Timeline: early season 5, shortly after "The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari"
Author's note: Written for the Babylon 5 Friendship Ficathon. The request was "Londo and G'Kar are bemused by a human custom".
Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading. And to Jaxa, whose icon gave me a crucial idea.
Disclaimer: Everyone and everything owned by JMS and Babylonian Productions.
Warning: Silliness ensues. Call it a compensation for the angst I usually write.
Afterwards, they swore it was Garibaldi's fault. While Londo was recovering from his heart attack, Garibaldi once happened to visit him at the same time as G'Kar. If the new head of Alliance security was surprised to find the Narn at Londo Mollari's side, he didn't show it. But it had been a long time since he had shared a social chat with Londo, and so, searching for harmless topics that would not open old wounds in the current company, he came up with the seemingly safe issue of Sheridan's wedding.
"If you ask me," Garibaldi said, "they should have waited till they were back on the station. I'd have organized one hell of a stag night for Sheridan."
"A what?" G'Kar asked, sounding interested. "Isn't a stag an Earth animal? I did not know it was customary to hunt before a wedding, Mr. Garibaldi. A most sensible custom. On Narn, both partners share a hunt before a wedding as well, to prove that they can provide for each other."
Garibaldi laughed. "Nah. No hunting. It's a party where the groom gets to enjoy all the fun stuff one last time with his guy friends – you know, beer, belching, strippers…"
Raising an eyebrow, Londo asked: "And why is it that he cannot enjoy this any more now he is married?"
"Well…" Garibaldi started.
"As a man who was married four times, I can assure you the marital bond only affirms one's affection for brivari and the beauty of other women."
"Now, Londo, it's a little bit different for humans," Garibaldi protested. "A guy marries for love, and he's expected to be faithful to his wife, okay?"
"Yeeees," Londo drawled. "To be sure. But why should this prevent Sheridan from consuming beer and watching…"
"It's just a human thing. Trust me on this."
Garibaldi changed the topic, and after ten more minutes of fairly amusing conversation left. After he had gone, Londo looked at G'Kar.
"No," G'Kar said.
"I did not say anything."
"You have a certain gleam in your eyes, Mollari. The gleam that promises there is a plan brewing in that benighted Centauri head of yours. Your plans never augur well for the universe."
"I'll remind you that the Alliance was basically my idea," Londo returned, somewhat insulted. "In any event – Sheridan has endured a terrible ordeal lately, yes?"
G'Kar nodded, then said: "But he suffered the pain of torture in the cause of liberating his people. Knowing this allows one to endure much."
Ignoring the reference to G'Kar's own torture at the hand of Cartagia for the moment, Londo waved his hand.
"I was talking about the other terrible ordeal, G'Kar."
"In which case you were making noises without making sense. This usually passes for conversation with you."
Londo pulled himself upwards on his bed.
"He took office as the head of a government and he married," he said. "As someone who has gone through both, I sympathize. Naturally, I do not expect you to. Ours is a strange fraternity."
"We are not brothers in any sense of the word, Mollari."
"I meant Sheridan and myself. We both belong to the brotherhood of rulers who had to get rid of their insane predecessor, and of repeatedly married men."
"Just tell me what you are planning, Mollari, and I might be able to save the President from another terrible ordeal."
"That isn't what you really want, G'Kar," Londo declared, looking suddenly very smug.
"What you really want is to search for suitable ladies to perform at the 'stag party' I am going to organize for Sheridan. Do not fear, I would not have given this task to Vir."
G'Kar opened his mouth for a sharp reminder that he was no one's servant, certainly not of any Centauri. Then he remembered how long it had been since he had enjoyed the more pleasant attractions of the station. Being involved in a fight to liberate one's planet, having religious revelations and writing a book did not leave much time for what used to be one of his favourite pursuits. He closed his mouth again.
"I knew it," Londo said triumphantly.
"So, let me get this straight, Ambassador," Captain Lochley said. "You want me to bully someone into letting you rent an entire strip club for one night? And I should do this why?"
"Because that fool who owns the Dark Star dares to refuse, despite the outrageous sum I am willing to pay," Londo thundered. Captain Lochley did not seem impressed, so he added, somewhat more calmly: "And because I need it for an act of charity."
"No offense, and I'm familiar with your people's classification of parties as part of religious service, but do you really think…"
"It is for the President," Londo interrupted, and explained. On the few occasions he had met her so far, Captain Lochley had struck him as a very serious, self-controlled woman. But now he saw the corners of her mouth twitch. Following the old tactic of divide and conquer, he sighed:
"Ah, well. Mr. Garibaldi said it couldn't be done."
"Did he," Lochley replied wryly. "Well, contrary to what he believes, Mr. Garibaldi doesn't run this station. Besides, you're right. Sheridan deserves a break. Fine, I'll talk to the owner of the Dark Star on your behalf."
Londo thanked her effusively and congratulated himself on his insight into the human psyche when Lochley interrupted him:
"Oh, Ambassador. One more thing."
There was definitely a smile on her face now.
"You realize that one of the highlights of stag parties is the complete embarrassment of the groom, don't you?"
This was news to him.
"If you can pull that off without taking away the dignity of the President, kudos. If not, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes the day after. The Alliance is still very new, after all, and Sheridan still has many enemies to convince that a former soldier is any good at politics. If they don't take him seriously any more, that can't be done. "
"I am a diplomat, Captain," Londo said, though he started to feel the first twitches of uncertainty. "Besides, we Centauri are experts at making our rulers look good."
"Mmmm," Captain Lochley said, and after a few more expressions of gratitude, he was on his way when she called after him:
"If you want my advice, ask him about tooth paste and make sure someone at some point calls him Mulder. That worked the … it worked, anyway."
Deciding that humans of the female persuasion were a mystery after all, even after all these years, Londo left.
"Mr. President," G'Kar said, the depth of his sincerity evident in his sonorous voice, "you do trust me, don't you?"
If G'Kar had said this to Sinclair, or to Garibaldi, who remembered the former Ambassador of Narn as someone quite capable of less than admirable behaviour, they would have gotten suspicious. Sheridan, on the other hand, only remembered the noble warrior.
"With my life," he said, equally sincerely.
"Then do as I ask."
Sheridan could not quite see how wearing one of the alien masks sold on the station that would make him look like a Centauri, of all the people, would be a good thing, but G'Kar had always gone far above and beyond the call of duty. He had supported Sheridan at a time when Sheridan had made the hardest decision of his life by turning against his own government. And G'Kar was growing more like the first Kosh every day, with his cryptic utterances. So he shrugged, and put the mask on. Feeling the weight of a Centauri wig on his head and the plasticine on his face was bewildering, to say the least. He felt faintly ridiculous and was grateful Delenn was not there to see it.
"Excellent," said G'Kar. "No one will recognize you, and thus there shall be no dignity lost. Even Mollari is allowed to have a good idea once in a very great while."
"Dignity lost? G'Kar, what…"
"Just follow me, Mr…. Lincolni."
The Black Star had never seen such splendour. Of course G'Kar had called it "the natural Centauri tawdriness on display," but there was no way Londo would give a party, even if it was a party called after an Earth animal for a fellow martyr in the cause of matrimony, without making sure of proper decorations. There had been the question of the right motif, of course. The celebrated man's own face, which would have been displayed on festivities such as the Day of Ascension, clearly would not do. For one thing, it would give Sheridan's identity away, and for another, Londo told G'Kar that all fondness and respect for the President of the Alliance notwithstanding, he wasn't sure whether he could withstand hours staring at gigantic Sheridans on tapestries.
Now Delenn's face would have been a more pleasant sight, but would probably defeat the purpose of the "stag party". Pondering Garibaldi's explanations, they decided on the solution that seemed obvious. And thus the tapestries covering every inch of every wall in the Black Star showed…
"G'Kar," exclaimed the man at his side, "what the hell is that?"
Londo, spotting them, rushed towards them and slapped him on the back, thinking that Sheridan looked every bit as awkward as a Centauri as Londo had always suspected he would. Well, it couldn't be helped.
"The one ritual you missed before getting married, my friend," he said. "The deer party."
"The – Londo, those are naked women up there!"
"There also will be naked women down here, Mr… Lincolni," Londo said reassuringly. "In a while, in a while. We are prepared."
"Ambassador, maybe Dr. Franklin has released you too early."
G'Kar felt it was time to intervene.
"No, he is always like that," he said, and Londo gave him a look. "The rest of us can only hope to channel his insanity into harmless ventures. In that spirit, can you not humour him for a night? The universe throws strange challenges at us all the time, and we cannot but hope to master them."
It was G'Kar in philosophical vein again, and Londo barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes. On the bright side, this patently flimsy excuse was evidently working on Sheridan, for the human said, sounding doubtful:
G'Kar droned on about wisdom and improvisation and the need to smile at the child within and without and what not, and when he brought up the late ambassador Kosh, Sheridan caved and took a seat. Opposite, as Londo noticed, the tapestry displaying the human actress Lo La Li, who had participated in the inanities of the human comedians Reebo and Zooty. She was the costar of their film "A Night At the Baseball Game". Her figure was quite lovely, though, which proved Sheridan wasn't hopeless after all.
He clapped, and the sound of his hands brought the waitresses with beer for Sheridan, as Garibaldi had said this was a requirement, and brivari for Londo, who had no intention of consuming that second rate Earth stuff. He left it to G'Kar to choose his own drink, and when G'Kar took beer, mouthed "you are so predictable, yes?" while Sheridan spluttered at the sight of the waitress, or rather, her costume.
"Londo, do you have any idea what that is?"
"Oh," Londo said innocently, "don't thank me, hm? G'Kar is responsible for anything the girls wear, though why a Narn should know anything about fashion, considering their dreadful attire, is beyond me, but then he insisted."
"I have studied your fauna very thoroughly," G'Kar told Sheridan in his most dignified manner. "As opposed to certain other individuals, who can not even figure out the difference between a cat and a duck. This event is called a stag party, and thus, I asked the computer to list various famous Earth deer. It seemed fitting she should dress as one, to honour the spirit of the feast."
"I see," Sheridan said faintly, looking at the waitress who wore a sign around her neck spelling out, in human letters, "I'M BAMBI", something that was brown with white spots around her hips, and not much else.
"Valtoo!" Londo said, toasting him. Sheridan drank the entire glass at once.
Originally, Londo had planned on inviting as many people as possible, but the simultaneous demands of entertaining and embarrassing Sheridan and leaving his dignity as President of the Interstellar Alliance preserved meant that he couldn't possibly ask anyone who actually knew Sheridan to come. People who had only seen him from afar would buy the Centauri guise, but that was it. On the other hand, inviting only Centauri would mean risking Sheridan's exposure as well. His body language was completely wrong, for starters. Besides, G'Kar was bound to feel uncomfortable among many Centauri, and though Londo would never have admitted it, this mattered to him. This meant that in the end, the party consisted of them, Sheridan, Vir, and a lot of dancers and waitresses. Garibaldi, who would have been welcome but for reasons of secrecy had not been informed of the event until the last minute, was unfortunately on his way to Mars to visit Lise Hampton.
"My dear Lincolni," Londo said after Sheridan had downed his third glass of beer and seemed moderately relaxed, which meant he did not try to hide he was watching the dancers performing the human dance Londo had told them to choose, "there is one thing I never understood about humans."
"There are many things you don't understand about humans," G'Kar cut him off. "The sheer amount of things you don't understand would fill an entire planet if one existed that was as hollow as your head, Mollari."
As the waitress was currently coming towards them with some more beer and had returned Londo's twinkle, Londo had no doubt about the reason for this posturing and somewhat smugly replied:
"This is would be why I never have trouble finding ladies kind enough to share their company with me, G'Kar. Women love to lecture a man on what he doesn't know. Someone who already knows everything has nothing to offer them, whereas anyone they can regard as ignorant is immediately attractive. Which is undoubtedly the explanation why you have never had anything else to hug but a rock since you met your enlightenment, yes?"
"Hey," Sheridan said. "No arguing, okay? I had enough of that crap in the past, and since you two talked me into this insanity…"
"But surely, you know this to be true, my friend," Londo pressed, forgetting diplomacy in his eagerness to score a point. "After all, you married Delenn."
There was a moment of silence while the waitress delivered the next round of beer for Sheridan and G'Kar and more brivari for Londo and Vir. Then Sheridan's artificial Centauri eyebrows drew together.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Mollari displaying his lack of understanding of humans again," G'Kar said. "What was it in particular you were going to ask, Mollari?"
One could almost suspect he was trying to save Londo from a tricky situation.
"Delenn does not lecture," Sheridan said heatedly. "She is a wise, beautiful woman, and I'm the lucky fellow who got her to marry him. Now if you've got a problem with that…"
Trust Sheridan to take offence at "lecture" and not at "ignorant".
"Never," Londo hastened to say. "One of the few things G'Kar and myself have always agreed about was what a wonderful couple you make."
In particular since G'Kar had actually been in a position to watch their wedding night. Not that Londo had been drawing any conclusions from that about G'Kar's current social life.
"Indeed," G'Kar now said benignly. "Now, Mollari, what were you going to ask?"
Actually, Londo had been going to ask about the nonsensical institution of monogamy, but given the turn of conversation, he decided to switch tactics, and improvised with the intelligence Captain Lochley had provided.
"Toothpaste," he said. "What is the meaning of toothpaste, Mulder, hm?"
The impossible happened. Despite all the plasticine hiding his actual face, Londo could swear that he could see John Sheridan flush bright red.
"That's a really nice dance those girls are performing, Ambassador," Sheridan said in a strangled voice and with a pathetically obvious attempt at distraction. Londo smiled at him.
"Why, thank you. I must admit, I never understood the attraction of the 'hokey pokey', but it seems so popular among your race that I commissioned it. Now, do reveal the mystery of tooth paste as well."
Sheridan looked at G'Kar, but found no mercy in the one real eye looking back, nor in the artificial one. It was then he decided the universe might have been better off with those two as enemies.
"I made some additional cash to put myself through the academy by modelling for tooth paste ads under the name Mulder," he said sullenly. "And if this ever leaves this room, I'm reconsidering your membership in the Alliance."
"Why did you choose that name?" G'Kar asked unexpectedly.
"Early hero of mine. I was a conspiracy buff as a kid."
"I knew you had the soul of a Narn, Lincolni," G'Kar said approvingly. "We name ourselves after the prophets we follow as well."
Sheridan looked somewhat cheered up, though that, of course, could have had something to do with the fact the 'hokey pokey' dance on stage ended with a flourish. Everyone applauded, and Sheridan even asked Londo what was next.
"We shall follow all of your rituals," Londo said reassuringly. "Now it is time for the stripper."
"But, Londo, these girls are already…"
"Of course," Londo said, surprised. "It was my understanding that this was to be done by the groom."
At which point the girls, as instructed, ran from the stage to the audience to help John Sheridan remove his clothing.
"…if you ask me, it's a minor miracle the President didn't press charges of assault after leaving the Dark Star in the buff," Garibaldi said a week later, when he had returned and was told the sorry tale, looking at Londo and G'Kar with disbelief and something like traitorous amusement. "With all due respect, Ambassadors, what the hell were you thinking?"
They looked at each other.
"We might have misunderstood a human custom, Mr. Garibaldi," G'Kar said. "I shall meditate on this."
Londo, not looking repentant in the least, simply leaned back.
"You were the one who explained it to us, you know."
"Now, wait a minute. No way this is my fault…"