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Unfinished Business

By Nova
Page 1 of 4

1. Vila Restal propped his elbows on the railing of Watchtower B and swung the infrascope in a leisurely half circle. No crimos or Federation troopers sneaking through the tall shadow-dark trees. He breathed out a sigh that was three parts contentment to one part of residual disbelief.

Who would've thought, when the Scorpio crew gathered in the tracking gallery at the Gauda Prime base, that only six weeks later they'd be living happily ever after? Just to make sure he wasn't dreaming, Vila turned and aimed the infrascope at Dayna and Soolin, energetically drilling the latest batch of recruits on a strip of ground between the base and the hangar that sheltered their three salvaged L-type cruisers.

The recruits broke rank and gave him a bonus glimpse of a broad back, tangled curls and an emphatically gesturing hand that had to belong to Blake himself. Vila couldn't see his companion but the protective concentration of Blake's stance made it easy to guess the other man's identity. Blake was in love and it suited him, just as much as it suited Dayna and Soolin to be giving orders, instead of taking them.

And in the second room down the back corridor of the base, Tarrant would be keeping their bed warm, while he waited for Vila to join him. The most unlikely happy ending of them all. Vila sometimes caught himself trying to score points off Tarrant, as if he was still the cocky ex-cadet who regarded Deltas as expendable - except that these days the wounded look in his lover's eyes usually stopped him in mid-jeer. The fiasco in the tracking gallery had almost broken Tarrant. Even after Blake emerged from the base's cryogenic unit, whole and healed, Tarrant had gone on feeling that he'd failed everyone. Vila had been obliged to comfort him. It'd been his duty, hadn't it?

His pleasure too, as things turned out.

So they were all happy now. Oh well, except for Avon, of course - but then, Vila had given up on Avon four months ago, in a shuttle orbiting another planet. If Avon chose to shut himself away and refuse to answer when Dayna and Soolin hammered on his door, that was fine by Vila. Avon would've spaced him without a qualm. Since Vila didn't like to think about that, he tried not to think about Avon at all - which wasn't too hard right then, because he had other things to occupy his mind. Tarrant's long lean body, for example. Tarrant's irrepressible curls, tickling his skin. The buoyant shouts that echoed around their room, every time he wrapped his hand round Tarrant's long lean cock and provoked him into another orgasm ...

A reverberating thump on the watchtower's crossbeam startled him out of a lecherous fantasy. Vila scrambled down the steps, saluted jauntily and handed the infrascope to the stocky woman who was replacing him on guard duty. He headed back to the base, savouring the rub of his loose trousers across an incipient erection, but as he circled the parade ground, something snagged his gaze and activated his internal radar. Something out of place and therefore potentially dangerous. Vila pushed his Tarrant-fantasies to the back of his brain and scanned the area, quadrant by quadrant, until he finally focused in on the loading bay by the hangar, where a dozen crates of the new Pylene-50 antidote were waiting to be airfreighted to Helotrix.

A man was sitting beside the stack of boxes. A stranger or, at any rate, someone Vila didn't recognise. He slumped forward, head bowed, shoulders hunched defensively, hands dangling loose between his knees. So spiritless and withdrawn and defeated that it took Vila a full minute to realise he was looking at Avon.

His heart skipped a beat. While his left foot tried to steer him back to the base and Tarrant, his right foot took an impulsive step forward. Vila stumbled and swore. It looked as though Tarrant would have to wait a little longer. Apparently, if Avon was making a mess of things again, right there in front of him, Vila couldn't quite manage to walk on by and pretend he hadn't noticed.

He marched across to the loading bay, kicking a relay of pebbles to signal his approach. Avon didn't look up, even when Vila was standing over him, so he cleared his throat and said, falsely cheerful, 'Haven't seen you for weeks, Avon. What are you doing here?'

'I am leaving Gauda Prime,' Avon said.

That was disconcerting. Under normal circumstances Avon would've added a rider like, 'Isn't that obvious?' or 'What makes you think it's any of your business?' Vila wasn't used to receiving a direct answer to a direct question. Startled into reciprocal directness, he said bluntly, 'Why?'

No reply. Avon just sat and stared at his dangling hands. A pulse jumped galvanically above his wrist but otherwise he was still as stone. Vila found himself shivering in the Gauda Prime sunshine. He rubbed the gooseflesh prickling his arms and decided to try a different tack.

'Where are you going, then?' he said, as casually as if he were inquiring about Avon's holiday plans.

For an unnerving instant he thought Avon had retreated into total catatonia. Then a terse, tense voice said, 'I have asked Blake's pilot to set me down at Space City, on his way to Helotrix.'

'Space City?' Vila yelped, forgetting to sound casual. 'Avon, they've got bounty hunters drinking in every second bar. You wouldn't last a week.'

'If that long,' Avon agreed.

His voice was so flat and uninterested that Vila almost missed the implication. But once he caught on, the image of Avon strolling the streets of Space City, preparing to commit suicide by proxy, was vivid enough to temporarily displace his memories of the shuttle over Malodaar. He discovered with a sense of shock that even when he'd hated Avon most, he had always assumed Avon would be there for him to hate.

'Just tell me one thing,' he demanded. 'Does Blake know about this?'

Avon shut down completely. The pulse at his wrist abated, all signs of breathing ceased and his whole body seemed to contract, as though he were dwindling into a vast impassable distance. Vila hesitated for a moment, considering a range of possibilities and discarding them.

Then he went to find Blake.

The new recruits were jostling into the base, laughing and joking and elbowing each other, in reaction to three hours of strenuous discipline. Dayna and Soolin lounged against the wall, watching their students indulgently, while they chatted with Blake and his lover. Vila dodged between the recruits and scuttled over to them. He hovered on the edge of the group, waiting for a break in the conversation, then lost patience and tugged at Blake's sleeve.

'Blake,' he whispered, 'can I have a word with you?'

'Of course,' Blake said genially. 'What do you want?'

Beside him, Nic Carnell stretched like a cat, settling himself more comfortably into the crook of Blake's arm. Ostentatious spikes of black mascara made his eyes look perpetually wide with surprised amusement, although as his gaze rested on Vila, the pale eyes narrowed into slits for half a second, before dismissing him and flicking away. Vila bristled and hauled harder on Blake's sleeve.

'In private,' he insisted. '**Please**, Blake.'

'Oh, very well,' Blake sighed. 'If you must.'

As he spoke, his arm involuntarily tightened round Carnell's waist. Carnell laughed and tilted his head for a kiss, while Dayna and Soolin cooed together and Vila tapped his foot, frowning across at the loading bay. When he glanced back, Carnell's hands were travelling slowly down Blake's chest, to fan out suggestively just above the groin.

'Hurry back, lover,' he husked in a voice as ambiguous as his eyes, simultaneously mocking and endorsing the clichˇ.

'I won't be long,' Blake promised. He released Carnell reluctantly and followed Vila to the corner of the base, where he caught hold of his elbow and spun him round, saying testily, 'All right, what's this about?'

'It's Avon,' Vila said. 'He's leaving.'

That didn't produce the reaction he expected. Blake just continued to study him with a mixture of impatience and generalised benevolence, so he added rather desperately, 'Now, Blake. He's waiting for a cruiser now.'

Blake's eyes cleared. 'Oh, we can't allow that,' he said firmly. 'This is my fault. I talked things through with Nic and decided I'd only make matters worse by demanding explanations - but I didn't realise how that might look from Avon's point of view. Thanks for warning me, Vila. I'll go and sort it out straight away.'

He squared his shoulders and went striding across to the loading bay. Vila watched him go, wondering whether he ought to accompany Blake and act as referee. But Tarrant was waiting and he'd already done more than he intended and besides, he still hadn't forgiven Avon. So he turned away and hurried off to the second room down the back corridor of the base.

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