Disclaimer: Everyone owned by JMS and Babylonian Productions.
Thanks to: KathyH, for beta-reading.
Timeline: Pre-show, simultaneous to the start of the B5 tv movie In the Beginning
Author's note: Written as a Christmas present for Andraste.
Later, G'Kar never was quite sure what came first: deciding that Londo Mollari was the most irritating man alive, or deciding to seduce his wife.
He had hated Mollari on sight, of course, but that by itself was not unusual; Mollari shared that distinction with the rest of the Centauri. What was unusual was the way Mollari behaved, singling G'Kar out for venomous comments and poisonous looks, as if the two of them had met before. Having a reasonably good memory, G'Kar was sure that they had not. Just to be on the safe side, he did bother to check Mollari's background. The man had not even been stationed on Narn during the occupation, although his grandfather had done his part in proving the Centauri disposition for cruelty and exploitation. No, he had never met Londo Mollari before the two of them encountered each other on Earth. Mollari was part of the Centauri delegation. It was unfortunate that the humans had met the Centauri first, but the Narn would make sure the humans knew who the rising power of the universe was, and whom they should choose to trade with. G'Kar, with his talent for languages, was one of the first appointed to convince the Earthers of this.
Soon, he discovered that hard work for the Narn Regime had additional side benefits, though he could not discuss this with his collegues. He made that mistake only once.
"I know we're far from home," said his aide Ki'dan with bemusement, "but frankly, G'Kar, your fascination with Earth females is beyond me. All that hair, for starters. Their skin is too soft, and so translucent that you sometimes see the veins. Like animals. Disgusting. And those with pink skin are the worst of all – they nearly look like Centauri."
G'Kar gave him a level look, and Ki'dan apologized immediately. Of all the insults Narns could throw at each other, the accusation of lusting after a Centauri was the worst of all. After the Centauri had left their planet for good, those who had served them willingly had been punished, males and females alike. Their bones still bleached in the red Narn sun.
If G'Kar was discreet about his affairs with Earthers to avoid more comments before gaining that well-deserved seat in the Khari which would shut his opponents up for good, he knew nothing short of utter and complete secrecy would do once he made his decision about Mariel. He met her at a garden party given by some Earth Senator. Mollari was there as well, of course, holding forth endlessly about trivialities, slapping an assortment of human dignitaries on the back and calling everybody "my good friend" or "dear lady". The very sound of his voice, too loud, with an accent that grated on G'Kar's ears, was an offense to the senses. Mollari's young wife, on the other hand, was a ravishing creature dressed in red, and proving her good taste by being visibly bored by her husband already.
As the humans had a custom called a "buffet" during which one collected one's own food on a plate, G'Kar happened to stand next to the Lady Mariel at one point. Being one of the prettiest women present, she was not alone, but as she could not speak any human languages, she had some trouble communicating her wishes.
G'Kar could have cared less as to whether or not a spoilt Centauri aristocrat got what she wanted. On the other hand, he did care for the glimpse of her breasts she offered when she bent over the buffet table to point at something. He was developing a headache from her husband's incessant prattle, which needed a cure, and this just could be it.
No other Narns were in earshot, so he used the language he had not spoken out loud since talking to the first Centauri he killed and asked which part of the chicken she wanted. Some part of himself was vaguely proud he remembered which Centauri bird came closest to the human animal, and that was the word he used. Another part wished he could force this woman, and her husband, to converse solely in the Narn language instead.
She looked a bit surprised. Then she smiled, and no linguistic skills were necessary to translate the nature of her smile to him.
"Legs. After all, that leaves the breasts to share with… others."
This was the extent of their conversation during the garden party. As he soon found out, Mariel was thrilled at the prospect of having sex with a powerful Narn, but not stupid. She knew very well that any public flirtation would be detrimental to both of them. The skill with which she arranged a meeting in a hotel without ever talking to a member of the Narn staff herself was admirable. Being married to Mollari undoubtedly made the development of such skills vital.
"How long have you been married?" he asked her as they both drank the liquid named champagne he had ordered. Mollari had been commenting on it a while ago, adding rather snidely that he did not expect a Narn to understand why its existence proved the humans were fit for intergalactic civilisation, as opposed to certain other people.
"Only briefly," Mariel replied, after catching individual drops in the corners of her mouth with the tip of her tongue. "I am his third wife, and he brought me along to impress the humans. The other two would make them pity him, you know, and he does hate to be pitied."
"It must be a horribly dull life for you," G'Kar said, smiling at her and thinking that this bit of information had already made the evening rewarding. "Wasting your charms on the unworthy."
She returned his smile. "I never waste."
He took his signal, put his glass on the floor, and started to kiss her neck, smooth and soft and easy to break. It was true; human women were much like Centauri. But not completely. Even when both were using perfume, there was a subtle difference in the smell. Hers was alien and familiar at the same time, and the fact that he remembered it from the days when he had been young and desperate, with a hate bright enough to burn the stars, quickened his breath almost as much as the ministrations of her clever, clever fingers. Centauri silk and perfume, fragile skin and hidden slots, open to his tongue and touch.
"Why, G'Kar," she breathed at one point, "one could almost think that…"
He wondered how fast he could kill her, if it came to it. Whether that would be worse for her fool of a husband than this.
"…you had taken the trouble of taking advice before," she finished, bending her back just a little more. Yes, Mariel was a clever woman.
It was not long after they had started their affair that news came about the disastrous encounter between the Earth ship Prometheus and a Minbari cruiser. "Londo says I should pack," Mariel told G'Kar lazily, stretching out between the sheets of another hotel bed. "The heads of the delegation will stay, but the staff of the Centauri embassy here on earth will be drastically reduced. He thinks there will be war."
And naturally, the Centauri ran way. This could be an opportunity. War meant the necessity of weapons, and the humans would be grateful for anyone who did not run but chose to stay and deliver. It would be profitable as well, and the newly powerful Narn Regime was still in need of money.
"Well, I will miss you," G'Kar said, and her fingers, busy drawing lines on his belly, stilled for a moment. Then she continued. He had not exactly told the truth; as exciting and gratifying as their encounters were, she was hardly a unique distraction in his life, safe for the fact that she was Centauri. He was not in love with her, nor did he believe she was in love with him. Still, it annoyed him somewhat that she had not paid him the compliment of replying in kind.
"We should have a farewell celebration," he said, suddenly inspired. "Something worthy of…you."
"What do you have in mind?"
What he had in mind was the closest thing he could probably achieve to a fantasy that had been plaguing him since his youth. He would never visit Centauri Prime save to bring just punishment to all Centauri, to see their cities crumble into dust, and then he would be surrounded by his fellow Narn, which would make the fulfilment of his fantasy impossible. But due to the drastic reduction of staff in the houses owned by Centauri diplomatic personnel and due to Mariel professing to tarry as long as possible on Earth for love of her husband, he could manage to slip in one evening when Mollari was away, negotiating or otherwise wasting his time, without being detected by security. As he had known it would be, the interior decoration of Mollari's residence was much an imitation of the decadent Centauri palaces as their mansions on Narn had been. The Centauri had never gathered how predictable and easy to attack the similar layout of their houses made them.
Mariel was waiting for him, not in the master bedroom but, as he had wished her to be, in the salon where the portrait of the Emperor hung and where the ornate chair symbolizing his throne stood, should he ever wish to visit his subject. It did not take him two minutes to sit down on the chair.
"There is something I want you to know," she said, while going down on her knees before him, which was as near a match of his fantasy as one could manage.
"And what is that, my dear?"
"I have made recordings of several of our encounters," she murmured sweetly. "If anything happens to me, or if I ever get so bored that simply any entertainment will do, they will automatically be transferred to the Khari."
This would have rendered him numb if she hadn't started to devote her attention to his already excited member.
"I have nothing against indulging you, G'Kar," Mariel said once her mouth was free again. "I just want to be indulged in turn. It's so inconvenient to have a husband with gambling debts. This detracts from my status at home, and that is where I am going. If he leaves Earth as a pauper, he'll never get an appointment again, and I shall be doomed to a life in the provinces."
In disbelief, he stared at her.
"You want me to settle Mollari's gambling debts?"
"If you'd be so kind," Mariel whispered gently in his ear, circling her arms around his neck. "After all, that weapons deal you could arrange with the humans due to my revelations should have provided you with a lot of money."
"That money is meant for the rebuilding of Narn," he hissed while cursing himself for having underestimated her, "not for the support of a Centauri decadent."
"But you already supported a Centauri decadent, several times, rather memorably and for the world to see," Mariel returned. "I always thought you liked the position."
It was her luck that he had a sense of humour, G'Kar later told himself. And that her husband's gambling debts were not so huge that they made an immediately noticeable hole in the immense profit the weapon business with Earth had gained for the Narn. If it was discovered, he had taken the trouble of framing evidence to implicate his old enemy, Councillor Du'Rog.
In the meantime, he promised himself to stick to Earth women for the near future, and not just because one did not know how long they would be around anymore. Or at least to be more careful the next time he encountered Mariel, who did leave Earth for Centauri Prime the day after her revelation. He met her husband a month afterwards at some charity function which was supposed to raise the morale of the human population. To his surprise, Mollari upon spotting him actually headed in his direction.
"I was hoping to see you," the Centauri said.
"Well, the longer you stay on earth, the greater the possibility that the Minbari will rid the universe of you… but actually, I wanted to return something to you," Londo Mollari said, reaching into his waist coat and producing a leather glove G'Kar recognised immediately.
"I know you Narns love nothing better than to accuse us of plundering your planet, but I must insist we do stop at what passes for clothing with your people. Your dress sense is abominable. Here you are."
His tone of voice was utterly enigmatic, and it was impossible to tell whether or not he meant anything more than he was saying. No matter whether he assumed a Narn had been in his house to spy, or whether he suspected something else, he had to believe something. For the first time, G'Kar wondered whether Mollari's constant yelling, laughing or prattling wasn't an elaborate mask.
"Keep it," he replied, watching Mollari carefully. "No Narn would care for anything that has been defiled by a Centauri."
"That, my friend, depends so very much on your point of view," Mollari declared cheerfully, and tucked the glove away again. "For my part, I have even known barbarians to enjoy some of the fruits of civilisation if they were thrown their way."
With that, he turned and mingled among the crowd again. For a moment, G'Kar had a vivid image of himself, putting his hands around Mollari's throat and squeezing the life out of him. In the throne room where all good fantasies were supposed to come true. Then he shook it off. Whether or not Mollari was actually degraded enough not to care whether his wife had an affair with one of his enemies was immaterial. The days of the Centauri were over. G'Kar would personally see to it that they understood what that meant, in any way necessary.
His honour as a Narn required no less.