|Babylon 5: Vir Cotto, Prompt 24 - Family
||[Feb. 6th, 2006|12:08 am]
The Ultimate FanFic Challenge!
Title: Blood Is Thicker
Fandom: Babylon 5
Characters: Londo & Vir (Senna)
Prompt: 024 - Family
Word Count: 1502
Rating: General Audience
It was another one of Londo’s heroically futile ideas. The emperor reflects on friendship, family, and his own foolishness.
Knowledge of the entire series and The Legions of Fire trilogy is assumed. With thanks to Peter David for a certain literary device.
EXCERPTED FROM THE CHRONICLES OF
LONDO MOLLARI – DIPLOMAT, EMPEROR,
MARTYR, AND SELF-DESCRIBED FOOL.
PUBLISHED POSTHUMOUSLY. EDITED BY
EARTH EDITION, TRANSLATION © 2280
Excerpt dated (approximate Earth date)
November 21, 2263
She is here. Great Maker.
In large part, it was the work of the young lady Senna, who has, it would seem, adopted me as I have adopted her. Hers, I fear, is a fruitless project. But be that as it may, when I came upon her in the corridor later in the evening, I congratulated her on her new ambition.
“The Empress Timov is her own woman,” I said, allowing some of that old, distant amusement to creep into my voice. “In moving her, you have succeeded where I, frequently, have not.”
“But you do love her.” Do not think that this was uttered in a youthful, romantic swoon. The young lady is far keener than that. Indeed, she could be deadly after a time.
As I composed my response, I felt the monster move. “We have invested more than is probably wise,” I allowed, “and have been disappointed more often than not. Do not expect a miracle.”
Thankfully, the young lady Senna’s illusions are few beyond her ill-advised fondness for me. In this, she demonstrates wisdom that I myself lacked mere years ago.
From the above conversation, I proceeded to my study and rendered my companion – and its interest - insensate with two bottles of 2224. Now unshackled, I find myself thinking of Vir, which is unpleasant only because I remember every mistake I made with the boy with the clarity of polished glass. The above-mentioned machinations lead me to remember in particular a certain attempt I made during the war with the Narn to improve Vir’s standing with his family.
Shortly after the war began, certain individuals back home decided that it was time to send me a “proper” staff. By “proper,” of course, they meant noble, groomed, and thoroughly loyal to the late Lord Refa. You can see why I could not allow this to occur, yes? But beyond that, I had also discovered that, strangely, I found Vir most agreeable company. As one gains power, one loses friends; as the war continued, Vir was rapidly becoming the only man I could trust completely. So I put on a good performance, pitching several marvelous tantrums and threatening, among other things, to resign myself. In the process, I communicated with Vir’s uncle, Lord Bedras Cotto.
A historical comment, as is my right: Lord Cotto’s title was bought by his grandfather during the first occupation of Narn with wealth procured through the exploitation of Narn slaves. Given this, it is interesting to note that Bedras Cotto, in the final years of that occupation, gained notoriety for giving his slaves small emoluments and a good deal more personal liberty than was customary during that time of widespread terrorist violence. As he revealed in a speech in the Centaurum, he considered these concessions – what the Humans might call “bread and circuses” – to be far less costly than corporal punishment, which could render a slave unable to work for days. This did not mean that he refrained from disciplining his own slaves with the lash when absolutely necessary – or that he considered the Narn to be anything more than useful sub-sentients. But in this case, his concern for his books exceeded his concern for his ego, and when at last the Centauri withdrew from Narn, he voted with the peace faction in the Centaurum.
Which is not to say that the patriotic impulse was completely dead in Lord Cotto. As a young man, he led a Centauri fighter squadron to a crushing victory at the Battle of Turin 6 and was decorated for his heroism. And when it became clear that lasting peace with the Narn was unlikely, he changed his allegiances and began to vote with Refa’s faction. He considered the occupation of Narn distasteful, but the survival of our race vital. Lord Refa, however, was reluctant to trust Lord Cotto’s change of heart. Thus he was, at the moment I contacted him, only a minor voice in the ruling faction. It is not difficult to imagine that this was foremost on Cotto’s mind when he accepted my invitation to Babylon 5.
As for myself, I was inspired by selfish desires of my own when I extended that invitation. Vir had just rendered himself unconscious via drink, but not before he let it be known to me that he disapproved of my recent actions and was of two minds about staying. This concerned and wounded me more than I was willing to admit at the time. I could not let it stand. And so, when I urged Lord Cotto to come to Babylon 5 to see his nephew and his accomplishments, it seemed the perfect way to alleviate Vir’s despair. Surely, I thought, if House Cotto shared one meal, their relations would improve, for Vir’s strength of mind and heart were obvious to anyone who spent more than an hour in his company.
Upon reflection, Vir’s panic when I proudly announced the news should have been my first warning. Instead, I absorbed myself in the preparations, seeing to it, through various bribes and threats, that Lord Cotto and his party would be greeted in style. And they were, some weeks later. The courses offered at dinner were the finest examples of Centauri cuisine one could find in that sector of space in the middle of a war. As the party’s host, I steered the conversation to safe topics, and at first, all appeared to be well, if a little awkward. Then we began to discuss opera, and I made my disastrous move.
“I have no wish to dispute the greatness of Dorva, Lord Cotto,” said I, “but I have recently heard a most passionate argument for the virtue of Centaro from your nephew.”
“I see.” Lord Cotto paused in his scrupulous dissection of his meat and regarded Vir coolly. “You argue with your master, Vir?”
The poison in the question was subtle, but it did not escape my notice – nor did it escape Vir’s. I had hoped to encourage Vir to speak more than three or four words at a time – he hadn’t all evening – but instead, he colored and mumbled to his plate, “No, sir.”
From that moment forward, I could extract no more utterances out of Vir. The boy who hadn’t hesitated to sing off-key verses with me in the middle of a corridor was rendered a blushing, fumbling mute by a series of deceptively innocuous observations and criticisms sprinkled into the conversation at will. By the time Vir accidentally spilled half a bottle of brivari into my lap and I declared the meal at an end, I was nursing a seething rage.
“You did not wish your nephew good night,” I pointed out as Lord Cotto crossed the threshold. His back stiffened and he turned, gracing me with a faintly baleful look.
I felt a hand on my arm. “It’s all right, Londo. It doesn’t matter.”
“I think that it does. It is only proper, after all.” And I fixed Lord Cotto with a dangerous stare. After a moment, he conceded, bade Vir a stilted good night, and was gone. I turned to Vir, but he refused to meet my gaze. “Vir…”
“Don’t,” he said before I could say another word. “Just… don’t’.” And with that, he left as well, hunched over as if he expected to receive a blow.
I have been described, by a certain self-important Narn who shall remain nameless, as “deaf to the word ‘no’.” In this, he was half right – when I feel that it matters, nothing can sway me from my purpose. It is this persistence that has damned me to my current fate – but on a few occasions – very few – it has served me well. I successfully badgered the aforementioned Narn into making certain concessions. And after the events related above, I was able to mend things between Vir and me.
I found Vir sitting alone at a bar in the Zocalo, an empty glass before him. Wordlessly, I approached, put my hand on his shoulder, and set my credit chit on the counter. “Kat,” I called out, summoning the barmaid with a wave of my hand. “Two of my usual.” Then I amended, “On second thought, perhaps something milder for my friend.” I smiled fondly at Vir. “He is… somewhat inexperienced. But we’ll change that, yes?”
Vir opened his mouth to object, and I laughed and pulled him closer, silencing the protest before it could be formed. “Great Maker, I am only teasing. If you did not faint at the smell of alcohol, you would not be you. And if you were not you,” I added significantly, “where would I be?”
Just then, Kat plunked our drinks before us – Vir’s was festooned with a pink umbrella, if I recall correctly – and I lifted my glass. “A toast is in order, I think. To family… wherever we may find it.”
After Vir clinked his glass against mine, he turned away, his eyes shining, a ghost of a smile on his lips...