Christmas; just an excuse for Babylon 5 to be even more wacked out than usual. It was funny, Hanukkah never made people crazy, but even the aliens went loopy for Christmas. Susan suspected it was the eggnog. She had caught one vendor spiking it with herbs that would have made the entire Minbari population happy for days, so happy in fact that they had almost had an outbreak of free love. She'd taken a double shift so that all those on the command crew who celebrated the holiday could have some time off and as she finally headed back to her quarters she was exhausted.
The fact they had Psi Corps people on board as well at the moment was not helping her stress levels. Ever since Talia, she knew her own latent talents were starting to wake up and hiding them was more difficult than ever. The memory had come back to her only a few weeks ago of her mother sitting her down as a child and deliberately suppressing her telepathic abilities. Her mother had cried while telling her it was the only way for her to have a normal life and then suppressed the memory as well.
Stepping into her quarters, she began to pull off her uniform jacket and brought the lights up on low. What she really wanted was a stiff drink and then to fall into bed and leave all the craziness behind. It was as she was walking towards the bedroom that she felt the faintest touch against her mind.
"Who's there?" she asked, reaching towards her link.
"You are much stronger than you were, so much more sensitive."
She froze at the familiar voice and familiar tone.
"Lights," she said, forcing herself to turn towards the corner of the room.
There was Talia in all her beautiful, blonde glory and all Susan could feel was fear.
"How did you get in here?"
"I pulled the code from your mind while my colleagues were otherwise occupied," Talia said simply, "I wanted to see you."
"So is being an unregistered telepath," Talia replied, "but I've kept your secret so I am sure you'll keep mine."
This was not the Talia she had known, Susan was sure of that, this was a construction made by Psi Corps as they conditioned a young mind to be completely theirs. Yet Talia's behaviour confused her.
"Why?" she did not bother denying the truth; Talia clearly knew what was happening.
"Because I miss you," Talia replied, "and when my colleagues scheduled this trip I knew I had to come as well. The Corps let me go wherever I please because they think I am a loyal hound."
"You are," she said, unable to keep the bitterness from her voice.
When Talia stepped towards her she stepped back.
"Please, Susan," Talia said, holding out one ungloved hand, "I am not who you think."
"You were conditioned."
"I was," Talia replied, "and at first I became what they had created, but they had no idea what Jason gave me when he came here."
Susan did not move.
"The sleeper personality took over, but I was able to protect my own, hiding it just as the sleeper was hidden," Talia told her. "Over time I was able to reassert my own mind. I am not who I was, but I am not the sleeper and I have always loved you."
That made her stiffen and she almost stepped back again. She was slowly admitting to herself the depth of feeling she had held for Talia, but she had never thought to have it mirrored back at her.
"I must pretend to be the creature they created," Talia said, "to fight them from the inside, but they will eventually fall."
It all sounded so perfect, but Susan was never prone to optimism.
"How can I possibly believe you?" she asked.
"Let me show you," Talia said and held out her hand again.
This time Susan did not step back. She was surprised by the longing she felt even as her paranoia whispered at her.
"You could do anything to my mind," she said, still resisting.
"You would know," Talia replied, "you know you would know. If I was what you think I am, don't you know that Psi Corps would have been knocking on your door by now."
There was that of course, but Susan still did not trust. She had been betrayed so many times.
"If you try anything I will throw you out of my mind," she promised and Talia took the invitation to step up to her.
The touch on the side of her face was so gentle and the slide of thoughts into her mind so profound that all her internal discipline almost deserted her. It was only through sheer force of will that she maintained the mental shields she had slowly been building.
[This is me,] Talia's voice whispered in her mind and she was flooded by feelings and thoughts and memories.
She saw Talia as she had been, she saw the sleeper take over and then she saw Talia slowly claw her way back. She also saw the power under the surface; the core of being that must have been what Jason Ironheart had left his pupil. It didn't feel quite human. In little more than the blink of an eye she had no choice but to believe and then Talia reached further into her. She felt something shift and she immediately pulled back, dragging her mind back under her own control.
"What did you do?" she demanded, angry and afraid.
Talia smiled sadly at her.
"I have given you the ability to resist them," Talia said, "the ability to remain free, just as Jason gave it to me."
Susan put her hands to her head as everything around her seemed too loud, too real. She could actually feel the petals of her mind peeling back, one by one as her thoughts unfurled. When Talia pulled her close she did not resist and she could not stop Talia touching her mind.
"Calm yourself," Talia whispered soothingly, "I will help you. Your abilities have always been there, they were just suppressed, you know this."
Sagging in the other woman's arms, Susan had no choice but to just let everything happen. Her mind seemed to float free of her body and she could do nothing except accept it.
The beeping of her alarm brought Susan awake and she opened her eyes onto her darkened quarters. She was alone, she knew that without even looking and she also knew Talia was gone from the station. When the incredible experience of her mind opening had become sleep she had no idea, but she felt rested and she slowly sat up. The lights came up as she did so and she realised the other side of the bed had been slept in. There was a note on the pillow.
My darling Susan,
I will love you from afar. You have an incredible mind; never forget that and stay safe.
She was confused and unsure, but as she looked around her quarters it was as if she was seeing the world for the first time. This was how her mother had seen the world, how her mother had experienced life and for the first time in a long time she felt the desire to cry, not from sadness but from happiness. It seemed that sometimes even cynical Russian Jews were granted Christmas gifts.