By Ruth Owen
Season 5 up to 'In the Kingdom of the Blind...'
Disclaimer: Babylon 5 belongs to JMS and Warner Brothers etc. but this story is mine. Please do not print without my name attached, or archive without my permission.
Extra note: This story was written somewhere between 1993 and 1997. I'm currently in the process of uploading some of my old fanfiction to the archive.
"I'm sorry Prime Minister, we are doing the best we can. It is a delicate process. If we repair the system incorrectly the next failure may be catastrophic." The functionary looked harried. A feeling that Londo Mollari knew well: after all, if a man had had four wives - and those four wives had been his particular wives - he would know only too well what harried meant. But Londo was not feeling sympathetic towards that bureaucrat at the moment. Nor was he feeling patient or charitable. And, to his disgust, not even drunk. No, the term that best described Londo Mollari at that point in time was cold.
"It is not good enough!" His robust voice rolled through his quarters, breath steaming in the frigid air. There were no accompanying gestures, however. It was much to cold for that.
"Look," he pointed a finger at the wall. "There is ice forming there, right here in this very room. Now listen closely: if you do not wish to find yourself appointed lower assistant secretary to the junior director of sanitation, I suggest you try harder." With his fist he banged the comm channel closed.
"Feeling better?" a dry voice queried.
"No, as a matter of fact." Londo wrapped the blanket more tightly about his shoulders and picked up a bottle from the table. Empty. A second bottle. Also empty. Bah! Why did he feel like he was stuck back in that dream he'd had several months ago?
Midwinter in the Centauri Capital was never pleasant. Some long-forgotten and quite senile Emperor had decided that this location in the highlands was the perfect position for Imperial Court to be situated. After all, the war with the long-exterminated Xon had completely destroyed the old capital: it was the chance to begin afresh. And he had wanted breathtaking views of the mountains all year round. Perfect idea. Marvelous, in fact. Only the imbecile had failed to consider that little, insignificant thing called climate. What did climate matter to an Imperial decree? Summers were pleasant - lovely mild weather unlike the lowlands which tended to swelter. But in winter the snow was truly abominable and the winds rushed off the mountains and tore right through the official buildings. Geothermal taps usually made the temperature bearable, however for some reason yet to be determined but entirely consistent with the way the universe treated him, the system that transferred that wonderful heat to the palace had broken down just as the worst blizzard in a century had struck. So Londo was cold. And sober. And in a bad mood. The only consolation was that that thrice damned Narn seemed to be just as uncomfortable as he.
"You know," G'Kar offered, a blanket also wrapped around him. "With the sheer efficiency that typifies Centauri bureaucracy I am surprised the Imperial Court didn't freeze to death centuries ago."
"Oh yes, very funny G'Kar." Londo bent down, searching through the back of a cabinet. Surely he had another bottle of something to drink in here? Ahh... He pulled out a small, clear bottle with some human script on the label. Vodka. A present from Commander Ivanova a few years back. He had never really developed a taste for the human beverage, but it was better than nothing.
"Did they say when the food was coming?"
"Is your stomach the only thing you can think of at a time like this?" Londo grunted, trying to wrench the cap off the damn bottle... "I mean... urgh ... we could freeze to death... argh ... in the next few hours and you're... arghhh... ouch!! worried that dinner is a little late." He nursed his sore hand for a moment, then thrust the bottle at G'Kar. "Here, make yourself useful for once."
"Of course I'm thinking about food, Mollari. It is a matter of vast concern to me." To Londo's disgust the Narn easily twisted the top off and handed it back with that superior expression of his. "Remember, I told you it is bad luck to die on an empty stomach." Londo put the small bottle to his lips. "I do not think that will do you any good, though." G'Kar indicated the bottle. Londo raised his eyebrows in exasperation.
"Of course it will. Centauri have been solving problems like this for centuries with alcohol. It is a long and devoutly followed tradition, G'Kar." He put the bottle back to his mouth, and tipped his head back, anticipating the fiery liquid hitting the back of his throat. Nothing. He glared at the bottle, and lifted it to eye level. It was...
"Frozen," G'Kar supplied helpfully.
"Son of a Purple whoremonger..." What temperature did alcohol freeze at anyway? Londo launched the bottle at the wall beside the Narn, but G'Kar easily caught the small vessel and recapped it.
"You may want this later," he advised, tucking the bottle in a pocket and wrapping the blanket more tightly about himself.
"I hate my life."
"So do I. I have told you that before as well. You really should pay more attention so I don't have to repeat myself."
Not dignifying that with an answer, Londo stomped back into his bedchamber and into his large bed. As he had left it for five minutes, naturally the sheets were cold. Would this never end?
He could hear G'Kar settling himself on the floor next to the bed. What he wouldn't give to be back on Babylon 5 right now. Sitting in Council meetings, listening to the squabbles... Well at least there if he were cold, he could have hired a young woman to keep him warm and been reasonably sure she would not try to kill him. Still, perhaps it was worth the risk...
"Did you get through to..."
"Yes, and they are not sending any of their women out to work," G'Kar replied regretfully. "Apparently it is too cold."
"Yes I know it is too cold. That's why they were needed in the first place!!!"
"Otherwise I would have told them to send three of their finest over," the Narn continued.
"Yes - one for you, two for me. Animal magnetism, remember : it always works."
"The universe must hate me. I'm trapped in a freezing cold room with a Narn for company."
"It could be worse."
"Oh really? Enlighten me, G'Kar. How could it possibly be worse?"
"You could be in my position - sleeping on the floor in a freezing cold room with a Centauri."
"You know sometimes, G'Kar, your wit leaves me speechless."
"Good. Then shut up."
Silence reigned for all of five minutes until a repetitive clicking sound began to grate on Londo's nerves. He lifted his head from the pillows, trying to determine where the noise was originating.
"What are you doing, G'Kar? What is that infernal sound?"
"If you must know, Mollari, that is the sound of my teeth chattering. This may be a difficult concept for a Centauri to grasp, but you are not the only one here who is cold. Don't you have any more blankets?"
"Well it's nice to know that you can admit to having weaknesses, but no - I don't have any more blankets. Why would I? It's not supposed to get this cold in the palace."
"Poor planning, Prime Minister. So typical of the Centauri." Londo could hear G'Kar shifting about on the floor. The clicking started again.
"Are you going to do that all night?"
"Make that irritating sound."
"Probably... at least you will know that I'm still alive and haven't frozen to death."
The chattering of G'Kar's teeth seemed to grow louder in the stillness of the room. He was doing this on purpose. clickclickclickclick clickclickclickclick
"Enough!" If that infernal racket did not stop he would be completely insane by the morning. The servants would come in and find the Prime Minister of the great Centauri Republic gibbering and tearing out his hair. Before he could think about it, he commanded: "Get in."
Silence. Complete silence.
"What?" G'Kar's voice sounded strangled.
"Get in to the bed."
"With you? I'd rather freeze thank you very much."
"Normally I would fully endorse that course of action, G'Kar, but as it is going to drive me mad in the process, I suggest you get in. Besides, Delenn would probably hurt me rather severely if I let you freeze death. And if there is anything more dangerous than an irritated Narn, it is an irritated woman. Trust me, I've been married four times: this is a universal certainty."
G'Kar's face appeared slowly, warily over the edge of the bed, his Human/Narn eyes a bit wild. As if he were stepping into fire, he cautiously slid under the covers, staying as far away as possible from the Centauri. On the other side of the large bed, Londo was doing the same.
"I warn you I have a knife under my pillow," Londo said, deliberately turning away from his bodyguard. "So as the humans say, don't 'try anything.'"
"I can assure you that thought has never entered my mind, Mollari. And if it did I would most likely kill myself."
"Good. Just so we understand each other then."
Both settled on their respective sides of the bed, backs carefully turned to each other.
"Of course, had you been a woman, it might be a different story," G'Kar mused half to himself. "A very different story."
"I'm not listening."
"Centauri women are so wickedly delicious. You can't trust them, naturally, but you have to admire their..."
"I'm not interested."
"You know, it was with a Centauri woman that I first learned to..."
"G'Kar!!!" Londo sat up abruptly, dragging the covers off his companion.
"Is something wrong?"
"I do not wish to hear about your tawdry encounters with women of my race. It is immoral..."
"A Centauri is lecturing me on immorality!"
Londo ignored the jibe and continued: "The entire concept makes me feel physically ill. Now I suggest you find another topic to discuss or close your mouth. Preferably the latter." He lay back down, rearranging the quilts.
Blessed, merciful silence. Londo closed his eyes and snuggled deeper into the bedclothes which were finally beginning to warm up.
"They're not as adventurous as human women, though. Some of the human women..." G'Kar licked his lips audibly.
"What was that?"
"A plea to the Gods to kill me now."
"Your gods are deaf, Mollari, but I can accommodate you if you truly feel the need."
"Minbari - well they can be... sweet, if hesitant at first. But when you get them aroused their passion is stronger than a supernova." A chuckle. "As I am quite sure President Sheridan has discovered by now."
Londo shifted awkwardly so he could see his bedfellow. "Tell me, G'Kar. Is there any race in existence of which you have not had intimate relations with one of their women?"
The red and blue eyes stared back. "Hhmm, let me think." G'Kar closed his eyes a moment in thought.
"Well, out of the Alliance worlds, I have only missed the Gaim because they're neuter drones. My talents would be wasted on them. Oh, and of course the Vree as they smell too bad."
Londo's eyebrows rose almost to his hairline.
"You mean, you've been with women from all these races?"
"What about the Drazi? They're asexual."
G'Kar shrugged nonchalantly, enjoying the Centauri's discomfort. "Information is a powerful tool - when I was first sent to Babylon 5, that was my main task. To gather information. Seducing women and men is often an easy way to get such information. And of course Narn are exceptional lovers so we have an advantage there."
"Women and men. I really did not want to know that fascinating little piece of information, G'Kar. Now, if you are quite finished demonstrating your unspeakable sexual prowess, I would like to try and sleep."
"Well, it wasn't really a demonstration, but I could oblige if you'd like..." He reached an arm across the intervening space.
Londo rolled out of the bed, knife coming to hand, and palmed the light on. G'Kar was propped up on one arm, an amused gleam in his eyes at having managed to successfully bait the Centauri again.
"Something wrong, Prime Minister?"
"Oh, very funny G'Kar. Quite hysterically funny, in fact." Muttering under his breath, Londo waved the light back off and climbed quickly back into the bed. It was too cold, and even that short time outside had left him thoroughly chilled.
Each were absorbed in his own thoughts for a long time but too wound up to sleep.
"Your feet are cold."
"You should not be close enough to feel that."
"Am I making you nervous, Mollari?"
"Not if you stay on your own side of the bed. Now that we have explored the limits of this conversation, perhaps we can sleep, yes?"
Londo flexed his toes, finally able to feel them again, and loosened the scarf around his neck. Sleeping fully clothed was most uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as freezing to death.
"So have you had sex with a woman of another species?"
"G'Kar I think you have sex on the brain tonight. And given the position we are in that worries me."
"I have already given you my assurances that your person is quite safe, Mollari... So have you?"
"Why?" A resigned sigh.
"Why do you want to know?"
"I'm simply trying to make conversation to pass the time until those idiots of yours finally get the heating restored. Something we both have in common, which you must admit is a fairly limited list of topics. Besides, given the meaning of your name..."
"The meaning of my name?" Londo frowned, confused. "What about it? It is an old Centauri name, steeped in legend..."
"No, no, no." G'Kar waved his hand. "I meant the human translation of your name."
"I was unaware there was one."
"Really?" A muffled laugh. "You mean you have lived aboard Babylon 5 for five years," snort "and haven't heard..." More laughter. "And... no one has thought to tell you..." The bed was shaking by now with Narn mirth.
"Well, are you going to tell me, or are you going to lie there giggling."
"Oh... Oh G'Quon..." G'Kar was holding his stomach, gasping for breath. "Oh.. oh this is priceless."
The Narn coughed, trying to stop laughing long enough to explain.
"An Earth dialect - it's not used much on the station. I think it's called Italian from memory... They used to be one of the great powers on earth a long time..."
"Yes, thank you for the history lesson, G'Kar, it's fascinating. Next time I'm on Earth, I'll be sure to visit the region. Now, if we could approach something even remotely resembling a point within the next hour...?"
Londo frowned: the mispronunciation of his name was familiar... Oh that's right... "A human trader with whom I had occasional business dealings on the station always used to call me that. I thought he was just too stupid to pronounce my name properly. So..."
"Grinding Loins." Hysterical laughter.
"Grinding..." snerk "Loins, Mollari." Gasp "That is the translation." With effort G'Kar managed to bring his amusement under control.
"You sound like you are choking."
"I am. And this is what the humans have been calling me?"
"Well, not all of them - it is not one of the most common dialects, after all." G'Kar reached into the pocket where he had stored the bottle of vodka and passed it over. "Here, you appear to need this."
"I thought it was frozen." Londo frowned at the offending bottle suspiciously.
"Body heat. It can be quite effective at times. I remember once..."
Londo draped an arm tiredly across his eyes. "If this is another story about your conquests, G'Kar, I really do not want to hear it."
"Good. Now perhaps you will be silent."
"What a surprise."
"But perhaps if you tell me..."
"You will let me sleep? Do I have your word on this?"
"Absolutely." G'Kar held up his hand.
Londo sighed and took a sip from the bottle and swallowed, waiting for the warmth to begin infusing his throat and chest... "Water," he spat, throwing it on the floor. The damnable thing was full of water. This was an outrage! He would have the servants flogged, their heads shorn and force them to listen to Narn singing for days on end.
"Of course it is water. Do you have any idea how cold it has to be to freeze alcohol?"
"No I don't. I have never even been remotely curious to know it can get that cold." He sighed. "I think I must be a source of constant entertainment for the gods. The temperature is unspeakable, there are no Women, I Am Sober, and I'm Stuck With A NARN!"
"Who you promised to tell..." G'Kar began, but stopped when he saw the murderous glare being cast in his direction. Even in the dark. "Just trying to help you fully itemize their dislike of you."
"I have not forgotten, all right?" Londo growled. "Once. She was Minbari, I was drunk and I do not recall what happened."
"Surely you must remember more?"
"If I remembered more, G'Kar, I probably would not be alive today. You wanted all the little details, didn't you."
"I'm shocked, Mollari. I would never pry into such an intimate..."
"Oh really? Then where was your eye?"
"Yes, that one you can remove. Where was it after Sheridan and Delenn were married, hmmm?"
"Ah-hah, you are finally speechless. Good night G'Kar." Londo turned his back on the Narn - something he would never have considered a year ago, and tugged the blankets securely around himself. Silence at last...
"You are hogging the covers."
Reference: The Collins Paperback Italian Dictionary (1989)