Disclaimer: All characters owned by JMS and Babylonian Productions. Timeline: Season 1, episode "Midnight on the Firing Lane". Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading. Author's note: Challenge fic; the request was for a story with less than 1000 words inspired by the first episode.


I. "I am, Ambassador." "You are what?" the other asks slowly.

Vir has never felt so humiliated in his life, which is saying a lot. His uncle had referred to the newly appointed Ambassador to Babylon 5 as a "lightweight", or "that drunken failure Mollari". Or as "finally someone who deserves such an incompetent fool like you". Somehow, these designations failed to conjure up the reality standing in front of him now, getting more incensed by the minute. The Ambassador is not really that much taller than Vir, but he has such a booming, loud voice that he seems to fill the room with it, and he doesn't duck or slouch the way Vir does, he stands tall.

"Your staff," Vir whispers and wishes he could become invisible. It never was a problem at home, where the only times anybody noticed him was when he stumbled against something or stood in the way.

"I see," the Ambassador says, and Vir has barely opened his mouth to add that he is, in fact, qualified, has learned how to organize data files, schedules, can speak some Minbari and Narn in addition to the human language more and more used in intergalactic trade, when he is cut off before he can list even one his skills.

"And what am I to do with you, hm? Start a nursery? I suppose someone at home thinks this is very funny. Well, why not. Send me your children, your fools and your hopeless, and let's all get blown up together!"

This series of insults is more familiar, and Vir reacts like he always does. He raises his hands as if to ward off the inevitable continuation and mumbles: "I'm sorry."

The Ambassador, however, does not react the way everyone in his family does. He stares at Vir in disbelief. There is anger in his dark eyes, but also something Vir cannot name or understand.

"Did I ask you to be?"

Bewildered and feeling more frightened by the minute, Vir shakes his head.

"Then why are you? Never mind. Here," says the Ambassador brusquely and points towards the corner of his suite which is obviously used for drinks and meals, though Vir spots more bottles then anything else. "You know how to prepare hot jaala, yes?"

"Yes," Vir confirms, glad to be finally able to reply in the positive to just what is being asked.

"Then start making it," the Ambassador grumbles.

II. It's not a day later, and Vir finds the Ambassador drunk on his couch. Approaching him turns out to be a huge mistake. Between all the shouting and raving, Vir for a moment forgets to be afraid and at last is desperate enough to cry out:

"Londo, Londo, why are you doing this?"

Only then does he realize he has called the Ambassador by his first name, something the Ambassador has not given him leave to do, even if he has called Vir "Vir", and not "Cotto" from the moment he learned Vir's name. Londo Mollari doesn't pay any attention to the disrespect, however. In between more angry shouting, Vir gets told about the government's unwillingness to do anything about the Narn attack on Ragesh III.

"By the time our ships got there... By the time our ships got there, everyone would be dead anyways," the Ambassador finishes, and the utter despair in his voice sounds startlingly familiar. Vir knows all about despair. But he never expected to hear it from such a person as the Ambassador. Nobody could possibly ignore Londo Mollari, not even the frightening Narn who regards Mollari with a mixture of hostility and malicious triumph whenever he is present.

"Damn all of them," the Ambassador yells, and as Vir ducks to avoid the bottle Londo Mollari throws, it occurs to him it wasn't even thrown his way. It is an insight, sudden and startling in its clarity: all this fury is not directed at him.

Then Vir has his second insight: Londo Mollari is worried about his nephew on Ragesh III. Worried about his nephew's life, not worried about any possible shame his nephew could bring on House Mollari. This is so different from anything Vir has ever experienced that for a moment he can do nothing but stare and gape. Then he feels something new, something he does not know how to express. After all, nobody has ever taken comfort from him before. Nobody has ever wanted it.

At last, he busies himself and makes some more jaala. Judging by how drunk the Ambassador appears to be, he'll need it.

III. "So that is settled," Londo Mollari says, and unceremoniously throws the cloak he wears for council meetings into Vir's waiting hands. There is satisfaction in his voice, which doesn't surprise Vir, considering Commander Sinclair managed to force G'Kar and the Narn Regime to back down, but also weariness, which does surprise him. Vir tries to think about a reason.

"Your nephew is still alive," he ventures timidly, and doesn't know whether he means it as a question or as a statement.

"Well, yes," Londo replies, and oddly enough stares at his hands for a moment. "Though his career is finished, of course. They'll never forgive him for this at home, even though they weren't prepared to do anything to help him. I hope," he continues, and his voice grows sharp, "you have been paying attention, Vir."

Vir doesn't ask at what, but Londo must have guessed the question from his face. Which is another amazing thing: Londo actually sees him when he looks at him.

"We are alone in this universe, Vir. Utterly and completely alone."

Whether Londo means the Centauri, or just the two of them, Vir doesn't know. But he thinks Londo is wrong in any case. He just doesn't know how express that, either. Not yet.