Started ages ago for the "Reality" prompt, finished after listening to Big Finish's "Secrets". Turned out more Vila-centric than I'd intended. It happens ;)( Fic... )
The mission had been straightforward, Nothing like Bucol 2 One lock, one set of codes to steal, Dayna to watch his back while he got on with it. A milk run Tarrant had called it, and although Vila had protested about just the two of them being sent, it had been as easy as predicted. Now headed back to Xenon, he'd been dozing, more bored than tired - but now sat bolt upright at an unexpected sound. He wasn't so far asleep as to not be awake to anything that might be a danger on board after all.
It was only when the sound stopped he realised it was her and had in fact been the sound of attempted stifling of sobs. Instantly he regretted shouting out. If he hadn't, he could have pretended he hadn't noticed, could have looked away or coughed or... anything really.
"Um," he said, in the absence of any other ideas.
Dayna had turned her back on him and was wiping her face, her back rigid.
"Are you alright?" Vila ventured.
Clearly not of course but it was what you said wasn't it? What you wanted other people to say too. Left an opening for "Yes fine" if you didn't want to talk or "No, because" if you did. Dayna didn't respond with either. Vila hesitated for a long moment before circling round to see her face.
"My watch, I think?" he offered as another reach out for normality. Shout at Vila for dozing, situation normal...
Still no response. Perhaps he should let it drop. Except they were stuck together at least until they got back to base so maybe he ought to keep trying. After all there was an obvious comment not yet made.
"I was sorry about Justin."
Dayna lowered her hands from her eyes and Vila fully expected to be told to push off and possibly helped on his way in that with a shove or a threat. Instead, Dayna let out another half stifled cry.
"It was my fault."
Vila frowned. Not just sympathetic but genuinely puzzled.
"How d'you work that out?"
Dayna shook her head.
Cautiously and rather ineffectually Vila patted her shoulder.
"No... Look, it's normal to wonder that, but there wasn't anything you could have done. The Federation--"
"I led them to him," she cut him off.
"Eh? You mean they tracked you? But--"
"No. I don't mean they tracked me. I led them there." Her voice harded and slowed. "I led Servalan there."
Vila realise he was staring and obviously recognising his confusion, Dayna went on, her voice cold and unnaturally calm after the tears.
"I told her where to find him and I let the troopers in."
Vila's gaze flicked involuntarily to the doors, but there was of course nowhere to go on the ship. Still he itched to edge away. If this was not survivor's guilt if Dayna had really betrayed her old friend then why tell him unless she meant for him to be next? But then why the tears, unless - of course - unless she'd been forced against her will, goodness knew the Federation were more than capable. But when?
"You were captured down on the planet?" he guessed aloud, now hoping that was the case, it was better after all than the alternative. "They... made you tell them?"
He found himself searching her face for some trace of remembered pain. They had ways that left no marks of course, and he knew them from more than rumour, but still he looked for something, some clue, anything that would tell him he wasn't aboard a ship alone with a Federation agent.
Servalan killed her father he reminded himself. Dayna wouldn't help her. Not willingly. It can only be coercion.
Dayna shook her head.
"I hated him. I told them, because I hated him."
Not coercion then.
The thought was unwelcome, he was in real trouble if it was true. But there hadn't been time had there? She hadn't been alone on the planet all that long. It takes longer than that doesn't it?
He remembered days, maybe weeks, a succession of impersonal, viciously calm torturers dressed as doctors, lights like knives, endless time, while they made him not him.
It couldn't be done so fast. To wring the truth out of someone yes, but to make them believe the untruth? Surely not.
Even so he couldn't resist the urge to step back, away. Dayna was still speaking and the flat, cold monotone was like a laserprobe jammed straight into memories he wished he didn't have, cutting away all the comfortable, protective fuzziness which time had layered over them.
"Dayna, come on..." He heard his voice shaking, raised his hands in a placating gesture. "Don't talk like that. He was your friend. You told us that. Your tutor. Your father knew him."
"I know that." She stared at him, eyes red, tears standing on her cheeks. "I know that now. I think I know it, but how can I know for certain when I know that what I thought I knew - what I felt! - can be changed? Changed and changed back. How can I believe what I remember when--"
Transfixed by understanding even of this almost incoherent speech, Vila cut in, "--when you remember remembering something different."
It was Dayna's turn to startle, step back. "Yes. How do you--"
Vila shook his head, the movement so quick it was more of a flinch. However little Dayna wanted to discuss what had happened, he wanted to think about it even less.
"It doesn't matter. It was a long time ago." He had to remind himself of that because it didn't always seem so, and right now it could have been an hour ago. Light that hurt, that seared shame and hatred at what he was, straight into his own mind.
"There was a machine," For a moment he barely realised it was Dayna not himself speaking and then he snapped out of it. He'd had practise after all.
"Don't," he said, then again as his voice steadied. "Don't. It doen't help to go over it. Here's what helps. Listen."
Dayna stared at him bleakly. Why would she? Who ever listened to him?
No. Don't. Vila corrected himself this time. She was listening. Keenly, anxious to hear anything that would help, leaning towards him even. That nagging loathing spite wasn't real, was a memory, and a false one at that.
"Listen," he said again. "What you do is you check. You check that, for the stuff you remember, that all the bits fit. See, they mess things up when they - do that to you - they change things, add stuff, delete it but they don't always fill in around the edges. So you can tell by the gaps, if you think."
Dayna frowned, listening but not understanding.
"You said you remember hating him?"
Dayna's face turned bleak again. "Yes."
She hesitated and Vila left long moments go by then jumped on it. "See? Why did you -er - like him?"
"I loved him." She glared at him, as though challenging him to dispute it. He waved a hand instead.
"Right, right, but why?"
This time there was no hesitation. "Even when he was telling me stuff I didn't know anything about he treated me as though I had a brain. He listened, didn't hide things even when it was terrible things happening out in the rest of the Federation. He could have made a fortune betraying us and it never even seemed to cross his mind. I liked how caught up in talking about the science he'd get even when I wasn't interested in whatever the particular subject was at the time. He--"
"See? Too much detail to make up. Especially in the time they had."
Dayna nodded slowly. "Yes, you're right, I see." She gave him a slightly forced smile. "Thank you."
He shrugged, mustered a return smile. "Not a problem." He wanted to say more, to warn her it wasn't an instant fix, that it would still hurt she'd still second guess herself, wonder why she hadn't been able to spot the lie and the inconsistencies at the time, berate her own weakness.
But she wouldn't thank him for that and unlike the gap spotting, knowing wouldn't help.
"So is it my watch then?"
Dayna sat down. "No, it's fine. Go back to sleep."
Vila returned to one of the flight couches and turned on his side. His breathing was soon slow and steady, his eyes shut. He had more practise at that that Dayna too. He knew he looked asleep.
In the dark behind his eyelids he went over the details.
The Federation cared loyally for all its citizens and stealing from it was shameful ingratitude. But he remembered the small things, the ration card stamped 'unavailable', his mother taking in their clothes at the waists so they still looked halfway respectable, the myriad colours of the bruise on his arm where the guard had beaten him out of the line when the food queue had closed early and he'd let out a shout of protest, the Alpha who'd laughed and thrown him a tenth-credit piece when he'd snatched up the food wrapper he'd dropped and every world they'd visited where the same pattern had been repeated.
He was an ignorant, ungrateful stupid Delta who deserved no better. But a thief, if they were any good, paid attention to details and he remembered the details of every supposedly clever security system he'd bypassed, every suposedly superior Alpha who never ever saw him as he walked off with their credits, every tiny triumph over the system, every time he managed to startle the rest of the crew into being even the tinest bit impressed.
He remembered the details and he knew what was real.