Specs: Babylon 5, Susan/Michael, S1, 760 words
Every now and then, you could use the links to eavesdrop. Everything had to happen just right. You had to be in a relatively quiet room, and catch on to what was happening right away. The initial beep had to go unnoticed, probably because the other end was loud, usually if the person you were trying to call was talking themselves, their hand and the link on it down by their side.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this happened quite a bit when Susan called Garibaldi. She had just left C and C, the corridors of Blue Sector relatively quiet for this time of night. She wanted someone to review some SecureCam footage of the docking bay for her – a Brakiri trader had issued a formal complaint, but she wanted to make sure the story checked out first.
“Garibaldi,” she commanded, clicking the link. A beat while the system made the connection, and then she knew on the other end, his link would beep and then repeat what she had just said. Instead of hearing his usual whaddaya want, though, she heard him speaking in a dulcet tone so utterly unlike anything she'd ever heard from him that she stopped dead in her tracks.
“I don't care what your big brother says, and I'll have a word with him later, okay? You shouldn't be going into Down Below, for any reason. That's not a part of the station you need to see, and there's nothing there you need.”
A child's voice answered, much louder than the Chief's, likely because the kid's mouth was closer to the link. “But there's treasure down there,” the boy said, insistent. “Treasure and riches and loot. Gabriel said, he said.”
Some people were coming up the corridor, so Susan ducked into the closest door, which ended up leading into a supply closet. She was positive the whoosh of the door closing would be audible over the open connection, but it must have fallen under some louder noise on the other side.
“I want you to listen to me,” Garibaldi said, voice stern and warm all at the same time. “There's no treasure down there. No riches or loot, either. Now, I don't want to scare you, but I think I can trust you with the truth.” A pregnant pause, and Susan found herself holding her breath, waiting for what was to come. “There are monsters Down Below.”
“There are not,” the kid scoffed, and Susan smiled. She had said the same thing many a time, when Ganya had told her stories of vampires and demons. I don't believe you, but of course I do, so tell me more.
“Monsters,” Garibaldi insisted. “And I'm not talking aliens, either. I'm talking the kinds of ghouls that would see a nice plump boy like you coming down the corridor, smack their lips, and think ah, lunch. We just pulled a body out of a pipe last week. What was left of it had been folded up like a sandwich.”
“I didn't read about a body,” the kid whispered.
“Of course not. We don't want the whole station to panic. But you're not going to panic, I can tell that just by looking at you. It's important that you keep this a secret. You can't even tell your big brother. No offense, but I don't trust the kid, not if he's lying to you about treasure.”
“I don't trust him either, Chief,” the boy announced proudly. “And I'm the best at keeping secrets, you'll see.”
“I don't know,” Garibaldi said, laying it on so thick Susan had to stifle a laugh. “You're awful young, kid.”
“I won't tell a soul. I won't even tell my mom.”
“All right, then. I've got to get back on my rounds. You could probably keep an eye on this stretch of Red for me, couldn't you, kid?”
“You bet, Chief!”
Susan clicked the connection off, then sat for minute, on a crate of industrial-strength cleaning concentrate, the dark a welcome comfort around her. She could ask Allan to check out the footage tomorrow. It wasn't a big deal.
Plenty of men can charm women as they choose, a voice whispered in her head. But a man who can charm a child, dushenka moya, and who can do so without bribes or threats, that is a man to look at again.
Susan shook her head and stalked off in the direction of her quarters. Can it, Mother.
Title: Wild Card
Specs: Miranda, Gary/Miranda, post-S2, 1700 words
It's not a date. Don't call it a date, don't you dare. (I mean, I shall of course call it a date, but only in my own head, and to my shower, and to the fruit friends, and to the Gary pillow I have of course pre-stashed in a closet (oh what if he should need a towel or perhaps that toilet paper doily Mum's friend Louisa gave me five years ago you never know when you'll need a toilet paper doily, Miranda, remember to find a better place to hide the Gary pillow), and to Stevie, and to Mr. Kapoor down the street when I pick up my daily bucket of curry, and to everyone who comes into the shop, but don't you dare call it a date.) Because it's not a date.
It is only two friends meeting to play some cards. Gary found out that I don't know how to play cards. I do know how to play cards, but Gary says that squeezing the deck so the cards fly out whilst shouting “you're under attack, Jerry!” and making mouth machine gun noises is not actually playing cards. I was watching him frost a truly lovely cake, tier after tier of spongy vanilla goodness – dear Lord, I'm drooling right now, excuse me, where's a towel, to the closet then, ah! The Gary pillow! I'll just shove it in the bed, it's not like Gary will be there tonight, haha, no, I'm not crying, why do you ask?
Anyway! I was watching Gary ice a cake as I was prattling on about Downton Abbey, and at some point I asked him what he was doing that night. “Off to play cards with some mates,” he'd said, a bit distracted as he made big icing roses. I put out a finger and he made a rose on the tip, and I carefully ate it petal by petal, imagining Gary in a pair of shades, his collar popped, perhaps some jazz music playing quietly in the background, shiny stacks of poker chips all around. “All that money,” I said dreamily, but he just laughed.
“We don't play for money. We play for favors, odds and ends, whatever.”
“How does that work?” I asked, intrigued.
“My mate saw it in a film. You write something you can do or give on a scrap of paper, and that's what you bet.” I was already thinking of dozens – no, hundreds – of things I could write down myself. Handcrafted balloon animals. Cocktail toothpicks glued together to make snowflakes. Dramatic readings of your favorite Doctor Who scenes. Sponge painting your bathroom (I'm brilliant at sponge painting). Rocks I've found that look like Jesus.
“That sounds like loads of fun!” I exclaimed, polishing off the rose and holding out my finger for another.
“You should come,” Gary said. “Do you know how to play Texas Hold 'Em?”
“Isn't that a wrestling move? I'm pretty sure it is. You shouldn't make jokes like that, Gary, I mean really.” Would three roses be pushing it? Probably. I could always just buy a can on my way home, mix in some extra butter if need be, and have some sad alone Miranda rose-like blobs a la carte.
“Are you busy tomorrow night?” he asked, finishing up the cake and whisking it away with prodigious speed. Gary, I am not going to steal your cake! I am probably not going to steal your cake! “I'll come over and teach you.”
My heart started beating funny, like there was a hummingbird high on crack cocaine trapped under there, and it's been beating like that ever since, and twenty-eight hours later it's only gotten worse. Now I'm just sort of fluttering to and fro in my flat, thinking of something that absolutely must be done – my spice rack must be dusted! It's covered in dust! - but by the time I make it there I've thought of something else that's ever so much more important – I've left a pair of enormous fuzzy socks on the back of the toilet! Whatever will he think I do with them if he sees them there?! (I put them on my hands and hold impromptu puppet shows in the mirror, of course, what else would I do with them?)
All too soon, Gary is here. We're not quite at the point where he can simply sashay in, but knocking and waiting for me is a bit formal, so he rat-a-tats and then pokes his head inside. “Miranda?”
“Come on in, Gary!” I shout. I am standing approximately eighteen inches away from him, so perhaps shouting is overkill. I immediately whisper instead. “Gary. Come. In. How are you. Gary?” He is grinning at me, that great big Gary grin that makes me all gooey inside, like fudge that hasn't set yet but you eat it anyway and burn the tip of your tongue off.
“I've got the cards.” He hangs up his jacket, tugging a deck out of his (very tight) pocket. I fan myself with a wooden spoon and whack myself in the nose, but I don't think he notices.
Fifteen minutes later, we are firmly ensconced (that's a fun word to say in a heavy French accent, ennnnnscohnced) at the table, platters of finger foods surrounding us, a few more on reserve in the kitchen, eight different pints of ice cream ready in the freezer (what if he doesn't like toffee-flavored?), and some fizzy drinks that Stevie helped me make earlier. It's truly amazing what you can do with club soda.
“Gary, it's truly amazing what you can do with club soda,” I tell him, and takes an appreciative sip. And I watch his Adam's apple appreciatively as he swallows, as well.
“This is nice. Okay, so you're going to make sure I don't see your two cards. Just take a peek at them.” Oh, he's dealt the cards. I look at them – a red three and a black seven. That doesn't seem very good. “I have a three and a seven, Gary,” I announce.
“You're not supposed to tell me.”
“I do not have a three and a seven. I have completely different cards.”
So Gary teaches me how to play Texas Hug 'Em. It's actually not the hardest game in the world, though it takes me some time to remember there are two different kinds of reds and two different kinds of blacks. Whilst we play, we decimate the finger food platters, destroy the reserves, demolish the fizzy drinks, and even make a solid dent into the ice cream. Before we know it, we look up and it's half-three in the morning.
“Ah, unintelligible gobble-de-gook,” Gary says, or something along those lines, yawning so widely I can see his tonsils. (Mmm, Gary's tonsils.)
“It's very late,” I say, though I'm not sure if I open my mouth when I say it. Suddenly I am so tired it seems that my arms aren't connected to my body. It's a funny feeling. I sort of like it.
“I should probably shove off then.”
“No!” I protest, my arm flopping about numbly somewhere a few feet from my body. “You'll get mugged, or you'll fall down a well.”
“You never know, Gary. All sorts of things happen in London after hours. You should stay here. You can have the couch.” Wait, is that rude, to offer someone the couch? It seems rude. No one wants to sleep on the couch. “I'll sleep on the couch, you can have the bed.”
“Oh, I couldn't.”
“You could, you absolutely could,” I insist. “You just have to walk up to it, see, and then sort of fold your body until you sit upon it, then it's just a roll and a stretch of the legs and before you know it, you're on the bed. In the bed. Upon the bed. You are some sort of preposition adjacent to the bed.”
His eyes are all sleepy but smiley at the same time. If they were pools I would take a swim in them, though that might be rather icky, since they're eyeballs. That's enough of that. I shove off to the linen closet and drag down some sheets for myself. I'll wake up with them either in a ball at my feet or tumbled down on the floor, but one likes to begin with a made-up bed like an adult, doesn't one? Gary toddles past me to the bathroom, and I close my eyes for a moment to imagine what it would be like if we lived together. It would always be homey and domestic, just like this, the two of us sliding past each other in the hallway as easily as can be, as though it's a choreographed dance. Gary's in my bedroom. I put a hand over my heart, a coked-up hummingbird once more. I won't be in the room with him, of course, but it's a nice start.
“Um, Miranda, what's this?” He's standing beside the bed, a corner of covers drawn back.
“That's the bed.” I can't tell if he's serious or not. “That's the flat soft piece of furniture you sleep on. That's when you close your eyes and let your brain go all wobbly.”
Gary holds something up mutely. It takes me a moment to focus on it. Dark, square, some sort of pattern on it OH GOD OH GOD IT'S THE GARY PILLOW GARY IS HOLDING THE GARY PILLOW SHOULDN'T SPACE JUST ERUPT OR SOMETHING? Gary must be able to see that my brain had entered capslock because he hurriedly stuffs his own pillow (oh God Miranda now is not the time!) back into the bed.
“Maybe I'll just take the couch,” he says, all in one word.
“I suppose that's a good idea,” I say before he's finished.