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Bottle of Wine

By Vanessa Mullen
Page 1 of 3

Vila tucked the bottle carefully under his arm. He'd secreted it inside a rather hideous vase a couple of of months ago when he realised that supplies were running low. Now all he had to do was to get it back to his room unobserved. According to the label it was Meringay Red. A wine to be lovingly savoured, and definitely not wasted on the undiscerning palates of those who would not appreciate it.

      He took a quick peek down the corridor. All clear. Vila edged out of the crew room and headed hastily for his own quarters. He could taste the wine already. He'd even managed to secure a few choice items of food to eat with it.

      A door opened. Damn! Vila could have sworn that Avon had gone out to check the surface scanners. Most of the Hommiks had moved out of the area, but it still paid to keep a close watch. Vila smiled ingratiatingly, and tried unsuccessfully to hide the bottle behind his back.

      Avon strode over, a somewhat daunting figure in the studded black leather outfit that he currently favoured. "Going somewhere, Vila?"

      "Er, no. I was just going to have a rest actually," Vila replied brightly.

      "Then you won't be needing that bottle will you?"

      Vila took a step back, trying to figure whether he could make a break for it.

      Avon held out a hand. "Give it to me, Vila."

      "Avon, you're...." Vila racked his brain for a suitable insult, something to make Avon mad enough to distract him from the bottle. He grinned suddenly. "You're pretty," he said, and ducked under Avon's left arm. Not quite fast enough. Avon's hand snaked out and seized him.

      "Vila," his captor said in a voice like molten honey. "I've always been a believer in making the punishment fit the crime." As Vila struggled, Avon pulled him close, and kissed him hard upon the lips.

      "Avon!" Dayna's shout echoed sharply down the corridor.

      Vila promptly wriggled free, and fled, bottle in hand, to the safety offered by Dayna's presence.

      Dayna looked at Avon. "You're disgusting," she said.

      Avon faced her coldly. "Luckily I have never been bothered by other people's opinions of me." He turned and walked down the corridor, his entire manner radiating arrogance and disdain.

      "Are you all right, Vila?" Dayna asked in concern.

      Vila nodded uncertainly. "I think so. He caught me by surprise."

      "Come and sit down for a while. It must have been quite a shock." She slid a companionable arm around his shoulders, and Vila, ever mercurial, perked up at once.

      "I've got this bottle of wine," he offered hopefully. "Would you like to share it with me?"

      

      

Vila waited until Avon sat back and hit the "execute" button, then he wandered over to the terminal with a sandwich. "Hungry, Avon? You look as though you've been busy."

      Avon accepted the sandwich with a suspicious look, then checked its contents. Appearing satisfied, he took a cautious bite, then nodded. "All right, Vila. What do you want?"

      Vila looked at him indignantly. "Can't I do you a favour without having an ulterior motive?"

      "No."

      Vila sighed in defeat. "It's about Dayna."

      Avon picked up a small probe, tossed it in the air, and caught it. "What about Dayna?"

      Vila fidgeted a little. "Well, you remember the other day?"

      "I could hardly forget it."

      "Dayna thinks you're some kind of sex-crazed maniac. Look, I know you were only joking," he added hastily, seeing the warning look on Avon's face. "The thing is, that Dayna was very sympathetic. She felt that I, er, um," Vila's face went a little pink, "needed to be reassured of my masculinity," he finished in a rush.

      An amused smile spread across Avon's face. "I see. Let me guess, she thinks you've had enough reassurance now?"

      Vila squirmed. "Well, er, yes."

      "So? What do you expect me to do about it?"

      Vila hitched up the collar of his jacket, investigated a spot of dust on his sneakers, and polished a non existent mark off the monitor screen. Avon relaxed back in his chair, obviously enjoying Vila's discomfort. Vila's face became even pinker. "Could you do it again?" he asked. "Sometime when Dayna's watching," he added hastily.

      "What's in it for me?" Avon asked.

      "Um..." Vila hadn't thought that far ahead.

      "I don't rate your sex appeal as highly as you do," Avon pointed out sardonically.

      "I could show you how to how to pick a Chong magnetic lock," Vila offered.

      Avon ignored him. "Tarrant says Scorpio hasn't been responding correctly in atmospheric flight. He thinks one of the glycolene feed pipes may be blocked..."

      "Not the ballast tanks again!"

      Avon smiled. "Clean out the ballast tanks, or it's no deal."

      

Three days later, Tarrant gave Scorpio a perfect bill of health. Vila found himself feeling jumpy and on edge. He couldn't decide whether he was more worried by the prospect that Avon would keep his side of the deal, or that he wouldn't.

      The chores of the day over, Vila and the girls were relaxing in the rest room. Vila laid out the deck of cards on the small table in front of him. "Pick a card," he asked Dayna. "Any card."

      "They're probably all the same card."

      "Of course not." Vila fanned the deck out face up to demonstrate, then turned them over again.

      "All right." Dayna selected a card and looked at it. "What now?"

      "Put it back again."

      "This isn't much of a trick so far," Dayna commented as she placed the card back into the proffered deck.

      "Watch." Vila squared the deck neatly. Then he turned the cards face up, spread them all out and ran his hands over them. "By the aid of my great mental powers, I deduce it was - this one!" He stabbed a finger on the two of spades.

      "Not bad," said Dayna, moderately impressed.

      "He probably watched where you put the card in," said Avon, materialising in the doorway.

      "I didn't," retorted Vila indignantly. "Look, you choose one, and I'll close my eyes when you put it back again." Coming to his feet, he walked over to the door and held out the deck.

      Avon drew a card and held it in his hand. "All right, close your eyes then."

      Vila closed his eyes and held out the deck. The next thing he knew was a hand on the back of his head, another around his waist, and Avon's lips, cool and firm, pressed against his own. He struggled in surprise, but was held tight. The cards fell from his hands, to fall scattered over the floor. The kiss seemed to last for an eternity, but it couldn't have been more than a few moments before someone intervened.

      Hands grabbed Vila by the shoulder and tugged hard. Avon flew backwards in the opposite direction as Tarrant suddenly appeared through the door and pulled at him.

      "You pervert," said the pilot to Avon, in a voice of total and utter scorn.

      "You make me sick," Dayna added.

      Soolin held her gun casually. "Avon, if you do that to Vila again, I could get seriously annoyed."

      Avon straightened himself icily. He addressed Tarrant who was still holding him by the shoulder. "Let go of me." The words were cold and clipped.

      Tarrant released his grip, stepped sideways, and then took a totally unexpected swing at Avon's jaw. Caught by surprise, Avon staggered back under the impact and fell to the floor.

      "No!" Vila yelled, as Tarrant stepped forward for another blow. "Don't hurt him."

      "Why not?" Tarrant demanded tightly. "He deserves it."

      "Because, because...," Vila stumbled frantically for words, but none came.

      "Because he'll take it out on Vila," Dayna said. "You know he will."

      "Besides," Soolin added seriously, "if we start fighting each other now, the Federation will walk all over us."

      Tarrant pulled back slightly. Avon slowly got to his feet, his eyes never leaving Tarrant's. Then, flicking over each of them with a hard eyed stare, he picked up a pile of computer printout and left.

      Vila collapsed on the sofa, buried his head in his hands, and started shaking with reaction. He'd never intended anything like this to happen. He wanted to run after Avon, to apologise, to say that he hadn't meant Avon to get hurt, but he wasn't totally sure that his legs would support him. Besides, Avon was bound not to appreciate it.

      Dayna placed her arm around his neck in support. "Vila, it's all right. He's gone."

      Yes, Avon had gone, but that wasn't right, it was wrong. Avon hadn't hurt him, he'd only been trying to help. Avon was his friend. An urge to confess the scheme briefly seized him, but Dayna's arm was warm, and it would be a shame to waste all that effort he'd spent on cleaning the ballast tanks...

      As Vila relaxed back, and allowed Dayna to feed him coffee laced with whisky, he could hear Tarrant and Soolin arguing.

      "You shouldn't have stopped me."

      "Surely the decision was Vila's? He was the offended party. If he wants to drop the matter, let it drop, Tarrant."

      "Suppose it had been you?"

      "I can handle myself. Besides, what makes you so certain I'd object?"

      "After that!" Tarrant's voice was laced with disgust. "You can see what type he is. We had a couple at the Space Force Academy. We soon saw them on their way."

      "So what you actually object to," Soolin said sweetly, "is not that Avon kissed someone, but that he kissed a member of his own sex."

      "Don't you find that repulsive?"

      "No, as a matter of fact I don't. If two adults are doing something that they both find enjoyable, then I personally don't care what gender they happen to be."

      "You and Dorian..."

      Soolin sighed. "Dorian was my lover, I've never made any secret of that. Can't you understand that I don't feel I have to condemn someone simply because they are different?"

      "See how Vila feels about that," snapped Tarrant, and stalked out of the room.

      "How do you feel about it, Vila?" Soolin asked.

      Vila opened his eyes from where he was lying with his head resting on Dayna's lap. "I'm fine," he said happily.

      "About Avon?" Soolin clarified.

      Vila wasn't quite sure how to answer that. He was worried about Avon, but not in the way Soolin meant. "Er, he won't touch me again." Vila's ever buoyant nature won out and he grinned. "Avon's not going to take the risk of you shooting him, is he?"

      


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