I'm the Only One by Sarah Houghton

This fiction is owned by the author. "I'm The Only One", the song, is owned by Melissa Etheridge, from her 1993 album Yes I Am. Some events are taken from Kathryn M. Drennan's novel Babylon 5 #9: To Dream in the City of Sorrows.

"Why me?" Marcus Cole paced back and forth in his quarters, pondering what he should do. I have all this work to do, logs to search, logs to complete, and I can't do any of it. Why? Because all I can think about is her. All right, Marcus Alexander Cole, you will finish those logs. You will not think about Susan.

Filled with determination, he strode bravely over to the desk, deliberately dropped a pile of data crystals onto it, then tossed another pile of crystals on top of the others, and sat himself down in the chair. There. Get to work, or the results will not be pretty.

For several minutes, the plan worked. The dark-haired Ranger vigilantly copied logs, scanned logs for information leads to be followed up later, and filled out forms and requisitions and other things for the paper-wizards to look at and stamp. And, then, while reciting a log into the computer, his chair balancing, tilted back on two of its legs, the trouble started all over again.

"...And Ranger Duchene reported that a possible fuel source was located in Sector 127. While this may be highly beneficial to us as the times wear on, Sector 127 has been booby-trapped by the Narns. This, naturally, creates a problem. We may have to ask for assistance from the Narns if this fuel source is proven and becomes needed. Lastly, regarding the Susan...Bloody hell!" With a sigh of frustration and despair, Marcus let the chair clomp forward into its rightful position and angrily shut off the recording.

It's impossible. Trying to not think about Susan is like trying not to think about a pink elephant. Or, for that matter, a pink unicorn. Marcus got up and began pacing around the room again. Why her? Why, why, why? Why do I have to be madly in love with the most infuriating, most maddening, most utterly insufferable woman I've ever met? Because she's also the most marvelous, most wonderful, most glorious woman I've ever met.

Marcus sighed, grimly, knowing full well what these thoughts meant for his future. I'm doomed.

Please baby can't you see
My mind's a burnin' hell
I got razors a rippin' and tearin' and strippin'
My heart apart as well

I can't stand it. I have to get out of here...for a little while. Obviously, I'm not going to get any work done. So I might as well go for a walk. After putting on his Ranger cloak, Marcus left the room, the desk, and the pile of work sitting on the desk.

He walked. And walked and walked and walked, not to any particular place, but merely stalked Down Below. But Marcus was to have no relief from his obsession tonight. Damn, damn, damn, and damn. Silk, the color of a chestnut tree, reminds me of her hair. Her skin reminds me of a cat. An Egyptian cat, a goddess, who strides through the night. Her eyes are like stars, like beacons in the night. The voice is like spoken gold, boiling molten metal that fills and shapes itself to your soul. Why is it that everything I ruddy well think of brings me back to her? Christly Hell, even the sound of her fists hitting the wall makes me think of her spirit, her glorious warrior spirit. Bloody hell, why can't I find a fight somewhere -- at least a good fight would take my mind off Susan.

Sighing, Marcus wandered into Red Sector and found himself near the Zen Garden. Hmmmm. What would I like to see in the future? Beginning what promised to be a happy fantasy, he wandered into the garden. ...Susan and I, Susan and I together, in a little house...maybe in St. Petersburg, that might make her happy...a white-plank fence, with gardens, definitely lots of gardens. We could even put a little unicorn statue in one of the gardens. And a four-poster bed in the -- "Ooooof!"

"That's okay, Cole, I walk on the bottoms. You might as well walk on the tops."

Oh no. "I'm sorry, Susan, I didn't see you sitting there."


Marcus smiled. "I was lost in my own thoughts, you know how it is." She is so beautiful, so very beautiful.


She seems awfully down this evening. I hope nothing is wrong. "How are you doing tonight? Everything okay?" Concerned, he sat down next to her.

Susan Ivanova weighed him soundly, and then released a long sigh. "I was just thinking about the past. Someone from the past."

"Anyone in particular?"

Susan looks at the ground. "Her name was Talia. And, strange as it sounds, I miss her."

Tonight you told me
That you ache for something new
And some other woman is lookin' like something
That might be good for you

"Tell me about her." Why am I doing this to myself?

"She was a Psi Corps commercial telepath, been aboard the station since 2258. Earth recalled her maybe two, maybe three months before you got here."

"It's a shame I never met her. But I didn't think you liked telepaths."

Susan didn't reply. She merely sat on the ground, picking at some lichens, staring at the stones, at the flowers, and the sandy grasses. Quietly, she began to cry, little teardrops rolling down her face. Marcus immediately moved closer to her, holding her gently, resting her head on his shoulder, making little comforting sounds to try to soothe her.

I've got to keep her talking. Obviously, it's very painful for her. I can't bear to see her holding all that in. Maybe they didn't get along very well and Susan misses an old sparring partner. At least I hope that's all there was.

Finally, her tears lessened, and she pulled away from him. "I didn't mean to do that," Susan grouched softly, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

"I know. But it doesn't bother me." In fact, I rather like having your head on my shoulder.

"It bothers me." Her voice was unnaturally gruff.

"Susan --"

"No, Marcus, I think I'd rather --"

He gently took her by the shoulders and hugged her carefully. Then, after this show of support, Marcus sat her down and lowered himself beside her. "I think you should tell me about it. If you hold pain inside, it consumes you until there's nothing left." Don't I just know it. "Please, tell me about Talia. Please."

The floodgates opened again, and Susan's story poured out, along with her tears. Susan and Talia were lovers. Then Talia was revealed as a traitor, sent back to Earth under mysterious circumstances, with a totally new personality. Why does this have to happen? As she talked, Marcus gently held her hands, gently stroking one of her palms in slow circles with his fingers. Susan never saw her again. This is terrible for her, terrible for me, definitely bad for us as a couple.

"I miss her...so...much," Susan sobbed. "Why did this happen? I want her back, I want her back the way she was." She began to cry again, leaning her head on his shoulder. After a few moments, she began to talk again.

Marcus held her hands, trying to comfort her and himself. Talia was later reported dead. It's good for me, I guess, but -- no, that's not a worthy thought, certainly not a pure thought, but I never claimed to be pure, only a virgin -- still...there must be something I can do.

After a few moments, Susan stopped crying, but clung to him, clearly upset. Marcus gently lifted her head, wiped away her tears with his index finger, and brought her to her feet with a swoop. "Come on, Susan, I'll take you home."

Go on and hold her till the screaming is gone
Go on believe her when she tells you
nothing's wrong

After half-carrying Susan to her quarters, Marcus returned to his own quarters, deciding that it would not be safe to stay there with Susan until morning. He had managed to avoid contact with others during the walk, certain that Susan would prefer it that way. Susan will kill me if any rumors are started.

He still couldn't bring himself to finish the work piled on his desk. Neither could he calm himself enough to meditate, let alone meditate properly. Marcus simply lay down, sprawled on the bed, and tried to sleep. Fat chance. I'd have a better chance of flapping my arms and flying to Mars. Why is it all I can think about is Susan? Can't I think about other things? Like the Shadows...Delenn...the growing relationship between Delenn and Sheridan...the relationship I'd like to have with Susan. Marcus groaned in exasperation, rolling over in the bed, forcing his face into the pillow. Damn, it's so hard, I adore her, it physically hurts to not think about her. I would do anything for her, to protect her, to keep her safe, to keep near her.

But I'm the only one
Who'll walk across the fire for you
I'm the only one
Who'll drown in my desire for you

But I do understand how she feels. I have some of the same feelings, some of the same demons, I know them so so well since -- no, don't think about that. He sighed, wondering whether William would like Susan, whether they would approve of each other, wondering how different his life would be had he and Susan never met. Our lives would certainly be different. It's sad, though, we have so much in common but neither of us wants to talk about it.

Finally, after a long restless night, Marcus slept.

It's only fear that makes you run
The demons that you're hiding from
When all your promises are gone
I'm the only one

The next morning, after meditating, Marcus came to a decision. I have to tell her -- I must tell Susan how I feel. I can't go on this way; I can't go on trying to hide how I feel about her. If I don't, who knows what might happen? I might even do something rash. Now that he was ready to face the day, Marcus left to beard the lion in her den.

The day passed without incident, highly unusual in itself, but Susan still hadn't made an appearance.

Where could she be? I think she's avoiding me.

Later that afternoon, he spotted Susan sitting in a section of the Zocalo, drinking coffee and brooding about something. Last night, no doubt. I need to talk with her. It's now or never. Having gathered his nerve, Marcus quickly walked over to her, sat down, and began to speak. "Susan, I've been thinking and --"

"Shut up, Cole. I need to say something." She turned to face him, looking him squarely in the eyes, daring him to interrupt. "I wanted to apologize --"

I have to tell her, have to tell her --

"-- For my behavior last night. You see, I --"

I can't believe this, say something dammit --

"-- Had been drinking last night, just a little, and --"

Why haven't I said anything yet, here's my chance --

"-- Sort of lost control and got all maudlin. Anyway, I --"

To tell her. Don't lose it, don't lose it, don't --

"Wanted to thank you for understanding and being so discreet."

Lose it. Marcus could only stare at her back, as she rose to her feet and strode quickly away, almost as if she wanted to get as far away as possible from reminders of her faux pas.

Please baby can't you see
I'm trying to explain
I've been here before and I'm locking the door
And I'm not going back again

Standing there, in the middle of the Zocalo, reviewing the all-too-short conversation, Marcus realized that, all through the conversation, a phantom had been nagging at the back of his mind. A phantom named Hasina Mandisa, whom I can't forget. Hasina, intelligent and lovely Hasina, who died with everyone else on Arisia 3, wretched burning hell of a home planet that it was.

Bitterness souring his mood still further, Marcus looked to where Susan had disappeared. Everyone, that is, except me. How same is the situation now and then. Hasina died without even knowing how much I loved her, how much I cared about her. The guilt and pain and sorrow of that single omission of judgment haunts me to this day. I figured I had enough time, enough time so that telling her the truth could always wait another day. Then, suddenly, there were no more days. There wasn't anything at all. Marcus blinked, feeling his eyes begin to sting with unshed tears. It won't be the same with Susan.

Seeing that Susan was long gone by now, Marcus returned to his quarters. There was simply nothing else he could do.

Her eyes and arms and skin won't make
it go away
You'll wake up tomorrow and wrestle the sorrow
That holds you down today

Marcus was pacing again. If this keeps up, I'll be wearing a hole in the ruddy carpet...and probably in the bloody deckplates underneath. Forcing himself to stop, he sat himself in a corner and tried to meditate, tried to calm his racing mind and aching heart. But his mind was consumed by Susan. How I want to hold her and comfort her and tell her. Three simple words. Three unbearably simple words. Three words that will change her life and my life -- even if only because Susan tosses my broken body out an airlock or uses me as a PPG firing target or something equally violent. But I can't get the words out, I just can't do it.

Go on and hold her till the screaming is gone
Go on believe her when she tells you
nothing's wrong

Why? I can't understand why I couldn't tell her. Is it that difficult? Three little words. Ridiculous. You're a miserable excuse for a human being, Cole. Have I no strength, no determination, no resolve? Why is it I can fight robbers and thieves and other miscreants in Down Below -- and win, if I do say so myself -- but can't even bring myself to say three simple words to a woman? Marcus sighed. Because, you bloody fool, the woman in question happens to be Commander Susan Ivanova, the terror of the on-shift. Marcus shook his head in resignation and despair. And I, poor sod, am madly in love with her. Life is so bloody unfair.

But I'm the only one
Who'll walk across the fire for you
I'm the only one
Who'll drown in my desire for you

I can't let her die like Hasina. I can't let it happen again. I can't. I won't. All I can do is stay by her side, to protect her the way I protect the Entil'Zha. I have to stay with Susan, as often as I can, and keep the demons away, "keep the wolf away", as she puts it.

It's only fear that makes you run
The demons that you're hiding from
When all your promises are gone
I'm the only one

I know Susan's frightened by a relationship with me, assuming she has any feelings for me at all. She's afraid that -- after her experience with Talia and how badly that ended -- it'll end the same way, that I'll leave her, or die, or somehow just go away. But I'm afraid that she will die without love, without someone loving her. Susan saved my heart, saved the part of my soul that I thought was gone forever. How can I stand by and watch her heart and her soul die?

Marcus rose from the floor, stared at his own image in the mirror, firmly held his own gaze, and made a silent promise to himself. I will protect Susan, just as I protect the Entil'Zha. With my life.


Home Guestbook Email