Cally entered her cabin and nearly did a double-take. The table that was normally against the wall was now in the middle of the room and covered in a white cloth-like material. There were utensils laid out and delicious smells from the plates on the table. The lights only gave off a dim light and there was soft music playing over the cabin's speakers. It sounded familiar. With shock, Cally remembered it as a beautiful piece from her home planet.
Avon stood awkwardly by the table and watched her come over to him. When he spoke it was the voice of someone who was hesitant and uncertain. "Do you…like it?"
Cally put her arms around him and gave him a hug. "Yes, very much." With a light teasing tone she said, "I never knew that you were a romantic, Avon."
Avon automatically put his arms around her in return. The warmth and soft feel of her body against his always gave him a sense of comfort he had never felt with anyone else before. It gave peace to a soul that had been fragmented a long time ago. "I thought it would be something you might like. I didn't have any other intentions." The mention of the 'R' word really rattled him for some reason and almost sent him into a panic, which he thankfully managed to suppress. He could almost swear he hadn't been thinking of that when he had Vila help him make the arrangements.
Cally asked, "What I want is important to you?"
She wasn't touching his mind with hers yet. Avon wished she would, that way she would know and he wouldn't have to verbalize it. He brought his hand up and tilted her head up towards him and brushed her cheek lightly with his fingers. It was a gentle touch, what other people would classify as tender but to Avon it was something inexplicably instinctive. "You know it is."
The first time he had touched her like this, Cally had been unconscious, injured by the Avalon android. No one had ever known that he was capable of such an expression of sentiment. There had been no witnesses to something that would have marked him more human than anyone would have guessed.
In that room where he touched her tenderly for the first time, there was only Avon and a woman he dared not show such tenderness to when she was awake enough to know how he felt. It had been a confusing time then. He had been caught up in Blake's madness; with nowhere to go and nothing to keep him safe. He had nothing, not even the ability to keep a promise to a dead woman he still loved more than his own life.
Not daring to get closer to another woman because he still couldn't let go of Anna.
Avon asked Cally, "Do you remember that I once told you that regrets are a part of life?"
"Yes. How could I forget?" In her mind's eyes, Cally recollection of Avon blended with the one who was standing in front of her. She had wished then for the Avon he was now.
With edge of his thumb, Avon lightly traced her jaw line. "I told you the only way to deal with regret was to keep it a small part of your life."
Cally's breathing deepened. "You were trying to help." Avon's light caressing touch and the warmth of their bodies pressed against each other, coupled with the atmosphere of the cabin produced feelings in both of them that if not careful might skip the dinner altogether.
He asked, "It didn't help you, did it?"
Cally admitted wryly. "No. But I knew you meant well. It was the way you dealt with grief. It was the only thing you had to give me and you gave it."
She felt the undercurrent of emotions from Avon as if they were a rushing tide threatening to overrun his defensive walls. It was still strange to sense him as a barely controlled emotional presence rather than the strictly controlled and repressed one that only leaked the occasional feeling in unexpected bursts.
There had been times in the past when his emotions were much closer to the surface, when his mind was too overwhelmed with the reality of the situation to be able to deny them. Usually it was during times of fear or anger.
There had been the rare times when she had sensed something more. The most common one was humour. He had a strong sense of the ironies of his own life as well as the lack of logic in others.
The ones she had been most interested in, the ones which gave her a different impression of him than anyone else, were those times when he felt a carefully hidden caring, usually for people he outwardly would not admit to caring for. It was why she was the only one who understood what he said to Vila and Gan when they accused him of not caring about anyone except himself. She knew it had hurt him when they said that. He had not given them his usual nasty snark, an automatic response that would confirm or even paint an even worse picture of himself. Avon had tried to explain to them who he really was but the logic by which he lived his life was incomprehensible to anyone who didn't sense him in the way she did.
From the first time she became aware of him on Saurian Major, she had an instant connectedness to Avon. She could sense other humans in varying degrees. Blake and Vila more than any of the others. But with Avon it was different. From the beginning, she had known him. Among the Auronar, there was a concept, a special type of relationship that was possible between those who shared psi abilities. They were called twinned souls.
She had never found one among her own people. She had never expected to discover one in the far reaches of space, far from her home. The day on Pleasure City when Avon had produced an Auron rose for her as a gift, she wondered if he knew its true significance. It wasn't just a rose. It was a symbol of twinning; a two-budded flower that was so rare that it was considered a legend.
Her mind was brought back from her thoughts by Avon's next statement, "I wished I had more to give you that day. Something other than a flawed attempt at consolation."
She said gently, "You gave all that you were capable of. That's all that mattered."
"I…wasn't able to do it."
"What weren't you able to do?" She drew her hand slowly down his back, following the curve of the spine that gave him so much trouble when he was under stress. Pressing lightly to relieve some of the tension that he was feeling because of what he was doing.
She sent a sense of peace and calm towards him but didn't touch his mind in the way she normally did. He needed to do this on his own. She could sense that he wanted to tonight.
"I was never able to let go of my regrets over Anna. You must know that by now."
She said with understanding, "Yes. I always knew."
There was a flicker of surprise on Avon's face and then a resigned and slightly amused look in his eyes. "I should have known." He paused for a moment, as if trying to read what was in her eyes. "That wasn't my greatest regret that day when I went to your cabin."
It was Cally's turn to be surprised. "It wasn't?"
"My greatest regret…was you."
Cally's eyes widened in astonishment as Avon explained, "Since that day we first met on Saurian Major…I felt…comfortable with you. We worked well together."
Cally wondered if that was his way of saying that he had felt that connectedness between them as well. For Avon, being able to function well together would have been more important to him than anything else.
Avon said, "Sometimes, I wanted to…I wished I was capable of something more. I enjoyed the time we spent on the Ortega solving the mystery."
"I did too, Avon. We made a good team."
He agreed. "Yes, we did. I wished…it was more like that between us. But it could never be because of Anna. On Earth there is an animal that mates for life, it's called a wolf. It is like that for me. Then later, when I found out the truth about Anna, I thought I had already lost my chance with you."
"It wasn't entirely lost."
"No. After the alien tried to take over your body, we did share some moments afterwards but it could have been much more, Cally. It should have been. It was my fault that it wasn't. I never recognized how much of a fool I was until that day in the cellar with Anna. And I never stopped being the fool with you."
Cally's presence was helping him to maintain enough control over his emotions that he could do this without being overwhelmed. The peace she shared with him helped him to stay calm and focused. There was one thing it couldn't do though. It could not replenish the energy he was expending.
The time spent with Vila had almost exhausted him. Avon knew that he should rest and that he was risking the borrowed time the drugs had given him. But there was also a sense of urgency. There were certain things he needed to do that were even more important to him than the unfinished projects in his lab.
Avon said, "I wanted you to know that."
Cally touched his face and traced his lips with her fingers. "There are many things we both regret."
"I don't want to waste any more time."
"Is that why you did this tonight? This is very unlike you." She was looking down at the table that had been laid out.
"The…sentiment was mine. I wanted to give you all of the things you deserve. The execution was Vila's. I asked him what a woman might like and he helped me set this up."
"I must remember to thank him. I suppose we shouldn't waste this then." She smiled and took Avon's hand. Together they sat down to enjoy a romantic dinner, even though Avon may not have thought of it as such.
Vila yawned and stretched as he tried to keep himself awake. He hated early morning shifts but fortunately this one was about to end. Should he go back for some much needed sleep? He'd barely gotten any the previous night. He and Avon had spent it talking together. Neither one of them had wanted to stop once they had gotten going. He'd never known Avon to be so willing to be open about himself.
Vila knew that it had been hard for him. Each step had been a struggle against a nature that was intensely private. But Avon had been determined, almost driven last night. It was something that he felt he needed to do. It had made Vila increasingly uncomfortable. This was an Avon that he thought he wanted. It had felt good to finally be able to have the friend that he had always wanted but at the same time, something had felt wrong about it. It wasn't because it was something strange and different coming from Avon. There was something else but he didn’t know what it was. It was a nagging worry at the back of his mind as he tended to his duties.
His mind wandered to other thoughts, one that made him smile to no one in particular. Avon had asked him for help. He had wanted to do something for Cally but didn't know what she would want. Everything he thought of had some practical component to it. Avon had wanted something irrational and that was done purely out of sentiment, something she might like. The things he knew that other people did, his mind had dismissed. What he needed was someone with a different mind.
Vila tried to imagine how Cally had reacted when she saw what they had done with their cabin. It was very hard to think of Avon in a romantic setting. Words like mind-boggling came to Vila's mind. No matter how much he tried, he couldn't visualize what Avon would have been doing with all of the things he had set up. Vila smiled again. He wasn't worried. Cally would know what to do and she would guide him through it. Vila wondered if the experience would be as painful for Avon as morning shifts were for him. Somehow he doubted it. Avon loved Cally. Anything done with her would have been what he would want, regardless of how irrelevant he would have thought it was otherwise.
Vila wondered if he should do something similar with Corinne. He had been thinking a lot about her lately. She was someone that he was starting to like very much. There was something special and different about her. She had a curious combination of innocence and jadedness about people. Corinne constantly surprised him and he knew that she would always be a challenge, but a safe one.
He had lost the chance with Kerril. She was forever gone to him and he had never had the courage to tell her that he loved her too. He was determined that whatever chances came up with Corinne, he would not miss a single one.
Argus had his arms around Reya when he woke up. He had been watching her for a long time now. It was restful and he felt at peace. This morning he had decided to forgo his early exercise routine. Spending time with her was more important. Today was a potentially important one for the Chandar Alliance and Reya would have a great deal to do with it. They were going to expose the aliens. But just as significant, Reya was hoping that by her example and sacrifice a new hope would be given to these people who had been living under the darkness of violence for so long. It wasn't just for the women of Chandar that she was doing this, it was also for the men. For any society to truly survive, it needed the equal input of both.
Chandar had been destroying itself for millennia in what it did to its women but also in the pointless sacrifice of lives in wars and conflicts that had no real purpose. They were going to try to help them see that this was a great weakness and that there was a much better way. Reya was going to.
Into the darkness they were going to try to shed a new light and give hope where before there was only pain and death. Perhaps one day, because of what Reya was about to do, all of the wars would end in Chandar and there would finally be peace, not just in this region but this entire Sector.
And Argus hoped one day that peace would extend to the entire Federation. It was a good dream, a noble hope. Watching Reya's strong but also unexpectedly gentle face, it just seemed possible. Argus hugged her and fell back into a peaceful sleep.
From me and all of the unruly (but finally cooperating-at least for now) characters in my head, Avon, Cally, Vila, Argus, Reya and Sester, we wish you all a very Merry Holiday Season and may you all find reasons to have Peace and Hope.