He still had a headache and though he still felt tired, he was no longer exhausted. He actually felt lighter; he wondered if it was an effect of breaking the conditioning. Avon looked around.
"Hello Avon," Cally greeted him. In her hands was a bio-scanner which she proceeded to use on him.
"Cally," Avon said in a neutral voice. She was an unwelcomed sight. It meant that the rest of the crew knew about the conditioning and what he had done to break it. He hated the sympathy he knew was to come.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"What do your readings tell you?"
"They only tell me about your physical condition," Cally said. She realized that Argus had been right. The last thing Avon wanted was to have the crew know what had happened. She changed the nature of her question. "Are you feeling any residual effects? Headaches or pain of any kind?"
"Slight headache." He said without any emotion. Avon knew what she had just done. For him it was even worse than open sympathy; it meant that she was trying to be careful, trying not to upset him.
If he was a more expressive man, he would have probably scowled. Instead he said, "I would like to go back to my cabin to rest."
You're trying to isolate yourself again, thought Cally. She knew that it probably would be difficult for him to face anyone for the next few days. Especially since they all knew.
"You're going to need help," she told him.
Avon wanted to refuse her help but he calculated that it would be less of an embarrasment to accept her help in order to go back to his cabin; than to attempt it on his own, collapse partway there and still have to be helped; and potentially running into Vila or Jenna as well.
When General Reve woke up the next morning and found that neither Reya nor Argus had made it back to their rooms during the night, he had been glad. It meant that his plan had worked. When it got onto the mid-morning and they both still had not shown up, he was starting to get worried. Both of them were early risers. Borel wondered if he really did need to send out a burial detail. Or at least a search party and a team of field healers.
He need not have worried. The two commanders returned to the castle just before noon. They were impeccably dressed; Reya in her uniform and Argus in his dark blue jacket and black pants. They showed no outwards physical signs that anything had happened.
"Sorry General. I fell asleep by the lake and overslept. You were right it was a very restful place," Argus said with a straight face.
Did you get any sleep at all? mused Borel. "And what's your excuse sister?" Borel asked.
Reya had been studying Borel since she entered the room; she knew her brother very well.
"It's no use lying to him," she told Argus. "Especially since you planned this," she accused her brother.
"And it worked," Borel said unrepentingly.
"Next time stick to playing with your toy soldiers," she told him angrily.
There was so much anger in her voice that both Argus and Borel looked at her in astonishment.
With Argus she had allowed herself to become vulnerable. As they had shared their passion for the first time she had opened herself up to him. But now in the light of day she felt naked and exposed. It was not something she was used to and she did not like it. She felt threatened. When she was threatened, her defence was always to go on the attack. Her anger would not be satisfied until it found a target.
Reya's anger turned to Argus now. "You were supposed to wake us up," she said angrily, her tone clearly indicating that this was his fault. "Why did you let this happen?" she accused him illogically. The unspoken message was loud and clear. Why did you let this happen to me?
Her anger had turned so swiftly and so decidedly towards Argus that it shocked him. For some reason, whenever she attacked him every word hit deep.
Argus felt a brief stab of pain; his defences instantly went back up. He had made himself vulnerable to her during their night together; it unnerved him to still be so vulnerable. He had known that she would continue with their adversarial relationship; she had already told him she would. But he had been unprepared for how quickly she could turn on him after what they had shared the previous night.
Borel almost groaned aloud. Reya! No!
The general wanted to shout at his sister and shake her by the shoulders. Witnessing Reya and Argus's relationship really was like watching an accident waiting to happen; many accidents, each one worse than the last. The young general wondered if it would be any use locking them in a room again until they resolved this new crisis they had created.
It was obvious something significant had happened between the two of them during the night. He could almost feel the stronger connection between them. It had made things better; and it also seemed to have made things much worse.
How is that possible? Borel thought; not understanding their relationship at all.
The brief look of hurt on Argus's face stopped Reya in her tracks. She had insulted him many times in the past, had said many unkind words but she had never seen that look of pain in his eyes before.
"Next time set your own chronometer," he said coldly.
As with everything in their lives, Argus and Reya never did anything halfway. When they had made themselves vulnerable to each other during the night, it had been complete; their nakedness had not just been physical. Returning to their normal relationship in the day, neither of them had been prepared for how devastating that vulnerability could be.
Being the two of you must be so painful, Borel thought. It was both beautiful and terrible to watch them.
"General, would you leave us alone please," Argus told Borel. The rebel leader's voice was firm and even. There was no expression on his face.
The young general hesitated. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea to leave them alone; but he knew it wasn't up to him. Borel left them in his office.
There was silence in the room now; two people buried in their own thoughts. Neither wanting to break the silence because they were afraid every word would be their last together; and that terrified them.
Finally Argus broke the silence. "What's wrong, Reya?" His voice was insistent but unemotional.
"I don't know what you mean," Reya said, equally unemotional.
"We can't keep doing this. I won't keep doing this," he told her.
"I hate you."
He looked hard at her; they both knew she was lying.
"Really?" he said cynically.
She had been so hard on him for months; now it was his turn. He would not let her go without a fight.
He continued; his truth was unrelenting. "When we leave this room, either our relationship will be finished or we will have something else; because what we had is killing us after what happened last night."
"And what did happen last night?" she challenged him.
Argus considered his own response carefully. She was not the only one who had to face the truth.
He could have thrown the question back to her and forced her to answer it. It would have been very easy; but he didn't. Argus could never force her. He could stand being hurt; but he would never hurt her.
Argus decided it was time for some honesty; from him.
"I love you Reya," he told her simply. "I have since the first time you insulted me."
Reya bowed her head. Between them, as hurt demanded hurt, so truth demanded truth. She replied softly, "I know. I have always known that."
"You knew?" He was surprised.
"From the first day, yes."
"Then why?" he asked. Their entire relationship needed an answer.
"I didn't want it to happen. From that first day, I never wanted it to happen," she admitted to him.
Suddenly it made sense to him. "You tried to make it not happen?"
"Yes. But the harder I tried. The harder it was to stop it. It was driving me crazy." There was an anguish in her voice now.
"So you tried to drive me crazy too?" he asked.
"You are saying that you tortured me all that time; because it was torturing you?"
"It does sound bad put like that."
He paused; studying her. Her head was still bowed; shoulders slumped.
He sighed. "And you say that I'm terrible," he said gently. With understanding came tenderness as he saw how miserable she was.
At his change in tone, Reya looked up at him, puzzled. There was amusement in his eyes now.
She wanted to hit him.
"You want to hit me now, don't you?" he asked, seeing her reaction to him. There was a lightness in his tone.
"You are so infuriating," she replied. The tone between them was no longer angry or hard. A little truth tended to change many things.
"I do believe it is my turn," he said in a light teasing tone.
She gave him a mock punch to the chest. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. They kissed each other.
The tension had passed.
"What are we going to do with each other?" she asked.
"We have many options," he said pressing her hips to him lightly.
"I wasn't talking about that."
"I know," he said teasing her. His hand pressed them tighter together. There was no question what one of those options was.
"Stop that. I can't concentrate," she told him. He released the pressure but his hand still kept them lightly in contact. This did not help her.
"I'm sorry," she told him. "I should never have taken out my fear on you."
Argus let go of her, shocked at her honesty. For her to admit that she was afraid was inconceivable.
She continued. "What we did last night. It left me vulnerable. I have never felt that way before and it scared me. When Borel pressed, I didn't know what to do. So I lashed out." She brought her hand up to his face, caressing his cheek, "And I hurt you. I'm sorry Argus."
Argus looked at her in wonder. When they were together there was such potential for great joy and great pain. He took her gently into his arms again.
He had hurt and instantly put his walls back up. She had hurt and even though she had lashed out, she had stayed vulnerable.
"I think I preferred you insulting me," he said jokingly. "It was much easier."
"That can be arranged," she told him teasingly.
He kissed her. This time it was very different between them.