Garibaldi had worn the hat in an attempt to disguise himself. It only served to draw attention to the two of them, because people just did not wear fedoras anymore. They hadn't for a couple centuries, actually. Stephen couldn't bring himself to care, though. Wearing the hat obviously made Garibaldi happy - it was like watching an overgrown kid go trick-or-treating. Beyond that, Stephen found himself a little in love with the hat himself.
It was a pretty neat hat.
In fact, he decided that he really, really wanted to wear the hat.
Stephen gave himself a week to think about it. There was no reason to act rashly. He could certainly buy his own fedora. He'd have to wait for ages and it would cost an arm and a leg, but it would be the simplest solution. Or he could probably commission someone on board the ship to make him a hat – that would be cheaper, and such a hat would probably fit better on his much-smaller-than-Garibaldi's head.
But that wouldn't be as fun. He didn't just want to wear a hat, he wanted to wear that hat.
Once he'd decided, it was easy. All it took was one simple override code (oh, the unlimited power given to the CMO) and he was inside Garibaldi's quarters. They weren't big, and they were neatly kept, so after less than five minutes of searching Stephen had the hat squarely on his head as he strode through Blue Sector and back to Medlab. They stared, and smiled, and laughed, and asked questions, and Stephen waited for the word to slowly, inevitably trickle back to the Chief.
Michael had had a long day. Bruisers making trouble in Brown Sector, the Narns anxious and jumpy, some guy tried to rob a produce stand in Red Sector and ended up beating the proprietor half to death. He finally shuffled into his quarters, thinking that all he wanted was
a nice hot shower and ten uninterrupted hours in bed. But no more than three feet inside the door and his hackles went up, and he found himself turning in a slow circle, looking for the person that he knew had been inside. No one hiding, nothing seemingly out of place. It wasn't until the next morning, pulling out a clean uniform, that he saw what was amiss – his hat was missing.
His hat. His hat.
He mulled it over watching the cams that morning, thinking of who would have access to his quarters, who would have been able to slip in and out without leaving any trace other than the absence of the hat itself.
After lunch, Michael took a stroll down to Medlab, ready to confront the thief and retrieve his possession. "Where is it?" he said as he turned the corner into Franklin's office, and was gratified to see the doctor's wide eyes and over-exaggerated innocent expression.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Where is it?"
"Garibaldi, you're going to have to be more specific." Franklin didn't quite bat his big brown eyes, but it was close. So Michael leaned over the desk, pointed his finger at those pretty brown eyes, and spoke very slowly and clearly.
"Where. Is. It?"
A moment of silence, of stillness, of an appreciation for Michael's power. (Perhaps Franklin was just stalling for time, but no, Michael thought it was the power thing.) Then the doctor gave up. He could see the surrender roll across Franklin's face like a wave.
"I don't have it anymore."
Michael made him repeat it, and then he drew himself up to his full height. "If you don't have it, then someone else does. Who has it, Stephen?"
Susan had a knot in her shoulders she just couldn't seem to work out, going on three days now, and after waking up this morning and feeling an instant jolt of agony the second she turned her head, she decided to throw in the towel. Walking very carefully to Medlab, head pointed straight forward, back ramrod straight – it occurred to her that no one would probably be able to tell the difference – Susan signed in and waited ten minutes until she was led to the back, for the sonic massager. (Sometimes Susan imagined sneaking in and stealing the thing, because it would have to be the galaxy's most amazing vibrator.) As the medical assistant escorted her through Medlab's corridors, she just happened to glance over as Franklin just happened to walk through his office at just the right angle for her to catch a glimpse of him.
Susan didn't usually go in for double-takes, but she had to stop and get a second look. Franklin was wearing a hat. Puttering around his office, uniform nice and neat like usual, but almost as though he didn't know it was there, a big silly fedora on his head, drooping a little low over his eyebrows. Before she could go in to investigate, the assistant was tugging on her arm, and Susan decided to put the mystery of the fedora on hold for the time being.
Sonic massager. Best invention ever. For fifteen minutes, the fedora was forgotten entirely.
But on her way back through Medlab, heading toward the exit, she caught sight of Franklin again. This time, his head was bare, and he was in a very serious discussion with one of the other doctors. Susan loitered in the corridor, feeling the very rare feeling of being in the way and out of place, purposeless, unsure.
Stephen ended up following the other doctor out and toward some other part of Medlab while Susan's back was turned, as she was reading the back of a can of antibacterial spray. (She didn't have a lot of practice with loitering.) A brief moment of disappointment that she didn't get to ask him about the hat, but then she thought, maybe this is better.
Susan Ivanova didn't tiptoe, or sneak, or sidle, but she did walk quietly and carefully into Franklin's office. And if she threw a few watchful looks over her shoulder, well, she just wanted to have advance notice if he returned while she was still here, so she'd have time to make up a story. (She was just…checking on…something. Need to refine that one.) They say that one's home is a reflection of oneself, and their offices on the station were more homes than their quarters were, at least counting the time spent inside. Franklin's office was neat as a pin, everything in its place, and slightly sterile.
A cursory examination of his desk. Nothing. Glances through the shelves. Nothing. The tables. Nothing. Susan pursed her lips and thought. Stephen had taken off the hat sometime between her entry and when he'd left with the other doctor. Was he too embarrassed to be seen wearing it? If someone had come in suddenly, where would he have stashed it?
Ivanova pulled out the chair from under the desk and snagged the fedora resting on it. She tucked it under her arm and sauntered out.
"I didn't get a good look. Just the back of her head as she walked by." Franklin was slouching, not meeting Michael's eye.
"But you recognized the back of her head, didn't you?"
"It's pretty recognizable."
Michael leaned in close. "It was Ivanova, wasn't it? Ivanova has my hat."
It had been a very, very long day, filled with seemingly innumerable meetings. No matter how confident one felt in one's abilities, a day of others screaming insults in a multitude of languages tended to bring one down. Delenn was tired, her feet hurt, and if she were being completely honest, she was a bit…prickly. She almost found herself wishing Lennier would arrive, just so that she might argue with him. The topic itself did not matter.
If she went back to her quarters, she knew she would go over the events of the day in her head, reliving some of the choicest curses directed her way, getting angrier and angrier, until she would be unable to sleep. The gardens were always crowded this time of night, sweethearts meeting clandestinely in the shadows, stealing kisses they thought were unobserved. The cafes in Red Sector would be equally full, and just the memory of the clamor was enough to threaten a headache.
She needed some peace and quiet, something cool to drink, and some pleasant company. Delenn thought for a moment of the Captain, but there had been some strange, underlying tension in their last few meetings, as though he wished to say something to her but kept changing his mind. As she pondered that for a moment, she realized she was already on her way to Blue Sector. But after sliding her card for access at the entry point, she turned left instead of right.
Commander Ivanova answered the door personally, though how she was managing to grin with her teeth clamped around the long, brown cylinder in her mouth, Delenn didn't know. There was also a hat on the Commander's head, a very silly looking thing that made Delenn smile herself.
"Delenn. And how can I help you this fine evening?"
"That is a kind of cigarette."
"A cigar. The real thing. The genuine article."
"I am well aware of the smoking prohibition on this station." Delenn mock-frowned, and that only made Susan's smile grow even wider. She was ushered in, and Susan made beverages as Delenn flopped down on the couch, glad that there were a few people on Babylon 5 in front of whom she could be herself.
"Do you know what ra'gla'hak sha lak'fa means? My translator gave me an error message."
Susan laughed and brought over their drinks. A clear, potent alcohol for herself, cold water with a splash of citrus juice for Delenn. "A pak'ma'ra?"
Delenn sipped, feeling immediately refreshed, and nodded.
"He told you to, um, mate with yourself. But in a uniquely pak'ma'ra way. And you know how pak'ma'ra use their genitalia…"
Delenn shuddered, having read that particular dossier early in her ambassadorial career. She had never been the same.
"That's not even the worst," Susan went on, taking a long, long drink of her alcohol. No grimaces like Delenn was used to seeing from humans; not a ripple marred that smooth face. "A Drazi once told me to climb under his arm, and I was sure it was an idiom I just didn't understand. He meant it. He meant it literally. He wanted me to climb into the sperm pouch in his armpit."
Delenn found that there were few greater joys in life than simple laughter. She saw that the hat had slid down on Susan's head, nearly covering her eyes. She snagged the hat herself, looking it over.
"I've not seen this before."
"I stole it from Dr. Franklin."
"Why?" Delenn asked, wondering if this were some kind of ritual. Humans often insisted they had no rituals, and then did the strangest things that they defended by claiming tradition, or habit, or some other word that amounted to "ritual," at least as far as she was concerned.
Susan shrugged and finished off her drink. Then she tapped her cigar on the side of a shallow ceramic dish, knocking off the ash that had accumulated on the end. A long inhale, and a look of contentment softened the Commander's features. For a brief moment, she almost looked like a young girl.
"It wasn't his hat to begin with. He's taller than I am, but he's not a big guy. That hat was as loose on his head as it was on mine."
"So because it is not his, you have the right to take it?"
Susan smiled around the cigar, and blew a plume of smoke up into the air. "Delenn, I know whose hat it is. And I am very much looking forward to giving him an absolute hell of a time trying to get it back." She set the cigar aside and turned to Delenn, her face as grave and serious as the Minbari had ever seen. "And on that note…"