Title: Dinner for Two.
Author: Susan P.
Feedback address: suzotchka67@gmail.com
Date in Calendar: 19 June 2012
Fandom: Babylon 5
Pairing: Susan/Talia
Rating: 13+ (maybe--it's pretty tame); friendship to pre-slash; f/f
Word Count: 6,031
Summary: An epilogue for the first season episode: Deathwalker. Talia speaks with Susan about her issues with Ambassador Kosh, and the two share a meal. Sort of.
Spoilers: Semi-major Talia and minor Susan spoilers for episode #109: Deathwalker. Spoilers for both of them and for the series up through and including that episode.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD12


Author's Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to JMS, Warner Bros., and whomever else has a piece of B5 now. I'm just borrowing them for my own purposes.

Author's notes: This is the product of re-watching Babylon 5 dvds. It is essentially an epilogue for Deathwalker, and it would make more sense if you've seen that episode, or at least read the summary of the episode. This is a follow-up to a series I've begun about these two: The first, "A Meeting of Minds," was based on the episode, Mind War, which can be found here, and the second one I haven't managed to put up on my site yet, but it is on my LJ page. It's called "One Step Forward. Maybe." and it may be found here. I may have a few more in the works, at some point, including a short one set during "TKO."

Thanks to ErinBree for the title (even if it is a bit of a tease ;) and for taking the time to beta-read this piece. Any remaining mistakes or missteps are entirely my own. If you spot any, please feel free to let me know.

Permission to Archive (after July 1, 2012, that is): The FSAC site, and any other of sub-sites of http://www.shatterstorm.net as it might be appropriate for. Passion and Perfection also, and anyone else to whom I've given prior permission to archive my stuff. Anyone else, please just ask first.

Feedback: always welcome, including constructive criticism! You may email me at: suzotchka67@gmail.com

Susan Ivanova approached the counter in the cafe, planning to order some take-out for dinner before heading to her quarters to relax, if she could. It had been a long day. A long couple of days, actually, during which Earth and the other ambassadors had been fighting over the fate of the war criminal, Jha'dur, and her damnable formula. Commander Sinclair had been locked in negotiations, both in council sessions, and individually, with many of the ambassadors during this time. While Sinclair was occupied, Susan had had to use her own brand of diplomacy, as well as threats and a little bit of manipulation when that failed, to keep ships from the various Non-Aligned worlds from attacking the station.

After the events of the last couple of days, she was beyond tired, and not much in the mood for interaction—social or otherwise—be it with human or alien. She had picked this establishment not because of any particular fondness for it, but rather because it seemed less crowded and busy than a couple of the others she'd passed along the way, and it was definitely less busy than some of her usual haunts would have been at this time of day.

She stopped short, a couple of feet from the counter, when she noticed Talia Winters sitting there. There were several empty seats on either side of the blonde, but Ivanova hesitated to join her because she got the distinct impression, after just a few seconds of observation, that the other woman wasn't really in the mood for company, either. Talia was leaning over the counter, staring blankly ahead.

"Have you decided?"

Susan had been about to move to one of the empty seats at the end of the counter, when she was startled by the blonde's question. She looked up to catch the blonde's eyes in the mirror behind the counter that she hadn't quite noticed before. Talia's stare hadn't been quite so blank after all, it seemed.

Ivanova grinned sheepishly at both their reflections. "I'm sorry, I--" she shook her head and stepped up behind the chair to the blonde's left. "You just looked like you didn't want company."

"I..." Talia sighed heavily, "I don't know that I do, but," she took in a deep breath and smiled wanly, "have a seat, anyway. I'm actually just waiting for take-out, so I won't be here long."

"Are you sure?" Ivanova asked uncertainly.

"Yes, of course," Talia gestured to the seat. "I'm sorry, I--" she shook her head briefly. "It's not you; it's just been a..." Talia blew out a long breath before continuing, "really bizarre couple of days."

Ivanova wondered what Talia meant, but she could certainly sympathize, given her own experiences over the past two days. "You can say that again!" Ivanova nodded at her grimly, before taking the offered seat and turning in it to face the blonde.

"Yes. I've heard a little bit about what's been going on around here lately, but it was just rumors and whispers, mostly."

"Well, I'm still not sure I understand everything that happened, and I was in the middle of it, so I'm not sure whether I could clarify much for you." Not to mention that Earth's involvement in the whole mess was classified by Earthdome, in spite of the fact that the whole incident had turned into the worst-kept secret ever.

Ivanova shook her head. "Between Jha'dur and Earthdome, and the League, and the Vorlons...well, it was one hell of a mess."

Ivanova had noticed when Talia's focus had drifted away from her, and she felt certain that her last few words had gone unheard. Susan studied the blonde for a few seconds in the ensuing silence. Talia looked profoundly troubled about...something.

"Is something wrong?"

Talia looked back at Ivanova as if she'd forgotten where she was, and with whom she was speaking. "Yes. Maybe," Talia answered quickly, wringing her hands for a moment before looking away.

Ivanova's eyes focused on the mirror behind the counter, hoping to get a better view of the blonde's face, so that she could glean more clues about what could have the other woman so distraught.

"I don't--" Talia sputtered, rolling her eyes heavenward, for a second, before closing them and bringing a hand up to rub her left temple. "I'm not..."

Talia's growing agitation put Susan's instincts on full alert, causing a knot of tension to form in her belly. Something must be terribly wrong, given how upset the other woman seemed. Susan turned her focus back to Talia, rather than the reflection in the mirror, and urged her to, "Breathe."

Talia turned to look back at her, and their eyes met and held. It could only have been for a few seconds, although it felt much longer than that to Susan. Talia seemed to draw strength from the contact, and Susan watched as she gradually calmed down, the lines around her eyes and the crease in her forehead softening as her breathing slowed somewhat.

Talia's eyes slid closed for a moment, and she drew in a deep breath, sighing out, "Thank you," as she exhaled and re-focused her gaze on Susan.

Susan had begun to relax a little herself, as she watched some of the tension drain out of Talia's body, but her instincts remained on alert. "Tell me what's wrong."

"I--" Talia sighed and shook her head. "I guess I don't know for certain that anything is, but I spoke with the Commander and Mr. Garibaldi earlier and...well, they didn't exactly ease my concerns."

"About what?" Susan prompted the other woman, still mystified as to what the hell she was talking about.

"Oh, sorry." Talia shook her head and smiled ruefully. "Yesterday Ambassador Kosh approached me about what had to have been the most bizarre commission I've ever had. He wouldn't give me any details up front but, when I checked it out, he had arranged for all the proper clearances and the pay was very generous. Or so it seemed at the time."

Talia's eyes shifted away, and she didn't continue immediately, so Susan asked impatiently, "Meaning...what?"

Talia looked back at her and blinked a couple of times before answering. "Meaning I'm not sure it was worth the money," was her only comment, but there was a kind of haunted look in Talia's eyes as she said it.

Susan wanted to ask, but decided against it and simply waited for whatever Talia might say next.

"The Ambassador was meeting with this...odd little man named Abbut."

Susan cut her off to ask, "The 'Vicar?'"

"Yes. Do you know him?" Talia asked eagerly, as if hoping for more information about him.

"Not really, but I've heard of him." She could tell that Talia was disappointed by the answer, but she really didn't know much about the man. Garibaldi had mentioned him once or twice. Never in connection with any criminal activity, but she trusted Garibaldi's instincts. Anyone who was on the security chief's radar might bear watching.

Talia nodded. "Anyway... Nothing about it made sense. First of all, they spoke in nonsense phrases, as if they were actors in some awful spy vid. And... I really had no reason to be there, not for the stated purpose, anyway. The man, Abbut, had no thoughts." Talia leaned forward, her eyes burning with intensity. "Literally. NO thoughts." She leaned back again, her eyes becoming slightly unfocused for a moment before she looked back at Susan. "None that I could detect, anyway."

"Then why--" Ivanova started to ask, before Talia cut her off.

"Exactly!" Talia leaned in again as she spoke, her head canted to the right. "Why commission a telepath to sit in on negotiations with a man with no detectable thoughts?"

Susan shrugged back at her helplessly, unable to guess at Kosh's purposes.

"And that's not all," Talia continued, leaning back slightly. "During the so-called negotiations, I--" she paused and took a deep breath. "I kept getting these...flashes...memories from an assignment I'd had years ago. I had to scan a serial killer prior to a mind wipe. I--" The haunted look was back in Talia's eyes, and she shuddered slightly. "I had never touched a mind like that before."

Talia grimaced and closed her eyes a moment, during which Susan fought the impulse to reach out to Talia to comfort her. She barely had time to wonder about how her determination to stay away from the telepath seemed to be failing her more and more often, when the blonde's eyes opened and Susan pushed that thought aside so that she could focus on whatever Talia might say next.

Talia's seemingly calm demeanor was belied by the tone of her voice as she added, "And I hope I never do again," her voice dropping into the lower registers until the last word was almost a croak.

Susan was again struck by the urge to comfort the blonde, but couldn't quite follow through, instead choosing to flatten her right palm against her thigh rather than give in to the urge to reach that hand out to Talia.

"And these flashes--" Susan started to ask before Talia cut her off again.

"I think they must have been deliberately provoked. I--I mean it wasn't something that had been on my mind lately. I haven't even had one of the nightmares in..." Talia left the sentence unfinished, seemingly lost in thought.

'Nightmares?' Susan thought to herself. Talia's statement had been so matter-of-fact that it sounded like the nightmares must be a semi-regular occurrence. Talia's experience with that serial killer must have been incredibly traumatic, if she was still having nightmares about it years later.

"If those memories were evoked deliberately," Susan wondered aloud, "then how? Or by whom?"

"I--" Talia shook her head. "I don't know, really. Abbut was the only one present each time I had one of the flashes, but... Could a cyber-organic like him actually induce thoughts or memories, as opposed to merely recording them?"

"I don't know. I suppose it may be possible. I could pick Garibaldi's brain and see what he knows about Abbut's capabilities." Susan offered.

"Thank you, but..." Talia sighed in resignation. "I don't know what good it would do. Whatever Abbut was up to, whatever he might have done, he did it on Ambassador Kosh's behalf."

"But, assuming Kosh was targeting you, then why?" Susan asked. "He doesn't even know you."

"He knows I'm a telepath." Talia shrugged. "The Commander pointed out that the Vorlons are suspicious of telepaths, and that maybe he was trying to gather... I don't know, ammunition, maybe? To use against me later, which is as good an explanation for what happened as any, I suppose."

"I still don't understand how the Ambassador could consider you a threat. I mean, your record is virtually spotless."

"You've looked at my record?" Talia asked, her voice and face registering mild surprise.

Ivanova shrugged and answered matter-of-factly, "I'm second-in-command. I've looked at a lot of people's records." Granted, Susan had had her own reasons to make a careful study of Ms. Winters' credentials, and what information she could find about her history, but she would have done something similar for anyone coming aboard the station in any official capacity.

Talia nodded once, as if to say 'of course.' "I think you're right in that it couldn't possibly be personal, but... I am a telepath," Talia shrugged. "We all have...secrets, things we want to keep hidden."

Susan nodded in understanding. "And the Vorlons are more secretive than most."

"Exactly. It's possible that the Ambassador considers me a potential threat simply because I have the abilities I have, although I suspect I'm not a strong enough telepath to pick up anything from the Ambassador that he didn't want to reveal."

Susan nodded. "Maybe not. From what I understand, he isn't exactly free with the straight answers, even when he's questioned directly."

"Not in my experience, no," Talia acknowledged.

"So he might be better than most at concealing his inner thoughts."

"That could be true, of course," Talia admitted. "But what I meant was... Well, it's just a feeling, really, since I wouldn't have dared trying to scan him, but I just sense a very...powerful mind there, one that would be hard to read, especially for a P5 like me."

"Oh. I see," Susan nodded.

Susan thought back to her recent conversation with Sinclair, about the incident that had occurred when Ambassador Kosh had first come aboard the station. He had been attacked by an assailant after disembarking from his ship. There had been no witnesses to the attack, and the cameras in that section had been disabled, so Kosh himself was the only one who knew what had happened, and he was rendered unconscious by the attack. The Ambassador had been scanned by the then-resident telepath, in an attempt to gain information that could be used to both treat the Ambassador and catch his attacker.

Ivanova had received a cursory briefing on the incident after she first came aboard but, after her conversation with Sinclair, she had searched in the records for more information. It was all highly classified, of course, and there were whole sections of it that were off-limits, even to someone of her security clearance, so she couldn't talk about it, of course. Even if she were free to speak of it, however, there wasn't anything especially revealing in the information Susan had been able to read.

Still, the telepath who had scanned Ambassador Kosh after the attack, and the doctor who had treated him, had been recalled to Earth almost immediately after the crisis had passed. Maybe the Ambassador was concerned about whether any significant information about him had been revealed to anyone in Earthdome or in Psi Corps. It was possible that he had targeted Talia in hopes of finding out whether those in the Psi Corps knew anything, but that didn't make much sense, really. Talia's clearance level was far below her own, and it was highly unlikely that Psi Corps would share any information it might have gathered about the Vorlons with those among the organization's lower ranks. That was assuming that Talia Winters was who her records indicated she was, of course, and not some Psi Corps plant sent here for some unknown purpose.

'Now I'm thinking like Garibaldi,' Susan thought to herself. 'Or the way he would be thinking, if it were anyone else.' She had seen the way his eyes followed the blonde whenever she was around, and it seemed clear that Michael had more than a passing interest in Talia Winters, which was beginning to bug Susan a little more than it should.

Susan shook her head and cut off that line of thought immediately. She turned her attention back to Talia, who was looking at her expectantly. She just shrugged at the blonde and shook her head again. "I wish I had some brilliant advice for you."

"At this point, I would be happy to consider any lousy advice." Talia smirked at her grimly.

Susan smiled at her sympathetically before turning serious again and advising her to, "Just try to stay clear of the Vorlon."

"That's something I'll be happy to do." Talia nodded, and then blew out a long breath before commenting, "I just hope that won't be easier said than done."

"Me, too," Ivanova replied. "But...if you do have any more troubling encounters with him, or with Abbut, for that matter, just..." Susan reached out automatically to grasp the other woman's arm in a gesture of comfort, surprising both herself and Talia, apparently, which caused Susan to lose her train of thought.

Talia had startled at the contact—out of surprise rather than fear, Susan felt certain—and they both looked at the hand on Talia's arm for a moment, before their eyes met again. The warm and surprised, but trusting, look in Talia's eyes made Ivanova's breath hitch, as she was caught in the other woman's gaze, feeling the blonde's tension ease somewhat under her hand. Susan wasn't quite sure how long she sat there staring, but it was long enough to prompt Talia to ask, "What?"

"What?" Ivanova repeated the question, frowning both in confusion and because she felt more than a little foolish at having been caught off guard.

"Just what?" Talia clarified, looking at her oddly.

"Oh," Ivanova rolled her eyes at herself as she realized what the other woman meant, "of course. Just..." Susan cleared her throat and tried to sound professional and detached, which was complicated by the fact that she was gently squeezing Talia's arm. "Uhm, contact...one of us if you have any further problems." Susan resisted the urge to look down at her errant hand, and further resisted the urge to yank it back, but did make a conscious effort to relax her grip on Talia's arm slightly, so that she could casually pull it back.

Susan was about to do just that when Talia covered it with her own, and Susan was distracted by the feel of the surprisingly warm leather against her skin for a second.

"Thank you," Talia replied sincerely. "I will."

Susan again found herself staring into Talia's blue eyes, wondering what the hell she was doing, and why it suddenly seemed to take effort to simply breathe normally. But it only lasted a moment, before they were both startled when the door from the cafe's kitchen banged open.

Their hands fell away as they both looked over at the harried-looking server headed toward them. "I'm sorry for the delay, Ms. Winters," the woman addressed the blonde, hefting a bag of take-out containers, "we're a little short-handed today."

"That's quite all right," Talia smiled back at the woman. "The Lieutenant Commander was keeping me company."

Ivanova had been watching the exchange, her eyes flicking back and forth between the two women. Talia's statement prompted Susan to turn to look at Talia fully, for a moment, and she caught what looked like a slight smirk on the blonde's face, but then she got distracted when the server stepped closer and placed the bag in front of Talia.

"May I get you something, Lieutenant Commander?" The server's name was Roberta, according to her name tag, Ivanova noted. She pulled out a pad and waited patiently to record Ivanova's order.

"Uhm," Ivanova hesitated, completely at a loss for how to answer. Her discussion with Talia had almost made her forget why she had come into the cafe in the first place.

"They have wonderful salads," Talia offered helpfully.

Ivanova grimaced slightly and looked back and forth between the two women. "I was hoping for something a little less...healthy."

The comment elicited a slight chuckle from Roberta and a smile from Talia, but Susan hadn't exactly meant it as a joke.

Life in the military could be dangerous enough, but watching the Vorlons blow Jha'dur out of the sky today had left her feeling more than a little unsettled, and hearing about Talia's issues with the Vorlon Ambassador had only disturbed her more. As a result, she was in the mood to be a little indulgent and skip her usual fare in favor of a little comfort food. Except she hadn't put much thought into what, exactly, she would like to order.

"Will you trust me?" Talia asked softly, drawing Susan's attention. Ivanova only had time to raise an eyebrow at her, before Talia smirked slightly and added, "...on this."

Susan grinned back at the blonde, knowing that Talia had added the qualification both as a way to reassure her and also to tease her a little.

"Sure. Why not?" Susan decided. Even if she were less than enthused by Talia's choice, she could always toss it and order a pizza or something. She couldn't see any point in potentially hurting Talia's feelings over something as trivial as dinner.

Talia smiled widely at her for a moment before turning to the server and instructing her to, "Give her the same."

"All of it?" Roberta asked, raising one eyebrow at the blonde.

'All of it?' Ivanova wondered silently. 'What does that mean?'

"Yes," Talia replied decisively. "Put it on my bill." Talia handed her credit chit to the server.

"Wait, No" Ivanova objected, looking back and forth between the two women.

"Please," Talia requested, "allow me. I may as well put the Ambassador's money to good use. Besides," Talia smiled warmly at her, "I owe you for the last time."

Susan opened her mouth to protest further, but then saw the almost pleading look in Talia's eyes and decided to give in. "All right. Thank you," she replied softly.

Roberta, who had been waiting patiently for the outcome of the almost-argument, cleared her throat, drawing Susan's attention away from Talia."

"There will be a small dinner salad. Do you have a preference for the dressing?" Roberta asked.

"Uhm," Susan thought for a moment. "Some kind of vinaigrette, maybe..."

The server smiled back at her. "Absolutely. And..." Roberta looked briefly at Talia, who nodded in response, Ivanova noticed when she cast a sideways glance at the blonde. "How do you take your coffee?"

"Coff—" Ivanova sputtered, and then looked between the two women in amazement. She took a deep breath and turned to focus on the server. "Real coffee?" she asked with the utmost seriousness. Coffee was hard to obtain in space under the best of circumstances, and it was still too soon since her last harvest to get any mature beans from the contraband plant she had squirreled away in Hydroponics.

"Roberta smiled back at her. "Yes. It's not always on the menu, but we get a shipment once in a while. We happened to get a small one last week."

"You might want to give her a large," Talia instructed Roberta wryly, and Susan turned to find the blonde smiling widely at her. She grinned back at Talia and then turned back to the server, asking, "Please?"

"Of course." Roberta nodded, but still looked at her expectantly.

"Oh." Susan remembered she hadn't answered the woman's question. "Um...just make it black."

"Very well." Roberta took a moment to process the charge to Talia's credit chit before handing it back to her. She then told Ivanova, "I'll have it out to you as soon as possible," before turning to head back to the kitchen.

"Take your time." Susan smiled happily at the retreating woman's back. As badly as she had wanted to get to her quarters so she could relax, just knowing there would be coffee in her future made any potential delay acceptable.

When she turned back to Talia, she found the blonde smiling widely at her with a twinkle in her eyes.

"What?" Susan asked her.

"Oh, nothing," Talia shrugged, a big grin still plastered on her face.

Susan wanted to protest...something, or at least press Talia to explain the look, but in the end she just gave in and grinned back at the blonde.

"You don't really take your coffee black, do you?" Talia asked, as if she already knew the answer.

"I can when I have to," Susan admitted. "But sweetener and milk—well, powdered milk, anyway—are easier to come by than coffee."

"And getting a cup full of black coffee here..." Talia prompted.

"Means that I might be able to have a cup tonight and still have enough for a cup in the morning."

Talia chuckled at that. "Spoken like a true addict."

"Well," Susan shrugged, "as vices go..." She smiled at blonde, who nodded and smiled back in return. "Do I even want to know what this is costing you?" Susan asked Talia seriously.

"Not me," Talia shook her head. "I'm spending the Ambassador's money, remember? Besides, seeing that look on your face earlier made it well worth it. I'd have paid a mint to see that."

There was that smile on Talia's face again. Susan felt the heat spreading across her cheeks and prayed that Talia wouldn't notice she was blushing. She ducked her head slightly to try to hide her reaction while she got it under control.

"Well, thank you again. I really appreciate it," Susan told her.

"You're welcome," Talia replied warmly, her voice reaching those husky lower registers that always hit Susan low in her belly.

Susan took a deep breath and changed the subject slightly, hoping to lighten the mood a little and distract herself from thoughts that didn't bear thinking. "So, salad and coffee. Do I get any other hints about this mystery dinner?"

"Do you need a hint?" Talia teased her, a slight smirk on her face.

'Touche,' Ivanova thought to herself. "No," she replied. "I said I would trust you. So, this is me..." Susan made a sweeping gesture with both hands before dropping them both into her lap. "Trusting." She smirked back at the blonde.

"All right, all right," Talia chuckled. "Lasagna, or a reasonable equivalent and, for desert: turtle cheesecake, or—"

"A reasonable equivalent," Ivanova finished for her. "Just tell me no real turtles were involved."

Talia chuckled at the joke. "Not that I am aware of, no. It's all quite good. I think you'll enjoy it."

"I believe you. I can feel my hips expanding as we speak," Susan joked, "but it sounds wonderful. Thank you again."

"You're welcome. Again. Talia smiled amiably at her, for a moment, but then turned serious again. "Thank you for listening, and for...trying to take my mind off things."

"Did I succeed?" Susan asked, hoping that she had, even if she didn't feel as if she'd given the blonde any solid advice about how to deal with Ambassador Kosh.

Talia smiled. "As well as anyone could have, I think."

"Good." Susan smiled back at her.

"Now, if you'll excuse me," Talia gathered up her dinner and slid off her stool to stand next to Susan's, "I should probably get going."

"Of course," Susan replied automatically, trying to ignore the mild disappointment she felt over Talia's leaving. "Have a good evening."

"You, too." Talia placed a hand on Susan's arm briefly and said sincerely, "And thank you again."

"You're welcome." Susan almost got lost in Talia's blue eyes again, but the feeling only lasted a moment, before Talia stepped back and turned toward the exit.

As Susan watched Talia walk out, she was struck by a powerful sense of... She wasn't sure what to call it, exactly. It was neither a sense of deja vu, nor was it one of seeing things from someone else's perspective, but she suddenly found herself wondering if Talia had felt this...deflated...that night at the casino, after she had left.

Susan had been enjoying the blonde's company, in spite of Talia's less than enthusiastic reception, at first, and of the concerns she brought up about Kosh and his motives, and even in spite of the occasional awkwardness Susan had felt during their conversation. In spite of the rocky start, they had quickly settled into a fairly easy exchange. Now that Talia was gone, Susan felt as if she'd taken something with her, some intangible thing Susan hadn't quite realized she was counting on until it was no longer there.

In spite of every reason she could think of for staying away from Talia Winters, and there were still valid reasons to do so, more and more often, when she was near the woman, Susan felt the now-familiar pull toward the blonde. One that was becoming harder and harder to ignore, or resist.

'I miss her,' Susan realized with some consternation. She found herself wondering, for just a moment, what might have happened if she had thought to stop Talia and ask her to stay and share the meal. And then suddenly all the questions she'd been trying to avoid about Talia Winters came flooding back to her. The only problem was: she didn't have any more answers now than she had before.

They weren't friends. Not yet, anyway. They could be, in time, and that was a prospect Susan was beginning to find more attractive than she probably should, given the circumstances.

And, yes, she found Talia attractive. Very attractive. But there was still the looming shadow of Psi Corps and, so long as Talia was tied to it—and Talia had been right when she said she didn't have many other options—Susan wasn't sure she could ever fully trust the other woman.

"We all have secrets," Talia had said, and Susan had secrets, too, but she also had things about herself that she would only willingly share with people she was very close to, and sometimes not even with them. Whether, and with whom, she shared those things was something that should be a matter of choice. Her choice.

She knew from experience that sharing an intimate connection with a telepath meant that there was always a chance that some things would slip through. Her mother had touched her mind at times when she would have preferred to keep her out, and she had learned how to keep her out, eventually. But there were also moments when she had revealed things to her mother that she hadn't meant to, things she had made no conscious choice to disclose. No matter how well-intentioned Talia might be, there would always be the chance that Talia would find out things about her that she would prefer to keep hidden. Assuming the two of them did become close, of course.

The fact that she was military and Talia was a civilian further complicated matters. Her job meant that she was honor and duty bound to keep some things to herself. Not to mention the fact that many of the things that happened on the station day to day, classified or not, were best kept on a need to know basis, and most of the station's residents and visitors did not need to know.

Susan sighed and leaned heavily against the counter. She was still no closer to an answer of what to do about Talia. Whether she should keep her distance or just let go and see how things would turn out. 'I am putting far, far too much thought into something that really shouldn't ever happen,' she thought to herself. Then some traitorous voice within her chimed in. 'If there were no interest, then there would be no reason for debate. The answer would be clear.'

Susan sighed heavily and made the effort to look around the cafe, trying to find something—anything—to distract herself from her current train of thought, but without much success. Thankfully, she only spent another minute or two going round and round about it in her head before Roberta came back out of the kitchen.

"Here you are, Lieutenant Commander. Sorry for the delay."

"That's all right," Susan replied, happy to have any distraction at the moment. Roberta put the bags containing her dinner on the counter, and pushed the cup containing her coffee toward her.

Susan couldn't resist the impulse to open it slightly and take a moment to inhale the heavenly aroma. She sighed happily and looked up at Roberta. "I could kiss you right now."

Roberta chuckled at her joke before replying, "You might want to save that for Ms. Winters."

Susan tried very, very hard not to imagine doing just that, and instead simply smirked back at the young woman while she replaced the top on her coffee cup. "Very funny."

Roberta just shrugged back at her in a way that implied she hadn't really been joking, but seemed to know better than to say so aloud. "I hope you enjoy it."

"I'm sure I will. Thank you," Susan replied as she stood up. She then gathered up her food and the coffee, and left the cafe heading for her quarters, trying to focus solely on the meal itself, and the coffee, and not on the blonde who had provided it.


By the time Ivanova was leaving the cafe, Talia had already made it to her quarters, laid her dinner out on the table, and sat down to eat. She had been trying to eat, at least, but she kept getting distracted, as she remembered parts of her conversation with Susan Ivanova.

She chewed a bite of her salad absently while she tried to process it all. Ivanova hadn't really provided her with any concrete solutions for how to deal with the situation with Ambassador Kosh, assuming there might be any ongoing issues with him. But speaking with Susan had seemed to help, in a way that speaking to the Commander and Mr. Garibaldi had not. Her concerns about the Ambassador were still there, but talking with Ivanova had calmed her, somehow. She wasn't sure how or why, exactly, but looking into Susan's eyes had caused the worst of her panic to kind of drain away. She didn't understand it, but she was very grateful for it, nevertheless.

She managed to get a few more bites down before she was again distracted by thoughts of Susan. Wondering whether she were enjoying her meal. Wondering what it might have been like to share this meal with her.

'She touched me,' Talia thought again for what must have been the tenth time, still amazed by the fact that Susan had reached out to her, and even more amazed that the other woman hadn't pulled away when Talia had touched her. Talia heaved a sigh and leaned heavily against the table, muttering to herself, "What am I? Fifteen?"

Talia was becoming frustrated with herself. it made no sense at all for her to sit here mooning over someone who... Well, Talia was no longer certain she could assume Ivanova didn't want her. In fact, the looks they had exchanged this evening seemed to imply that there was an attraction there, but that might not mean one damned thing.

Mutual attraction or not, Talia would probably be lucky to gain Ivanova's trust enough for them to become friends. Hoping for more might be foolish, at best. She was a member of Psi Corps, and Susan had an unreasoning bias against the Corps and anyone in it, even if that bias was somewhat justified by what the Corps had done to her mother.

Talia tried to push it all aside, almost laughing bitterly at the irony of it all: she was able to shield herself from the thoughts of others, most of the time, but she really had nowhere to run from her own thoughts.

She blew out a long breath, and pushed her half-eaten salad aside, for now. "Enough," she told herself firmly, resolving to focus on something—anything—else so that she could at least enjoy her lasagna while it was still warm. The rest of it could wait. Whatever may or may not be going on between her and Susan, the ball was mostly in the other woman's court, and Talia didn't want to waste any more time driving herself crazy over it. She would just have to wait and see what, if anything, would happen.

She got up, retrieved the remote before sitting back down where she could view the monitor, and pulled the container with the lasagna toward her. She then turned on the monitor and went is search for some mindless...something...to watch, hoping that she could find something that might hold her attention for an hour or two and keep her mind off a certain Russian beauty.

Talia rolled her eyes at herself over that last thought, as she thumbed idly through the available channels, before she settled on some random movie starring a human actress she was at least familiar with, and dug into her food, already looking forward to her own cup of coffee, which she was saving for after the meal.

The coffee, of course, brought her mind right back to Susan, but Talia refused to let her thoughts linger there. Talia simply hoped that Ivanova was enjoying her meal, and the coffee, and then she made a concerted effort to focus instead on the vid playing on the monitor, hoping to get lost in its plot and forget about everything else in her life, for a little while.