Avon stood up and moved threateningly forwards as Sester came towards the gathered group. Cally placed a gentle hand on Avon's shoulder and he stopped, his head angling towards her. * He may know something. *
Cally projected to him, * I know. *
There was a fleeting grin on Sester's face as he came closer. His eyes connected with Avon's and the two men stared at each other. Argus stepped between them. His glare and his protective posture caused Sester to smile with amusement.
The Tellarans watched this interaction with cautious interest. They weren’t used to such open hostility. Alyce stepped forward. "Welcome, Sester. You've come to see how Avon is?"
Sester glanced at Avon and then Argus before he said pleasantly, "That was my intent."
"It is a good intent."
"I thought so." His manner was warm, sincere and full of light humour. "And before you ask, Avon, I don’t know what was done to you by Servalan and I don’t know what was done to you in the past. That knowledge was kept from me."
A cynical snarl appeared on Avon’s face. “You expect me to believe that?”
Before either man could escalate this further, Reya's earnest voice asked, "Could you find out?"
Sester gave a nervous, wondering laugh. Reya always knew more about him than was comfortable. Asking him this in front of the others meant that it was very important to her. In addition, it avoided any personal games he might play. However, that didn't mean that he didn't have other options. He looked at Argus, and with a trace of mischievous in his eyes asked, "Do you want me to?"
Argus avoided the snarl from appearing his own face but his right fist clenched in frustration. He was about to respond when Avon stepped up beside him and said with a menacing growl, "We don't need your help."
Cambrin, the man from the Impact Analysis Department, had come into the room and had been watching this exchange quietly. He heard that Sester had arrived on the planet and was headed to the medical facility that was treating Avon.
There was sympathy and interest in Cambrin’s eyes as he observed the barely veiled hostility directed towards Sester. When he spoke, it was with deliberateness. "But he wants to help."
Sester's back straightened as he recognized the voice. For a second, his expression did not change and then a smile stretched his face. He turned around to face Cambrin. He knew what this man was now. When their eyes met, they both knew that he knew.
Cambrin smiled in return, "I'm surprised it took you that long."
"I didn't expect a fellow practitioner to be here of all places," said Sester with studied amusement. "What would a psychostrategist be doing in this paradise?"
The crew were frozen in shock. Like Sester, this was also the last thing they expected. Avon's eyes narrowed as he looked at Sester and Cambrin. He could feel Argus tensing beside him.
Cambrin said, “You should know why.”
Sester thought for a moment and then a knowing grin appeared on his face, “Of course. I should have realized. It had to have been.”
Vila remarked under his breath, “Well he’s definitely a psychostrategist then. I don’t understand a word either one of them are saying.”
Argus tried to keep the suspicion out of his voice when he asked Alyce, “You employ psychostrategists from the Federation?”
Alyce turned friendly eyes towards him, “We have our own.”
Argus wasn’t expecting that response.
Alyce said, “You’re concerned? In your experience of psychostrategists, you cannot think of a use for such skills here?”
Argus admitted, “No.” He did not want to offend but he was cautious. His knowledge and experience of psychostrategists in the Federation made him instantly wary of any society that would use them.
Alyce said, “Cambrin, why don’t you explain?”
Cambrin nodded. He did not have the casual affability of Sester or the warm friendliness of Alyce but he had a studied but light pleasantness in his manner. “In the Federation, the skills of a psychostrategist are used as a weapon. They are employed to manipulate individuals or groups of individuals in order to meet the purposes of the Federation.”
He looked briefly at Sester. No objection was forthcoming from his counterpart but there was a wary watchfulness about him.
Reya asked, “How are they different here?”
Cambrin turned his head towards her; there was a look of respect on his eyes. “In the Tellar Union, the same skills are used with the full consent of our people, in order to meet the needs of our society. All societies must change and adapt in order to survive. Particularly in the hostile environment which surrounds us. As psychostrategists, we are responsible for determining possible short and long-term effects and dangers of various key actions, changes and influences and how it fits into the goals of our society. We make recommendations on optimal paths and build strategies to meet those goals. Whether the strategies are followed is determined by our own people.”
Argus said, “That’s why Alyce referred to your group as her Impact Analysis Department?”
“Yes. That is our primary role.”
Avon was highly sceptical. Manipulation of any kind had never been positive for him. The idea of consensual manipulation seemed less than likely. “What you describe sounds like human engineering.”
Cambrin smiled pleasantly, “Informed human engineering. We shape our society according to our goals rather than leaving it to random forces based on chance or momentary whims. We are here to serve the needs of our people.”
Even though Avon found it hard to believe, he could not deny that he was fascinated by this idea. “A society based on intelligent principles and focused on pre-determined goals?”
“Determined by our own people. Yes.”
Alyce said, “I assure you that it works. The psychostrategists were key to changing our society to what it is now.”
Cambrin shook his head, “The people of Tellar were the key. We wanted this to happen. The psychostrategists just provided the necessary social tools and strategies to do it.”
There was a great deal of respect between Alyce and Cambrin. She said teasingly, “They are also extremely modest.”
A look of wry irritation appeared on Cambrin’s face and then he grinned.
Vila turned to Sester, “Why don’t you do that?”
Sester had not made any comments or added anything to what Cambrin was saying. He knew what they were all thinking so Vila’s question came as no surprise.
Everyone looked towards him, making him feel like something under a microscanner. He said, “You wouldn’t understand.”
In a gentle voice, Reya said, “You’re right, we don’t understand. But we would like to.”
Sester remembered that he had discussed this topic with her before. Obviously, she didn’t accept his reasoning then. Sometimes, he had to admit, he wasn’t so sure himself these days.
He had felt increasingly uneasy as Cambrin describe the way psychostrategy worked in the Tellar Union. Fear touched him. He had to get away from here; he knew why Cambrin had been so interested in seeing him. He could not allow this man to influence him.
Sester’s psychostrategist instincts screamed the danger. He was starting to get a headache. The longer he listened, the worse it was getting.
He had already allowed too much to influence him.
Being intimately involved in destroying Avon, someone he had come to respect, had slowly stripped away his detached objectivity. It had shaken him to the point where he became personally involved; risking his own life to save someone whom he could no longer view as a puppet.
In many ways, he had Servalan to thank, or to blame for that. She had used him in a way that psychostrategists were not meant to be used.
His decision to become involved with Reya had destroyed that detachment further. He could see it very clearly. His own mistakes that had brought him to this point.
Too many people on the ship had become human to him. It wasn’t just these two anymore. If the Guild Council knew, they would have him removed immediately. A psychostrategist who developed a personal agenda was too dangerous.
He was a psychostrategist. That was his identity. Without it, he was nothing. He could not allow this deterioration to go further.
Reya’s eyes were full of compassion. He could almost swear that she knew the struggle that was going on inside him. He had to escape this oppressive atmosphere but her eyes held him still. To reverse the deterioration, he had to lose her. He couldn’t do that.
Sester could almost ‘feel’ Avon’s eyes boring into him, seeking out the places that activated the feelings of guilt he always carried. He knew he couldn’t leave. There was a debt to repay.
The pain in his head had continued building until it was almost unbearable. He turned to Cambrin and said with a voice dripping with cold menace. “Don’t try to manipulate me, Cambrin. It won’t work.” All pleasantness had disappeared from his manner.
Avon and Cally were in their cabin sharing an embrace; their arms wrapped around each other, Cally's head resting against his chest, enjoying a rare moment of warmth.
“Avon, do you want to discuss what the specialists told us today?”
“Not particularly. But I imagine that you do?”
“Would you mind?”
Avon hesitated. His first instinct was to say yes. With anyone else, he would have but he had made a commitment to this relationship. “I would be lying if I said no.”
Cally rested her head against his chest again in disappointment. “Alright.”
Avon pulled back and lifted her chin up to look at her face. “But that doesn’t mean that I won’t. What would you like to talk about?”
“You don’t like the first option, do you? Even though it is the best one.”
Avon knew what the next question would be before he answered her first one. “The idea of exposing myself is almost as bad as the other options. The only viable one for me is to find out what really happened.”
Cally pressed the flat of her hand against his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart and the warmth of life that radiated from him. “But you know that option is dangerous. I don’t want to lose you. None of us do.”
“It’s only a possibility, Cally. It may not happen. Eventually we will have to find out the truth regardless of the option.”
She rubbed her palm against his chest lightly. “Why won’t you consider the last option, Avon?”
Avon didn’t have to think about it. “No.” His eyes followed the movement of her hand on his chest.
“But it would solve...”
“I can’t do it. Don’t ask me to.” The tone in his voice told her that he had closed this topic. Cally knew that to pursue it further would not produce any results and would only make him stubborn.
She sighed inwardly. It was always difficult to get him to discuss anything personal. It usually took him awhile to open up. Each time was a slow, patient struggle on her part.
Her instinct told her that now was not the time to broach it further. There would be time, when he was more ready. Instead she said, “Avon, you’ve been able to communicate with me using your mind. Something I didn’t think was possible for a human.”
Avon’s head tilted with curiosity, wondering why she would make so obvious a remark. He gave a cautious acknowledgement. “Yes.”
“Avon, do you trust me?”
Even curiouser. This was a question they had already dealt with quite adequately before. She must have a reason for asking it again.
Avon was aware that some women required constant reassurances, though usually it was in the nature of love. It appeared that Auronar women may be no different. “I’m afraid that I do.”
“Enough to allow me more access to your mind?”
Ahh. This was where the conversation was going. Ever cautious, Avon asked, "Why don’t you tell me what you have in mind?”
He would deny her nothing. But… “I like to know what to prepare for.”
Cally lifted her head from his chest and met his eyes. “On Auron, when we share physical intimacy, it is much deeper than what we have been sharing."
He was aware of a slight increase in his own metabolism as the other half of the conversation revealed itself. And also a feeling of…
Cally continued, "It is almost entirely with the mind. The physical aspects are incidental and only add another sensation of pleasure but usually it is not required.”
This was interesting. Though they had shared both the physical and mental aspects of sex before, he had been too preoccupied to ask for any details about Auronar practices. “Then how do you reproduce?”
“Those of the psi generations are clones, remember? Normal biological reproduction is not an imperative for us. And as the mental experience is very intense, the physical aspects are usually not as important.”
This was troubling. The mental aspects she had shared with him had been a revelation and extremely pleasurable but she seemed to be suggesting that there was a whole level of experience that was still missing. It was a blow to discover that what he had shared with her was lacking in some way and that it had to do with his own inabilities. “Are you saying that our sexual...experiences have been unsatisfying?”
Her hand rubbed his chest again. “No. It has been very enjoyable.”
“Just not very intense.” A self-mocking quality crept into his tone.
“The physical pleasure you have shown me has been…”
He cut her off, “As strong as the mental? Which is not that strong from what you've just expressed.”
Cally's eyes held light amusement. “Avon, have I hurt your pride?”
His denial was just a little too quick. “I’m only trying to establish a relational comparison. To see what…”
“You are hurt. I'm sorry, I didn't mean for you to take it like that. Sex with you has been beyond anything I could imagine possible.”
There was a petulant quality in Avon's voice now. "Now, you're just patronizing me."
Cally refrained from sighing. Male pride was a difficult thing to handle once it was hurt. She would have to fix this somehow. But how to do it without prickling that sensitive male pride further was a challenge; especially with someone who had suffered many blows to his self-esteem.
What she had originally intended to do with him might not be a wise idea. It had been in the nature of an experiment, something she had thought he might appreciate. Nevertheless, she realized that it touched an area that was very sensitive to a male. If the experiment failed, he would take it very personally.
Avon's next words surprised her. “You brought this up because you think that I’m capable of this increased level of mental activity? Even though I am not an Auronar?” It was almost as if he had read her mind.
“From what you’ve been able to achieve so far, I thought it might be possible.”
Avon realized that he had misjudged the situation and overreacted. "You wanted to experiment?"
Cally wasn't sure now. She didn't want to run the risk of hurting him. "I know it's a silly idea. Forget I mentioned it." The last thing she wanted was that he would approach their future moments of intimacy with the idea that he was inadequate in some way.
There was awkwardness between them. Avon knew it was his fault. A flash of irrational pride on his part had brought up a barrier between them. He had already shut her down in their discussion about the options that the Tellarans had presented. There were too many barriers of his own making. He did not want another one.
He lightened the tone in his voice and said with a deadpan face, “In the interest of science and alien diplomacy, I think we must undertake this experiment.”
Cally's eyes searched his and said with hesitation, "Are you sure, Avon?"
"All knowledge is useful."
His eyes were dark and mysterious but she could almost swear there was a faint twinkle in them.
Cally began to remove her clothing. Avon stared at her for a moment as she slid her top down over her shoulders and the soft light of the cabin played over her bare skin.
He asked, “Do we need to remove our clothes if the sex is to be mental in nature?”
Seeing that he had not made a start yet, Cally decided to help him. She unsnapped the top button of his jacket. “I am not losing the physical aspects of our joining. You’ve shown me that it is possible to experience great pleasure even without the touching of minds.”
“You wish to experiment with both?” His voice was full of light amusement.
“If you’re up for it.”
Avon pressed his body lightly against hers and smiled. “What do you think?”
Her eyes widened at the contact. “I think that you have far too much clothing on.”
“How inefficient of me.”
He began to help her take his clothes off.
As Cally stripped of his outer jacket, she asked a question she had always wanted the answer to. "Avon, why do you wear all these layers? Is your metabolism suited to warmer climates?"
"I've never thought about it."
It did not take long to shed the rest of their clothing. Avon tilted her head up and brought their lips close. Cally's lips parted in anticipation. He came closer, teasing her but not touching. They could feel the heat from each other's bodies, their mutual desires warming them into an overwhelming hunger. His voice was husky as he asked in a whisper, "What do you want me to do?"
Cally used her mind. * Are you sure you want to do this, Avon? *
Avon's gaze was steady on hers and a smile played on his lips, * For the advancement of science, I think we must. *
Gently and deliberately, Cally's mental presence brushed lightly along his barriers. Avon drew in a quick hiss of breath at the erotic nature of her invisible touch.
Cally's voice was soft and enticing, loving and encouraging as she continued to play lightly and teasingly along his psychological barriers. * Let me in, Avon. *
Avon closed his eyes and concentrated on the touch of Cally's mind. Each time they attempted to achieve greater intimacy with their minds, they would have to wait for him.
The putting up of barriers was instinctive. It required no thought. He had no mechanisms for bringing them down. In fact, he had automatic reactions to prevent them from coming down. It was called fear. Not the kind that he imagined Vila felt; that heart-pounding fear that dried ones mouth and threatened to scramble the mind. His was the opposite response; offense masking any hint of fear. Prickly barriers that warned off anyone daring to get close. It had made for a lonely and isolating existence, but for him it had been better than the alternative.
Avon trusted Cally. He trusted her more than anyone he had ever known, including Anna. For her, he would do anything. Even this.
Slowly, he relaxed. With Cally touching his mind, he was aware of his own mental barriers as if they were a physical object. Thick calloused walls. Like layers upon layers of hard scabs; wounds that had healed over without benefit of a tissue regenerator.
She brushed gently along his barriers again; a loving and enticing presence. He could feel her desire for him; it fuelled and intensified his own. Their bodies were more than ready but the goal was something potentially more powerful.
Avon was aware of the stirring of old apprehensions. Fears of allowing Cally close enough to hurt him if she wanted; the fear of exposing himself and having her reject him. Fear that she would be fascinated by his usefulness and forget the man that was inside. A lifetime of fears camouflaged under a layer of hostile indifference and arrogance.
No. What was he thinking? Cally was not like that.
For him, love was the ultimate act of irrationality because it meant willingly putting your trust in someone without the benefit of assurances.
Trust is only dangerous when you have to rely on it. He had told that to Anna even as he put his trust in her. She must have found him such a fool.
There was a stab of pain and guilt. Anna had betrayed him but she had also loved him enough to let him go. And he had killed her. She may not have meant to shoot him in the back. Had he made another mistake? Another fatal…
His heart began racing. He did not want any more surprises.
* Avon. * Cally's soft presence brushed against him in concern.
* Cally. * Her name came out as a choked response and he opened tortured eyes to look at her.
Except, it wasn't his eyes. Not the eyes that could discern colour, textures and needed light for vision; that imperfect sense that could be blinded by so many things. This was a different seeing. With shock, Avon realized that he was inside Cally's mind.
Avon gasped and his knees buckled at the rush of knowing. He felt Cally's arms wrapping around him in support. He clung onto her even as he 'saw' her for the first time with his mind. There was an overwhelming rush of sensations of another being's mind. It was an ability he had always wanted; to be able to pierce the illusions and see someone for who they truly were.
She was breathtaking. The multi-layered personality. Perfect and imperfect at the same time. And her imperfections only added to her attraction. How is this possible?
Cally told him, You needed it.
Avon's mind reacted in surprise. You heard that?
Yes. You're inside my mind. You do not need to project your thoughts for me to hear them.
Avon fought an immediate rising apprehension born of years of mistrust. It was as if someone had suddenly had stripped him bare.
Cally must have felt his uneasiness because she reassured him; I cannot read your innermost thoughts, Avon. Only the ones that are near the surface. I cannot unless you allow me to.
Avon asked, Like you are allowing me to with your thoughts?
Her naked mind-self was even more beautiful than her physical one.
When Cally answered, it was with a whisper of yielding, Yes.
Avon's breath caught in his throat. This was a raw truth beyond that of machines. The truth of a machine lay in its inability to do anything except what it was designed for. What Cally was offering was something much more valuable. She was willingly laying herself bare because she loved him.
He had finally found what he had not thought possible with a living being.
Touch me, Avon. It was an offer and an imperative.
He knew she wasn't referring to using his hands or the pressing together of their bodies.
Hesitantly, haltingly, clumsily, Avon's mind flowed into hers like a child trying to crawl for the first time; unsure of what he was capable of. He sensed her as a living presence all around him. He was filled with wonder. Her presence was a landscape of dynamically flowing consciousness that he was experiencing as vivid colours and harmonies.
In his mind's eye, he registered a grey area that seemed to darken a corner of her mind; like a gravitational anomaly that would swallow the brightness around it. He approached it with curiosity. Avon felt her immediate discomfort and he mentally backed away.
Cally's mind spoke to him, No, Avon. I want you to touch it. I want you to know me.
Tendrils of his consciousness reached forward gently and carefully, like slender fingers.
A cry of agony escaped both of their lips as he touched the darkness and it echoed in his own pain.
A crashing, aching, painful, unbearable loneliness. The isolation of an Auronar without her own people. The terror of reaching out with your mind and finding that you were completely and utterly alone.
With shock, Avon opened his eyes and looked down into Cally's face. Her physical eyes were still closed, but silent tears of loneliness had welled up at the corner of her lids and flowed down over her cheeks. He had known the tearing loneliness of forced isolation at the Detention Centre but it was nothing compared to this.
Avon held her close, lending her the comfort of his body, and with his mind, he touched the painful darkness again, sharing it with her; reminding her that she was not alone. He knew that he was a poor substitute; he was not an Auronar, he could not possibly fill the void that had been left in her heart. But he gave her what he could.
After what seemed to be a long while, Cally became calm again and she told him, Avon, I want you to continue.
His mental presence gave the impression of shaking his head. This is too painful for you. We should stop.
Cally's mind told him, For an Auronar, life is not about avoiding pain. At least, for me it didn't used to be.
He asked, What changed?
Some truths are too painful to be faced alone and there was no longer any to help me through it.
Avon remembered a day in Cally's cabin. In retrospect, he had said a very foolish and useless thing. Especially in light of what she was saying now. For him, emotional pain had always been dealt with by keeping it a small part of his life. It was ironic that he barely had that ability now himself; it had been taken away from him. He had failed her that day. He had been blind to what she truly needed.
He said, Do you remember that day in your cabin when…
We had our conversation about regrets? I have never forgotten. He could feel a soft, affectionate smile flowing from her.
A shard of guilt passed through him. I failed you that day. I should not have told you to keep regret a small part of your life. That wasn't what you needed to hear.
Cally's presence brushed his gently, sending a tremor of comfort and desire through him. You gave me what I needed. Even if you didn't have the knowledge of what I needed. Caring is not about knowing what to do. It is about doing.
Is that an Auron saying?
He experienced her answer as light laughter. It is adapted from something you said and an Auron saying. This version fits you.
He said with amusement, You mean because it reflects my inability to express how I feel in a way other people would recognize?
Cally's mental voice chuckled.
Avon hugged her closer, feeling the softness of her body rubbing against his. Is this what sex with an Auronar is like? He felt closer to her and more comfortable than he had ever felt with another being.
Cally's eyes turned serious again. It is only a prelude. Baring yourself to your partner is required for a deeper joining.
Avon experienced a fragment of dread. I will have to do this as well? He already knew the answer.
One day. When you're ready. But for now, it's enough for me to do it.
He said, I'm sorry.
Don't be, Avon. I know that you have given me all that you are capable of giving and much more. It is all that I have ever hoped that anyone would do for me.
He asked in a teasing tone, It's the thought that counts? That hardly sounds adequate.
Cally said, Avon! You gave up two years of your life for me. Suffered things that I could only imagine. That is more than adequate for several lifetimes.
Avon continued in a light teasing manner, You're going to keep holding that over me, aren't you?
Only if you insist on being unreasonable.
A grin touched Avon's lips and his mind.
Avon. We are not done yet. I want you to continue.
Avon wavered. He didn’t know if it was his own fear that stopped him or hers. They were so intricately tied together that it was hard to tell.
When he didn't say anything, Cally encouraged him. It has been a long time since I've shared these things with anyone. She paused in sad reflection. I have never shared these things with anyone. I need to.
Her eyes were filled with pain and sorrow. She needed him.
Avon bent his head and kissed her lightly on the lips; a gesture of affection and not desire. Alright.
They both closed their eyes in order to facilitate the joining of their minds again. This time, Avon felt that it was not his own mind that was moving past her barriers. She was moving forward to meet him; opening herself up, allowing him to flow into her.
The ability always resided with her, not him.
That's true, Cally's mind told him.
Avon nearly jumped. It was still disconcerting to have her hear thoughts that he was not deliberately sending her way.
He felt her amusement. You're not used to it yet?
Avon thought wryly, I'm not sure I ever will be.
He willed his mind to relax and opened up his awareness. The grey area was still there. He wasn't sure but it didn't appear as dark anymore.
Avon continued. It was like moving through an unexpected landscape of living shapes and colours and flashes of memories and impressions.
Something up ahead. Powerful. He could feel it drawing him. Painful. He almost recoiled from it. It was impossible to describe its shape, it seethed and moved like a living being. He had an impression of bright red like the trickling of fresh blood flowing from it. His mental presence stopped its advance.
He could sense the undercurrent of pain in Cally's voice. I need you to get closer, Avon. It is the other thing I want you to see.
Avon pushed himself forward, ignoring his own instinct to withdraw. He reached out with his mind and touched the seething red mass.
They both screamed as they felt the dying of a world. Overwhelming feelings of guilt, loss and horror crashed through their barriers. The horrible sense that they should not be alive when so many were dead. They both fell to their knees, holding onto each other, their legs no longer able to stand up in the face of overpowering grief and desolation.
Avon's mind struggled to maintain coherence even as he felt the feelings continue to overwhelm Cally. There were so many points of connection with his own experiences that he should have been swept up too. For some reason he was just barely able to stay in control. For Cally's sake, he was glad. For once, he would be able to help her.
Avon held her tightly in his arms and opened up his internal awareness, straining past his own reactions to the emotions that were too painful to bear. He couldn't think about it now. He had to help Cally.
With shock, Avon sensed that Cally wasn't just being overwhelmed with emotions, she was allowing them to. She was letting them engulf her in their devastating power. She wanted this; wanted them to hurt her, to tear at her, to bury her and to punish her for still being alive.
Avon felt a sharp echo of familiar pain; it was a state he understood very well.
What Cally was experiencing was the death of Auron. The feeling of helplessness paralyzed her. She could not, would not fight the onslaught of the guilt at having survived when most of her people had not. The sorrow and aching loneliness ate at her as the voices faded away, one by one until there was nothing left except the horrifying isolation of her own thoughts.
Avon felt the tears slowly trickle down Cally's face, building up until it became a torrent of grief as Cally began sobbing, her body heaving and her mind wracked with inconsolable grief and guilt. Avon encircled her with his arms as her head dropped to his shoulder.
To feel another person's essence on this profound a level, to experience the depth of their sorrows and the devastation of their souls, touched Avon in a way nothing else had before. They were connected in their pains. Avon's mind touched hers in comfort and love. An instinct from one suffering being to another.
Avon continued to hold her tightly, allowing her to grieve and listening as she began sharing about all the things that weighed her down; a burden of living that was so heavy that at times it threatened to cut off her ability to breathe. As Cally's sobs began to die down, Avon kissed the top of her head and then lifted her up gently in his arms. He could feel his back strain and it was an effort not to drop her but he managed to get them both onto the bed. He cradled her in his arms as she leaned back against his shoulder.
This was an intimacy beyond anything either of them had ever known. Cally turned tear-stained eyes towards him. and asked, Did I hurt you? I thought I could shield you from most of it but…
It's alright, Cally. I'm fine. I think you did help. I was able to maintain control. The more important question is, how are you feeling?
The warmth and affection in his mental voice was raw and unvarnished. She marvelled at the gentleness and unguarded love she saw in his eyes. He would probably retreat behind his tough protective shell as the pressures of their lives made their demands on him again, but for tonight, he was giving this to her.
She shared, It still hurts. It probably always will but I can face it now. The healing has begun. Thank you, Avon. She kissed him in affection.
Avon said, You asked me before why I would not consider the last option. I did not give you an answer. I would like to now.
He could ‘feel’ her conscious attention.
If I lose the last four years. I may lose one pain, but I would be returning to another. I may hate Servalan for what she did to me. Nevertheless, there is something that I am grateful to her for. She gave me you. I was too protected in myself to be able to reach out to you. Even when I wanted to. Especially after Anna. Perhaps we might have eventually but it would have taken along time. Too much time lost. What Servalan did was to force me to look at what I had been doing to myself and to destroy the control I had. If she had not, what we just did would not have been possible now. I will not lose this. I will not lose you. Or Vila. Even Argus and Reya. I thought once that I could survive alone. That it was the only way I could survive. I was wrong.
As Avon 'talked' to her, they were also exploring each others bodies and minds. They were relaxed and at ease with each other, not in a hurry. It was enough that they were together, their minds touching.
Cally said, But at what cost, Avon? If your memories are erased, you can start over again. We could still have this again.
But there is no guarantee. The person I am now is one of the possibilities of who I could be. I will not lose it. For your sake. For Vila’s. And for mine. If I have to live without this…He leaned towards her and brushed his lips against hers while he lowered his barriers a little to allow her more access to his mind. Her presence was like a gentle, comforting tide as it flowed in to fill the areas he had left for her. It fuelled what they were already doing.
…And risk the chance that we may never regain it again, then I would rather not go through with the surgery that will erase my memories. I would rather be broken and have you than to be whole and risk the chance of never having this again.
Cally said, But, Avon…
Avon lifted his head to look at her. His face was flushed and his pupils were large. I will try the therapy but I would also like to find the truth.
Cally sighed with relief. We will find it together.
Their desires slowly increased as physical and mental expressions fed each other. Cally touched a place in Avon’s mind that she knew would sent ripples of pleasure through his consciousness. He gasped and unconsciously held her tighter. He breathed deeply as the sensation made its way through his awareness. She touched him again and this time, she gasped in surprise and arched towards him as a wave of desire swept over her. Her eyes widened in amazement and she looked at him. There was a smile on his lips.
She asked, That was you?
Yes. I wasn't sure it was possible. When you touched me again, I reached out with my mind. He seemed hesitant, almost shy, at his own newfound ability to give her pleasure. The experiment was a success.