforce. Building bridges, you know?" Her mouth twisted into a half-smile. "I'm good at the blowing up part. Not so much at what comes after."
"That's not what I've heard, but I'll take your word for it." Lochley's expression relaxed. "Well. Enjoy your stay, Captain. And if you come by C&C, feel free to stop by my office. Nothing official," she added, raising a hand. "I know you're on shore leave. But I'd appreciate the opportunity to buy you a drink."
"And I'd appreciate the opportunity to accept one." Susan put out her hand again, and this time Lochley's grip was more familiar, less formal. "See you later, Captain."
Lochley left with another nod; Susan took a seat on the bench and watched her go, then settled back against the seat of the bench, letting the bustle of the Zocalo wash around her. Strange it was, it felt good to be back.