The Fool
by Julad
October 1999

Okay, this one's for Calico. After enduring no end of abuse and recriminations for dragging me (oh, okay, *nudging* me) into this fandom, she finally gets her reward. And as thanks for her careful instruction in the subtleties and intricacies of Avon/Blake and Avon/Tarrant, I hereby present her with an Avon/Vila.

<evil snickering fades out, story fades in>

"This one interests me. He has a very high IQ and yet he acts like an imbecile."
-- Alien, 'Sarcophagus'.

A fool who knows he's a fool is close to becoming wise, they say.
A fool who is wise, I say, will always be a fool.

In some strange ways, Avon is like me. There's nothing he likes more than getting something he wants, especially when he shouldn't have it. That goes double when it proves his outstanding talents at something, and triple when he pulls off a stunt which is petty, stupid and dangerous. Avon has no objection to risky adventures when the gain is his and the risk isn't.

But Avon takes it much further than I would. He has just blatantly disobeyed Blake's orders in order to do something Blake would be furious about, while leaving Blake horribly vulnerable, and has not only got away with it, but come out of it ten million credits richer. This seems to have restored Avon's long-lost faith in the rightness of the universe.

I don't think I've ever seen him this happy. There's even nearly a smile on his face; not that twist-of-lemon smile which sets my teeth on edge, but the shadow of a real smile. Avon - Kerr Avon, I mean, the most mean-spirited misanthropist in the galaxy, just so you know I'm not talking about some other Avon - is practically glowing.

"Give me the credits," he hisses, as soon as the others head off to the flight deck.

"Why should I?" I say. I mean, not that I don't trust Avon, which isn't to say that I do, either, but no kind of fool would trust Avon with ten million credits.

"Blake suspects you," he says, and his cold eyes are glittering. "But he doesn't believe I'd betray his trust for anything I could find on a pleasure planet."

His obvious pleasure at the untruth of that statement makes me pity Blake. But it gives me shivers, too, that I get the rare privilege of seeing Avon this unguarded; the tiny amount of trust he's showing in letting me see this side of him.

So maybe I'm more of a fool than I believe myself to be, because I hand over the credits.

Oh well, I tell myself. I'll probably get other chances at ten million, but seeing Avon happy is something which is never likely to happen again.

"Come to my quarters late tonight," he drawls, "and you'll get your share." His glance as he leaves tells me to get back under my rock and stay there, but something in it makes me strangely, shiverly hopeful.

Avon let me in the door with a smile, the lemon-twist smile.

I got the feeling he was hoping it would be Blake, since had spent the evening staring fondly at our beloved leader. Never mind that he looked as if he were contemplating the aesthetics of various knife placements; Blake was oddly pleased by the attention. The irony of that made Avon even happier, apparently, because he only made a token attempt to ridicule Blake's plans for getting the brain-print on Goth.

Sometimes I wonder if Blake doesn't just pretend to be fooled, so Avon feels superior enough to ease off his aggression and let him lead. Then I wonder if Avon doesn't pretend to be fooled by Blake's pretense, so he can stare fondly at Blake without arousing Blake's suspicion. And if Blake allows it because he understands that lingering murderous gazes are the only way Avon will ever show him affection.

On the other hand, it could really be nothing more complicated than that Avon fears Blake's charisma so much that he can't feel safe unless he's despising him, and Blake craves peace with Avon like he craves peace with the Federation.

A man can give himself a headache, thinking about those two. I knew there was a reason I never do it.

So, I wasn't Blake. Avon let me in with a sneer, and tightened his shirt around his waist.

"Where's my share?" I say, wanting to get the part where he cheats me out of a fortune over as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Avon walks away. "I've decided not to give you any."

Ouch. You know, that hurt, even though I guessed it was coming.

"What?" I say. "You know, maybe you didn't notice, but it's not your money in the first place. I won it all. You never lifted a finger at those tables."

"On the contrary. It was my idea to go down there, it was I who thought of using Orac to break the system, and it was I who fooled Orac into compressing to get down there. You were merely the drone placing the bets which Orac dictated."

"Well it wasn't your life on the line with the speed chess! I ought to at least get the five million we won from that!"

"Don't be stupid, Vila," he says with such contempt that I can mouth the next words along with him. "I could have beaten that imbecile without Orac's help."

Well, there go all the arguments I had. I'll have to resort to wheedling.

Strangely, Avon responds well to pathetic whining.

Or not so strange, since it no doubt embodies everything he hates about homo sapiens, it must be like the screeching of twisted metal plates to his ears. In fact, Avon probably prefers the screeching of metal plates to any kind of human communication, and pathetic whining is more like the only torture he can't withstand.

And lucky for me, pathetic whining is one of my many and varied talents.

"But *Avon*, you can't take that much money off me! You just *can't*. What am I gonna do when Blake decides he doesn't need me any more, huh? I'll be needing that money then."

"There's jewels and currency to burn on this ship. You don't need money for anything," he says curtly.

"Oh, and I'm supposed to believe that the day I most need money will be the day that I'm sitting here, safe and cozy on the Liberator with the strongroom fifty yards away?"

"I'm sure that Blake," and oh, he says that name with such loving contempt, "will be most generous, whenever you choose to depart our company."

"But it's not fair, Avon, it's not. You've got Orac, you can just go out and rustle up a few million in a day's work, but when will I ever be able to -"

"Fine, I'll give you one million. Now will you shut up?"

If only Travis knew he could have got Avon to surrender, just by calling Avon up and whining about how unbearably snotty Servalan is about his many failures.

"Three million."

"Not a chance."

"But *Avon*-"

"Two million. Last offer. Another word and I'll turn you and five thousand credits over to Blake, and tell him you did it by yourself."

Oh, he probably would, too. If Avon got to him first, Blake would never believe me if I said it was Avon's idea. And besides, two million is still a lot of money.

When compared to losing five thousand to Blake, that is; not when compared to ten million.

"Okay, okay, give it to me then." I can't believe I'm settling that easily, but I want to be safely out of here before he changes his mind.
I look at them as he places them into a box for me, all those lovely little round discs which mean luxury and freedom and real friends, if I ever wanted any. They're beautiful. I want to be alone with them as soon as I can.

"Not. So. Fast."

"What? I don't need to count it. I trust you."

Avon takes the box out of my hand so smoothly, I wonder if he's been practising taking candy from babies.

"By accepting two million you've implicitly agreed that I'm the one whose brilliance allowed this to happen and that your role was insignificant at best, poorly played at worst. So," he opens the box, removes all but one row of little discs, and hands it back to me, "your share. Half a million credits, which is half a million more than you deserve. But," he places what he's removed into his own box, and smiles possessively, "I made a lot of money today. I'm feeling generous."

Oh, I had a bad feeling about this. Didn't I say I had a bad feeling about this?

"Good night, Vila. You know the way out."

"You can't do this to me. You wouldn't."

"Oh, yes I would. I'm demonstrating that fact right now."

It's starting to look like I was very, very wrong about just how mean Avon really is.

"Avon, if you don't give me my two million, I'll tell Blake." Okay, so it's childish, and pointless because Blake will just donate it all to some silly oppressed planet, but for as long as it suits Avon's purposes to be trusted by Blake, it might work. In fact, it *will* work. "In fact, make it four million."

"Don't make me have to shoot you."

Oh, that's right, it was perfect except for the fact that Avon is a murdering bastard who would no doubt kill me and then make it look like I accidentally shot myself whilst sitting on the toilet, or more likely something even more awful than I could imagine for myself.

While I'm lost in the ghastly possibilities, he turns and walks out through a door which has been cut into the rear wall of his cabin. He locks it on the way through.

Oh Avon, Avon, Avon. I know a red flag when it's waved in front of my bullish head...

...and five minutes later I'm beating my bullish head against the door, because I realise that he's not only rigged it so that I can't open the blasted lock, but as I give up and leave I notice that somehow he's taken my five hundred thousand with him. Talk about crushing a man's heart and his spirit. Talk about random acts of cruelty.

Although Avon's cruelty is never as random as it looks, is it? And after all, isn't the first rule of breaking locks to understand the lock's maker? I take a new look.

There, easy. The bastard put a fancy lock on the door which doesn't open anything at all. At the very top of the door is a tiny receiver, and no doubt the real lock is remotely activated by a transmitter which only he would ever carry.

Except Avon isn't random. He wouldn't have goaded me if he didn't want me to get in. So....

...and there it is, a tiny remote, sitting right where I would have put my box of credits, if I was a fool who wasn't paying attention to what I was doing while I risked my life trying to get *more* money out of Avon.

The door opens silently and I walk into what looks like a work space. Wires hang from the walls, components lie around in tidy heaps and in half-assembled machines I can't make head or tail of.

Avon is leaning against a bench with a timer in his hand. "Six and a half minutes," he says, sounding very pleased. "I would have bet three. But then, I'm not a betting man." He smirks at his own bad joke as I wonder glumly whether I've just been given a compliment or an insult.

Then, looking around what is undoubtedly Avon's private sanctuary, I start to worry about what I've walked into, and why.

He reads me too well. "Oh, don't worry Vila," he snaps, "it was just too good an opportunity to miss." He holds out my box and I grab it. "You can go now."

He's even left all the credits in the box. I'm presumably meant to be so unsettled by all this that I take them and run. Knowing that gives me courage. "What are you building in here, then?" I ask, poking at a few computers with my foot.

His posture and countenance become icy. "That wasn't a suggestion. Leave."

Just picking up a loose box and shaking it, I notice the bed, which now that I notice it, is pretty easy to miss. It's actually just a mattress, stacked on storage boxes, which has been shoved into the corner amidst towers of computer parts and surrounded by tools and bits of metal and plastic. The weird thing is, the mattress is at least two feet thick, and it's not so much unmade as simply draped with an obscene amount of black silk.

Which is frankly, the last thing I expected, because as far as I know, Avon doesn't sleep. I've lived on this ship with him for two years and never heard him sound anything less than mean, nasty and wide awake. I didn't even know he owned a bed. I certainly had no idea that he had this makeshift little corner of luxury.

But then again, it's just the kind of arrogant, cynical thing Avon would do - have a sumptuous bed and share it with nobody; own black silk sheets and sleep on top of them in his clothes.

What a waste. All that money, and who gets it but gloomy old Avon who'll never use it for anything fun. And Avon owning that bed is such a criminal waste of luxury that my heart hurts just thinking about it.

Disappointment makes me foolish.

"Oh, just let me, I just have to, once in my life, experience this..."

Avon yells in fury but I don't hear it. I'm hearing only the wondrous atonal clack and clatter of his credit discs as they spill across the bed. I dive onto them, laughing, rolling over and over and burrowing ecstatically into money and silk like I'll never get another chance. And let's face it, I don't think lying in a fortune on Avon's bed will be a regular occurrence in my life. I sigh happily, trying to imprint every second into memory.

The mattress shifts beside me and I look up to see Avon perching on the side of the bed. He trails a couple of fingers through the river of money beside me, bemused but also, it seems, a little curious. I can't help but wriggle on the bed, just to feel the touch of that fortune all over me. Oh, it feels good.

"Go on," I say, stretching out, moving over. "You know you want to, and I couldn't ever tell anyone if you did."

He parts his lips to reply, but pauses with his tongue between his teeth as the intercom chimes.

"Avon, if you're still up, I'd like to see you on the flight deck." Blake has a way of making requests as if he can't conceive any man would be so unkind as to not comply.

Avon is just such a man. In fact, he looks delighted to be given another opportunity to show it. He doesn't get up to go to the intercom. He just moves slowly onto the bed, lifting his legs up and then slowly lowering his torso. I get the feeling that even lying down feels strange to him.

Blake tries again. "Avon, are you there? Please answer."

After shifting a little, Avon pulls out another remote and presses it.

"Actually, I'm busy right now," he says, picking up a few thousand credits and letting them trickle through his fingers, languorously.

I see he's been very innovative back here. I wonder how long he's had the remote, and if he ever planned to share it.

"It's quite important," Blake responds, and we can both hear in his voice that he's going to play his trump. "I could really use your help with something."

Avon hisses, just loud enough for it to make it across to the speakers. He presses the remote again. "All right. I'm on my way."

"Thank you, Avon," Blake says, with all the indulgent smugness of a victor, and we hear the click of the intercom disengaging.

"You're welcome, Blake," Avon says, softly, and tosses the remote aside. And that funny, sickening hope I had earlier returns, because I know Avon has no intention of being played that easily.

But I'm a fool, remember, so I sit up and sigh, brushing the last of ten million credits from my clothes. "I'll just take my half million and be off, then," I say, standing up. "Nice being ripped off by you, Avon, let's do it again some time."

"Oh, what's the matter?" he says, voice silky. "Surely you don't think I'm going to rush to Blake's side when I'm lying in a bed of ten million credits."

Now, Avon doesn't care all that much for money, all in all. I'm a thief, it's my business to know these things. No, Avon cares about doing things because he can, and amassing money is both a means and an end for a man who cares for precious little in life. But as he stretches back on the bed, boots crossed, arms behind his head; that enigmatic shimmer of a smile on his face, it's quite obvious. It's what this would mean to Blake which is setting him purring.

"But Blake will be angry," I say.

"Naturally." It's the voice he uses on Orac, when Orac has given him not just the right answer, but the answer he wants to hear. You know, I've often wished Avon would talk to me the way he talks to Orac. He's doing it now. "Come here, Vila."

I put down the credits - out of his reach - and go to his side. He's still stretched out, one arm still behind his head as the other tugs on my hip until I'm kneeling on the bed next to him.

"Vila," he breathes, and my name is a beautiful word when he says it like that. A hand slides up onto my neck and then I'm pulled down into a kiss which is warm, wet silk with a sharp citrus bite. His tongue melts into my mouth and penetrates, it feels, to my stomach, licking along my spine, flowing up my neck and over my scalp like quicksilver. I'm rolled over, to the sound of ten million credits spilling over the floor. Silk wraps itself around me as we sink deep into the mattress.

Avon's kisses are all-consuming, and I understand for the first time why he only kisses women he's about to betray. Honestly, I think, as his tongue slides around my mouth like a well-oiled snake, if he stuck a knife between my ribs right now, I wouldn't care less.

In fact, I'd die happy.

He kisses me again, harder, and I stop thinking and start burning. It's so hot in here, so wet and sexy and more than a little dangerous, and I think my pulse is going to explode in my veins and that my throat will be choked up by suppressed moans.

He has opened my shirt and his hand is on my stomach, sliding lower, far too slowly. "Oh, please, do it," I beg, thrusting up greedily until, with what may be a sigh or just a breath too close to my ear, his hand reaches down into my pants and grasps my cock.

Life as a criminal isn't one of stability and sociality; the attention I've had lately has been very little with very far between, and deprivation doesn't sit well with me. Another hand on me, even if it's Avon's, even if he has to kill me for this, is such bliss that it's going to be all over too soon. The sheets slip and slide under me as I writhe, the credits touch my side where my shirt has lifted up, Avon's eyes are downcast and I can see the dark lashes shadowing his cheeks.

"Please move, move your hand, please Avon..."

His total lack of reaction should tell me something, but I don't know what that is. All I know is, his shirt slips from his shoulder as it slowly moves, and the slow exposure of smooth, white skin makes something ignite behind my eyes. I moan and his hand tightens in warning but that tips me over and it's too late, I'm coming. It feels so good, so warm, so exciting, to come in Avon's hand instead of mine, sprawled on top of a fortune in a welcoming bed. It feels like coming home, which is such a cruel deception. I think I say his name.

He reaches over the edge of the mattress and picks up a shirt, wiping his hand on it and then giving it to me.

"Clean up your mess."

I do, still catching my breath, and throw the shirt in what looks like a rubbish pile. He's not looking at me, but he's not moving away, either. Our legs are touching lightly and I savour it, quietly. But this mattress is too soft and it's tipping us closer together. I can feel the tension in Avon's body as he resists it, so I just get it over with, and flop onto him with an "oof".

His eyes shoot icicles at me.


But he doesn't say anything. I'm lying half on top of him and he doesn't move. I wonder if I should go. But he's not kicking me out, so I don't get up yet. But finally the silence and the strangeness of all this is too much for me.



He's so toneless, I don't know how to respond to that, even if I knew what to say. Finally I decide that he must want this contact, since he hasn't shoved me off. I relax just a little against him, determined to make the most of.

"That was nice," I say, finally.

"Really." He couldn't sound less interested.

"Well, you're not as pretty as Cally," I tell him, stupidly, "but I'm not complaining, either."

He chuckles, and his shoulder shakes under my head. "Quite."

A fool is very useful, in his own way. Reliable. Predictable. A fool is a foolproof ally when you need to trust nobody and despise everything.

The communicator chimes. It's Blake. I'd forgotten about him, but somehow I don't think Avon has.

"Avon, where are you? I'm waiting." Ah, he's got that razor edge in his voice which says he's exhausted of the mind games. I think maybe, tonight, he wanted to just spend time with Avon; an Avon who was mildly happy, even if it was from surreptitiously betraying him.

He may just get his wish. Avon waits half a minute and then reaches for his remote.

"I got distracted," Avon tells him, stroking my hair and not moving a muscle. "I'll be there shortly."

The sheets are so beautiful, like a lover's skin touching mine. I don't want to move, but I'll have to.

He turns his head and looks at me.

"All right, I'm going." I start to sit up but his hand touches lightly onto my chest and I freeze. I don't want to scare it away.

"You can have one million."

I smile, I can't help it. That's like getting a rainbow at the end of a sunny day. "Are you feeling all right?"

"Yes, I am, surprisingly enough." He stretches his arms above his head, smiling with only a trace of bitterness. He looks so impossibly sleek and desirable, my arms are around him before I can even think about it.

He freezes under them, all the wires in him tightening instantly, although he doesn't move. I'm such an idiot. How could I have done something so stupid?

"You were just leaving," he says, icily.

Stupid, stupid. But he's been exceptionally kind, for him. I can't help but offer. "Are you sure I can't, you know, do something for you?"

He sneers at me. "Do what, exactly?"

I gesture vaguely at our bodies. He sneers again, and his eyes turn cold.

Of course. Avon the machine. He doesn't feel, he doesn't sleep, and he certainly wouldn't have any of those undignified physical cravings which haunt the rest of us humans.

"Is something the matter, Vila?" He can even make that sound condescending.

When Avon hurts you, you're not supposed to get angry. It's like getting angry with water for flowing downhill. But what the hell, I'm angry. I'm an occasionally useful tool, and I should know it, and I hate myself for wanting it to be more than that. "What a fool I was, to think you'd want something from a fool like me."

He looks at me sharply, something dangerous glinting in his eyes. I know that's his normal facial expression, but I'm not used to getting it at such close range. It feels like he sees all the way through me, and hates every bit of it. It scares me.

He smiles bitterly; I think my fear pleases him.

"You know, Vila, I don't care if you're a fool or not." He lifts his hand from my chest as he sits up, and it feels to my hopeful skin like a caress.

"No?" I say.

"No," he says, sliding black silk back onto his shoulders and tightening it as he walks out the door. "As long as you stay that way."


Julad's Hideout