"Come on," encouraged Vila, as he led the way. Avon was moving slowly this morning. It had nothing to do with the ever-present pain caused by the knee implant. He had spent a restless night and had not wanted to wake up. Vila had insisted that they follow the normal routine. There was something in Vila's manner which instantly made Avon suspicious.
You are much too eager for me to follow you this morning, thought Avon. What are you up to Vila?
It was another morning aboard the Justice and another time in which Vila was bringing Avon to the small storage space, adapted to help the analyst regain a sense of control over his own life.
They arrived at the door to the storage room. Vila stepped aside to let Avon enter.
It is only clothing, Avon reminded himself. He steeled himself and entered; Avon immediately began laughing. He did not remember the last time he had anything to laugh about but this definitely qualified as such an occasion.
Vila smiled and entered the room as well.
The shelves were still full of clothing. There was one major difference though; they were now all in black.
Vila began laughing as well. The two men's laughter filled the small storage room.
Avon was not experiencing any feelings of panic or fear; just a sense of great amusement.
These are my clothes, thought Avon. He had a great sense of relief. Finally something which is mine.
In a rare gesture, Avon put a hand on Vila's shoulder. "Thank you, Vila."
Vila was also relieved. His idea had worked. He had spent the better part of the previous day making the alterations.
This was something he had learned in helping his delta friends who had undergone long periods of imprisonment. They needed to be able to reconnect with familiar things; things which originated before their imprisonment. Vila remembered that Avon had taken to wearing black a lot in the years before Gauda Prime. That was what had given him the idea.
We can work on the other colours later, Vila thought jokingly.
"You're in love with each other, aren't you?" Jenna said unexpectedly. It was her turn to keep watch on the flight deck. Argus always insisted that one of them be on the flight deck at all times. It meant many boring watches.
The female commander had decided to keep Jenna company.
Reya had been sitting relaxed on the couch as they were talking. At Jenna's surprising question, she sat up.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Reya replied.
"You and Argus," said Jenna; making sure there were no misunderstandings whom she was talking about. "Though the two of you do a very good job of trying to act like you aren't." She noted the commander's reaction. Yes, very much in love. Jenna had very good instincts about people.
Looking at Jenna, Reya realized that there was no point in trying to deny it. She sighed. "I didn't think we were that obvious."
I thought we had done a better job in concealing it, thought Reya.
"Don't worry, the two of you do hide it well. I didn't know for certain until you confirmed it just now."
Reya smiled wryly as she recognized that she had been outmaneuvred.
"What gave us away?" she asked.
"I've known Argus for a long time. There is no mistaking the way he looks at you sometimes; though he tries to hide it. I've never seen him look that way at anyone before."
"I hope that's not going to cause a problem for you," said Reya. She knew that Argus and Jenna had a much longer history together than she did with him.
She must be worried that I'm jealous, thought Jenna. I guess in her place I would be too.
"I must admit that I was interested in Argus when we first met. It's hard not to be. A lot of women wanted his attention," Jenna told her truthfully.
I didn't know that, thought Reya. I wonder if you were even aware of it, Argus. She doubted it.
Jenna continued, "But I don't think he even noticed. You know how he's like. It doesn't even occur to him to become involved with people he leads. Not even casually."
Yes I do know, thought Reya. They were both very alike in that respect.
Jenna said, "You don't have anything to be worried about where I'm concerned. I'm very happy for him. He needs someone like you."
It's probably best that I don't tell her that I always hoped things would change one day, thought Jenna. She smiled inwardly, He never knew that either.
"I appreciate your honesty," said Reya. "I'd rather that Argus not know right now; he's already got enough on his mind; without thinking about the implications of you knowing about us."
"You don't have to hide your relationship," said Jenna.
"Argus feels it would cause too many complications if your crew knew."
Jenna understood. "He does like being seen as the cold, calculating leader, doesn't he? Having a personal life would interfere with that."
"He does see himself that way," said Reya with a slight smile. "You know him well."
Jenna smiled, "Enough to know that he can be more stubborn that is good for him. You know that you won't be able to hide it forever. Especially not on a ship like this."
"He wants to hold it off as long as possible."
"You're waiting for him to discover that it isn't possible?"
"As you said, he can be very stubborn. He's also convinced himself that he's protecting me. When he gets like that, it's best to let him discover his own mistakes."
It's either that, or fight. Which we are good at, thought Reya wryly. The two of them had not had a major disagreement since the day Argus confessed how he felt about her. Reya suspected that he was nervous to. She didn't want to pressure him.
"Lets talk about something else," suggested Reya.
"What shall we talk about today?" Avon asked Argus with obviously fake enthusaism. They sat across the table from each other in Argus's cabin. Argus had dragged the resisting Avon in for another one of their "therapy sessions."
Despite his seemingly strong reluctance, Avon was coming to enjoy these sessions. They did not serve any of the purposes which Argus had intended for them; that was part of Avon's enjoyment.
In a way, these sessions reminded Avon of the conversations with psychostrategist Sester at the Special Detention Centre. Even though Avon had never participated voluntarily; those conversations had been his only human contact when he was imprisoned. It was the only time his mind was exercised on anything other than one of Servalan's projects. Sester had been a worthy and interesting opponent. Avon had both hated the sessions and needed them.
The analyst had been surprised to discover that Argus was not the brutish Federation command thug that he had first thought. Argus's designation as an alpha grade was not in name only.
In the Federated Worlds, there were two official ways to be classified as an alpha grade; all children were tested and graded when they reached the required age; others were born to alpha-grade parents and carried the correct genetic markers.
There was another way, a grade classification could be bought through illegal channels. Vila had done this in order to avoid military service; or so he claimed.
Avon had spent these therapy sessions frustrating Argus and carrying on conversations about everything except what they were supposed to be talking about. It had been highly entertaining and Avon had learned a lot about Argus.
"Have you been enjoying yourself?" Argus asked.
Avon looked curiously at Argus.
This is an odd question, Avon thought. Have you finally guessed what I've been doing?
Argus was normally determined and very serious in these sessions; as well as strained and resigned. Today he seemed to be different. He was much more relaxed.
"I thought one of us should," replied Avon.
"Has it helped?"
Another odd question, thought Avon. "What do you think you have helped?" he challenged.
"It seems to be increasingly easier for you to avoid my questions and control the conversation. And your concentration has been improving," Argus said.
"You've noticed," said a surprised Avon.
"I thought one of us should," said Argus dryly. There was a challenge in his eyes.
Avon smiled. It was time for them to progress further. Even though Avon had not wanted to follow Garett's orders to talk about his experiences at the Detention Centre; he was wise enough to recognize that he had to; if he ever wanted to recover enough to be useful again.
Until now, Avon had not been ready. He was reluctant to admit it but the time with Argus had helped.
"When I was at the Detention Centre, I was visited periodically by Sester and sometimes Servalan," Avon began.
Argus was shocked that Avon was finally willing to talk about the Detention Centre. There was no reaction on Argus's his face but there was an increased alertness. He knew the last thing Avon needed was someone reacting emotionally and with sympathy; Avon needed someone detached and objective.
Avon told Argus about the conversation sessions at the Centre; and about his anger and helplessness at being used to provide amusement for others. He told him about how they used him even when they knew he was about to collapse from exhaustion; or was in so much pain from the torture sessions that he could barely think, then punishing when he could not satisfy them; or how it amused Servalan to kept him talking until it was time for him to work again, not allowing him any time to rest.
It was a slow beginning. It did not deal with the most serious things they had done to him; but it was a beginning.
"So that is what you have been doing to me?" asked Argus. "You were pushing me into the role that you were forced into at the Centre? So that you could work out what happened to you?"
"Not at first," admitted Avon. "I didn't realize what I was doing until several days ago."
"And you decided not to tell me?"
"I needed some more time." Avon said. He smiled tiredly. He had not realized how draining it would be to talk about what had happened to him at the Detention Centre.
"You needed to feel in control again," said Argus with understanding. "At my expense."
"You did volunteer for the role."
I would hardly say that, thought Argus. "Are you ready to talk about the other things now?" asked Argus.
Avon did not respond. I need to do this, he told himself. Even though he was feeling exhausted and needed to rest, there was something else he needed to do.
"I want an exchange," Avon said finally.
"This is not a barter situation, Avon."
"I will cooperate in these sessions if you tell me something first."
"What do you want to know?"
"I want you to tell me about Commander Reve."
Argus was shocked; this was the last thing he had expected.
"Why do you want to know?"
"I refuse to be the only one feeling exposed," said Avon. "That is my condition."
Avon recognized patterns; and the pattern of interaction between Argus and the female commander had indicated something hidden, even though they hid it well.
Argus understood Avon's position. He would have preferred being tortured again; rather than having to do what he was asking Avon to do. Argus just wished he was not the other person being asked to pay a price.
"Very well," said Argus. He was committed to helping Avon. Not even personal considerations would stand in the way of that.
Argus spent the rest of their session telling Avon some details about his relationship with Reya. Argus hoped he would not regret it after Avon recovered.