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The Agony of Victory

By Catherine
Page 2 of 5

Jerking to wakefulness, Avon searched the room warily. Something had disturbed his restless sleep. He focused on the room's other occupant, Blake. He was obviously in the grip of some nightmare. His tattered clothes were drenched in sweat, his curls plastered to his face. He moaned and mumbled with each twitch, his movements becoming more and more violent. Afraid he would injure himself Avon approached, kneeling quietly at his side. He touched gently but firmly, trying to reassure as he restrained the rebel.

Blake did not awake but, instead, felt the touch in his dream world. He stiffened, trying to pull away. But Avon only held him tighter, unaware that his grip was feeding Blake's horrifying nightmare. In Blake's tortured mind, Avon was his tormentor. When he refused to answer, the probing questions turned to scaring pain. One hand touched his cheek...

"No!" Blake screamed, striking out with all his formidable strength.

With stunning clarity Avon knew real fear. The force of the blow sent him reeling, his head throbbing in agony so great he almost blacked out. Struggling to his feet. he barely saw the burly rebel launch himself toward him. Certainly, he did not have time to avoid the charge. They both went down in a tangle of arms and legs, Blake on top, mindlessly pounding his fists into the unresisting comp tech's body.

Avon squirmed while trying to ward off the blows with his hands, hoping to unseat the larger man. As Avon began to lose consciousness, he dimly heard a voice calling his name. Vila? What are you doing here?

It sounded urgent but right now he did not care. He just wanted the pain to stop, wanted Blake to stop. As though from a distance, he saw himself hauled to his feet, leaning heavily against the little thief

"Come on, Avon. Let's go."

"You took your time, didn't you?"

"I like that! We had to knock out the shield generator before we could use the teleport." Vila muttered to himself." Some people are never satisfied."

A teleport bracelet was clamped onto Avon's wrist and he looked up gratefully, surprising a look of concern on Vila's features. Now why should that surprise me? he wondered.

But the sight of the rebel leader chased all other concerns from his mind. Somehow they had managed to get a bracelet on him but now he was huddled in the corner, wide-awake and whimpering. The tone? Yes, it was there.

"Teleleport now!" he yelled, keying the bracelet, hoping it was not too late.

Cally was standing by the teleport, staring at him in horror. Then her eyes traveled to Blake and she gasped, staggering back.

"Cally, what is it?" Vila questioned nervously.

Trying to calm herself, she replied slowly. "Blake is in agony but I can't reach him. He's so afraid." Her pain-filled eyes lifted to Avon. "What happened?"

Avon felt his expression harden. "Travis happened. Blake's been conditioned and tortured."

"Blake was trying to kill Avon when I got there,"

Vila supplied.

"The interrogation was conducted with a voice synthesizer." Avon took a deep breath. "Blake believes I was the one asking the questions. And torturing him when he refused to answer. I think Travis used a signal activated implant. Whenever I touched Blake the tone signal increased."

Avon's pain was barely disguised. Cally could feel his anguish as well as Blake s. "Blake will be fine. Orac can tell us how to remove the implant."

Avon felt curiously thankful for the reassurance but one glance at Blake destroyed what little comfort he had received. The rebel was pressed tightly against the teleport wall. His gaze flicked back and forth between the figures.

Cally placed a hand on Avon's shoulder. "Let me try to reach him." She cautiously approached the cowering figure. "Blake. It's Cally." She tried telepathy but there was no response. "Blake, you know that I will not harm you. Let me stop the hurting." She knelt beside him, tentatively taking his hand. She could feel the tension in his body ease slightly as no pain accompanied her touch.

His grip tightened. and he cast a fearful, distrustful glance at the comp tech.

CalIy caught Avon's wince at the rebel's expression, backing away, unable to hide his disappointment at Blake's obvious rejection.

"Let me know if you require anything," Avon said. Cally's broadcasted pity was almost as disturbing as his own response. "I'll be in my cabin and then the flight deck."

As he left, Blake visibly relaxed. "Cally?"

"Yes, Blake." She smiled reassuringly.

"I'm tired."

"Me too," Vila piped up. "How's about a nip of soma and a nap, Cally?"

"Vila, Blake needs a medical check and rest, not a drink." Cally looked down in concern but Blake was regarding Vila in his old manner, a mixture of amusement and exasperation. Most of his fear appeared to evaporate with Avon's departure.

"Come on, Blake. Let's have Orac take a look at you." Vila stepped to Blake's side, offering his hand.

Blake stared for a moment, then took it gratefully. offering a brief smile. In return, he was pulled to his feet as Cally relinquished his hand, following them to the medical center.

* * *

Three hours later, Cally met Avon on the flight deck. Sighing, this was not going to be easy she sat on the couch and waited for the comp tech to join her.

After a moment, he did. "Well?" His voice was tightly controlled, revealing none of the concern that had been so evident in the teleport area. His eyes were unreadable black pools.

"The implant is gone."

Avon relaxed slightly and inwardly Cally winced. "But some effects may remain with him for a time, Avon. That kind of pain does things to a person's mind. You know better than the rest of us what he went through, not only physically but emotionally. He will need caring and support from all of us."

"I am hardly the one to tell. Cally. He can not bear to see me let alone listen to me.

Face turned away from her, Cally studied his profile. Strong and arrogant, yet there was a softness in the delicacy of his lips and the dark luster of his eyes. A softness he rarely revealed in his actions, especially with Blake. Perhaps because it would mean too much to them both.

"I do not think his discomfort in your presence will last. He cares about you, trusts you. Of all of us it is your respect and affection that he craves. In the end, it will be to you that he will turn for comfort. He does need you, Avon. Even if he does not yet realize it."

"Perhaps," Avon murmured. But what he thought was quite the opposite. He would always be a reminder to Blake of what Travis had done. His presence would always cause Blake a moment's fear. And it was surprising how much that hurt; that Blake might never trust him as he apparently had before. All his hidden affection for the rebel leader had been dragged to the surface during their ordeal. And now, when he was willing to give Blake the friendship he had asked for, the rebel rejected him in fear.

A gentle hand interrupted his increasingly desperate thoughts, brushing his cheek softly, and he tensed.

"Avon? Are you all tight?"

Dully, he heard himself agree. "I am fine, Cally. Go on, you're tired. Get some sleep."

He stood up abruptly, walking away. When he glanced back, he was alone. As alone as he was before Blake invaded his life. Clenching a fist, he slammed it into his console. "Damn you, Travis, and damn you, Blake!" Caught up in his own anguish, he noticed Vila slipping away, but made no move to stop him.

* * *

He had heard it all. Avon needed Blake as much as the rebel needed Avon but how to convince Blake? Would he listen? Vila hurried away. Only one way to find out.

Nervously, he paused outside Blake's cabin. "Bad idea, Vila, old boy. Neither will thank you for interfering in their affairs," Vila muttered, trying to calm his jittery nerves. Avon's anger he had dealt with before but Blake s? He shivered unconsciously. Blake's rare flashes of fury were all the more frightening for their scarcity... and their underlying physical threat. For all Blake's gentle nature, he was a big man and used to being in control. Out of control...

Vila shook his head. "Stop it. Blake wouldn't hurt me, not him. He knows I'm harmless."

Convincing himself he lifted his hands to the lock, noting it hadn't been set. and requested entrance. No response.

Glancing around. he signaled again.

Still no answer.

Pressing a hand to the door, he pushed it open. He stepped into inky darkness, fear settling like a shroud around him. Where was Blake?

"Blake?" he questioned.

A soft moan was his only answer. Vila reached for the lights, unprepared for what he would find. A shocked gasp escaped his lips at the rebel's state.

Blake was curled up in a ball against the headboard of his bunk. Caught in some nightmare that Vila did not want to imagine, the rebel was covered in sweat, his nightclothes clinging to his soaked body. And he was shivering, whether from cold or fear Vila could not tell. He also could not help but react, stepping close, drawing the trembling man into his arms.

"You're safe, Blake, on Liberator."

"Avon?" The muffled voice was fearful.

"No, it's Vila. Avon's on the flight deck." Vila frowned. Blake was clearly awake but he did not seem to be able to escape whatever nightmare he had been experiencing.

"Avon and Travis..." Blake muttered. His grip on the smaller man tightened.

"You're safe now, Blake. On Liberator. Avon's safe too, we got you both away from Travis." Did Blake think Avon had been working with Travis? Vila rubbed his back soothingly. "Avon's worried about you."

Blake looked up at that, a wary expression in his eves. "I don't want to see him, Vila."

Vila looked away then glanced quickly into Blake's haunted eyes. "Maybe not but what if he needs to see you?" He watched as Blake pulled out of his arms.

"He doesn't really care, Vila. He despises me and my cause. Why should he care? I certainly don t."

Vila stared as Blake turned away. "Leave me alone, Vila. I need to rest."

With a light squeeze of the rebel's shoulder, Vila was gone, leaving Blake alone as he wished.

Blake bowed his head and tried not to remember the pain and fear, trying instead to remember the man he had always wanted to call friend.

* * *

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