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Cold Comfort

By Nicola Mody
Page 3 of 3

Avon peered at his glass. “What is this disgustig liquid? It resebbles a biological waste product.”

“Here,” Vila objected, putting his drink down on the mess room table, “I was enjoying that.”

Cally frowned at Avon. “It is hot lemon and honey. It has natural vitamin C and anti-oxidants, and is very good for you. And don’t put the others off, Avon, especially Vila who is being most co-operative.”

Vila smirked at Avon, who narrowed his swollen eyes—not that that was much effort—and said, “Vila is skatig od thid ice ad Vila doze it.”

“Leave Vila alone.” Cally compressed her lips in exasperation, reminded of her stint looking after children in the crèche on Auron. Unlike her sister Zelda, she had not been cut out for it. Rebellion had been an easier option. “Drink your lemon and honey, all of you, while I serve up the soup.”

“Soup!” Tarrant rubbed his hands together with pleasure. “A three-course meal. Excellent.”

“My mum always said ‘feed a cold and starve a fever’,” Vila said.

“Feed a dolt ad starve a thiever?” Avon asked. “She bust have foud that codradictory advice id your case.”

Vila looked offended. “My mum was very fond of me.”

“I suppose there had to be someone by the law of averages,” Dayna said.

Vila glared. “She wasn’t the only one either. Remember how I caught this cold?”

“Oh, I do.” Dayna toyed with her knife, and Vila nervously shifted his chair further away.

“Here we are,” Cally said, putting a steaming plate down in front of Avon. “Chicken soup.”

Dayna grinned. “I shot that on Axtos 5!” She looked sideways at Vila. “Chickens make good sitting targets.”

Avon glared at Cally. “Are you seriously suggestig that consubig boiled up bits of dead bird will help?”

“Yes,” Cally said patiently. “Drink it up. It will strengthen your immune system and may help clear your sinuses.”

“The size of that snout,” Vila said, “you'd need a whole pterodactyl.”

“Shut up, you fool.”

Vila looked alarmed. “It's spread to his brain. Even his synapses are clogged up. He can't get out a decent insult.”

Avon ignored him and stirred the soup distastefully. “Admit it Cally. It's a placebo.”

“No, Avon,” Vila said innocently. “You take it orally.” He moved smartly out of range.

Cally served Tarrant and Dayna and fetched the last two plates. “Get back to the table, Vila. Avon, eat your soup. Dayna, stop playing with your cutlery. Take that look off your face, Tarrant.” She stopped, horrified that she was slipping into old patterns of behaviour. But really, they were all like children. “Here you are, Vila. Don’t worry, it is tofu like mine. And if you eat it all up, Avon, you can have some ice-cream.”

***

“Ah, Avon.” Cally consulted the plastisheet she was carrying. “Orac has found some more natural remedies for me to try. I would like to give you a mustard compress.”

“Thed you deed to fide a bore fulfillig hobby,” Avon said. “Doe.”

“What, not even if it’s finest Dijon mustard from Outer Gaul?” Vila asked.

There was a brief gleam of appreciation in Avon’s eyes. “That frob Idder Gaul is superior.”

“I sit corrected.” Vila grinned from the couch.

“Information. Forward sensors indicate a meteor storm on predicted flight path.”

Avon looked up. “Thed plot a course aroud it. Bearing wud dide seved.”

“Codfirbed.”

Avon went pale. “Zed’s caught it too!”

“He can’t. He’s a computer,” Dayna said.

“It is partly orgadic.” Concerned, Avon started towards Zen with a probe, looking worried, but halted at a snigger from Vila. He looked at the thief suspiciously.

“Thought it might be company for you,” Vila said. “Make you feel more at home.”

Vila—” Avon advanced on him.

“Oh now look, at least he understands you now.” Vila never expected thanks, but the surprise on Avon’s face followed by a flash of warmth was enough; he smiled back.

“Come along, Avon,” Cally said. “If you do not want a mustard compress, how about a back rub with some alcohol.” In response to Vila’s reaction, she added, “It is rubbing alcohol, Vila, not the sort you drink.”

“Who cares about that? Wouldn’t mind the back rub no matter what you use.” Vila looked at her appealingly. “I’m not well, you know.”

Cally’s lips twitched. “No, none of you are, but at least your symptoms are under control, Vila.”

“I’m thirsty and tired and weak,” Vila complained, and added quickly, “Well, more than usual anyway.” He slumped and looked woebegone. “Oh, go on, Cally. I need a bit of looking after.”

“Avon needs it more, Vila. Come, Avon.”

Rolling his eyes, Avon followed her.

***

“Well, how about a eucalyptus chest rub?”

“No.”

“An alcohol back massage?”

“No.”

“Perhaps a little of that delicious chicken soup you make so well?”

“You are on cooking duty tonight. You can make it if you want it.”

“A lemon and honey drink, then? Provided of course that it’s good Ataro honey.”

“Avon, for the last time, you are well now. No.”


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Nicola Mody

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