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Avon, my Avon

By Vanessa Mullen
Page 1 of 3

I've watched you raving for three days now. You can learn a lot about a man when he's delirious, particularly when that man is Kerr Avon. I've got a fair idea now of what happened on Gauda Prime - it's never far from your mind.

      It seems to me that the memories are destroying you as much as your injuries. I've tended the physical wounds. I've cleaned sores, treated the fever with my limited supply of antibiotics, and mopped up after you when you've vomited, but it's not enough. I've covered you when you shivered, sponged you down when you sweated - I know your body more intimately than any lover - but it still isn't enough. The madness will win unless I can reach you through it. But every time you hear my voice, you shy away in fear. Now, at last, I've pieced enough together from the delirium to know why.

      This attempt will either drive you over the edge completely or help you to sanity. I don't know which. But I no longer have any option but to try. I take you by the shoulders and hold you hard, forcing you to look me in the face, allowing you no escape.

      "Avon," I command you. "Look at me!"

      "Blake," you murmur, and try to twist away.

      "Look at me," I command again. "I'm here. I'm alive. You didn't kill me."

      Something seems to register for a moment, and then it's gone again. "I killed you," you insist.

      I slap your face hard. "Is that the touch of a dead man?" I demand. "The man you killed wasn't me."

      You burst out coughing. The fever has broken now, but it has left you very weak. Your next question shows signs of sanity, though. "Who was he then," you ask.

      "A clone," I reply. "Servalan made a clone of myself several years ago. It was him that you shot."

      You burst out laughing, a wild irrational laugh that I don't like the sound of. "A clone! Only a clone," you say. Then I see the tears forming in your eyes, and I finally know that you will recover - you haven't allowed yourself to cry until now. I hold you in my arms, and you allow it, resting your head heavily on my shoulder. Perhaps I'm crying a little myself - I loved the man who died on Gauda Prime.

      I loved him, he was my brother. I loved him, but not the way I am beginning to love you. Perhaps I've simply been alone too long, or perhaps I have become too close to you while trying to preserve your life. I don't know. All I do know, is that I am beginning to fear your recovery. Will you let me hold you like this when you are fit and well once more?

      Enough of such thoughts. My immediate problem is to get some food into you. How long is it since you ate? I've only been able to get fluids into you until now, and you must have been at least five days getting here. One thing is certain - the ship had the return course set into the autopilot, or you would never have made it here. I reach for one of the foodpaks that I've piled beside your bed.

      "Do you feel up to eating anything?" I ask.

      You reach out a hand to pick up the top pak, and I am struck by how pale the hand is. The flesh between the bones and tendons seems almost translucent. You look listlessly at the label - beef stew.

      "I can heat it up," I say. "I've got a portable heater." These foodpaks are the best of the supplies I have here. There's concentrates aplenty, but you need something to tempt you to eat, something with more flavour than concentrates. When this factory was abandoned, I don't know, but they must have intended to return. They left supplies of every kind, and so far, the stocks haven't run out.

      "Maybe," you say.

      I take that as consent, and heat the pack up anyway. It smells good when I remove the top. I don't know how they preserved these foods, but it certainly seems to have worked well.

      "Here, try some," I encourage. "I can help you."

      You grab the spoon out of my hand. "I can feed myself," you snarl. Is this the old Avon beginning to return?

      You have difficulty all the same though. I stick some pillows behind you, to help you sit up. You manage to use the spoon, but your hand shakes as you eat. You eat most of the stew, but half an hour later, you are sick. My fault - I should have found something less rich. I was so desperate to see some good food inside you that I tried to move too far too fast.

      I clean you up once more, and change the sheets. It's harder than when I've done this on previous days. Now, you're aware of me. You hate being helpless, I can see that in your eyes. To your credit though, you don't try to hinder me. You let me roll you over so that I can change the sheet under you. Afterwards, you thank me - which surprises me.

      "That's all right," I say. "I'd do the same for anyone." I pour you a glass of water from the jug. You'll need it to replace the fluid you've lost. I help you drink it, and then we sit in silence. I don't really know what to say to you.

      "Blake," you ask, "how did I get here?" You smile wryly for a moment. "And where is here in any case?"

      I consider the question carefully. I don't know all the answers myself, but I do my best.

      "You came here on my ship. I don't know how you got on board, but given the condition you were in, you must have had help. Whether that was from some of our people or a Federation sympathizer, I don't know. The autopilot was preset for here - Roj was intending to come and pick me up in another week or two."

      There's a question on your face, you don't seem to have the strength to ask it out loud."

      "Roj? My clone. We share the same name. Servalan had the clonemasters create him several years ago in an attempt to gain Imipak for herself. You've been on this world before, although I'm not surprised you don't remember it."

      That still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but I think you're too tired to take in too much at once. I lean over you, resting a hand lightly on your shoulder. "Sleep now. I'll tell you more tomorrow." You don't want to sleep, that much is obvious. You are weak though, and I insist. "You're alive. I'm alive. That's all that really matters. Everything else can wait until tomorrow." You finally seem to accept that and relax against the pillows. I watch you until your breathing is even. I'm tired myself, but I want to be sure you are all right before I rest myself. When you are peacefully asleep you look different somehow - fragile, more vulnerable. Different from how you were before. Then your dreams tossed you so many ways. Now, you are finally relaxed. The fever has left you pale. I look at your dark eyelashes resting against the white of your face, and know that I want to kiss those closed eyelids. I settle instead for running a finger lightly along your cheekbone. A finger that inevitably ends up touching your lips. I hesitate, then brush my lips against yours. The merest touch, a feather-light caress. This is neither the time nor the place to ask for more.

      

The next day, you seem somewhat improved. I try you on some of the more basic foods. This time you manage to keep your meal down, for which I am greatly relieved. The colour is slowly returning to your face, and there's an alertness that wasn't there yesterday. I guess you're well enough for me to answer some more of your questions.

      "What are you doing here?" you ask. "Orac thought you were on Gauda Prime."

      "So I was," I reply. "Someone died. I needed time on my own to think, to remember her."

      You snort in derision, then add more gently, "Jenna?"

      "Yes," I say. "She died in space, running the blockade to Gauda Prime. There's a cairn of stones outside. I know it's a useless gesture - she isn't buried there. But I add a stone every day. It helps me to remember."

      You aren't impressed, but then I didn't think you would be. Cynicism is supposed to be your middle name.

      "Why this particular world?" you ask.

      "Why not?" I reply. "I found Roj here, or rather one of my followers did. It's a useful place for a quiet retreat. Roj was going to come back and pick me up after a month. It's lucky for me that you came. I might have been stuck here forever otherwise." The thought is not a pleasant one. Being alone for a few weeks is one thing. Being alone for a lifetime is another matter entirely. You would never believe how glad I am to have your company. I stop and ask myself for a moment: do I feel that I love you just because I am alone and want company? I think it is more than that, and yet how can I judge my own feelings? In a few days when you're feeling better, I'll talk about it with you. Firstly though, I must get you well.

      


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