It is two years since events on Gauda Prime and the boys have reverted to a life of crime, or are working as security consultants, depending on whom one believes. In other news, the Rebellion is doing rather well and the Federation has cracked down on a lot of activities it has previously been happy to overlook. Now read on...
Something New Every Day
A Pink Dormouse Production
The problem with buying a new space craft with illicitly acquired funds under assumed names is that the standard of After Sales Service can be a little unpredictable at best. So when the Wildes main drive needed a full overhaul, the search for an authorised dealership took a little longer than was ideal. Obviously it was better to look among the independent worlds where fewer questions would be asked about the exact ownership of said spacecraft and Califeron seemed to fit the bill nicely.
"Bit late for finding the place now," said Vila looking around the dock area. "What say we find ourselves a decent hotel for once? Something central and with more than one star rating."
"Right now," said Avon, struggling to stay awake enough to talk and walk at the same time, "Id settle for anywhere with a full size bed."
"I know, love, youve not really slept since the last job, have you? But me, I really fancy somewhere with room service. An it was your fault we got thrown out of that last posh place, so I think Im entitled. I wasnt the one called the concierge a homophobic arsehole an threatened to kneecap him."
"Have it your way," said Avon, yawning again, "just try not to take all night deciding."
The Grand seemed as good a choice as any, and not averse to accepting payment in negotiable currencies. Vila had a perfectly understandable suspicion of the escalators but no one else seemed unduly worried, and this was a non-Federated world.
He left Avon asleep in their suite and headed down to the bar in search of a few drinks and some useful local information.
Nice bar. Carpet on the floor instead of bare boards or sawdust and you could even tell what colour it was supposed to be. No pool table and no tourists to fleece at cards but money was far from tight these days. The bar staff were more than happy to have an offworlder to chat with, news of the war being scanty this far out.
"So," said Rik, the bar manager (Vila made a point of remembering names) "what brings you here in the off season?"
"Touring the Galaxy," said Vila, deciding the hotel was too fancy a place to stay when claiming to be on business. "Not too dangerous if you stay away from the obvious places."
"Surprised youve come here now. Hunting
Season doesnt start for another two months."
"Well, my ship needed some repairs." Vila sipped his beer, making sure he kept track of the cover story he was spinning to report back later. Avon generally fronted operations when they stayed anywhere this upmarket, but Avon was not at his best and Vila seemed to be getting away with the act so far.
He turned in a lot earlier than he would normally have done, having been given a number of useful contacts to look up in the morning and heard more than he really needed to know about the local tourist attractions. Although if repairs were going to take a while, some sightseeing could very well be in order. For all Avons talk of wanting a full-size bed, he was curled up on what was technically Vilas side and automatically rearranged himself to fit into his partner as the other man slipped under the covers.
Vila had evidently been and gone. Unsurprising as the angle at which sunlight was filtering in through the blinds indicated that it was almost certainly around midday. Avon looked around the room, taking in all the details he had been too tired to notice the previous evening. He was not even going to ask what all this had cost them, a little taken aback that Vila would be interested in so high a level of luxury. Avon himself had only stayed anywhere quite like this a few times, and that had always been when someone else had been paying. He felt a long way from those times, and nearly as far, he suddenly realised, from home.
Home? When had Base become home? Not just the flat with Callys sketches, Stormes paintings and all the other accumulated art and tech but the pub downstairs, the market place, the Tech Development Co and, he thought with a shiver, Dariels HQ. Last news they had received was that the Big Guy was calling himself Governor Dariel these days; well, Avon would be having words with him about that. Something along the lines of holding democratic elections if he wanted people to take him seriously. And in the office, not anywhere where Dariel could lead him astray with other propositions.
Back to matters at hand, or at least matters that needed dealing with, rather than those which would be more... interesting to think about. He slid out of bed, realising as he did so that he felt considerably more tense than he had for a long while. Something Vila was bound to notice. Or anticipate, he revised, noting the pill bottle on the nightstand. He swallowed a couple of black and yellow capsules to be on the safe side then went for a very long shower.
The weeklong adrenaline high finally wearing off, Avon realised that he was, in fact, hungry. There was a chilled platter of breads and cooked meats on the side, with a smaller plate of pastries next to it. Obviously Vilas longed for room service was all he had expected. Avon nibbled on a slice of something bearing a remarkable resemblance to ham while he looked for his clothes.
Folded neatly on a chair he found not the black leathers he had worn the day before, but a dark brown pair. Instead of his trenchcoat, Mariannes old pilot jacket hung over the backrest. No question about who was Captain and who was crew then. It made sense though, if Vila had been out doing all the legwork thus far.
Dressed and fed, Avon was on his third cup of coffee by the time Vila put in another appearance.
"Ready to do some work then?" He closed the outer door and his tone softened as he temporarily dropped out of role. "Looks like you could do wi some more sleep yet. Need you to give all the systems the once-over before I let the tech loose on the ship, otherwise Id notve come back yet."
"You found someone then?"
"Best in town. Itll cost us, but we can cope cant we?"
"Easily." Avon drained his coffee cup and stood up. "Shall we go?" He pulled on the jacket, noting that it still smelled faintly of patchouli (another tug of home?) and let Vila lead the way out.
"Dont like the look of that," said the technician, tapping the drive with a heavy-duty probe. "What you been doing with it?"
"Nothing untoward, I assure you," Vila said hastily before Avon could jump in and say or do anything they would all regret. "We may be a trifle late in getting it seen to but there is a war on out there. Good Approved Technicians are hard to come by these days."
"Could take me a while to get parts," said the tech, "War on and all that"
Vila just knew Avon was fuming in the background but also knew that risking a look would only make matters worse.
"Do you have any suggestions as to what we should do while we wait?" He casually placed a silver ingot on the drive housing.
"Now you come to mention it, me brother-in-laws got a hunting lodge thats standing empty this time o year. Cost a pretty penny normal like but right now I can let you have it at cost."
"Let me see..." Vila glanced over at Avon, who nodded. "Yes, that could be acceptable. Now, why dont you draw me up a proper estimate for the work and Ill see what clothes I need to collect before I leave my ship in your more than capable hands."
"Very smoothly handled," said Avon stepping up behind Vila and slipping both arms around his waist.
"Learnt by watchin an expert didn I?"
"And who might that be?"
"Oh, I couldnt possibly say. Don want anyones ego getting any bigger, do we? That jacket suits you, by the way."
"So you can appeal to my vanity but not my ego?" Avon nuzzled Vilas neck. "Do I look better in it than she did?"
"Now thats unfair. You get your stuff together, Ill get mine an well continue this when we arent goin to be interrupted."
"Not bad," said Vila, looking around main room of the log cabin (real logs at that), "not bad at all." He slipped his binding ring back on, now they were free of having to play games for the locals and went to see just how much food had been left for them.
"Hey, Avon, how long is it since we had venison?" Avon looked up from the newsreader he was studying.
"You found some through there?"
"What havent I found? You should come and look at this."
"Later. Do you know how long it is since Ive had a chance to catch up with whats happening in the galaxy."
"Suit yourself. Thought I might just pop out an see if its warm enough to swim in the lake."
Avon sat on the grass; the battered leather jacket folded in his lap, and watched Vila. It had been a long time since they had the chance to have fun for the sake of it. Breaking into repositories of wealth, physically or electronically, was challenging but there was always the possibility of discovery, so not exactly fun. It must be getting near to the Summer Solstice back at Base. Not that he believed in any of that, but it would be a perfect opportunity to check on his investments. And they could ensure that the Wilde was running smoothly without entering Federation space. Back home next then. But first he deserved more of a rest. He lay back on the ground and tucked the jacket under his head.
"We have a perfectly good bed for that, you know."
"Fuck off." Avon rolled over and tried to wrap the jacket around his head.
"Jus sayin." Vila was evidently not about to leave him alone.
"Vila, you have been swimming in a lake, which is probably contaminated by all kinds of-" greenery, it seemed. Cool dampness, warm body, enthusiasm... Dont we have a perfectly good bed for...
Invigorated by his swim, Vila was transferring all his energies into a thorough rediscovery of Avon. Two nights of uninterrupted sleep had done him the world of good, even if he was going to need a little more relaxation and recuperation yet.
"You," he said, taking his time over removing Avons shirt, "are completely wasted on theft, you know that? We could make far more money from sellin your body."
"Well now, am I to have any say in the matter?"
"Are you tellin me," Vila unfastened the last button, "that youre thinkin of comin over all respectable just cos weve got a bit of money?" He ran his hands down the outside seams of Avons trousers.
"Face it, love, you like the idea." Like it enough that I dont mention it when were broke. "And that," he unfastened the trousers, releasing Avons erection, "just proves it."
"It proves nothing of the sort, merely that you have been crawling all over me, in a most appealing way, I might add."
"Oh really?" Vila grinned wickedly. "So you would be utterly horrified by the idea that I might want to pimp for you."
"Absolutely," Avon whispered with no sincerity whatsoever.
Vila stretched himself out and lay on one side, idly running a hand over Avons chest.
"Wouldnt ever sell yourself insteadve puttin it about for free?"
"Never." Avon chewed on his lower lip as Vila moved his attention to first one nipple then the other.
"Dont believe you. Bet if we could go back into town now, an track down one of those bars you always manage to find quicker than I do, youd be well up for it."
"-look me in the eyes when you say that." Vila flipped over on top of Avon, pinning his wrists above his head.
"I... oh. Fuck!"
Vila leaned down to kiss him.
"How long we known each other? I should try havin that effect on you more often. Course," he squirmed forwards slightly, "you owe me one now. An weve got to get you the rest of the way out of those trousers without messin them up any more than they already are.
Quite fortunate really that Avon was not quite as much of a control-freak as he sometimes made out, or his loss of control would have had far too many annoying repercussions. Vila helped him wriggle out of the leathers with no dry-cleaning consequences then they lay on their sides facing each other.
"Very. I... cant explain... Thank you." Avon pushed Vila gently onto his back and smiled down at him. "Your turn."
No words this time, just Avons hands on his body, demonstrating some of the other reasons that it would be hard to put a price on him. And they could take all the time they wanted for once, with no interruptions from other people or the ships computer.
Vila was wide-awake. He threw a regretful look in Avons direction and slid out of their bed. It could be interesting to have a look in the clubhouse, or maybe see what the other cabins were like. He pulled on his shirt and trousers, ludicrous really considering hed been skinny dipping and then indulged in a spot of leisurely outdoor sex in broad daylight, then padded to the door in bare feet.
The hinges creaked ever so slightly, he glanced back but Avon only shifted slightly and gave no sign of waking. Good. He needed sleep if he was going to stay level. And after this, they could go back to Base for a while. Pay up the rent arrears, make sure Gems had been dusting the flat, watering the plants and feeding the waifs and the stray cats. Maybe he would offer to work behind the bar for a couple of weeks so Mac and Gems could take a holiday with the baby.
Vila stepped onto the dew damp grass and looked around. The moon was half full but high in the sky, outlining the other cabins, and the larger building that was the clubhouse. Clubhouse first.
There was a rustling in the long grass and scrubby bushes between the cabins. Probably the same small creatures he thought he had glimpsed earlier. Larger creatures, he had been assured, rarely ventured this close to habitation, even outside Hunting Season. Vila hoped that was true.
Vila crouched by the door, squinting to get a better focus on the lock. Something snuffled faintly behind him and he glanced towards the sound. Nothing to see, which might not mean nothing could see him. He returned to the lock and worked hurriedly until the door swung open.
"Lights." Entrance hall: reception desk, notice boards, selection of doors leading off. Games Room: pool table, video games, card tables, cupboards with all manner of interesting boxes, some outdoor-looking games too. Bar: like all bars, really. Storeroom: plenty of junk, a big sturdy looking torch. Vila picked it up and pocketed two spare sets of batteries for good measure.
Back outside he sat on the step and pointed the torch towards where the noises had come from previously.
Nothing happened for the longest time and Vila was wondering about going back to bed, or possibly back into the clubhouse when there was a movement in the grass too random to be caused by the breeze. He held his breath, fully prepared to run at any minute. A small grey snout emerged from the leaves, wrinkled twice then pushed itself a little further forward, revealing a brownish muzzle and two tiny tusks.
Moving as smoothly and silently as ever he did on a robbery, Vila dug in his pocket for a biscuit. He crumbled it and tossed the first few morsels to land just in front of the creature. He waited and watched as it edged a little closer and sniffed at the crumbs then snuffled them up. Vila threw it more and it suddenly started then turned (reddish, fluffy) tail and disappeared into the scrub. Vila decided there would be other nights and headed back to the lodge.
"You dont believe me, do you?" Vila asked.
"A creature that leaves both cloven and webbed foot prints and eats digestive biscuits? Even you must admit that it stretches the imagination rather." Avon rolled over to lie on his stomach and studied the novel he had found in the clubhouse. "Are you sure you hadnt been investigating the bar first?"
"Strue," Vila insisted, "why don you stay up with me tonight an Ill show you?"
"Somehow, I think not. I need my sleep even if you quite plainly do not."
Avon tried to get comfortable again. He felt more or less back to normal but there could be little harm in another hours sleep. He listened to the shower running in the bathroom and considered joining Vila, then punched the pillow into a more comfortable shape and pulled the quilt up over his head.
Tap-tap, pad-pad. The creature snuffled the air through the open doorway. It wanted more of those interesting morsels that the two-legs kept dropping outside. Tap-tap, pad-pad; tap-tap, pad-pad. It stood in the centre of the room, sniffing for either food or the one that brought food. Tap-tap, pad-pad. The creature reached an obstacle. It sat back on its haunches then sprang.
The creature rooted around in the soft stuff that was nothing like soil until it found an edge to get its snout under. It jerked its head up and the quilt flicked back. The two-legs made a noise of contentment and pulled the quilt over itself and the creature. This was something familiar to the creature. It edged forward, sniffed and then licked at the two-legs in a friendly manner.
Avon sat up in shock.
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