Avon lifted agonized and uncertain eyes as two different answers rose unbidden to his lips.
No, Cally. I can't face this.
He could not bear the agony of the memories that made him feel less of a man, the ones that had made him a slave to someone else’s pleasure. Humiliation and fear, anguish and hatred; they were so strong that he could almost taste them. His heart was pounding in his ears as his body reacted to the memories. He knew that he was starting to hyperventilate.
We have to do this, Cally. If we are to have a future, I have to defeat this. What was left of his spirit to fight was spurred on by his commitment to someone he loved more than his own life.
There was such pain and anguish in Avon’s eyes, Cally wanted to put her arms around him. She wished she could erase the memories of all the things Servalan had done to him.
Avon said with fierce conviction, “Servalan can’t win.” He ripped off the backing from the patch and slapped it to the side of his neck. Avon closed his eyes as it began to work. The pounding in his chest slowed to a steady rhythm. No more flashes of uncontrolled panic, only the warmth of Cally’s hand on his. Avon took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
The feelings had not disappeared but they were manageable now. A sense of emotional calm with his emotions longer out of control. He pushed them to a corner of his mind, but not all of them. There were ones he no longer wanted to hide. His rational mind recognized that he needed them.
Avon’s eyes locked on Cally’s as he began to speak. “There is something I have to tell you first before I go into what happened.”
His mind went back to the day on Sarran, in Hal Mellenby’s underground hideout. As Avon recounted the events, he could almost smell the faint salty air of the sea that penetrated the sealed chambers.
“None of you ever asked why Servalan had such an interest in me,” said Avon.
“I assumed that with Blake out of the way, she considered you the next most dangerous threat,” said Cally.
A sadly ironic smile crossed Avon’s lips briefly. “That would have been flattering, if it had been true. Servalan had a much more personal interest in me.”
He had a flash of memory. Servalan in a light mauve dress. The clothing should have given her a softer look, but she leant an air of overriding menace to everything she wore.
“She offered me a partnership.”
Cally held her breath. You never mentioned that. Were you tempted? Even for a brief moment?
“She was a fool to think I would trust her or that I would have any interest in power.”
Cally slowly let out the held breath. I should have known.
“Servalan had tricked me earlier on the beach by using an empty gun. I knew she was trying to gain control of the situation. Then she tried to seduce me later in Hal Mellenby's underground base. That was when she offered me the partnership."
"She tried to seduce you?"
"That woman will use any means," said Cally with distaste.
"Yes. Before I refused her offer, I decided to assert my own control. I was going to kiss her, throw her to the floor and then reject her.”
“She must have been livid.”
“Oh, she was.” Avon smiled as he recalled the angry look on Servalan’s face as she was tossed to the floor. She had looked like she wanted to murder him.
Avon’s smile disappeared as he remembered why he was recounting this event. “It was the first time I discovered…that…” Avon hesitated, unwilling to make this admission but knowing he must. He forced himself to continue, “We were physically attracted to each other.”
"That was when it happened?"
Avon was shocked, "You knew?"
"I had suspected something like that from your reaction to her in the cellar when you shot Anna. And from some things Vila has said about your obsession with her after I was gone."
There was a faint flush on Avon's cheeks. “It was a purely biochemical reaction. It disgusted me but I couldn't help it. I was tempted physically but it was never enough to make me forget who she was.”
Avon didn't want to admit it to himself but it was also a fascination with someone dangerous. They had been two adversaries locking blades for the first time, without the distraction of other people complicating the issue.
“Did…anything else happen?” Cally knew that he and Servalan had spent many hours together on Sarran. It made her uncomfortable that he had these feelings for Servalan. Even if it was just lust. She had wondered how a woman in the male-dominated Federation society could rise to such a position of power so quickly. It seemed that even Avon was not immune to her charms. If Servalan had been Auronar, Cally might have suspected that she had developed the same ability that Vanora had.
“No. The rest of the time, we were trying to survive each other’s plots.”
Avon felt strange. Normally thoughts of Servalan would fill him with deep hatred and overwhelming anger; and despite his attempts to push it down, fear. The drugs were helping to temper his body’s reactions and they were also dampening his ability to feel the extremes of emotion. He was not hyperventilating and his heart was not racing wildly but it was also having an unexpected affect he had not considered.
Avon said, “I should have killed her then.”
“I wished you had,” said Cally.
Avon said, "I can tell you more about Sarran if you wish but not right now."
Cally said, "Alright." She did want to know more about what happened on Sarran but she didn't want to disturb the flow of his thoughts. It was already difficult enough for him.
Avon was uneasy. He was afraid to tell Cally that the drugs she had given him, removed his ability to feel deep hatred for his enemy, a situation that made his present situation worse. He could not just hate Servalan in his mind, he needed to feel it. In the years he had been a prisoner, hate was often the only way to block out the horror of what his enemies were doing to him. Hate had blinded and comforted him.
With Sester, the dull anger had been sufficient, but with Servalan, Avon had to have the hate in order to face her, even as an apparition of his mind. He had not realized the full effect of having the strong emotions reduced to this extent. He felt naked and defenceless.
But he was not alone this time. The warmth of Cally’s hand penetrated his terrible isolation and reminded him that she was there. Avon focused his attention on her again.
I am not alone. I have help. I have people who care about me.
Avon knew that these words were sufficient for others. It filled them with confidence and a will to go on; but they were only words if they had no meaning to the one who was trying to convince himself that they did.
It was the curse of his rational mind.
Avon knew that emotional and relational ties were the source of Auronar strength. He found it ironic that a man, who ascribed so little importance to feelings, would find himself attached to someone for whom emotional ties were of primary significance.
Cally’s example made him want to believe, but fear and rationality made it difficult.
The drugs didn’t just rob him of the ability to feel the extreme hatred that was echoed and fuelled by his physical reactions, it also stole the his ability to feel strong positive emotions; the ones he had for Cally. Without them, part of him seemed to be missing.
Avon held onto what the drugs had left him, the muted feelings that almost seemed to belong to someone else. A drowning man grabbed onto any help he could find.
The love was still there. Avon breathed a mental sigh of relief.
His panicked mind had almost convinced him that it was gone; his rational mind told him not to be a fool. Emotions were not a product of the chemical reactions in his body. The ‘physical’ feelings were only symptoms.
What am I doing? I’m making the same mistakes again. He was trusting his rational mind to understand something that was beyond rationality.
Cally’s eyes were full of love and concern. He knew that if she could take his suffering upon herself, that she would.
You are my lifeline; you have been for along time. With that admission, the warmth of Cally’s hand seemed to flow along his arm and into his body, warming the cold that was there, stilling the shivering. With Cally, he would be able to do this difficult thing.
Avon broke the silence and said, “Servalan never forgot the insult.”
Cally had been aware of the flow of emotions across Avon’s consciousness. Even though they weren’t strong, there was no mistaking how he was feeling. His prolonged silences would have disconcerted anyone except her. Even though she could not hear his thoughts, she knew that it was not silent inside his mind. He was struggling with himself and she could tell that he was winning.
She had been ready to step in and give him support if he needed it; she almost had several times. Sometimes the hardest thing in loving someone was to give them the freedom to be who they needed to be; even if it meant seeing them make mistakes.
Cally was afraid to ask the next question. The first time Avon had shown a fear of being touched in an intimate setting, she had suspected what Servalan had done to him. Cally had hurt along with him and shared his anger.
Servalan twisted and destroyed everything she touched. This time, she had come close to destroying a human being.
Avon's voice became quieter as he neared the source of his anguish.
"At first, she was satisfied with just the torture." His eyes had a faint pained look as he remembered the ruthless expertise of his tormenters. At times, he could still feel the phantom aches when he thought about it. "Sometimes she…" Avon jaw tightened. "She just wanted to see me suffer." That had been the worst of all the tortures, knowing that the pain being inflicted was for Servalan's amusement. Having her show concern even as she ordered that he be tortured again.
Avon paused; he needed to gather himself for the next part.
Cally projected a question to him, * How are you feeling, Avon? *
"I've felt better." He gave her a brief smile that was almost a grimace. "I have to go on."
* Alright. Please stop when it becomes too much. *
Avon squeezed her hand. * Some day you won't have to worry about me. * A slight grin touched his lips. * At least not this much. *
* That would be nice. *
Avon said lightly, * You'll have to find something else to occupy your time. *
Cally had a gentle smile on her face as she said, * I can think of many things. *
* I'm sure you can. * Avon squeezed her hand tightly. "I have to continue, if I don't, I might not be able to."
* Alright, Avon. *
"After I went back to Servalan, this was after you had rescued me from the transport vehicle, things changed. She was no longer satisfied with just the torture." Avon's voice trailed off. His throat was tense when he repeated, "She never forgot the insult."
He stopped and for the first time since he started talking about Servalan, Avon looked away from Cally. He stared down at their joined hands. His voice was a barely heard whisper now. "I had no choice. If I didn't give her what she wanted, she would have subjected me to the nightmares. I couldn't control them. I couldn't afford to let her know that I had ORAC looking for the antidote for you. I couldn’t risk the nightmares revealing that I had made provisions to escape. It had seemed a small cost to pay…" The words choked him. He could barely breathe. "I did what she wanted. I used…the physical attraction between us. Forced myself…to love her." Avon was afraid to look at Cally, he did not want her to see his shame.
Cally wanted to cry. Avon's pain and the pain she felt for him, threatened to bring tears to her eyes, but she had to stay strong for him. Avon had to go on in order to purge these nightmares. He could not if she broke down.
“No, Avon. It was not love. She forced you to have sex with her. She…” Cally didn’t want to say it. The realization of what Servalan had done to Avon made her want to turn the ship around and charge straight to their enemy's headquarters and level it to the ground. She said in an angry voice, “She raped you, Avon.”
“No!” Avon reacted in horrified shock. He stood up abruptly, yanking his hand from hers. There was a helpless anger in his eyes. Avon said in denial. “She didn’t.” He backed away from her. “I made the decision.” Avon kept backing away. "She didn't…" He sounded like a man trying to convince himself of something he knew wasn't true. Avon's back hit the wall and he collapsed against it.
Cally rushed over to help him. "Avon!" She touched him on the arm but he flinched violently away.
The drugs didn’t seem to be working anymore. Everything seemed to be hitting him at once. Servalan's hands touching him, Avon shuddered as he felt them. Her heat against his skin, caressing him. Demanding. "No!" He said in a choked voice as he tried to banish the memories. His eyes closed tight and his body bent over in anguish. His arms wrapped around his chest protectively.
He wanted to run and hide, but there was no longer any safe place for him to go. They always found him wherever he was. His nightmares told him that. Then she would have him brought to her. His stomach lurched.
Avon felt something slapped against the side of his neck. He shivered and his eyes flew open.
"It's alright, Avon." Cally was kneeling beside him. "I gave you another patch. It should help."
Avon didn't know if it was just an effect of the increased drugs but the sight of her calmed him instantly. He could think clearly again. Cally's words repeated themselves in his mind. The ones that had sent him in a spiral of fear and denial. She was right. She always was about him.
Cally said, "I'm sorry."
"No. You were right."
She sat down beside him, careful not to get too close in case he had a reaction.
"I didn't want to face it. I didn't want to admit that she had that much control over me." The feelings were still there but they were no longer strong enough to overcome his mind. "Not dealing with it made it worse."
"It always does," said Cally. She reached for him hesitantly, wanting to hold his hand again but afraid that it would make him shy away. Cally put her hand down.
Avon noticed her movement and said, "You've wanted me to talk about this, haven’t you?"
"Yes. It's the only way to deal with the nightmares permanently. You have to defeat them or come to terms with them."
"You never said anything to me."
"I knew that you had to come to this decision on your own. The will had to be yours."
He said, "Touch me."
Cally was surprised. "Do you think that's a good idea?"
"Take my hand." He unwrapped his arms from across his chest and extended a hand to her.
She hesitated but took it. Avon gripped her hand tightly and said, "I need to feel someone besides Servalan when I talk about her."
She said, "We should stop now." Cally was torn. She did want him to continue and deal with this problem but she was aware how much pain it was causing him.
"I want to go on. If I'm to be of any use against Servalan, I can't have this as a weakness for her to exploit. And…I want to do this for us." It was still difficult at times for Avon to express that he cared about someone. Avon wondered if he would ever feel comfortable with it. He hoped so, for Cally's sake.
Cally projected to him, * Alright, Avon. *
Along with her words, Avon could feel a supporting warmth and love, like a soft current flowing from Cally to him. It filled him with a sense of peace and security.
Avon continued. "There's not that much left. Servalan…" His body immediately tensed as his mind faced what he had forced himself to do in her bedroom. "She had me brought to her regularly at Residence One. She wasn't only satisfied with sex. She would always find some pretext to torture me." Avon's throat tightened. "A penalty for failing her in some way. Then she would demand that I…"
Without realizing it, Avon tightened his grip on Cally's hand.
Cally said, "You didn't have any choice."
"Sometimes, when she touched me, I wasn't sure if she was going to cause pain…or something else. Sometimes she did both." Servalan had found the implant in his knee very useful.
Cally wasn't just angry now, the thought of Servalan made her ill. "She's a sick woman."
Avon agreed with her wholeheartedly. "Yes." Now that he had told Cally about this, he felt lighter, as if some heavy burden had been lifted. He was no longer alone in this nightmare.
Avon put his other hand on Cally's shoulder and said, "Thank you, for being here."
"I wouldn't want to be with anyone else." She leaned a little towards him, wanting to kiss him but afraid to.
Avon felt for the patch in his neck and took it off. His voice was low. "We should go back to our cabin now and we need a counter agent for the drugs."
Cally's eyes widened.
Back in their cabin, with the lights turned down low, they stood close and stared at each other, almost afraid to start. They could see the desire reflected in each other's eyes.
Cally asked in a soft voice, "Are you sure you're ready for this, Avon? You've just gone through a difficult experience."
Avon put his arms around her. "There is one thing I have learned today, that is, I am stronger with you, than without you. On my own, I could not do this. I was continually overwhelmed. With your help today, I am now at the point where we can try."
Cally teased, "You've calculated the odds of our success, haven't you?"
His lips curved upwards in a grin of amusement. "Of course. Would you like to know the numbers?"
Cally was very aware of his body pressed lightly against hers. "Some of us don't need to know the numbers."
"I need you to start," said Avon.
Cally carefully unbutton his shirt; going slowly, aware of his every breath.
Avon watched her face and saw the concentration and gentleness even as he felt her hands moving. He wanted to focus on her and nothing else.
Cally slid the shirt down his body, slowly revealing the the remnants of the scars. She had seen these before, under a clinical setting. Now they were only an ugly reminder of the woman who had caused them. Despite the advanced tissue regeneration technology of the ship, some of the scars still remained. They stubbornly resisted all attempts to remove them. Cally realized that it must have been deliberate. They weren't just a reminder, they were a mark of slavery.
She dropped the shirt on the ground and gently put the palm of her right hand over one of the scars on his chest. Avon shuddered slightly at her touch but didn't move away. His eyes were earnest, wanting her to go on.
Cally said, "We will find a way to remove these one day."
Avon nodded but didn't say anything.
She put her hand over his heart. * But today, we will remove them from here. *
He leaned forward and brushed his lips over hers in a soft kiss and then pulled back so she could continue.
Cally began to caress him, stroking her hands slowly and tenderly across his chest, following the scars, as if by her touch, she wanted to erase them. Cally could feel him breathing faster and deeper as she made her way down to his mid-section.
Avon bent his head down to kiss her again, this time, there was an eager hunger and desire. It was long, passionate and deep, stopping only long enough for Avon to slide her top over her head and drop it on the ground beside his discarded shirt.
They were lost in each other, their hands roaming over each other's bodies, fueling the other's desire. Cally sighed as Avon lowered her to the bed and lay down beside her. For a moment, Avon gazed at her. The next part was the last and most crucial one. So far, things had gone well but there was still a nagging fear.
Cally's eyes reflected concern and affection. * We can do this together. *
His response carried light laughter, * I would certainly hope so. *
The first touch of their naked bodies against each other caused Avon to shudder involuntarily but he didn't flinch away. The anguish returned. "I'm sorry."
Cally touched his face. "Don't be. We're making progress. Avon, you need to be able to focus on me in order for this to work. Is that right?" Her mind went back to something Vanora had said.
"Yes, it helps. What did you have in mind?"
* When I speak to you like this now, do I seem closer? *
Avon concentrated carefully, trying to become more aware of their mental connection. * Yes. You seem to be speaking next to my ear. *
*Vanora mentioned something once. She said that when an Auronar has a close mental connection as we do, intimate physical contact strengthens the bond. I will become more aware of you and I think that it is possible that you will become aware of me to a limited extent. I don't know if it will work. It may just work one way. Do you trust me enough to let me come in? *
Avon hesitated. Cally was asking to be able to 'see' him as he truly was, to be more vulnerable to her than he had ever been to anyone before. An old, never faraway fear reasserted its ugly head.
* You may not like what you find, * he told her.
She drew her fingers lightly along his cheek. * I doubt that very much, Avon. I have always been close to you, from the very beginning, even at your worst moments. I have never turned away. *
Avon took her hand and brushed his lips lightly over the tips of her fingers. * No, you haven't. * His eyes searched hers and found what he needed. For this woman, he would do anything.
He told her solemnly, * I trust you. I will try. *
* Close your eyes, * Cally told him.
Avon closed his eyes and tried to relax. He had spent a lifetime of putting barriers up, he wasn't sure he even knew how to bring them down. Despite loving Anna to the point of death, even with her, he had not allowed his walls to come down.
* Avon. * There was a soft wave of caring and warmth flowing towards him.
He marvelled at the sensations. Cally's presence gently brushing against his consciousness. Avon could sense her as a soft, vibrant light held back by the barriers of his mind, waiting to come in. The decision was his. He knew that if he chose not to do this, she would accept it and not pressure him. A relationship of true freedom. Just as he thought he had once with Anna.
You are not Anna. I don't know what the future may bring between us. Life and relationships are such inexact things.
Cally had her eyes closed as well as she opened up her awareness of Avon; their two consciousnesses separated by his will. She had always been able to sense the cold walls of his mind; a construct of rationality and control, fuelled by pride, fear, pain and an ever present anguish. Once it had been an almost impenetrable barrier that only let across random emotions. Now, with the damage done to his mind, he could no longer maintain the control he once had.
She could 'feel' his indecision…and then she was 'touching' him. They both gasped, physically and mentally. Naked mind touching naked mind.
Cally was careful not to reach in too deeply; he was not an Auronar, such intimacy the first time would alarm any human, and this was Avon. There were so many things he was keeping at the edge of his mind that made her curious, but she would not invade his privacy.
Avon spoke hesitantly, as if he was afraid she would reject him now that she could see him more clearly. * You can see now? *
* Yes, Avon. I can see. * Her presence was warm and radiated a soft love. * You're beautiful. *
She hugged him and caressed him with her mind. The effect was erotic. Unconsciously, their bodies entwined with each other. Each gentle touch of Cally's mind reflected in their physical reactions. There was no thought of Servalan. No remembrance of their enemy. Just two people caught up in each other's presence and desires.
When they finally reached the climax, their minds and their bodies reacted as one, each sharing the other's joy and pleasure.
Afterwards, they held each other, their minds still lightly touching, not wanting to break the moment. Cally's head was resting on his chest. She lifted her head and looked at him. * Are you alright? *
A soft, peaceful smile lifted the corner of Avon's lips. It was a strange sight to see on his face, but a very welcome one. * More than alright. *
She lay her head on his chest again and closed her eyes. It was a good start. Avon had taken important steps in terms of banishing this particular set of nightmares today. Cally was under no illusions that one night of intimacy, no matter how good it had been, would fix all of his problems. It would take a lot of perseverance and strength on both their parts to unravel and heal all of the harm that had been done. For now, they were both tired and content and fell asleep in each other's arms.