Trying to move an immovable object was just slightly easier than trying to convince Avon that watching a magic show might be something he would enjoy. Of course bearding Avon in his inner sanctum, that being his lab, was not exactly the best place to present your case. There were too many reminders for Avon that he had infinitely more interesting and important things to do.
Avon had both hands inside the workings of a piece of equipment on the table. It gave off sparks occasionally as he poked a long instrument of some sort further inside. Cally kept glancing over at him with a concerned look, half wanting to say something but refraining because she wanted to give him his independence.
Avon was trying to concentrate on what he was doing and listen to the costumed pair of Vila and Corinne.
"Come on, Avon. It'll be fun," said a cape-sporting Vila. "Corinne and I've put together a great show! Haven't we, Corinne?" He was also wearing a short-plumed purple fedora and a dark purple velvety jacket that seemed to absorb light.
Corinne said enthusiastically, "Yes, we have. We'd love it if you and Cally came." She had on the beautiful shimmering burgundy dress with gold accents and now sported a pair of flat gold sandals whose straps ran delicately up her calf.
Avon said absently, "Fun is a matter of opinion." He poked the probe at another node and yelped as a much larger spark was given off and nearly singed his eyebrows. He pulled back quickly and grimaced, studying the large red mark that was appearing on his hand.
Cally immediately came over from her terminal. She had a tissue regenerator held tightly in one hand and a very determined look on her face. Avon stared at her a moment and then gave her the hand that was developing the red mark.
Cally began applying the tissue regenerator to the burn. She didn't say anything to him; she didn't have to. Her long-suffering attitude was very clear. After she was done, she put down the regenerator but kept hold of Avon's hand. She examined the regenerated area and then without warning bent his wrist. He clenched his teeth in order to suppress a grimace at this unexpected movement.
Cally said with a sigh, * Why didn't you tell me this was bothering you? * She kept their communication private to spare him embarrassment. Though a little embarrassment might not have been a bad thing considering he insisted on ignoring her requests to take better care of himself.
* It's not * said Avon.
Cally looked at his truthful eyes and her eyes narrowed. She knew that Avon could tell the literal truth without telling her what she wanted to know. * When did you start experiencing pain in your wrist? *
There was a rebellious look on Avon's face but he answered reluctantly, * Last week. *
Cally gave a very loud audible sigh. * And you didn't think I needed to know this? *
* It's a minor inconvenience. Nothing more. *
Cally knew that Avon had a high threshold of pain and after his experiences the last four years, this would have seemed insignificant. Not to mention his stubbornness when it came to admitting weakness.
Cally said gently, * Your level of unacceptable physical discomfort has been artificially raised because of your experiences. You need to let me determine if there is a physical problem. *
Avon said petulantly, * You think that everything's a problem. I will not be handled like an invalid. *
Cally abstained from pointing out that he was one. It would not have helped matters and it would hurt his already fragile ego.
As she went to the medicine cabinets to get a pain blocker and an anti-inflammatory, Cally said aloud, "I think it would be a good idea for you to take Vila up on his offer of having fun." She began, "If you keep working like this, I'm going to have to put a brace on that wrist and it will restrict your movements."
Avon did not like that option. "I can do work which does not involve my wrist."
Vila said with disappointment, "Come on, Corinne. Avon doesn't want to watch us."
As she injected the drugs, Cally projected, * Avon. You should consider going to the magic show. *
Avon looked up at her. * Did you want to go? *
* That's not the point. Vila and Corinne are looking for support. *
Avon glanced at the disappointed faces of the costumed duo. * Why didn't they say so? * His mental tone reflected some irritation.
* Would it have made a difference? * Cally took hold of Avon's hand again, extended it out and began doing stretching exercises that would relieve the stress on his affected areas.
Avon bore all of this therapeutic exercise with resignation as he said, * Of course, it would have. Magic does not interest me. I know how the illusions are achieved. It would not be 'fun' for me to watch. That would be the same as trying to solve a mystery I already know the answer to. *
* So you wouldn't go to have fun that you know you won't have, but you would do it to support Vila and Corinne? *
* Yes. If they believe they need my support, then my giving it would serve some purpose. * Avon said to Vila, "I will come to the magic show." He glanced at Cally. "Cally and I will both come."
Vila's voice was reflecting his rising anger. "Well, I wouldn’t want to put you out. Like you said, fun is a matter of opinion and obviously you don't think it'll be fun."
After what they had shared earlier about Freedom City, Vila had thought that Avon might want to support him in this. He realized that he had been hoping too much. He tried to keep the disappointment from showing on his face but it was difficult.
It hurt that Avon didn't seem interested. Vila realized he should have known better; Avon wasn't the kind of person who would give that kind of support to people. He wasn't sure Avon even knew how.
Vila wished he had been able to ask him for help with the show. That might have given him some incentive to come. It was too late now and Avon wasn't remotely interested in what he had to offer.
Despite his best efforts, Vila was getting angrier. It was almost like old times again. The two of them squaring off against each other, weapons of words drawn to hurt and maim. The old defensive walls firmly in place and their pride directed towards each other.
Their newly developing relationship was a fragile thing, the healing too new to cover over or defuse the pain they had inflicted on each other over the years. They were filled with the confusion of wanting the new bonds they had formed; and the hope from feelings that were not marred by ambiguity and defensiveness.
Perhaps they expected too much of each other too soon. It was something both of them were aware of on a subconscious level but neither of them understood it. So in that understanding, there was a lack of understanding. Which made any situation between them tenuous and charged; with the ability for the healing that had been possible earlier but also the defensive antagonism that was occurring now. In such confrontations they instinctively turned to the familiar defensive mechanisms they had used against each other before, the ones that had always caused more problems.
Vila's look told Avon that his earlier response was having a negative impact beyond a simple refusal to attend the magic show. Sometimes relational interactions contained too many unknowns until it was too late. It was the kind of thing he found very irritating; something he could not predict.
Avon kept his voice neutral and impassive, trying to defuse the situation; sticking with the truth. "That's true. It would not be 'fun' for me because I know how the illusions work. There would be no mystery for me. But I would enjoy your performance."
It was Vila's turn to sport a rebellious look. He had worked hard on the magic. To have it dismissed outright as something that would not produce the effect of wonder he had hoped for was very disheartening. "Well, I wouldn't want you to do something that you wouldn't enjoy. Like you said, there isn't any mystery in it for you. Just one of those lower grade entertainments you call sop for the masses."
Avon voice acquired an affronted tone, "I did not say that."
Corinne looked between the two men with a puzzled expression on her face. "Vila, I think what Avon's trying to say is that he wants to come for us. He would enjoy it because we're the ones doing the magic even if he already knows how all the illusions work."
Cally said, "Corinne's right."
Vila said, "But I want him to enjoy the show."
Avon was bewildered as well as angry. He was thinking of Vila's needs now but it was not producing the desired effect. "I assure you that I will."
Vila said snidely, "Yeah. But just not the magic part."
Avon asked, "Do you want me to lie and say that I will enjoy that part of it?"
"I never asked you to lie." Vila was getting hot under the velvety collar. "But it wouldn't hurt if you did just a little."
Avon did not understand Vila's reaction nor did he understand his logic. "You don't want me to lie but you also don't want me to tell the truth? That's a subtle distinction that escapes me for the moment."
Cally tried not to roll her eyes. * Avon, you're not helping the situation. *
Avon looked at her. * He's being unreasonable. Not to mention completely irrational. *
* I don't think he's the only one here. *
Vila said angrily, "And stop talking about me when I can't hear you!"
Cally said apologetically, "I'm sorry, Vila. I was trying to tell Avon that he was being unreasonable."
Avon glowered at her but didn't say anything.
Corinne said, "I think they're both being unreasonable."
Cally told her, "I think you're right."
The two men turned to Cally and Corinne with mutinous looks in their eyes and then they looked at each other. Neither man was willing to give quarter.
Cally said, "I'm tempted to lock you in here until you both grow up or sort it out."
Corinne said worriedly, "Do you really think that's necessary? Wouldn't it be cruel?"
"As opposed to what they do to each other?" asked Cally, regarding the two unrepentant men with an icy look in her eyes.
Corinne said with a sad resigned sigh, "Maybe you're right, Cally. But maybe sorting it out would take shorter time. We wouldn't want them to starve."
"It is tempting," said Cally. She looked pointedly at the two men. "What do you think? Are you both going to grow up?"
Under her glare, Avon looked uncomfortable. He said to Vila, "I will be glad to come to your show. I will…try to enjoy the illusions."
Vila snapped back, "That's not…" It still wasn’t what Vila wished to hear but he could tell that Avon was trying. He knew Avon did have a problem with telling a direct lie. Not to mention that under Corinne's worried face, Vila was also feeling bad. He tried to let go of his anger and disappointment and take what Avon was trying to offer him. "I might surprise you, Avon. I could have a few new things up my sleeves."
A subdued Avon looked at Vila's snugly fitting velvet jacket and the sleeves that didn't look like they could conceal much. With raised eyebrows he said, "I would enjoy being surprised."
Vila challenged him, "How about a bet?"
Avon asked warily, "What kind of bet?"
Vila said, "I bet that I will be able to surprise you."
"That's highly unlikely."
"Then it would be a safe bet for you, wouldn't it?"
Avon asked, "What would the stakes be?"
Vila said immediately, "One favour. Determined by the winner."
Avon's eyes narrowed. Vila had said that just a little too quickly.
Vila said, "Of course, if you think you're going to lose..."
Avon said, "I would save your manipulation skills for your audience. But it might be amusing to take your bet. I could use an unconditional favour."
Vila wasn't sure he liked that. "I meant one within reason, of course."
"Then you should have specified earlier." There was a clear challenge in Avon's eyes but it was an amused one. "Perhaps you are revising your odds on winning the bet? Because you think you might lose?"
Vila said, "Who says? I'll take that bet!" Vila nearly kicked himself at the grin on Avon's face.
"Then I will be there and I guarantee you that I will enjoy the performance."
Cally rolled her eyes again and wondered if it might still be a good idea to lock them up until they grew up.
The crowd was enormous. Vila gulped repeatedly and tried to straighten his jacket as he peeked outside. "I had no idea…," he said nervously. He tugged at the object that seemed to be strangling his neck and wondered why anyone would want to wear something reminiscent of a noose.
Corinne looked over his shoulder through the slit in the heavy curtain. "That is a lot of people. That's good, isn't it?" she asked with an innocent voice.
Vila wondered if she was just kidding him. She was proving to have an unexpected sense of humour. He closed the curtain and looked back at her.
Corinne gave him a quick grin. "I'm nervous too."
Vila put a reassuring arm around her shoulders and tried to sound more confident than he felt, "It won't be too bad. We've practiced with a real audience and they loved it."
"But those were the soldiers on the ship. They would have loved it even if we were naked and did all the tricks wrong."
Vila swallowed hard at that image and tried not to look at her. "Yeah…I suppose they would."
Corinne giggled. "You're a lot of fun, Vila."
Vila had tried explaining to her why her largely revealing outfit on the ship was not a good choice of attire, except in very private circumstances. He staunchly refused to elaborate any further. Unknown to Vila, Corinne had gone to her mother for a better clarification on what those situations were. Her mother had been very detailed and forthcoming with all of the information she felt her daughter needed to know.
Vila's looked sideways at her. "You're having fun with me?"
Corinne kissed him on the cheek unexpectedly. "You're very sweet trying to protect me. But you don't need to. My mother explained everything to me."
That made Vila even more anxious than the growing crowds outside. He asked nervously, "What did she explain?"
"I'll tell you later," said Corinne. "We have a show to give now."
Vila swallowed very hard.