Her plot bunny was a bit of a challenge because I've never written these two alone before.
The Plot Bunny - Vila said Avon was helping him and Corinne set up the magic show. Did Vila ask for help or did Avon offer? Oh to see how that came about! Not to mention Corinne's response.
Avon straightened up from the computer and flexed his stiff neck, rotating it from side to side. It cracked in complaint at his neglect, making him feel like a rusty engine fit only for the recycler. Though on this side of the Calendar, metal that rusted could only be found in museums.
He caught the whiff of a scent out of place in the antiseptic lab.
A sweet smell. A woman.
It wasn't Cally, he would know her. Not Jenna. The last few weeks of enforced proximity assured him of that. That left Reya or Corinne.
The young woman blew out a disgruntled sigh several feet from him. Her voice was melodic and as bright as her personality. "Oh! I thought I could sneak up on you! How did you know it was me?"
"It wasn't difficult." The Commander was more straightforward and less frivolous. She would have announced her attentions.
It was time to increase the autorepair priority for the lab's door, which was stuck open. An open-door policy might work for the trusting and naïve, but he was certainly neither of those. "Is there something you wanted or is this a social visit?" The way he said it made it sound like a disease he didn't want to catch.
"I…" Corinne twirled the ends of her shoulder-length black hair. The implications of 'bearding the lion in his den' (in Vila's words) finally hit her and was stifling her normally exuberant courage. "I know you don't like being disturbed, A…Avon. You're busy and…you have lots of important things to do."
She always felt awkward when addressing him. Calling him Avon seemed wrong somehow, he felt more like an uncle. Corinne suppressed a giggle at the thought of seeing the look on his face if she called him that. She might one of these days, just to see his reaction.
Avon's eyes narrowed in thought. Corinne was unusually subdued and she appeared to understand the need to avoid bothering him with trivial matters. He might be able to spare a few moments to pursue this, and he could truthfully tell Cally that he had taken a break. "What is the nature of your concern?"
Corinne's eyes brightened. "You're interested in helping us?"
"Us?" Suspicion darkened his brow as he remembered the hallucinogenics Vila had placed in his 'water' during the party. He had yet to find time to work on the molecular analyzer in case there were future incidents. "As in you and Vila?"
"Yes!" Her voice was like the light of a thousand suns in its enthusiasm. Even though Avon did not intend to help her in anything he did not deem important, even a cold, factual heart could not fail to be warmed a little by this burst of sunshine into the dark place that was his life.
"We're doing another magic show! This time on the ship!"
Avon's eyes tightened and the wrinkles at the corners deepened. "An entertainment."
"You enjoyed that one on Tellar didn't you?"
Even though he couldn't see, he could imagine the anxious and open expression her face. There was something about naiveté or innocence that always touched an unexpected chord in him.
In his mind's eye, he remembered the simple faith of Meegat. She believed in him and he had made her people's survival his concern. At times, Blake had that naiveté, when he wasn't touched by the darkness of what the Federation had done to him.
"It was interesting."
"Oh." There was a pause. "Vila told me about this. In your language…that means you really liked it!"
Arms wrapped around him without warning. Avon flinched and was about to push her away when he realized she was giving him a hug. He was still trying to decide the appropriate response when she released him.
"I'm glad you liked it! It meant a lot to Vila. He said you're an expert at magic and knew all the tricks. We were so nervous you wouldn't like it."
Why would it matter to the thief (or Corinne) whether he liked it or not? He had thought it was simply because of the bet and the winning of the unconditional favour. Corinne seemed to be suggesting it had a different significance for them.
"What is this matter you wanted to see me about?"
"Well…" She described the illusion they wanted to produce. "Vila said it's impossible unless you help us with some of the numbers. We don't want to blow anything up."
"That would not be advisable."
The idea was a sophisticated one. Surprising for a Delta grade thief with a low-rate education. Avon had to admit it challenged his creativity. It might have peripheral value if he could adapt this idea for later use.
A quiver of a smile lifted the corners of his lips briefly. It wouldn't take long with the proper computer simulation. Fortunately, he was an expert. "Come back tomorrow."
"You're not going to help us?" Her disappointment was palpable.
"I will have the schedule of numbers for you tomorrow. I cannot have you and Vila blowing up vital parts of the ship."
"Oh, Avon! Thank you!" She moved to hug him again.
Even without functional eyes, Avon could 'see' another assault coming. He held up his hand. "One is more than enough."
Corinne bubbled over with laughter.