Describing the mood on the White Star would have been a challenge, and G'Kar wasn't sure if he even wanted to try. As a writer, he was supposed to come up with fitting descriptions, but sometimes words were a poor substitute for the real thing. The word that might come closest was one he'd heard Londo use… what was it again? Ah, yes. Giddy. But that was weeks ago, when they hadn't known if the Alliance would work and no one had shared Londo's sentiment. G'Kar hadn't expected to see Delenn or Sheridan in such a state, not after all they'd been through. He certainly hadn't thought he'd feel that way himself. But, although part of it might just be due to being pleasantly drunk, he had to admit he was getting close. They all were. Even Delenn, who didn't have a drop of alcohol in her, was now giggling her way through the modest wedding reception. G'Kar was finding it hard to keep his eyes off her.
In fact, the only one who struck him as less than effusive had to be Londo himself.
He didn't seem somber, exactly. Not that somber was a term that ever fit the man. Mollari in his darker moods was more like a black, crackling ember, spitting flame at everyone who came close. No, Londo had just been quiet. As obnoxious as he could be on Babylon 5, so civil he had seemed during negotiations at Earthdome. As if he still couldn't believe their fortune in getting the Alliance on its feet. G'Kar had found it curious, but he wasn't about to complain. Except that it was starting to get uncanny. Right now Londo was talking to Sheridan, in the middle of some raunchy personal tale that their new President was either too tipsy or too mellow to interrupt. But there was a strained quality to the conversation that was getting on G'Kar's nerves.
And there was something else, something even stranger. For some time now, Londo had been… watching him.
Yes. There was no doubt. G'Kar kept glancing at Londo over the rim of his glass, and while he never did catch him in the act, whenever he looked away he could feel those pale eyes on him. The look in itself was odd as well. Stealthy, almost self-conscious. Not at all like the way Londo tended to watch, say, Delenn, or Mr. Garibaldi, which was with affectionate disdain. But there was no disdain in this look. Instead there was something about it that made G'Kar's skin tingle, in an annoying way. He could almost swear...
No. Was it?
G'Kar shook his head and gulped down the rest of his drink.
This was the first time he'd flown on a White Star. Though he could appreciate the sleek design, his major complaint was that it was simply too cold, literally as well as aesthetically. Perhaps that was why he'd been so on edge. At a temperature several degrees below his comfort zone, everything felt different. Sharp, like those pointed Centauri canines that Londo bared at him with every smile. It had to be the cold. The other explanation – that he might be on edge because of Mollari – was too unlikely to even contemplate.
When the reception had ended, he tried to leave the room as surreptitiously as he could. It was pointless, of course. Less than a few seconds had passed before Londo caught up with him, boots clattering against the deck.
"What is it, Mollari?" he sighed, settling for bluntness. Londo was most pliable if you kept him off-guard. "Your skepticism about happy marriages aside, do try to feign some enthusiasm. Or at least your regular cynicism. The brooding look is beginning to grate."
Londo drew himself up, with a mock-wounded expression that G'Kar suspected wasn't entirely feigned. "It is clear you were never married, G'Kar. Among my people, weddings are a time of solemn contemplation: preparing oneself for the disillusion to follow." For a moment he sounded almost like himself. But despite the gleam in his eyes, he looked distracted. And there was that look again, tucked away beneath the taunting grin. A look that said, as clear now as it had ever been: See me. Talk to me. Don't turn me away.
G'Kar bit back a sigh. Ever since the affair with Cartagia, Londo had shown an irritating need for validation, and working together to found the Alliance seemed only to have strengthened it. This new, toned-down version of it wasn't at all to his liking. For one thing, it bordered on self-pity. For another, it affected him more than he cared to admit.
He should teach Londo a lesson. The thought trickled through the fog of alcohol-fueled dismay, digging into his skin. All the jokes, the hints, the barely veiled sexual gibes… they were meant to be funny, but G'Kar was beginning to suspect there was more to them. Something that, if he had been more innocent and less skeptical, he might have called 'wishful thinking'.
It seemed Londo still hadn't learned to be careful what to wish for.
"So, Delenn and Sheridan are bound for disillusion." G'Kar nodded. "I see. You no longer believe in love, so you've convinced yourself that no one should."
Londo's face turned an impressive shade of pink. "Of course I believe in love. But this dull affair of promising faithfulness, not to mention the whole 'till death do us part,' or what is it the Minbari say..."
"Those are the humans," G'Kar corrected. "The Minbari believe in immortal souls."
"Even worse! To be shackled to a single person, not simply for life but for all the lifetimes after? Bah. They are welcome to it." Londo shook his head glumly, the overhead lighting glinting off his brow. The elevator to the crew's quarters was just ahead of them, and G'Kar entered and turned while Londo followed him in.
G'Kar pressed down irritation. For a man who had never lacked for anything, never had that smooth, pudgy skin broken by anything other than a fist – G'Kar's fist, all too fittingly – to brush off someone's attempt at happiness, just because he was too frightened to look for his own? No. Londo might claim he didn't need something to believe in, but G'Kar knew others did. Whether it had to be love… For himself, he didn't think so. His life had become a complicated business, and he'd removed love from the equation long ago. But he only had to meet Delenn's gaze, or Sheridan's, to know that things could have been different. It had been a long time since he'd looked into someone's eyes and seen that depth of faith.
He pointedly didn't meet Londo's eyes. He already knew he wouldn't find much faith there, though maybe, just maybe, there was hope. G'Kar had the strangest feeling that some of that hope might be for him.
Perhaps Delenn and Sheridan could teach them all a lesson. Perhaps G'Kar should help drive that lesson home.
He wasn't sure when that thought became a certainty, wedging itself into his mind like the palm-sized knives he'd been trained with as a child. It might simply be because he was drunk and reckless. It might be for no good reason at all. But when Londo's lips twisted around what G'Kar knew would be another tasteless pun, something caved inside him.
The next moment, he had Londo's face between his hands.
"G'Kar…" Londo's voice was thin, but didn't crack. His politician's voice, G'Kar knew. The one he'd used to address madmen like Cartagia... or to read Narn its surrender terms. The irony was so thick it almost had him laughing out loud. "Would you care to explain what is going on?"
G'Kar bared his teeth. "I am wondering if it would bring me more satisfaction to shut you up by strangling you, or by…" He let the silence stretch out, brushing a thumb across Londo's cheekbone.
The fear in Londo's eyes grew palpable. "Or by what?"
There was something in his face that managed to override every rational impulse G'Kar had, digging right down towards the part of his brain that he took care not to display in public, and never in front of the likes of Mollari. Not that he could have said what 'the likes of Mollari' meant. All he knew was that, suddenly, he didn't doubt what it was Londo wanted him to do, or that the last thing Londo was expecting was for G'Kar to actually do it. Which was why he did it anyway.
Londo's mouth was an 'O' of surprise under his, and G'Kar crushed his own lips against it as if it was the only source of heat in the universe. On this ship, it quite possibly was. Then Londo's reflexes kicked in, and he pushed back with sudden vehemence.
"Really, Mollari." G'Kar relaxed his grip. "For the one time I'm giving you what you want..."
"What I want?" They'd reached their destination; the doors opened with a hiss, and Londo backed away into the corridor. "Are you mad? What if someone sees?" His hands slid across the front of his coat, smoothing it down with frantic strokes. G'Kar merely smiled. Mollari's truths had always been about what was left unsaid: the awkward pauses, the words between the lines. Right now, G'Kar was very aware Londo hadn't actually asked him to stop, or expressed any reason to beyond the fact someone might see. Which wasn't a very good reason.
"I thought your people were so liberal about this," G'Kar said, as he followed Londo out. "Are you saying you don't want it?"
Just the flush in Londo's cheeks would have been answer enough. Only then, G'Kar remembered what Mariel had once told him: to a Centauri, kissing wasn't any less intimate than sex. Kissing required physical closeness. Sex didn't. Not between two Centauri, at least. "I just… This is… This is rather sudden," Londo muttered. "And this is a Minbari ship, what if someone..."
"Mollari," he said, his voice low. "Do you want me to leave? If so, all you need to do is continue talking for another two minutes."
"I don't…" Londo said, and swallowed. "No."
"That's settled, then." G'Kar slid his palm across the door panel behind him. It opened with a rush of rather musty air. A storage space. Not perfect, but it would do. "If it's privacy you want…" He grabbed a fistful of Londo's coat and tugged hard.
He found himself in near-darkness with a wheezing Mollari in his arms. It was a small space, barely enough to fit the two of them, so there was no choice but for Londo to cling to him for balance. In the trickle of light that seeped in, his eyes gleamed almost obscenely bright. So did his teeth, when his tongue flicked across them: those delicate Centauri canines, a subtle reminder that the species were still predators, even if they had exchanged their claws for powdered gloves. Those teeth taunted him, even more than the nondescript grey eyes that were his only clue to what went on under that thick Centauri skull. Londo's frantic breathing could have meant anything, from excitement to fear or distaste, but his look had that same eagerness it held during most of their conversations. G'Kar felt it boring into him when he cupped Londo's jaw, even as Londo's hands tightened around him.
G'Kar wondered if the teeth were as sharp as they looked.
He was about to find out.
He'd expected at least some kind of resistance. Mollari was a grown man, and hardly inexperienced. You could throw him off-balance, but faced with another person crushing their mouth against his, not to mention when this happened in a cramped, barely lit space, his instinctive reaction would always be to fight. Or so G'Kar had thought. Instead Londo's lips parted into what G'Kar could only describe as a sigh, and when G'Kar pressed his tongue inside, the body in his arms went limp with... no. Surely it couldn't be relief. But relief was what it felt like, taut muscles melting against him, and for once G'Kar was lost for words.
It lasted for all of three seconds. Then Londo's pride must have reasserted itself, because he sputtered and braced his arms against G'Kar's chest.
"G'Kar –" Londo's voice came out shrill. "What in the gods' name has gotten into you?" In the darkness, his expression was impossible to read, but G'Kar put it halfway between awkwardness and rather desperate bravado.
"Nothing that didn't get into you first, I am sure," G'Kar said. "Unless the look you've been giving me all night was simply the result of a bad digestion?" In the corridor, a group of Minbari crewmen passed by, and G'Kar suppressed a smirk at the panic in Londo's eyes.
"Great Maker. Do these doors even lock? Did you try –"
"I tried. They don't lock," G'Kar said, stroking Londo's lapel. He felt a noise escape him that was almost a giggle, and made no effort to hold it back. "This is more exciting. What is the worst that can happen, after all?"
"Apart from a novitiate stumbling in on us and deciding to kill himself to cleanse his soul?" Londo huffed, but he was staring down at G'Kar's hand in a way that suggested it might be worth it. "No. I can't think of –" His voice cracked abruptly. G'Kar looked up from where his hand was grazing Londo's throat; a harmless enough gesture that he couldn't parse the vehemence of the response.
It's all right. He'd almost said it, out loud, without a scrap of irony. G'Kar bit down on the words just in time. Where did this sudden tenderness come from? He'd planned to impress Mollari, to teach him a lesson, not to… woo him, or treat him like a fragile thing. No better way to alienate Londo than to admit you truly cared.
G'Kar stuffed down his unease by leaning in again, effectively wedging Londo between himself and the wall. "You disappoint me, Mollari. Where is your sense of adventure?" He fingered the seam of the black, elaborate coat. "Do you think if you would remove some of these layers, we might be able to locate it? At least removing them will make for a more interesting search… unless, of course, all these boasts about your prowess are merely that?"
"I do not boast." It came out with genuine resentment, and then Londo was wriggling out of his waistcoat, his hips bumping up against G'Kar's. For a moment he stood frozen, coat held high as if wondering where to put it. G'Kar rolled his eyes and snatched it away, and then it was Londo who moved, furiously, like a challenge, hands grabbing at G'Kar's collar and pulling down hard. Their lips met, and G'Kar's eyes fluttered shut as he slid his tongue across pointed teeth, his arms coming up to circle Londo's waist. He didn't know what he had expected – surprise, perhaps, or indignation. Certainly not for Londo to make a sound like a drowning man, sharp fingernails scrabbling at his neck, not hard enough to break the skin but hard enough to sting. Under G'Kar's hand, something stirred unexpectedly, and G'Kar pulled back, face splitting into a grin.
"Ah. I see we are getting somewhere." He chuckled at Londo's seething glare. "Come, now, Mollari. After all this talk of how long Centauri last, didn't you think I would want to see proof? I could have called your wife and asked, of course, but she might have taken offense. She doesn't strike me a person I would want for an enemy." He tugged hard at the buttons of Londo's vest. The fabric was pleasing enough to the touch, and when Londo moved to shrug it off, G'Kar stopped him. "Leave it on. I like it. Unyielding, garish and with too much embroidery. It reminds me of you."
The corner of Londo's mouth twitched upwards. "You are sure you didn't speak with Timov? You sound suspiciously like her." He leaned in, his hands joining G'Kar's hands on the laces of his shirt. "It's ironic, G'Kar. I have had four wives in my life, and I ended up with the only one of them who I am convinced would sleep with Vir before she'd sleep with me." Londo's fingers slipped on the buttons, and for a moment he looked almost wistful. In an impulse, G'Kar slid both hands under the flowing silk, hip grazing hip as Londo tumbled backwards and they hit the wall together.
"What do you say, Mollari?" he purred, sliding his hands down until he found his target, then closing his hand around it. Londo gasped, his eyes fluttering shut. "I think it's only fair that I'd give you a chance to… how do the humans say it? 'Put your money where your mouth is'?" He underlined the question with another exploratory squeeze. The organ in his grip was smoother than he'd thought, throbbing hot against his palm as he worked his way towards the head. He'd never touched a Centauri brach before – or brachiarte, as Londo would surely insist he called it, the latter being the more dignified term. But he'd slept with humans and Centauri in enough configurations that he had a fair idea of what to do. He must be doing well, seeing how Mollari had stopped talking.
Londo hissed sharply through his teeth, but G'Kar ignored him. Ah, here was one of the heads, squirming as he wrapped his fingers around it. Another brach snaked around his wrist, and G'Kar wondered how much of this was a voluntary movement. Very little, judging by the strain in Londo's face. But Londo puffed out his chest, as if several of his limbs weren't presently rubbing themselves against G'Kar with vigor. "Ah, yes, very fair, overpowering me in the corridor."
G'Kar laughed and shook his head. He had located the slits at the tip of the brach, and as he probed them with a finger, Londo went quite satisfyingly boneless beneath him. G'Kar's member throbbed in sympathy. "Come now, Mollari. I've never seen you fight except with your mouth, and so far I haven't robbed you of it."
"Ah, so it is my mouth you need?" Londo shot back. "Yes, I have heard Narns make good use of their mouths during sex. Mouths and various other organs. I can see where gagging me would be inconvenient." His eyes were wary and hungry at the same time. G'Kar felt a growl start at the back of his throat. For all Londo's intent to bait him, all this talk of mouths and organs was only serving to stoke his own arousal, his member straining at the fabric of his trousers. The thought of Mollari's toothy grin closing around it suddenly made it rather hard to breathe.
With a grunt, he drew back and unfastened his trousers, pushing them down around his thighs. His breeches followed, and by the time his member emerged, slick and dark and hard, Londo's look had turned from triumph to something far more primal.
G'Kar recaptured a brach with each of his hands. "You want to put your mouth to good use, Mollari? I have a suggestion then." He raised one of the brachiarti to his lips in demonstration, flicking his tongue across the delicate slit. When he sucked the head into his mouth, the sound from Londo's throat was undisguised need. "I'm sure these allow for many exciting positions," G'Kar said, pulling the squirming organ from between his lips, "but for myself, I prefer a more... down-to-earth approach. Do you know Mariel went to her knees to pleasure me?"
"Ah, but you flatter yourself." Londo's eyes gleamed darkly, although they kept flitting back and forth between G'Kar's mouth and the organ pressing up against his stomach. "If Mariel was on her knees for you, it was only in order to get you to yours. And if you think I will go to my knees, I suggest you pay a visit to Medlab once we're back on the station. You might be suffering from delusions." He grinned, baring sharp white teeth.
G'Kar laughed. This was the Mollari he knew, prickly and blunt and unyielding. "I've changed my mind," he said. "I told you to put your money where your mouth is. Perhaps you should put your mouth where your money tends to be, which is safely stowed in an inner pocket." He nipped teasingly at Londo's ear.
"And what does that mean, hmm?" Londo said. G'Kar pulled back to drag parched lips across his temple, his cheekbone, the bottom of his jaw. This time he took care to steer clear of the throat. Between kisses, Londo still managed to glare. "Every time I have offered to buy you a drink, you give me a look that says you would rather drink with a Pak'Ma'Ra. In fact I offered you a glass at tonight's reception, and you didn't even... "
"Those drinks were free, you annoying –" G'Kar cut himself off. One of Londo's brach had found his member, twining itself around it. He continued with an effort. "And I do prefer the Pak'Ma'Ra. They're quiet, unlike you, not to mention very creative lovers."
"Nothing is free," Londo said, ignoring the taunt. His brach moved purposefully between G'Kar's legs. "Not the Alliance, and not its drinks either. We'll pay for all of it eventually, one way or another."
"Such optimism." G'Kar shook his head. "You'll make a fine Emperor yet."
"I do not wish to become Emperor." There was that wistful look again, the same one G'Kar had seen Londo wearing back on Earth. Londo made another movement to take off his vest, but G'Kar snagged his wrist.
"I would prefer," he murmured, sliding a finger across the seam of Londo's trousers, "for you to get rid of these instead." When Londo's only response was a blank stare, G'Kar rolled his eyes and reached for Londo's belt.
"What are you doing?" Londo said, as G'Kar won the brief struggle with Centauri buckles and clasps. A sharp tug down with his thumbs, and he was sliding his hands across smooth, pink skin.
"Instructing you." He took advantage of Londo's confusion to twist him around to face the wall. "I concur, Mollari. Nothing is free, not even freedom itself. Especially not freedom, but then your people wouldn't understand. There is something like fair trade, however. I make a concession, and so do you. You claim Centauri have better control? Prove it." He peeled the writhing brach from around his member, slick now with lubrication and sweat. "But not on your terms, that would be unfair. And I happen to know that most Centauri enjoy… this." He smirked and spread Londo's legs.
"Of course we have better–" Londo began stubbornly, but swallowed the words as G'Kar pressed in. What emerged was a throaty growl that sounded almost obscene. "This is... Unghh. Great Maker." His hands came up against the wall, and G'Kar moved his own hands up to fondle Londo's sides, surprising himself with the tenderness.
"Mariel liked this," he whispered into Londo's ear. For a moment he held his position, sliding a hand around to stroke Londo's chest. Londo shifted and craned his neck, and G'Kar nuzzled his temple. "Come now, Mollari, you're not afraid to turn your back on me? I assure you I have only your…" He slid in a fraction deeper. "… pleasure in mind."
Londo muttered something that might have been a curse or an endearment, not that G'Kar had any doubt which it was. Then something moist and eager grasped his thigh, wrapping itself around him. He grinned, feeling laughter tug at his cheeks. Londo was never one to turn down a challenge. A second brach ground up against his other leg, a third pressing its head into his palm. G'Kar lifted it and swirled his tongue against it, matching the rhythm he was setting with his hips. It was only when he felt something stir behind him, rubbing itself against his breeches, that he started.
Londo chuckled and twisted around to look at him. "You said many Centauri liked this." The brach nudged against G'Kar's asshole, teasing but firm. "Tell me, G'Kar. Do Narn… enjoy it too?"
"Of course," G'Kar said, and sucked at Londo's collarbone, more to hide his surprise than anything else. Londo's breathing was ragged, his shirt drenched in sweat as G'Kar tangled his free hand into it, but there was a smirk on his face as well. G'Kar stared him down, or tried to. "You surprise me, Mollari. Here I was, expecting you would let me do all the work."
"You hypocrite!" Londo laughed and pressed in, making them gasp in unison. G'Kar muffled a groan into layers of silk. The sharp, stretching feeling was blessedly brief, giving way to a curious warmth. He rocked back and forth, reveling in the sensation as he caught his breath.
They moved, slowly at first, the head a warm, throbbing weight inside him. He grasped Londo's waist for purchase. For a moment he imagined what would happen if a Minbari crewman chanced to open the door, but the thought was drowned out by the exquisite pressure, the moist, sucking sounds of skin against skin. There would be, he thought vaguely, a diplomatic incident. Right now he couldn't care less.
He used his hips to set a more vigorous rhythm, felt Londo shudder and then join in. He felt part of a surreal picture: both of them impaled on the other, a sweaty tangle of legs and brach and arms. The image should have been ridiculous, but it only made him more aroused. Somehow they fit together, excess limbs and all, and as he sped up his thrusts, a thought struck him: sex had always made him feel confident. He couldn't remember when it had last made him feel alive.
"I take it," Londo said, "you didn't learn this from any of my wives?" His voice dripped with amusement, even if he barely had the breath. "Or should I have a word with Timov after all?"
"Should you?" G'Kar said, between gasps of his own. "If so, we should talk to her together." A spasm shuddered through him, and he clenched his teeth and grinned. He could hold it back, of course. Oh, all the tales about Narns climaxing quickly were true, but those takes never mentioned what some self-control could do. G'Kar had always found it useful. If he focused, he could draw this out for as long as he needed. Long enough to outlast a Centauri, to make Londo take back every word he'd said. But Londo was warm and eager against him, and he was no longer sure if he wanted to hold back. If he wanted this turned into a competition. Mollari wouldn't last much longer, and G'Kar had to admit that the knowledge pleased him. But maybe, just maybe, he should live in the moment instead.
He closed his eyes and thrust deeply, focusing on the hot knots of sensation, the way Londo's breath caught in his throat. Vaguely, he heard Londo call his name, in a far too brittle tone for the occasion, before going slack in G'Kar's arms. He barely had time to register the lack of drama, and then he was coming too, thumbs digging into Londo's shoulders. When his vision cleared, Mollari was spooned against him, holding himself up against the wall.
"You know, G'Kar," he said, sounding dreamy, "I could have held it longer. I didn't, though. Does it make you happy, having won?"
"Very," G'Kar said, panting into Londo's shoulder. If he rolled his eyes, no one could see it in the darkness. Perhaps that was for the best.