The hover-chair glided smoothly as Avon pushed it the long distance from his workshop to the medical unit. He was as eager to show it to her, as he was to test out his latest creation. It was a hasty job, born of midnight ideas from a restless mind and a desire to see her happy. He hoped that she would be delighted with the opportunity to escape her medical prison. Enough that she wouldn't ask too many questions about the hours of sleep he had given up to work on it.
The last few days had been hard on her. She wasn't used to feeling helpless, needing to rely on others for something as simple as eating and drinking. There was a desire for independence and freedom that he understood only too well. He did what he could for her, the only things he knew how, but they didn’t seem to help and her frustration level grew. Perhaps a change of scenery and an increased freedom of mobility might improve her mood. It made him uncomfortable that she was feeling trapped.
The last time Cally had been injured enough to need people was on Terminal but there had been no one there to help her. No Avon to wipe the beads of sweat that formed on her brow or to calmly tell her that she was going to be fine. No one to bear her moods and to coax her to eat when she didn’t feel like it. No obliging lover to divert her attentions from the aches and pains that made her irritable.
The loneliness had been frightening. There was no living presence to remind her that she was still alive and not some disembodied presence that had passed onto another plane of existence. Her mental screams were swallowed up by the silence.
Even on Saurian Major, after all her friends had died, there had been the dark shadowy presence of their murderers. They were a focus for her mind, preventing her from slipping into the madness of being totally alone. For an Auronar, to be alone was to be powerless. She had neared that on Terminal, after her body had healed enough for her mind to become conscious again. It didn't mean that she was fully recovered; only that she was no longer close to death.
Her legs had been broken, ribs and pelvis fractured, and one arm dislocated. A concussion fogged her mind. For days, she had lain in a stupor of pain and mental confusion. Only her will to survive had made her crawl to a nearby container of water that had cracked and half-spilled on the ground. Every inch had been agony but the warrior in her refused to give up. The soot-covered water slaked her thirst but left a bitter aftertaste. She closed her eyes to drink, trying not to imagine what had fallen into it.
Exhaustion and throbbing wounds robbed her of the ability to do anything other than sleep and make desperate attempts to project her mental voice to whoever could hear her. But there was no one. She was completely alone. A deep depression descended on her as she realized the implications of what had happened. The shock of her situation had turned to anger at being abandoned by the others.
Lying in her own filth because she didn't have the ability to remove her clothes. Painfully crawling on broken limbs to reach an energy bar only to discover that it was a discarded wrapping. Her body had brought her back so that she could wait for death.
May you die in silence. It was one of the worst curses that one Auronar could wish on another.
She was angry at Avon most of all but not because he had left her on Terminal. That was something she could understand. None of them knew about the Auron ability to heal at the point of death. He most likely thought her dead. She was lucky that they hadn't decided to bury her or consign her to the flames. What made her angry were all the memories that played in her mind, all the missed opportunities and the anguish that they had not been more. They were the only company she had during that lonely time. Until the Federation came.
Why was she thinking of this now? She wasn't in the same circumstances. She wasn't alone. There were people taking care of her and Avon was with her.
Avon pushed in the hover-chair with a face approximating cheerfulness, at least as much of it as he could manage.
* Why did you leave me? * The accusation stopped Avon in his tracks. Cally was shocked that she had projected this to him. She hadn’t intended to. The faintly happy look disappeared from Avon's face as he covered the remaining distance with slow, burdened steps, as if the object he was pushing had suddenly become an offering that he was afraid to give her. Her senses told her that it was not the object that he was afraid she would reject, it was himself.
* I'm sorry, Avon. I didn't mean for you to hear that. *
He parked the object beside the bed and looked down at her. For humans, the eyes were their only windows to the soul. His told her that her words had caused him to retreat further behind his walls but her Auron senses knew that not all of him was hidden to her. Since the day her mind had touched his again, he had left a part of himself open to her. She could hurt him now and see it reflected in his eyes.
Avon thought towards her, * I didn't mean to leave you alone. I should have waited to tell you where I was going. *
Cally’s touched his arm as her mind stretched out for the warmth she knew was there. * You did nothing wrong. Don’t blame yourself. * Her presence brushed along his walls, searching for the cracks that would let her in; gentle as a feather so that he would not withdraw further. * I was remembering something else. *
* I failed you in this memory? *
* It wasn’t your fault, Avon. *
* Yet you asked why I left you. *
She stroked lightly along Avon’s arm, feeling the tension, wondering if he had enough strength to share someone else’s pain and anguish on top of his own. Her mind lightly touched his, like a lover teasing apart the other’s lips for a deeper kiss. Avon slowly allowed her access.
Beyond his hard and thick outer shell full of bristles, were the broken pieces of the man she cared about deeply. Pain and the strength that refused to bow under the burdens that life had thrown at him. He was flawed and he was beautiful; capable of great love and nobility as well as great selfishness. The two sides of him warring constantly against each other because he felt he had no choice.
She told him, * I was alone on Terminal. *
* Ah. * The injury and feelings of helplessness must have triggered the memory. There had been no one to help her. * I shouldn’t have left you alone there. *
* You couldn’t have known. You thought I was dead. *
His hand covered hers, their fingers locking together. * I wish…I had stayed. *
* Like you did with Anna? *
Avon's breath caught in his throat. * I should have stayed with you. *
He looked down at the hand that gave him a physical connection to Cally. This was the same hand that had refused to let go of Anna because he did not want to sever their bond even in death. It had been a deliberate, irrational act because he loved her. Their ties were deeper than anyone could understand. The memory of Anna’s love had kept him alive in the years when the rest of him had sought the cold death of the unfeeling machine.
But his hand was on Cally’s body now, not Anna’s. He was tied to this alien woman in ways that were deeper than had been possible with Anna.
Cally had a brief vision of Avon kneeling over her body, his hand resting on her chest. Just like in the cellar? Was her mind superimposing her face on another woman’s body? She asked gently, * Why did you leave me, Avon? *
A shudder passed through him and his hand tightened on hers. * Dayna came. *
The young woman’s voice came to him through the vague mist of time. She had spoken next to his ear but she seemed far away. The whole world seemed far away as he maintained the connection to Cally's body. Avon, the whole place is going to go! We have to get out of here!
All he had been aware of was his hand gently resting on Cally as he knelt next to her. The only thought his mind had been capable of was that she deserved a companion for her death.
He told Cally, * Dayna must have dragged me out. I… don’t remember how. One moment I was with you…and then, I was outside and ORAC was on my lap. *
* You must have blacked out. *
* I…must have. * His memories of that period were hazy.
Cally pursed her lips in thought. * Servalan did play with your mind. You were exhausted. Not thinking clearly. There’s no telling what she did when she was conditioning your mind to believe that Blake was there. They would not have been gentle. You could still have been suffering the after effects. * Her voice suddenly became urgent. * Avon, did you ever reverse the conditioning or find out what she did to you? *
The idea startled him. * I never considered it. I assumed the conditioning only went as far as making me believe that Blake was alive. *
* I think we should find out the first chance we get. I don’t trust Servalan. *
* You’re right. She can’t be trusted. Cally, about what happened... *
She brought her fingers up to his lips in a symbolic gesture. * I know, Avon. Once you were with the others, you couldn’t leave them. They needed you. *
Avon squeezed her hand. * I wish I had stayed with you. You are not used to being alone." Even in death, he should not have left her but fate had intruded in his life again. Against his will. * It must have been frightening. *
* It doesn’t matter now. That experience is over. *
* If I had been able to be free of Anna, I would have come to you sooner. I shouldn’t have wasted that time.*
Cally touched his face, her thumb lightly following the curve of his chin. For a brief moment, there was contentment on his face as he leaned into her gentle caress.
She said, * You’re here now. *
He bent down and brushed his lips over hers in a brief kiss. “I have something for you.”
Cally glanced at the object that he had brought in. "That looks like the chair from our cabin but you've done something to it."
"Yes. I adapted it using the field array from one of the anti-grav carts. I thought you might like to take a trip out of the medical unit today."
"A field trip?"
"If you like. I've cleared it with the doctors and I promised to keep you off your feet."
"I can't wait."
Reya was a decisive woman. Once she made a decision to do something, she didn’t like leaving it festering. After allowing for a suitable period of rest, she went to the cabin where Kirsten was bunked with four others of the Chandaran women.
“How are you feeling?”
Kirsten stifled a yawn. “Just got up. I’m sorry about before.”
“Are you and Sester seeing each other outside of your training?”
Kirsten looked startled. Even after a month, she was not used to such a direct and commanding woman who was not afraid to speak her mind. “Why do you ask that?”
“I know him. He would not be able to resist someone like you.”
Kirsten said with as much disinterested casualness as she could muster. “I’ll remember that.”
Reya’s eyes narrowed. The smoothness of this woman was far too familiar. Either Sester had been teaching her to play his games or she was playing her own. “Be careful of him, Kirsten.”
“He won’t harm me.”
There was an air of confidence in her statement that troubled Reya. What had Kirsten and Sester been up to? “That’s not what I’m afraid of. He’s too charming for his own good.”
Kirsten half perched herself against a table, one leg slowly swinging back and forth. A smirk threatened to appear on her face as she remembered her last encounter with the bewildered man. “That he is…amongst other things.”
“Take him seriously, Kirsten or you’ll get yourself into trouble.”
“I appreciate your concern. But don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.”
Even though she was becoming increasingly disturbed, Reya marvelled at how far this woman had come in a short period of time. From the hesitant woman who tried to hide her intelligence, she had become a strong one who thought she could play games with a psychostrategist. That confidence is going to be the death of you. “That’s what he wants you to think. Have the two of you…”
Kirsten chuckled. “Oh, no. I won’t let him. Yet.”
Far too confident. And you’re having fun.
“You’re playing with fire.”
“So is he.”
“You don’t understand, Kirsten. He’s a Federation psychostrategist. He is giving you the advantage by reacting to you as a man. He does it because he enjoys the sport.”
“I know what he is.”
“Do you? He’s not like the Chandaran males you’ve known. He has a degree of control that you could not imagine. Just because he’s enjoying the human part of himself, doesn’t mean that is all he is. There is something inside him that is ruthless and dangerous and views the rest of us as puppets.”
“I know that too.”
Reya highly doubted that. “You have never been one of his victims.”
“He would never hurt me.”
“Don’t be naïve, Kirsten. He might not want to, but make no mistake about it, if he has to, he will without a second's hesitation.”
Kirsten's leg had stopped swinging. “I know about you and him.”
Is this woman seriously trying to play games with me? Reya thought incredulously. "That's none of your concern. I'm only worried about you and I don't want you to get hurt. However, you're both adults. What you do with your lives is your own business. I just hope that I won't have to pick up the pieces when you discover that it's too late to let go."
"Is that what happened to you? Or is that none of my business too?"
"I know he’s hard to resist, Kirsten. He can be everything that a woman would want in a man: sensitive, caring, gentle, and he understands a woman's needs in a way very few men are capable of. He is also fun and exudes an element of risk that is irresistible. But he is dangerous."
Kirsten cocked her head with interest. "Are you in love with him?"
Reya stiffened at the question. "No. But I have seen the side of him that you're attracted to."
"I see more than that. But as you said, it's my business.”
Reya sighed. “Very well. But please be careful.” She wondered if it would be any use speaking to Sester instead.
Kirsten knew that Reya was only doing this because she cared but nothing was going to stop her. She was glad that Reya was not a rival but she knew that there was something between these two. It added an element of challenge that would make it even more interesting. “I appreciate your concern, Reya. I promise, I will be careful.”