So. Talia/Garibaldi UST.
first part, posted way back when (spoilers for first-season episode 'voice in the wilderness')
five... six... seven...
Talia is sitting down the hall from Karl Mueller's medical cell, far enough out of her usual telepathic range to keep from sensing anything, and trying to remain calm. Out of habit, she's twenty minutes early for her appointment. Usually she takes this time to feel out the crannies and echoes of the room before she has to start scanning people, but there isn't much chance of that in this case.
Despite the disruption of her routine, she's all right with that. She can do with this particular scan being a little less sharp than most. Given the furious way Mueller exploded at his sentencing and the grisly murder details she learned before being drafted into service in this case, Talia can't imagine anything could dull this scan enough for her liking.
Garibaldi. Talia takes one more deep breath and then puts her zen-inspired relaxation technique on hold -- Garibaldi isn't someone who tends to disappear as a result of being ignored.
"Yes?" Her tone sounds almost snappish to her ears, but she doesn't apologize. She's here to do a difficult job; being friendly is an extraneous effort she can't currently afford.
Garibaldi's eyes flick down to her altered Psi Corps badge, never missing a detail. She wonders, with an edge of cruelty, why that ability to notice any subtle change doesn't seem to extend to other human beings, to recognizing discomfort and then adjusting his attitude accordingly. For example, her discomfort at the conference with the ombuds, when he so casually requested that she violate Earth and Psi Corps laws and endanger her own mental sanity to satisfy his vengeful curiosity about the serial killer she's about to scan.
Or maybe he did notice. Garibaldi might be so used to giving orders to subordinates and interrogating suspects that he's out of practice respecting a boundary when he finds one.
It's also possible that it's not his fault at all, and that she's being unfair. She might be better at hiding the extent of her feelings than she thinks she is.
"Did you need something, Mr. Garibaldi?"
She isn't upset with him, or, if she is, it's unwarranted. There's no way for him to know exactly how much it took out of her to wander around in a serial killer's mind the first time she was assigned to a case like this, or how much she fears having to do so again.
It isn't Garibaldi's fault, but he frightened her. He has a violent streak in him, perhaps deeper and more desperate than she had initially thought. She doesn't yet know what to make of that.
Garibaldi pours her a mug of coffee from the tray behind him and holds it out. "Are you ready for this?" he asks.
No, she wants to say, because that's what it feels like. She isn't built for this.
"Of course," she replies instead, head high. It she has no choice in the matter -- which she doesn't -- she might as well face her fears with as much dignity as possible. Talia resists the urge to touch her badge to make sure the black ribbon is still there -- like that is the source of her show of strength.
She waves away the offered coffee. Unfazed, Garibaldi starts to drink it himself.
"You want me to go in with you?"
For a moment, she really does. She's fairly certain that, if Mueller moves to attack her, Garibaldi will pull a weapon faster than anyone else.
However, the more likely attack she'll be facing won't be one visible to the naked eye. Talia thinks that, instead of helping, Garibaldi's thoughts and emotions in the room might only end up distracting her.
Rather than getting into a discussion she never really wants to have about why he presents more of hazard to her psychic stability than any of the other guards, she scoffs, "I can handle it."
He makes a worried face, but doesn't press her. "I've got some things to take care of anyway. I'll catch up with you later." And then, as an afterthought, instead of the good luck she expects, "Good hunting."
Talia bristles at that, although she knows it's meant well.
"We're ready for you, Ms. Winters," one of the guards announces, not giving her a chance to recenter herself.
That's all right, she decides. Annoyed and a bit high-strung is probably better for a court-ordered criminal scan than relaxed, anyway.
She doesn't know if he was looking for her or not, but Garibaldi finds her in the Zocalo. It's nearly 0200, far later than she's normally awake, and certainly later than she's normally out. The energy in the casino and other public areas of Babylon 5 changes when the majority of the people are past the pleasant point of intoxication, and it's not a change Talia Winters usually enjoys.
She does her best not to show it, but it's good to see someone she knows.
He smirks like she's made some kind of joke, but his eyes are worried. "You okay? I don't think I've ever seen you around here at night before."
She doesn't know if his observation is based on an actual mental tally of her usual movements around Babylon 5 -- something that's entirely possible when dealing with Michael Garibaldi -- or because she looks so out of place at a table on the edge of the Darkstar, nursing a red wine in a room full of hard liquor.
However, at this hour, there aren't too many public areas -- at least in the human sections of the station -- still full of people. Most of the time, Talia deals with nightmares like she deals with everything -- quietly -- but then, most of her nightmares have been simmering for years. With something as fresh as this afternoon's scan of Karl Mueller still making her feel less than human, she feels like she needs the white noise of others' thoughts around her to distract her.
There's a total lack of ulterior motive in Garibaldi's face, only concern, so she tells him some of the truth. "Can't sleep," she admits. "You must get that sometimes, too, dealing with people like that."
She doesn't miss that his eyes slide down to the drink in her hands. "Yeah, I do. Hard not to."
She nods toward the empty chair at the table, and he sits down.
"Mueller's dead, you know. He escaped and... friend of the Doc's in Down Below did him in. Self defense."
Talia shudders at the revelation that he was free for any length of time, fiercely grateful that he hadn't come after her to make her another voice in his murdered choir, as he'd threatened. It takes her another moment to realize that, even now that he's dead, she feels no sympathy for him.
She's not sure she wants to, not in this way, but she understands Garibaldi a little more.
"You're still not happy," she observes.
"Still more than he deserved." He frowns. "I am sorry that you had to get mixed up in this. If there was another way-"
She waves off his apology. It doesn't really sound forced, and she suspects it took quite a bit for him to fully realize why she was so reluctant, but what's done is done. "I'll be all right."
A glass shatters somewhere else in the club, surrounded by a few raised voices, and she flinches.
Garibaldi goes to touch her arm, but pulls back before making contact. "You want to go for a walk?"
She surprises herself by saying yes.