The station stands at the edge of a war, and Talia is in her bed.
The war, Susan could have predicted. Maybe not in this exact form, but a Babylon station has never been anything other than an explosion waiting to happen. It was only ever a matter of when. And when it comes down to it, three years isn't even that bad of a run, considering. They did some good along the way.
("Let me guess — a very Russian ending?" Sheridan had smirked at her.
"I' promise not to smile when it turns out I'm right," she had assured him, deadpan.
She hadn't wanted to be proved right so soon.)
Talia, though, Talia was . . . new. Unexpected. Different, and all the cliches that came along with that. Susan had resolved to hate her, or at least ignore her when her omnipresence made hatred impossible.
Funny, really, how much else a second improbable shattering of the world can break along the way.
Talia is bits and pieces of a puzzle no one else can see, and Susan feels the places where those pieces have embedded themselves in her life, in guarded places and ones she hadn't thought she needed to protect so consciously, and shivers at the thought of what she might now be connected to.
Still she reaches out, traces the sharp lines of Talia's face that even sleep cannot soften and tries to memorise the sight in front of her. Maybe it's the stupidest thing she's ever done; maybe it's the best: either way, she promises herself, she will not forget.
("You look at her so strangely," Delenn had said, so quietly Susan wasn't sure she was meant to hear.
"I watch her," Susan had corrected, certain but not unkind. "I don't trust her."
Delenn had just smiled, like she was equally certain she had chosen her desired words, rested her fingers against Susan's wrist briefly and left her alone in the Zocalo.
So. Maybe Delenn too was right.)
"You're not supposed to be here," she says now, to Talia but also to the faint silent space where her bare fingertips meet Talia's bare cheek.
Skin to skin, and Susan's mind is still whole. Would still be whole if Talia were awake, because for all the barriers between them that she has pushed at, that Susan has yielded to, this one they leave, spoken and yet untouched for reasons unspoken.
"I don't mind," she continues, and wonders if she would have the courage to say so if Talia were awake. One day she might. "It's different this time. You make me think —" Talia breathes slow and deep, warm against her skin and the words die in Susan's throat.
She should sleep, she knows, but as she rolls onto her back and feels the silky tug of Talia's hair caught under her shoulder, watches shadows chase themselves across the ceiling where they dip into metal gashes and heal nothing, she is not sure how.
"Walk with me?"
Talia's voice is hollow in the night, and Susan feels the mattress shift as Talia rolls over. Perhaps she had never been asleep. Susan thinks about closing her eyes against the unfamiliarity of someone else in her bed.
(In another world Talia will walk alone, and Susan's bed will still not be empty:
Here is a strand of Talia's hair.
Here is the lingering scent of her perfume.
Here is a note, unfinished.
Pieces that cannot be stitched back together with all the desire in this world or any other.)
Her eyes stay open, though she does not look at Talia as she laces their fingers together. "Okay," Susan says, and is not wholly sure what she is saying yes to.
There will still be the coming war in the morning, but where their palms press together lies the promise that there will be a morning.