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Tarrant was sulking. Of course that wasn't what he called it, but he
knew that was what it was. If asked, he would have said he was engaged
in creative thought, but no one asked. Vila had been pestering him in
the rest room just now. The thief had found Tarrant there, eyed him
suspiciously with a great deal more perception than the pilot had
liked, then plopped down at the table opposite him, offering one
foolish conversational gambit after another, going on in the truly
annoying way he had when no one was listening to him and he wanted to
show off how intelligent he thought he was. Which wasn't
Tarrant grinned wryly. No, that was wrong. The thief was smarter than he wanted anyone to think he was. He often came up with clever things, such as snatching Orac away from under Servalan's nose at Terminal. He might even be bearable these days. He certainly outclassed Tanz.
Tanz. Now there was the heart of the matter. Actually it wasn't Tanz alone but the combination of Dayna-and-Tanz that really annoyed him, and Tarrant wasn't ready to deal with it. He hadn't finished his sulk yet, and the thought of the eager young engineer who had recently joined Jabberwocky's crew with his friends Edge and Perren still had the power to irritate Tarrant vastly. Tanz had arrived with his boyish enthusiasm and eager puppy-dog smile, his knowledge of Jabber-wocky's telepathic functions, and his dubious charm, and swept Dayna right off her feet. The certainty that Dayna's feet were very well planted on the ground and wouldn't sweep without her consent was a factor the pilot hadn't chosen to acknowledge yet.
Maybe it was a case of sour grapes. Tarrant knew he could honestly acknowledge his mistakes and apologise for them, but how could he apologise in this case, when he had done nothing wrong? What he had done was nothing at all. A part of him had believed that Dayna was his and would always be his and when he got around to doing something about it she would be waiting and would smile nicely and fall into his arms. A stupid theory if ever there was one. Dayna was not in the habit of smiling nicely. She was more apt to wave a blaster in someone's face or pull a bomb out of her back teeth. Dayna and Romance? They didn't go together.
He had wanted her, but he hadn't wanted her as much as he had wanted Jabberwocky. The link with the mindship was the most important thing in his life, a bond that only a pilot could appreciate completely, and it was the one thing about Tarrant that had put Dayna off. If he hadn't bonded with Jabberwocky, he would certainly have bonded with Dayna, but the link had always made her uncomfortable, and once he was linked, she had backed away. They were still friends, but the tantalizing thought of a deeper friendship had faded.
Then Dayna had died, and he had cursed himself for the lost opportunities. When the new Dayna came to 'life' as an android, a more human android than Tarrant had ever encountered, he had thought long and hard. Was this really Dayna? Was it only a program that made her so close to what she had been before? He finally concluded that there was enough of Dayna's essence left to take her for the real thing - but a part of him couldn't. Now that he had her back, he did nothing to pursue their relationship. While he waited, rationalising it, listening to advice from Hugh Tiver, their ship's doctor, and discussing it with Jabberwocky, Dayna had made other plans. When Tanz and his friends had come along, she'd liked what she had seen and had gone for it. The auburn-haired engineer knew she was an android and it made no difference to him. Irritating as the thought might be, maybe he deserved her if he could accept her unreservedly.
//I'm sorry, Del,// Jabberwocky spoke into his mind, the way he did when they were alone and sharing quiet communication. //I hope it isn't my fault.//
"Your fault?" Surprised, he turned his head to the screen where Jabberwocky's receptors were located and smiled. He usually made a point of looking at Jabberwocky's screen when he spoke to him and he tended to resent it when other people didn't. But the annoying Tanz had done it from the first, and Tarrant found himself resenting the fact that he couldn't resent Tanz for it. He knew it was illogical, but then he wasn't Avon, who prided himself on his logic, or Edge, who almost matched the dour computer tech in that regard. "No, it's not your fault. I made a choice without knowing I'd done it. I chose you and I don't regret that - I never will. I could have chosen both of you or I could have given you up." He grinned. "No, I couldn't. But none of it's your fault. I'm just feeling sorry for myself because I was convinced Dayna would wait for me whether I deserved it or not."
"She did, for a long time," Jabberwocky said aloud, his fascia flickering as he spoke. "I would have given you the privacy to be with her if you'd wanted it."
"You always do," said Tarrant fondly. "I think it would be better if you didn't have to, though. The link makes us a part of each other. I guess I wasn't ready to share that with her. Or else I was afraid it wouldn't work."
The buzzer sounded at the door, and Tarrant grimaced. He had come in here seeking refuge from the thief's persistent pestering, but there had been a look in Vila's eyes when he left that made Tarrant suspect he hadn't seen the last of him. "If that's you, Vila..." he began ominously.
Taking it for an invitation, the thief came in. One could never lock him out - he'd get round any security system Tarrant could manage. He had a bottle and two glasses and a knowing grin on his face. "Planning Tanz's demise?" he asked.
"Maybe." Tarrant took the glass Vila passed him automatically. "Vila, I don't want-"
"You don't want to sit in here all alone and think nasty thoughts," Vila cut him off. "Except you're not alone. You've got Jabberwocky." He waved a hand at the screen. "Hi, Jabberwocky. Want a drink?"
Of course Jabberwocky couldn't really drink. Though he had a human brain, he had no way to ingest alcohol. On a whim, Avon had once designed a program that would send signals to that brain which would allow a mellow feeling to spread through his systems. It didn't interfere with the ship's functions, neither did it really approximate to alcohol intoxication, though it came closer than anything else was likely to. Jabberwocky said he liked it, but it was seldom that he used it. Funny to think Avon had come up with something like that. But then Avon had once healed Jabberwocky when his long-suppressed memories had recurred; Avon might know, even better than Tarrant did, what it felt like to be a disembodied brain.
Now the ship chuckled. "I've activated the program, Vila. Thank you. This will be fun. I always liked drinking with my friends."
"If I'm in the way, I'll leave," Tarrant said, pretending to rise from his sprawled position on his bed. He snatched up a pillow, shoved it behind his back, and leaned against the wall, raising his glass to be filled. "What do you want, Vila? Why am I being plied with liquor? Is this a new scheme to get out of work?"
"Course not." Vila assumed a self-righteous expression. "Came to talk to you. You're feeling bad about Dayna."
Tarrant stiffened. "That's not your business, Vila."
Vila didn't pretend it was, but he spoke seriously, his face thoughtful. "I was linked once, too, remember? Avon healed me after, when I was missing the link. Said I was gregarious and liked women and wouldn't want the link on when I had my recreation. I said I would." He took a big swallow of his drink, and his face brightened. "That's good stuff, Tarrant. Blake's private stock. He doesn't know I've got it." He sipped again. "Anyway, I thought it over. Dayna wouldn't have liked it, not with the link. I mean, she never was happy about it. Even now, when she goes into linkage or even interfaces with Orac, she doesn't like it the way the rest of us do. Jabberwocky knows."
"He thought it was his fault," Tarrant admitted, raising his glass to his lips. Vila was right. It was good stuff. Funny that the thief would know. Tarrant had half-expected his taste to run to something that had been brewed in an amateur still somewhere in the engineering section of a troop transport ship.
Vila shook his head. "No, it isn't your fault, Jabberwocky. Just a fact. I like Dayna. I would have liked her a lot better if she'd let me, but she never did. Dayna's the kind of girl who knows what she wants and what she doesn't, and you can't argue with her about it - not if you don't want to find yourself at the wrong end of her gun. She wanted Tanz and she has him. If you or Dayna had really meant to get together, you would have done it, whether Jabberwocky was here or not. You'd have worked around it," he concluded with more insight than Tarrant had expected from him.
"He's right, Del," Jabberwocky said with relief. "You would have. Like you did with Kella."
Vila's eyes sparkled. "Shut her out, did you?" he asked. The woman who was part of Avalon's staff had shared a brief relationship with Tarrant, but Tarrant had chosen to keep it separate from Jabberwocky. It simply hadn't felt right to include her in the link with Jabberwocky, though she had claimed she wouldn't mind.
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