Disclaimer: Blake's 7 doesn't belong me. It was the genius of Terry Nation and belongs to the BBC. I just play in their Universe occasionally.
Author's Note: Here we are, the end of the journey. I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who's read this. Special thanks to Jay for the wonderful reviews and subtle nagging to get a shift on – I'm sorry it's taken as long as it has and I hope it was worth all the waiting.
Also a huge thank you to Orion for all her wonderful beta-ing. The comments and suggestions really helped to keep me on track.
Finally a note to Spring – I really hope you don't mind the liberties I took with your wedding present, without Legacy my fan fiction would have remained firmly stuck in my head for all time – so Ta!
Needless to say feedback, good or bad, is always appreciated, indeed loved.
Enough talking, on with the final act...
A year later
"Are you sure?" Vila's question was tentative with just a hint of whine.
Rhiannon laughed, her jade eyes twinkling with amusement and affection, and she leaned forward to kiss the Delta on the cheek.
"Why do I get the feeling that I'm seeing the real Vila Restal right now? Of course I'm sure."
"They'll never buy it," Vila retorted darkly. "I mean, you and me? Blake's no fool. He'll know."
Rhiannon settled back in her chair. "Vila, Blake hasn't seen you for a year. He might have known the Vila Restal on the Liberator, the one playing a role; but he doesn't know you. As you say, he's no fool. If he's any kind of leader he'll have been keeping tabs on you and seen the job you've been doing on Carillion, helping to organise the new government and repair the damage the Federation inflicted on our people."
Vila looked unconvinced.
"And," Rhiannon continued with a cheeky grin, "he'll have heard the local gossip."
Vila blinked in surprise. "Er, what gossip?"
Rhiannon gave a mock sigh and shook her head in despair. "You haven't seen the vidcasts that have been circulating for the last two months? The ones that speculate when the Queen of Carillion is going to make an honest man of President Blake's formal representative?"
Vila coloured a shade somewhat darker than beetroot.
"I thought not. You really need to take some time off, Vila. Look, we both know why Blake has called you back to Earth. He knows your work on Carillion is almost done and he wants you back by his side. Do you want to go back?" The question was lightly asked, as though the answer was a foregone conclusion, but Vila could see the young woman's shoulders tense in fear that she might be proved wrong.
His voice was gentle as he replied, "You know I don't." He reached across to take Rhiannon's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "And I know the only way Blake would consent to me staying on Carillion is if he believes that you and I are..." He fought to find the right word, one that didn't bring him out in a cold sweat. "together," he concluded finally. "I know that, but Blake knows that you and Avon were involved, one of the others is bound to have told him. That's why I don't think he'll believe us. Who would believe that someone like you would settle for a Delta thief...ex-thief... when you've had someone like Kerr Avon?"
Rhiannon fixed him with an implacable stare that made Vila squirm in his seat as though he was a recalcitrant schoolboy.
"I am queen of Carillion, Vila. I do not settle for anybody." Then she smiled, her face softening. "Come on, Vila, what is it really? Admit it, you don't really give two figs for what Blake thinks, do you? This is about Kerr."
Vila gave a reluctant chuckle. "Am I so transparent? All right. Look, I know Kerr asked me to look after you..."
"And vice versa," Rhiannon intejected.
"Yes, and vice versa. But I can't help feeling I'd be betraying him somehow by agreeing to this."
"Betraying him by cheating on him with me? Or by making me cheat on him with you?" Rhiannon asked.
Vila grimaced. "Both," he admitted. "I think I'm what you would call conflicted."
"Daft is what I'd call you," Rhiannon retorted affectionately. "We're pretending, Vila. In public we'll be a couple, in private we'll be the same as we've always been. It's just another role to play, although hopefully this time it will be less painful to maintain."
Before Vila had chance to answer, the door to the compartment opened and a smartly dressed young woman entered, bowing low to Rhiannon.
"My Queen, my Lord Vila. The shuttle is making its final approach to Earth."
"Thank you, Cerys. See that everything has been prepared," Rhiannon replied, a touch of hauteur in her tone. The young woman bowed again and backed out of the door, closing it behind her.
"I hate doing that," Rhiannon said with a sigh. "I'd much rather she called me Rhiannon, but if I even suggested it she'd be horrified. My subjects do so like their formality."
"I don't know, I quite like the whole Lord Vila thing," Vila said thoughtfully.
"Well, that's settled then." Rhiannon swung her chair round, fixing it in position and clasping a safety belt about her lap in preparation for landing. "Although technically according to Carillion etiquette, as my Consort you should be addressed as Your Highness."
"I can live with that," Vila grinned as he followed Rhiannon's example.
The shuttle descended in a cloud of dust and leaves thrown up from the shuttle pad by the downwards force of the landing thrusters. At the edge of the pad a contingent of formally dressed officials waited impatiently. At the head, more impatient than the rest put together, the President of the New Galactic Alliance put a finger inside his collar and pulled at the stiff material.
"Blake." A blond woman stepped forward and put a hand over Blake's, stilling its impatient motions. At the touch Blake smiled and shifted his gaze from the shuttle to the woman at his side. His smile lessened the severe aspect given by the puckered scar running down the length of one cheek.
"Sorry. I hate this get-up. And it's only Vila after all. I don't see why it's necessary."
Soolin gave a soft chuckle. "Because Vila is accompanying the Queen of Carillion. We're trying to make a good impression."
"It's Rhiannon. I've spoken to her dozens of times in the past year," Blake protested.
"Yes, but this is the first time you are meeting as heads of state. The Carillion people put a lot of stock in correct etiquette, anything less and they would take it as an insult," Soolin reminded him gently.
"Fine." Blake scowled. "But I still don't like it." He would have continued but his attention was caught by the sight of the shuttle hatch opening outwards to form a short flight of steps.
"Show time," Blake muttered as he stepped forward onto the concrete.
A stocky man, dressed in ceremonial robes, stepped out of the open hatchway, descending to the bottom of the steps and taking up position to the left of the staircase.
As Blake and his party approached, he snapped his fingers. Blake stopped, unsure of whether to approach nearer.
Soolin leaned in next to his ear. "You go forward. We stay here," she whispered in an amused tone. Clearly all of her briefings on Carillion customs had gone in one ear and straight out the other.
"You're coming with me," Blake hissed under his breath.
"As your bodyguard it would be inappropriate," Soolin protested in a low tone.
Blake turned and gave her a hard look. "Inappropriate be damned," he said shortly and grabbing her hand pulled her after him as he covered the last few steps to the bottom of the stairs. They came to an abrupt stop and as Soolin tried to smooth her ruffled clothing, not to mention her ruffled nerves, Blake directed a challenging glare at the Carillion official.
The man merely raised his eyebrows and cleared his throat with a short cough.
"I present Her Majesty Queen Rhiannon, daughter of King Hefeydd, Ruler of the Independent Kingdom of Carillion; and her Consort, His Highness the Queen's Protector Lord Vila Restel."
Blake and Soolin stood open-mouthed as Rhiannon and Vila descended the steps and stopped in front of them, smiling broadly.
"Her what?" Blake spluttered.
"Consort," Vila said briskly. "Close your mouth, Blake, it isn't a look that befits the President of the New Galactic Alliance."
"Vila." His face breaking into a wide smile he enveloped the thief in a fierce hug. "It's good to see you."
Vila struggled free, feeling the need to breathe. "You too Blake, it's been a long year."
Blake turned to Rhiannon. "Rhiannon, it's wonderful to finally meet you in person. Welcome to Earth."
"Thank you. I've heard a lot about it from Vila. I'm looking forward to having a chance to visit some of the places Vila mentioned. Soolin, how are you?" Rhiannon held out a hand to clasp Soolin's. Vila stared in bemusement.
Soolin laughed. "Have I changed so much?"
"Umm, I'd have to go with yes," Vila said staring at the young woman before him.
Gone was the mercenary Vila had known on the Liberator. The tight fitting jump suit was replaced by a long flowing gown of palest bronze, its hem just sweeping the ground; and instead of being secured in a tightly pulled back ponytail, her blond hair fell in soft waves past her shoulders. But it was Soolin's face that had changed the most, the harsh set of her features had softened and Vila could see the soft creases of laughter lines around her mouth, whilst her eyes, chips of blue ice that glittered like sapphires, no longer held the hard glint of suppressed anger and fear.
Vila looked from Soolin to Blake and back again. "You kept that quiet," he said with a wicked grin.
For an instant Blake looked taken aback, then he smiled a little sheepishly, folding one hand about Soolin's. "So say's the queen's consort," he retorted. "I guess this means you won't be coming back to Earth then," he continued, his voice tinged with regret.
Vila smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, Blake, my home's on Carillion now. I did bring you someone who can help though." Turning round he gave a nod to the Carillion official who cleared his throat once more.
"I present His Highness Prince Kelyn, son of Queen Rhiannon, heir to the throne of the Independent Kingdom of Carillion and My Lady Dayna Mellenby, the Queen's Representative in the New Galactic Alliance."
"Don't you just love all this name dropping," Vila commented as Blake's jaw hit the floor for the second time that day.
Dayna stepped down the flight of steps nervously. Babies in general were really not her thing and heirs to the throne in particular. She couldn't help but be relieved as Rhiannon relieved her of her burden the moment she reached the concrete. Even so she stroked the small, soft cheek affectionately as she handed him over before turning to greet Soolin and Blake.
"I think you win on the surprise front," Blake commented to Vila a few moments later.
Vila looked across to Rhiannon and her son. "He's not mine." His mouth twisted a little as he spoke.
"I know," Blake said quietly. "You only need to look at him to see who his father is."
Vila looked at the face staring out at him from Rhiannon's arms, old eyes of darkest grey flecked with emerald which already seemed to contain the wisdom of ages, a strong square chin which even now hinted of stubborn determination, and a shock of jet black hair. Just looking at him made Vila's heart ache with loss.
"I promised Avon I would look after her. The least I can do is give his son a name. Kelyn Avon Restel. It has quite a ring to it, don't you think?"
"Avon would have liked it," Blake replied softly.
"My Lord Vila?" There was movement at Vila's elbow and he looked around to see the attendant Cerys.
"There is a transmission from Carillion for your personal and immediate attention. From Lord Chancellor Nagor."
Although the day was warm, Vila felt a chill steal over him. This was it, the news he had been waiting for. He looked down at his hands, gloved as they always were these days. "I'll take it in the shuttle."
Quietly, Vila slipped away from Rhiannon's side and if she saw him leave she made no show of it. Crossing the landing pad, Vila climbed the steps of the shuttle and ducked inside, heading for the blessed solitude of his own compartment. Once the door was securely sealed behind him, he sat on the bunk and spoke the personal activation code which triggered his view screen. After a few moments of hissing static the vidscreen resolved into Nagor's friendly features. But there was no welcoming smile, Carillion's Lord Chancellor was grave. Vila felt a leaden weight settle around his heart.
"Nagor," he said. "I take it the news is not what I want to hear."
Nagor looked uncomfortable, not an expression Vila could ever recall seeing on the older man's face.
"What is it, Nagor?" Suddenly Vila was filled with real fear. Could the news be worse than even he feared? With Orac's covert assistance, a team of scientists on Carillion had spent the last few weeks testing his blood against that of Rhiannon's son to see whether the curse Servalan had inflicted on him would carry over to Avon's offspring. It had been torture not to be able to hold the child as he wished, only daring to touch the boy with gloved fingers, unable to drop kisses into the soft dark hair so like his father's. Rhiannon had tried to convince him that, just as with Avon, casual skin contact would do her son no harm, but Vila had seen the uncertainty lurking behind the outwardly calm green eyes and even if he hadn't, there was no way he would dare take the risk. The child was too precious to both of them.
Looking at Nagor's face now, Vila could only conclude that the scientists had found that the poison he carried in his veins was lethal to Kerr's child. But was there something more? Could the effects of the poison be spreading? Could he poison others now? Or was the poison slowly killing him? If that was the case he needed to find Avon, and soon. He wasn't prepared to leave Rhiannon and Kelyn alone.
"Tell me, Nagor," he said tersely.
Nagor shifted in his seat. "You're no threat to the child," he said quietly.
Relief flooded through Vila and he laughed shakily.
"Thank god. When I saw your face I thought..."
"You're no threat to anyone," Nagor interrupted, his expression still grave.
"Even better," Vila said with a smile, standing up. "I have to find Rhiannon and Kelyn."
"Sit down!" Nagor's command stunned Vila into silence. Wordlessly he sank back down onto the bunk, fear surging through him once more. The fear must have shown on his face, because Nagor's face softened.
"Vila, the scientists couldn't find any trace of the poison in your bloodstream," he said gently.
"What?" Vila looked at him blankly. "I don't understand."
"There was no trace of the poison in any of your samples. Your blood and tissues were normal. The scientists checked your DNA against your previous results and there was no sign of the transfected DNA."
"That can't be right," Vila stammered. "Every cell. That's what she said. It was in every cell. We checked. Cally checked, over and over again. It was there."
"Well it's not there now. Our scientists think it was an unstable transfection. Over time, as your cells divided and were renewed the new cells forced the foreign DNA out. It's not uncommon, apparently."
"How long have I been clear?" Vila's question was a whisper.
"They don't know. But they are confident that if there are any cells which still contain the transfected DNA they are in such small numbers that they cannot pose a threat to Kelyn."
OrAvon, Vila finished silently. Now he understood the grave expression on Nagor's face. Nagor understood that if Vila had known this before arriving on Carillion, things would have been very different. But there was no way Nagor could fully understand the real implications of his news. Mind racing Vila managed a mumbled thanks and farewell, ending the transmission with almost indecent haste. Only once silence had filled the room did he let the tears he had been holding back fall. Whether they were of joy or despair he didn't know.
It had been so simple. In his heart he had resigned himself to reuniting Avon with Rhiannon and their son, and vanishing from their lives once and for all. And he had thought that the day was not far from coming. With Orac's surprisingly obliging and ungrumbling assistance, he had narrowed his search to just over a hundred planets. A hundred planets he'd intended to personally visit and search just as soon as they returned to Carillion.
Now, as he looked through the shuttle view port at the huddle of figures standing on the concrete, laughing and joking with Rhiannon and Kelyn at the very heart, he knew it had suddenly become far from simple. Nobody had to know the full truth, not even Rhiannon. For her it would be enough that Kelyn was safe. He could keep the knowledge to himself. Nagor would hold his tongue; his first loyalty was to his queen and besides, he knew nothing of Avon's survival. He would believe that Vila had no wish to upset her. If nobody knew then Vila could do as he planned. Avon and Rhiannon had a son, Kelyn deserved the chance for his parents to raise him together.
Surely it should be that simple, he reasoned. But it wasn't. Because he knew that on the day when he looked Kerr in the eye, knowing that now there was nothing to stop them, he wouldn't be able to walk away.
A long time ago a young, idealistic Kerr Avon, persuading a shy but willing Delta thief into his bed for the first time, had said that freedom was having the ability to choose, to make your own decisions.
Until this moment, Vila Restel had genuinely believed that...
Now then, to sequel or not to sequel, that is the question... your comments would be welcome.