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Avon's Smile - Part Two by Anniew

AVON'S SMILE - PART TWO

by
Anniew

On four separate occasions, Avon smiles...
Companion piece to Soolin's Thoughts on the same occasions.


Traitor
He's not known for smiling at women. A wry quirk of the lips, an ironic sneer is his usual style; lately even a domineering mastery and yet that was virtually a charm offensive. It was completely out of character and he has to admit uneasily that he has no idea where it came from. Vila thinks he's flirting with her, judging by the innuendo he's been artfully sprinkling around. Soolin, fortunately, remains unruffled; receiving digs about injection boosters and gadgets with a serene indifference which he has to admit he finds pleasing, just as he enjoys the steely scepticism she displays whenever Tarrant suggests attempting some insanely risky act of derring-do.

He does like her; he admits that. She's cool, clever, and refreshingly, she thinks before she acts. But flirting? It's an absurd suggestion, not worth considering. He is long past any wish to play that game. To be honest, he never played it well or found it particularly enjoyable, even when he was young and women expected it of him. He loved Anna (how completely and suddenly he can hardly bear to remember) precisely because she did not flirt; her seriousness convinced him that what they had was real. Laughable in hindsight, but that was before life had taught him to take nothing on trust.

The idea that he might feel some competition with Tarrant is laughable too, but innate honesty forces him to probe his motives to determine whether there might have been some element of vanity involved, even some wish to appear... desirable in her eyes? Young, brave, handsome. Three attributes to which he can no longer lay claim. But when has he ever cared what others think of him?

Yet he knows he is rarely that unguarded about showing his feelings, even if he did attribute them to Vila. Was he trying to insinuate that experience and caution had their charms? Hardly. She's just a child and he has never been attracted to children. Their regard might be briefly flattering but he knows it's misplaced admiring him will give them a poor return for their devotion. More likely he wanted to get her on his side by showing Tarrant and Vila in a less than favourable light. But why does he find the thought that she might ever spend time privately with Tarrant so distasteful, when he never feels like that when Dayna disappears with him for hours, presumably to satisfy her insatiable curiosity?

And does he really find that appraising, bold yet questioning look she gives him child-like?

Surprisingly for a man who has always been a loner, never possessive, he realises that he is thinking of her as his. His hired gun. His follower. One of the small group of people he has ever regarded with a tiny measure of trust Anna who fooled him, Cally who liked him, Jenna who didn't, and Servalan who... he hasn't a clue how she feels about him, but knows he can always trust her to mean him harm. It's what excites him about her. And Soolin seems to have joined this select little group. Well, now.

Yet he worries that he might be taking advantage of her youth, especially as that pot of gold that could make them all rich and invincible seems always just beyond their reach. There's so little he can promise her: at best a few snatched moments of joy, his will to keep them going minute by minute. Not safety, just a brief respite between their survival today and their fight tomorrow. He knows that he can't even promise that he won't one day sacrifice her life to save his own. Will it be enough that at least he will never expect her to sacrifice herself for him?

He doesn't know the answers, of course, and he wasn't flirting with her Vila got that wrong but it was a display, a proud peacocking of his tail feathers warning her who he is, inviting her to join him in the struggle, offering what pleasure they can find. And he thinks it is just possible that her answer to that unvoiced, honest invitation may have been a Yes.


Gold
Well, you've got your wish, Servalan. It is an old wall and I've finally reached it. Before I died, too - you'll be pleased about that. Of course you'll be less pleased when I tell you that although I have my back to it, I'm not yet in chains. Or to put it less metaphorically, you haven't broken me. Still, you can't have everything, can you? I must confess I have enjoyed duelling with you today and I know I will enjoy it even more tomorrow. You are the only one who understands the stakes. And when I take you on tomorrow, I shall be free from all encumbrances.

She lied, you know. Of course lying is as natural to you as breathing, so you may be wondering why that's any kind of a deal. But you see, your lies are a perverse kind of truth. I can rely on you to lie, which is the one advantage I have in our little games. But Soolin lied to herself and that's dangerous to our survival. I suspected she might; in fact I've been watching out for it, and that's been pretty tiring. It may have even have given you the edge in this encounter, so it's a relief it's finally happened and I'm now free to do whatever I need to beat you. I hope you noticed I said to beat you, not to win. I know I can never win. Beating you is all I can hope to achieve, and it will at best be a pyrrhic victory. Whatever replaces you will undoubtedly be worse and require more stamina than I possess to defeat, so I anticipate that the Federation will flourish long after you are gone. However, making you die will be something to celebrate, and I owe you for Cally.

It's very quiet now. We are all all shut in our rooms; avoiding each other, apart from Tarrant and Dayna who are probably now enjoying uncomplicated sex, having exhausted the subject of my failures. Vila will be knocking back the adrenaline and soma. As am I. He's right, you know the pleasure it promises is a lot more reliable than anything I seem to be able to achieve with a woman. I thought - you know I actually thought - that Soolin might be my soul mate. Twice in one life time! I never recognise the fool.

My erstwhile soul mate, having completed her evening run and showered, will now be elaborately braiding her hair, pretending she is not disturbed by today's events. She believes I stupidly risked her life to snatch the gold from you. This is true, but utterly fails to take into account that her life is always at risk, and never more so than where you're concerned. It was a gamble worth taking and anyway, I never promised I wouldn't risk her life if I thought the odds required it. She believes today's events also prove that I care more about our fencing bouts than her life, which is not true but as I am not given to sentiment, I will never convince her of this. And although she'll never admit this, she is upset to have finally realised that I am not a hero, that my plans failed and that I cannot give her the safety she craves. And worst of all, I laughed uproariously when I discovered how you had tricked us, which apparently shows how little I give a damn for any of them.

If you had been there, Servalan, I know you would have found it all as humorous as I did. Tarrant, Vila, Dayna with identical, disapproving expressions; Soolin, icily furious, hurling those worthless notes at me. The promise of some sort of security for us snatched away. It hurt so much that really, there was nothing I could do but laugh.

Well, on to the next round, Commissioner. I hope you enjoy your usual good health until I get another chance to kill you. Or until you kill me. Of course, my crew may cut their losses and get rid of me themselves, but I doubt it they lack our ruthlessness. You and I seem destined to perform this dance macabre to the end, probably on their bones.

A happy thought on which to sleep.


Warlord
He had thought today that she might have grown up enough to sacrifice him in order to save her life. But it was just one of her clever ploys and they were soon free again; free to save their gallant crew mates and Zukan's rebel daughter. Well, hooray for us! But as usual, their victory came with a heavy price tag and feels a good deal like defeat. Hooray for them, indeed.

Convention says he should be grateful to Soolin for saving him, but then convention hasn't lived the life he has. Besides, no good deed goes unpunished in this dirty world and he'll probably make her pay for it one day soon. That is, if being confined in a tiny space ship, possibly for months, with a drunk, a grieving sex addict, an explosion junky and the yin and yang of the computer world isn't punishment enough. Oh, and an a paranoid psychopath. She has apparently convinced herself, after Malodar and the regrettable farce with Zeeona, that he's as mad as Dorian.

It puzzles him that she took so much trouble for Zeeona and Tarrant, especially as only a committed optimist would have expected their liaison to last. He does not doubt that Zeeona thought herself in love and admired the hero Tarrant believes himself to be may even be, for all he knows. He has surprised himself once or twice, acting on an instinct that is easily mistaken for heroism. However, he is sure that the excitement of rebelling against an oppressive father played the largest part in Zeeona's infatuation. And Tarrant has worn that love-sick face at least three times before Dayna, Piri, Servalan.

Perhaps that idealised romantic relationship was one that Soolin had secretly longed for, and he feels a stab of pity as well as contempt at the thought. After all, he had not been immune to such self-deceiving dreams at her age. But it is more likely she was sending him a message that she refused to follow him blindly any more, but would make her own decisions. Wonderful. Another ignorant innocent who will rush idealistically and fearlessly into the fray, plunging them all into danger.

He really isn't cut out to lead, he knows that. He lacks the ability to believe that the goals they pursue are anything more than self-interest or revenge. Concepts such as Liberty or Justice mean little to him: his life has been depressingly circumscribed, containing precious little he could call natural fairness. He recognises that the young need banners to wave and ideals to inspire them if they are to throw themselves gladly on the swords of the enemy, but he has no belief to give them. Oh, he is clever enough to turn their natural idealism against them and blackmail them into expiating her father's sin, but that little sacrifice, that willingness to remove a glove in order to succeed... hurts. It hurts him more than he ever believed it could, and so he finds himself smiling because he has sent another stupid, helpless idiot to her death; because he knows he does not do it for a cause or a noble ideal, but simply because he must. Because fighting to survive beats the alternative. Every time. And although he really doesn't know any more if he still has a heart, he knows that it's pain, not triumph, that carves his face into that rictus of a complacent grin.

He also knows that he cannot keep his sanity while wading up to his armpits in blood. He can feel the detachment he needs to survive, his ability to look at the bigger picture without drowning in sentiment slowly dissolving as he gazes into the stricken eyes of the bunch of idiots he is forced to protect. Soon he will be as mad as they think he is, the thin wire of his reason twisted and stretched out of shape by the pressures of trying to survive... unless he comes up with a plan.


Blake
The two worlds he lives in are so close now; the world of pulsing red lights, screaming sirens and random shouts, and the world where the dead nag and the living morph into creatures so terrible he fears to sleep. He can no longer always tell them apart.

In the part of his mind that he supposes he can call sane (for want of a better word) he is ironically aware that his and Blake's timelines have converged on a primitive, scruffy world, no better than Cygnus Alpha, and he wonders if it might not have saved a good deal of trouble and bloodshed if they had just got on with their prison sentences and learned to adapt. What have they actually achieved, despite the posturing, the fighting, the fear? How ironic too, that the final showdown is not a definitive battle between the Federation and Rebels, with good surviving against all odds, as those they had killed or who had given up their lives for them had a right to expect, but a squalid misunderstanding between a man who believed and a man who didn't; both too exhausted and depressed to reason their way out of the muddle of good intentions and mistakes.

That first shot was not intentional. He does not expect that to be much comfort to Blake, but he wants him to understand. His dead were so insistent that he should do something, and something too terrible to name was relentlessly advancing on him, even though he begged it to stop. Betrayed you, betrayed you... a singsong chant from a voice he missed so much and then the gun discharging itself, blowing away the mist. The monster lurching towards him emerged as human; the man he had come to find, anger and disbelief distorting its features. And he knew he could never be forgiven, not by that face, and so he fired again. And again. Because he'd had enough. It had to stop.

And now he raises his head and at last sees them clearly as they move in to surround him. He turns himself slowly towards them, to look them in the eyes; one by one, as he has always done. His brother. Tynus. Keiller. Gan. Anna, her lovely lying voice calling seductively. Cally, sharp yet forgiving; Jenna, spitting accusation. All those who gouged this path to Gauda Prime. Vila, steps jauntily into the circle Let's get the dignified hell out of here. Tarrant and Dayna. And of course Soolin, that tiny patch of acne on her perfect face; its human imperfection, so roughly endearing, catches his throat.

Only Blake does not come. He has to search for him, seek out his eyes, the seam of scar, the blood mantle on his chest. This idiot he had hoped to use, who, for an insane moment he believed might prove the winning card, glares fixedly up at him, disbelieving, grim. Fearless Leader, Avon thinks. Cynical, affectionate and spurred by his voices, he steps over the fallen body, uniting them in defiance.

Silence. On cue he hears the tap, tap tap of those absurdly high heels; smells sweet blood mixed incongruously with jasmine, and does not need the voices nagging him to look up.

Ah, Servalan. At last. He smiles and raises his gun to her in salute.

***

All original fan fiction hosted on Horizon is copyright to the individual authors. No attempt is being made to supersede any copyright held by the estate of Terry Nation, the BBC, B7 Media, Big Finish or any other licensees or holders of copyright on Blake's 7 material.

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