Five Words... Avon
Blake will never rest easily. We know that. Any good memories that the Federation ripped from his mind when they tried - futilely - to remake him, they seem to be gone forever.
But the bad... he is not so fortunate. Those come back too often in his dreams, dreams of torture, emptiness and bloodied faces he will never be able to put a face to when awake. My cabin is far too close, and I hear him crying in his sleep.
At least, since I had a word with Zen, I hear him. Since I had a word with Zen, I am able to bypass the lock, silently enter his cabin, and sit and try what I can to bring him out of the nightmares and into quieter sleep. It's not concern, not really - I cannot afford the weakness of what softer people call compassion - but self-interest. With our lives in his hands, the last thing we need is a Sleepless as well as Fearless Leader giving commands. And we have learned that - for some unknown, obscurely Blake reason - I am the only one who can do this.
But if he wakes -? I say nothing, he says nothing, we avoid eye contact as I leave, and don't speak of it again. He leaves me with my unconcern, and in return I let him pretend there is no need for concern. Even I could not add humiliation to the pain his shattered mind tries to hide from, so we pretend in the day that his nightmares do not hurt... either of us.
Maybe that is where what they call compassion comes in...
It reminded him oddly of Servalan in her glory days... sleek, pale, glittery, feminine, beautiful.
Ah yes, and totally, toxically poisonous.
The ex-rebel who had outlived all his allies and enemies regarded the delicate, big-eyed little alien bug for a minute - then picked up the nearest heavy object, smiled...
And squashed it into a flattened, glittery mess.
He'd done much the same - metaphorically speaking - for the ex-Supreme Commander, after all.
"It's... beautiful," Cally breathed, gazing around. "So beautiful."
Blake reached out, one finger brushing the glimmering petal of a golden brightrose. "I would never taken you for a gardener, Avon," he said slowly.
Avon quirked an eyebrow at him, but the work seemed to soften his edges, and his slight smile was almost genuine. "I was taught by a great-aunt, who I suspect loved her flowers rather more than her family." The smile twisted. "Of course, I agreed with her on that. She taught me a great deal over the years." His dark, unusually serene gaze wandered over the elegant greenery bordered by rich tangles of multicoloured flowerbeds and dotted with rainbows of floral trees. A smallish garden, but in its small way quite perfect.
"It must have been a great deal of work," Jenna was circling slowly from her spot among the sparklebud shrubs, watching the flutterlights dancing across the velvet-smooth turf.
Avon shrugged. "One must do something with the longeurs between missions, after all. I choose to work with my hands, in a way."
"Very clever." Her eyes gleamed at him, very like one of the jewel-like buds surrounding her head. "I didn't think of you as an artist, Avon."
"Hardly," he said, quietly mocking. "Gardening is not an artform the Federation recognises, after all."
"Or an honest artisan, for that matter."
"They look so alive," Cally said wistfully, "We have nothing like this on Auron. And such perfume!" She breathed in, almost reverently. "It's just... so beautiful."
"What is a garden without scent, after all?" Jenna caught the look Avon gave her. "My family gardened in a small way. When we could. We weren't always in a place to do so."
"It reminds me..." Blake spoke softly; the others glanced at him warily - they had all learned too well to dread their leader's battered memories - but for once the words didn't appear to heard something ugly. "My mother made a garden very like this once. All colour and light."
"Though rather more colour and less light." A teasing note entered his voice. "A good gardener, my mother, but not as skilled as this. And always changing her mind... there was one year, she went through every red flower on Earth, or off Earth for that matter."
"Like this?" Avon touched a control on his wrist... and the shimmering riot of colours swirled and faded into a million shades of pink and scarlet and crimson.
"Very like." Blake's finger drifted through the edge of the brightrose, now a deep, pure blood-red.
Avon flicked the switch again, and the flowers flickered and paled to cream and white. "This was always my aunt's preferred colour scheme, she designed the computer program herself." Another flick, and the garden was all blue flowers and green astroturf.
"I like this better," Jenna said.
"I too," Cally agreed. "I'm not sure why Vila does not care for it, though."
The three Alphas shared a look, and shrugged.
"One's tastes, for good or ill, are formed early, it seems," Avon drawled. "In the case of the Delta Dome children... ill."
"But did he not also grow up on Earth?"
"Vila's family," Blake shrugged, "what there was of it from his stories -"
"What you can believe there was of it, from his stories -" Jenna added, dipping her hands into the shifting azures of a patch of glowcups.
"- Were poor, and Delta, and had to make do made do with -" Avon's lips twisted again.
Jenna nodded, and finished the sentence for him, as the flutterlights danced right through her as if she - or rather they - were not there.
"How is he?"
The crew looked up, as Cally came back from the medical bay. It was Tarrant who had spoken, his ordinary light sneer overlaid with genuine concern.
"He will live," Cally dropped down on the couch, very tired. "But he will be appealingly quiet and wan for a while. Vila did warn him." She sighed. "Again."
"He was so ill," Dayna said. "Are you sure -?"
"Oh yes, this has happened before."
"It -" Tarrant stopped. "It has?"
"At least three times before Blake put his foot down. It's my fault, I should have checked the planet's marketplaces more closely," she rubbed her forehead. "I will never forget the first time, we really truly believed he would die."
Vila nodded. "Put the rest of us off for oh, maybe a couple of weeks."
"He did suffer greatly," Cally agreed. "Albeit... rather beautifully, as Jenna said at the time. We had people sitting with him for days, just hovering and comforting him. It threw the rebellion back for weeks on end."
"Then Orac found this cure," Vila added.
"For the illness?"
"For the craving. The fact that he can't resist the stuff - well, who can? - doesn't mean he's allowed to have it. Ersatz-codliver-oil for ten days, that'll do the trick." Vila stopped to think. "Of course, given that we don't have Blake to make him take it, doing the trick may be trickier than you think."
"Agreed." Cally sighed. "We can't do that."
"And then we have to stop him finding the secret chocolate stashes we all brought back."
"All of them?" Tarrant looked appalled.
"Unless we eat them first," Cally answered gravely. "For Avon's sake, of course."
"All of them?" Tarrant looked even more appalled... then thoughtful.
As did Dayna.
They all broke the silence at once. "We can do that."
It was adorable.
In a huge, ferocious, sabre-toothed and scimitar-clawed sort of way.
Blake stared at the striped astrotigris kitten that his normally sensible and detached - not to say inhumanly unfeeling - computer expert was hugging protectively. "You can't be serious, Avon."
"I've named it MyKatt."
Jenna blinked. "He's serious."
"You never had a pet as a boy, did you?" Vila said from behind the pilot's seat - the astrotigris may have been a kitten, a mere baby, but it was bigger than Gan. "Couldn't you have bought a goldfish or something?"
Avon wrapped his arms more tightly around as much of the animal as he could reach. He smiled slightly as it purred; the rest of the crew clapped hands over their ears, near deafened by the hurricane-loud noise. "It's harmless, Blake It's just a baby."
"It was abandoned in an alley on the planet, Blake," Cally said placatingly. "We can't really abandon it again. Maybe an animal shelter -?"
"They take kittens the size of... well, kittens, Cally," Vila pointed out. "Not interstellar tanks with teeth. Anyway, it looks like it's imprinted on Avon. They do, you know."
"And Avon on it..." Jenna murmured.
"Avon, this is a revolution, not a man-eating-animal sanctuary."
Avon's mouth set in a firm line as the astrotigris butted its utterly cute - and utterly enormous - head against him lovingly and nearly knocked him flying. "It won't eat me, Blake."
"That's reassuring," Vila muttered. "What about the rest of us?"
"It might not eat you either, I doubt you're all that appetising. Blake," Avon turned big, round, unnervingly puppy-canineoid eyes on his Fearless but Unquestionably Unnerved Leader, matching the big, round, unnervingly kitten-felinoid eyes of his pet, and said the word none of them had ever thought they'd hear from their icy expert, "Blake...