Category: Babylon 5, AU, Ivanova/Garibaldi, aaaaangst
Summary: Susan remains on the station after S4, and the ghosts remain at the banquet.
Spoilers: None, since it's AU, but I reference some S5 stuff. I haven't seen S5 in a bazillion years, so the references are almost certainly inaccurate.
Author's Note: The pairing and the idea are both icepixie's. I'm only posting it because of her, because the whole way through I was thinking "this is crap, and yet I cannot stop writing it." The dramatic title is thanks to Gogol, because Russia produces a lot of dramatic and angsty things.
She starts to fuck him because she's alone.
Sheridan is distant. At first, taking command, Susan worried that John wouldn't be able to let go, that he'd be looking over her shoulder and micro-managing her decisions (not that he even did that, truly, when she was his x.o.; he has trusted her with larger things than a station and a quarter-million people). It's a bit of the opposite, in reality. John is carving out the role of President while he builds up the Alliance, and she has to send three or four memos before they can even arrange a time to have a catch-up dinner together.
Franklin is there. Professionally, they all went to hell and back in the same flimsy lifeboat. Personally, she doesn't know if they were ever the sort of friends who spent time together without the company of others, and talking with him now is always shadowed by Marcus's death. Stephen explained what happened, and she still hears that whenever he speaks.
She feels like, at one point, she must have had more friends.
When she first sees Garibaldi again in person, after everything, she doesn't know what to expect of herself. She's worn out from a prolonged near-death experience and still trying to integrate all the events she missed, and maybe that's why she doesn't feel the desire to kill him.
She also doesn't feel the desire to say, "It's good to see you again," but she grits it out anyway. It isn't good to see him, because he hasn't been Michael for a long time, and he's not going to re-enlist, and his slouched posture and haunted eyes make it clear that things will never be at all the way they were.
But he stays around, and she makes time to see him. He congratulates her on her promotion and mocks her, a little, for how proud of herself she is. She asks him how things are going in his new line of work. The answer's always:
"Fine. You know. Rewarding." And sometimes, "It's good to be useful."
She feels much the same way about commanding the station. She never, ever thought she would miss the war and the burden of near-certain galactic annihilation.
They never once had sex when they were friends – honestly, Susan never really remembers thinking of him that way, except maybe once or twice when she caught a glimpse of his heated intensity from just the right angle. He was a brother, a partner in arms.
Now he's neither. After everything he did on Mars, even if it was under Bester's control, she doubts he ever can be again. She still doesn't trust him and that seems to make it easier.
He fucks her into the wall or she fucks him, push and pull, both alpha forces fighting to see who ends up on top, racing to orgasm and trying to hurt. It has been ages, ages, since she's let a man inside her, and Susan likes it when she gasps out in pain as her muscles struggle against him every step of the way.
They're in her quarters, her territory. When she falls on the bed it's familiar. The intense look he gives her is familiar, too: hunger and rage and too much emotion.
She comes first, and it's not gentle. She pours out four goddamned years into the space around her bed, imagining the station, the Vorlons, Talia, Earth, Sinclair, Clark, Sheridan, Garibaldi, Marcus, Z'ha'dum all falling down through her, and she screams for mercy.
She doesn't even notice that he came too, somewhere in there, until she feels slick wetness between her legs.
For some reason, she's smiling when she turns her head to look at him.
"You tried to kill me," he reminds her, gasping for breath, and everything inside her contracts.
If it's possible to have an opposite of romance, Susan thinks this might be it.
He disappears for weeks at a time off-station and doesn't think to let her know. They don't date. When they meet for business, it's business, and when they meet for anything else, it's sex.
Her body feels like it's waking up, like she's rediscovering it or going through puberty again or something equally distasteful. She feels ill and strange (she's not pregnant, she checked, and got an early renewal of her five-year birth control), and sometimes, in the middle of her office in C&C, she gets so goddamned horny that she wants to tear the station apart to find him and fuck him now.
They have sex more often at his place now. In a way, it feels even more like they're on her playing field there, because she decides when to leave.
Usually, not long after he starts talking.
"The Brakiri Day of the Dead festival's coming up," he says. He likes to chatter after sex. Susan finds it highly annoying – most men, in her experience, sack out completely after a good hard roll in the hay. But then, Michael has always put the extra effort in toward driving her crazy.
"Huh," she replies.
"This one guy would not stop talking my ear off about it. Apparently, if you're really lucky, you get to actually talk to one special ghost from your past." Michael snorts a bit. "I think I'll stick with a more traditional halloween."
Her mother. Her brother. Her father. Talia. Marcus.
There are too many to choose from.
For some reason, she finds herself staying longer at Michael's. She asks to borrow his shower and is surprised that it's sonic. He's not in the command staff anymore, and his new quarters in Red Sector lack those luxuries. She's surprised Sheridan didn't hook him up with something in the ambassadorial wing, given his role in the Alliance, but maybe Michael doesn't care.
She stays in the sonic beam longer than necessary, letting it peel the microscopic edges of her away.
She thinks it's a little weird that no one figures out they're having sex.
Corwin has become far less meek in his tour as her temporary-turned-possibly-permanent-if-E
It bothers her. It shouldn't; she has never longed to be the subject of gossip and always hates it when her personal life comes under any sort of public scrutiny. And yet, here she is, thoroughly annoyed that no one has made any leading guesses. In fact, the only time she ever hears anyone mention romance in the context of either one of them, is one time Sheridan wonders, probably for professional purposes, if Michael is still in "positive communication" with his special friend on Mars.
Susan isn't sure she'd care either way, actually, but for some reason, she still brings it up with him the next time they're together.
"That woman on Mars – who was she?"
He looks at her sharply over his plate of spaghetti. His eyes narrow. "Why?"
She's taken aback for a moment. "I'm not allowed to ask?"
"I don't talk to her anymore," Michael says. "I didn't really while I was there, either."
That sounds like a lie, until Susan remembers that he was, apparently, someone else in his own body for that time.
Or not. She still doesn't know the details. He was Michael, just a Michael she couldn't understand anymore – or, perhaps, she just didn't have the time to try. They were facing the end of everything, and all she knew was that he betrayed John, betrayed them, and he left.
"I'm gonna turn in early," Michael tells her after the rest of a stilted and quiet dinner.
After she leaves, she realizes it's the first time they've had dinner together without having sex.
She doesn't like it.
She invites him to her place, and given that they usually are meeting "to discuss something" or just "happen to be in the same station sector," her request is relatively formal.
She doesn't cook for him, because she doesn't cook, but she has take-out food and makes tea.
Michael smirks, presumably at her form of domesticity, but he's smart enough not to say anything out loud.
When she almost causes a kitchen fire reheating the take-out, he turns his face away from her.
"All right," she says, between curses. "You can laugh."
It's been so long, it actually startles her, and she feels a sharp pang of missing him, even when he's standing right there snickering as he helps her wave smoke toward the air recycler intake.
It's the first time she finds herself wishing that this thing they're doing was something else.
During a test of new furies, Susan experiences a sharp vertigo and a critical drop in blood pressure, and Franklin locks her up in medlab for a day and a half for an intensive battery of scans.
Given how close she came to death not long earlier, and how unconventionally she was returned to health, his caution is annoying but prudent.
When she complains bitterly about being forced to sleep in the noisy medlab of all places, and while all manner of crazy things are happening on the station (when isn't that true? he asked), Stephen drugs her.
She sleeps more soundly than she has in years, perhaps. Uninterrupted, with only the tug of something awry, like a voice that isn't her own is speaking inside her head. She can't bring it into focus through the sedatives, not enough to remember it when she's awake, but she wakes up with damp cheeks and the sense that her heart has been compressed and squeezed and drowned and then hung out to dry.
In the morning, she starts hearing the fantastical stories of lovers, enemies, parents back from the dead for a few short hours, without explanation. Franklin can't verify the cause of what he's calling a "temporary epidemic of individual hallucinations," but he can verify the sheer number of reports filed with medlab.
In the middle of all that, he pronounces her healthy and still entirely alive, just with strict orders to stay grounded to the station until her body's had a few more months to regain a true equilibrium.
Michael doesn't come to see her in medlab. She doesn't know why it feels like he should.
In fact, she doesn't see him for days.
Their rendez-vous have become more frequent. Regular. Every third night, at least, when he's on the station. Susan never thought she'd trade precious sleep for anything while running Babylon 5, but this has become just as much of a habit as setting her morning alarm and turning in for the night.
After a week and a half of him not being home when she stops by, and not being off-station accordng to Sheridan, she uses the internal sensors to find him and surprises him in an ugly little garden in Red Sector.
She hasn't been in this area for over two years. There are conference rooms and business suites down the corridor, but Susan rarely has a need to be involved in lower-level commercial dealings on the station. Even years ago, she only came to this corridor twice, both times to meet the station's former commercial telepath after she finished a meeting. It was a simpler time.
Michael doesn't look happy to see her. He doesn't ask her to leave right away, though, so she sits next to him.
"Busy working?" she asks. He does have reason to frequent this area, and not just because he lives in Red Sector now.
"It's been a slow week. Heard you got knocked around pretty good in the fighter test – you okay?"
She nods. "Stephen babysat me for a day. I think he just likes bossing people around."
Michael smirks, but there doesn't seem to be any real emotion behind it. "He's like that."
The silence stretches on awkwardly, so she hazards a guess on where the conversation should go. "I guess that Brakiri festival was just as crazy as people said."
Michael tenses obviously. "Yeah. Sorry I didn't check up on you in medlab."
"Busy?" The leading questions are coming out of her mouth without her permission. She would have cared, of course, when they were friends. When she trusted him. But now-
"Who did you see?"
Michael looks at her for the first time. "Talia," he replies.
Susan's stomach drops out.
He waves a hand at his head. "She... she understood."
Susan feels emotions churning through her – grief, rage, longing, regret, panic.
She's never asked him this before, because she doesn't want to know. "What did they do to you?"
His face screws up into something ugly. "Whatever they wanted."
They tortured him, and she didn't even try to help. There was enough of him left, of his stubbornness and pride and bitter ability to screw everything up, that Susan just believed that he really was doing all those horrible things himself.
She grabs his hand. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah," Michael says. "I think I'll be saying that the rest of my life."
One thing she knows about herself: she's clinically awful at forgiveness.
John used to joke about her ability to hold a grudge as "legendary" – and he should talk – so he's the person she seeks out.
Delenn joins them for dinner, patiently picking at a salad from the "burger joint" Susan and John chose.
John talks about the Alliance with fire in his eyes, letting his burger get cold, even going so far as sketching out some kind of seating arrangement in his mashed potatoes with his fork. Susan finds herself smiling genuinely, because he's always been that way, and really, of all of them, John should have been the one to change the most.
After twenty minutes, Delenn somehow silences him with a raised eyebrow. He grins at her and finally digs in to his food, while Delenn asks, "And you, Susan? How have you been?"
She talks a little bit about the station, about how Earth Force is determined to send her an x.o. who backed Clark out of some perverted show of unity. John offers to help her review the list of candidates, and Delenn says that while she doesn't pretend to understand internal Earth politics, bringing together both sides seems like a wise choice.
"How am I supposed to trust someone as my second who would have killed us all six months ago?"
Delenn gives her a patient smile. "You are all human."
John looks pained, but he adds, "They thought they were patriots. And President Luchenko is right. We do have to put it behind us and learn to work together."
John doesn't say anything about how it wasn't really his fault, or about getting over things. He only says, "He's the best man for the job."
She wonders if that's her reason, too.
She comes screaming half the time, clinging to bedposts or his shoulders or fists full of blanket to keep from floating away. She doesn't have to explain anything to him about who she is, where she's been, what she's done.
And when she looks forward to it, or lingers a little before taking off afterwards-
She forgets she hasn't forgiven him.
Commander Kelley is a less hateful person than she'd hoped for.
He's got a wife and baby who join him on the station, a decent sense of humor, and a solid work ethic. The first time they have a real conversation, he tells her honestly that serving here is hard for him after two years of buying in to what turned out to be propaganda, but that made him want the job all the more.
He served on the Orenco, which switched sides at the last minute. The ship's captain was killed in action and the first officer ordered the defection. According to that officer's logs, second officer Kelley had opposed the change in the previous captain's standing orders.
"I never thought I'd have to make the decision between obeying my captain and protecting Earth."
Susan tells him, "It'll be different this time. You're always right to obey my orders."
He thanks her for giving him the opportunity, as though she had anything to do with it.
"You should re-enlist," she says. It's the first time they've talked about it since the first week after he came back from Mars, and she says it while he's tracing patterns on her bare stomach in bed.
"And work for Zack?" Michael asks with a smirk.
"Earth Force is big into giving out second chances right now."
Besides, she thinks Zack would step down voluntarily, if it came to that. He has the kind of blind, permanently loyalty that is almost hard for her to understand, as though he decides something good about a person and that can never be changed.
"I burned through my second chance a few chances ago," he tells her, before ducking his head to nip gently at one of her breasts.
She swats him away. "I'm serious. You could still help Sheridan." He left because of outside forces and somehow, as long as he's out of uniform, it feels like those forces still linger.
"Why is that so important to you?" He sounds annoyed. "Too much happened. I don't want to touch that life again."
"And me?" She can't imagine herself without the military, not ever.
He grins lasciviously. "I always want to touch you."
He's the one who confesses.
Lise is the woman on Mars. He thought he'd marry her, after everything.
Talking to her was like a cold chill. They'd both been used and tricked, but they were never any good for each other.
He still loves her.
"If she showed up here, right now..."
Susan closes her eyes and wonders what the hell possesses her to ask so many questions.
Michael covers half his face with a hand. "I'd still probably choose you."
The voice in her head from the Day of the Dead is still there, sometimes, when she sleeps. She never remembers what it says, but sometimes she wakes up and forgets the war is over and that Marcus is dead.
That isn't the sort of thing she's used to sharing with people. She has told John things she never expected to tell a soul, but there was always a reason. She told secrets to Talia without reasons, but it was always balanced out by the more important things she never said.
They're having lunch – they do that now, when their schedules permit – and he's talking about some new crazy invention Stephen's cooking up, when she says,
"Marcus killed himself for me."
Her heart is pounding. To his credit, Garibaldi doesn't ask how she made that conversational leap, and in public, no less.
She remembers playing with dolls while her mother watched, with no idea that Sophie Ivanova's final decision was already made. She wonders how long before her accident Marcus had decided that he'd die for her, if necessary.
Marcus waited for her, and he died.
She wants to reach out her hand for Michael's, to deal with one less horrible thing alone, but that stops her. Marcus waited for her. She feels like she should wait for him.
When she thinks she might pass out from not speaking, she turns it back on Garibaldi, and hopes he won't deflect it. She craves an exchange of emotion, even if it's not emotions about each other.
"What did Talia say to you?"
Michael shifts in his chair, glances around him, and takes a sip of water. He looks at his hands.
"She said..." he trails off. "Lots of stuff. Wishful thinking, anyway."
"Doesn't sound like it was." She's heard the horror stories, though no one has told her everything. She gets the sense only that every encounter was intensely and bitterly private.
Michael kicks the leg of an unoccupied chair at their table. "She's dead. Isn't that enough?"
She takes it out of Kelley's hide for bringing his baby to C&C for the view (unauthorized, distracting, dangerous) and then feels like a total heel for the rest of the day for making an eighteen-month-old cry.
She tells Garibaldi as she arrives in his quarters to a plate of ravioli he's saved for her since she's a few hours later than expected.
He laughs. "You've got the touch, Ivanova."
She should laugh with him, because it's funny, but she's too pent up with thoughts that won't go away. She pokes at her ravioli and wishes she weren't the sort of person who always worries raw wounds.
"What do you know about the telepaths in Down Below?"
Not surprisingly, even though he's no longer chief of security, he knows more about what they're doing down there than anyone.
For both of them, telepaths have always meant trouble.
Something he says about the Corps using every advantage tweaks a thought that's been formulating in her brain ever since Michael wouldn't tell her what happened on the Brakiri holiday.
"Did the Corps use Talia to choose you?"
"They didn't use her," Garibaldi clarifies sharply. "Any information they took from what was left of her wasn't Talia's doing."
Susan remembers that Michael had always seemed to cast Talia in the role of damsel in distress. It makes sense that he would protest her guilt, even if it weren't a mirror for his own.
Michael slams his hand down on the table. "Dammit, Susan. You know what she said to me? She said all she wanted was for people to remember her, not what happened to her. When she died she was someone else. She said it's hard enough for her to remember who she is, who she was, and she was actually relieved when they killed her. And you know what? I know exactly what she meant."
Susan's heart breaks, and she doesn't know who it's for, for the woman she loved, or for him, or if, in this case, there's any difference.
She draws him into a hug. Instead of shoving her off, he squeezes his arms around her back until it hurts.
They leave the dishes and crawl into bed. All they do is fall asleep.
She leaves her post in the middle of the day to find him. He's in her quarters still from that morning, putting together some information for a meeting.
"Psi Corps is coming," she says without preamble. "I got a communique a few minutes ago."
His eyes darken. If she didn't know him so well, she'd think he was about to kill the messenger.
The word almost chokes in her throat. "Bester. I thought you should know. If you want to get off the station, or-"
He shakes his head slowly.
They both knew it was only a matter of time, with the rogue telepaths on board and with their luck.
She knows that Garibaldi is going to try to kill him.
"I will try to protect you, whatever happens," she promises, instead of telling him to refrain from committing cold-blooded murder on her station. She understands these things.
Still, she doesn't want him to die. She feels that fear with an urgency in her chest – that everything that was just starting to work right in her life again after the war will come crashing down if he dies, too.
They've both burned through so many second chances in their lives already, but this is working, even if officially, it isn't anything at all.
"If we live through this..." she says, and stops short when she can't breathe enough to finish that sentence.
The rage cools from Michael's face, just for a moment, but it's enough.
"If we live through this," he says, "I'll make you dinner."
She works up just enough faith in the universe to believe him.