What Are Friends For. . . ?

Leah Rosenthal & Ann Wortham

Vila stared at Avon, who stood dejectedly in the doorway to his cabin. "You what?!" he gasped, scarcely daring to believe his own ears.

Avon sighed. Again. "I said, I've been aware for some time that you've wanted me, Vila. Well, I am here. Do what you like. I no longer care."

"Why not?" Vila asked, slowly letting Avon's words sink into his psyche. He could hardly believe his good fortune.

Avon looked worn; haggard, in fact. The last week had taken a heavy toll on both his mind and body. "Need you ask? What else is left to me? I submitted to five days of torture in the name of grand revenge only to discover it was all for nothing. Worse yet, I learned that the woman I have adored above any other living creature was a sham; a Federation plant who betrayed me. And it was by my own hand that she died—" He nearly sobbed. "It was horrible..."

"Actually, Tarrant said it was all first-rate. Better than the soaps." The Delta's attention really didn't appear to be on Avon's woe. He was looking the tech up and down and salivating in a most unbecoming fashion.

"As I said, I don't care anymore, Vila. It's in the air tonight…my roof is leaking and I'm in too deep. I'm down and out. I'm throwing it all away. That's all."

"You're taking it all too hard," Vila chided. "It's gonna get better, Avon."

"Never mind. Nothing matters. Just…do whatever you like."

"Anything?"

"Anything."

Vila struck like a king cobra, grabbing Avon by one wrist and yanking him into the cabin so swiftly that the tech's boots remained behind in the corridor. The door slammed shut with an air of finality.

Inside, Vila pushed the depressed computer tech toward his bed and forced him to sit with what registered on Avon as undue force. But he was so swept up in his own misery that it mattered not at all to him. He needed to surrender, to cease to struggle against the inevitable tide of abuse that life seemed determined to heap upon his head. In short, life sucked. He barely noticed as he was stripped of his clothing in record time.

He was too lost to protest when Vila produced a set of strange looking ropes, advanced on him, and spread-eagled him.

"You're absolutely sure about this now?" Vila breathed hoarsely, a strange gleam clouding his eyes.

Avon blinked, but shrugged. "Have your way with me," he said mournfully.

"Banzai!" the Delta wailed. In moments, Avon's ankles and wrists were firmly secured to the bedposts.

Avon fleetingly wondered how it was that Vila had managed to find a bed with old-fashioned bedposts, but it seemed a rather trivial matter in light of his deep depression. He stared at the ceiling, lips trembling, soulful brown eyes glistening with a hint of tears.

It did tug at the very edge of his attention when a loud clatter sounded nearby. Avon glanced over to note that Vila was frantically emptying a closet, darting back and forth as he grabbed up an armload of items from within and then laid them out, one by one, with great care on the floor. Obviously, the thief was selecting equipment for his "play." Blinking, Avon wondered what the plunger was for. And the hard boiled egg. Unpeeled. Gradually, the growing heap of items began to capture more and more of his misery-soaked attention while he struggled to understand what use the thief planned to put them to.

Why, for instance, did Vila need a heavy-duty stapler? And why was he chortling with insane glee as he lined up six little bottles of soy sauce...?

Avon began to worry, then caught himself. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters — I am a monumental failure, a wart on the bum of Fate, a zit on the complexion of the universe. None will worry about me… I'll be 'all right,' and I'll even spell it correctly. Certainly, Blake…leave me all alone to single-handedly fight your revolution against the entire galaxy while you go on holiday. No problem. Never mind that I don't believe in your cause. Baby-sit for your collection of sub-moronic crew? Not to worry. I may be completely antisocial, but I'll manage somehow. Keep an eye on Federation expansion, and while I'm at it curb the latest technological threats to humanity? Don't sweat it, Blake-old-chum. Oh, and while I'm about it, you don't mind if I screw up my own personal life, do you? Wonderful… A black cloud hung over his head, and little raindrops splashed down on him every now and then.

He cleared his throat. "Er—Vila, do you mind my asking a question?"

"Not at all, not at all!" Vila panted, struggling under the weight of a power chainsaw.

"What do you intend to do with the pipe cleaners?"

"You'll find out," Vila chuckled enigmatically. He proceeded to remove a box of Rice Krispies and a carton of milk from the closet, and two more bottles of soy sauce. Then he took out a nun's habit and put it on, whistling "You Always Hurt the One You Love."

Uh-oh, Avon thought. "Uh, Vila—"

Vila eyed him consideringly. "Y'know," he said, leaning forward to talk in a confidential whisper, "I'm always having this dream about eating my way through chocolate bonbons, tunneling through layers of gold coins, and when I finally break through all the chocolate and gold d'you know what I find?" He was panting heavily. Avon shook his head, his worry increasing.

"A creamy Avon middle," Vila rasped, his breath hot against Avon's face. The tech flinched, trying to move away. "Now don't you worry, Avon," Vila purred. "This will only hurt for a little while." He reached under the bed and pulled out a very large pair of hedge trimmers.

Avon screamed and yanked convulsively at the ropes.

"Now that's not the right attitude, y'know," Vila tched sadly. "You said I could do whatever I liked. I haven't even got started, and you're already kicking up a fuss." He clacked the sharp blades of the shears together experimentally over Avon, an insane glint in his eyes. "Of course, sometimes it's much more fun when you kick up a fuss. Everything starts flying about and bouncing off the walls and the like—"

With a monumental effort, Avon snapped the velvet bonds which held his limbs immobile and rolled off the bed, scuttling for the door of the cabin so quickly that he generated a small tornado. He began to pull frantically at the locked door, whimpering loudly.

"Wait! I haven't even got out the branding irons yet, blast it!" Vila complained.

With a wide-eyed howl, Avon tore the cabin door open and flew out it, disappearing at top speed down the corridor in naked splendor. Vila set down the hedge shears and chuckled again, pulling off his nun's cowl. "Nothing like a bit of distraction to take a man's mind off his troubles, he murmured to himself. "That's what my old Aunt Hildy used to say."

He bent and began to gather the odd equipment from the floor. Then he paused. Of course. Aunt Hildy was sent away for drinking and psychotic perversions. Ah well. He resumed his activity. That's certainly not my problem.

Sooner or later, he'd have another chance. Softly whistling the theme from "Dark Shadows," he put everything away.

Originally published in The Naughty Bits

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Ashton Press/Ann Wortham

Leah Rosenthal

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