Alfred Bester stomped his feet so hard that they hurt. "Why me?" he whined. "Why do I always have to go to Babylon Five? I hate it there! They hate me!"
The Psi Corps director looked stern. "You have a repertoire with the command staff. If you keep going long enough, they'll trust you and then you can scan them."
Bester pouted. "They'll never trust me! Sheridan wants to nail my head to a table and burn it, feeding my charred remains to a bunch of aliens! He said so!"
"Burn what? Your head or the table?" the Psi Corps director said with interest.
Bester paused, thinking hard. "I don't really know. But it's all the same, they want to kill me."
"Suck it up. You're going."
And thus, Bester found himself once again docking at Babylon five. He parked his space ship and sat for a while, breathing in deep and letting it out slowly. As he climbed out of his ship, he assumed the perfect careless, cocky grin that hid his torment and anger. He loved that grin. It was better than a PPG.
Zack Allen was at customs. Typical. Bester worked to keep his careless, cocky grin in place. Those B-5ians always knew when he was coming, and they always had Zack there to harass him. THEY ALWAYS KNEW! Bester was surprised that they all weren't secretly telepaths. Maybe Lyta Alexander warned them. Hmm. After all, she was a powerful telepath. Bester wanted to crack her skull open and take a good long look at her brain.
Zack said something into his link as soon as he saw Bester. The psi-cop noticed that Lyta was standing beside Zack. They did know!
"Mr. Bester," Zack greeted with a sever frown.
Suddenly both he and Lyta threw their arms around him, squeezing the breath out of his lungs. Bester was stunned; he didn't even have time to react. He knew they hated him, but why this sudden show of hostility? He hadn't done anything that warranted an attack on his person!
"Welcome back, Alfred." The voice of Susan Ivonava careened down the corridor and crashed into Bester's ears.
Lyta and Zack let go of him, but he was surprised – no, flabbergasted, - to see both of their faces alight with happiness. A cold ball of fear settled into Bester's stomach. What tortures did they have in store for him?
Susan attacked him, too, throwing her arms around his neck and... wait a minute! She wasn't attacking him. She was hugging him! Bester stumbled back, eyes wide with fear. The careless, cocky grin was no match for this!
"Commander?" he choked out.
Susan linked her arm around his left one, and Lyta linked his right. Was there a disease going to B-5, or had they all been hit on the head?
"I'm sorry that they captain isn't here to greet you." Susan said, smiling rapturously at him. "He's in a meeting."
"Weren't you in a meeting, too?" Lyta asked coldly.
Susan glared at her. "It was only establishing B-5 as a trade route for many of the non-aligned worlds. Nothing important enough to miss Al."
Lyta opened her mouth, no doubt for a nasty comeback. The hostility animating from the two women was staggering. Bester tried to unlink his arms, but they instantly tightened their grips. The hostility turned to... how could they be so happy and so sad at the same time? And what were they happy/sad about?
"Ladies," Zack said, "Mr. Bester has had a long, hard journey. Don't you think he should rest?"
"You're right, Zack." Lyta said.
"We'll take you to you quarters." Susan added with a glare at Lyta. "And I'll fix you something to eat."
"I will too." Lyta glared right back.
Bester relaxed somewhat as the two women, followed by Zack, took him along the familiar corridors to the brig. He sighed in relief when they stopped in front of a cell. Lyta opened the door and-
From inside the cell came pouring out balloons and streamers and a "WELCOME BACK, AL!" sign. Crammed inside were a four-poster bed, a writing desk, a fireplace complete with mantle, and what looked like the entire B-5 crew. Bester stared slack-jawed as the people started on a loud chorus of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".
Lyta and Susan were giggling like schoolgirls and pulling him in. Bester didn't understand. Where was his cell? His cold, dark, lonely cell? He wanted it back!
"We know how fond of this cell you've become, but we couldn't bare to think of you spending so much time in a cold, dark, lonely cell, so we added a few homey touches. Do you like it?"
Captain John Sheridan slapped him on the back. Bester had often seen best friends greet each other in a similar manner. He shied away from the Captain, only to have Micheal Garibaldi put him in a headlock and try to scrap off the psi-cops hair with his knuckles.
Bester was relieved at this sign of hostility, until he remembered that brothers would often treat each other in such a manner. A cold sweat broke out on Bester's forehead.
"All right," he said, his voice shaking from terror. He resisted the urge to rub his sore head. "What are you up to?"
"Is there any need to explain?" the "Minbari/Human?" ambassador Delenn stepped forward, smiling warmly. "Most people, when greeted with a party, would assume that the people greeting him liked him, and wanted him to be happy here."
"Are you nuts?"
There was a quiet murmur and Delenn turned to bury her face in John's shoulder and started to cry. Bester grinned, certain that now, since tears had fallen from his Lady's eyes, John would tear him to pieces. But instead the Captain stiffly patted Delenn's back, as if considering pushing her away!
"I know that we haven't been very nice to you in the past," Susan said, tears in her own eyes, "but we're really, really sorry!"
"Please don't be mad." Lyta begged.
Before Bester could reply, Stephen Franklin wheeled a gigantic cake into the cell. "I just finished icing it!" he exclaimed.
Michael rushed forward and cut a gigantic slab off and handed it to Bester, who eyed the cake suspiciously. If they wanted to kill him, poison would be very effective. But was death any worse than their sincere friendship?
He ate a bite. To his surprise, it tasted really good! The crowd cheered, sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and all grabbed a piece of the cake.
Backing into a corner, Bester nibbled on his cake and concentrated on scanning the minds in the room.
"I like Bester. He's a good guy." Thought Zack.
Delenn thought, "I can't believe that Bester thinks I'm nuts! What does even mean?"
"If Bester doesn't like Delenn, I'll have to break up with her. His friendship is too important." John cried into his cake.
"I hope this works- I hope Bester stays forever!" Lyta thought.
"Mrs. Susan Bester. Mrs Bester. Al's wife."
Michael was thinking "I wonder if Bester would let me be his bodyguard if I paid him."
"This cake turned out great. And it's actually fat and sugar free!" thought Stephen. Bester sighed in relief, glad not to be the center of someone's –anyone's- thoughts. Until, in a panicked voice, Franklin continued thinking "Oh no! What if Bester has allergies!"
The doctor jumped to his feet with a panicked gleam in his eyes. But just them Susan smasked her piece of cake into Lyta's face.
"He does not!"
Lyta pulled Susan's hair. "He does too!"
John drew his PPG and blasted a few holes in the ceiling. "That's enough!" he shouted. "Behaving like that in front of our esteemed guest! Shame on you!"
Everybody glared at Susan and Lyta, including Susan and Lyta.
"What is this about?" asked Michael.
"She says that Alfred likes her better than me!" Susan wailed.
"And he does!"
"Does not!" Susan took a swing at Lyta, which Zack intercepted with his face.
"He likes me better because I'm a telepath." Lyta bragged.
"She has a point." Bester said.
Two beautiful tears rolled down Susan's cheeks. "But- but I'm a telepath, too!" she cried, launching herself into Bester's arms. He nearly dropped his piece of cake.
"Commander-" he started, his normally pale face even paler.
"Please! You have to believe me! I'm a latent telepath! I can't do anything telepathic but I know when I'm being scanned! Don't like Lyta better than me, Al! Please, please, please!"
Bester struggled to get away, and was finally able to do so by mashing his cake into his own face. Everybody cried out in dismay and surrounded him, dabbing his face clean with napkins.
Suddenly a black-haired young man jumped out of the ceiling and picked up Bester by his lapels. "Stay away from Susan!" he shouted in an English accent. "Marcus Cole takes no prisoners!"
"Who are you?" Bester demanded, his feet swinging in the air.
"Who's who?" Susan asked.
Lyta looked concerned. "It's just us, Alfred."
Bester looked around. Everybody was staring at him with shock and concern, except the Marcus person who was still holding him by his lapels. "Doesn't anybody else see him?"
Delenn stepped forward timidly. "I know that I'm "nuts", but I do not see anybody who is not supposed to be here."
Bester tried to scan Marcus's mind, but it was blank. He tried a deeper scan, and still nothing. Suddenly Marcus let go of Bester and jumped back up through the ceiling. Bester crumpled to the ground.
"Med alert!" Stephan shouted into his link.
"Stay away from me!" Bester shouted and the doctor tried to take his pulse. "All of you, stay away!" He dived underneath the writing desk and curled up. He shivered and cowered as the b-5ians gathered around, murmuring words of comfort and support.
"Leave me alone!" Bester shouted. Lifting the desk onto his shoulders, using it as a shield, he bolted from the cell. On his way back to the docking bay, whenever anybody looked at him he dropped down, pulling his arms and legs and head under the safety of the desk, like a turtle.
"I'm never coming back here!" Bester screamed as he took off. "Never!"
The command staff of B-5 stood in a close circle around the view screen. Susan leaned agains the wall, her arms crossed. Behind her stood Marcus, looking a little sheepish. Next to them stood Delenn and John, their arms around each other's waists. Then there was Stephen, his hands clasped behind his back. Michael was playing with a PPG as he waited, and Zack was fiddling with his uniform, trying to get it to fit right.
"This is ISN with a special report live from Mars. Behind us is a Psi-cop who just returned from a dangerous mission to B-5." A reporter was saying. Behind her a black omega ship was landing.
The cockpit opened and Bester crawled out, a writing desk tucker firmly around his shoulders. He dropped to the ground, hiding under the desk. He peered out at the camera crew with wide frightened eyes.
The reported looked a little disconcerted. "You are Alfred Bester of the psi-corps, right?"
Bester nodded silently, edging to the side, dragging the desk with him.
"And you just came from B-5?"
"They're insane!" Bester gasped hoarsely. "They're all insane!"
The reported crouched down to eye level with Bester. "Can you explain that to us?"
Bester looked at her, his eyes wild with fear. "They like me! All of them! They threw a party for me, and made a cake."
The reporter glanced at the camera. "They're insane because they like you?"
Bester nodded frantically. "You understand, don't you? They like me. Except Marcus, but he wasn't even there. They're insane!"
The reporter stood up and took a few steps away. "And this is live from Mars." She said glancing uneasily at Bester, crouched underneath the desk, as he started to laugh in a high-pitched wail.
"Off." John said, and the view screen went blank.
Delenn frowned. "I fear we may have gone too far."
There was no reply for a long time, until Susan sighed. "I never thought there would be a day that I felt sorry for Alfred Bester." Then she grinned. "And I'm glad to say that I still think that way. He deserved it."
"It's not our fault that he can't handle a little positive attention." Lyta agreed.
Everybody nodded, excluding Delenn. Her frowned even deeper. "There is something I still don't understand." She said.
"What's that?" John asked her.
"What does "Are you nuts" mean? How can one be an object of food?"