Title: A Lesson in Charity
Characters: Londo and...someone else
Summary: Forgiveness is not easy or simple. The aftermath of two wars. Set on Centauri Prime and Narn, shortly before the WWE flash-forward.
When my long exile became unbearable I went to Centauri Prime and asked Emperor Mollari to take me into his service. I was disguised, of course, as a simple Minbari Worker. Londo bowed in passable Minbari-fashion, and accepted my Worker's salute, hands open to show readiness for labour. There were no other Minbari in Londo's court, but I had expected none.
"Let me serve you," I said. "As a Minbari, I will be welcome all over the galaxy. Let me be your hands, your eyes, your ears in places you cannot go."
"And why should you wish to serve me, my sweet young lady?" Londo asked. He called me a young lady because that is what I was pretending to be.
I have heard of your wisdom, far and wide. There is much that we do not know, on Minbar."
Londo took my hand, and kissed it. "Beautiful women have called me many things, but rarely wise. I accept you into my service." He bowed again, and without too much effort I managed a blush.
"I need a...favour," Londo said, later. "For an old friend. I will send you to Narn. No Centauri are welcome there, and I would be grateful for a first-hand account of what is taking place in what used to be our Empire."
And so I went to Narn, and traveled there for three months as the Centauri count them. Seventeen years after the end of the occupation, I could see the native vegetation beginning to return, although it was patchy in places. The cities were rebuilt and prosperous, looming over the still-ravaged countryside. The government was led by none other than Na'Toth, and I was happy that the Narn had been blessed with a brave leader, but I did not seek her out. I returned to Centauri Prime, and told Londo all the good that I had seen.
"And what else?" he asked. "What of the destruction, the ruin, caused by our years of conquest?"
All of his court were watching me, waiting for me to dare criticize the Empire, and knowing that Minbari do not lie. "Narn is not destroyed," I said. "It is strong, and healthy."
"I see," he said. "Then there are no radiation diseases caused by the waste we left behind? And the farmers in the lands we strip-mined are thriving and strong?"
"If you know," I asked, "why did you send me?"
"My ministers." Londo gestured broadly. "They are in need of an education."
The next day Londo summoned me again. "Do you wish to remain in my service?"
I nodded. It was easier than returning to exile.
"Go to Narn," Londo said. "Take this money. It is the little that I have been able to wring from the Centauri people in this time of trouble. Use it to build hospitals, and rehabilitation projects, in the name of the fallen Centauri empire."
There were many devastated places on Narn, but I chose one on which to begin, where radiation stunted the crops and poisoned the inhabitants. I brought doctors of various races with me, who began to train some of the impoverished locals. In my guise as a Worker, I organized the building, and hired Narn to work alongside me. They were grateful for the work, and for the food. And so I was taken aback when Na'Toth herself showed up to demand that we cease.
"This is a gift from Emperor Mollari," I explained. "He asked for nothing in return."
Na'Toth cursed colourfully, describing in detail (for the benefit of the Narn presses) the six parts of his anatomy where Londo was welcome to put his gift. Her ministers jeered. Work ceased, and Na'Toth called me to meet with her privately.
"You must understand," she said, "we are not in need of charity. We were damaged by the occupation, but we have it within ourselves to recover. The Empire is gone, and I would be grateful if it stays gone."
"These people are in need of charity." A few native doctors had begun to be trained, but they were too few. The building was still too small to take in all those who needed care.
"Did you tell them the name of their benefactor?" Na'Toth asked. I hesitated. "I thought not," she said. "He did ask you to, didn't he?"
"I was going to tell them, in time," I said.
No Narn came to the hospital, in the days that followed. The half-trained native doctors ministered as well as they could; the rest were ignored.
"I know you meant well," Na'Toth said.
Londo called all the Ministers together to hear my report, full and complete, and to witness the return of the money that Na'Toth had demanded that I bring back. Some muttered at Narn stubbornness, but Londo silenced them with a reminder that they had been no less stubborn when offered Alliance assistance.
When the report was done, Londo sent everyone away, so that we were alone together.
"And what would you have me do, Delenn?" Londo asked. "Go to Earth, in a universe in which your destruction was not stopped, and ask forgiveness from a murdered race on your behalf?"
"I wanted to watch someone tell the truth," I said, "even if I could not speak it myself."
"It is most inconvenient," Londo said, "when one's victims persist in living. Then one cannot lie about them, so one might as well find virtue in the truth. Occupation is so very messy, is it not? It is so difficult to be safe around people who wish one dead. There is so much land to protect from terror, which rarely improves it. It is better to be clean, to destroy all. Then we can forget, and tell stories of how good and kind we are."
"I am not trying to forget, or to tell stories" I said. "I am trying to atone, to build a new life out of the ashes of what I have destroyed. Telling the whole truth about my past would undo everything I have tried to accomplish."
"Then why did you come to me?"
I was silent for a long time. "I wanted someone not to forgive me," I finally said. "I find myself very easily forgiven."
I thought of my home, my exile: my beloved husband and sweet child who could never know my secret, who love me with a love that shakes worlds but cannot unburden the heart.
"How did you know who I am?" I asked. I wanted to know how he knew about my past, but I suspected that he would never tell me.
"Your Worker salute is pathetic," he said. "It reeks of prayer and humility. I knew you were an exiled Religious, and Lennier would never be so clumsy."
At this I had to laugh, and Londo embraced me. I felt the darkness around him, the darkness that connects us, and for a moment I was at peace.
"You cannot tell your son," Londo said, "but you can show him. Bring him here, to Centauri Prime, and take him from here to Narn.
Let him see two peoples struggling to make peace, trusting neither themselves nor the other. He will not know that the story is his own, but he will know that it is true."
Londo shuddered as he said this, his pain an echo of my history. We are two murderers with broken souls, and I wanted my son to stand with us on Centauri Prime.
"I will," I said.
This is for selenak who asked for it on my birthday. I still haven't read the novels, and I'm sure this is AU to them, but I couldn't resist.