It was all over but the shouting. For once, to everyone's secret relief, things went exactly as planned. The entire ship's crew was knocked out and captured. A suitable planet had been located to strand them on, their two escorts had been diverted with orders "from Central Command" sending them off on a wild goose chase, and the ship was getting ready to leave orbit. Only one thing remained to be taken care of, and then they could concentrate on finding a safe place to hole up until Blake was healed enough to take over again. Avon couldn't wait; the burden was almost lifted. Even if all Blake did was say he wanted to find a safe place to raise his new-found son, that would be fine too, as long as the decision making process was finally out of his hands. But first, there was one farewell to be made.

Dr. Sanda Lloyd stood on the ship's bridge, waiting for Avon. There was almost no one left on board except herself and Blake's rebels, most of whom were busy with preparations for lift-off and ignoring her. That was fine with her, it gave her time to think. Everyone else was gone except a furious "Commissioner Sleer," cooling her heels in the ship's brig. She smiled a deeply satisfied smile at the memory of Servalan's outrage at being treated like a common criminal; Avon had ignored her furious demands to be left with the others, and Captain Tesch had certainly seemed more relieved than upset by her segregation from the rest of his crew. Only Lloyd's assurance that she was not being mistreated had allowed him, reluctantly, to leave without his young doctor, which was equally fine with her. More time to think, to plan, to reach a decision she still wasn't sure about, but which she knew had to be made. And soon.

"Forgive us for keeping you this long." She started as Avon stepped onto the bridge; she'd been so lost in thought she hadn't heard him enter. "I'm sure you understand our need to be certain that Blake would be all right--and quite frankly, you made a useful hostage in case anything went wrong," he added with disarming honesty. "We'll set you down with your shipmates now, along with any medical equipment you think you might need--"

"I want to go with you." Dr. Lloyd blushed faintly as all eyes turned to her in astonishment, but she stood her ground. She'd made up her mind. "You need a surgeon to keep an eye on Blake, at least for now. And a surgeon might come in handy at other times in your...business."

"Why?" Avon demanded suspiciously. She had his full and undivided attention now, and Lloyd found it more than a little discomfiting. Did the man realize how intense he was? "Devotion to your patient is all very well and good, doctor, but hardly a reason to go into political exile with a pack of rebels."

"My home planet was targeted for the Pacification Program," Dr. Lloyd replied. Oh yes, she decided as he continued to stare unblinkingly at her, he knew. That intensity was one of his weapons, but Lloyd refused to give him the satisfaction of showing him how intimidated she felt. At least, she hoped she did. "My cousin was able to get a message to me before we left on this mission. It was one of the oldest colonies and was completely loyal to the Federation," she continued, her voice filling with passion as the words poured out of her. "But they wanted a visible target, to use as a warning to other planets." She took a deep, shuddering breath. "When that happened, I realized I was unwilling to support a government that ruthless, that corrupt. But I didn't know what to do about it until now."

"She could be lying." That was Soolin, standing next to Dayna at the weapons console, but her voice didn't sound suspicious, just cautious. As if pointing out a fact she didn't want the others to overlook.

Avon nodded. "She could be." He smiled suddenly, a brilliant, dazzling smile that put Lloyd almost as off-balance as his earlier intensity. "But then again, she could be telling the truth. We can have Orac verify her story before we leave." He nodded again, this time at the doctor. "Besides, she's right; I think history has proven that a surgeon in the crew would be useful. If your story checks out, you can stay." He glanced around at the others. "That is, as long as the rest of you have no objections?"

The others nodded or murmured their own agreement, even Soolin, and Avon once again bestowed a smile upon their newest crewmember. "Welcome aboard, Dr. Lloyd."

"Call me Sanda," she broke in. "And I hope--I hope--" she stopped, at a loss for words.

"So do we, Sanda," Vila replied with a trace of humor. "So do we."

Interesting how things worked out, Avon mused as he headed down the corridor to his new quarters, which he'd appropriated from Servalan. Liberator was dead, and they got Scorpio. Then Scorpio died, and now they had this nameless Federation cruiser. But not nameless for long, if Avon knew Blake.

Avon stopped dead in the corridor as the realization struck him that he did, indeed, know Blake. Knew him far better than he'd ever have believed. After the impossibly long period of time spent searching for Blake, Avon had felt stretched to the breaking point, but shooting Blake had snapped him back to the cold light of sanity, forced him to realize what he was doing, who--or what--he had become. That very act seemed to have had the same effect on Blake, which was ironic, if Avon chose to think about it. An act of violence committed by one friend against another had brought them both, victim and assailant, to their collective senses, perhaps even strengthened the bond they so cautiously shared. Ironic wasn't the word for it; miraculous sprang to mind. A double miracle.

With a mental start that almost translated into physical motion, Avon realized he'd been standing in the corridor musing on the workings of fate for quite a while. He was unlikely to be disturbed, but thought it prudent to make his way to his cabin as quickly as possible; he had no desire to share his sudden insights with anyone, no matter how cozy a chat he and Jenna had shared during their mutual confinement. Someday, perhaps, but not tonight.

Healing, after all, took a long time, and now that they were all together again, he thought with a sudden rush of affection, he might be able to allow himself to do just that.

It was a comforting thought to take with him to bed.