Avon was brought back to his cabin and placed carefully on the bed. Sester and Marlena stood a distance away, out of his field of vision but near enough to observe.
The atmosphere was subdued as they waited. Neither one of them wanted to draw attention to what was going to be a private moment for Avon and Cally.
Cally sat down on the edge of the bed and looked down at him for a few moments. Tenderness came over her and she tried to still her own worried mind even as Avon's face reflected the turmoil in his. She reached across to pick up the bio-injector. This time they would use an even lighter dosage of the stimulant, just enough to suggest a path towards consciousness. She injected it into his neck and then put the injector back on the table.
With soft fingers she caressed his cheek while with her mind she lightly brushed across the surface of his consciousness. Gentle, calm, loving and with a hint of desire. Like a breath of fresh air for someone who had only known the tepid artificial atmosphere on a ship.
Involuntarily, Avon took a deep breath in, his chest expanding, almost as if he wanted to take in more of what she was giving to him.
Cally's projected thought was a whisper, * Avon. *
There was no answering response but there was an active awareness of her presence. His mind recognized this source of peace even as it struggled with the chaos.
* Rest, Avon. * Her fingers lightly traced down his neck to where the collar of his shirt separated. Unbuttoning it, she placed the palm of her hand on his chest, feeling the heat of his body connecting with hers. She closed her eyes and drew her hand gently down his bare chest while with her mind; she let him feel her need for him.
Avon instantly responded with his own longing; two desires recognizing each other. The turmoil began to fade in Avon's mind. His breathing became deeper and calmer. Cally could feel Avon push towards consciousness as his barriers began to relax in anticipation. She knew that he would reach for her soon. * Avon, keep your eyes closed. *
He still wasn't awake enough to answer her but she could feel his willingness to do what she wanted. His eyes remained closed.
Cally bent down, barely brushing his lips with her own. That touch brought Avon fully awake, his lips parted to receive her hungrily and he put his arms around her and pulled her down to him.
Sester and Marlena silently exited the cabin.
Marlena helped Sester back to the medical unit. Argus, Vila and Brent were there talking to Reya when they arrived.
As Sester got back into bed, Argus asked, "How did they do?"
Marlena answered, "It should work. Avon responds very well to her."
Vila said, "Well that's a relief." Everyone else felt the same way as they all seemed to give a collective sigh.
Argus said, "That's very good to hear."
Marlena looked at the assembled men and then with her eyes on Reya, she said, "Perhaps it's time for someone else to be given some relief? The hour is late."
The men all looked at each other with puzzled expressions.
Reya, knowing why she was saying this, said, "I'm alright. I'm not tired."
Marlena gave her a stare. It seemed to cut through all denials to where Reya’s body was trying to remind her that she was still recovering from trauma. Her voice was gentle but firm, "You look tired."
Reya stifled a sudden yawn that appeared from nowhere and insisted on expressing itself. "I suppose I am.”
The men finally clued in and shared looks of embarrassment. Reya had seemed perfectly fine to them until now.
Vila said, "I should sleep too. It's been a long day. 'Night everyone." He headed out.
Brent took Marlena by the hand. They both nodded to Argus and Reya and left the room together.
Argus stood by Reya's bed. He felt awkward, wondering whether he should wait until she invited him before climbing onto the bed. "I'm such an idiot. I shouldn't need someone to remind me that you need rest. It's just that…I always see you as someone strong. You don't need anyone."
Reya sighed and said affectionately "You are an idiot.” She reached out a hand for his and pulled him towards her. Having Sester in the next bed hampered their expressions considerably. She decided to mention it to Cally tomorrow. "I always thought that I didn't need anyone either until I met you." She placed her hand on his chest. Argus's breath seemed to catch as she did that. She asked, "Do you want an invitation?"
Avon was eager and passionate as he and Cally explored each other. He let her deeper into his mind than he had ever before. Their desires mingled even as their bodies curled around each other. They were very good at giving pleasure to one another; Avon with the skills he had learned and Cally with her mind. They instinctively knew what the other wanted.
Being a man of the mind, the mental discoveries were just as potent as the physical enjoyment. For Avon, his greatest joys had always been in the achievements of the mind. To find that sensual desires could also be experienced on this level was a revelation that Cally was more than willing to share with him. Not to say that the physical component was not important; it became even more satisfying combining the two. It was a joining of mind and body, the pleasure in one magnifying the other.
For Cally, as an Auron, there was greater emphasis on the joining and pleasure that resulted in the mingling of minds. When you are able to touch the other on such an intimate level, the physical sensations were almost incidental. Avon taught her the joys that the physical experience of sex could also bring. The range and power of sensations that could be achieved amazed her.
Chaos and turmoil were forgotten things as they drove each other to greater intensities of pleasure.
Afterwards as they rested in each other's arms, Cally continued touching Avon's mind with her own. Lightly caressing him and feeling him respond with mental pleasure. Their hands caressed each other’s bodies lightly, affectionately.
Avon was tired and he was still recovering his energy and breath but he had a sense of well-being and peace. Any type of physical activity tended to exhaust him quickly and one of this intensity and energy drained him even more. It was a good tiredness though.
* Avon. *
He hugged her, pressing their bodies tighter together. * Can I open my eyes now? *
She could feel that he was relaxed. There was a light playful quality where she was touching his mind. * I think you do very well with them closed. *
Avon chuckled. * We do seem to, don't we? *
* Avon. Can we talk for a moment? * She continued to touch him both mentally and physically, and sending along a sense of peace and contentment; keeping him distracted. This was somewhat of a mistake.
* Hmm? * Avon asked absently as he leaned forward to kiss her. Despite his tiredness, he still had not had enough of her. Cally discovered the same thing as they became caught up in each other again.
Reya was leaned back against Argus as they conversed. He lightly traced his fingers down her right arm. He was trying to ignore that fact that Sester was in the next bed. At least the man had the decency to have his back towards them and pretend to be asleep. Argus doubted if he was asleep but he tried not to let that bother him. He was playing with the idea of asking him to move. Avon’s bed was vacated. He doubted if he would need it again tonight.
Reya asked, “Argus, what do you think about me making a Challenge?”
“Are you sure you’re up to it?”
She twisted around to look at him. “I want to do this.”
She stressed, “I’m the only one who can.”
“I know that too.”
Reya turned around and leaned back against him. “You’ll be there with me.”
Argus said fiercely, “Yes. I’m not going to let you out of my sight.” He put his arms around her and hugged her as if to emphasize it. “No one is going to hurt you again.”
“Argus.” With difficulty, she turned around in his hug and faced him. “I want to do something more than just issue a Challenge.”
Both Argus and the not-really-sleeping Sester blurted out, “No.”
Sester sat up and looked at Reya while Argus stared at her.
Argus said, “Reya, you’re in no condition to do anything other than issue the formal Challenge.”
Reya had a hard set to her jaw. “We agreed that I’m the only one who can.”
Argus shook his head. “But that was only to issue the Challenge. The rest of it has to be left to us.”
Reya stubbornly pointed out, “You’re still recovering from your wound.”
Until she had mentioned it Argus had almost forgotten the laser pistol burn to his side. It was only a minor inconvenience that was easily ignored. “That’s different. It’s nowhere near as serious as yours and I can’t even feel it anymore.”
Reya unexpectedly pressed on the area that was not supposed to be hurting. Argus tried to stop himself from grimacing but was only partially successful; and definitely not successfully enough for her.
Reya asked, “You were saying?”
Sester said, “He’s only thinking of you.”
Argus had to keep reminding himself not to react negatively whenever Sester opened his mouth, especially when they both appeared to be on the same side this time. He only managed just the barest of glares as he said, “He’s right. We’re only thinking of you. We don’t want you to get hurt.”
Having two against one should have evened the odds somewhat but not where Reya was concerned. She said, “I have an opportunity to do something even bigger here. And show the Chandarans something they’ve never seen before.”
Argus said, “But you’ve already done that, Reya. You’ve shaken the foundations of their society and shown them that women are not limited and worthless without a man.”
Sester asked, “What did you have in mind?”
This time Argus managed a full glare at his nemesis.
Reya told them, “I want to be the one who stands up and exposes the aliens.”
Sester’s eyes narrowed slightly. “You want to fight them?”
She said, “Yes.”
Argus and Sester both expressed the same sentiment, at the same time. “No! Absolutely not!”
Avon was almost exhausted by the time he and Cally finally finished. This time, it had been more a stimulation of the mind than the body. He couldn’t handle anything more.
His arms surrounded Cally in an embrace as he rested his head on her shoulder. This time he had opened himself enough that she could sense the areas that were hidden. She didn’t touch them, only noted them with curiosity and passed on. It made him trust her even more. She would not push him until he was ready.
Without thinking about it, he slipped into the more intimate communication of their minds. * Cally. You wished to talk about something earlier? *
There was a slight spark of apprehension as Cally was surprised by the unexpected question. This time, she did not touch him; she only sent him a wave of gentleness and peace. * Yes, there was something. *
Avon raised his head in order to meet her gaze. There was a touch of concern in his eyes. * Is there something wrong? *
Cally’s perceptions of Avon were still very open and his guards had not gone back up yet. * You’re in full control of your mind. *
Avon noted that she was not asking a question, she was stressing a statement of fact.
* As much as I can be with all that’s happened. Is that significant? *
Cally said quietly, * Yes. * Peace and reassurance continued to emanate from her as she calmly told him what his memories would not allow him to recall.
Avon absorbed the information impassively. His eyes indicated that he was deep in thought when she finished. * I see. *
At first, Cally was relieved that he seemed to be taking it in stride. But this total lack of reaction was a bit disconcerting. She asked him, * Are you alright? *
* You were concerned? *
Cally replied, * I thought I might have to be. *
* That’s what tonight was about? *
Cally said, * No. Tonight was about both of us. *
* You don’t have to be concerned about me, Cally, though I realize it might be a futile thing to say to you. *
* I can’t help it. *
A sliver of a grin appeared on Avon’s face at this confirmation of what he had just said. * And I can’t seem to help worrying you. It appears to be another skill I have acquired along the way. *
Cally asked, * Why aren’t you more worried? *
* There is no point in worrying about something I can do nothing about at present. You’ve become used to my increasing lack of control over my emotions? *
Cally said with consternation, * I guess I have. You appear to be back to your old self. *
Avon touched her face gently. * Not completely. I doubt if you would want that. *
Cally asked, * But is it what you want, Avon? * Her eyes searched his face and her senses touched his mind; seeking for an answer that would satisfy them both.
Avon wasn’t sure that he wanted it for himself but it had become an integral part of his relationship with Cally and Vila. He didn't want to lose it for their sakes. He just wished he had more time. The Tellaran's offer of help was appreciated but he had learned not to hope too soon.
There was a momentary memory from the cell he had shared with Reya. He remembered a lesson he had learned there, a lesson about last messages.
Avon said, * Yes, it is. *
The dining area was quiet and deserted for once. The bulk of the crew had gone to sleep, leaving only those who suffered from a lack of restfulness; and Vila and Corinne.
It was a pleasant surprise to find that she was a night owl like himself. They had started sharing a late night snack together, when her father wasn’t looking for her. It had almost become a ritual; although really it was only the second time they were doing this.
They were drinking hot tea and enjoying a plate of biscuits. The other thing Vila had been doing was introducing her to some of the best cuisine that the food dispensers were capable of producing. Her particular favourite were chocolate chip biscuits.
Corinne said, “I really am sorry about today.”
This was the fifth time she had said this since they came back.
Vila said, “You don’t have to keep apologizing, Corinne. I know you were trying to help.”
“Sometimes, when I want to do something, I get impatient. I don’t get to do much that's interesting or exciting. Just study and exercise. My parents tried to be very careful so when I get a chance, I guess I can get a little carried away.”
Vila said sympathetically, “It must have been boring.”
“I know I shouldn’t complain. I had it better than the other women on my planet.”
“You’re free from that now.”
“Yes, thanks to you and your friends.”
Vila’s face brightened with an idea. “How’d you like to do something much less boring?”
“I’d love to.”
There was a big smile on Vila's face as he picked up his cup and the plate of biscuits and led the way out.