When Avon entered his lab, it felt like being home. It was the one place on the ship that he felt the most comfortable in. Not that his cabin wasn't a good place for him but this space was his.
Even though Cally used it to work on her medical studies and they spent time together here, this was the acknowledged place for his projects and his work. It was where he exercised his mind on problems that were his specialty. Unless there was something important, everyone else knew to leave him alone here. That is unless they were concerned about him; then it was easiest place to find him. Which could be annoying for someone who needed his privacy and his space.
Avon rubbed his palm absently as he looked over the partially finished projects that had had not been touched since he was last here. Too many things to do. Did he have the time to finish them?
So far his mind was still able to function on this level. When would this begin to be affected as well?
No. Such thoughts were non-productive and would most likely produce one of the undesirable states that would unbalance his current equilibrium. Not to mention, it would worry Cally and she would be making a visit into his mind to inquire, discreetly of course, if he was alright. The best way to deal with it was to not think about it.
Avon sat down and picked up the oscillator device that had been used to detect the Chandaran's treachery during the Commander's combat match.
Vila hovered just outside Avon's lab before entering; his feet paused between going in and staying out in the corridor. Usually when he visited here, he would barge right in but today he hesitated. He knew he had to be careful. Cally had told them all that under no circumstances was Avon to be stressed.
Vila hoped that an expression of friendship would not be considered too stressful. This was Avon though, it probably would be. That was why he was hesitating.
He knew that these days Avon was willing to give more expression to how he felt about people. The positive things and only on the odd occasion, but it was far better than the guess-the-motivation attitude he used to have before.
Being open to accepting feelings from someone else was very different though. In many ways it would be even more disturbing for someone like him.
At times, approaching Avon felt as perilous as facing real danger for Vila. Being ready with a snark or two helped; a good offence to put him off before he could say anything, or having a good retort so that Avon would know that he was dealing with someone who couldn't be dismissed, the way most Alphas did to Delta grades.
At times he thought that he surprised Avon in the past and there was just a little bit of grudging respect. Or so he preferred to think but Avon would never admit it. There was one thing he always thought odd, of all the people that Avon did throw snarks at, he only bothered to be consistently witty with him; with him he took the extra effort.
At times Vila missed that banter from the old days but in those days he had to guess whether Avon cared about him. Sometimes it seemed he did. At other times it wasn't so clear and at still at other times Vila thought Avon despised him.
It didn't help that he had felt weak in those days, the kind of person Avon thought easily led and who let others do his thinking for him, the kind of person Avon had very little respect for.
Avon ran around doing things with the ship, doing researching or inventing gadgets to help them all. Extra things no one had asked him to do, just like he was doing now. The man didn't seem to rest. When he compared himself to Avon in those days, Vila felt he had barely done anything; he never liked working unless he had to. He did feel a bit guilty now.
Not to mention Avon had voluntarily gone down into danger without anyone asking him to, while he usually had to be pushed or tricked, even to help himself. Their relationship was very screwed up at times with Avon treating him badly and he using Avon to bear the risks he didn’t want to and to keep him safe. It had been a vicious cycle neither of them had been able to break.
Until now. He would forgo all of the banter for this chance to build a relationship where they were both equals, sharing the danger, the respect and the work. They still had a long way to go. He had to overcome his own weakness as much as Avon had to his.
Vila's brow unfurled and he had a determined look on his face as he activated the door panel and entered the lab.
Avon looked up to see Vila entering. He kept his emotional state even, not allowing himself to register annoyance at having his private sanctuary invaded. Just deal with the situation as quickly and with as little complication as possible and move on.
Vila came over and sat near him. "I wanted to see how you were. See if you needed anything."
For Avon, this was worse than an invasion of privacy. It was an expression of caring and concern; an indication that people thought he needed help and couldn't take care of himself. It was an unwelcome reminder that he was weak and dependent on others.
Emotions began to surface.
No. He had to think this through. He could not allow himself to lose control. It would be too dangerous.
In order to deal with this he either had to accept the caring or dismiss it.
Avon studied Vila's concerned face.
He remembered his resolve to rebuild their relationship. Vila was important to him. Just as Cally was important to him but in a different way.
How would Vila react to having his caring dismissed? Avon doubted if it would be good. It never concerned him before how someone else would feel about his actions. He certainly hadn't cared about his own feelings and no one else seemed to either. It wasn't that important.
It was now. Despite the denials of his logical mind, Avon was intimately acquainted with the real power of emotions. Servalan and Sester had almost destroyed him with them; they had come close to breaking him with them. He had been made to experience emotional pain and horror and paralyzing fear and guilt; in greater intensities than any human being could possibly handle and still be able to remain sane.
Avon wasn't sure why he still was. Perhaps this reality was just a figment of a mind that had finally let go. Maybe he was still in the Detention Centre. And the life of this Avon he was experiencing now, the one who was more human than he had ever been before, was really the delusion of a deranged mind. A fantasy of a life that wasn't possible for someone like him.
Vila was used to the long and intense stares from Avon but this was just a bit too long. He asked, "Avon, are you alright?"
Avon was startled out of his thoughts. "Of course."
"I just thought…never mind." Vila knew it wasn't a good idea to continue acting worried around Avon.
Avon wanted to ask brusquely, "What do you want, Vila? I’m busy." He knew that this would push Vila away and then he would have the privacy he wanted.
His mind was still caught up in thoughts he hadn't finished processing yet. He hadn't decided what he should do; he needed to finish this train of thought.
Avon realized that he had already determined that he didn't want to hurt Vila by being dismissive of his expressions of concern. It was a logical choice given his decision that this relationship was important to him; important enough to practice those expressions that other people seemed to need.
He struggled with his own pride and his need to appear strong and in control. The desires to be independent and to be able to stand alone were powerful.
Avon managed a slightly warmer voice as he said, "Thank you. For your concern."
Vila's eyes widened in surprise. "Oh, well. You're welcome."
"If I need anything, I will let you know. Was there anything else?"
Vila looked down at the oscillator that Avon was working on. "I could help with that. Not that you need any help. You don't need anyone but I thought it might be nice if we could spend some time together. I mean, if you don't mind. It's alright if you don't. I know you like being alone. And maybe I'd better leave." He got up to go.
Avon said, "Stay." If he was committed to making this relationship work, he was going to do what was needed. He would have to learn to sacrifice his desire to be alone sometimes. "We can work on this together."
Vila sat down and looked at him. His offer to help and the desire to spend time with Avon had been genuine but he hadn't seriously expected Avon to take him up on it.
Avon added with a very non-expressive face, "Not that I need any help."
Vila's face broke out into a grin. "Of course not."
The lab was silent again. Vila was gone. He should be on the flight deck by now, attending to his shift. Avon was already working on his next project, a new design for the teleport bracelet. This one was to be much smaller and would be made to look and function as a normal wrist chronometer.
With Vila's help, Avon had able to finish expanding the capabilities of the phase oscillator device much faster than he would have on his own. Now it covered a much larger area and was able to detect a wider range of signals.
Avon had to admit that it had been enjoyable working with Vila. Vila had a turn towards humour and kept up a constant banter that helped distract his mind from more sombre thoughts. Too much of it would have started irritating him but that was something they would have to work on.
The door to the lab slid open revealing Argus. He strode in purposefully and came over to the table. "I know you're busy."
Avon stared at him, not answering. It was evident that he was busy, there was no need to reply.
Argus said, "I wanted to run something by you." He sat down.
Avon almost groaned when it looked like Argus was making himself comfortable for a much longer visit. "What do you want?"
"We need a way to detect the presence of the aliens."
This was interesting. "That would be useful," agreed Avon. He put the teleport bracelet he had been working with down on the table. "But it would require the capture of one of them in order to determine the differences."
Argus sighed and said, "But we would have to find one of them first."
Avon replied, "Yes."
"Have you considered questioning Poul and the others you're holding?"
"I have Sester and Cally doing that now."
This was also interesting. Avon asked, "You're working with Sester now?"
Argus grimaced. "Don't ask."
A half-grin appeared on Avon's face. He had observed the interaction between Argus, Reya and Sester in the medical unit. It had been amusing and very informative. "His skills should prove useful."
Argus was puzzled. Of all people, he would have expected Avon to be the one most opposed to any association with the man who had destroyed his life. "You don't mind that I'm letting him help?"
"We are using him. Not becoming friends."
Argus nodded and asked casually, "How are you feeling?" He had wanted to ask this first but didn't want Avon to know that this was the primary reason why he had come. Cally had been very explicit in her instructions. They were not to make Avon feel as if he was weak and needed help.
Avon's eyes were focussed on his while Argus tried to keep his face neutral.
Avon said, "The drugs are working."
"Oh good. I wasn't worried. I…"
"You just wanted to make sure."
"Something like that." Argus looked down at the teleport bracelet and the oscillator device he recognized. "I know you have a lot to do but none of these are more important than your health. I wanted you to know that."
Another expression of concern; today seemed to be full of them. This man was a partner and he was saying that he valued him beyond their usefulness to each other. It was the act of a friend. Avon said, "Don’t be a fool. These are important. Without them we won't be able to do what we need to do."
Argus said, "I know they're important. I know what we are doing is important." He stopped for a moment, as if this was something he found hard to say. "I don't want to lose you."
Argus seemed to look embarrassed. It appeared that expressions of sentiment were as difficult for him as they were for Avon. "If we lose this battle, there will be other ones."
Avon said, "Perhaps you could have me cloned. I believe the Aurons still possess that technology."
"That's not funny, Avon."
For a second, there was the barest of grins on Avon's face. "Alright."
Argus seemed as if he was on the verge of saying something else but was hesitating again. He squared his shoulders a bit more and said, "I know we've only talked about being partners but…I also consider you a friend." He looked nervously at Avon, wondering how the other man would react.
Avon's eyes narrowed. It was too much of a coincidence that both Vila and Argus wanted to show this level of concern and desire for friendship today. "Did Cally say something to all of you about me?"
"No. I mean, she just said to be careful about stressing you. That's all." He realized what Avon must be thinking. "I'm not doing this… because of your condition. I really mean it. I've been meaning to speak to you but I'm not good at talking about things. Give me a fight any day and I'll be raring to go. But this…it's harder than…" It was getting increasingly more awkward for him.
Some inexplicable impulse made Avon extend his hand. It surprised himself as much as it did Argus. The two men who found actions much more comfortable than words, shook hands together for the first time as friends.
Addendum: Dialogue with Characters
Writer: Are you all satisfied now?
Writer: Oh, come on. We had a whole chapter focused on you.
Avon: It wasn't just about me.
The unruly lot is staring at the writer, making her very uncomfortable. (Servalan has come in unnoticed.)
Writer: Oh alright. You all wanted this.
Argus: Yes. I hope you don't mind.
Vila: We needed to get it off our chests. It's important.
Cally: This is why you're writing this story. It's not about the action, it's about the characters.
Servalan (speaks up): I agree. It's about the characters. Specifically one character, ME. And Avon of course. When do I get MY scene. After all they're not the only ones who have an interest in Avon.
Avon (steps forward with cold anger): Leave, Servalan.
Servalan: I am so misunderstood. Very well. I'm only here to deliver a message. I've been quiet lately but don't think it means I haven't been busy.
(She gives them all a wintry smile, turns around and sweeps from the room.)
Avon: We'll be ready for her.
Cally: We should have Sester speak to her.
Avon: We should find out how useful he is.