By Leyenn


PAIRING: Susan/Talia

CATEGORY: Challenge answer for Multifandom1000 ('Endings') and LastBestHope's Christmas challenge.

SPOILERS: Lochley, and it's somewhere around the same time as Crusade, but different.

SUMMARY: A new year beckons.

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Fifteen fandoms and you'd think I'd get lucky at least once...

ARCHIVE: Want, Take, Tell.


She isn't sure what brought her here. The crowds drove her out of the Zocalo before midnight, but she could be standing in any number of places that half the station doesn't even know about. Instead she's here. The stars are shining out at her through the window, she has no alcohol, and she's lonely as hell.

She misses wanting to be down there among the crew, the hard clap of hands on her shoulder and the strange mix of drinks in the bar. Knowing she was safe to get drunk out of her mind, because she was the Commander and it was kind of expected at least once a year. Because no one in their right mind who was still sober enough to lie down and not need to hang on would try anything, crewman or otherwise, and she'd never been the type to flirt with her workmates anyway.

Right now, she could name twenty of them at least - sitting down in Earhart's, running up the most extortionate tab of the year. Twenty, at least.

And number twenty-one: Elizabeth Lochley. Captain Elizabeth Lochley.

The decisions were all made, of course, long before now. Long before tonight, she knew she'd be standing here with tomorrow in the way and waiting, with another someone standing behind and in her place, with another command and another crew nearly hers. She pretended not to care, to everyone but herself.

"Almost everyone."

She doesn't need to turn. A smile quirks at her lips. "Almost."

Blonde hair frames a reflection in the window; bare fingers trace around the rail behind her until she feels Talia's hand on her back.

"You should be upset, Susan."

She smiles into the window. "Well, that's a promising start."

Warm hands slip over her shoulders; a caress down her arms and then a warm embrace around her, soft hands clasped gently beneath her breasts. "You wanted this. Don't try and tell me you didn't."

"I always figured it'd be me, sooner or later."

"You weren't the only one, you know."

It becomes a grin; she can't decide, for a moment, if that's Talia's silky pressure whispering at the back of her mind. "I hope you had good odds."

"I was betting on something better." Phantom fingertips brush past her hair for soft lips - real and heated - to press a kiss to her neck. "And I had very good odds on this, a lot of years ago."

Now she's close to laughing, and it's definitely Talia's doing. "I'm married to a rich woman, then?"

"You'd be surprised."

They cast a strange reflection in this window, the one she's seen through so often and so much. She still isn't used to the brown and black and deep green and blue of the Anla'Te'ker, and especially not on her own frame. Especially not here. Stranger still is the tickle of blonde hair on black-clad shoulders, and knowing what uniform she'll see when she turns around.

"I suppose I've got one of those waiting?"

Talia laughs, chin rested on her shoulder and the breath of it tickling her ear. "I've been cleaning around yours for years now."

"I don't get a present?" She adds a pout because she knows what it'll get her, and it doesn't disappoint. Talia runs a hand down her stomach and nips a kiss at the nape of her neck.

"Mmm, perhaps I can find something." And then something floats into her vision, the way that should worry her that she accepts so easily. Talia is smiling at her in the window and lifting an eyebrow that says it would be more than idiocy to fear what she knows so well. She plucks it out of the air as Talia wraps a playful hand across her thigh; holds the box in place while the other tips up the lid for her to see.

It would be unrecognisable to almost anyone, but she knows the feel of the metal almost instantly. Knows the sheen of copper-bronze in the chain and the clean line of the silver that frames, as intricately as that of the emblem they've worn all these last four years, a dull penny cracked in half.

Talia lets go as she spins, knowing what she needs to see. Knowing that she needs to say how there isn't enough of it, what happened to the rest; and there it is, lying proud at the collar of solid black trimmed in silver.

And she should hate to even touch it, and she should hate to see it there, and all she can think as Talia's eyes tell her that she's fastening the clasp and she feels it press fabric against her skin is that they're free.

And she will wear this forever and be buried in it when she has to, because it will never wear her.

There's a hand in her hair by now, a finger trailing the chain and watching her smile. "Merry Christmas, Susan."

"Happy Hanukkah," she corrects, by rote.

Talia shrugs it off, by rote, and her fingertip presses the penny. "Here's to a beautiful new year," as her mind floods Susan's like a ghost wind and she forgets ever wanting anything more than this.

She laughs and dives into a passionate kiss, instantly returned. "I'll go with that."


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