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Avon woke up. Light was streaming into the room and he was lying on his front again; and he was on a bed. Someone was pressing lightly on his upper back. He could feel a hand exploring along his spine.
"Don't move, Avon."
As the Federation President continued her explorations, Avon shook off the last vestiges of sleep. His body was relaxed and rested. There was still pain emanating from various parts of his body, a natural condition from being a resident of the Special Detention Centre. There was general weakness, which was also normal, but it was as close to well-being as he had felt in a long time.
"Your back is much better," she remarked. "Turn over."
He did as directed.
Servalan contemplated his naked body but did not touch him.
"Are you going to do something? Or haven't you decided how to torture me yet," he asked.
"I told you, I'm not going to hurt you."
"That was yesterday."
She chuckled. "I do keep you guessing don't I? Do you plan to get up or are you going to stay in bed the rest of the day?"
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and immediately collapsed on the ground as he felt a sharp stab of pain in his back.
Avon groaned, he couldn't get up; he felt his back spasm.
"I was going to say take it slowly. Here, lean forward a bit." He had been leaning his back against the bed. Servalan felt along his back.
"Not as bad as yesterday but it still needs a lot of work. Do you think you can get back on the bed?"
"I'm not about to lift you, so I'm afraid you're going to have to spend the next while lying on the ground again. I want you to put your right arm behind you and fall onto your side. Slowly."
She helped guide him to the ground.
"Don't move. Just relax and let me roll you over." With his right arm behind him, he realized that it made it easier for her to roll him forward. "Ow." It was painful but nothing like the torture he was familiar with.
He heard her walk away and shortly afterwards return. A familiar warm object was placed across his back. She walked away again and then came back and sat down on the bed. He could smell food, she was eating breakfast. Trying to occupy his mind, he concentrated on identifying the food.
"Eggs, ham, coffee, baked product of some kind," he was identifying the food softly to himself.
"Did you say something?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said flatly.
"You never give away information unless it benefits you, do you?"
"We're very much alike."
"I doubt it."
"You must be hungry."
"Do you plan to feed me?"
"The last time I offered you food, you didn't eat it." Servalan knew that Avon's stomach had not yet recovered from what they had done to him in the isolation cell. In the cell, he had barely been fed; supplement injections had been used to keep him functional. While he worked on the security design, he had only been given supplement drinks in order to acclimatize his stomach to food again.
"As I recall, you drugged the coffee. When I woke up, you had me tortured for two weeks."
"That's only because you made me angry by escaping."
"And what are you angry about now?"
"Then why are you doing this?" he asked. Despite her helpfulness, he never forgot that this was only a charade; one instigated by her.
"You still don't trust me."
"Have you ever given me reason to? In the old days, they used to fatten up animals before killing them."
"That's your paranoia talking, Avon."
"After three years of your hospitality, I have every reason to be paranoid. Isn't that what you told your specialists to do to me?" There was no emotion in his voice, just a cold bitterness.
"Avon," she had come down from the bed and was bending down to touch his shoulder. She could feel the tension from his body caused by his anger. Her touch caused him to stiffen; then she saw his hand tighten into a hard fist. "It hurts again doesn't it?" She slid her hand down to the small of his back and felt the muscles spasm. She kept her hand there as they talked, it helped her gauge his reactions and his stress level.
He didn't answer her.
"Avon, you have every reason to hate me; and I you. We have tried to kill each other too many times for that to change."
"I would have given you a clean death."
"I know, but now you are much more useful to me alive than dead; and unfortunately because of your strength of will, you've forced me to employ measures which would kill most people. For that I am truly sorry. You may not believe it but part of me does regret that all of this has been necessary."
"Is that what you tell yourself when you have me put in the Shredder? Or when you had me put in the isolation cells?"
"I did say that only part of me regrets it; but that regret is genuine, Avon."
"You have a point to make, make it." He did not believe her for a moment, she derived too much pleasure in his pain.
She sighed, "Let us agree to hate each other."
"I don't need one of your agreements for that," he said with cold sarcasm.
"Right now, I only want to help you. Call it regret, call it whatever you like."
"I don't need your help."
You're going to make this difficult aren't you, Avon?
"You told me yourself Avon, your mind is unravelling. Even before we captured you, you were already plagued by the nightmares and now you are losing control; even when there are no nightmares."
When he did not answer, the hand against his back pushed down slightly, just enough to cause him discomfort.
"I can make you suffer whenever I want and there's nothing you can do to stop it; but I do not want to do that today, not unless you force me to." She eased up on the pressure. "You will let me help you, Avon. If you don't then I will have you drugged so that you can no longer think except when I want you to think and when you are brought to me. Do you want that?"
She could feel the tension building in his body as she spoke.
"And you think that would be worse than what I have now?"
She put her hands on his shoulders. "I never wanted you this way."
"Really. I would think this is exactly what you wanted."
"Isn't it fun anymore? Or is it only amusing hurting someone who is still fighting you?" he asked bitterly.
"Is that what's happening, Avon? Have you stopped fighting?"
"What's the point?"
"Where is the man who held back the entire Andromedan fleet single-handedly until the Federation fleet arrived? The man who ran rings around the Federation Computer Fraud Division for so many years and who Central Security had to send their best undercover agent after? The man who helped Blake achieve so many successes against the Federation?"
"That was the man who was useful to me, if you are no longer that man, then I will have you killed."
"Do you think I fear death?"
"No, I think you want it; but I know you will not allow it to happen. You know that the moment you die, our agreements become void and your crew would have to die as well. Would you kill them, Avon?"
"As long as you hold their lives, you think you can make me do anything you want, don't you?"
"Am I wrong? You are too tired to fight, too tired to live, but are you tired enough that you would let them die, knowing that they died because of you?"
She was right, he very much wanted it all to be over, but he could not; he would not be responsible for their deaths but regardless, he did not think he could last much longer.
"How long do you think you can keep killing me?" His voice was subdued.
"If you want them to live, you can never leave me. That means I will keep killing you for as long as you decide."
He fell silent.
"Help me," he asked her. His voice was quiet. He had never asked for help from anyone, he would never accept it from anyone, but he asked it of his enemy.