Author’s Note: Co-written with Medie for fandom_stocking a couple of years ago.
She was beautiful when she was sleeping. Of course, to his eyes, Susan Ivanova was always beautiful, even when she was doing her utmost to conceal the fact. Still, there was something quite profound about seeing her like this: the cares of the day shed and, with them, all the lines and angles that hardened her face in the waking hours. She looked like an angel.
Well, he certainly couldn’t have that. Smiling impishly, the intruder in Susan’s quarters leaned over the sleeping captain and said softly but mischievously in her ear: “Boo!”
Susan surged to consciousness in a swift, hard, snap. Stiff with tension, she stared through the darkness at her cabin wall.
For a moment, she wasn’t certain she’d heard what she thought that she had. Except — “Marcus?”
“Oh, bollocks,” the figure hovering over her bed complained, grinning like the maniac he was. “I was rather hoping for a scream. Should’ve known better, I suppose, but hope springs eternal.”
Susan flopped onto her back, staring up at him with muted astonishment. Astonishment because, yes, there was indeed a spirit hovering above her bed. Muted because, well, it was obvious that such a thing would be happening. Things had been far too normal for far too long and she might have known it would happen.
One never could truly escape Bablyon 5 and its magnetic effects.
“Perhaps you should have appeared naked,” Susan said, her tone bland. “It would have been truly horrifying.”
Marcus’ eyes widened. If possible, his madman’s smile got even bigger. “Is that a suggestion?” He popped out of existence, but only for an instant, reappearing a heartbeat later now sitting on the foot of the bed…in the nude. “How’s that? Better?”
Susan clapped a hand over her eyes. “I wasn’t SERIOUS.” If she had any questions as to his identity, that stunt certainly put answer to them. “Marcus, other than arranging an early introduction to hell, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve absolutely no idea,” was the cheerful answer. “The last thing I remember is, well, dying, naturally. And considering I never really gave much credence to the notion of an afterlife, I’m probably as surprised as you are.” He laughed. “Not that I’m not enjoying myself immensely.”
Naturally Marcus would be a cheerful spirit. “Technically, you’re not dead,” Susan said, nearly choking on the words. It was true, in a manner of speaking. Should Stephen find a way, Marcus might be revived. She swallowed, trying for a cheerfully sarcastic tone. “Which means it’s more likely that this is purgatory. For you, at least.”
“Why should it be purgatory when I can imagine no fairer heaven than an eternity by your side?” was the melodramatic answer, melodramatically answered. She opened one eye cautiously to peek at him–fully clothed again, thank G-d–and he grinned back at her. “Oh Captain, My Captain.”
Susan groaned. “Purple language and bad poetry? It must be you.” Pulling the thin blanket closer, she watched him. “You really don’t know why you’re here?”
She remembered a report about an incident on Babylon 5 (of course) but doubted this had anything to do with it. The Brakiri Day of the Dead was over and, at any rate, they had no Brakiri on board to complicate matters.
No, this was something else entirely.
“None whatsoever. Not that I’m complaining.” Marcus stretched out, leaning back on the empty air as if lounging in a recliner. “Except I did rather hope you’d be a little happy to see me.”
“Of course I am,” Susan said, giving him a disgusted look. “It’s just — difficult.” Not that it should have been. Aliens, First Ones, old friends resurrecting from the dead, why not from temporary suspended animation? “I’m not accustomed to spectral peeping Toms.”
“A fellow can’t help where he materializes,” Marcus protested in a voice of mock (she hoped) injury. He smirked again. “Though if you’d prefer a spectral paramour, I’d be more than happy to oblige.”
“Of course you would.” With a smile, Susan inched forward on the bed. “However, you’re going to have to remain perpetually disappointed.”
“Eternally, even.” He let out a long-suffering sigh. “You’re a hard woman, Susan Ivanova. Don’t suppose it would help if I said it isn’t necrophilia if the dead party is conscious?” At her cold look he shrugged. “No, didn’t think so. Ah, well. On the bright side, at least I shan’t know what I’m missing.”
Susan folded her arms. “Even in quasi-death you’re incorrigible, Marcus. You really came all this way just to flirt?”
“Flirt?” he tried to sound indignant but his eyes were twinkling too much to make it convincing. “The doomed soul bridges time, space and death to spend one last night in the arms of his beloved? Why, it’s in the finest romantic traditions. Though, granted,” he amended quickly. “In those it’s far more likely the woman who died a virgin.”
She grinned at that. “You’re not dead, remember? Just temporarily out of action.” A disturbing thought occured to her and she looked at him with suspicion. “Do you think you might have — because of THAT?”
The idea seemed to intrigue him. “In the ‘and then I can die happy’ sense? Well, it would certainly be true, and very kind of the Universe to go out of its way to grant one man’s humble wish.” He looked at her, and for probably the first time since she’d met him, he was serious. “I won’t ask for anything you’re not willing to give, though.”
Susan’s grin widened. “You’re a spirit. It doesn’t seem like there’d be much that you could do otherwise.” The mechanics of it certainly presented a challenge, but with the Universe, Susan had learned not to argue. She leaned forward with the intent of kissing him. “But we can give it a shot.”
When after a long moment, Susan still felt nothing, she opened her eyes to see him just looking at her rather forlornly. “When I said ‘willing’, I suppose I should have just been honest and said ‘wanting.’ You know what I feel for you, Susan. It’s a good deal more than one night granted out of pity would ever satisfy. If you don’t feel the same…I think I’d be better off as I am.”
With her most creative of curses, one her father would have been scandalized by, Susan leveled a glare at him. “Would I ever kiss someone if I didn’t mean it?”
Marcus looked shocked, then elated. “You mean…truly?”
“MARCUS!” Susan snapped. “OF COURSE!” She was tempted to dive for him, but of course, a wish to avoid an ungraceful bellyflop to the floor prevented it. All of which she communicated with another glare. “If I could grab you — ”
The smile that lit his face was the brightest one she’d ever seen, without even a hint of his usual manic glee. No, instead he practically glowed from within with pure joy. Maybe even literally. Much to the surprise of both of them, Marcus grabbed her shoulders in two surprisingly solid hands, then leaned forward and kissed her so hard it took her breath away.
When he finally let go, Marcus laughed aloud and exclaimed, “Now, there’s reason to come back from the dead!”
Susan allowed a little laugh. “I suppose that’s supposed to be a compli–”
She stopped suddenly when she realized he was fading, and fading fast. Only a heartbeat later, he was gone and the room was empty, though she could still feel phantom hands on her skin for one more lingering moment before they too vanished.
Susan got out of bed, turning in a quick circle, despite knowing she wouldn’t find him anywhere. She pinched herself, wincing even as she realized it hadn’t been a dream. She was perfectly awake.
Almost as if on cue, the comm beeped.
Tapping the console, Susan pushed the peculiar visitation from her mind. “Ivanova, go.”
“Captain, you have a call coming through on Gold Channel.” Her XO hesitated before adding, “It’s from Babylon 5.”
Her blood running cold, Susan looked at the screen. “Put it through,” she said quietly.
To her surprise, Stephen Franklin’s face appeared. She hadn’t even known he was still on Babylon 5, or rather, there again.
“Commander–I mean, Captain…sorry about that, old habits.” He smiled. “I have some good news…thought you’d want to be the first to know.”
Susan groaned. “I’m going to kill him.”