|Babylon 5: Vir Cotto, Prompt 019 - White
||[Feb. 13th, 2006|01:02 am]
The Ultimate FanFic Challenge!
Title: Silk and White Lace
Fandom: Babylon 5
Characters: Vir, Cartagia
Prompt: 019 – White
Word Count: 864
Rating: General Audience
While Londo is visiting a certain prisoner, Emperor Cartagia uses a moment of indulgence to size Vir up. Vir, naturally, wants to get the hell out of there.
Fourth Season. Takes place during The Summoning. Any resemblance to I, Claudius is entirely JMS’s fault.
This was intended to be a crack bunny, but it went in a different direction.
While on the palace grounds, Vir lived by a hard and fast rule: Always keep your head down. He considered this maxim wise even at the best of times.
It was not the best of times.
Hearing a familiar burst of laughter, Vir flinched, but did not alter his posture or his course. With his shoulders hunched up, his eyes focused on some point on the floor beyond his boots, and his hands folded before his chest, he continued to make a beeline for Londo’s quarters.
Vir froze, concentrating on making himself smaller.
“Do come join us, Cotto.” The call was punctuated by a delighted giggle. “There is a matter we need to discuss.”
“If it p-p-please Your Majesty,” Vir managed, his thoughts a dizzying, panicked whirl, “a-are you sure you wouldn’t rather speak to my master? Surely I-I-I’m not worthy to-”
“If I wanted to speak to Mollari, I would’ve sent for Mollari,” Emperor Cartagia interrupted, an icy edge creeping into his voice. “Do you dare question your emperor?”
Vir turned, his eyes wide. “No! No, no, of course not. I-I-I only meant to say that-”
With that, Cartagia seized Vir’s wrist with a bruising grip and pulled him into the throne room, giggling once again. A long moment passed before a sweating Vir dared to lift his eyes. The room was littered with the detritus of a mid-day party – trays filled with red-stained goblets, yellowing rinds, and a few abandoned modesty garments. Several courtiers had settled themselves on purple cushions strewn about the floor; one was idly picking leftover linfra berries off a half-empty vine.
Vir himself couldn’t help but stare at the spot where, hours earlier, G’Kar had fallen. Mixed in with the overpowering smell of perfume was the subtle hint of filth and blood.
“I have been preparing a play,” Cartagia announced cheerfully. “A celebration of the gods to be performed in a few days time. I, of course, will play all of our most honored, most ancient gods. But I have decided that you, Cotto, are the perfect man to play Emperor Sejano.”
Vir looked at the emperor fully for the first time - and the sight only enhanced the growing surrealism of the past few minutes. Dressed in the costume traditionally associated with the goddess Alur, Cartagia primped before his mirror, smoothing down the white lace of his bodice, his mouth deformed by a maniacal smile.
Sejano II was credited with the final defeat of the Drazi at the height of the Imperial Age of the Centauri Republic. He also, famously, was part of a grand conspiracy to assassinate his predecessor and father, Sejano I, who at the time was rapidly fading into senility. Deeply unnerved, Vir swallowed audibly. “May I ask why I’ve been chosen for this…honor?”
Cartagia pivoted and approached in a swish of skirts, his powdered face coming so close to Vir’s that Vir was forced to stifle a sneeze. He reflexively averted his eyes, but Cartagia firmly tilted his chin back up with his fingers.
“There is something about you, Cotto.” Vir shuddered at the suddenly serious intimacy of the moment, but the reaction was ignored. “When I first saw you with Mollari, I felt as if I already knew you.”
“This is not my first time at the court, Majesty.”
“No, no, no!” Cartagia burst in frustration. Out of the corner of his eye, Vir could see the other courtiers stiffen in nervous anticipation as the emperor swept back to his throne and sat. “It is possible I have seen your face before, but this goes beyond that. It was not a simple recollection, but a sense of destiny. A sense that you, Cotto, are more than you appear.”
“I-I-I’m not really sure what you mean, Majesty,” Vir replied, twisting his shaking hands together behind his back. “Aren’t we all more than we appear? What I mean to say is… well… those who don’t believe don’t see your greatness. But, you know, all of us who do believe… we… we understand your power because you’ve chosen to so graciously enlighten us. Maybe… could it be that you have become so great that you can see not only your own destiny, but the eternal paradise that awaits all of your worshippers?”
Vir didn’t even know if that made sense – or if he was suitably convincing – but in the long, frightening silence that followed, Cartagia seemed to be considering it.
“Interesting. Most interesting indeed,” the emperor said at last, and Vir released the breath he had been holding. In a languid movement, Cartagia picked up a goblet and leaned back against the cushions of his throne. “Drink?”
“I-I thank you for your generous offer, Majesty, but I-I-I must return to my master. I-I’m sure he’s waiting for me.”
Cartagia’s laugh made Vir jump. “Indeed. Go now and bring Mollari here. Perhaps then I will find some entertainment.” Then he bellowed: “Minister Virini!”
Vir did not stay long enough to see the perpetually anxious courtier react to Cartagia’s attire. Bowing quickly, he fled, and he didn’t stop until he had closed Londo’s door behind him and collapsed, his hearts beating in his throat.