Cally held back tears as she worked on Avon, trying to coax his shattered heart back to life. She counted off the interminable seconds between compressions. With each one, Avon was slipping farther away from her. She could no longer sense his mind. He was as dead to her as he had wanted to become to himself.
Cally was afraid what they would find when he was returned to the living state he seemed to have abandoned. Wherever he was, it was where he wanted to be. Free from the pain of living, of being himself.
She felt guilty. Perhaps it was kinder to grant him his wish. Cally shook her head and continued pressing on his chest. No. There has to be something better than oblivion.
Cally felt selfish, even as she desperately tried to save Avon’s life. She loved him. She needed him. He had become an important part of her and she couldn’t let him go.
She projected as strongly into his mind as she could, but it felt as if she was shouting into the void. Avon, please fight. Please come back. I need you. We all need you.
Vila raced to the medical unit to get equipment for Cally. He staggered a moment as sharp pains emanated from his stomach. It was an old problem rearing its irritating head. Vila steeled himself and continued onwards.
"… she died before she could say more." After Sester was finished, he looked at Reya. She was very still and absorbed in thought. Sester’s tired face held soft admiration as he watched her.
The cabin door slid open and Argus seemed to explode into the room. He instantly took the situation in and headed straight for Sester, his hands grabbing him by the collar and nearly lifting him off the floor before Sester could react. Reya had shot out of her chair and was only a step behind him.
Reya touched Argus's arm and asked in alarm, "Argus, what are you doing? What happened?"
Argus's eyes were like guided lasers that would slice through any obstacle with extreme malice. His voice was low and contained a dangerous anger. “He’s killing Avon.”
Sester saw the murderous look in Argus’s eyes and decided that his normal baiting responses would not be the wisest move. He said in denial, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t done anything to Avon.”
Reya voice was firm and reasonable. “Argus, put him down and tell us what’s wrong.”
Argus took his eyes off Sester and turned his head to look at her. It did not help his anger. He had seen the look in Sester’s eyes when he came in. The softness and something that made Argus want to slam the psychostrategist against the wall and through to the next cabin. He said with a tight voice, “What were you doing with him?”
Reya bristled at the accusation in his tone but there was also the ever-present guilt. “We weren’t doing anything. We were having a talk about…” Reya hesitated. She had not promised Sester anything, but she knew it would seem to be a betrayal if she told Argus what Sester had revealed to her, without asking him first.
Sester saw her predicament and said, “I was telling her about Avon and Anna.”
Argus said angrily, “That’s what’s killing Avon.” He twisted Sester’s collar and then he pushed him away, making him stagger backwards and hit the dresser.
Sester’s eyes widened and he brought the tracer bracelet up to look at it. Then he glanced at Reya. There was a look of betrayal in his eyes that was quickly masked by a cynical, self-mocking amusement. I was a fool. Of course, you would do anything to help Avon. ALL of you would. I was nothing more than the enemy after all. You may have feelings about me but not for me.
Reya wanted to say something when she realized what Sester must be thinking. It wasn’t me. I wouldn’t betray your trust. But it was too late. Any denials by her in this charged atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust would fall on deaf ears. She said instead, “I’m sorry.”
Sester said, “You have nothing to apologize for.” There was an easy smile on his face again, that was touched with a hint of cool cynicism. He still loved her but now he knew where he stood.
How many minutes has it been? Where is Vila? Cally continued working on Avon's lifeless body as the seconds passed. She wished she could take each one back.
Vila arrived in the medical unit and emptied a container of equipment on the floor. He began gathering the supplies Cally needed for Avon. His stomach was really hurting now but he barely seemed to notice. All he knew was that Avon's heart had stopped and they had to get it started again.
If it was possible, he wanted to kick himself for his part in making this happen.
I knew it was a bad idea. I tried to tell him. How are we going to fix this?
Vila didn’t want to lose his friend. No matter what Avon had been in the past, no matter what they had both been to each other, things were different now. They were no longer the same people, or rather they were, but they were what they both could have been if they had been given a chance.
In the past Avon could be a complete bastard but there were always hints of something more underneath, things that only showed when he risked his life for them.
And what was I? Vila knew that if he was being honest with himself, he wasn’t that much better either. They had both done things they shouldn’t have. He was brave at times, but many times he let someone else take the risks. There were many things he felt guilty about too. Things he planned to make up for.
Avoiding risks you didn’t have to take was the smart thing to do. Only an idiot would willingly walk into danger and he had spent most of his life running from it. Keeping himself alive and out of a penal colony was enough of a challenge without having to face danger for someone else. Vila suspected that Avon was the same.
It may have been selfish in their parts but when you didn’t know if you were going to be alive tomorrow, it wasn’t the worse they thing they could have done. Neither of them had chosen to work for the Federation, which would have been the safer alternative. Especially Avon. They would have valued him and given him whatever he asked for, as long as he did what they wanted. But both of them had chosen to operate outside of it, despite the risks, and even if it meant they would both become hunted criminals.
Vila knew now that the Federation had done some of it to him. He didn’t know how much, but he was determined that they would never have that control over him again.
Vila put the final item into the container and ran back to Avon’s cabin.
In the past, even before Gauda Prime, at times there had been camaraderie of sorts between them. But since they had rescued Avon from Servalan, and especially in these past few months, the possibilities that Avon had staunchly tried to deny before, had finally started coming to the surface.
Vila refused to lose what was no longer a might-have-been.
Sester faced Argus, “Avon heard everything?”
Argus’s voice was tight with unreleased aggressions, “Yes.”
It was as Sester had feared. After all of the secrets and soul-numbing drinking, it had come to nothing. Sester allowed a faintly horrified look to spread across his face. “I didn’t know.” He glanced at Reya. “If I had, I wouldn’t have said anything. I would never knowingly hurt Avon. Not again.”
Argus felt helpless. All he could see in his mind was Avon suffering as he had been on the flight deck. In Argus’s imagination, it became ten times worse. There was nothing he could do. He really wanted to blame Sester but knew he couldn’t. That made him even angrier. “You kept this from us!”
Sester said calmly, “And for very good reason. I knew this would happen if Avon found out and I was right. But now is not the time for this, you can beat me up later. Avon is in trouble."
With Sester's words, Argus came crashing back to a reality that was not focused on himself. His temper cooled and he said, “You're right. There will be time for this later."
Sester asked, "How is Avon?"
For Avon's sake, they all acted as if they had not almost been at each other's throats.
Argus replied, "I don’t know. He’s locked himself in his cabin and Vila is trying to break in. Cally hasn’t been able to reach Avon with her psi abilities, but she says that he’s in trouble. That’s why I came to stop you.”
Sester said with equal concern, “I was afraid of that. That’s why I decided not to tell any of you.”
Argus asked, "Do you know what's happening with him?"
Sester looked at Reya. "You know."
Reya's eyes passed between the two men. "Yes." She told Argus, "It's a long story but the crux of it is that Anna did love Avon and he may have killed her by mistake."
Argus took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Now he understood and it was as bad as he had feared. With all of the nightmares that already haunted him, Avon could not take this kind of additional shock.
He turned to Sester and fixed him with a long stare. There was only a slight hint of recrimination in his voice as he said, "If you had told us this from the very beginning, rather than lie to us and keep this information to yourself, we wouldn't have tried to find out and Avon won't be where he is now."
Sester said, "You're right. I suspected that this might be inevitable, but I did everything in my power to prevent it."
Reya said, "Argus, he's right. He did try to prevent this from happening by keeping the information from us. Servalan wanted him to tell us, but he didn't. Vila came to me and told me that Sester had been drinking."
Sester tried to stop her. "Reya, don't…"
Reya told him, "I have to say this. Sester cares about Avon and he feels guilty about the things he did to him. He's told us that repeatedly and he's shown it to us by his actions. If he didn't care, he would have followed Servalan's orders and told all of this to Avon. He was willing to risk himself with Servalan by refusing to tell us. The pressure has been so great that he's been drinking. He would rather do that than try to hurt Avon again."
Argus rebelled at hearing all of this from Reya. He said sarcastically, "You're painting him out to be quite the hero."
"Argus, stop it!" Her eyes pleaded with him for reason and understanding. "Please."
Her tone made Argus feel terrible. "I'm sorry."
Reya knew that there was much to work on between them, but now was not the time. She said, "We should go and see how Avon is." Without another word, she headed for the door and both men followed her out.
Vila came back with the supplies. As he handed the box to Cally, he immediately asked, "How is he?"
Cally took the box from him and took out a cardiac stimulator. She tried to keep the fear out of her voice and forced herself to concentrate on what she was doing. "I couldn't get his heart started." Spreading Avon’s shirt farther apart, she applied two remote pads to his chest and turned them on. Her hands faltered as she said in a shaky voice, “I don’t think he wants to come back.”
Vila said in a panic, "But he has to! We can’t lose him, Cally! We’ll help him!”
“I know.” She turned on the unit and set the controls. I’m sorry, Avon. “Clear, Vila.” Vila backed away from the bed. Cally pressed the activation control and the charged pads sent shocks to Avon’s heart, trying to force him to come back to a life he no longer wanted. Avon’s body arched and then slumped back onto the bed.
Argus, Reya and Sester arrived at Avon and Cally’s cabin as Cally was administering the shocks to restart Avon’s heart. Vila turned to acknowledge their arrival and then looked anxiously back at Avon again. They all stood to the side and tried to keep out of the way.
Cally depressed the activation switch again for the fifth time and Avon’s body arched. Each time she did, with her mind she would call out to him.
This time she added a plea, * Avon don’t leave me. Please. *
The monitor on the cardiac unit coughed out a beep. A single one. Their mouths opened in shock and they all leaned forward, straining to hear something they weren’t sure they had all heard. With fearful hope, Cally applied another shock. * Avon, come back. We need you. I need you. *
Another beat. Cally put her hand on Avon’s chest and tried to reach for his mind; sending him comfort, encouragement and love. His presence was barely registering; he was like a sputtering flame that was threatening to extinguish itself.
A few more faltering beats. Everyone’s faces took on an anxious hope.
A weak but steady rhythm began to emerge. Faces broke out into smiles and they all breathed a sigh of relief.
Vila hugged Cally. “He’s back!”
Cally kept her hand on Avon’s chest as she continued to send him encouragement and love. It was troubling that she was receiving no answering responses despite the intimate contact. Avon didn’t seem to be aware of her.
He was back, but none of them knew what that meant now. Avon had heard something that made him not want to live anymore. None of them knew what they would find when he woke up.
Cally knew that he had come back for them. For her. She was afraid what it was going to cost him.
Were they going to regret bringing him back?
Servalan had a speculative look in her eyes as she sat watching the viewscreen. She had the aura of a snake that was anticipating swallowing a helpless morsel. As always, footage of Avon was on her screen. Avon struggling against the bonds that fastened him to a table. He was being forced to relive the day in the cellar; again and again, each scenario worst than the last, until he was almost comatose with grief and guilt and horror.
She could almost see him in her mind’s eye. She could imagine the same look on his face as he heard what Sester was telling him. Servalan wished she could see him collapse to his knees as the truth sunk in.
There was a likelihood that Avon would collapse. They had left his heart very weak and it wouldn’t be able to stand too much strain. Servalan wasn’t worried though. That was what Cally was there for.
All of her little unknowing soldiers, doing exactly as she wanted, even in this. It was such a delicious thought. She relished the day when she would be able to tell them all, the day when she reclaimed her property and destroyed those who were no longer of any use to her.
Servalan’s lips curved in a predatory smile.
----- THE END -----
Next Story: Journeys