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Everyone knew computer techs lived on coffee and spite, but when Avon knocked a glass of 'corpse-reviver' back without changing expression Vila began to wonder if the man had a sense of taste. Out of curiosity he followed Avon into the corridor.

Avon didn't get far before he was staggering, leaning on the bulkhead for support. He glared at Vila.

"Here, let me help you."

Avon's glare increased. "What was in that?"

"Erm...nothing? A little fruit juice, a little harmless booze." Vila was hurt that Avon thought he'd drug him without his knowledge. He certainly wasn't going to mention Auntie Maudie's Secret Flavour Enhancer, which was all natural, anyway, mostly, if you didn't count the monosodium glutamate and the nucleotides. He bravely put an arm around Avon's waist.

"Vila. Take. Your. Arm. Off. Of. Me. Before I take it off for you."

Vila was about to obey when Avon's eyes rolled up white and he slumped into Vila's arms.

"Wonderful." Vila clutched at Avon to keep him from polishing the deck with his leathers. A second later Tarrant appeared and goggled at them. "I knew it," he said ,"That's why Avon likes you better than me!" Vila rolled his eyes. "Nah, I prefer blondes." What did they teach cadets at the FSA? "C'mon, help me get sleeping beauty to the med. unit."

mmmmmmm


"Avon, drink this," Cally said, handing Avon a glass of vitamin solution. "You are severely depleted from interrogation."

Avon gave her an exasperated look and downed it, showing exactly the same response as he had to Vila's award-winning concoction (It had been first runner-up in the All-Dome Delta Drinks competition, only losing to the Pangalactic Gargle-Blaster, which had the unfair advantage of being publicized in a popular novel.) Prison rations tasted better than Cally's vitamin solution. Avon handed Cally back the empty glass and lay back against the examination table.

"Er, Avon, if you'd like me to fetch you something from the galley, it's on my way."

"Coffee."

"Nothing to eat?" After five days in prison, Avon must be starving.

Avon waved dismissively. "Protein cubes."

mmmmmmm


When he returned, Cally had miraculously peeled Avon down to his underpants. Avon showed no embarrassment, or even any interest in her. Despite himself, Vila was beginning to worry about Avon. He gave Avon the coffee and cubes, and left hurriedly as the sight of the interrogation marks on Avon's body was making him more than a little queasy, and he had a quiche ready to come out of the oven for his lunch.

Avon must consume something more than black coffee and protein cubes. No one could live on protein cubes alone. For one thing they tasted like packaging foam. But he'd never seen Avon eat anything else.

mmmmmmm


"Orac?" Vila sidled onto the dimly-lit flight deck. Everyone else was gathered in the rest room, discussing Anna and Servalan and how all this betrayal was going to sour Avon's outlook on life. Vila thought that was a huge waste of time, as Avon couldn't possibly be any more sour, but it made it handy for him to put the question to the one ...person...being...object?... that wasn't afraid of Avon. Except for Vila, of course. Vila knew that under his crochety facade Avon really cared for him...mmm... was mildly fond of him... all right, Avon felt it beneath his dignity to ever treat Vila as an adversary.

"What is it, now!"

"What does Avon eat?"

Orac gave an irritated 'sigh'. "That is an imprecise and unanswerable question."

"All right, what is Avon's favorite food?" That's brilliant, Vila. Food has charms to soothe the savage beast. Make Avon his favourite treat and he'll be putty in your hands. Or at least he'll give the dirty jobs to Tarrant.

"That is sufficiently precise," Orac admitted. "However the information you require has been security coded under Avon's voice-lock."

"He's locked up his food preferences?" Vila was astonished.

"Affirmative."

"Now that's downright unfriendly. What if it's his birthday, and we wanted to make him a cake?"

"It is not his birthday."

Vila sighed. "I know it's not, Orac. Couldn't you at least tell me the ingredients in his favorite dish?"

Orac buzzed. "Yes. Printout at your monitor."

Vila raced over to his monitor and caught the curl of emerging paper. He yelped, "This is all chemical formulas!"

"Formulae." Orac chuckled. "I am shutting down now, you have wasted enough of my valuable time."

mmmmmmm


Vila could be stubborn when he was faced with a riddle. He hid security monitors in the galley, and caught Tarrant and Dayna having a food fight, and Cally creating something that looked incredibly healthy, taking one bite, grimacing and throwing it in the recycler, and Avon... drinking coffee and eating protein cubes. Coffee and cubes.

That was infuriating. The least the man could do would be human enough to EAT!

Vila began a process of seduction. Normally, he only prepared meals for himself, in order to avoid the Delta Cook stereotype, but he had to know Avon's weakness.

"I've decided to be generous," he announced, bringing a tray of fancy pastries to the flight deck. Tarrant's eyes gleamed, and Dayna applauded. Cally even got up and kissed him on the cheek.

Avon glanced over, grunted and left the flight deck. To return in a few minutes with ...coffee and cubes.

All right, not pastries, then.

Next watch Vila brought a roast gnorse, garnished with gneeble-berry stuffing, mashed spuddies, crisp greenups sprinkled with cheesy bread crumbs, toasted to golden.

The cries of delight warmed his heart. Cally fixed Avon a plate. "You cannot possibly hurt Vila's feelings by refusing this, Avon." Her look was glacial. Avon accepted the plate and looked down at it. A fleeting expression of undisguised hunger crossed his face. Vila was certain of it. "I would prefer to eat in privacy," Avon said, rising with the plate in his hand.

Cally and Dayna blinked. Tarrant shrugged, mouth full of gnorse. "Alpha Elite," he said disparagingly.

Avon gave Tarrant a cool look. "You have gravy on your tunic." Then he left the flight deck.

Vila excused himself a few seconds later and followed far enough to see Avon entering the galley with the plate. He raced to his monitor. And saw....Avon dumping the entire plate into the recycler, and sitting down to coffee and cubes, expressionless as ever.

Vila hopped up and down in his own room, shouting, "I worked on that for three hours! Three bloody hours in the galley and you don't even taste it!" Vila vowed to have Avon eating out of his hand if it was the last thing he did.

mmmmmmm


Maybe Avon didn't like anything he had to chew, or anything homemade? He could have a techie fetish. Vila rummaged in the cupboard and found a variety pack of tins of self-heating gourmet soups along with packets of hermetically sealed crips bread. He brought them to the flight deck as a midwatch snack.

"Now, let Avon have first choice, after all he's our leader," Vila joked as he set down the tray.

Avon looked at the tray's contents sourly. "I'm not hungry."

Dayna frowned. "You've been on watch for eight hours. We all had snack breaks, but you didn't. You must be hungry."

"I'm not." Avon's glare went past Dayna to Vila. Well, the man wasn't entirely stupid, he had to guess something was going on. "I'm simply tired. Tired of being considered incapable of taking care of myself." He got up abruptly. "I don't need anyone to cook, clean or darn my socks!" He stalked off the flight deck.

Tarrant looked at Vila and giggled. Actually giggled. "So much for picking out the curtains in your little love-nest, eh, Vila?"

Vila was so angry he was tempted to punch Tarrant. Tempted, but his mother didn't raise any stupid Deltas, despite what Avon always said about him. Dayna had been raised without a mother. Actually Vila suspected she'd been raised by wolves. She punched Tarrant out.

Cally jumped up and began checking Tarrant. Dayna laughed and danced around the flight deck.

Vila shook his head and left the flight deck. He went to his room and got out a bottle of Mountjoy's Miraculous Elixir, which Cures All, or at least makes you not really remember what was annoying you.

As he was raising the bottle, Vila recalled that it wasn't good to drink alone. Sadly he remembered his one time drinking pal. "Here's to you, Gan," he said softly, raising the bottle. "I miss you. Wish you were here. I bet you'd know how to find out Avon's favourite food."

Gan wasn't there of course, but the answer popped into his mind as if his friend had whispered it. Ask him.

mmmmmmm


"Avon." Vila leaned on the door announcer to Avon's room. It had taken a quarter of the bottle of Elixir, but he'd got up the nerve to brace the Avon in his den.

"Go away, Vila. I do not wish to play house."

"AVON! Tarrant's got the wrong end of the stick. I DO NOT FANCY YOU!" Vila shouted.

Avon's door opened. Avon was standing there, coffee cup in hand, looking annoyed. "Then what has your game of culinary charades been in aid of?"

"I got curious, because I never see you eat anything except protein cubes. And you know, it can't be them, because it never... at least not with anyone who's got any taste at all." Vila looked expectantly at Avon.

Avon sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Come in and sit down, and try to make sense."

Vila obeyed, sitting on Avon's bed. Avon looking tired he could handle. "I wanted to know what was your favourite food. That's all."

Avon's eyebrow raised. "Ah."

"Orac wouldn't tell me. Why did you security lock that?" Vila was pressing his luck, but usually Avon was very tolerant with him when he was pretending to be drunk.

Avon sighed again. "Because I am not fond of revealing weakness." Avon sat on the bed. "I have... dietary restrictions."

"Oh. Allergies?"

"In a way. I suffer from Celiac Disease."

Vila flinched away from Avon. "How contagious is it?"

"It's not. I have a genetic inability to digest gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye. Ingesting it results in debilitating effects, which I shall not detail for you. In various forms, some of which are hidden under other names, gluten is in approximately 99% of the processed foods in the Federation. It's also in most of the items in your Auntie Maudie's cookbook."

Vila was mildly outraged, but also slightly flattered. "You broke into my file storage?"

Avon shrugged. "Keeping in practice. I didn't access anything that sounded remotely personal. 'Red Velvet Foxes' was intriguing, but I refrained."

"So what's in your locked files?"

"The Gluten-Free Cookbook my mother assembled for me." Avon sighed again. "I can't cook."

Vila smiled. "I can."

Avon's eyebrow crept up again. "And what do you want in return?"

"Tell me! What's your favourite food!"

Avon licked his lips and his eyes went distant. "Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake."

"Is it in your book?"

"Yes. But...I could never find the ingredients for the crust."

Vila grinned. "The Delta Food Underground can find anything!"

In a sudden, uncharacteristic attack of exuberance, Avon hugged Vila.

"Cally said I was to say I'm sorry, so I..." Tarrant looked in through the open door, blinked and backed away. "Er. Sorry!" He turned and fled.

Avon released Vila, looked annoyed for a second, and then ruffled Vila's hair and grinned. "You do know the way to an Alpha's heart, Vila."

Vila grinned back. Now that he knew the secret, he could keep Avon sweet.

...Addenda...

[livejournal.com profile] vilakins asked, 'So... what went wrong? Couldn't Vila find any gluten-free ingredients in S4?"

(and I replied)
Oh, no, this is an AU. Vila kept putting the goodies on the table and Avon kept sharp-witted and calm, and outsmarted Servalan and found Blake and Deva before they got to Gauda Prime and helped set up a rebel alliance that worked, and eventually married Klyn after Vila taught her how to cook, and they had six kids who were all Celiacs so they formed the GF Fresh and Hot company in which Vila and Kerril (who they found along the way) and Klyn cooked great things and Avon adapted the teleport to have infinite range, so they'd take an order, cook it, pack it and ship it direct to the kitchen receiving alcove of their GF clients.

There is a statue of Avon and Vila in the town square of the capitol city of the planet they bought with the proceeds. It shows Avon sitting at a table, with knife and fork in hand, and Vila proudly presenting him with a cheesecake.

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