"Are you…" Vir said, and closed his eyes, as if that would allow the words to come. It didn’t. Most of the time now, he spoke without the faint stutter he’d spent years trying to conquer, and with only a hint of hesitation. As an Ambassador, it was the only way to be taken seriously, and what use would he be if people laughed at him behind his back? But each time he looked at Lennier – and he had been looking for hours now, he couldn’t make himself stop if he tried – the words caught in his throat and he had to swallow until he could breathe again.
Are you all right? he’d been about to ask, but it seemed like such an inadequate question. Of course Lennier wasn’t all right. He hadn’t been for years, ever since the incident with Sheridan on the White Star. A story Vir still couldn’t quite believe Lennier had trusted him with, even if it had been over a comm screen, with Lennier studiously avoiding his eyes. They’d been so young back then, and so fragile, and now four years had passed and this was the first time they met again in person, and Vir didn’t feel any less fragile, even if he was an Ambassador. If they could only talk face to face, he’d always told himself, they might be able to fix this. Well. Not fix as in, fix, really, but at least make things a little more bearable. But as they sat side by side, on the bed in the too-cramped hotel room in which Lennier had insisted they meet, Vir was beginning to see how naïve that had been.
"Forgive me." Lennier’s face was sallow, his frame wiry and even thinner than it had been, but his voice still hadn’t lost that soft, precise quality. "You are…" He looked down at his hands, pale against the sleeves of the hooded Centauri cloak he’d been wearing to look less conspicuous. "This is shocking to you. I am sorry, Vir. I did not mean to cause you distress." His fingers clenched and unclenched in his lap.
Vir shook his head. “No!” It came out with rather more vehemence than he’d intended. “Don’t say that. You’re here. I asked you here. You’re my friend. Please never apologize for being here.” He winced at his own words, disjointed and graceless, as if he was still the bumbling aide he used to be. But they must have hit a nerve, because Lennier’s head came up and, just for a moment, there was a glint of something in his eyes that made Vir blink and remember…
Oh, gods. No, no. This wasn’t the time or the place to think of that. Bad enough that it had happened not just once but twice, in those surreal months in the wake of the Shadow war, when Vir hadn’t been able to get a night’s sleep without killing Cartagia all over again, and Lennier himself had seemed sad and distant, retreating more and more into himself. One night, Vir had told him everything: G’Kar, the plan, the murder, the needle, that strange surprise flooding Cartagia’s face. Lennier had simply been there, listening as Vir talked and sipped his drink and tried to fight back tears. And then, at one point, Lennier had put an arm around him.
Vir didn’t quite recall where things had gone from there. He’d been altogether too tipsy to register the details, but he remembered burying his head into Lennier’s shoulder and the sudden, overwhelming need to touch, to feel, to belong. Lennier’s eyes had been so very bright, his mouth a thin, trembling line, and it had been the most natural thing in the word to lean in and cover those lips with his own. That had been the first time. The second time had been much later, after Lennier had come back from the Rangers with proof of the Centauri attacks, the two of them sharing a drink in silence, raw and brimming with regret. Then, too, Lennier had lowered his head and apologized, and Vir had told him not to. Then, too, more had happened than either of them had planned.
Afterwards, they had never discussed it. Lennier had never mentioned his feelings for Delenn, but Vir had known anyway, and wondered if Lennier felt he had betrayed her, and kept silent. It had never happened again, and Vir had simply tried to forget – not that it had happened, but the look of tenderness in Lennier’s face. A look no one had ever given him before. One he was sure he would never see again.
But it was that same look Vir was seeing now, just a glint of hope tinging the sadness. It lasted less than a second, but in that second Vir found himself reaching out, a hand brushing Lennier’s sleeve before he even registered he was doing so. Lennier’s throat worked, his eyes widening abruptly. And then Vir blinked down at his own hand, which was trembling.
"I … missed you.” It came out a whisper. Slowly, through eyes that were misting up despite his best efforts, Vir watched Lennier’s eyes close, his head fall back as if some of the tension had lifted at last. He watched his own hand move as if through a fog, gripping Lennier’s arm through the fabric, brushing cautiously with his thumb. Lennier swallowed, a shiver running through him. “I missed you,” Vir said again, his voice harsh and raspy to his own ears, but it didn’t matter. He had finally found the right words. How could they be so simple? “Thank you. For being here. For trusting me. For…” Lennier’s other arm was coming up, and then a hand covered Vir’s, long fingers closing around his own.
When Lennier’s fingers touched his lips, it was all he could do not to pull away.
Instead he kept still, hearts pounding against his ribs, feeling as if the world had just been tugged out from underneath him. For a moment he was that young aide again, struggling agains the current, pressing back the thick, black fear of drowning. He felt almost dizzy. A small, treacherous voice in his head, the one that had told him no one would ever give him that same look again, whispered: Don’t. This can only end in tears. Knowing what he knew about Lennier, it was most likely true.
Vir closed his eyes, and leaned in, and found he didn’t care.