Servalan smiled. Her investigators on Papos had been able to find out the identity of the mysterious woman with Sester. With the information they had gathered, it had not been difficult to piece together what had happened. It was serendipitous to have both Argus and Sester in Sector Ten. It served her purposes nicely.
Both men had to be handled carefully and with a certain degree of ruthlessness. Anything less and they would break out of her control. Servalan found it amusing that their natural counteraction with each other would serve as an exertion of her power over them. Sester would know right away. Argus would figure it out eventually, and then he would be angry and feel even more trapped.
And now this weapon was going to get another lesson, in power and deviousness.
Argus continued. "Please, Reya. I'm sorry for acting like an idiot before. I never meant to hurt you. I would never do that. I don't know what came over me."
"She's not in there," said a voice behind him.
Argus whirled around and saw Vila; the thief had snuck up on him. Normally even the soft-footed Vila couldn't do that, but Argus had been too preoccupied with Reya to notice.
"It's never a good idea to sneak up on me, Vila," said Argus.
"I wasn't sneaking. Just passing by. Decided to be neighbourly."
Vila had tried to go the medical bay earlier to get some pain blockers. Avon and Cally had been in there; doing something he would have never thought he would catch Avon doing out in the open. Jealousy was now added to the other negative feelings he had been having towards Avon. Vila didn't want to experience these things but he couldn't help himself.
"Do you know where she went?" asked Argus. Normally he preferred to keep his private life, private, but Argus was desperate. He knew that he had hurt Reya; had probably made her disgusted with him.
"She didn't very look happy," said Vila.
"If you want some advice about women," offered Vila. "I always find that it's better not to upset them."
Vila thought for a bit. "What you need now is Vila's sure-fire damage control plan."
"Damage control plan?" asked Argus. Damage control was something he could relate with.
"Well, believe it or not, sometimes women do get mad at me. It's rare. But it does happen."
Argus didn't know Vila well enough to believe this or not. The thief did have a tendency to exaggerate, but he had seemed quite popular with the women on Pleasure City.
"What's this plan," asked Argus. "Would it work for me?"
"I don't see why not. Reya is a woman," said Vila. "Wait a minute. Why aren't you on the flight deck?"
"Oh. Cally is on the flight deck now?"
"I'll be right back," said Vila, rushing off.
Argus wasn't quite sure what to do next. Vila had not said where Reya was. I should keep looking for her. But Vila did say he was coming back. It might be worth listening to this damage control plan of his. It's got to be better than what I've been doing.
Solitude. He did need it; Cally had been right. Avon didn't understand this need himself. He had it from an early age, this necessity to be alone to think; to be at peace without the constant pressure other people's presence put on him. Interacting with most people confused him. They were not orderly or logical. What he saw of them often made him want to retreat more. Their inconsistencies bothered his rational mind.
It was not to say that he did not crave social interaction; but only in controlled, measured doses. That was, until Servalan. The forced isolation she had subjected him to had made him understand the difference between the solitude he needed and truly being alone; without friends, without people who cared whether he lived or died. He would have dismissed it before, saying that he didn't need people; he never needed anyone. But it would have been a lie; even from the beginning, he had always needed at least one person, whether it was his brother, or Anna. One person to care; one person he could care about.
Servalan had imprisoned and tortured him for months and no one had looked for him. No one had wanted him, except to kill him. There had been a look of triumph on Servalan's face when she told him that.
But now he had Cally and the rest of the crew. They all cared about him; that mattered to him now. At first, when they rescued him, he had been afraid of being alone again. Even the solitude of his cabin reminded him uncomfortably of the isolation of the cell. When his mind wasn't actively occupied, he found that he couldn't face being alone; wasn't sure he ever could again.
The last few months of interacting with Cally and the others had shown him that he wasn't alone anymore. There were people who cared whether he survived or not; who valued him beyond what he could do for them; who wanted him to be happy and did not seek to control him. After Anna, he didn't think he would be able to find people like that again. And Anna hadn't even been real.
Being with Cally, sleeping in her cabin without any pressure, had provided a solace. Her presence was a comforting reminder that he was no longer alone.
Avon looked at the calibration tool he had been holding. He smiled wryly and put it down. He had been holding it for the past few minutes, not doing anything with it; just thinking and reflecting. Avon felt at peace. I needed this time. Cally was right.
Cally. A soft smile touched his lips at the thought of her. She had enabled him to enjoy solitude again, to not be afraid of it. She had known. In terms of human needs and interaction, she was the genius. Cally evoked feelings in him; feelings which he had been afraid to explore again since he thought he had lost Anna, and then later even more after discovering that Anna had betrayed him. Perhaps it is time again.
There was still one major obstacle.
Reya entered the workshop. She stood uncertainly, looking around her.
"Are you looking for something?" asked Avon.
"I was looking for Cally. I thought she might be here. She wasn't in the medical bay," replied Reya.
"She's on the flight deck," replied Avon.
"Oh. She's talking to Argus?"
"If they're together, then yes, I imagine they are talking."
Avon could see that she was uncertain about something.
"Is there something wrong?" asked Avon.
Avon was not the person Reya would automatically think of sharing something personal with, but before she thought about it she said dejectedly, "I wish I he would talk to me."
"The two of you had another fight," remarked Avon dryly. These two's constant friction was at once both irritating and amusing.
"I don't know."
"You don't know if you've had a fight?" Avon couldn't see how that was possible given the history of their interaction together. The one thing they should be able to identify without any difficulties, was if they were having a conflict. In fact, the default would be that they had another argument and Argus had done something silly again.
For some reason this conversation led Avon to think about Anna. He thought that their relationship had been special. Nothing he said or did ever seemed to bother her; she always gave the impression that she could see right through him, and understood his true feelings, despite his outward manner. But now he knew that it was all an act; he was a fool to think that kind of relationship was possible. A relationship that was based on truth rather than external appearances; where each one knew the other person would be willing to die for them, without having to say it.
He looked at the unhappy Reya. Even though he often mocked Argus's ineptitude and his uncharacteristic vulnerability in his relationship with her, Avon recognized that these two loved each other with the kind of depth that he once thought he had with Anna. Their love was very expressive and often explosive, unlike his with Anna; but where they were alike was that their love survived their own weaknesses. With each other, they were not afraid of being themselves; there was no desire to possess, each accepted each other for who they were.
Reya said, "I'm not sure what we had. It was silly. It was nothing. But he…" She was afraid to tell Avon what had happened; how Argus had almost attacked her.
"Perhaps it is better if you find Cally," said Avon. "I'm not the best person to consult on this."
"But if he's talking to Cally..."
Avon considered this. Her only other option was talking to Vila but she seemed to be implying that she wanted to talk to him.
"Alright," said Avon. Other than with a few people, he rarely made much of an effort at interpersonal interactions before; but Avon knew that his decision to no longer isolate himself, had another component, other than the seeking of company for himself. Avon was a man who lived what he believed. When he made a decision, there were no half measures; to be anything less would be a lie.
He cleared a space for her so she could sit down. "Tell me what happened," he told her.
"Well, we were talking about melee and jousting…"
"Let me guess, this had to do with the scenario you arranged for him on Pleasure City?"
"Yes. He seemed to enjoy it at the time; even though he did keep falling off the horse at first. And he won the tournament. He was very happy. He was magnificent." Her eyes were focusing on the past as she recounted the events. It had been a wonderful day. And afterwards, as befitted the knight who won the tournament, she had given him his reward.
"That hardly sounds like a cause for conflict."
"It wasn't. Not until later. I don't understand why he started getting angry when we came back to the ship."
"The scene in the teleport room?"
"Yes, that was the start. What he said didn't make any sense. Then he stopped talking to me and he deliberately started avoiding me. And then he locked himself in his cabin."
"That sounds like unusual behaviour for him. Has he acted this way before?"
"Never. He might avoid talking about things, but he never runs away from it. He's never tried to…"
The tone in her voice warned him there was something else wrong. "What did he do?" he asked sharply.
"I'm sure he didn't mean it." Reya was still very reluctant to tell Avon the truth.
"I can't help you if you don't tell me everything," said Avon.
"He was sorry afterwards. I could see it in his eyes. But there was something else there."
"Did he try to hurt you?" he asked her.
"I think I startled him. He just reacted."
"You don't believe that. He's too good to just react mindlessly. He already knew it was you."
"Can you talk to him, Avon? He won't talk to me. Every time I try, he gets angry."
"I doubt if he will listen to me," said Avon. "Relationships are not my area of expertise. I have enough problems with my own."
"He respects you, Avon. He'll talk to you. Please?"
Avon looked at her and sighed. A plea for help. How could he resist? He never had before.
"You're a fool." These words greeted Argus as he was exiting the wardrobe room. Avon was standing just outside, leaning against the opposite wall. He appeared to be waiting.
Argus said irritably, "Thank you for that observation. I already feel like one. I don't need you to tell me."
"What are you wearing?" asked Avon. He was about to address the issues which Reya had asked him to, but he couldn't resist.
"I'm trying to get Reya to forgive me. This was Vila's idea. He said that wearing less threatening colours would be better when I see her. He didn't think my normal colours were suitable. He said I always look like I'm ready to attack something," said Argus. He pulled on his shirt uncomfortably.
"And he suggested pink?" asked Avon, his eyebrows lifted in scepticism.
"Well, not exactly. It's the least threatening colour I could think of."
"I see. You're an idiot as well."
"Is this your idea of help? Because it's not helping," said Argus grouchily. He was already feeling self-conscious and ridiculous. Avon's reaction told him that pink was most likely the wrong choice.
"You must love her very much," said Avon with sudden seriousness. He couldn't imagine someone being willing to humiliate himself like this unless he did love someone a great deal.
"I thought a little abject grovelling might be called for. Did she send you?" asked Argus as he re-entered the wardrobe room.
"Yes. She's under the mistaken impression that I might be able to help," said Avon as he followed him inside.
"Well, I won't tell her that she made a big mistake, if you don't tell her about the pink." Argus looked indecisively at the clothing racks, trying to decide which other colour was less threatening but would not produce a humourous reaction.
"I would recommend wearing your normal clothing," suggested Avon. "She fell in love with you, not a clown."
Argus turned to look at Avon. The other man's face indicated he was being honest, not critical. "I suppose you're right."
"Of course, I am. Interpersonal interactions may not be my forte…"
"You surprise me," said Argus with light sarcasm. He began taking his pink shirt off.
"Do you want to hear this or have you not finished with your witty remarks yet?" asked Avon.
Argus could see that the other man was trying, he said, "Go on."
"Reya seems like the kind of person who respects honesty, not entertaining displays of emotion. She only wants you to talk to her. "
"You think so?" asked Argus uncertainly. Part of him knew that Avon was right. Honesty had always been important in his relationship with Reya. "I think they expect entertaining displays sometimes. It makes them feel appreciated." Argus chose his normal vaguely military-looking dark shirt and put it on.
"You're talking about women in general?" asked Avon.
"I doubt Reya can be regarded in that category. Women in general."
"She's still a woman. Though she is a very special one."
"Spoken like someone with a completely subjective view," remarked Avon. He had a thoughtful look on his face, "Do you think Cally might expect entertaining displays?"
"From you? Probably not," said Argus.
"She would be surprised," said Avon.
"Shocked would be more like it. She might think there was something wrong with you."
"Probably," said Avon wryly.
They both exited the wardrobe room. "You're not bad at this," said Argus.
"At what?" asked Avon.
"The interpersonal stuff," replied Argus.
"You're still a fool for hurting her."
"I know that. I'm not sure what came over me. I don’t understand it." It scared him that he could come so close to losing control.
"Do you think that it could have been something you ate or drank on Pleasure City?" asked Avon.
"It would be disturbing if it was. And dangerous," said Argus with concern in his voice.
"I'll contact the people at Pleasure City. See if anyone else had the same reactions. Do you remember what you had?"
"Most of it."
"Why don't you go to Reya and perform some abject grovelling first; while I do some investigating?"
"Couldn't I do the investigating instead?" asked Argus.
"Abject grovelling usually requires personal involvement," said Avon.
"You're a great help."