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First Step

By Xavier

Commander Susan Ivanova took a deep, calming breath as she came to stop in front of the door. To say that she was nervous was an understatement, she was terrified. She ran a hand through her thick mane of dark brown hair, making sure that no strands were sticking out, then she smoothed out the front of her black silk shirt to the hem that was tucked into a pair of dark colored slack.

This is ridiculous, just ring the bell already.

Ivanova took one more deep breath, pressed the chime on the panel located just beside the door and waited for the response.

She had asked the station's resident telepath out for dinner the day before after so long of being so hostile toward her. She had been so afraid of what could happen if she opened her heart to the beautiful woman, Talia Winters was still, after all, a Psi-Corps telepath. What had happened to her mother had etched strongly into her mind and memories that she could not bring herself to be friendly with the telepath, until something had changed.

After their clashes over the future of a young telepath named Allisa Beldon had offered them a chance for friendship, tentatively as that may be. Even then, the Commander was still pretty much closed off to Ms. Winters, though she had not been as openly hostile towards her as she had been in the beginning, which was definitely an improvement. But it was not enough to change anything for Ivanova, however.

What had made her turn 180 was what happened a few weeks ago, when she got injured in the middle of a riot. She had been in the brown sector after someone provided the information of some illegal activities, it was Michael Garibaldi, the Security Chief's job really, but he was short handed and she had been so bored, so she volunteered. And she got more than she bargained for.

When what should have been just an arrest on some lurkers, which should have gone down quickly and rather easily turned out to be a major gun fight. Everything went down so fast and before she knew it she had been hit and seriously injured. The injury followed with intensive operation, which most doctor thought that she would not make it through.

During the time when she was in between consciousness and unconsciousness, the time when she could see her whole life right before her eyes. She experienced her memories, both happy and unhappy, but more than that.

She had seen what could have been, particularly with one person. Her thought had been centered on Talia Winters.

The wishful thinking, what she had recognized as something she had dreamt of.

So, as soon as she got the clearance from Doctor Franklin she went ahead to find the telepath for the purpose of asking her out. And to her surprise, the telepath had not said no like she had been afraid of, even after all the way she had treated her.

Losing in her own thoughts Ivanova almost missed the admission from the interior.

Talia had been puttering about her own small quarters for the past hour and a half. It had come to her as a big surprise when the second in command of the station walked up to her and asked if she could have a seat when there were so many other places she could sit in the cafe. And what was more shocking than the fact that Commander Susan Ivanova actually asked to join her for a cup of coffee was when she asked her out on a dinner date. Right then, Talia thought she was going to pass out, but she didn't.

She also knew that she must have looked like a fish caught out of the water, by opening and closing her mouth several times before she could accept the invitation.

She and the Commander had not had the best of relationships going. Since the first minute they've met, Susan Ivanova had been openly hostile toward her. Talia had thought that it was very unfair on the Commander part, just because something that had happened she had condemned all telepaths and refused to get to know her as an individual. She had tried, however, to be friends with her. To let her know that not all telepaths are as bad as she thought, but the Russian had never open up to her.

And now for some unknown reason, Ivanova decided to ask her out for dinner and still Talia felt as if it was just a dream and she could wake up from it at any moment now. For the fourth time, the telepath stood before the vanity mirror in her sleeping chamber and made sure that everything was in place, that her service pin was right where it should be, and her earrings were straight and her make up was just right. She wanted to look good enough to be with Susan Ivanova this night.

Suddenly, the door chime startled her, she was too occupied to notice that there was someone in front of her door, and quickly she uttered permission for the visitor to enter.

Like she had hoped, it was Commander Susan Ivanova.

Ivanova was looking at her shoes as the door slid open to admit her inside, upon looking up her eyes met the picture perfect Talia Winters.

The telepath was dressing in black, shimmering gown that came to stop slightly below her knees, the gown hugged her slim figure beautifully. Her fair hair swept up, leaving her neck bare. Simple elegant earrings adorned both her delicate lobes, the telepath wore a small, fine gold chain around her pale neck. Ivanova opened her mouth in desire to deliver some clever line, but nothing came out, instead she said. "Hi."

The telepath couldn't help but smiled at that, she had never thought that the Commander could ever be at a lost for words, but here she was standing in the door way to her quarters, speechless.

"Are you ready?" Ivanova asked after much need few minutes to compose herself.

"Yes," Talia replied, smiling nervously.

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"You look beautiful."

"Thank you."

The telepath was blushing a delicate shade of pink, and she wondered why, it was just the same compliment that she received on the day to day basis, both telepathically and verbally. It's the person, Talia thought to herself. Coming from anyone else that would have annoyed her. Most people looked at her as a catch, a difficult one that would be worth writing home about, a trophy of some sort. But coming from the Commander it was said with such sincerity that Talia's body could not help but respond on its own accord.

Talia lowered her head, looking mostly at the floor in front of her. She occasionally stole glances at the woman who was standing beside her. Ivanova was standing at her full height, her long, chestnut brown hair was down, a very rare sight. She was wearing a black silk shirt, the first two button was undone, offering the telepath a view of her collarbone and a small fine chain around her neck, upon which a small gold medallion hung.

Ivanova was well aware of the glances from the telepath, but she was too nervous to say anything. Talia looked beautiful in her form fitting dress, she had thought that the telepath looked stunning in her day to day clothing, but this... This was more than she could take.

She didn't know what she was hoping for when she asked Talia to dinner, but she knew she certainly did not expect this.

"I...I'm.." She started, wanting to break the silence. "Thank you for not turning me down."

Talia gave her a small smile, she couldn't believe what Ivanova had just said, turn her down? She would never turn Susan Ivanova down, she could not imagine anyone who would turn the beautiful, mysterious Russian Commander down had she asked them out on a date, no she couldn't think of one, least of all, herself.

"Oh... that was never a choice, Susan." Talia husked.

Ivanova stared at the beautiful woman in front of her, tried to contemplate what she meant by there was never a choice. Had she, somehow, given the telepath no choice in the matter? She opened her mouth, intended to apologize if she had unintentionally given Ms. Winters no choice.

"No, Susan." Talia interrupted. "That was not what I mean." She lightly placed her gloved hand on the Commander's forearm, wanting to reassure her.

Susan looked at the hand that was placed on her arm and looked up at the telepath's face, there was a soft, sincere smile adorning her full, red lips, so she smiled back and placed her own bare hand over the gloved one. Just as she was about to offer something in return, the transporter tube came to stop and announced that they had now reached their destination.

The door slid open to let them out and Ivanova took her companion's hand and placed it on her elbow, then she led their way out.

Talia was surprised when the Commander did not pull away from her touch, nor did she shy away from her. Something was going on and she wondered what. But whatever it was that made the Commander change her mind and finally befriended her, she never wanted it to end.

The telepath was even more surprised, and charmed when Ivanova took her gloved hand and placed it on her elbow. Talia felt herself being pulled closer as they made their way into the Red Sector, their destination, Fresh Air.

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The Commander stood at the entrance of the restaurant, as the waiter looked through the reservation list in front of her, unconsciously, she tucked the blonde telepath closer to her as she stood slightly in front of you as if to protect her from prying eyes, a possessive gesture that she, herself did not recognize, but Talia certainly did.

"This way, please." The young waiter gestured for them to follow him inside the establishment.

The Commander felt the hand on her arm be joined by the other and she gave them a small, unconscious pat as they were led to their reserved table in a quiet and discrete corner. The waiter placed two menus in front of them as he recited the list of specials of the day for them and offered a selection of wine. And Ivanova leaned back in her chair as she indicated the telepath to choose as she pleased.

After they gave the selection of wine and the meals, the young man left to place their orders, leaving them alone.

"How did you get the reservation so quick? This place usually take weeks to get the reservation, not to mention you could get cancel at anytime."

"Command privilege," Ivanova said, grinning.

Talia tilted her head to the side slightly, "I didn't know you could pull rank in something like this."

Her comment was rewarded by a deep, rich chuckled from the second in command of the station and Talia was delighted. She couldn't believe she would get to see this side of the woman that had made it clear to her from the beginning that a friendship with her was not something she could ever hope for.

Ivanova leaned over and looked around in a playful conspiratory gesture, her voice deep and low as she told the telepath how she threatened the manager of the establishment, that she would personally escort him to the airlock that had his name written on it, and how quick it was that the man complied to her polite, if not a little threatening request. So here they were at one of the best tables in the house.

Talia laughed lightly, she could just imagine it now, the Commander in her formidable self, stood at the console in her office and made a threat, looking down at the man, all the while using the atmosphere to its best advantage. The telepath herself had seen it happened and had been at the receiving end of the fury, and she knew there was no one that was going to decline that request made by this woman. Not when there was the prospect of a space walk without the benefit of a spacesuit and to get up close and personal with the outer hull of the station.

"Commander," Talia faked a look of surprise disapproval as she leaned back in her chair, with a hand on her chest. "I am disappointed in your behavior. I think I will have to report this to the Captain"

"Nope, you can't do that." Ivanova said with a devilish grin on her face. "Now that you are my accomplice, you can't tell anyone about this."

She laughed at the startled look on the telepath's face, even though she knew that Ms. Winters was only faking it to go along with her. Susan opened her mouth to offer something more, but stopped as the waiter chose that moment to show up with their orders.

Susan picked up the fork, looking at the food, the good thing about this place was that the food was fresh, as fresh as being on the space station allowed it to be, and she could be certain that they did not drag the ingredients from the recycling bay like some she suspected some other, lower rank restaurants on the station certainly had, she could tell from the taste. Watching her companion who was sitting across from her, she decided that even though the price of this place was slightly too high it was all worth it.

She had never seen Talia Winters so relaxed, enough that she allowed her cool, professional mannerisms to fade away and let the innocence and warmth of her true-self show through. And Susan felt her heart catch. She, like most of the people on the station with eye could see that the station's commercial telepath was beautiful. But the beauty that they saw was that of an ice-queen, the carefully constructed mask that kept people away at arm length.

And now that she had a chance to see the mask had been dropped, she understood why the telepath had to keep the cold exterior like she did, had anyone else seen this side of her, this relax manner and warm smiles, Ms. Winters would have turned into the most sought after woman on the station. Ivanova felt so honored to be allowed to see such a change on that lovely face.

The Commander did not spend half of her attention with her food in front of her, all her concentration was on the lovely woman right now. She watched and traced each line of her face with her eyes, the beautiful shades of fire flicker, color reflected on her creamy skin.

How could I rejected her all those time? She wondered.

The saddest thing that occured to her was that, had it not been because of the incident that almost took her life she would have still rejected the telepath just as she had been doing all through the first year of her being on the station.

Talia had also been very aware of her companion's presence and her gaze that seemed to reached deep inside of her, she had held a tight rein of her talent, she did not want to ruin what was a perfect evening because she had unintentionally read the woman's surface thoughts. Though she had wanted to say something, wanted to know what she was thinking.

Ivanova was looking very beautiful to her right about now, very strong and capable in way she was handling herself. She had also been observing the dark Russian underneath her lashes, though she had not been as obvious as Susan had been. Talia knew that this was just the beginning, both of them were stepping into some unknown territory here, and it could easily turn in any direction and the evening that had started so beautifully could turn into a complete catastrophe. Especially when Talia didn't really know what Susan Ivanova was looking for.

Feeling the silent stretching far too long, Talia did what she was trained to do, breaking the silent and make a small, if a little uncertain, conversation.

By the time their meal were done and coffee was being placed in front of them, both were very relaxed and joking like they had been getting along from the beginning.

"I think we should go." Susan murmured as soon as she took a look at her time piece. "It's getting late and I think that guy had been pleading with his eyes for us to leave an hour ago."

Talia laughed aloud and agreed with her.

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Here they were, at one of the late-night establishment of the station. Most places had already closed for the evening, but a steady stream of patrons entered the Blackhole as the evening continued into night. Susan Ivanova was leaning against the bar, waiting for the drinks she had ordered. Normally she would not be here, she preferred a place where it was less crowded and a little quieter than this, but this place had a rather large dance floor that dominated a good one third of the place, and she thought that some dancing after dinner would be a good idea.

Looking across the room, at one of the more discrete corner, she watched the telepath sitting with her long legs crossed, the cut on the side of her dress was high enough to effort the glimpse of her, stocking covered thigh. Her fair head tilted slightly to the side, seemingly enjoying herself.

This evening was going to be perfect, Susan thought to herself, and for the first time she wasn't worried about how Talia was going to read her mind, if she was going to find out with just a touch that she could be a latent telepath. The warning that her mother had placed in her head did not pop up once, the voice in her head didn't try to scare her away from the beautiful woman she desired.

Talia looked back at the bar, and saw that the Commander was starting to make her way back to where she was sitting. The telepath was truly enjoying herself, no one tried to bother her, no one was trying to pick her up like every time she wanted to mingle in the crowd, this, no doubt was because of who her companion tonight was. Talia watched people, a mass of bodies moving about, some danced with the music some where just there observing, she let herself be pulled into the atmosphere and the table they chose allowed her enough proximity that she would not be bothered by surface thoughts and emotions.

It was the Commander's idea to stay away from the crowd, and Talia appreciated the thoughtful gesture.

"Here's your ginger ale."

Susan placed the glass on the table and slid it over to the telepath as she took her seat with her own drink in hand.

"Thank you," the telepath murmured as she took a sip.

The dark Russian swallowed reflectively as she watched red, full lips wrap around the straw as the telepath sucked innocently. The image sent a pleasantly tingly sensation from the tip of her fingers to the lower region of her body. It took almost all of her willpower not to do what her body wanted, demanded her to do. Shut up, Susan chastised herself and wondered how could such an ordinary gesture looked so alluring.

"I hope this place isn't too crowded for you," Susan offered. "With you being close proximity telepath and all."

"No, this is fine, Susan." Talia gave her a sweet smile, getting used to the feel of the Commander's first name roll off of her tongue, and she found that she very much liked how it sounded. "Do you come here often?"

"No," Ivanova shook her head mutely. She was trying to decide if she should make the next move and ask Talia for a dance. She was more than a bit reluctant over the choice she was going to make, fast beat music like this wasn't her type and she very much didn't like to be bumped up against by anyone and she definitely did not like the prospect of anyone tried to bump up against Talia Winters. With the thoughts came the scenario...

Oh no, there's an image I don't need, some creep trying to cope a feel of Talia.

There the Commander had gotten into some fist fight with a drunk who had tried to grind up against her date and she dragged her out by the collar and gave him a few good smacks before he went and got his friends to come in and help. Then the whole place broke into one big fight, people on the side, some were cheering, some shouting for the fight to stop, most were cheering for her to beat the creep up. Broken chairs, glasses were on the floor, shattered to pieces. The whole place was trashed by the end of the fight, medical teams were running in...

And the next morning, reports and complaints were on Captain Sheridan's desk and he put that on her otherwise spotless record...

"Are you all right?"

The soft, husky voice brought her out of the scenario that her imagination had actively drawn up for her. "Ah, yeah. I was just thinking... Would you like to dance?"

A bright smile broke over the serene features of Talia's face, "I'd love to." And Ivanova reached out a hand as she stood up.

Just then she back into someone that stood right behind her.

"Hey, watch where you're going!"

The voice was distinctively male, Ivanova did not spare him a single glance, instead she mumbled her apology and intended to just walk away from the little accident. But the man didn't seen to think the same way.

He grabbed for her and pulled her close to his face, he was slightly taller than the Commander's near six feet frame. He thrust his face close to hers, the alcohol on his breath telling her that he was totally drunk. Of course, no one in their right mind would ever lay a hand on the capable second in command of Babylon 5.

"You made me spill my drink and you think you can just walk way?!"

That was the worst mistake the man would ever dream of doing.

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"Ow!"

"Are you all right?"

Talia carefully applied the cold wash cloth to the bloodied lip, slowly cleaning the blood away. "Maybe we should take you to the MedLab." She said worriedly.

"No," Susan mumbled, tried not to move her lips too much. "It's nothing."

After the man had grabbed her by the collar and threw the first punch, Ivanova dodged it easily and threw one of her own. That started the whole scenario that she had drawn in her mind earlier and the end result was just the same as she imagine, except the report part, because she wasn't the one that started the whole thing. And since the drunk had been beaten to his knees by the Commander, she was sure that he would not be able to drag his drunken-self to make any complaint against her.

And here they were, in the Commander's quarters right after Susan decided that she had enough fun for the night and grabbed Talia by the hand and practically ran out of the place before the security team respond to the call.

"I'm sorry the evening turned out to be such a mess."

Talia pressed the cloth slightly harder to get the dried blood off of the Russian's face. "There's nothing to be sorry about, Susan. It was not your fault that happened." Her voice was deep and caressingly husky.

"Ow!" Susan exclaimed again as the telepath passed the cloth over where the sensitive area was, she gave Talia a childish version of a leer. And Talia chuckled softly leaning in and pressed a soft kiss on her cheek.

"Better?"

"Um... this too." Susan pointed at her other cheek, indicated that if the telepath was going to kiss her better, then both should receive the equal attention.

"Oh, of course."

Talia placed another kiss on her other cheek and Ivanova thought. Well, didn't turn out so bad after all.

"I promise the next time will be better."

"Promise?"

"Promise, cross my heart hope to die, stick a needle in my eye." Susan made a child-like gesture of a cross over her heart and a deep, husky laughter filled the room.

No, not so bad at all.

 


"Delta leader to delta wings, show's over. Let's collect the stragglers and return to base." ( Signs and Portents )