Now that Avon and Vila had decided on a fresh start, there was a lighter atmosphere between them but also a certain nervousness. Each was aware of old behaviour patterns that neither wanted to carry forward. In a break during their conversation, Vila had left the room for a few minutes, to take care of some personal business.
The medical unit was still empty of personnel. Avon guessed that Cally must have told the others that he and Vila needed some privacy. He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes; trying to replenish his energy. Cally had been right, he should have waited before doing this. The last few days had been both a physical and mental drain on his already meagre resources.
Avon tried to rest but he could not shake off a continued tension. The others may be happy with what had been achieved, but he wasn`t; not yet. For him, the most important question still required an answer.
Vila pushed open the door and came back into the room. There was a bounce in his step and as he came closer, Avon could see that he was holding a bottle and two glasses.
"All this talking is thirsty work. I thought we might need some liquid refreshment." He handed Avon one of the wine glasses.
Avon accepted it and with eyebrows raised in a question asked, "Where did you get this?"
Strong and deft fingers worked the cork loose with a pop. He filled Avon's extended glass; the amber liquid splashed into it and seemed to sparkle when reflected in the light.
Avon studied the wine as he swirled it around in his glass, causing it to catch the light at various angles. He took a tentative sip; the taste was at the same time rich and subtle. He let it linger in his mouth for a bit before swallowing, savouring its delicate flavour; dry, with a hint of sweetness. "Very smooth."
"I thought you might like it," said Vila as he drank from his own glass. There was a look of contentment on his face as the nectar passed his taste buds and slid down his throat.
"You still haven't answered my question," said Avon.
"You noticed that?" asked Vila with a sly glance at Avon as he brought his glass to his lips again and took another mouthful.
"You stole it," said Avon dryly. It was not a criticism, just a factual acknowledgement of the source of their present libation.
"Steal is such a strong word. I prefer to think of it as creative borrowing."
"Well, as long as someone doesn't notice a bottle of excellent wine disappearing from their stocks," said Avon as he took another drink.
"They won't," said Vila with a suppressed grin. "I'm very discreet. Besides they have so many bottles, they won't miss one."
They both took another drink from their respective glasses and sat in companionable silence as they enjoyed the fine wine. After Vila refilled their glasses, Avon said, "We still haven't discussed what happened in the shuttle."
"I was hoping to put that off," said Vila. "It still brings up the bad memories."
Avon took another sip of his wine. "We need to find out what really happened."
"You always want to find out everything. But is it really a good idea?" asked Vila. His voice rose in nervousness.
Avon put his glass down and regarded the other man speculatively. "Are you afraid that I really did try to kill you?" His face was devoid of emotion as he waited for the answer.
"It's not that. Nothing could be worse than the implanted memories Servalan tried to feed us. Though those other memories you had were pretty funny." He laughed; it was a thin, nervous sound.
"They weren't for me," said Avon stiffly.
Vila grimaced, "I'm sorry. I forgot. You thought they were real." This was replaced with a puzzled expression as he asked, "How could you think those memories were real? They were so strange."
During their discussions, he had regaled Avon with the humourous reactions they all had to the second set of memories. Vila did not notice the other man becoming less and less responsive during the account.
Avon shifted against the wall he was leaning against; its hard surface felt as uncomfortable against his back as he was currently feeling. If Cally had been there, she would probably have slipped a pillow behind him to make him more comfortable; but Avon didn't have the energy. With Vila's question, the tiredness began to weigh heavily on him. Avon answered, "The only way I could rationalize it, was that I must have been going slowly mad."
His voice was quiet and his face was very still. One could have mistaken him for an emotionless robot repeating something that meant nothing to it. Vila knew better now. In many ways, Avon was as full of fear as he was; except that he hid it better. Vila knew that the horror of losing his mind was one of Avon's greatest fears. He had witnessed a suicidal Avon when the analyst came back on the ship and realized that Servalan had almost destroyed his mind; when even the simplest daily activities were a struggle.
"I’m sorry, Avon. I shouldn't have kept going on about it," Vila said guiltily.
"You didn't know. Stop apologizing, Vila or I will have to ask you to leave." Avon wondered if he would ever be able to separate out his false impressions of what happened with what really did occur. That was why it was important for him to know the truth.
"I'm s…uh, I mean. Alright. You even make apologizing complicated," said Vila.
"Then don't do it," said Avon. "Or at least, don't do it that often. It can get irritating after awhile."
"Avon. If you want to break the blocks with our original memories, you have to go back into the chamber." The concern on his face was evident.
"I'm aware of that," said Avon. There was a frown on his face; it was not a prospect he was relishing. For an intensely private man, it was the ultimate invasion of his privacy.
"I wouldn't want to," said Vila. Once was more than enough for him. "Just the thought of that thing crawling around in my mind…"
"I'm not asking you to," said Avon. "And that is a completely inaccurate description of what it does." His voice trailed off tiredly. If Cally had been there, he knew that she would encourage him to get some rest. He closed his eyes.
"It's still creepy." Vila drained the last of the wine from his glass and poured himself another one. He was about to top up Avon's glass when he noticed the other man's closed eyes. "I should leave."
Avon didn't seem to hear him, his eyes remained closed. Vila said softly, "Avon?" There was still no response. Cally isn't going to be happy that I tired you out, thought Vila. He didn't think she would be pleased that he had given Avon alcohol either as he gathered up the evidence.
As Vila headed towards the door, he took a look back at the sleeping man, Avon was stirring restlessly. His eyes moved under closed lids and his breathing was faster.
I forgot that you need your drugs. Vila had never seen Avon undergo the nightmares which plagued his sleep. Even sleeping is complicated for you, isn`t it? I'll go get Cally.
Vila hesitated. He lifted the bottle in his hand and looked at it. It was a simple thing for him to break into the cellars and steal a bottle of Athol's finest wines. He looked back at Avon. The sleeping man had his arms hugged protectively across his chest now.
You shouldn't go back into the imaging chamber. Not yet. Cally is right. You need rest. You've gone through enough already.
Real friendship required more than just a shared love of fine wine. Vila knew that if it had been Ture or Allren, they would have been fighting each other to go into the chamber. They wouldn't have hesitated.
Vila looked at Avon again. You didn't hesitate either. You never even thought to ask me.
In a different part of Borel's headquarters, things were not as quiet or contemplative, but there was drama of a different type going on.
"Argus, I want you to stop being jealous of Sester. There is no need. Not unless you don't trust me," said Reya. They were both in their shared quarters, having an argument.
"I do trust you, Reya. It's him, I don't trust," he tried to reassure her. He had been trying to get her shirt off but had given up as she brought up the topic of Sester. Any mention of the psychostrategist always put him off any kind of amorous mood. He turned away from her and picked up his own shirt from the floor.
"Is that the reason? Or is it that you can't forget that I slept with him?" she asked.
"It has nothing to do with that." He began putting his shirt back on.
"Then what does it have to do with?" she asked.
Argus stopped what he was doing and looked at her, leaving his shirt open. "I'm not sure yet. But there is something not right about him. My sense of danger works overtime whenever he's around."
"You're just biased against him because of what happened between us."
A look of annoyance crossed his face. "Why do you always have to defend him?"
"I'm not defending anything. I just think you're letting personal considerations affect your judgement."
"What personal considerations?" he asked, there was a hint of anger in his voice.
She put a hand on his bare chest and said softly, "Argus, can we stop letting Sester get between us? I promise you, I don't have any feelings for him. I never did."
Argus looked into her eyes and covered her hand with his. He asked, "Not even friendship?"
Argus shook his head and pulled away from her. "You do, don't you? You consider him a friend."
"Are you going to dictate who I can or cannot have as a friend?" It was clear she didn't like this idea.
Argus turned towards her again, "No. I'm not trying to do that. I would never try to do that to you. But he's going to use it. He's already stirred up trouble. Just look at what we're doing now."
"We don't need Sester to stir up arguments. You can do that all by yourself without any help," she said heatedly.
"And what about this morning?" asked Argus, fastening his shirt back up.
"You mean when you beat him up?" she asked sarcastically.
"I did not beat him up. If I wanted to beat him up, do you think he would still be able to walk? He won this morning. Don't you see? He wanted your sympathy and he got it."
"And he wanted you to act like a jealous idiot. And he got that!"
They both stared at each other; their faces were flushed.
Argus took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to let go of his anger. He said calmly, "I think we'd better stop before we both say something that we'll regret. I don't want us to fight over this."
Reya nodded slowly in agreement. "I don't want to either. What are we going to do?"
Argus sighed and put his arms around her. "I don't know. As long as he's around, there's going to be trouble."
Reya felt guilty that she hadn't told Argus about the two encounters in the corridor. She knew that telling him now would only escalate things. Argus was right. Sester had an ulterior motive to his actions. He had feelings for her; feelings which were not reciprocated and he knew it.
He was a rogue who liked to play games; but he had been compassionate and understanding at a time when she no longer wanted to go on. Reya had seen a side of him none of the others had; she could not forget his kindness.
She touched Argus's face and ran her fingers through his hair. "I will be careful of Sester. I promise."
"And I'll try to stop acting like a jealous idiot," he said wryly as he took her hand and kissed it.
"Do you want to try this again?" she asked as she began undoing his shirt again. He grinned.