Argus and Reya were waiting just outside the flight deck. Everyone had cleared out to give Galena and Kameron Reve time to talk.
"I'm proud of you," said Reya, running her fingers affectionately through Argus's short-cropped hair as he leaned back against the wall. "I know it wasn't easy."
"No, it wasn't," he said absently as he took her hand and began tracing light circles across her palm, just barely brushing the surface with his fingers. It sent a tingling sensation through her body, her breathing deepened. “There’s something about her…I don’t want to talk about her though. I want to talk about us.” He turn her hand over and continued on the other side. There was a slight hiss as she took a sharp breath in; the back of her hand was even more sensitive to what he was doing.
"We're out in the corridor," she said with a soft sigh, not wanting him to stop but knowing they had to.
"I know." Argus let go of her hand reluctantly. He was being overwhelmed by feelings that needed expression, but he knew she was right; the corridor was not the right place. Normally he was too professional to allow himself such a public display of affection, especially not in a ship of people who looked towards him as a leader. He took a deep breath, trying to clear his head.
"We can continue this later," said Reya. His passion had sparked hers but she was also mindful of his role on the ship.
"I was hoping you would say that," he said with a playful grin. He moved closer to her; the feelings were hard to resist without help and she was not helping.
"When did you ever need encouragement?" asked Reya, rolling her eyes in mock disapproval.
His grin grew wider and he leaned forward slowly to kiss her.
"Stop it. Behave yourself," said Reya. She put her hand against his chest to stop him from moving forward.
"You're right," said Argus as he leaned back away from her. He looked at her face. "You look particularly beautiful right now. I couldn't help myself."
"Have all of the men on the ship contracted some kind of virus that makes you all attracted to women? Any woman?" asked Reya.
He pondered this idea. "I don't think so. I'm attracted to you. That's not a virus. And I'm attracted to…uh…that is, I have a reaction to Galena. But she is beautiful. Or so I've been told."
"Any thoughts about Cally?" asked Reya.
"Not that I'm aware of," said Argus. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, Cally was mentioning something earlier. She said that there might be something wrong with Galena. The way you men react around her, it seems unnatural. She said it's too extreme."
Argus looked thoughtful. "Men are affected by beautiful women. It's just the way we are. But if Cally has been sensing something…"
"No. She hasn't sensed anything. She just thought it was odd. And from your behaviour just now…"
"You were worried," remarked Argus.
"Well, to be honest, worried was not my first thought," said Reya with a shy smile. "But as I thought about it…you never do this in public when there is even a chance people might be around. You're always too professional for that."
Argus thought it prudent not to mention that perhaps Galena had aroused feelings in him that he thought much safer and more appropriately expressed with Reya.
"Do you want to do an experiment?" asked Argus.
"What did you have in mind?" she asked.
"I can ask Vila to cover the rest of my shift while we check out this theory with Cally," said Argus.
"You want to see if you have the same reaction with another woman?"
"Vila would probably not mind an interruption right now," said Reya, remembering where she had sent the two almost trouble-makers.
Argus's eyebrows raised in a question. "What's he doing?"
"He's doing inventory," replied Reya with a grin.
"Inventory? Should I ask?" asked Argus.
"He'd probably prefer that you don't."
After leaving the flight deck to Galena and Kameron, Avon went searching for Cally. He really wanted to see her. The first place he looked in was the medical bay, where he had left her studying earlier. He was not expecting to find Vila and Sester, and no Cally.
"What are the two of you doing here?" asked Avon with a suspicious look at Sester.
"Why do people keep asking us that?" Vila asked Sester.
Sester shrugged his shoulders as he began checking usage levels of the medical refill units on one of the shelves. He wasn't sure he wanted to answer this question. Vila was in the process of counting injector units. He looked at the one in his hand, "Now look what you made me do. I've lost count. I'll have to start all over again," said Vila with annoyance.
"Does it take more than two of you to answer my question or do you want more time to think about it?" asked Avon sarcastically, still staring at Sester.
"Is he directing that at you, or me?" Vila asked Sester.
"Probably me. He likes you," said Sester.
"Well, usually you can't tell," said Vila.
"Really? That must be a problem," said Sester.
"You can say that again," said Vila.
Avon was looking more than a bit annoyed. "What are you doing with HIM?" Avon asked Vila.
Vila looked at Sester, "Oh Sester? We're counting."
Sester nodded, "Yes, we're doing a detailed inventory of the medical stores for Cally."
Avon was about to make a sarcastic remark when it dawned on him what Sester had just said and what they were counting. Inventory. His mind began planning how to access the inventory logs to change some incriminating figures before anyone found out that he had been using a little more of the helpful drugs than he had intended to. "Do you know where she is?" he asked.
"I think she said that she was going to find another quiet place to study. She said we were making too much noise." replied Vila. He started counting the injector units again.
Quiet place. That meant his workshop or their cabin. "I'll check the workshop," said Avon as he turned around and exited.
"That's a good idea," said Vila to his retreating back. He turned to Sester, "What do you suppose that was about? Why did he leave like that?"
"He's looking for Cally," said Sester distractedly as he entered a value on the datapad beside him.
"You know, you're taking this counting much too seriously," said Vila. “I’d rather be thinking up ways of getting close to Galena. You’re the psychostrategist, think of something. Unless you have other priorities.”
“Yes, I do. I was thinking that Avon could probably come up with a better way of doing this,” said Sester, as he continued checking more refill units and entering the information on a datapad. “If he could set up some automatic sensors and tie it to the inventory system, it would save a lot of work. I’m surprised that a ship this advanced doesn’t have something like that.”
“You are trying to impress someone,” said Vila with a smirk. “And I bet it’s not Galena.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Sester indignantly. “I’m going to go find Avon and talk to him about this idea.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” said Vila. “Unless, of course, you’re trying to impress Avon too. Then all I can say is good luck. It’s been nice knowing you. Besides, he’s looking for Cally. I don’t think he would appreciate being interrupted.”
“You’re right,” said Sester. He was trying to make an impression; he decided that the best way to get Reya to think of him positively, was to give her a reason to; many non-threatening reasons. Galena’s beauty had inspired him. He had to admit that he was attracted to her; the physical draw was undeniable. He had never felt it that strongly before, except with Reya. The encounter in the corridor had helped him to refocus; he was even more determined now. He needed Reya and he was going to get her.
Thinking about the inventory helped; it prevented him from wanting to act on an overwhelming desire to have his hands on Reya's body, to feel her reacting to his touch, to know that she was feeling pleasure because of him.
Sester was also afraid, he knew that he was seriously losing his objectivity. He was in danger of being so narrowly focused that he could no longer see the larger picture; could no longer think of anything else, except her. It had taken Vila to tell him that approaching Avon now, when he was looking for Cally, was not a good idea.
I have to be careful. I have to think.
"If you help me with Galena, I'll help you with what you want," offered Vila. Vila was shocked the moment the words left his own lips. Did I just say that? Noooo. I can't help him. I'm supposed to be watching him. I'm trying to help Avon. I want to make sure Sester doesn't cause any trouble.
But he really wanted to be with Galena. It was the only thing he could think about these days.
Vila thought, Maybe I can help him by not really helping him. Yes. That's it. He can help me with Galena. And I can pretend to help him with Reya. Something was telling him that this was not a good idea, but it was drowned out by a need that would not be denied.
Avon entered the workshop, the door slid closed behind him silently. Cally was here, studying at one of the computer terminals. Her back was to him and she seemed absorbed with something on the screen. She didn't seem to have heard him come in and she was probably too preoccupied to sense that he had entered the room.
Avon leaned against a wall and watched her. Sometimes he found himself doing that when she wasn't looking. This was one of the times he wished he was as aware of her as she was of him. Not that he wanted that advantage, but it was a level of intimacy that he hoped to have the courage to share some day. Right now, he wasn't even capable of a higher degree of physical closeness.
Avon reflected on the idea of beauty as he continued observing her quietly. Cally wasn't quite like Galena. Though they shared some similar characteristics, Cally was beautiful in a way that Galena could not hope to be. Avon smiled wryly. He wondered if that was his subjectivity speaking. Where Cally was concerned, it was hard to maintain his objectivity. Avon sighed.
I didn't hear you come in, Cally projected towards him, as she heard the noise and turned to see who it was.
I didn't want to disturb you, Avon thought to her as he walked towards her.
They had taken to using Cally's telepathic abilities when they were feeling comfortable with each other and were sharing a private moment. Avon found it easier to talk to her using his mind rather than trying to voice his thoughts. For some reason, it seemed less stressful for him.
She stood up as he approached. I was about to take a break. I'm starting to get a headache staring at this screen.
Avon put his arm around her waist and pulled them closer together. I know what would cure a headache. There was a mischievous smile on his lips as he bent forward slowly and suggestively.
I must not have reached that part of my medical studies yet, Cally thought to him teasingly as she accepted his attentions. Their lips touched. Cally found that it was a very effective cure for her headache.
After drafting an eager Vila to cover him on the flight deck, Argus and Reya arrived at Avon's workshop. The door slid open and they saw Avon and Cally engaged in a non-studying and non-workshop type activity. They let the door slide closed without entering.
"That was interesting. I hope they didn't notice," said Argus.
"I doubt if they did," remarked Reya.
"Do you think that had anything to do with Galena's influence?" asked Argus as they went back to their cabin.
"The problem with that idea is that both you and Avon are already predisposed to acting like this," said Reya.
"You mean, me with you, and Avon with Cally?" asked Argus.
"Well, I certainly hope it isn't with anyone else," said Reya.
Argus coughed. "Um, well…"
"Argus! What are you saying?" asked Reya.
"Nothing," said Argus in a panic. "Really, nothing. It's just that…"
He winced at the tone in her voice. "You know the effect that Galena has on the men on this ship. I can't help it. But when she's right there. It's hard not to feel…I'd better shut up. But I swear I haven't done anything."
"I swear Reya, other than for you, I will not be making that kind of mistake with anyone else."
"Yes?" Reya realized this was another one of those moments where Argus was so flustered that nothing that came out of his mouth seemed to work.
Argus gulped. "What I mean is, with you, it would never be a mistake. But with anyone else, it is a mistake I will never make. Can I stop now before I say something else stupid?" They finally reached their cabin and entered.
Reya ran her fingers through his hair. "You are silly."
"I know." He encircled her waist with his arms, pressing their bodies together. "How do you put up with me?"
She kissed him.