He knew that he could suppress the emotions, as he normally did; but when it came to Cally, he had chosen not to. It had made everything much more difficult, but he was willing to do it for her.
Avon began thinking about the memories of Malodar and the shuttle. Now that he understood what they were, he could think about them objectively. There had been a purpose to what happened the last few days. For Cally and for himself, he had to know what kind of man he really was.
It was one of the reasons why he had chosen to endure what he had. Avon had decided that it was no longer enough to only express how he felt by what he did. And now, because of the memories, because of what Servalan had been able to do to him, he realized it was a weakness. She had taken great pleasure in telling him repeatedly - usually after she had Vila beat him up - that he was partially responsible for what was happening.
Sometimes it was important to let people know that he cared; even if just a little. Not that I need anyone, of course. A wry, self-mocking smile crossed his face at this familiar and almost automatic thought. He would not allow Servalan to exploit this weakness again.
When Avon had first started experiencing the memories surrounding what happened on the shuttle, he had made a conscious decision to allow them to take him. He had stayed passive, accepting the tide of recollections as they came, sweeping him up, and bringing him back into the past.. At any time he was aware that he could have stopped it. All he had to do was to reach for them, and as before, his mind would become overwhelmed and shut down as they flooded his mind.
He had been aware of Cally as she tried to reach him telepathically. Of all the things he had to suffer, hiding himself from her had been the most difficult; going to a place in his mind where he thought she was still dead, had almost made him stop. Avon knew that what he was doing would cause her pain and suffering, but he had to harden himself; he had to know that he wanted her to love him.
A killer of friends. He had to know if he really was one. I’m closer now. At least I know that those memories weren’t real. But it wasn’t over for him yet. The others are relieved. Vila is happy. But they do not comprehend that nothing has really been resolved. I still don’t know the answer.
An ironic smile touched his lips as he thought of Vila. He wondered which of them had been the most relieved. Sometimes, because of the memories, he thought he must have gone mad during those days when Servalan tried to kill them all. One day acting rationally and the next, unable to do the most basic things inherent to his character.
Were all of the memories lies? Or were some of them true? Avon wanted to know if the ease in relating with Vila during those moments on the shuttle, outside of those few terrible minutes, had been real. It surprised him that this was also important to him now. He wanted to know. More than an intellectual curiosity; this was a relationship he wanted to mend.
It would make more sense to mix the fake memories with the real ones; only altering what they needed. His mind would have been familiar with those ones; and that would facilitate in being more receptive to the ones they wanted him to believe.
At the Detention Centre, he had learned to hate himself. Servalan had made him hate himself. His life had become something he no longer valued. Even after the others rescued him, nothing changed, not inside. In the darkness, he was still dead. But now people wanted him to live; not just because they valued his abilities or his mind. Because of that, the darkness was not as dark anymore. For them, he would live. But first, he needed to find out about the darkness. For Cally’s sake, for their sake.
* Avon. * Cally’s voice in his mind startled him from his thoughts. Her voice in his mind was always a soothing presence, a light touch against his consciousness. He rolled his still tired body slightly to face at her. She seemed to be studying him, just like he had been doing to her moments ago.
His throat was still sore. He projected, * Yes, Cally? *
* What were you thinking of just now? You looked very serious. * she said to him.
His eyes searched hers. She was also very serious. Her concern and caring came across both in her manner and in what she projected to him.
* I believe that is my ‘normal’ look. * He thought to her. There was a light quality to his tone.
* I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to joke. But you were looking even more serious than normal before. *
* Then I must have looked positively grim. * He continued to think in light thoughts.
Cally knew that Avon was a private man. She had hoped that their relationship had progressed to the point where he could share something personal, but obviously, he wasn't ready yet. She wondered if he ever would be. She thought to him, * You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I know it’s been difficult. *
* I was thinking about what happened, * he told her. This surprised her. The tone in the thoughts that Avon sent her way, was no longer light; he seemed to be opening himself to share something with her.
She projected, * Healer Garett said that you could have come out of the memories at any time. But you wanted to stay. Is that true? *
He studied her for a few moments before answering, wondering what he should say; trying to decide what he should tell her.
* To an extent. I could have induced a collapse; as I had experienced before on the flight deck and in the workshop, * he told her.
* Why, Avon? Why make yourself go through that? What was the purpose? * she asked.
He turned away from her and looked at the ceiling. * I had to know. *
* You wanted to know if your memories of trying to kill Vila were real? *
* Yes. *
She said with understanding, * You didn’t want them to be real. ”
Avon turned to look at her. * No. I didn’t. *
“I’m glad you know now,” said Cally.
Not yet, thought Avon to himself. That thought he did not send her way. He didn’t want to worry her; he still had to find out.
Argus and Reya were up early and were practicing in the training hall. At this hour, the hall was deserted, which was the way they preferred it. They moved together in unison, intricate dances of lethal skill, with and without various weapons. Argus's bare chest glistened with sweat and his well-defined muscles rippled with each movement. Reya wore a sleeveless top and short pants in dark green. Both of them were well-developed specimens of health and deadliness.
After finishing another set of movements Argus said, "Enough of this. It's time to have some fun." He was grinning. This was his favourite part of their routine.
"I thought we were having fun," said Reya.
"Well, how about some more fun?" He picked out two short staffs from the weapons rack and threw one to her. She caught it deftly and did a few moves with it.
"Show off," he said teasingly as he suddenly thrust forward with his staff and interrupted her movements.
She blocked instantly and countered, causing him to step back. "You were saying?"
"You can do better than that." He grinned impudently as he swept his staff towards her legs.
"You're just asking for trouble this morning." She was also grinning as she avoided this move and swept towards his in return.
"This morning. And every morning." Argus made an overhand strike. "And afternoon." Followed by a low strike with the other end of the staff." And evening." She countered each one and responded with a lunge towards him. He trapped her staff and took a step forward. "And definitely every night," he said suggestively.
"You're terrible," Reya said with exasperation as she knocked his staff aside and tried to rap him on the side of his hard head. He countered and said with an impish grin, "I know. Isn't that why you love me?"
For the next half hour, they sparred. The noises of staff hitting staff were the only sounds to be heard, other than their playful teasing. A shadow darkened the open doorway and paused there just out of sight, observing them.
As Argus made another countermove, he tilted his head a bit towards the doorway and then he made a slight incline of his head towards Reya. She nodded briefly in return; she had noticed almost as soon as he had. They continued to spar and tease one another; each movement bringing them closer to the doorway.
Before they got within striking distance, Sester stepped through the door.
"You caught me," he told them. "Coming for some exercise."
Argus's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why are you really here?"
"You've never come to exercise before," said Reya.
"There's always a first time," said Sester. "Someone thought it might be good for me. So I thought I would try it." As he said this, he avoided looking at her.
Reya knew the someone, he was referring to. She had been the one to suggest it while they were both prisoners.
"Whoever made that suggestion obviously doesn't know you very well," said Reya. "You would rather die than wake up this early."
The look in Reya's eyes clearly told him that he should leave.
Sester said, "Well, I don't know about dying. Avoiding dying would be more like it. Isn't that what your exercises are about? Learning to defend yourself?" He was also here to have some fun; he wasn't about to go without getting what he wanted.
"You want to learn?" asked Argus. It was a question with a challenge.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't," said Sester.
"Argus," said Reya apprehensively. "What are you going to do?"
"Don't worry, Reya. It will be interesting to find out if psychostrategists are all talk," said Argus. He had a smile on his face that did not radiate any warmth or fun at all.
Sester was in no way phased by his attitude. He liked a good challenge. "Oh good. For a moment, I thought I was here for some exercise. I didn't know we were going to be involved in the advancement of your limited knowledge," said Sester cynically. "About psychostrategists."
"We're definitely here to advance something," said Argus. He threw his staff towards Sester and said, "Catch."
Sester was proud that he, just barely, managed to catch the weapon without dropping it. Argus had not given him enough warning and it had definitely been thrown at him, not to him. He grinned at the other man. Argus stared at him coldly. "This way for the lesson." He led the way towards one of the concentric circles marked on the ground of the training hall.
Reya followed the two antagonistic men. "Argus, maybe he should get padded up."
"Are you afraid I'm going to hurt him?" Argus asked.
"I know, you're not," she told him. There was a note of challenge in her voice.
"Don't worry. I won't hurt him," Argus grinned, "He might hurt himself though."
"Argus. He is going to get padded up. Now," said Reya.
Argus gave her a rebellious look. "Alright."
Reya directed Sester to the side, opened a chest and began rummaging around. She chose several brown pieces and handed them to him. "Here, put these on."
Sester received the items and looked at them curiously. "What are these?" They were made of a light and supple material which became hard if struck.
"They are meant to protect you. Put them on," she told him.
Sester looked across at Argus, who was staring at both of them. "Neither of you are wearing any."
"We don’t need to. We both know what we're doing. Unlike some people," she looked at him pointedly.
"Believe me, I do know what I'm doing," said Sester as he put on the brown chest piece and snapped it into place.
"I certainly hope so," said Reya, as she handed him the headpiece.
When he was done, Sester picked up the staff and returned to Argus, who was still glaring at him from within the circle.
"Very fashionable," said Argus sarcastically.
"Yes. Reya picked it out for me," said Sester, refusing to back down.
Argus looked him over from top to bottom. "Yes. Did she also tell you how ridiculous you would look with it on? Put up your guard."
Sester lifted his staff and stared at it, wondering what a guard position looked like.
"Argus, maybe you'd better show him a few moves first?" remarked Reya from the sidelines.
Argus had an annoyed look on his face. "Follow these moves." He began to show Sester a series of blocks and strikes in a pattern.
Sester found it awkward to move with the protective gear on but after he got used to it, he was able to follow.
Argus stopped and said, "Repeat it." He stood to the side to observe.
One of Sester's gifts was perfect recall and he had no problems repeating the moves which Argus had shown him. After the last one, he looked expectantly at Argus.
The other man glared at him but didn't say anything. It had been a perfect display.
"He's not bad. He might make a decent fighter if he wasn't so lazy about exercising," remarked Reya.
"Since you're so good at repeating movements, let's see how good you are at using them," said Argus with a sneer as he stepped back into the circle. "Guard position."
This time, Sester knew what to do and brought his staff up to a ready position. Argus began slowly. He made exaggerated strikes so that Sester could use the skills he had just learned, to block. "You can attack anytime now," said Argus in a bored tone.
Sester grinned inside the helmet; he had been waiting for this. He made a quick thrust forward with his weapon. There was the sound of a loud whack and Sester found himself on the ground, looking up at the ceiling. The wind had been knocked out of him. He rolled and tried to get up. Argus gave him a hand and said, "Did I say that with padding, I also tend to hit harder?"
"No, you didn't," said Sester, rubbing the padding over his chest when he finally stood.
"Again," said Argus. Again involved Sester blocking the other man's slow attacks then another whack and a little winded staring up at the ceiling when Sester attacked. Argus helped him to get up again. Sester was certain he was going to find a big bruise where he had been hit, despite the protection. The force of Argus's strikes seemed to go right the padding.
"Argus, maybe he's had enough lessons for today," said Reya as she came over to them.
Argus glared at Sester and asked, "Have you?"
Sester smiled inside the helmet; it was very convenient and gave him great scope for amusement to be able to hide how he was feeling without having to suppress it. He achieved what he had come here for. “Absolutely. The other lessons can wait until tomorrow. I appreciate the cooperation, Commander.”
Argus almost growled at him as he said, “I don’t know what you’re trying to achieve but it’s not going to work.”
It already has, thought Sester smugly as he noticed the irritated look on Reya’s face as she watched the two of them interact. He wiped the smile from his own expression as he removed the headpiece and handed it to her. “Thank you for your assistance as well.” As he removed the chest piece, Sester grimaced. There was definitely some bruising.
“Are you alright?” asked Reya with concern.
“Nothing a quick trip down to the medical unit won’t cure,” said Sester. He nodded to Reya and then left while Argus continued to glare at Sester's retreating back.
"Did you have to do that?" asked Reya after Sester left.
"Yes, I did," said Argus forcefully. "You shouldn't trust him, Reya. He's up to no good. He didn't just come down here for some innocent exercise this morning. Nothing he does is innocent."
"I know. You don't have to tell me. I know him better than you do. But you didn't have to do that to him," said Reya.
At that Argus looked very unhappy. "Do you want to continue sparring?" he asked.
Reya looked at the time indicator on the wall. "We don't have time. We're meeting with my brother this morning. We have to get ready."
As he followed her from the hall, Argus thought, I'm going to have to watch him carefully when he's onboard the ship. Maybe when Avon feels better, he can set something up. He won't trust Sester anymore than I do.