Sorry for the delay on this last part - RL got in the way again. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the conclusion and I just want to say a BIG, "Thank you" for all the wonderful reviews I've received for this story - they're far better than I could have ever hoped for! You're all great J
Marcus walked back over to Susan's bed and as soon as she saw his unhappy face, she knew that Duncan had passed away. Silently, she open her arms to him. He sat on the edge of the bed and leaned towards her, sinking into her comforting embrace. They stayed like that for over an hour. Not speaking, just hugging each other until Marcus realised from the slackening of her arms and steady breathing that she had fallen asleep.
Doing his best not to disturb her, he extricated himself from her loose embrace and sat in the chair next to the bed. Settling himself comfortably, he watched her sleep. All evening and into the night he stayed awake, simply looking at her face while Medlab's flurry of activity continued around him unnoticed.
At one point, she began to mumble and move restlessly, obviously caught up in a bad dream. Marcus immediately leaned forward and gently stroked her cheek as he softly hushed her back to normal slumber. His heart contracted as she leaned into his touch and murmured his name lovingly before settling down again. With a smile, he brushed his lips against her forehead then sat back continuing his vigil.
At around four in the morning, Franklin pulled up a chair and sat down beside his friend. "You OK?" he asked quietly, so as not to wake Ivanova. Marcus nodded.
"You're sure?" Franklin pressed, his face showing his concern. "You've had quite a few shocks to your system recently. It's no disgrace to be feeling them."
Marcus knew that first hand but, refused to bow to the conflicting mixture of anger, sadness and joy that had warred for supremacy within him ever since Duncan had died. "Stephen, I'm fine," he assured his friend firmly.
Franklin's face showed he didn't believe him but just as Marcus was going to reinforce his claim, the doctor suddenly relaxed back into his chair and folded his arms comfortably across his chest as he tried another tact. "You know, you could do with some of that yourself," he remarked, gesturing towards Susan.
"I beg your pardon?" the Ranger queried with a wry smile and raised eyebrow.
Franklin grinned back. "I meant sleep," he responded dryly.
Marcus pulled a face. "I think I've had enough sleep to last a life time, Stephen. One night awake won't hurt me."
"One night…or three?" the doctor asked intuitively.
The other man looked at him sharply. "What do you mean?" he asked guardedly.
"I seem to remember Delenn going through the same motions with John the night, Anna turned up," Franklin supplied.
"Ah, yes, of course." Marcus turned back to look at the peaceful face of the woman he loved and sighed. "Well, you caught me. I just hope I'm not being too presumptuous."
"Oh, I don't think so," his friend said with a reassuring smile. "After every thing that's happened I think I can safely say that Susan's 'got it bad for you'."
Marcus' mouth quirked upward into a smile. "Is that your 'professional' opinion, Doctor?"
"Considering how much notice you actually take of my 'professional' opinion, I think I'd better answer no to that question." His reply brought forth a chuckle from his friend and the doctor in him was pleased to see some of the obvious tension begin to ebb from the Rangers face. At least part of his work was done tonight.
They continued to talk in low tomes for another twenty minutes or so until a nurse hurriedly walked over to Franklin to let him know that one of his other patient's was taking a turn for the worse. The doctor nodded and immediately stood up. Before he left, he paused and turned back to pat Marcus on the shoulder. "Let me know when Susan wakes up. All being well, you can take her back to her quarters."
"I'll come and find you," Marcus assured him with a grateful smile.
The doctor nodded and walked away, leaving the Ranger to continue his vigil.
Susan awoke four hours later and was pronounced well enough to leave MedLab a couple of hours after that.
"It's about time," she grumbled as she pushed herself off of the bed. "I've been ready to get out of this place for hours."
"You should count yourself lucky. Anyone else and I would have kept them in another night to be on the safe side. I'm just being nice and letting you go early," he told her as he scribbled a couple of sentences down on her notes. A snort of derision from his patient brought his head up to look at her assessingly. "But only if you promise to take it easy or you're straight back here," he warned with mock severity.
"But, Stephen…" she started to object.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure she rests," Marcus cut in smoothly, over-riding her outraged protest.
"The hell you will…" she began heatedly as she turned her attention to the Ranger.
"I knew I could count on you, Marcus," Franklin replied, ignoring Ivanova totally. "It's always good to know there's someone sensible around to look out for the more awkward patients."
"Sensible!" she sputtered, looking back at the doctor in disbelief.
Franklin nodded and looked at Susan's scowling countenance with an amused face. "Just make sure you get some sleep, Susan. No wandering up to C & C for a 'look' around. No getting into fights because you're bored and absolutely no drinking…I mean it," he told her firmly.
"Or else," Marcus added in an equally stern voice, his own eyes belying a mirth barely held in check.
Ivanova bit back a retort and straightened the fresh uniform she was wearing then without another glance to either of the men she stalked out of MedLab. Marcus and Franklin exchanged a grin and then the Ranger unhurriedly followed after her.
He turned the corner just as Ivanova was punching the code into the panel by the door of her quarters. She glanced at him before entering her rooms and he jogged the last couple of yards in order to get through the entrance before the door slid shut.
Ivanova removed her jacket and threw it carelessly on a chair before looking around the room with a grimace. "She sure as hell left it in a mess, didn't she?" she remarked as she eyed the cluttered kitchen area in distaste.
Turning her head, she surveyed the rest of her quarters with equal unhappiness. Cushions were strewn across the floor, dirty plates were on the table and a bottle of her best vodka was laying empty on the couch.
Marcus walked over to her, gently took hold of her right arm and began to lead her into the bedroom. "Why don't you get some rest while I clean things up a bit, eh?"
"I don't want to…Oh hell!" she suddenly exclaimed as she came to an abrupt halt, her gaze resting on an open wooden box on the floor.
"What?" asked Marcus puzzled.
Ivanova pulled away from his grasp and rushed over to the box. She knelt down and gathered up the sheets of paper that had spilled out, then slowly stood, her face creased with an angry frown. "Damn!".
Marcus walked over, his confusion evident. "What's the matter?" Ivanova didn't answer but instead, turned away and looked around the room as though searching for something. "Susan?" he prompted again, his irritation beginning to show.
Ivanova glanced back at him and gestured to a suitcase on the floor by her bed. "Pick that up for me will you, Marcus?"
"Of course," he replied and bent to retrieve the case. He had just laid it on the bed when Ivanova appeared by his side after having picked something up from the far corner of the room. She placed the wooden box by the case and then stood with her arms behind her back.
"Open it," she ordered softly, nodding to the case.
He shot her a puzzled glance, but did as she asked. "My uniform," he said in hushed disbelief as he lifted the lid and saw the contents. He turned and looked at her searchingly. "You kept it? Why?"
Ivanova blushed slightly and shrugged her shoulders. "Actually it's your spare one, they destroyed the one you were wearing when they placed you in cryo. It's funny but it…it hurt when I found out what they'd done, so I asked Delenn for the rest of your personal belongings. I guess I just wanted a part of you with me."
He reached out and ran his fingers over the material as if he couldn't quite believe it was there. "Thank you," he mumbled, the emotion evident even in those two softly spoken words.
"You're welcome," she replied and then held out a metallic cylinder towards him. "I have this but I can't find your pin. It was in the box but Jess must have taken it. I'm sorry," she apologised sadly. "I'm sure Delenn will have another."
Marcus nodded as his gaze locked on the object and he drew in an audible breath. Hesitantly, he took the cylinder from her hand and after moving back a little way; he gave it a gentle shake. With a hiss, the object immediately extended into a fighting pike. Marcus stared at it for what seemed like ages, then suddenly retracted the weapon and walked over to stand directly in front of her.
He dropped the pike onto the bed and then pulled her roughly into his arms, his mouth descending on hers in a searing kiss. Her arms automatically wrapped around his neck to urge him even closer.
He broke the kiss and pulled away slightly, breathing heavily, his face flushed. "I love you, Susan," he said hoarsely.
"I love you too," she managed to gasp in reply before he leant in and captured her lips in another passionate kiss.
Their hands fumbled with buttons and zips as they attempted to undress each other as quickly as possible, their kisses becoming more and more heated.
Marcus discarded the last of her clothing, then put the case and box onto the floor before drawing her over to the bed where they lay down under the covers. There was an underlying urgency to their lovemaking, both knowing that they were getting a second chance that they hadn't really expected.
Their hands roamed hungrily over each other's bodies, learning the contours and finding the special places that brought forth a sharp intake of breath or more impassioned groan from their partner. Then, when they could both stand it no longer, Marcus moved above her and gazed deep into her eyes as their bodies finally merged…
Later, when they lay replete, facing one another and wrapped comfortably in each other's arms, they began to talk.
They swapped stories, both happy and sad, about their families and lives before they met. Marcus then spoke about, Duncan, and she comforted him as he finally gave way to his grief.
Susan, in turn, talked about her crew and the work she'd been doing while searching for his 'cure'. Then she opened up more and spoke of her fears at never having him back and related the conversation she'd had with Franklin shortly after Marcus had made his sacrifice.
"But the worse thing was when Jess and her men injected me. All I could think of was the fact that I was going to die and hadn't told you how I felt," she explained as she touched a hand to his cheek.
Marcus smiled, trying to lighten her mood. "But, Susan, you did," he replied. "I had a dream and heard you telling me you loved me."
"You heard me?" she asked in surprise. At his nod, Susan looked uncomfortable. "Uh…I'm not sure how to tell you this but…"
The Ranger waited for her to continue then was astounded when her lips didn't move and yet he heard her voice in his head. That wasn't a dream. I have some teep abilities
"You're telepathic?" he questioned in disbelief as he sat bolt upright.
Ivanova sat up as well. "Yes, but I'm very weak. I don't even register on the scale." She looked at him guardedly. "Is it a problem?"
He saw her trepidation and suddenly grinned. "Heavens, no. I'll just have to be more careful when I have rampant thoughts about you, that's all. Don't want to get a slap for something I haven't even attempted to do to you yet."
Relieved at his answer, Ivanova laughed. "Honestly, Marcus, I rarely pick up on anything and as far as I know you're the only person I've ever been able to connect with apart from my Mother." She pulled him back to lay down next to her again then edged closer so that her body was pressed firmly against his. "I thought last time must have been a fluke with my desperation as the catalyst to boost the signal or something but when I touched your mind just now, I realised it was the strength of our love that made it so easy."
Marcus shut his eyes and pulled her tighter to him as she began to nuzzle his neck then kiss her way down his chest. "Well, love is a powerful emotion said to conquer all," he commented huskily, enjoying her ministrations. "A terrible cliché but after what we've been through, it's now one I believe in totally."
He drew in a sharp breath and gave a low groan as she touched a particularly sensitive spot, feeling the immediate pull of arousal. Unable to lie still under her hands and mouth any longer, he pulled her back up to him and kissed her hard on the mouth as she settled herself astride his body.
Without breaking their kiss, she lifted herself slightly to accommodate him and eased down slowly, welcoming the sensation of his filling her completely. They made love at a leisurely pace and after they both reached their peak, they fell into an exhausted sleep wrapped in each other's arms.
Susan awoke abruptly and blinked a couple of times to clear the sleep from her eyes. Stretching languidly, she turned her head and smiled when she saw Marcus laying beside her, still sound asleep.
She'd probably worn him out, but it had been well worth it. His inexperience hadn't been a problem at all, in fact, their lovemaking had been so amazing that she'd forgotten that it was his first time.
A rumbling in her stomach told her that she was hungry and she asked the computer for the time. At it's reply, she realised that she'd been asleep for six hours, making it early evening. No wonder she was starved.
Marcus looked so peaceful that she decided to let him sleep while she got up and made some dinner. She got out of bed, put on her robe then entered the lounge only to stop in surprise at what met her eyes. Everything was clean and tidy. She blinked in astonishment and rubbed her eyes, not quite sure she believed what she was seeing. "What the hell…?" she said with a frown.
A blinking light on her computer console told her that there was a message waiting to be played. Having the feeling that it was to do with the sudden clean-up of her room, she walked over and pressed the 'play' button.
Sheridan's smiling face greeted her and she crossed her arms in resignation waiting to hear what he had to say.
"Hi Susan," His smile widened slightly. "Marcus. I hope you don't mind but we cleaned up a little for you. We did try contacting you on the comlink but it was off and as you don't have a hand link we decided to come down there. Naturally, when neither of you answered the door, we got worried and I had Zack override the system so we could get in and check that everything was alright." He paused, then with his grin growing even wider, he winked and added, "Stephen was pleased to see that you're both getting some rest by the way."
At his chuckle, Ivanova shook her head and sighed. So much for keeping her relationship private. She and Marcus would be the talk of the officer's mess.
On screen, Sheridan continued to talk. "So, since we were there, we tidied up and I've also left a couple of things for you both on the table. Just give me a call when you're up and if you feel like it, come on over for dinner." He paused again and quickly glanced both ways before leaning in towards the screen and whispering cagily, "And I promise, Delenn won't make flarn."
Suddenly, his face took on a hunted look and he hurriedly bade farewell. He hadn't stopped the recording quick enough however and Ivanova grinned when she heard Delenn scold him for talking about her cooking that way.
"Never put down Minbari food, especially made by one that's pregnant," came a sleepy voice from the bedroom doorway. Susan turned and smiled as she saw Marcus leaning against the doorjamb. He was wearing nothing but the pants of his uniform and a grin. Ruffling his hair, he yawned and walked over to her.
"I'll make sure I remember that," she replied as she turned the console off.
Marcus drew level then pulled her into his arms, his lips trailing soft kisses across her cheek and down to her mouth. "Wake me next time, I missed you," he murmured before capturing her mouth in a drugging kiss.
"Well, if that's the kind of punishment I get for letting you sleep, I might just ignore you and do it more often," she gasped when they finally broke apart.
He merely gave a smug smile then turned his attention to the table that stood near to the couch. Two wrapped up items lay on top. Interest piqued, he led her over and they sat down.
Ivanova picked up the small packages and handed the one with Marcus' name on it to him. "I hate to think what kind of joke they've come up with this time," she said, unwrapping her parcel.
A card dropped out onto her lap, followed by a new link for her hand. "Don't forget to keep in touch, John," she read aloud with a shake of her head. "Funny." She tossed the card onto the table and turned to Marcus. "So, what did you get?"
Silently, he held out his hand and she looked at the unwrapped item. She recognised the brooch immediately. "Your pin!" she exclaimed in surprise. "Where did they find it?"
"I don't know," he said in a choked voice. "This was all that was with it." He held out a note for her to read. 'Dearest Marcus,' it began. 'It cries for you no more, Delenn.'
"I always thought it was an old wives tale or something. I never truly believed it'd happen. Perhaps because I never truly believed I was worthy enough to be a Ranger," he admitted softly.
Susan put her arm comfortingly around his shoulders and leaned her head against his as she took the pin from his hand. Still visible were the telltale remnants of the dried tears of blood that had fallen on his death.
"I always vowed that you would be the one the wash the blood off," she confessed with a smile.
Marcus placed his hand over hers, encompassing the pin and stared deep into her eyes. "No, Susan. We'll wash it off. Together. It'll be a fresh start for both of us."
At her nod of agreement, they went into the bathroom and washed away the past. Together.
Three days later, they attended Duncan's funeral along with Sheridan, Delenn and Franklin. Ivanova never left his side for a second and as the casket carrying the old man's body was ejected into space, she alone heard, Marcus' softly spoken vow to his departed friend. "I won't let you down, Duncan, I promise. I won't waste the life you helped restore to me."
A couple of days after that, Ivanova's ship, Hydra made contact. They were due to dock with the station in three days to pick Susan up so that she could finish the rest of shake down cruise.
When she spoke to her second, Lewis, he admitted that it had been him that had inadvertently given Jess information about Ivanova's movements. He had been seeing her for a while and when he'd lost contact had tried to trace her. He found out that she'd gone to Babylon 5 and called in a favour from Corwin as to Jess' whereabouts. That's when he had learned what she had done.
He had apologised profusely to Ivanova and she had been surprisingly lenient with him, merely giving him a lecture and a warning to be more careful in the future. She knew that love could be blind at times and his guilt over everything that had happened was punishment enough.
Ivanova's vacation time on board the station drew to a rapid close culminating in a small party held by the Sheridan's the day before she was due to leave. Susan and Marcus chatted with their friends and then made an excuse to retire early to their own room so they could enjoy one last, long night together.
The next morning, Ivanova was subdued, not wanting to leave but knowing she had to. Marcus walked her to the docking bay where the Hydra was waiting and they faced one another holding hands.
Not knowing what to say now the time for leaving was upon her, Ivanova abruptly leaned forward and kissed Marcus hungrily as if trying to imprint the feel and taste of him in her brain. Then, just as abruptly, she tore her lips from his, turned and walked up the ramp into her ship without a backward glance. The ramp lifted behind her and she stopped to lean against the ship's wall in an effort to gain control over her emotions. A single tear rolled down her cheek which she angrily brushed away, then with a determined effort, she straightened her uniform, put her shoulders back and strode purposefully toward the bridge.
Marcus watched the ramp start to lift up then hurried along the corridor towards C & C. Once there, he joined Corwin by the main console and watched Ivanova's huge ship move into position for the jump to hyperspace.
"Babylon control, requesting permission to enter jump gate," came Ivanova's voice over the comm unit.
"Permission granted, Hydra," Corwin replied.
"Thanks, Babylon control," Susan acknowledged and was just about to release the comlink with the station when she suddenly sensed his presence. A picture of the Ranger standing next to Corwin flashed in her mind and she smiled. "Goodbye, Marcus, I'll call you soon." I love you she added to herself.
Seconds later, her smile vanished and a slow blush crept up her cheeks showing her mortification as his voice came back over the comlink very loud and very clear. "Goodbye, Susan. I'll look forward to hearing from you…oh, and I love you too."
Muffled laughter started around her causing her to glare wrathfully at her crew. Breaking the link between the ship and the station she barked out the order to initiate the jump gate sequence. They quickly obeyed her command while she sat back in her chair mentally raging against her lover, hoping that he heard her threats to hurt him badly as clearly as he obviously heard her wayward thought about loving him.
Back in C & C, Marcus chuckled as Corwin smiled and told him that the Hydra had broken contact. The Ranger nodded and then grinned to himself as he listened to her mental rantings at him. Gradually, they faded then disappeared altogether when the ship entered the open jump gate and vanished in a flash of light.
He felt a pang of loneliness hit him and stared at the empty sky longingly for a few moments, then sighed. He gave Corwin a nod of thanks then with a swirl of his cloak, he turned and left the room, heading for the Sheridan's quarter's where he would begin the first of many cleansing rituals.
TWO AND A HALF MONTHS LATER…
Ivanova stood impatiently by the shuttle door, baggage in hand, waiting for the small carrier ship to dock. It clunked into place then a few seconds later, the door slid open. She was the first one out, striding along the corridor towards the welcome area. From there, she carried on walking, through the Zocalo and onwards until she stood outside the quarters that had been allocated to her and Marcus. She tapped in the code and the door slid back allowing her entry.
She stepped over the threshold and put down her bag, looking up in time to see, Marcus walking into the lounge from the direction of the bedroom. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at her in surprise. "Susan! What are you doing here?"
"Hell, Marcus, is that anyway to welcome me home?" she asked with a grin and held her arms open in invitation.
He needed no further encouragement and within seconds she was swept off of her feet and into his arms, their lips locking together in a heated kiss. He carried her over to the couch and sat down with her half laying across his lap.
"I didn't think I'd see you for another two weeks," he said as they parted to catch their breath.
"I couldn't stay away any longer," she admitted huskily. "Lewis is finishing the mission and I recommended that he take over as Captain of the Hydra for good. I've already accepted another position a bit closer to home."
"Doing what?" he asked curiously.
"I'm going to be liasing between Earth and the Alliance," she explained.
"So you'll be stationed here?" he asked hopefully.
"Yes. But first I've got two weeks all to myself." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself up against his chest, their faces mere centimetres apart. "What do you think I could do to pass the time?"
Marcus gave her a rakish smile. "Oh, I'm sure that together we could think of something," he murmured suggestively and gently brushed his lips over hers.
The kiss deepened and he pushed her back onto the couch, his body moving to cover hers as they let passion overtake and sweep them away to their own private, special world where they'd both finally found peace, happiness and love with each other. Together.