beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Take Ourselves Seriously)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
Title: Eat, Drink, and be Merry
Author: [personal profile] beatrice_otter 
Fandom: Babylon 5
Rating: PG
Characters: G’Kar
Warnings: none
Spoilers: In the Beginning
Word Count: 1183
Written For: [profile] ryosato 
Prompt: One night at the disco

 

“So, in three days time you will be sent back into combat,” G’Kar said to Lieutenant Commander Ngali, the Human assigned to see to his needs during his stay on Earth.  “How will you be spending the time?”  They were walking through the corridors of Earthdome back to G’Kar’s quarters, after a long day of meetings.

“Why do you ask, Ambassador?” the grim young man asked, politely but with an air of suspicion that G’Kar heartily approved of.  The universe was not a friendly place, and if these Humans had required such a hard lesson as the wrath of the Minbari bearing down on their heads to learn it, well, that would at least ensure it was not easily forgotten.  If they survived.

“Curiosity,” G’Kar said.  “I was not given much time to prepare for this assignment, so I would like to learn more about your culture.  Will you be spending the time in warrior rituals?  Religious meditation, perhaps?”

His escort barked a laugh.  “On my last free night on Earth?  Not likely.”  Ngali glanced around, presumably making sure his superiors were out of earshot, and lowered his voice.  “I’m going out to a place I know where uniforms get in free and the first drink is on the house.  And everybody wants to personally support our people in the service, if you know what I mean.”

G’Kar blinked.  He had known going into things that Earth’s warrior traditions were far less prominent than his own peoples’ traditions.  But it sounded like the man was describing a party, not a preparation for his duty.  “And by ‘personal support’ do you imply some sort of sexual favor?”

“Sometimes.  Why?  You interested in sampling the local delicacies while you’re here?”  This was accompanied by a smile, and body language G’Kar did not think was hostile.

“Perhaps,” he replied carefully.  “And perhaps just to experience your culture through as much immersion is possible while maintaining a low profile.”

Ngali tilted his head to the side.  “Well, Kwan’s is used to the Earthdome crowd—they’re pretty cosmopolitan, shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.  And they stay in business by not caring about other people’s business.  I’ll take you, if you want.”

“What kind of establishment is it?”

“It’s a disco.”  At G’Kar’s look of incomprehension, Ngali elaborated.  “Loud music, a dance floor, lots of people, lots of alcohol.  Food, if you’re hungry, though I’d eat before going.”

“Then I would be most interested in seeing it,” G’Kar said.

***

Two hours later, G’Kar sat in Kwan’s Disco, his opinion of humans descending rapidly.  He enjoyed a party as much as the next person, but this was obscene.  Their civilization was in danger of being wiped out by Minbari warships, and their response was this, this, almost Centaurian debauchery?  He eyed the pairs—and other groupings—of Humans out on the dance floor, grinding their bodies and swinging round each other in response to the music pounding out of the speakers, so loud he could barely hear himself think.  Alcohol flowed freely, mostly in the form of concoctions mixed from several different drinks, an abundance of choice, a riot of flavors.  Everywhere people were laughing as if they had not a care in the world.  Did they not understand the situation, their approaching mortality?  Did they not understand the seriousness of survival?

He had been sent here to aid these desperate people in their time of need, because of all people the Narn understood desperation in the face of destruction, and because Narn needed money to rebuild after years of occupation.  He had come thinking solidarity the object and ashamed of the high prices the Kha’Ri had set, but there could be no solidarity with a people as lost to depravity as this.

“You don’t look like you’re having a good time, G’Kar.”

He turned at the voice in his ear, tensing at the lack of an honorific before remembering he had been introduced without it in order to maintain a low profile.  It was one of Ngali’s friends, a female lieutenant—though most definitely out of uniform—he’d forgotten her name.  She was close to him, the music too loud to speak over otherwise.  Flashing lights played over her face as she played with the straw of the drink in her hand.  “I find this celebration in the face of your destruction to be … curious,” he said, as neutrally as possible, loudly enough to be heard, softly enough to not be overheard.

She smiled.  “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

“I don’t understand,” G’Kar said.

“It’s an old, old saying.  I think it’s from Ecclesiastes, one of our holy texts.  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.  Nothing lasts forever, so you might as well enjoy it while you’ve got it.”  She watched his face.  “You don’t approve, do you?”

“You should be preparing for battle,” G’Kar said.  “If you don’t I assure you, you will die.”

“I worked almost twenty hours today, and almost that the day before,” she said.  “I need some time to unwind or I’ll be no use to anyone.”  She took a long drink from her glass, sighing in appreciation.  “Besides, it’s not enough for your body to survive,” she went on.

G’Kar frowned.  What other kind of survival was there?  What greater imperative could there be?

“If we focus solely on survival, if we shut down everything else to achieve that one goal—then they win.  Because our bodies may survive, but what’s in them—we won’t be ourselves, any more.  We’ll be who they turned us into.  Who we let them turn us into.  They will have killed us as a people, as a culture, just as surely as if they’d blown the whole planet to pieces.  And we’ll have helped them do it.”

G’Kar sat back as if shot.  That was—he’d heard that going offworld, talking with aliens in their native habitat, could change one’s perspective, in a way that studying them from afar never could.  He’d never thought of it that way before, and he found himself wondering, if only for a brief moment, if the Narn were who the Centauri had turned them into….  It was preposterous.  Narns had thrown the Centauri off their world through their own strength and by their own merit.  Some things had been sacrificed, but the purity of their people had prevailed.

She shook her head, hair waving freely around her in a way that emphasized how different she was from a Centauri woman.  “Don’t get me wrong, G’Kar, I want to live as much as the next person.  I just want to make sure all of me—all of my culture, my way of living and thinking—lives, too.  And if that means going out to party occasionally, well,” she grinned, “that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”  She waved her empty glass at him and wandered off towards the bar.

G’Kar watched her go, bemused.  These humans were surely an odd people, very different from his own.  And yet—not unworthy of Narn’s aid.

 

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-04 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vjs2259.livejournal.com
“If we focus solely on survival, if we shut down everything else to achieve that one goal—then they win. Because our bodies may survive, but what’s in them—we won’t be ourselves, any more. We’ll be who they turned us into. Who we let them turn us into. They will have killed us as a people, as a culture, just as surely as if they’d blown the whole planet to pieces. And we’ll have helped them do it.”

I'm not sure I agree with this idea, but it's making me think why or why not, and what I do think about survival and cultural survival, and hey! that's good! cause good writing does that. And this is good.

I really like G'Kar's reaction (Centaurian debauchery, indeed!) and the rotation in his point of view. Perhaps the beginning of the beginning of his eventual epiphany?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-07 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thady.livejournal.com
I really liked this although I'm not sure I entirely agree. But it made me think about survival and cultural identity, and I love this.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-23 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lilyoftheval5.livejournal.com
What a lovely lesson. Couldn't agree more or say it better.
Thanks for sharing the story.

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