Disclaimer: All characters owned by JMS and various cooperations.
Timeline: Third season, after "And The Rocks Cried out, No Hiding Place"
and before "Z'ha'dum"
Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading.
Dedicated to: Hobsonphile, who inspired it by bringing up the challenge.
* * *
And *then* do you celebrate your God by eating him in chocolate eggs?"
Londo asked, unimpressed.
Brother Theo briefly closed his eyes.
"You are thinking of Easter, Ambassador," he explained patiently.
In truth Londo was doing no such thing. He had been on Earth for long
enough before the Minbari War to know the difference. Privately, he thought
that some Earth religious festivals were at least more fun than Minbari
festivals, given the amount of alcohol involved. But when Brother Theo had
invited him to attend this year's "Babylon 5 Christmas Gathering", it had
reminded Londo unpleasantly of Delenn's invitation a few months ago, and he
immediately suspected Theo of similar motives. Better, though, to play the
ignorant fool than to endure another lecture on his severe need for
"Well, eggs or no eggs," he declared, "my interest in human religious
festivals ran out several years ago."
"Come now, Ambassador," Brother Theo countered. "It's a time of joy, of
celebrating our ability to love and forgive each other. Surely you can
relate to that?"
I knew it, Londo thought.
"The last thing I celebrated," he said distinctily, "was a death I arranged
for an enemy of mine. I was quite inventive about it."
Brother Theo looked sad but not shocked or surprised, which was all the
comment Londo needed on the state of his reputation on the station. Not
that he cared.
"But did it make you happy?" Brother Theo asked quietly.
"It was satisfying," Londo returned, and proceeded to rush the human out of
his quarters by promising a huge donation to some charity or the other,
which in his experience was the last resort in getting rid of clerics who
tried to get one to examine one's soul. Unfortunately he did not believe it
would work on Delenn, but it did the trick with Brother Theo who merely
threatened to return with something or someone called "carollers".
His quarters felt very empty once the monk was gone. This had nothing to do
with the pesky Brother Theo and everything with Vir, who had been prominent
by his absence ever since Refa had died. He only showed up for work and
didn't talk with Londo except to relate professional matters. Somehow this
was worse than Vir not being on the station at all. Before Vir had left for
Minbar, Londo had not realised how much time he had started to spend with
Vir outside of ambassadorial duties. But with Vir on Minbar, he could tell
himself he had done the right thing in sending the boy away, the right
thing for Vir, at any rate. Vir's visits had become some of the very rare
things he still looked forward to. Now, though.
If Refa's death had been less than a triumph, had not given him the measure
of peace as Londo had thought it would, it was because of Vir. He really
had not anticipated Vir's reaction. Vir had always destested Refa; once he
learned the truth, Londo had assumed, once Vir realised that not only was
G'Kar safe, but Refa dead, they'd laugh about the whole thing and put it
There had been nothing to laugh about in Vir's frightened, tortured face
when Londo had found him. And the cold fury once Vir knew had been very
different from his angry, concerned outbursts previously whenever Londo
had done something he disaproved of.
*I thought I knew you.*
Well, now he does, Londo thought. And wasn't it better this way?
A voice in his head, sounding suspiciously like G'Kar's, told him that he
didn't deserve Vir's loyalty anyway. That Vir was better off not caring
anymore. Then he recalled the visit from Vir's family he had arranged in
the previous year. It had been the most awkward occasion. There had been an
utter lack of connection between Vir and his relations; they literally
didn't touch each other, not even the usual clasping of arms as a greeting.
When Londo had praised Vir's work as an aide and had called him
indispensible, Vir's uncle had looked more embarrassed than proud and
replied: "Ah. Well. You did not have a previous aide, did you, Ambassador?"
It suddenly occurred to Londo that given that family, and the debàcle that
had been Lyndisti's visit, Vir had no one else to care about. No lover, no
family, no friend, and Vir had definitely not done anything to deserve such
Londo found himself still staring at the door through which Brother Theo
had left. Our ability to love and forgive each other. That unwanted visit
might have had its use after all. At least it gave him an idea. He turned
to the viewscreen and asked the station's computer for a connection to
Centauri Prime. An hour later he was yelling at someone at the top of his
voice. He hadn't felt that good since first seeing Ursa again.
Vir sat in his quarters and felt nothing but the dull, aching misery which
was all too familiar these days. For a while he had even considered going
to the gathering Brother Theo had invited him to some days ago. Maybe it
would have been a distraction at least. But then he imagined the half-
pitying, half scornful looks on everyone's faces. Looks like the ones from
Commander Ivanova whenever he talked to her. She hadn't even thought of
asking him first about the supposedly dead Narn; she had immediately
assumed Londo had been responsible, and that Vir had helped him.
The horrible thing was, he couldn't even blame her for the assumption.
After Refa's death, Vir had seriously considered asking for reassignment,
but the thought of going home was even worse than staying. He couldn't
share in the general cheer about the renewed might of the Centauri
Republic, not without hearing G'Kar's harsh voice hiss
"dead.dead..dead..dead." in his mind. And going elsewhere, as a Centauri,
he'd be hated on sight anyway.
Besides, some part of himself was still stupid enough to believe he made a
difference here. That he couldn't, shouldn't leave Londo, even when he
could hardly bear to look at Londo these days. Sometimes he fervently
wished it was the past, when he had thought they had become friends, and
sometimes he wished it was the future when Londo would be gone beyond all
hope and caring, and hated himself for it more than he could hate Londo.
As if in an echo to his thoughts, he heard a voice. Not Londo's; it was a
female voice, singing one of Vir's favourite arias, in fact the very aria
he had once sung to convince Londo of the superiority of its composer. Not
any female voice, either; that timbre, that pitch was unmistakable; this
was the voice of Irama Sallac, the most famous soprano in the entire
Centauri Republic. She had retired a while ago from public performances
after a long and glorious career, only making an exception for Emperor
Turhan's funeral rites. When Vir had been a boy, one of his cousins had
paid a small fortune for one of her discarded stockings and had been
soundly beaten by his father for it, though Vir's uncle kept the stocking.
It was Irama Sallac's, after all.
Obviously, someone was playing a recording somewhere, somewhere nearby.
When a second voice fell in, Vir began to feel more than idle curiosity. He
recognised the second voice as well; this was Cido Plagomondi, almost an
equal legend among tenors. But Cido and Irama had never sung together;
their feud was legendary. Neither of them belonged to a noble House, and
both of them had at various points accused each other of compromising
musical demands to cater to the tastes of the nobility. In fact, various
Houses had started feuds of their own, depending on whether they prefered
Irama or Cido. The majority of the Centauri, though, in rare unison, had
always regretted the feud considering it meant the two would never join
their voices. It had even become proverbial: "I wish Irama and Cido would
sing together" was what a Centauri said when he longed for the impossible.
It had to be an artificial mixing of two seperately made recordings; still,
Vir wanted to find out how it was done, and who had done it. And he wanted
the crystal on which it was recorded. It had been so long since he had
wanted something that he rose at once, and rushed out of the door to find
out where exactly the music came from.
He didn't get far. There, standing not too far away, was Irama Sallac,
dressed in robes that would not have been beneath the Empress. The veil
around her head fell back as she lifted her chin for the final, triumphant
verse. Next to her, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, stood
Cido, no less magnificently attired, a bottle of brivari in one hand, his
other arm around Irama's shoulder, supporting her with his glorious voice.
And behind them, looking downright modest in comparison, was Londo.
Londo looked at him with a wistful, hopeful expression that Vir, who had
experienced Londo in all kind of moods, was not very familiar with. In
fact, he recalled seeing that particular expression only once, when they
had both waited for Adira to come out of the transport. As the aria soared
to its last notes, something oppressive and heavy in Vir melted. He had no
idea how Londo had accomplished this miracle, whom he had bullied,
blackmailed or bribed. And for once, Vir didn't care.
Suddenly, he realised that he had tears in his eyes and was about to cry in
front of the two most famous singers of Centauri Prime; that they had
stopped singing and that he hadn't even applauded once.
"I'm sorry," Vir said hastily and found his voice croaked, "it was
wonderful, I mean perfect, I mean. I'm sorry."
The two regarded him with unreadable expressions and he wished he could
hide in the bowels of the station at once.
"A miracle," Londo suggested, and his voice was somewhat hoarse as well.
Vir swallowed, and the embarrassment seemed curiously light in comparison
to everything else he felt. It wasn't that he had any illusions about Londo
becoming suddenly a different person from now on, or that he thought Londo
would apologize. This was as close to an apology as Londo could get, and in
its way, it was something more.
"Yes," he said, and smiled at the two singers, a relieved smile so sweet
that they couldn't help but return it. "A miracle."