8th Story of Perceptions
Sequel to Regrets
My schedule is much more relaxed in Hong Kong so it appears that I can finish more than one chapter post before I go home tomorrow.
Cally had her head propped up on one hand as she watched Avon sleep. She drew her other hand down his back, lightly touching the scars that he stubbornly refused to allow her to remove. Even unconscious, he flinched when her fingers brushed against the ugly marks. She knew that the scars would only disappear when the deeper psychological wounds healed. With each day that passed, she despaired the time would never come.
On the surface, when he was not being stressed, Avon seemed perfectly fine. The others did not see the mornings. They were not witnesses to the times when he retreated to the refuge of their cabin. He had tried to keep those times from her too, but had been unable to block the overwhelming emotions from reaching her. The first time had been a shock when she had raced back to their cabin and found him curled in a dark corner, his eyes wild with panic and hopelessness.
Cally's eyes hardened, she promised herself that one day, Servalan would be made to pay for all of the things she had done. The destruction of Cally's own people was still an open wound that had barely healed. There was too much blood on that woman's hands and too many atrocities committed in the name of the Federation. For Cally, Avon was a broken reminder of all of the lives Servalan had destroyed.
Servalan had a hold on him that would not be broken until he killed her. Cally knew Avon had an irrational hope that when that day arrived, he would finally be able to reclaim who he was, the man Servalan had torn to pieces and tried to rebuild into someone she wanted. She had almost succeeded. The only things Avon had left were the fragmented pieces of the person he once was; a puzzle he was trying to put together again, only to find that he couldn't.
In some ways, the Avon he had started to rebuild, was someone Cally had always known that he was underneath. It was the part of himself that he had kept hidden from others but she had always been able to sense. She hated to admit it but in some ways, Servalan had done Avon a favour. Having his life taken away had caused a state that made Avon realize that he could no longer live without others. He had no choice except to accept other people's strength because his own was something he could no longer rely on.
Cally knew that Avon hated that he needed other people in order to survive. For a man who had experienced so much betrayal in his life, trusting another person was the most difficult and terrifying choice thing he could make. People were unpredictable elements, full of irrational feelings and impulses that made their actions irrational and inconsistent.
For awhile, it seemed as if he was starting to recover. He had begun opening up to her; sharing the causes of his nightmares and admitting to himself the source of the worst traumas that still paralyzed him.
That was before they had found out about Anna.
Ever since Sester had succeeded in waking him up, Avon had shut himself off from her. Her sense of him was like those of the others now. The only times she was able to get 'closer' to Avon was in the moments just after a nightmare, when his mind was too confused and disorganized to block her, when he was suffering from a panic attack or when they were physically intimate. They were the only occasions when his rational mind was not fully in control.
He had been carefully avoiding situations that would result in the strong emotional reactions he did not want her to read. There was something he was keeping from her.
Is it because the news about Anna is too painful? Is that why you've cut yourself off from your emotions? Does it hurt too much to feel?When faced with something he could not handle, was he going back to familiar coping patterns? But they never worked, Avon. They're only temporary solutions. It only makes the pain worse in the end, when you can no longer ignore. Then you have to face it alone because you've pushed everyone away. Haven't you learned? It is easier to face the horrors when someone shares it with you. I want to help you, Avon. Why won't you let me?
Avon stirred briefly. She put her arms around him and hugged him close. It was nearing the morning cycle. The drugs that enabled him to sleep without the nightmares would be wearing off soon.
Is it because you want to protect me? Is that why you've cut yourself off? I'm not afraid, Avon. Let me be your strength. You gave up your life so that Servalan would not hurt me. But in doing so, you have been hurt deeply. This strength I have belongs to you.
Cally wished that she could show him the things that Aurons learned from their ties to each other.
Avon stirred again. She sensed that he was starting to wake. Cally rested her head on his shoulder and tried to reach his mind. The warmth of his body was comforting but she knew the peace was not going to last. The deterioration of Avon's mind meant that he would slip into a nightmare the moment the drugs wore off. It always happened now; it was no longer an occasional occurrence.
Avon's body stiffened and a groan escaped his lips. It was too late. The only thing she could do now was to hold him close and be there when he finally came out of it.
Reya was just about to exit her cabin when the door buzzer sounded. She passed her hand over the panel control and the door slid open. A nervous Argus stood outside with a tray of food in his hands. For a second, he seemed stunned to see her, even though he was the one who had come to her cabin.
"Good...good morning. I thought...you might want some breakfast." His eyes were looking at the tray in front of him, he seemed afraid to look at her for fear that she would reject his gesture.
Reya said, "I was about to go for breakfast."
"Oh. Then..." Argus seemed perplexed at her answer and was uncertain as to the proper response. He had been expecting her to thank him for the breakfast or to tell him to leave. "Maybe...you want to get your own breakfast? I guess I should have asked first." He decided that he had done something wrong again and was about to apologize. "I..."
Reya took pity on him and said, "That looks good." She looked down at the full tray and recognized it as the breakfast he normally ate. Her stomach rebelled at eating so much but she didn't want to discourage him.
Argus finally looked up. There was still uncertainty on his face as to whether he had done the right thing. "I thought I'd save you some time."
She said encouragingly, "That was very thoughtful of you." Reya stepped aside. "Why don't you come in?"
His face lit up in fearful hope. "Really? I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to. I can just drop it off and..."
She said firmly, "Come in, Argus."
"Oh." He stepped in tentatively and looked around the cabin as if it was a foreign environment rather than a cabin they normally shared.
"The table would be fine," said Reya when he seemed to need more direction as to what to do next.
He put the tray on the table and stood looking at her as she sat down and said, "Why don't you sit down too?"
Argus sat down opposite her and watched as she arranged the items on the tray.
Reya realized quickly that despite the load of food on the tray, there was only one serving. She asked, "Argus, have you already eaten?"
Every question seemed to confuse him this morning. "No?" he answered hesitantly, as if it was a test and he wasn't sure if he was giving the correct response.
Reya tried to understand what was on his mind. "Were you hoping that I would invite you in this morning when you brought me breakfast?"
"Uh...I...was..." There was a hesitant look on his face as he admitted, "Yes."
"Were you hoping that we would do something else besides eating?"
This question greatly perplexed Argus. He wasn't sure what she was getting at. The offer of food wasn't supposed to lead to something complicated, it was just food. Damned Sester! "I was just thinking that you could eat."
Reya sighed and asked, "Were you planning to sit and watch me eat?" She buttered a piece of toast and put some jam on it.
"Oh." He realized that she might not like being stared at while she ate.
Before he could work himself towards panic, Reya said, "Why don't we share? There's a lot of food here." She handed him the piece of toast.
He took it and said gratefully, "Thank you." He took a bite of it. It seemed to taste better than any toast he had before.
"You don't need to thank me. You're the one who brought me breakfast." Reya picked up another piece of bread from the large pile on the plate.
Argus put his piece of toast down on the table and stared at it.
Reya asked puzzled, "Is something wrong with it? Too much jam?"
"No." There was a faintly guilty and anguished look on his face.
She was working from perplexed to being worried. "Argus, what's wrong?"
"I..." He looked at her, took a deep breath and said, "This wasn't my idea. Bringing you breakfast, I mean. I should have thought of it but...it was Sester." His eyes were still focused on the lonely piece of toast on the table.
Reya asked with surprise, "Sester?"
Argus said, "He came to the gym this morning..."
"The gym?" She couldn't think of a circumstance that would cause Sester to want to enter an exercise facility unless she was in it.
Argus looked embarrassed. "I slept there last night."
"Argus!" she exclaimed in shock. "There are other empty cabins. You could have used my old one or one of the guest cabins."
"I know. It didn't feel right."
Reya sighed again. Argus had the right meaning but the execution required much work. She wondered what Sester's intentions were for being helpful. Even though she wanted to believe that he had good intentions too, she knew that she couldn't assume it. She said, "I'm surprised that you listened to him."
"I didn't want to." It was humiliating admitting that his enemy had better ideas on how to make Reya happy than he did. "But...it was a good idea."
Reya asked, "Making me happy was more important that your pride?"
Argus didn't look happy but he said, "Yes. Even if it means listening to him. But only if he has a good idea." There was a rebellious look on his face. "I still don't trust him."
Reya picked up the steaming cup from the tray and handed it to him. "Have some coffee."
Argus looked at it hesitantly, wondering if the hot drink had some hidden meaning. "You're not mad at me, are you?"
"You're being honest, that's all I ask. I'm not mad at you."
Argus accepted the coffee and took a sip. It was delicious. He drank half the cup before putting it down. Argus quickly picked it up again and set it in front of Reya. He said apologetically, "If you want, I could go get more."
"No. That's fine. This isn't enough food for you if we share. You normally eat all of this."
"It's alright. I don't feel hungry." He munched a few bites of the toast. "Reya, what do you usually have for breakfast?"
Reya sighed again.
Sester sat in the crowded dining area watching the flow of activity around him, without paying much attention. The room was full of soldiers eating or in the process of getting food.
He drank from his cup of coffee and made a face. It was lukewarm. He pondered whether he should go back to bed and wake up at a more decent hour.
"You're up early." Vila had entered the dining room and came over to his table. He was rubbing tired eyes.
Sester said jokingly, "You look as awake as I feel."
"I need some coffee and maybe a stim or two," said Vila. "I'll be right back." He headed off to the food dispensers.
Sester cleared some space on the table. He realized that it must be Vila's turn to work the morning shift on the flight deck. Vila came back with a tray of food and two cups.
Sester asked with eyebrows raised in question, "Two?"
"Cally will never give me a stim just so I could wake up in the morning." Vila picked up the mug and drained the entire cup before putting it back down.
"Did that help?" asked an amused Sester.
"Ask me after the second one," said Vila as he picked up a bran muffin and bit into it. "I thought you never wake up until after all this lot is finished their breakfast first?"
"You're right." Sester picked up his mug, thought better of it and put it down again.
"You couldn't sleep?" asked Vila as he ate more of the muffin.
Sester asked with curiosity, "Why don't you ask what I'm up to at this hour?"
"I don't like being suspicious before my second cup of coffee," said Vila. He picked up the other mug.
"You're starting on your second cup now," remarked Sester.
Vila looked into the hot liquid and said, "I don't have to." He put it down and took another bite of the muffin.
Sester had turned his full attention to studying Vila. "It's only a cup of coffee. Besides, I thought you needed the second cup to wake up."
"It'll keep. By the way, thanks for the chess lessons. I nearly beat Avon the other day."
"Well, it was a draw but he gave me the game." Vila finished off the last of his muffin.
"You don't think I could win?"
Sester smiled. "You should have more confidence in yourself, Vila. You could be quite a good player if you kept applying yourself."
"I suppose." Vila traced a finger on the handle of the second mug. He was remembering the game with Avon and the troubling feeling he had.
Sester asked immediately, "Is something wrong?"
Vila stared up at him and asked in return, "What's wrong with Avon?"
Sester's reaction was controlled. "Why are you asking me?"
"Cally thinks that you know or she wouldn't keep asking you."
Sester looked at the mug that Vila was still playing with. "Are you sure you don't want to finish that second cup now?"
"I don't want to be suspicious. I just hope that you know," said Vila.
For some reason, Sester found himself believing Vila. "You're worried about Avon."
"We all are and I know you are too. Can you help him?"
"What do you think I can do? Neither Avon nor Cally want my help. And even if they do, they don't trust me enough to accept any help I could give them."
"You're a psychostrategist. I thought you could get anyone to do anything?"
Sester said, "That may be, but that does not mean that I'm a miracle worker."
"Avon needs one," said Vila. He said with concern, "It's supposed to be Cally's turn to take this shift but she can't anymore."
Sester's mind made the connection instantly. "Avon's been waking up to the nightmares?"
"Can you help him? You know what Servalan did to him. You must have some ideas," said Vila. There was an imploring tone in his voice.
"I'll see what I can do."