Chapter Two

Vila stepped out from where he had been hiding in the shadows, his eyes traveling over the face of the man he had once considered a friend. Time had been good to him, he thought, though the effects of his imprisonment were there for all to see. He was thinner than he had once been, the hard planes of his face more pronounced, and there was a light scattering of grey sprinkled throughout his dark brown hair, the only real evidence of the passage of time, but it was the eyes that showed the most change. Always cautious and determined, there was now something else buried in their depths.

Years of searching, following false trails and leads, ignoring everyone who had told him that it was madness, going even against his own inclination for survival and self-interest had all led to this moment and for the first time Vila began to doubt his decision in undertaking such a foolhardy and dangerous exercise. And yet he could not turn back. He owned it to the others, to himself and more importantly to the man who strangely still commanded his loyalty despite all that had gone by.

He looked at him now, unsure of his footing but ploughing on ahead regardless of the outcome; he had come to far to turn back now. "Hello Avon," he said giving a small tentative smile as if his presence in this barren and desolate place was nothing out of the ordinary.

Avon stared at Vila, his eyes giving nothing away, unwavering in their steely gaze before he abruptly turned away, reaching for the flask of wine and pouring himself another drink. "What are you doing here Vila?"

The voice that spoke had the same gruffness to it that it always had, though the sound of it was more abrasive than before, carrying a raspingness that spoke of pain and isolation. Vila wondered how long it had been since Avon had last spoken to another living person.

"Rescuing you."

The words were said as a simple statement of fact but Avon had never been one to take anything at face value. "Why?"

Vila didn't know what to say to this. He had no idea how to put into words all the reasons he was here, how could he explain something that seemed so simple in principle but in reality made no sense, not even to himself.

As the question lingered unanswered in the air Avon carried on with his drinking, half turning to Vila, his expression one of mild curiosity. "It's been seven..."

"Eight." Vila paused as Avon glanced at him, though the calm composure of Avon's face remained despite this piece of news. "It's been eight years."

"That long."

At the indifferent tone in Avon's voice Vila gave a wry smile. He had almost forgotten how easily Avon could give off that air of casual boredom, the pretense he went through of showing little interest in things unless it was something that truly challenged his intellect. Vila knew better though. He knew that Avon wore his indifference and his intelligence as a shield, a barrier against letting anything or anyone get too close; it seemed that even eight years of solitude could not erase the habit that was as much a part of him as was his instinct to survive.

"You weren't easy to find."

Avon turned fully to face him, his lips curling up slightly in a familiar amused smirk. "No. I don't suppose I was." He gave a quick dismissive glance to Vila's companion who lurked in the shadowy darkness. "Whose your friend?" he said, his voice still carrying the same level of disinterest.

This time Vila knew that Avon's indifference was mostly likely real. Avon rarely had the inclination to partake in the normal social necessities that most people took for granted. "Do you really want to know?"

"No." The topic closed Avon's face slipped back into it's unreadable mask as he turned and reached for the flask, taking another swig of wine. 'Why are you really here Vila?"

Vila took a step forward, his expression conveying the purposefulness of his words. "I told you. Rescuing you."

Avon remained where he was, saying nothing, wearing his silence like a cloak. Tonight though it brought him no ease from the burdens he carried, the silence laying thick and heavy as if it was a tangible thing that he could grasp within his hands.

Why had Vila come?

Tonight of all nights when the memories of the past had been seeping through his mind, invading his thoughts, disturbing the small semblance of calm that he had managed to make for himself. Seeing Vila that illusion was now shattered and he knew then that he would never find any peace. The realization of this fact brought him little comfort.

"You needn't have bothered."

From the shadows Vila's companion stepped out. The light of the lantern revealed a young man of about twenty, his dark eyes already hardened by a past few knew though the small but distinct scar that ran across his cheek was evidence of the violence he had known. He had come only out of loyalty to Vila and even that was being stretched to its limits just by being in the presence of that man. He swept his eyes over the man in question not bothering to hide his disgust.

"Are you sure it was worth risking our lives to saveā€¦ him. We don't need him."

Terys's words meant little to Vila. He had heard them and many words like them before and not one word, not one argument had ever managed to persuade him to veer from what he knew needed to done. Finding Avon had been the thing that had matter. Whether it was right or not was not something he was willing to discuss.

Keeping his resolve Vila fixed his stare on Terys, determination in his every word. "Yes we do. We need him. I need him."

Avon listened, half turning as he did so, surprised at the confidence and fortitude that was in Vila's voice.

At Avon's glance Vila turned his attention back to him, shutting out anymore of Terys's words before he had a chance to continue; wasting time in pointless arguments would serve no purpose. "You know Avon if I didn't know you any better I'd say that was self pity in your voice but I know it can't be because Kerr Avon isn't the kind of man who does self-pity."

Matching Vila's look with one of his own Avon slowly took a mouthful of his drink, keeping his eyes on him as he swallowed before he turned away placing the empty tumbler carefully down on the bench. "That man doesn't exist anymore.

Vila heard the note of weary acceptance in Avon's voice and knew that this was a man who had lost all hope. He felt the pain of Avon's words as if they were his own which in a way they were. He was the only other survivor who had been there on that place.

Gauda Prime.

Two simple words and yet they imparted so much significance. A name of planet few had heard of until the events of that day. Now everyone knew of that place and spoke of it in such revered tones. Yet for the two who had been there they were words that haunted them, words they could hardly say for fear of all the memories that they brought back.

He had never thought that he and Avon would have such a thing in common.

"No, I don't suppose he does."