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Soolin glanced at Vila. He’d been uncharacteristically silent ever since Tarrant’s admission on the flight deck that Servalan had got his ‘sympathy’.
Soolin observed people with the dispassionate fascination of a scientist, and at the moment, Vila had aroused her curiosity. When they reached Xenon base and scattered to their quarters to rest, she took a bottle of wine and went to satisfy it.
Vila’s door opened immediately, and he looked at Soolin. “Soolin. What’s wrong? Don’t tell me, Avon’s decided Scorpio needs her glycolene ballast chambers cleaned out again because of the sand. You can tell him even a whole bottle won’t do it this time.”
Soolin handed Vila the bottle. “Avon didn’t send me. The wine’s not a bribe, Vila. I just want to talk to you.”
“Yeah, right.” Vila accepted the bottle and went back into his room. He fished two glasses out from a cabinet and poured a little wine in each. “Come on in, and get on with whatever it is, then.” He held a glass out to Soolin.
“You’re very cynical suddenly.” Soolin entered and took the wine. She sipped it and smiled at Vila.
Vila looked very tired. He sat down on the bed with his glass of wine and drank it slowly, putting it down while half still remained. “It’s very good wine,” he admitted. “Tell me what you want, and I’ll see you get your money’s worth.”
“Vila…” Soolin hesitated. This tired, unsmiling man was a stranger to her all over again, just when she thought she’d got him neatly labeled and pinned to a card in her private museum. “Vila, tell me about Cally.”
Vila shrugged. “She’s dead. She’s dead and Servalan’s alive. I suppose it makes sense that no one thinks about her anymore. Cally can’t help us now.” He poured his wineglass full. “Would you like some more wine, Soolin? As long as we’re pretending to be sociable, that is.”
Soolin sat on the bed next to Vila, who raised an eyebrow as cynical as Avon’s as he refilled her glass. “I’m not trying to trick you, Vila. I’m just trying to understand.”
Vila smiled suddenly. “Cally was good at understanding. So was Blake. They’re both gone.” Vila’s smile vanished.
“Do you think Blake’s dead?”
Vila shrugged again. “Avon doesn’t. I can tell. He’s still trying to ‘out-Blake’ Blake.” Vila sipped more wine. “And failing miserably. As we all are. We can’t do anything right. Tarrant…” Vila shook his head. “That woman killed his own brother! I…” Vila drank more wine. “Maybe he didn’t have a choice. Maybe none of us have a choice.” He looked up at Soolin. “You might, though. You could leave, just walk away from the next mission. The state he’s in, I doubt Avon would even notice, and no one else would care. The same as they wouldn’t care if I died.”
“Of course we’d care.”
“Oh, yes? That sand nearly killed me. I didn’t see anyone falling all over themselves with sympathy and baskets of grapes. Or even a kind word.” He mimicked Dayna’s stance and said “Oh, not a lot happened. There wasn’t enough of it to kill you.” Vila sipped more wine then put the glass down so hard it vibrated and sang. “She almost sounded disappointed. And no one else said anything. That’s what we’re down to. We’re all looking for death, and disappointed because it’s taking so long.” He got up. “Thanks for the wine, Soolin. We must do this again sometime.”
Soolin got up and looked at Vila. “I don’t want to leave.”
“Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you when it all goes smash.” He headed for the door, in an obvious ‘showing the visitor out’ way.
“I don’t want to leave your room.”
Vila looked back over his shoulder, not pretending to misunderstand her. “I don’t want a basket of grapes. Thanks for the offer.”
“I could be insulted, Vila.”
“No, you couldn’t. Not by me. I’m just little Vila, the Delta pet, remember?”
Soolin shook her head. “It wouldn’t be a basket of grapes.” She put her hand on Vila’s shoulder.
“What then? ‘We’re going to die, so we might as well have a little human comfort’? Or is the sand having a delayed reaction on you?” Vila looked concerned. “It didn’t do anything to you on the ship.”
“There isn’t any sand here. Except for this.” She smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. “Sandy blond.”
“This isn’t fair, Soolin. I’m only human.”
“So am I, Vila, as much as I pretend otherwise.” She moved closer, and kissed him gently.
“I can’t see us on the beach at Gardenos, watching our kids swimming by moonlight.”
Soolin quirked a smile at Vila, and lifted her hands to begin undoing her plaited hair. “Neither can I.”
“On the other hand… they’d probably be terrible brats, shooting everything they couldn’t steal.” Vila stroked Soolin’s hair.
“Stealing everything they couldn’t shoot.” Soolin tossed her head.
Vila kissed Soolin on the forehead. “You’re a beautiful woman, Soolin. Inside as well as out. And I’m honoured, but…”
“But you don’t want me?” Soolin looked at Vila and her eyes widened. “You and Avon aren’t…”
Vila laughed, and hugged Soolin. “No! Not even when I liked him… and I did, you know. Before…well, before everything went… bad. No, Soolin, I definitely can appreciate your charms, but… this would be doing the right thing for the wrong reason.” He smiled at her. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there are times when I’d rather have a friend just hold me, and tell me it will be all right.”
Soolin blinked at Vila, unexpectedly moved. “It will be all right, Vila.” She kissed his cheek and held him close.
Vila shook his head, and his eyes were sad, but all he said was, “After… after things get better, would that offer still be open?"
“Yes.” Soolin tightened the hug, then released Vila and stepped back. “Thank you, Vila.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Yes, you did. Just by being you." Soolin left.
Vila sighed and turned back to the bottle. He started to pour another glass, then he changed his mind. “You know, Tarrant’s not so bad… and he could probably use a drink.” Vila found another clean glass, picked up the bottle and went to look for Tarrant.