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A Choice Cut of Fool

By Kathy Hintze
Page 2 of 5

"Stay with him, Avon, while I get something from the medical unit."

"Is it wise to give him anything while he's drunk?" Avon asked.

"What I have in mind will not harm him."

"Wish...wish Cally was my girl," Vila mourned, looking up at Avon. His eyes were now almost entirely glassy.

Avon said nothing in return, merely waited for Cally.

"But...but she's not. She belongs to you, Avon. I know that. Everybody knows that."

"Cally belongs to no one," Avon denied.

"Huh! She...she does so." Vila hiccuped noisily. "Don't you, Cally?"

Avon glanced over his shoulder. Cally had paused inside the doorway, caught off-guard no doubt by Vila's drunken remark. At least that was the impression he received by the strange look on her face.

"This will help you sleep. Vila, and when you wake up, you will be yourself again."

"Never be myself again," Vila muttered, trying to sit up. Avon forced himself back down. "Let me go, Avon, please. Don't keep me here. If I stay, I'll die."

"Don't be ridiculous," Cally informed him. She injected him with what she'd brought from the medical unit.

"Will...will so." The thief's voice faded and he was asleep.

"How long will that keep him out?" Avon inquired, pausing in the doorway to look back in at the sleeping thief.

"Eight hours," Cally reported. "Why? What is it?"

"I'm not sure, Cally."

"If it's what Vila said, Avon, don't let it bother you. I know it is not true."

Avon refused to comment on it.

"Then what?"

"I don't know," Avon muttered. He could not put what he was feeling into words, as it was something he'd never experienced before.

"You sensed something about him, didn't you?"

Avon, with obvious reluctance, nodded.

"Avon, I have been sensing something since Vila teleported back up from Keezarn."

"And you said nothing?"

"What could I say? It was so vague an impression, I put it down to worry over Vila."

Avon accepted that. "What did you sense, Cally?"

"He is very unhappy, Avon. He wants to leave, but he's too frightened to do so."

"Quite sensible, considering what would happen if Servalan caught up with him," Avon returned.

"Avon, he is afraid!"

"Of what, Cally?"

"I don't know," Cally replied, feeling helpless.

"Cally, Vila has always been afraid. For as long as I've known him, he's been afraid."

"Not like this, Avon. This is more than fear. It borders on self-destruction."

That got Avon's attention immediately. "I think you misinterpret what you feel, Cally. Vila would no more suicide than I would."

Cally stared intently at Avon. "Would you risk being captured by Servalan, Avon?"

Avon stared right back, answering without hesitation, "Not if I could prevent it, no."

"Even if it meant suicide?"

Avon answered a bit slower this time. "Perhaps. It would depend on the circumstances."

"Why don't you admit it, Avon? You'd prefer being a prisoner to being dead."

"Most sane people would," he returned. "What are you getting at, Cally?"

"Vila would not let himself be taken, Avon. He would rather die."

"You're being a little melodramatic, don't you think? Vila has been 'taken', as you call it, on a number of occasions. Have you forgotten Horizon?"

"That's not what I mean, Avon, you know that!"

Avon frowned at her. He was tired and in no mood to argue with Cally over Vila's drunken ravings. "I'm tired," he stated. "I'm going to bed. If you'll take my advice, you'll do the same." He turned to leave, but Cally stopped him with a touch on the arm.

"We cannot pass this off, Avon. You know we can't."

Avon glanced back at Vila and shrugged. "We'll see how he is in the morning." He rubbed his eves. "Hopefully, we'll all have a clear head then."

"But one of us will also have a terrible headache," Cally added with a sudden mischievous smile.

Avon smiled too. "Yes, he will, won't he?"

#

Vila woke up with more than a mere headache. In fact, his head woke him up with an angry roar which frightened him into consciousness. A few seconds later, he realized what it was and let out a horrible groan which only added to his pain.

"It's...it's...ow, quit it, will you?" he moaned to the shower. He stepped into the stall and turned on the water, letting it drench him, clothes and all, in its cold fury. It did not drive away the pain, however. And he staggered back into the room flinching at every step. Surely goosepimples didn't hurt like that all the time, he wondered, as he started to shiver from the cold. At least he'd never noticed them hurting before.

"And how are we this morning?" Cally's greeting sounded like she was using an amplifier the size of his cabin.

"Please," he begged in a half-whisper, "please don't shout."

I'm not... telepathy made him grimace in agony and she quickly finished aloud. "I'm not shouting, Vila."

He nodded carefully, half afraid his brain might choose this particular moment to try an escape. It certainly felt as if it was trying to beat its way out using everything from a concentrated forcewall to one of Dayna's explosives.

"What...what happened? Did we get caught by Servalan?" Cally's face wasn't really green, was at? He blinked and the green disappeared. Must have been on the inside of my eyes, he decided.

"No, Vila," the Auron replied quietly in an amused tone. It was very apparent that Vila remembered nothing of the last eight hours. "I think you did a little celebrating, that's all."

"Celebrating?" He started to scratch his head and immediately stopped, jerking his hand in front of his face. When was the last time he had cut his fingernails? They seemed so long and sharp. "Me?"

"What's the matter, Vila?"

"Nothing. Guess I'm just really supersensitive this morning, all over it appears."

"Well, here's something that should help." She held out a glass of pale blue liquid.

"What is it?" he asked, hesitating. The very colour of the stuff sent his stomach into a frenzy.

"Something to ease your headache."

Vila took the glass in a shaking hand and started to drink from it. As it touched his lips, he froze, staring at Cally. She was green! In fact, she was fast becoming more than that. Her face was swelling all out of proportion, and her eyes had acquired a sudden burning intensity which terrified him to his soul. He dropped the glass and backed away from her.

"Vila, what is it?" she asked, taking a step towards him.

"No, get back!" he screamed. "Whatever you are, go away! Leave me alone." He crawled as far into the wall as he could and covered his head. A claw touched him, sending shivers of terror through his body. "No, don't hurt me. Please!"

Cally withdrew her hand and stepped back. What was wrong with Vila? Why was he acting the way he was? Then she felt it, the aura she had sensed at Keezarn. The faint trace of something which had engulfed Vila before he had teleported down. Fear, no, sheer terror held Vila in its grasp and she did not know what was causing it.

Avon, you must come to Vila's cabin at once!

#

Avon was at that moment engaged in a rather heated argument with Tarrant and snarled aloud, "Not now, Cally, I've no time."

"Cally? Avon, what are you talking about?" Dayna had been privy to the uproar since she had been on the flight deck at the time Avon arrived. She had deemed it better to return to keep a watchful eye on Tarrant, since he had more times than not of late managed to put his foot in his mouth in front of Avon.

Avon glared at her, then at Tarrant. "Nothing, damn it. Stay on this heading, Tarrant. I'll be back!" He walked stiffly off the flight deck and far enough down the corridor so he wouldn't be seen, then ran for Vila's cabin.

#

"What was all that about?" Tarrant demanded angrily.

"Don't shout at me, Tarrant," Dayna snapped back. "I'm not mad at you." She paused, pursing her lips. "Yet!"

Tarrant took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Sorry. Avon makes me so damn angry that I could almost kill him." He clenched his fists in exasperation.

"Me, too," Dayna chuckled. "But don't let it get to you. It only makes him worse. Or hadn't you noticed?"

Tarrant glared at her, then snorted. "I guess I hadn't, now that you mention it." He stood up and walked over to her, bending down to look her squarely in the eyes. "Thanks for watching my back, by the way."

"Is that what I was doing?" Dayna asked him in all innocence.

"Dayna, you can be almost as irritating as Avon, do you know that?"

Dayna smiled and winked at him. "Thanks."

#

Avon heard screams from within Vila's cabin and quickly opened the door. Cally turned as he entered, looking both puzzled and worried.

"What's the matter with him?" Avon demanded.

"I don't know. I came in and found him suffering from his hangover and brought him something to ease the pain. He took the glass, then screamed and crawled into that corner. He's not moved since."

#

'Not moved' was not exactly true, since Vila was moving; every inch of him was moving in terror. Vila heard the door to his cabin open and ventured a look. Something else had entered, a black-headed demon with cold black eyes. The eyes caught his and held him trapped.

"Vila, what is it?" it growled. "What is the matter with you?"

"No," Vila whimpered. "Please, please let me go. Please, please."

The demon blinked, releasing Vila from its horrible spell, and Vila quickly ducked his head back under the protection of his arms.

#


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