Nightmares in Waking
Disclaimer: Babylon 5 and its characters don't belong to me. Londo Mollari and the others mentioned all belong to J. Michael Straczynski, and my amateur efforts probably can't do justice to his work. But I do try. :)
Author's note: Londo may be just a little out of character here, but I've done my best to capture some of what his thoughts might be, circa "The Fall of Centauri Prime". So this has spoilers for that, and vague spoilers for a lot of stuff that took place before it.
"Nightmares in Waking"
by Christine Anderson
aka Anla'shok Ivanova
It is another dark moment, too much like the one when I at last came to understand what the Regent had done- and, perhaps more importantly, why he had done it. When I am allowed to close my eyes, I can still see those jump points forming, dozens of them in the skies of Centauri Prime.
I sit upon the throne I never wanted, the one I want even less now, and I do not sit straight and look out upon the world before me as a Centauri Emperor should- I slouch, one arm upon the armrest, my chin in my hands. I brood now in ways I never did even when things were at their worst back on Babylon 5. I long for those days.
For those days, for my freedom- and since I can have neither of those things, I long very much for a drink. But when I am free to take one, I find that I do not want it. Perhaps there is a part of me that knows it will do nothing to dull the pain of any of this. They will not allow that.
How little thought we gave to some things, while we still had a chance to make a preemptive strike. The Drakh served the Shadows. We knew that, of course, but I do not think that anyone really grasped that fact. The Shadows were insidious; they did terrible things in the darkness, things you would never see coming until it was almost too late, if then. The Drakh are not the Shadows, but they learned from those whom they called masters- and they are fools not to have seen it.
I, of course, have a much changed perspective on things now- now that I am no longer free to tell them anything but what the Drakh wish me to, I can think whatever I please. My inability to divulge this knowledge I have gained amuses them, as it amused them to watch me walk away from them for the last time of my own free will, when I said my last goodbyes to G'Kar. Oh, the irony of that! That he was there, and I could not speak a word of what I'd learned from the Drakh, from the Regent, because if I had, they would simply have killed him. I could have taken the chance, once- if his life meant nothing to me. But it does, now, and the attempt would have been futile in any case.
I delivered to Sheridan and Delenn the instrument of the Drakh's revenge, a thing which would have made even the Shadows proud. The thought of it sitting there now, upon their shelf, might cause me a shudder or at least a cringe, if I were allowed it.
I am not allowed much. They put words into my mouth and I speak them, and sometimes they will let loose their choke hold long enough for me to make a gesture, take a step, say a word in my own voice. Just enough to give me a taste of freedom before they snatch it away. Even when they give me their 'rewards', these hours and moments 'free' of them, they watch, and they wait... I could not, even then, call anyone, nor speak the truth if and when I reached them.
My pride was the first thing to be sacrificed in all of this, I think. Outwardly, I am still Centauri- arrogant, proud, sure of myself. But within, everything is different, and if I could ask for their help- if I could beg for their help, plead for it, throw myself at Sheridan's feet and cry out that he must, if not save me, for I am already damned, somehow free the Centauri, free my people... If I could do any of those things, I would. But I cannot.
I think back upon the dream I used to have, of G'Kar killing me, strangling me as I sat here upon this very throne, and if I could make that dream come true now, today, I might do that, as well. That may be what it takes, indeed, to free the Centauri, and for that- To be released from this torment and to free my people all at once, that I would do in an instant.
The irony of wishing a Narn were around to save my people is not lost on me, but as I believe I heard Mister Garibaldi say on more than one occasion, "We've got bigger problems."
I think of them, all of them scattered now, gone their separate ways- Garibaldi finally having gotten sense enough to trade in his overindulgence in alcohol for a good woman- I rather miss mine, though am grateful she did not live to see me like this. And you must understand, of course, that the irony of this statement doesn't escape me, my own overindulgences being the stuff of legend, back when these things mattered... G'Kar, running out to the Rim to explore, in order to escape his peoples' attempts to turn him into some form of religious figure... Oh, how I wish that I had been on Babylon 5 to see that! ...Lyta, who I am told has changed so much that I would hardly recognize her, journeying with him. The way she quests for what is best for her, the way she drives after what she wants... ah, she could almost be Centauri... Vir, dear Vir, who may not be so hopeless as I once thought, after all, back on Babylon 5, taking over where I left off... Ivanova, gone a year already now, gone after Marcus died, somewhere out there in the stars, in command of her own ship... Franklin, back to Earth to continue his work, a choice I thought dull, but then, Franklin always was that... Sheridan and Delenn, on Minbar, overseeing the Interstellar Alliance, a dream I wish more than ever to see succeed because I can no longer be a part of it, and the two of them, always together...
I know that in all likelihood I will never see them again. Sitting at the last with Sheridan and Delenn, it felt like goodbye, and even if it is not, it should be. Anyone close to me is in danger, I know that. And because it amuses the Drakh to keep me from anything which I would enjoy, I may very well never be able to see my friends again, not in person.
When it all began five years ago, we did not know how it would end. We did not know if peace were even possible. Now the galaxy seems to have it, but I think the wars have simply become internalized now. For some, like Garibaldi, the internal wars someday end. For me, they will end only when I am dead.
I know that one day the Regent's fate will be mine. I will either die when I cease to be of use to them... or their presence within my thoughts, their fingers in my mind, will drive me mad, as the Regent was driven mad. Then they will kill me, and another will be chosen, for the dual burdens of leadership of the Centauri, and...guidance by the Drakh. I do not envy whomever next leads.
It is funny, in a tragic sort of way- I always thought that to be the Emperor must be a grand and yet very lonely thing. As with many things I decided when I was but a foolish young Centauri, I had no idea. I had no idea!
It would be easy to say now that I did not know, either- did not know when I met the strange man called Morden, that it would place me on this path. I could say that I did not understand I was making what the humans would call deals with the devil. But I understood enough. I understood there were things I didn't want to know, questions I didn't want to ask. But not asking those questions, doesn't mean I did not know the answers.
Listen to me now. I sound like that three-times damned Vorlon who used to lurk about Babylon 5, dispensing confusion of a sort our seeresses, mad as they all are, could only have dreamed about. But it is the truth. It is the truth I speak now- now, when there is no one to listen save myself.
Oh, the bitter irony! If I am not killed by the Drakh, if I am not struck down in mercy by my old friends, or wiped out by the vengeance of the gods, I will probably suffer death by irony.
I should be so lucky.
Reaching for the bottle, ever-present though I seldom find I can gather the energy to drink from it, I stare for a while at its contents, before taking a long sip. It is the first effort to do anything I have made in a while. I do very little now when my time is my own- such as that is -because there is little point.
I often fall to sleep here, in this throne that has become like a prison. Better here, where the Drakh must hide in shadows, then in my own private rooms, where they may step into the light and force me to look at them. It is a small thing, and it does not matter enough to trouble them. It is not willpower, is not me fighting back against them- I can't do that anymore, I've forgotten if ever I knew how -but it is the last act of defiance I have it within me to make.
Now I dream again of G'Kar's hands around my throat, and I pray to whatever gods may still exist in this cursed world of mine, that this time it is real.