Londo swept past her as the servants were clearing the table, coat tails trailing behind him. He stopped with his back half-turned, as if in an afterthought, one hand lingering on the back of her chair.
Once, Timov would have judged the gesture too familiar. To be separated from Londo by mere inches of space – clearly that was an affront when even tolerating him in this house was a sacrifice on her part. Or so she'd thought a few years ago. These days, she rather enjoyed his company.
"I will go and have a word with G'Kar." There was a long pause, punctuated by the jingle of plates. Londo's fingers plucked at the plush velvet of her seat. "He insists on sleeping at the door to my chambers. As my, ah, bodyguard. I will ask him not to do it in this house."
There was a definite question mark at the end of that sentence, even if it wasn't phrased like one. Timov allowed herself a private smile. Even at his most subtle, reading Londo was ridiculously easy: there weren't that many reasons why having a Narn at one's doorstep might be inconvenient tonight.
She wasn't sure what to think of G'Kar – apart from the fact he knew how to shut Londo up, which was a clear point in his favor – but so far he'd been nothing but gracious. It had been a surprise when Londo brought him along , but it was proving to be an interesting one.
"All right," she said, making up her mind. "Ask if he'll sleep in the guest room instead. I'll come over when I've finished here."
"Good." The delight in Londo's voice was unmistakable; so was the spring in his step when he left.
Timov sipped the rest of her wine in silence. They were dancing a strange dance these days, but against all odds it was working out. She had the house and her privacy, along with Londo's promise to keep from meddling. He spent most of his time on Babylon 5 or in the Royal Palace, but on occasion he'd call and ask to stay the night. Sometimes she'd say no, and that would be that. The first few months after Mariel and Daggair left, 'no' had seemed like the only possible answer. But she had to admit she'd come to look forward to his visits. Even if he still did talk too much.
She had… needs, of course, the same as him. Growing older hadn't miraculously changed that. It was just that, for most of their marriage, her need to be away from him had been far more pressing than any wish to share his bed. Not that Londo had been a selfish lover, as much as she used to believe it. In any case, that didn't matter now. Age had mellowed them both, although Timov had vowed she'd never let herself grow softer than him. But at least in bed, she could get him to stop talking. She had come to enjoy that part.
She finished her wine in one gulp, and stood.
They'd never even considered sharing a bedroom. Timov had had hers since they were first married, the one place in the house where Londo would never come. She kept her journals here, her private library, the ledgers of her family's funds. Her wardrobe too, of course, and some personal items the existence of which she'd tended to keep to herself, especially with Mariel and Daggair around.
She took one of them out now, placing it on the bed beside her: a small leather case studded with gems.
Londo's expression when she'd shown him was one she wouldn't soon forget. "You… like these things, Timov?" he had said, in a tone that held disbelief, amusement, and something like awe, leaving her torn between triumph and effrontery. What did he think she was, a prude? That she'd refused to sleep with Londo didn't mean she hadn't slept with others; it wasn't just Centauri men who took lovers, only that the women were more discreet. And if her tastes were on the eclectic side, well, traditional had never been her style.
She contemplated the case for a few long moments, then took out a pair of soft black wrist cuffs. Yes. These would do nicely. And black suited him so.
What to wear was a different question. Her regular nightwear was elegant but practical; she spent enough time wearing pompous dresses during the day that she wasn't about to continue at night. Londo liked frills, the more ridiculous the better, but he also liked when she did exactly what pleased her. In the end, she settled for plain red silk.
She put on a nightgown, then made her way to Londo's bedroom, relieved at the lack of a Narn guarding it. A brief rap of knuckles on wood drew no response, so she opened the door and peered in.
Voices reached her from inside, Londo's and one other, with the faintly nasal timbre of a voice piped over a comm link. Royal Court, she guessed. Only another Minister would sound that stuffy. But Londo's tone had a brittle edge to it, as if the conversation wasn't going his way. After a moment, she went inside.
The room looked bare, the only signs of occupation a coat draped across an armchair and a small suitcase on the floor. In a way Londo was more guest than housemate, here one day and gone the next. They'd been living like this for over a decade. For most of that time, it had been a relief; it was only these past months that she sometimes found herself missing his company.
He was standing with his back to her, talking agitatedly over the comm screen.
"Well, why can't the Regent see me tomorrow? This morning you told me his schedule was free." His voice rose in frustration, but the man on the screen – was it that fool Vitari? – wagged his head dismissively. Londo clasped his hands behind his back, shoulders sagging in defeat.
She wasn't sure what impulse drove her to it. But the handcuffs were in her pocket, and she'd never have a better occasion: a few quick steps and she was there, stealthily slipping the cuffs over his wrists.
"Good day, Minister," she said brightly, over the click of the lock closing and Londo's startled breath. "How kind of you to keep my husband up to speed. How is the Regent? I'm sure he's quite a busy man." She could feel Londo fidgeting beside her, his hands tugging at the restraints. She smiled and kept her eyes on the screen. Even in her nightgown, she knew she could stare down any man, and sure enough, Vitari averted his gaze.
"Yes, yes, very busy," he muttered. "As I'm sure the Prime Minister will understand." Some response seemed to be in order, but Timov only smiled and reached to squeeze Londo's wrist.
"Oh, of course I understand." Londo's voice came out surprisingly steady, his scorn for Vitari winning out on the rest. At the same time, he was wriggling and clenching his fists, the strain in his face apparent. Londo talked with his hands; take that away, and you might as well have gagged him. "There is nothing you can do, hmm?" He shot Vitari a dark glare.
"Might we say, Minister," Timov chimed in, "your hands are tied, perhaps?" She allowed a smirk to touch her lips.
From the corner of her eyes she saw Londo's eyes widen, his mouth twitching with the shadow of a grin. Part of him was enjoying this, although he'd never admit it. But it was a challenge and he thrived on those – even more when it was her who set them.
Vitari blinked, clearly picking up on the change in mood. "Are you well, Prime Minister? You seem… preoccupied."
"Oh, I'm fine," Londo said, but his palms were sweating when she touched them. Timov stroked them with a teasing finger, gratified when it sent a shiver through him. "I will call you in the morning, before I return to the Palace. Perhaps the Regent will agree to see me then. Goodnight."
There was a long pause, in which Londo – for obvious reasons – made no move to turn off the screen. After a moment, Timov took pity on him.
"Goodnight, Minister," she said, and hit the control.
She turned to find Londo standing like a statue, eyes locked on her as he sucked down a deep breath.
"You vixen!" He flexed his arms sharply, trying to free his hands. When that failed, he threw back his head, looking caught between amusement and fury. "That was an official call! What if Vitari saw…"
"Vitari wouldn't see a leati until it bit him in the throat. Consider it a test of your poker face. Isn't that what the humans call it? You'll need it to survive in that madhouse, not to mention to survive being married to me." She shot him a pointed look, then raised a hand towards his side. His eyes fluttered shut when she slid her palm downwards. Some of the tension went out of his frame, his shoulders sagging abruptly. The desire in his face was quite jarringly real.
"Shh." She silenced him with a finger to his lips. "Come to bed. Vitari will still be there in the morning, as much as I wish he wouldn't be."
"To bed? Like this?" Londo let out a gust of incredulous laughter. "I cannot even undress! What is it you plan to do?"
"Come to bed and find out," she said, and turned her back.
The bed was a huge four-poster, a gilded monstrosity which could have slept five, as Timov suspected it had on more than one occasion. Londo sat stiffly on the edge of the mattress, fixing her with a tormented glare. Timov bent to grasp his leg, removing one boot before he could stop her; when she tugged at the other, he pitched backwards with a yelp.
It was the eyes that did it. Wide and burning in their sockets, they locked onto her as if she was… someone else, surely, not a woman past her prime with a cruel mouth and slightly sagging breasts. Had he watched her like this when they were younger? She'd likely have blamed it on alcohol, or just not noticed at all back then. But she was learning. Climbing onto the mattress, she bent down to take his face in her hands.
"I –" he began, but she pressed her advantage before he could finish, crushing mouth against mouth in an impetuous kiss. He responded with fervor, all tongue and lips and sharp teeth, squirming against his restraints to close the distance. Working a hand under his waistcoat, she tangled her fingers into his shirt. He groaned and rolled onto his side, his shoulders twisting in an awkward angle. "Timov, this… I cannot… Please."
When she straightened, her nightgown slipped off her shoulder. She drew it back up as she searched her pockets for the key. "All right," she said, holding it up teasingly. "I suppose I can be generous tonight."
She uncuffed his left hand and tugged the other towards the bedpost, slipping the cuff around its polished brass base. There was a noise of protest from Londo, which she cut short with a glare. Sprawled on his back, head tilted into the mattress, he looked breathless and rumpled and nothing like the man she'd once married, that brash, pompous youth brimming with propriety.
Not that she minded. Breathless was how she liked him best.
She shrugged off her nightgown, letting it fall to the ground, then slung a leg over Londo's hips. Unless she uncuffed him again, undressing him wasn't an option, but that was all right; she'd always had a soft spot for that garish vest and shirt. The waistcoat opened easily, the buttons cool against her fingers. Next, she got rid of that ludicrous red scarf. The shirt proved more of a challenge, a tangle of laces that refused stubbornly to unknot, but after a brief struggle she managed it. Londo's free hand moved to stroke her stomach, rubbing soft silk against the curve of her breast.
He arched up against her as she slid her hands under the fabric, thumb dragging hard against her nipple. Timov bit her lip to compose herself. But she still had the advantage: a quick grab, and she drew out two of his brachiarti, moist and throbbing in her hands.
"Ah," Londo said. "Now we are making progress." It came out labored, between short, sharp breaths. "Unless you intend to cuff these as well?"
Timov laughed, leaning down to nip at his shoulder with her teeth. Admittedly, the image did hold some appeal, but she dismissed it as impractical. Pity. A third brach was wriggling across her thigh, attempting to sneak under her nightdress. She released the two others to bat it away, then, in one quick movement, tugged the dress from over her head.
Londo's expression alone made that worth it.
She sat down on her knees, straddling him, letting her full weight settle onto his hips. As naked as he was clothed, only a bracelet and the headband left, she felt exposed as well as thrilled.
"Oh, Londo, do quit staring. One would think you'd never seen a woman before." An edge had crept into her tone before she could stop it – not anger, merely force of habit. She palmed his cheek to soften the sting.
Her aperta were tight when he rubbed against them: the lower right, then the middle left, which was her most sensitive. One brach stroked lightly while the other moved with purpose, heads flicking the edge of her slit. Pleasure washed over her, rolling down her spine like syrup, sticky and sweet. Londo tried to lift his head, hissing when the restraints stopped him. Taking pity, Timov dipped down instead, catching his mouth in a long, drawn-out kiss.
The door slammed open a few moments later, catching them mid-embrace.
With a strangled gasp, they jerked apart. "What –" Londo sputtered, brach whipping back abruptly.
Timov blinked to clear her vision. When she turned, gathering her dignity, she found herself staring into the last face she'd expected to see.
"Mollari." G'Kar stood stiffly in the doorway, light streaming past him from the corridor beyond. "I heard a noise that sounded like distress. I didn't think… Please, forget I was here." His gaze crossed hers briefly, then flicked towards Londo and lingered there. Timov turned just in time to catch Londo's stunned expression. By the time she turned back, G'Kar had left.
She peered into Londo's face, tried to rhyme it with what she'd just seen in G'Kar's. Which hadn't been unease, or amusement, but… regret?
"Oh," she said, realization dawning. Of course. The subtle jokes, the sly grins at dinner, suddenly it all made sense. She chastised herself for not having seen it before. That look in Londo's eyes just now… the same one he'd been giving her all night, except that, for a heartbeat, it had been directed at G'Kar. "Londo, you never told me." She chuckled wryly. "Since you brought him to my house, you could have said."
Londo averted his face, flexing his wrist where it hung in the handcuff. "What is there to say? G'Kar and I are – friends."
"You said the same about Urza. Look how that turned out. And don't think I didn't recognize your friend's expression, because I'm seeing the exact same one on you. You want him, Londo. And I'm quite certain he wants you."
Whatever resistance Londo had been working up seemed to crumble in the face of the blunt truth. "You are… annoyingly perceptive," he muttered darkly. "But yes. Over the past months, it seems G'Kar and I have... Well. Let us say I learned much about Narns that I did not know." His mouth twitched into a small, self-deprecating grin. "It's ironic. G'Kar has always been fond of Centauri women. He finds you quite appealing, Timov, I could see it in his eyes all day. Yet I do not know if he has slept with a woman since Cartagia."
"But he slept with you?" There was no jealousy in the question; Londo could have sex with every person he chose, and had, for most of his life. But she couldn't shake G'Kar's expression, halfway between loneliness and need. Mostly for Londo, but he was right: some of it had been directed at her, and she had to admit the thought was enticing.
Well, then. It seemed she'd already made up her mind.
She was halfway down the room before Londo found his voice. "Where are you going?"
"To get him, of course." She slung her robe across her shoulders. "I would think that was obvious even to you."
"Ah." Londo's voice had that odd, flat tone he tended to reserve for politicians and the criminally insane, which often came down to the same thing. "But… I thought you found these things distasteful."
"These things? You mean your orgies back in the time? All I find distasteful is feigned affection – the more people involved, the worse, that's true." But something told her this was different. She was too much of a Centauri to believe in exclusive love, but she did believe in… how did the Humans call it? Chemistry. "Do you love him?" she asked bluntly.
Londo tossed his head into the pillow. "He makes me think… there is still hope. That is a rare thing these days."
She tilted her head, touched by his answer. "Good enough," she replied, and walked out.
The guest room was down the hall, tucked away behind a pair of heavy doors. She rapped them lightly with her knuckles. When they opened, the first thought that struck her was that she'd thought him taller. Perhaps it was the armor and gloves, which were missing now, but in the coarse, baggy robe that seemed his choice of sleepwear, he looked far closer to Londo's height.
"Timov." G'Kar inclined his head, with only a hint of surprise that was quickly stuffed down. "This is unexpected. If it's about…"
"Yes," she cut him off. "But not in the way you're thinking." His eyes were strange: one just a hint darker than the other, they seemed to be burrowing straight into her skull. "I believe I've been a thoughtless hostess. I came to ask if you would join us tonight."
His face was a mask of politeness. "I'm… not sure I understand."
She considered being diplomatic, but discarded the thought; G'Kar seemed like a man who preferred his truths unvarnished. "Answer me this, then," she said suavely. "If it wasn't for me, would you be in Londo's bed right now?"
A flicker of amusement crossed his features. "Possibly. Provided he is sober, or I drunk enough." He looked her up and down, as if uncertain what to make of her; it appeared she passed the test, at least judging by the sparkle in his eyes. "Yours is a cold world, Timov. One could do worse than with the warmth of another body for comfort." Did she imagine it, or had his voice softened? "Your… proposal just now. May I ask why?"
Timov stepped closer, forced to tilt her head to hold his gaze. "I have been married for a long time, G'Kar. And I've seen Londo take many people into his bed, but never someone he cared about. Not in this house, anyway. Now, suddenly, there are two of us. I would be foolish to let that occasion slide." She let that sink in, watching the subtle play of emotions in his face. "I assure you I'm serious. Don't make the mistake of thinking me fragile."
"Believe me," he said, with a slowly widening smile. "The thought had never crossed my mind."
It was hard to say what was most amusing: Londo's shell-shocked grin when she returned with G'Kar in tow, or G'Kar's smugness at the sight. Londo was on his back, staring at the ceiling; when he saw them, he struggled to sit upright. With the wrist cuff restricting his movements, all he managed was to prop himself up on one elbow, but he pulled it off with a certain flair. "Great Maker," he muttered. "You are both mad."
Timov beckoned G'Kar to the bed, amused when he sat down without preamble. "For wanting you?" She rolled her eyes. "You'll hear no argument from me."
"Nor from me," G'Kar chimed in. "But since your wife has offered to share you, it would be impolite for me to decline. Especially finding you so… ready." A spotted hand stroked Londo's shirt, plucking purposefully at its folds.
"Share me? Pah. What am I, a toy to be played w… unh." G'Kar's hand had found a target, clearly; it was the only way to get Londo to make that sound.
Timov climbed into the bed, crouching at Londo's other side. G'Kar's robe had fallen open; she saw Londo stealing glances inside it, his free hand coming up to tug at the hem. She moved in an impulse, pulling down his arm.
"Oh, no. Patience is a virtue, Londo. Show some restraint, or we cuff the other hand too." She wriggled out of Londo's reach, ignoring his groan of loss as G'Kar released him as well. "Would you like to…" She gestured at her own nightgown, "… do the honors, G'Kar?"
For a moment, she felt a twinge of doubt. There was a near-stranger in her bed, with permission to undress her – which was more than she'd given Londo for most of her marriage, and even these days only when the mood was right. Then G'Kar's hand was on her shoulder, skittering across her throat. His fingers hooked under her collar, tracing warm patterns on her skin; his look was equal parts lust and pleasure. When she nodded, he tugged down, letting the fabric pool around her. She pushed it aside and sat up on her knees, catching his hand as he withdrew.
Hands wrapped around her waist, so much warmer than a Centauri's; her own were tiny in comparison, but enough to make him gasp when she slid them under his robe. She passed what had to be his pouch, running a thumb across its entrance. It drew a low moan out of him. From the corner of her eye she caught Londo watching them, with an expression teetering between shock and rapture; it sent a shiver down her spine.
When he stripped off his robe and breeches, it was all she could do not to stare. Centauri males could hide their arousal if they wanted, but G'Kar's erect member left little to be imagined; she took it in her hand with a reckless grin. His eyes fluttered shut when she stroked its length, exploring the texture with teasing fingers. Judging by the way he went boneless against her, it seemed she was doing well.
Something snagged at her leg, hard enough that she lost her balance – Londo, she thought, in that split second before she gasped and went down. She ended up sprawled on top of him, straddling his stomach. With a breathless chuckle, G'Kar caught her waist from behind.
"Enjoying yourselves, hmm?" Londo pursed his lips. The brachiarte around her leg squeezed insistently, wriggling up towards her thigh. "I am glad to hear it. I would give you some privacy, but it seems I am unable to leave this bed."
His tone dripped with humor, but there was no mistaking the need in his face, getting under Timov's skin like ritari – the small insects that riddled the city in summer, their bites burning like mad. Londo's breathing grew rapid, coming in sharp puffs as she leaned in. He caught her mouth hungrily, sucking her lip between his teeth. His free hand caught her neck while two more brach twined around her; a fourth nudged up against the small of her back, teasing out the sweet spots to rub them with fervor.
Behind her, G'Kar made a strangled noise and stiffened abruptly. She blinked down at the sight of Londo's frantic grin.
"My apologies," G'Kar said, panting against her shoulder. "One might say I was… caught by surprise."
Timov smiled as she spotted the culprit: a brach had slipped beneath her, writhing against the sheets. Whatever it was doing that gave G'Kar trouble, it was doing so enthusiastically. Londo's eyes glittered with triumph, then fluttered shut, his brach picking up their pace. The one on her back had found a target; it was kneading the slit with rhythmic movements, moist and eager. Timov moaned when he pressed in, entering one aperta with just the tip of a head.
They found a rhythm, broken as it was – one brach inside her, another pumping G'Kar's member while he grasped her waist and she straddled Londo's chest. Another brach moved in, tickling the skin before it pushed inside as well, then a third, working its way higher up her back. She shut her eyes and let the tide take her, focusing on the hot knots of sensation and the waves of lust lapping at her spine. Londo cupped a breast with his free hand, massaging the nipple. Behind her, G'Kar groaned like something had cracked inside him. She gasped as he ground his mouth against her, stroking an aperta with a fever-hot tongue.
Her head was spinning. Time slowed to the speed of Londo's thrusts. She clutched the fabric of his shirt, running her hands along his sides and the base of his brach, slick now with sweat. His gasps were hoarse, and as breathless as she was feeling. G'Kar's fingers joined his lips on her back, stroking in tight circles, his member nudging hard against her ass.
Timov pried her eyes open as she felt the spasms start; Londo's or hers, she couldn't say, but her spine was tingling and he was filling her, filling her up as his head sagged back and his mouth fell open in a soundless cry. G'Kar shuddered and then went limp, spilling sticky warmth across her lower back. She came with a rush of blood to her head, sagging against Londo's chest as the tremors swept in.
He nuzzled her temple as she rolled off him, head falling into the crook of his still-cuffed arm.
For a treacherous moment, the part of her that had survived twenty years of marriage reasserted itself, telling her to move, but she wrestled it down. Instead she watched the rise and fall of his stomach as his breathing evened out. In an impulse, she trailed her palm across his bare chest and the small, angry scar left by his surgery. Something caved inside her at the sight.
"So quiet, Timov." Of course Londo would be the first to talk. "Did we take your breath away, perhaps?"
Listen to that. It's 'we' already. She shook her head, incredulous. But there were far worse companions than G'Kar – in fact Londo was a far worse companion than G'Kar, from all rational angles – and there was some comfort to knowing he would be around, both at court and on Babylon 5. And she wasn't just thinking as a bodyguard.
"You flatter yourself, Mollari. Perhaps your wife is silent because she wishes you would do the same." G'Kar was sitting up, fixing them with a mellow grin. When he turned and dropped his legs off the bed, it took her a moment to realize his intention.
"You're leaving?" she said. The words felt like cotton in her mouth.
"Mollari can take it from here, I am certain; he talks enough for the both of us. I won't overstay my welcome." His mocking tone didn't quite mask the truth behind the words. Glancing aside at Londo, Timov saw him reach the same conclusion.
"Stay," she said. "The bed is large enough for three. It can carry Londo's ego, I'm sure it will take yours." She kept the banter light, latching on to the twinkle in G'Kar's eyes.
Picking up her cue, Londo huffed obligingly. "Yes, G'Kar. What if an assassin comes in the night? We might need you here before morning." He turned his head against the pillow, giving G'Kar an almost hopeful smile.
Whether it was the words or the look on Londo's face, she could see the moment where G'Kar changed his mind. He swung his legs back onto the mattress, then crawled towards them. "Move over, Mollari. The bed may be large, but your hair is taking up half of it." When Londo sputtered in protest, G'Kar slid an arm beneath him, tipping him over onto his side.
Timov shifted position, leaning into Londo's chest as G'Kar spooned up behind him. She could hear Londo chewing the air, casting about for a retort, and stifled a smile in the sheets.
Outside, the last rays of sunlight were dissolving, bleeding out into the night. Londo would leave in the morning. The house would be quiet again, just as she liked it… though perhaps not as much as she used to. But for now, the dawn was still hours away. It would have to be enough.