Vila glanced nervously behind him as he went towards his cabin for the night. He could swear that someone or something was watching him. Was he just being paranoid? The corridors were empty.
Why would someone be watching him? It didn't make sense.
He shivered involuntarily and gave a nervous laugh. This was something he had in common with Avon. Not the nervous laugh, it was their constant wariness of possible dangers or traps; and they were usually right. Avon calculated his in his head. Vila felt his.
Maybe he was just tired and his mind was playing tricks on him. Worries about Avon and Reya had been weighing him down all day on top of which, it had been a long and intense day of planning and preparation with the others. He really wasn’t very good at that end of things, or even interested in it, truth be told. He had gladly let Cally, Marlena, Trey and Lt. Dain take the lead, while he tried to listen without yawning and added the occasional nod of agreement.
Sometimes he would glance surreptitiously at Corinne, who was sitting next to her mother. She had given him a brief smile once. Or at least he thought it was to him. It was hard to tell since Cally had been speaking at the time and she was sitting next to him. At that point, his mind had wandered off and he imagined that she really had been smiling at him. Not the brief hint of one he almost caught but a great big smile. One that brightened the whole room and was just for him.
Of course at that moment, Marlena had asked him something important and he hadn't been paying attention. He had feigned a coughing fit and they passed onto something else until he was ready again.
Marlena was a gentle woman with a soft but firm voice and quick intelligence. Her presence made people feel comfortable but when her eyes bore into you, all the clothes in the galaxy was not enough to hide the truth from her. Vila really hoped that she hadn't noticed him secretly glancing at her daughter.
Corinne never seemed to be alone; she was always with one of her parents. She walked with the same confidence as her mother but sometimes, Vila thought that she seemed nervous and a bit overwhelmed. He wouldn’t blame her under the circumstances, he often felt that way himself.
Vila reached his cabin and passed his hand across the door panel. As the sensor recognized him, the door slid open. He turned around quickly to look behind him again. There was still nothing but empty corridor.
I must just be tired. Time to get some sleep. Tomorrow was going to be an even longer day and there was going to be lots of action as they began helping the Chandarans. Now if only he could arrange to be alone with Corinne or if she was assigned to his team. Vila smiled and went inside.
Argus moved restlessly and hit his head on a weight bench. He was sleeping in the gym again because it had proved impossible in his cabin. Everything reminded him of Reya there. Being in the converted gym reminded him of her too but at least here, he wasn't comfortable.
Guilt ate at him. He needed the discomfort and the pain in his side, it didn’t make him feel better but at least it didn’t make him feel worse. He missed her so much that it hurt. He felt hollow inside, as if a large part of him was missing, the only part that mattered.
Argus knew he should sleep, should rest himself for the big day ahead but every time he closed his eyes, he could see them hurting Reya and it filled him with rage. Argus struck out with his fist and hit the bench.
He had failed them both, Reya and Avon. Argus had sworn to himself that none of his people would ever die again because of him. He was not going to rest until he rescued them both.
Cally had a severe headache. She rubbed her temples. Every moment she was not helping plan for the activities tomorrow or tending to her charges in the medical bay, she was trying to contact Avon with her psi abilities. Marlena and her daughter had offered their assistance with the injured. For that she was grateful but it did little to alleviate her anxieties.
She was filled with frustration and worry. The only thing she could sense was Avon's pain and his presence at the periphery of her consciousness. She was afraid that he was being tortured again. That above all troubled her the most.
She knew that Avon would be able to withstand it. He had proved more than capable of weathering anything that was thrown at him. But at what cost?
Cally alone knew what being at the Detention Centre had done to him. The few times he had allowed her to enter his mind had shocked her. She was not able to read his thoughts but she could feel the shape of him, could wander the landscape of his consciousness and could experience in an even deeper way his emotional state.
There was so much that was broken inside that she couldn’t imagine anyone being able to survive. The strength of his mind and will were the only things keeping him together. She could sense the fragile and broken shards of him; the hardness and sharp edges that came out in anger, suspicion and self-protectiveness, and the surprising gentleness that he never allowed anyone to see, that he rarely admitted to, even to himself. That part that had reached out to Anna and gave his life to her even though he could never tell her.
The ever-present pain and fears lurking just below the surface; the deep emotional and psychological scars that seemed to touch almost every aspect of him. And the wall that was never high enough or thick enough to protect him from the things that hurt even after the pain stopped.
She could not read Avon's mind but she knew him in a way no one ever had before. He had allowed her that. It was a frightening step of faith for him, one that was completely against his nature, but one he had been willing to take because it was important to her.
He was not a perfect man and neither was she a perfect woman. But he was all that she had thought he could be. And that hidden gentleness that was once Anna's was now hers. In many ways it was even more important than his willingness to die for her.
Cally never wanted him to be hurt again but she knew that it was a vain hope. Many things drove him on, never allowing him to rest except for brief moments of respite. The happy and restful weeks they had spent together on Pleasure City had confirmed something for her. She hoped that one day they would be able to go back there, or somewhere similar, and make it their home.
Ignoring the headache, she reached out with her mind again.
* Avon. I am here. * Avon opened his eyes as a wave of calm and reassurance washed over him. Hang on, Avon. Argus has a plan to rescue you. They are going to try it tomorrow.
He concentrated again in a vain attempt to externalize his thoughts. Agony filled his mind and splintered his thoughts. He gasped at the suddenness of it and stopped. It was no use.
* Avon, don’t try to speak. *
She was aware of what he was trying to do. Avon realized that she must be able to sense his pain and connected it with an effort to reach her.
Another wave of reassurance and healing calm washed over him again, easing the tension.
A weak moan drew his attention. Avon struggled to a sitting position and checked on Reya. Her forehead felt hot to the touch. She opened her eyes and looked up at him.
He told her, “Hang on.” He wanted to tell her what Cally had said to him but he couldn’t risk it in case they were being overheard.
Reya’s breathing was in shallow, ragged gasps that were painful to hear. Her eyes could barely express anything more than pain now but there were still the occasional flashes of an unbroken spirit. She looked small and alone.
Avon imagined that he had looked like this at the Detention Centre. Alone in his cell, with nothing but pain for company; his arms wrapped around himself and his body curled up, just to feel some illusion of warmth. Another wave of reassurance from Cally washed over him. He was no longer alone; he would never be alone again.
He looked down at Reya’s broken and bleeding form again. There was no one to reach out and send her the same comfort and reassurance.
No one. Except him. Hesitantly, Avon reached out and took Reya’s hand in his.
Reya held onto Avon's hand as it were a lifeline and she would drown if she let go. The pain made it hard to think. Just breathing took most of her energy. Reya tried not to contemplate how much longer she had before they came back. Instead she occupied her mind with thoughts of Argus, drawing up memories and images of him in her mind. The way he stood, tall and straight and with shoulders back.
At times she could almost see the burdens weighing him down. The tiredness he would get sometimes and the grim determination in his eyes as if he owed something that he could never repay. And sometimes the fear he would have, quickly hidden, when the control slipped and he hit with greater force than he intended to.
Most of all she dwelt on his nobility of spirit, his willingness to sacrifice himself for others, his fierce protective nature, the mischievous twinkle he had in his eyes and the way he did everything with passion and honesty.
A smile touched Reya's lips at the memories. Sometimes he frustrated her to no end with his inability to communicate how he felt or his complete lack of communication when he got it into his head that he had to do something. He could be very stubborn and dense sometimes. There were things he was curiously ignorant of, as if he had never lived a normal life where people had families and lives outside of the military.
A typical Alpha male as the Federation had made him but also not very typical. From the beginning of their relationship, he had always treated her as an equal. She knew that it had never entered his head not to. It was a very curious thing coming from someone of his background and it was one of the first things that had drawn her to him.
"Are you alright?" Avon's voice interrupted her thoughts.
Reya opened her eyes, stifling a groan as her mind returned to the here-and-now and the reality of her battered body reasserted itself in her mind. "Why…do…you ask?"
"Your face changed."
She told him, "I…was thinking."
"That was apparent."
"It's not…a topic you…would be interested…in."
"Ah." Avon could guess what it was. He had done it often himself at the Detention Centre. For a man who never admitted to needing anyone, it was thoughts of Cally and the others that had meant the most to him during those dark, cold days.
"Avon, can you…do something..for me? A message? If I don't…"
Avon stopped her. "You will get out of here."
Reya managed a crooked, wry smile, "Even you…can't…guarantee that, Avon. You're a…practical man. If it were…you. Would you not…want to leave a…message for Cally?"
Avon had never thought of that before. He remembered leaving a message for the Liberator crew when he went down to the fiasco that had been Terminal. But it had been no sentimental communication. Just a detailed explanation of the events leading up to his insane decision to go after…Avon's stomach twisted in pain. It had been a long time since he thought about Blake.
Even though she spoke in a bare whisper, Reya still managed to convey instant concern. "Avon! Are you alright?"
Now was not the time for thoughts about Blake. Avon wondered if it would ever be. He wondered if it was his mind's way of protecting itself from something he was not ready to deal with yet.
Avon reassured Reya, "I'm fine."
Reya tried not to laugh, "You're an…even worse…liar..than Argus."
"I must be…out of practice."
At that Reya did laugh but immediately started coughing. Avon gripped her hand tighter until she stopped.
As he waited Avon contemplated this idea. Something as sentimental as a message wasn't something he had considered leaving. He knew that other people considered it important. Reya certainly did.
Would Cally want one? She already knew how he felt about her. He had demonstrated it in a way that left no doubts. He was afraid that she most likely would want one. She was very human that way.
A last communication. A confirmation of things they both knew. A final expression, a memory to leave her. It would be the last thing he would be able to do for her.
Avon's eyes brightened with understanding. Now that he could understand. It was the last thing he could do for Cally in a situation when he had nothing else he could do for her.
Avon resolved to remember it for the next time that he came into an impossible situation. For now he fully expected to be rescued. Cally had reassured him Argus was coming for them. Reya didn't know though. She still had this need for a last message.
Avon asked, "You wanted to say…something earlier?"