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By Michelle Birkby
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"I want to live.. to live." Avon stared, watching the Cally-thing die slowly. Now, at the end, she looked so much like Cally, now that the magic-glamour had gone, now that the inhuman strength and the alien arrogance had disappeared with the ring, she looked young and helpless. The Cally-image began to fade.

"I want to live" For a moment Cally was a decayed corpse, then a white skeleton, still struggling to speak, to breathe, then it finally disappeared.

Avon turned to look at the others, with only the slightest trace of 'I told you so' on his face. They stared at him in amazement. They had thought they were lost this time, hadn't believed even Avon could save them. Then he had worked harder than ever before, reached deeper down than ever before, and the link between him and Cally had finally been acknowledged and used. For a moment, there had been nothing but and Cally, and together, they had beaten the unassailable being. Then he noticed Dayna's gaze shift past him and become filled with concern. He turned to look.

Cally stood in the doorway. Her face was white, and she was shaking. Tears ran down pale cheeks, but in her eyes there was a peace that hadn't been there before, a knowledge. She looked up at Avon, and their eyes met for one understanding moment. Then her fragile strength gave way, and she collapsed.

Dayna went to help her, and Vila followed, shooting Avon a reproachful glance as he did so. Avon had started to move, to help, but then he remembered the others were watching. 'Not yet.' He thought. 'I can't show weakness, not in front of them, and whatever I feel for her, it is a weakness.' Still, those feelings were obvious as he intently watched Cally being carried out, not in his hooded dark eyes, but in his clasped, white-knuckled hands.

"Well, at least Orac's back on his feet again."

"What a revolting thought!"

"You should be used to those." Dayna ignored Vila's remark as she went up to her console. Tarrant and Avon entered the flightdeck too. Tarrant had just told Avon how he had gone to check up on Cally, only to find that Dayna and Vila had taken such good care of her that she had left medicare hours ago. He didn't tell Avon that he had gone to visit Cally earlier to find Avon standing silently by her bed as she slept. The room was dark, and Tarrant couldn't see Avon's face. He had left quietly, before Avon could see him ,and somehow he didn't think Avon would have appreciated knowing he had been seen at his silent vigil.

As they took their places, Cally came in, smiling at Dayna. As she crossed behind Tarrant, he asked,

"Are you sure you're up to this, Cally?"

"Translated, that means how do you feel?" Avon's sardonic tone almost hid the concern in his voice.

"I feel fine, thank you." Her voice was warm and cheerful, and the crew relaxed slightly as they realised their Cally was back.

"And how about you, Vila?" Tarrant asked mockingly

"Oh, I'm ... oh, I see." He reluctantly took his place, flashing Cally a grin as he did so.

"Avon?" Tarrant asked.

Avon found himself turning to look at Cally, under the same hypnotism that had drawn him to the alien. For a brief second she looked down at her console. Then she looked up, straight into his eyes and smiled slowly.

//I know now. You can't ever deny it again. You can ignore me as much as you like, be as cold as you can be, say you hate me, but I'll always know. You were in my mind at the end, and I felt it all.//

Avon turned back round. He gave no indication that he had heard Cally's message, but he had, and he knew that she knew that. He would deal with it later.

"Zen, let's get out of here."

He went to see her in her cabin. She was looking at the sketch of Auron, again, the one she had been looking at that morning. Only a few hours ago, the two of them had been the same as always, never admitting anything, especially to themselves, never letting anything underneath the surface show. She looked up as he entered, but didn't say anything, only smiled slightly in greeting, as if he had been expected. He watched her, as he moved into the room. Watched for her reaction to his encroaching presence. She didn't flinch, or move, or shift her gaze from his eyes. He stopped, feeling superficially uncomfortable. He ignored, or rather refused to acknowledge the deep part of him that relaxed when he was with her.

"I had to do all that - to save the ship." He said, slowly.

"Of course you did." She replied, as assured as ever.

"I didn't mean to.. I didn't want mustn't think ..." his voice trailed away under her earnest, solemn gaze. She stood up, and he dropped his glance to the floor, and moved to the door.

//I'm terribly disappointed in you, Avon.//

He turned to look at her.


//I never thought you would be one to run away.//

"I'm not running away."

//Aren't you?//

"What would I be running from?"

//Me. Yourself, perhaps//.



She stood there, so sure, so certain, as if she had seen to the bottom of his soul, and already knew the answer to unasked questions. He had got used to the idea that sometimes she could read his mind, see things no-one else ever saw, knew thoughts no-one else knew he ever had. She knew him better than anyone, even Blake, and she had never used that knowledge, never revealed anything, just trusted him because only she knew she could. But he wasn't ready to have his whole self known just yet.

"Cally, don't delude yourself into believing I feel anything for you. It's true you're the only crew member I trust completely, perhaps the only person I trust not to let me down, but..."

//That means nothing?//

"But I can't feel any more for you. Emotion" he said, more to himself than Cally, "is a weakness. It drags you down and destroys you in the end. The only safety lies in not caring."

"Not caring!" she snapped, so loud she was almost shouting, and he looked up, surprised. "Safety? Was it safety that made you rescue us from Horizon? Is it not caring that keeps you looking for Blake? Did cool reason make you bring back Dayna, or was it that you saw she couldn't survive on her own? Were you dragged down when you left that asteroid we took Gan to and come back to us? Was it cold hard logic that made you continue the war against the aliens after Blake was injured? Did you really not care about Vila when you went down to rescue him from Bayban?"

Her voice dropped to almost a whisper. "Tell me Avon, when you confronted that alien, when you risked death, taunted it to hurt you to force me away from it while I was still alive, instead of playing along sensibly and waiting for a more opportune moment to kill it, were you entirely without emotion then?"

She moved closer, almost, not quite, touching him.

//Why do you pretend not to care? Do you know how much that hurts? After today, I know you need me too. Would it really destroy you to admit it?//

She moved even closer, her hand on his arm now, her eyes pleading, her voice in his head strong and sure, not angry any more, almost sad instead.

//You know I love you. You know I have done for a long time. I've always suspected you felt the same, and now I know you do. Let go of Anna. I'm not her, you can love me. Please Avon, before it's too late.//

She waited, watching his face, as his eyes moved up to meet hers. He watched her suspiciously for a moment, then he let it all slip away, all the fears and obstacles and barriers.

"Cally." He whispered, as he reached up to gently touch her face. In her head, she felt, rather then heard him say

//Cally, I love you.//

"Stop!" Avon shouted. He quickly looked round the empty flight deck. No-one had seen his reverie, his rare slip of concentration. 'What was I thinking?' he thought. 'That is impossible, ridiculous, sentimental rubbish.' He insisted, trying to convince himself, and not succeeding. Too many bridges had been crossed and burnt behind him today.

Up in her room, Cally stirred in her sleep and smiled contentedly.

He stood up and walked around the room. 'I can't deny it.' He thought. 'Not now. Not after what I demanded of her today. Before, there was Anna, but now, there's nothing to hide behind, not even from myself. But I can't say anything to her, just yet. I'll talk to her after...after this business about Blake is over.'

In the underground chamber he knelt, ignoring the debris falling around him. He looked down at the open, unseeing eyes and the broken body. 'It can't be too late.' He insisted to himself. 'She can't be dead. Not now. Not now I'm ready.' He reached down, and gently touched her face.

"Cally." He whispered.

//Cally, I love you.//

The silence in his head lasted forever.

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Michelle Birkby

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