Argus had left Reya to do the final coordination with some of the Pleasure City personnel and returned to the ship to talk to the others.
The flight deck contingent was tired. It had been a hectic day and Cally was becoming increasingly concerned. Avon looked exhausted but he refused to rest until everything was in place. She remarked that he didn't look that steady on his feet but that only made him sit down rather than stop
He was finally giving the last instructions to Kern and Panner when he decided to add a few more provisions. Cally had enough and went to talk to Argus while Avon continued his planning. She knew that this part of the plan was crucial if it was to work at all; that was why she had not pressed the issue. But she couldn't sit back anymore and keep watching Avon drive himself this way.
Cally approached Argus while he was reviewing Vila and Ture's part of the plan, to the thief’s tired protests that he could already do everything in his sleep. She waited.
"That's the point, Vila," said Argus.
"It's not as if I'm going to sleep through this," complained Vila. "I plan to be wide awake the whole time."
"That's a relief," said Argus with light sarcasm. "Alright, both of you. Good work. Get some rest. We commence at 0800 tomorrow."
After Vila and Ture headed off, Cally said, "Argus."
Argus turned towards her; he still seemed full of energy. "Yes, Cally?"
"Can you tell Avon to rest?"
He gave her a puzzled look. "Wouldn't it be better coming from you?"
"He's not listening. He keeps saying that he will soon, but that was over four hours ago. I've tried to tell him several times." There was worry and frustration on her face.
"What he’s doing is very important. He knows that. The responsibility weighs heavily on him."
"But what if he collapses? I thought you didn't want to do this to him," accused Cally.
Argus frowned, she was right. The last thing he had wanted was to put this kind of stress and demand on Avon.
"We don't have a choice," he told her. Though it was true, it didn't make him feel any better.
"There never seems to be a choice. But it doesn't make it right."
"This was his choice, Cally."
"Was it? Really?" asked Cally.
"I'm not going to argue with you. This is something you have to take up with Avon. But I will tell him to rest."
She was about to say something else but realized it would be out of anger and frustration. Argus was right. This was something Avon had chosen to do. It made him feel useful and, in his own mind, less of a liability. Instead she said, "Alright."
"You should get some rest too, Cally. Take him back to your cabin."
Cally was taken aback; she hadn’t expected this suggestion from Argus. “Does everyone know that he’s been staying with me?” she asked in consternation. She suspected that Vila told them. He had caught Avon coming out of her cabin early during a morning cycle.
“It’s hard to keep something like that a secret; when you’re on a ship.” Argus knew that only too well. It had been impossible to keep everyone from knowing about his own relationship with Reya.
“Can you avoid saying anything about it to him?” asked Cally. She didn’t want to embarrass Avon or to disclose something which was private between the two of them.
“Of course, Cally. What the two of you do is your own business. I won’t say anything to Avon.”
Avon was finally finished with Kern and Panner. "I'll send you back down."
Argus, who had just finished speaking with Cally and came right over, interrupted them, "I'll do that, Avon. Why don't you get some rest?"
He addressed Kern and Panner, "The two of you go ahead to the teleport room. I will join you in a moment." Avon stared unpleasantly at Argus but didn't say anything. Kern and Panner looked at the two of them; they could feel the tension level rising. It was never wise to get caught in the middle of anything. They did as Argus instructed and headed for the steps.
"I’m perfectly capable of operating the teleport," said Avon. His tone was all bristles when he recognized what Argus was doing.
"You're worrying Cally, Avon," said Argus.
Avon had been prepared for a verbal battle but that statement totally disarmed him. He gave a slight grimace; this time there was no physical pain involved.
"What do I do?" he asked Argus. He had not intended to hurt her.
Argus looked at the other man in amusement. "Get some sleep, Avon. Don't push yourself too hard."
"I meant, when you hurt Reya without meaning to, which I imagine is quite often, what do you do?" asked Avon.
"Usually she hits me," said Argus with a wry smile. "Or we spend a lot of time together."
"That works?" asked Avon. Neither of these suggestions was useful to his situation with Cally.
"Well, not really. But it's a start. You can't just think about yourself anymore, Avon. When someone cares about you like Cally does, you can hurt them very easily."
"I will think of something appropriate," said Avon.
"I really think that all you need to do is get more rest. That's all Cally wants. She's not like Reya."
"Who's not like me?" asked a familiar voice.
It was Argus's turn to grimace. He turned around to see Reya standing at the top of the flight deck steps.
"Maybe you had better attend to our guests in the teleport room first?" suggested Avon helpfully. His eyes held an amused sympathy. Argus did seem to have a knack of saying the wrong things where Reya was concerned.
"You don't have to worry. I've already sent them both down," said Reya as she came down the steps.
"I think I'll get some rest," said Avon.
"That's a good idea," said Argus distractedly without taking his eyes off Reya. She was standing directly in front of him now. "Good night, Avon," he added.
"Yes. Good night, Avon," said Reya.
After Avon left, Reya asked, "Well?"
At her challenge, Argus winced. "It wasn't anything. Cally was worried. I was just trying to get Avon to realize that he can't just think about himself anymore."
"Really," he said earnestly.
Reya sighed. "Oh, Argus."
"Yes, I know. I should take my own advice?"
She ran her fingers through his hair affectionately. He was wearing it a little longer than he normally would have in the military.
"Do you want to hit me?" he asked.
"Now why would I want to do that?" she asked in a perplexed tone.
Avon buzzed at Cally's cabin. The door slid open immediately, startling him. Cally was standing in the doorway.
"You've been waiting for me all this time?" he asked.
"I was worried," she told him while stepping aside to let him in.
"I shouldn't have needed Argus to tell me that. I should have realized it myself," he told her as he entered.
"You're not as strong anymore, Avon. You have to start taking care of yourself," said Cally.
Avon nodded. "I understand that. But it's hard to accept my own weakness." He felt very tired all of a sudden. Avon swayed on his feet; Cally grabbed his shoulders to steady him. There was more worry on her face, which made him feel even worse.
"You can barely stand," said Cally as she helped him to the bed.
"I was fine a moment ago," said Avon in dismay.
"That's because you've been running on natural adrenaline." She tried to lower him to the bed.
"No. Cally. You sleep here." Avon resisted her efforts.
"Not tonight. Tonight I will try the cot," said Cally as she tried to lower him onto bed again. This time he cooperated.
Even coordination seemed difficult now as he attempted to take his jacket and boots off. Cally helped him. "I hate being like this," he told her.
"I know. I'll get the injector."
Avon grabbed her hand and sat up. "Not yet. Sit with me for a moment."
Cally sat down at the edge of the bed.
He stared at her; it was easier than saying something but he knew he had to.
"I'm sorry for worrying you," he told her. "I didn't mean to."
"I know you're anxious about tomorrow. But it won't do any good if you collapse from exhaustion," said Cally.
"Sometimes I get too preoccupied. Health concerns have never been high on my list of priorities."
"You can't afford that luxury anymore," she told him.
Avon studied her for a moment then he took her hands in his and said, "Cally, I can't guarantee that I won't get carried away in the future. It's in my nature. But if you say something next time, I will listen to you. You have my promise."
"You don't have to do that, Avon."
"I want to."
Cally could sense that it was very important to him.
"Alright, Avon. Now lie back and I'll get the injector."
By the time she came back with the medication, he was already asleep. She touched his face. Without the tension and stress, without the hard cynicism and guardedness, he looked years younger. He was like this when he was exploring the research labs in Pleasure City. She imagined that he was this way before the world became a grim place for him and he stopped trusting people.
I'm glad I was able to give you that time. Hopefully this can become a refuge for you when you need it, thought Cally.