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Domo

By Gemini
"I'd like to inspect the slaves before the auction." The sun was hot, the gravity was a touch too high, and Blake wanted to get indoors out of the heat.

      "Of course." Terrin gestured casually towards the low buildings where the merchandise was housed. His breath smelt faintly of some sort of narcotic. Did the pirates deal in drugs as well as slaves?

      Blake tried to hide his disgust as they entered the slave pens. The small cells were clean, the slaves were doubtless well fed. But in spite of the fact that the pirates' victims were kept in good condition for their eventual sale, there was an aura that clung to the place. An ancient miasma of despair, or fears that went back to the dawn of man. The hopelessness of those who knew that they stood no chance.

      It was a morbid curiosity that drew Blake here. The sight of the slaves depressed him beyond belief, the sight of men who given up, who had allowed themselves to accept defeat. Yet, just occasionally, he would see a look in a man's eye: a look that spoke of resistance, of someone who refused to submit. That was what drew him here. It was then, that in spite of all his moral misgivings about buying men from slavers, in spite of his desperate need for credits for food and weapons, it was then that he would pay out money for a human soul.

      Looking through the cell doors, he could see the pathetic ranks of men and women. The old, the young, the ugly, the beautiful. Yet there were more of the young than the old, and more of the beautiful then the ugly. Doubtless Verlis knew her market. Sometimes, Blake just looked through the door, other times, following a faint hope, he would enter within. But there was nothing here for him today. A woman with long blonde tresses who begged him to buy her, an old man who pleaded for food, a boy, barely sixteen who looked at him with empty haggard eyes. All of them, he would have helped if he could; but all he could do was to leave them and look for the rarer individual who could help him change this wretched state of affairs.

      As his guide led him out of the far end of the building, the force of the sun struck Blake's eyes. He squinted, trying to adapt to the brightness after the relative dark of the pens. There was a group of men gathered together about twenty metres away. Laughing and jostling one another, they appeared to be placing bets on something. Something on the ground. There were too many legs in the way to be able to see what it was.

      Terrin elbowed Blake in the ribs. "That one might be more to your taste. You like them with a bit of fire, don't you?" Blake smiled slightly. If the pirate chose to attribute his occasional purchases to his sexual preferences, so be it. Besides, he admitted ruefully to himself, there was at least a grain of truth in the accusation. He liked his bed partners to be independent; quiet submissiveness had never attracted him. Memory tugged at him for a moment, the mocking, sloe-eyed features of a lover long lost to him. Even thinking of Avon was painful - Blake thrust the recollection aside and concentrated on what the pirate was saying.

      "... tried to escape. Didn't get very far of course, but we staked him out. That's the normal punishment for runners."

      He could see the man now, lying on his back, wrists and ankles tied to pegs pressed deep into the sand. A crimson-clad pirate stood over him, water-bottle in hand, letting the precious drops trickle out onto the sand. "Beg for it," he taunted.

      "I'll see you in Hell first."

      That voice! Rough and parched, but unmistakable. Blake's steps faltered a moment, then he schooled himself to a steady pace. Walking around the man with the water, he looked down into old, familiar features - Avon. How he had come here wasn't immediately important; how to get him out of here, was. Don't show any sign of recognition, he pleaded mentally. If they realise you know me, it will cost me another two hundred vems.

      It was as though Avon had heard him. The dark eyes didn't even meet his, instead they concentrated on the men ringing him.

      "I'll give you three hundred vems for him," Blake offered casually.

      "He's worth more than that for his pretty features alone."

      Blake pretended to look Avon over. "Doesn't look all that special to me. He's got a pretty bad case of sunburn. Besides, look at that nose!" If Avon objected to being run down, they could always sort that out later between them. Blake could feel the anticipation building in him already. Gods, it would be wonderful to hold Avon in his arms again, to feel the passion spark between them.

      "He's easily worth a thousand. We could get that much for him at auction."

      "Not if you treat him like this, you won't." Blake couldn't quite keep the anger out of his voice. He reined it in. Emotion was not going to help him here: icy logic was needed. "If you sell him now, you'll be spared the cost of his keep.

      "I could go up to four hundred," he added tentatively.

      "Want him, do you?" The pirate's leer was extremely suggestive. Had he read too much into Blake's reaction?

      "Not that badly. There's other fish in the sea." Blake forced himself to turn away. Terrin gripped him by the arm, and Blake flinched.

      "You're a regular customer. I could let him go for nine hundred."

      Nine hundred vems was still more money than Blake could easily afford. "Five hundred," he countered. "If he's a runner, that lowers his value."

      "To others maybe, not to you."

      Blake sensed an edge in the bargaining. "Ah, but if you don't sell him to me, you'll have to find someone else prepared to take a runner. You'll have to tell them, unless you want to get a reputation for unreliable merchandise."

      "All right, eight hundred."

      Blake shook his head. "Five hundred."

      "No, he fetched far more than that last time."

      This time Blake laughed; Terrin had said more than he'd intended. "Last time? So, the previous owner wasn't satisfied. Besides, that makes him second-hand goods." He was peripherally aware of a glare from the ground. Someone obviously didn't consider himself as second-hand merchandise.

      Avon's anger was fire in his veins. If Blake looked down, he knew he'd be lost. The challenge of meeting Avon's aggression, of turning it into sexual heat, had always excited him. He couldn't afford to let Terrin see that reaction in him.

      Terrin glanced down at Avon. "She said he was exciting, but too dangerous to keep around."

      He was watching Blake now. Damn Terrin.

      "Six hundred vems," Blake said roughly, "and that's my final offer. You might get more at auction, but equally likely you might be stuck with him unsold."

      "Done!" Terrin held out a hand to seal the bargain and Blake shook it mechanically. "The money's in my ship. Bring him there."

      Not daring to meet Avon's eyes, Blake walked back to where he'd left his craft. Terrin appeared five minutes later, accompanied by Avon. Avon's wrists were manacled, but then the slavers always did that. Blake practically thrust the money into Terrin's hands. The pirate smiled, with an all too knowing smile, and gave Blake the key.

      Blake was never quite sure how he contained himself until Terrin had gone and he was finally alone with Avon. Without saying a word, hands almost trembling, he unfastened the manacles. "Avon," he breathed. "You can't begin to know how I've missed you."

      The dark eye stared at him emotionlessly as he reached out to envelop his former lover in a bear hug. Then Avon's hands darted out to seize him around the throat. "I don't know who the Hell you are," Avon hissed at him, "but if you lay a finger on me, I'll kill you!"

      "Avon, what is it?" Blake managed to gasp out, his hands coming up to seize hold of Avon's. What the hell was going on? "It's me, Blake!" Avon's dark eyes stared unchanging into his. Whatever Avon was up to, it apparently didn't include his well-being.

      With a grunt of effort, Blake broke Avon's grip, sending the half-naked man tumbling to the floor. Avon stared up at him, breathing hard and with a nasty glint in his eyes. Blake gently rubbed his throat before cautiously approaching. Avon remained on his knees, clearly waiting for Blake to make the next move.

      He couldn't tear his gaze away. This was the Avon that taunted him in his dreams. Darkly dangerous, a predator who often became the prey. A possibly deadly siren, Blake mused, hand still resting against his aching neck. But the man was beautiful, arousing him even now, especially now. Maybe he recognized Blake and maybe he didn't; at the moment Blake hardly cared how or why. Avon was here after so long, dressed only in the brief tunic of a slave. Here and his for the taking. How he wanted to. The idea fired his imagination, stiffening the cock hidden from Avon's all-knowing view. Or perhaps not hidden. Avon's gaze was no longer intent on Blake's face. It was focused a good deal lower and Blake flushed as a sardonic smile graced the other man's lips.

      "You want me." Avon's voice was cool, almost condescending, heating Blake's desire even further. Part of his mind screamed at him to find out what had happened to Avon: how he had come to be on Domo; who had been his owner? The rest of him, most of him, was demanding that he act on more primitive desires.

      Blake focused again on Avon's face before letting his eyes travel down his frame, leaner than he remembered, the chest under the coarse fabric still lightly furred. The half hidden outline of the cock below, made Blake ache to touch, to demand, and to provide. Slowly, he moved closer, to within touching distance. Avon made no attempt to get up, to move away. He seemed focused on Blake.

      "I suppose, since you paid for me, you expect cooperation." Avon's eyes were downcast but his voice held a challenge, one that Blake had heard before.

      "It would be easier for you." Blake was paying close attention to Avon's hands: they always gave away the state of his mind. He missed the quick flash of a grin that brightened the other man's face.

      "No, it would be easier for you. Terrin warned you, you know." Almost conversational, the tone relaxed Blake, reminding him of the Liberator days.

      "Exciting but dangerous," Blake mused. "Risky qualities in a slave, you could get yourself in trouble."

      "I wouldn't be the only one." That struck a chord. There was distinct menace in Avon's voice now and again Blake felt the pulse of arousal throb through his veins, his cock. If Avon wanted a fight, he'd get it; no matter what the reason.

      With a quick lunge, Blake was atop the other man, pinning Avon roughly to the floor.

      "So now it starts. I'm surprised you waited this long." Avon taunted, struggling beneath Blake's larger, bulky frame.

      "Used to it, are you?" Blake trapped Avon's wrists in his hands, forcing them up above Avon's head. "You like it, don't you?" Transferring Avon's wrists to one hand, he used the other to force Avon's gaze to meet his. He saw a mixture of fear and anger, passion and arousal. He could feel that too, Avon's cock trapped beneath his belly, pressing into it. He let Avon take more of his weight, pleased by the increased tension in the fine-boned body beneath him.

      "Bastard! Whoever the hell you are, you'll pay for this." Avon's voice dripped venom, furious in his captive arousal and Blake felt a shiver of reluctance. If Avon really didn't know... and didn't want him. Blake had never found rape a turn-on: it was disgusting, a violation, Federation tactics. But Avon was aroused. Could his body remember what his mind seemed to have forgotten? The erotic pleasures they had shared in Blake's cabin - might reliving them now bring Avon's memory back, make him realize that he was safe?

      Very gently, Blake traced the outline of Avon's profile from forehead to chin. "I'm not going to hurt you, so relax." A mutinous glare was his reward for that statement, and he frowned in response. "At least, not much." At that, Avon's eyes widened and Blake felt the old thrill again. Not violence but the thrill of its possibility, the catch. It had always worked both ways. Avon's air of danger, his own physical mastery, firing their relationship.

      Smiling at the thought of the pleasure to come, Blake tightened his grip on Avon's wrists as he lowered his mouth, touching for the first time in almost two years the delicate softness of Avon's lips. Tracing them with his tongue, he was surprised when they parted, allowing him access. He pulled back, watching. Avon had never been that compliant.

      Eyes closed, Avon spoke. "Why did you stop?"

      "Perhaps I like a little more enthusiasm?" Blake's smile was faintly mocking, intended to goad the other man. A faint smile creased Avon's lips.

      "Perhaps I'll try harder next time." His voice was sultry, seductive, and Blake's mistrust faded under the drive of his lust.

      Eyeing him sceptically, Blake bent again, lips brushing Avon's open ones, tongue flicking inside. It was good, so good, to feel Avon pliant beneath him. Suddenly a sharp pain stabbed through his lower lip and he jerked away. Avon had bitten him!

      "You little prick!" Blake tasted salt on his lips; when he raised fingers to his mouth, they came away with a slight trace of blood. Avon simply smiled, eyes cold as ice, and Blake felt his passion mix with anger.

      "No more kisses for you. I think a good fucking should do you about right." The anger was obvious in his voice and Blake didn't care. Avon had always liked his sex a little on the rough side. Well, now he'd get it. And like it, Blake reminded himself. Unless Avon had changed totally, he was going to enjoy this too.

      Grabbing the manacles Avon had worn before, with his free hand, Blake fastened them back on again with difficulty, hooking them around one of the support columns. Avon snarled his anger at being restrained again, twisting his legs and trying to kick as Blake ripped off the flimsy tunic. Blake paused briefly to discard his own clothing, then, impatient with his still building desire, he knelt down. Avon's legs stilled.

      "Don't." Avon's old pretence of resistance. Avon might not know who either of them were, but he was still the same man, with the same desires, ones Blake had always enjoyed fulfilling.

      "No? But you've always loved this." One hand pressed down lightly on Avon's abdomen as the other caressed a nipple. Blake's lips descended to lap at the nipple's partner. A sharp intake of breath from Avon, and Blake began to nibble, teeth biting gently at the hardened peak as Avon groaned. Encouraged, the hand on Avon's stomach began to move, travelling slowly, tantalizingly close to Avon's groin. Blake let it brush the wiry pubic hair, rewarded as Avon's hips thrust up.

      "I knew you'd like it like this; you always have done." Blake mumbled, mouth lifting, licking his lips and glancing down at the sharp thrust of Avon's desire. A faint moan and he looked back at Avon's face. The bewitching dark eyes were closed; the mouth open and panting slightly. Blake bent, holding his lips open barely an inch above Avon's. Their breath mingled, Blake withholding the kiss until Avon's eyes opened. Blake continued his exploration, Avon remaining virtually passive until Blake's hand closed over his cock, squeezing firmly. Blake felt the throbbing response, the trembling tension that indicated that Avon was already close to the edge.

      "Not quite yet, slave. I bought you to serve me, to serve my needs. Yours aren't important." Abandoning Avon's cock, Blake cupped his balls, rolling them before giving them a sharp tug. Avon gasped and tried to jerk away. Blake released his grip, knowing that the bright flash of pain that had crossed Avon's face would have pulled him back from the edge. Easing away, Blake stood up for a moment, considering.

      "I think a bit of lubrication is in order, don't you?" Stepping astride Avon's body, he knelt above his chest, cock inches away from Avon's lips. "Unless, of course, you've changed a lot." He paused. "Into pain, perhaps?" One hand caressed Avon's soft hair. Blake's grip suddenly tightened, turning the gentle touch into a warning. "Hurt me and you'll regret it."

      No verbal response was forthcoming; a flush covered Avon's cheeks, arms flexing within their bonds. But when Blake slid closer, erect cock brushing moistly against Avon's lips, he was taken in. Blake heard himself groan at the intensity of sensation, Avon's tongue rasping against his cock, teasing at the sensitive head, flickering. Hands holding up Avon's head, Blake thrust deeper, preventing Avon from jerking back as he fucked his throat, saliva and precum coating his cock, preparing it for its new home.

      Feeling himself getting close, and aware of a dim sympathy for Avon's by now sore throat, Blake released his hold, pulling himself free of Avon's warm mouth. Without taking his eyes from Avon's, Blake slid back until he was on his knees between Avon's legs. Firmly he pressed them wide and back, exposing Avon's smooth ass, the tiny pucker that tightened as Blake traced the crevice with a broad thumb. He felt the body beneath his hands shiver.

      "Very good, Avon. Now relax." Blake smiled as Avon, contrarily, tightened his muscles. It would hurt him at first, hurt them both a bit. Blake was not delicately built, even with a lot of lubricant, Avon had always found those first seconds of penetration painful. But once the pain had passed... One hand resting on Avon's hip to hold him still, the other guiding his cock to its goal, Blake teasingly brushed himself against Avon's ass, along the darkened furrow. Pressing lightly, he felt resistance. Shoving hard, his cock found passage.

      Beads of sweat covered Avon's face as Blake thrust down, forcing himself all the way in. Pain twisted Avon's expression and he let out a shocked gasp. "Been awhile?" Blake enquired sweetly, pulling out slightly before slowly pressing in, rewarded by the calming of Avon's face, the pleasure that his cock was already beginning to spark along Avon's nerves. "Feel me inside you, Avon. Bought and sold, you belong to me." He thrust harder, pleasuring himself and Avon, the bulk of his cock scraping against Avon's prostate with each thrust. This was how he liked to take the other man. Avon on his back, legs spread, cock exposed, face vulnerable in the heat of his passion.

      Just a bit more, and Blake would be there. He could feel orgasm welling up, beginning to pulse - he came, filling Avon up as he gasped out his pleasure. Collapsing on top of the man beneath him, Blake could feel Avon's erection, still hard, still needy, pressing into his belly. It really would be a shame to leave him like that... Propping himself up with one hand, Blake stared down at Avon's penis, watching it trapped between his belly and Avon's, Avon vainly trying to build up enough friction to bring himself off.

      "Not quite yet, I'm afraid." Pulling out, he heard Avon utter a small whimper at the abandonment. Leaning over, with a glance into Avon's puzzled, then suddenly wary, eyes, Blake unfastened one of the manacles, releasing Avon from the support column and drawing him to his feet. Then, with a sudden movement, he hauled Avon to his feet. Before Avon had time to realise his intentions, Blake had re-secured his hands to a ceiling strut well above his head. Semen slowly seeped out of Avon's body, trickling down his leg to form a tiny pool on the floor.

      "Messy bastard, aren't you?"

      A humiliated flush crept over Avon's features.

      "A bit difficult for you to clean up so we'll leave it, for now. But you do need to be punished." Blake made a show of looking around for an appropriate instrument of punishment before spying his discarded pants. His belt! It was wide and made of leather. Wide enough not to break the smooth white skin of Avon's ass, but solid enough to provide just the sting Avon needed.

      Raising his arm, the belt came down hard against Avon's skin. Avon jerked from the blow but didn't cry out. Blake smiled at the evidence of Avon's continued excitement, his erection still jutting up from his groin. Another blow and a faint moan, then another and a moan that was not so faint. Pausing, Blake stepped around in front of Avon, watching his expression with intense concentration. Avon was trembling hard, right at the edge, a little more stimulation and it would be over. Blake dropped the belt, letting his hands caress the red-hot flesh of Avon's ass. Avon jerked forward, the touch one of painful pleasure, bring his cock into contact with Blake once more.

      "Please," Avon gasped out.

      Blake's eyebrow rose. "Please what?"

      "Let me... let me come."

      "Why should I?" Blake smiled. That edge between pain and pleasure was so fine and Avon was strung out on it, desperate for release. "Beg me for it," Blake demanded. "Beg your master to give you release."

      "Please, master," Avon said softly.

      "You belong to me?" Blake's voice had softened too.

      "I belong to you, Blake," Avon whispered.

      "Yes, you do." He took Avon's cock, encompassing it within his large hands, massaging it, one hand moving down to the balls and the other keeping up the rhythm that would bring Avon over the edge.

      With a strangled shout, Avon came, his come coating Blake's hands, overflowing to mix with Blake's semen on the floor. Releasing the cock in his hand, Blake reached up, unlocking the manacles and Avon collapsed to the ground at his feet. Blake smiled down at the bowed head and heaving shoulders, before kneeling down to finally remove the manacles and lean Avon against his broad chest. The smaller man was almost asleep; lifting him up, Blake carried him into the small cubicle that he liked to think of as a bedroom, and laid him on the bed.

      Avon mumbled something incoherently against the smoothness of Blake's skin.

      "What?" Blake tilted Avon's face up, wanting to hear his words.

      "Blake."

      "What happened to the, 'Who the hell are you?'"

      "I had to be sure." Avon sounded as though he was far away. "Servalan fooled me once before. She knew so much about you."

      Blake tightened his hold, stroking the smooth skin of Avon's back, sensing things that he wasn't fully sure he wanted to know about.

      

      

      

Avon shivered in Blake's embrace. He'd got what he wanted. Sex with Blake had always been incredible, especially when Avon succeeded in annoying him; but gods, Avon was going to hate himself for this later on. Had he really called Blake 'Master'?

      Yes, he had, and in the heat of passion, he'd meant it too. This was Blake - no illusion, no phantasm created by Servalan. No matter what she had learned about the two of them to create her illusion on Terminal, Avon refused to believe that she had known this about them. Besides, his body had accepted Blake's reality even before his mind had. No one, no one else, had ever been able to draw that kind of response from him, not even Servalan.

      

      

      

Servalan glared at at Peters. "I have told you before that I am not to be interrupted when I am working."

      "My apologies, Commissioner, but you did request that you be informed immediately if we obtained any unusual readings from the subject."

      Her interest was piqued immediately. She hadn't expected anything so soon. "What kind of readings?"

      Peters seemed embarrassed, and that was an indication in itself. "I think you should see for yourself, Ma'am."

      Servalan came slowly and elegantly to her feet. There was no advantage in seeming too excited; besides, it was far too soon for Avon to have made contact with any rebels. By her reckoning, the next auction on Domo was still a couple of days ahead. She allowed Peters to precede her down the corridor and guide her into the room where the monitoring equipment was kept. Peters gestured to a screen on the far right, almost lost amongst the banks of equipment that surrounded it. "Here, let me show you the incident in question." He seemed almost pathetically eager to please - useful in a subordinate, but of no interest to her in a lover. If he sought to attract her, he was playing a losing game. Avon now - Avon had been a different question.

      "I should like my slave to call me, Mistress," she had said.

      Avon had smiled, and they both knew that the contest had begun. She had paid the pirates a few credits extra for Avon's teleport bracelet - the fools hadn't even known what it was. Scientists were working on that even now - Servalan confidently expected them to develop a working teleport within two years - their life expectancy was going to be very short if they didn't.

      That night she and Avon had made love; neither of them had expected anything else. He had been everything she had hoped for. As a lover he was passionate, demanding, endlessly inventive, and totally unafraid of her. He'd driven her to ecstasy and beyond.

      In the morning she'd told him about his friends. It was then that Avon tried to kill her.

      It had been a mistake to tell him. She realised that now. Avon had the most distressing habit of developing loyalty on occasion - it was really the only flaw in an otherwise perfect personality. Still, the look on his face when she had told him that Cancer had killed all of them had nearly made it worthwhile.

      Peters interrupted her reminiscence. "Look at the brainwave pattern."

      "So?" Servalan said impatiently. The dipping and swooping lines made no sense to her at all. "The reason I employ specialists is to interpret these things."

      Peters went pink behind the ears. "Sex, Ma'am. For the readings to be this intense, he has to be having sex."

      Now this really was fascinating: voyeurism appealed to her. She hadn't expected anything like that when she'd ordered the implant to be inserted. Avon was such a private person, what would his reaction be if he knew that she was aware of what he was doing? Servalan licked her lips with the tip of her tongue.

      "Sex with whom?" she asked. Was this just a simple case of someone raping a slave, or had Avon already met up with someone he knew? That was the purpose of the implant after all. Avon was bound to seek out other rebels. As long as she knew his location and his emotional state, picking up his contacts would be easy. He might betray several rebel enclaves before he finally realised what she had done to him.

      Peters seemed more confident here. "I'd say it was someone he knew, Commissioner. Look at this pattern here. He's emotionally involved in whatever's going on. I'd say it was someone he cared about."

      Blake! Could it possibly be Blake? Avon had never struck her as being bisexual, but who other than Blake could engage his emotions that strongly? Scorpio's crew were dead. Anna Grant lived no more. Jenna perhaps? There had been no confirmed reports of the smuggler's death. It had to be Blake or Jenna, there was simply no one else left alive who had emotional links to Avon.

      

      

      

Blake woke, slowly becoming aware of the warm body pressed to his side, the arm tucked into his chest. Avon, it was Avon. No dream, Avon was here, asleep in his arms. Unconsciously, Blake tightened his grip; a rather unreasonably large part of his mind telling him that now he had Avon back, he'd never let him go.

      Gently, he pressed a kiss to the smooth skin of the other man's cheek. Rarely would Avon allow such tenderness, he preferred his emotion, his passion, to be hard and fast. And avoided after the fact. Not this time, my Avon, Blake thought contentedly. This time we need to talk, you maybe even more than I. And I need to know what brought you here, what happened to the others. Another press of lips and Avon began to murmur, burrowing closer into Blake's warmth.

      "Ah, Avon," Blake whispered softly, exhaling against sweat-damp hair and moist skin.

      Avon twitched, his features taking on his usual look of annoyance.

      "You submit so sweetly."

      That brought Avon fully awake, and Blake grinned as the other man sat up sharply, eyes flying open, expression angry to say the least. "I didn't see that I had much choice in the matter."

      Blake merely raised an eyebrow. "At least you seem to be willing to acknowledge that it's me this morning. What the hell were you playing at last night anyway?" Had Avon really been so badly taken in by Servalan that he could doubt Blake in the flesh?

      Startled, he looked down. Avon's hand was on his, stroking softly at his fingers.

      "It really is you." Avon glanced up from under lowered lids. "I'm glad." A faint smile curved the sculpted lips, before Avon turned around, settling himself side by side with Blake, back against the headboard.

      Amazed Blake stared for several minutes before collecting his thoughts. "What happened to you, Avon? How did you come to be on Domo?" He turned his head to face Avon, watching his expression carefully but Avon gave little away, his expression carefully under control.

      "Servalan, how else?" Avon's voice was cool, unemotional, and Blake frowned.

      "How?"

      Avon grimaced. "A foolish risk: worthy of you, almost. She was there. She... tried to persuade me to join her. I wasn't very cooperative."

      "Not surprising." Blake commented, causing a faint light to flicker in the dark eyes.

      "She decided that it really wasn't worth the effort for her. You heard Terrin, something about being too dangerous. So, she sold me on Domo."

      Avon was rubbing his hands, clearly unhappy with the events he was recalling. Blake looked for words. "Surely you had information she wanted?"

      "She has Orac." The flat statement needed no elaboration. If Servalan had Orac, there was nothing Avon knew that she couldn't acquire with far less effort by simply asking the computer.

      "She didn't hurt you?"

      "Not physically." Avon smiled distantly. "In fact you could say that some of it was quite enjoyable."

      Blake felt the blood drain from his face, shock that was followed by cold fury.

      "What do you mean?" His voice was cold and tight.

      This time the angry voice was Avon's. "What do you want, Blake? Details? I fucked her. I even enjoyed it. Is that what you wanted to hear? Or do you want to hear the other side? That she killed all of them. That I wanted her dead!"

      "Avon, stop!" Blake trembled in a mixture of fury and compassion. He could see how tightly Avon was holding himself, the shivers that coursed through him. He reached out in the only way he could think of, pulling Avon into his arms, offering what comfort he could. Avon went with him, tense at first, then slowly relaxing.

      "Avon?"

      "Yes." Avon's voice was weary.

      "They're all gone?" Blake felt the tension return and held on all the tighter.

      "Servalan hired an assassin. A very successful assassin."

      Blake had no words. It was so hard to accept. News of Liberator's loss had reached him nearly a year ago, but later rumours of Avon and Vila's survival had helped to ease the blow. Now Vila was gone too.

      "Do you know how they died?" he blurted out.

      "Does it matter? I don't wish to discuss it."

      Blake heard the plea behind the words and remained silent, giving quiet support through his physical presence. After a few minutes, he felt Avon shift, one hand coming to rest on his thigh, tracing idle patterns in the downy hair.

      "Blake, I assume you've gathered a new bunch of followers, but what are you doing on Domo?"

      "Buggering you?" he teased, receiving a glare in response. "Actually, I'm on a recruiting mission."

      Avon raised a brow, smiling a sweet smile that set Blake's nerves on edge. "For a harem?"

      "For the rebellion," Blake corrected with a smile of his own. "I buy their freedom. They can join us if they wish. Most recognize that the Federation allows the slave trade for the amusement of the elite. Free, they have the chance to change that."

      "How very noble of you." The idly stoking hand stilled. "I assume you have a base?"

      "Yes, two days journey from here." Blake covered the hand on his thigh.

      "When do we leave?"

      Blake felt a sudden surge of optimism. Avon had said "we". The unrelenting bleakness of the future suddenly acquired a rosier tint.

      "There's an auction the day after tomorrow. I'd like to stay for it, in case some new people are brought in."

      "Picking and choosing, Blake? Not very democratic."

      "I've not enough money to buy many, and it's too dangerous to raid the slavers. In any case, they'd simply move the auctions somewhere else." Blake paused. "If you're so concerned, perhaps you'd like to use your computing skills to help us acquire more money."

      "Perhaps. I'd need access to the banking system and plenty of time to study the software. They'll have improved the security since the last time. There's a definite risk of getting caught."

      "You're the best," Blake said confidently. "You can do it."

      Avon broke away from him and stood up, his bare feet making a faint slap on the floor. He walked over to a drawer and helped himself to a shirt without asking.

      "I was the best. It took me a year's work to crack the bank before. It may have escaped your notice, but in the last four years, I haven't had much opportunity to study financial systems." He held up the shirt without turning around. "Don't you have anything smaller?"

      Blake padded over to the shower capsule. "There's a black roll neck in the bottom drawer. That might fit you."

      Avon rummaged through the drawer and eventually found the jumper at the back. "Not your usual style, Blake. Sentiment?"

      "Idiocy more like." He turned the shower on, wishing that there was room for two. But then Avon had never been one for intimacy anyway.

      

      

      Verlis held out a welcoming hand. "Commissioner!" she said warmly. "What a pleasure to see you again so soon.

      Servalan smiled in return. Verlis was a woman after her own heart: mercenary, power-loving, and the possessor of an almost inexhaustible supply of dirty stories. Her empire might consist only of Domo and a rabble of pirates, but she had gained that position by a combination of business knowledge and sheer ruthlessness.

      "What brings you here? Business or pleasure?"

      "If I'm fortunate, both. The man I sold you the last time I was here - I understand he's been sold again. Who bought him?"

      Verlis eyed her sharply. "Now why would you be interested in knowing that?"

      "He was a very interesting man," Servalan said demurely. The corner of her mouth twitched up slightly, and Verlis laughed aloud.

      "I'll bet he was! Regretting selling him already?"

      "You might say that. I'm more interested in the person who bought him, though. I believe that person to be a potential danger to the Federation."

      Verlis gestured towards a large shady building made of cool white stone. "Why not come and have something to drink while I check the records?"

      Pillars held up classically styled pediments, and marble statues adorned niches in the walls. The floor was of flagged stone and the heels of Servalan's shoes clicked loudly as she walked. Verlis's office to the right, was a complete contrast obviously based on a completely different style from another world or historical period; it featured brightly coloured and draped textiles, woven in shades of red and gold. A thick red carpet underfoot completed the decadent effect. Servalan found her sensibilities slightly offended; her taste in decor ran along more simplistic lines. This room felt more suited to an orgy than to conducting business.

      Although Servalan thought she hadn't allowed her distaste to show, Verlis must have sensed it. "It's what the clients expect, my dear." She flicked a switch on the desk, and the room changed. Opulent drapes became smooth grey walls, with a large viewscreen set into the wall opposite the desk.

      Servalan smiled. "Very smooth. How many holograms have you got preset?"

      "About a dozen." Verlis sat down behind the desk, gestured to Servalan to make herself comfortable, and poured out drinks into a pair of elegant fluted glasses. Leaning back into her chair, Verlis raised the glass in salute and tapped a few instructions into her computer with her other hand. The screen on the wall opposite promptly animated with data. "There you are{\160}- slave X32 bought by Josiah Rabkin for six hundred vems."

      Josiah? So it had been a man then. "Rabkin? Is that his real name?"

      "My dear," Verlis protested, "you know I never ask my clients their real names."

      Wordlessly, Servalan held out a photograph. "There's a considerable bounty on this man," she said suggestively.

      Verlis plucked the photograph out of her fingers. "That's him. He's a regular customer. So what does this 'threat to the Federation' have to do with your dangerous, dark-eyed pet?"

      Servalan relaxed back in her chair and crossed her legs. "I think they may be lovers."

      Verlis looked vaguely disappointed. "A lover of men is he? Is that why he didn't live up to your expectations?"

      "Oh, he lived up to them all right." Even thinking about that night with Avon was enough to make her nipples ache. He was so wonderfully masculine. "In the morning I told him I'd had his friends executed. Careless of me. If it hadn't been for my mutoids, he might actually have succeeded in strangling me."

      Verlis laughed. "Is that why you want his lover? To give you a hold over him?"

      Servalan swirled the amber liquid in her glass. "An interesting thought, but I don't think he'd be really safe even if I had Blake as a hostage. He'd just try to use me as a hostage for Blake. No," she sighed regretfully, "I think he's served his purpose in flushing Blake out of the woodwork. I have his ship, I have his computer - there's nothing more that I want from Kerr Avon."

      Verlis looked knowingly at her. "Except..."

      "Except what?"

      "You forget, I've been in this business thirty years. You're not the only one who enjoys seeing two men go at it."

      She hadn't seen the attraction until Verlis mentioned it. The idea was insidious, exciting, and erotic beyond belief. To be there when Avon and Blake.... And to take one or both of them afterwards, before she executed them. Which of them was dominant? What would they do?

      Servalan didn't bother to hide the way the thought aroused her: Verlis knew anyway. "It's an fascinating idea," she said, "but how do we get them to perform..."

      

      

      "I still think this is a waste of my time."

      Blake turned to his companion. Avon had eventually agreed to come with him to the auction preview, despite his professed desire to do some work on the flight computer. Blake half suspected the reluctance had been due to the limitations of Blake's wardrobe. The weather was really too hot for black jumpers, and Avon had been forced into a white shirt with billowing sleeves. Slashed open at the neck, and worn with wide belted brown trousers tucked into black boots, the effect was to make him look as piratical as the regular inhabitants of Domo.

      Blake looked down at himself. His own attire was not so changed. A bit flashier than had formerly been his wont: tighter pants, semi-transparent shirt and a heavy gold neck chain. The pants were made of soft brown suede, and his feet and shins were covered by brown leather boots that reached almost to his knees. On his right thigh, a blaster was strapped. His whole attire was designed to give the appearance of a man with a taste for luxury and money to toss around. His cover was important. When he was honest with himself, Blake admitted he enjoyed the clothing and the image. Avon certainly appeared to, as well.

      "Stop staring, Avon. You're supposed to be a slave, not appraising the merchandise yourself."

      "Don't get too attached to the idea of being a slaver," Avon warned. "I'm not going to put up with this charade a moment longer than is necessary."

      That was a joke in itself. Avon looked about as much the submissive slave as a Tarsian warg-strangler would. He stood straight and arrogant, walking by Blake's side rather than slightly behind him as a slave would be expected to do. Blake knew well enough that Avon obeyed only Avon. If he was here, now, then it was for his own reasons as much as for any command of Blake's. Those reasons might well include protecting Blake, but if they did, that was Avon's choice, not a submission. Whatever, he felt safer with Avon at his side, and knew that the feeling was reciprocated.

      "Josiah."

      Blake turned and swallowed hard. Verlis. He shot a quick glance at Avon that said 'behave' before greeting her.

      "Hello, Verlis. You're attending the auction today?"

      "Yes." Verlis paused to admire Blake's silent companion. "You've made a new purchase. I've heard that one can be a handful."

      Blake felt his face flush, felt the laughter threaten to explode. He didn't dare look at Avon. "Yes, he can be quite a... handful."

      Trying to ignore the vicious glare he was directing at them both, Blake watched Verlis give Avon a careful once over. Her inspection seemed as thorough as that of an art critic evaluating an old painting. Verlis smiled her approval, tilting Avon's chin to inspect his face from every angle. Avon endured her scrutiny with barely restrained fury; for moment Blake thought that Avon was going to bite her.

      "Surly, isn't he?" Verlis turned her attention back to Blake. "Do you mind if I inspect his teeth?"

      If her intent had been to annoy Avon, she couldn't have done any better. "I mind," Avon said curtly.

      Verlis raised an eyebrow at Blake. "I think you still have some problems with that one. You need to show him who's master." She smiled. "We have a couple of rooms for special training. They would give you an opportunity to tame him. I do so hate to sell faulty merchandise."

      Blake saw Avon's jaw clench and guessed that if he wanted to keep both his cover and his hide, he'd better get rid of Verlis quickly.

      "I rather enjoy the challenge." He smiled, watching Avon's face flush.

      "Then you simply must try one of the training rooms. You're a regular customer, Josiah, and I wouldn't want you to be disappointed. I think you'd enjoy the session, relaxation before the auction, you know."

      Verlis smiled, and Blake could see no way out. Ah well, the time and place might not be of his choosing but a luxurious room and time alone with Avon was hardly a trial, especially with all that pent up anger. He could virtually feel the tension radiating from him.

      "Yes, thank you, Verlis. I think I will avail myself of your generous offer."

      Verlis' smile widened more than Blake would have thought possible. She beckoned towards one of her men.

      "Show Rabkin to training room one. Enjoy." Verlis turned to leave.

      "Thank you. I hope you enjoy yourself equally well this afternoon." Blake inclined his head with a polite smile.

      Verlis halted. "I'm sure I shall."

      

      

      

      Avon was seething by the time they reached the main slave quarters, and walking through the endless halls did nothing to soothe his irritation. Particularly, when they reached their destination and Verlis's guide shoved him through the open door. Blake nodded and the man left, closing the door firmly behind him.

      "Avon?" The room was in almost total darkness and Blake fumbled for the light switch.

      What he saw shocked him. Training was one thing but this place was set up like a bloody torture chamber. Red light shone from the ceiling giving everything a lurid hue. Avon was on his knees in the centre of the room, his eyes travelling round before settling on Blake. Blake smiled faintly before returning his attention to their surroundings.

      One wall of the room was hung with devices: whips, paddles, and dildos. The size and shape of some of them made Blake wince. There were blindfolds and handcuffs, and some implements that he didn't recognize and wasn't sure that he wanted to. A washbasin stood alone, looking oddly prosaic in this room of the bizarre. Surprisingly, the floor was soft and padded. The other three walls were mirrored, images of himself staring back at him. And at Avon.

      The dark figure sat quietly on the floor, surveying his surroundings with a calm acceptance that made Blake wonder what dark secrets Avon would never tell him.

      "Avon?"

      "Yes?"

      Blake watched cautiously as Avon's gaze came round to him. It was as cool and insolent as ever; Avon's head tilted slightly back so that their eyes met. Blake moved to kneel at his side and reached out to brush the fine hair away from Avon's eyes. A faintly mocking smile tilted Avon's lips, sparking a small flame of arousal deep in Blake's belly. No, he'd never tame Avon. Not unless Avon felt like being tamed.

      "Verlis did offer us this room."

      The smile on Avon's lips widened. "And you think that you can handle it? Can handle me? Verlis isn't here with you now, Blake. It's just the two of us." Suddenly Avon sprung to his feet, towering over the larger man. "I may be "officially" your slave, Blake, but that doesn't hold for our private transactions."

      Rising slowly, Blake stood inches away. "No?"

      Backing off, Avon shook his head. "No. You may be able to manipulate others, Verlis, your followers, but not me, Blake. I am not one to be meekly led."

      "Well, then maybe you need some convincing." Avon backed up as Blake approached, finally coming up against one mirrored wall.

      "Don't." Avon spoke softly, little authority in his voice, pleading in his eyes. Another role? Blake placed one hand either side of Avon's head, watching the tension in the lean body, fine tremors disturbing the stillness. Such a mass of contradictions, his Avon. Wanting to submit and yet not; playing games, yet in deadly earnest.

      "Don't?" Blake questioned. "Don't stop?" Leaning in to kiss slightly parted lips, he hesitated, memories of a bitten lip intruding. Looking down into dark eyes, he felt his cautiousness justified. "You little prick! You were going to do it again."

      Avon smiled sweetly, tracing one hand languidly up the inside of Blake's arm, making the rebel shiver in anticipation, the previous flicker of arousal starting to flame in earnest. Avon leaned in to place soft kisses against his throat and Blake groaned in surprised pleasure at the touch, closing his eyes to better savour the sensation. But the gentle pleasure was short-lived. Lips left his throat and Blake began to murmur his protest when a stinging slap smacked into his cheek.

      "Damn it, Avon!" Blake roared. Bloody hell, did Avon have to like the rough stuff so much? A little tenderness wouldn't be all that emasculating. Unthinking, Blake belted Avon back, sending him to his knees against the mirror. Dark eyes looked up at him as Avon wiped a trickle of blood from his lip, a familiar mix of anger and desire in those eyes.

      "Blake the great humanitarian, lover of democracy, champion of the common man." Avon's voice dripped scorn. "I see right through you, Blake. You can't fool me like the rest of your rabble, you never could handle me as you did the others."

      "Really?" Blake asked softly, angrily. He knew Avon was baiting him. Fine, he'd get what he wanted. They both would.

      "So petulant, Avon." Blake bent to tangle his fingers in Avon's soft, fine hair. "Act like a Delta and you'll be punished like one." Reaching behind him, Blake snatched a pair of handcuffs from the display shelf. Despite Avon's vigorous struggles, Blake pulled his wrists together, snapping the cuffs on. Grabbing Avon by his bound wrists, Blake dragged him to the centre of the room, a shove between the shoulder blades sending Avon to his knees at Blake's feet.

      "Now who's acting like a Delta," Avon snarled.

      "Shut up and strip, Avon." Rebellious eyes glared up at him and Blake gave a loud sigh of irritation. "Very well."

      Joining Avon on the soft floor, Blake gently took his hands, leant close, pressing his lips to the bared skin at the base of Avon's throat. Just as gently he pulled Avon's hands slightly to the side. One click later, Avon's cuffs were attached to the ring in the floor. Blake abandoned the delicate skin with a lick and a smile.

      "You bastard!" Avon pulled away, straining at the cuffs. But there was no way for him to get free without Blake releasing him. He was trapped on his knees, hands cuffed to the floor.

      "Ah, Avon," Blake murmured, "you're beautiful when you're angry." Standing beside his softly fuming captive, Blake stripped off shoes, shirt and pants then bent to remove Avon's. He met some resistance, Avon being his usual difficult self, and the fragile cloth of his shirt was torn. But the small, dark figure was soon crouched naked on the floor, still spitting fire. He was also clearly aroused, Blake watching fascinated as Avon's cock hardened under his stare. Softly, Blake trailed his fingers down the welts that marked Avon's back. Nothing too strenuous tonight. Avon might think he wanted it but tomorrow he'd not thank him for it. As if he ever did. Blake grinned to himself, seeing Avon shiver in response, his ass tightening as Blake's hand brushed against his crease.

      "Don't, Blake." Avon shivered again and tried to pull away from the fingers that now probed his ass, tracing lightly over his muscled entrance.

      "Ah, but you want me to, Avon, and we both know it." Stretching, Blake rose and padded over to the largest display case. He glanced back to be sure Avon was paying close attention.

      "You can't imagine how you look, Avon. Down on your hands and knees, ass in the air, ready for whatever I choose to give you." Blake watched the slow heat of embarrassment flush the pale skin of Avon's face and neck.

      "You know, I've never seen such a collection." Blake brushed his hand across several whips, settling on a short-tailed one with a large penis-shaped handle. Avon's eyes widened as Blake lifted it down, cracking it once before picking up a tube of lubricant and a small, studded, black leather cockring.

      Returning to Avon's side, Blake placed the lube and whip on the floor, bracing a hand on Avon's back as he knelt beside him. Slowly he trailed his fingers down smooth skin, never looking away, intent on the emotions battling in Avon's eyes: desire, fear, anger. Slipping his other hand between spread thighs, he cupped Avon's balls, rolling, kneading them.

      "Sweet, isn't it, Avon. Doing this for you, pleasuring you. You'll take anything I want to give, won't you?" Blake could felt the tension returning to Avon's body, but he kept on manipulating the vulnerable genitals until Avon was fully erect. He snapped on the cockring, silvery studs against delicate skin.

      "Won't you?" This time Blake wanted his answer, wanted Avon to admit to his needs. Hand gripping Avon's chin, he tilted the smaller man's head back, the neck open, veins pulsing under skin so pale. But Avon remained stubbornly silent and Blake picked up the whip. He held it in front of Avon's face, encouraging him to look at it.

      "Impressive, don't you think?" Blake watched Avon nervously lick his lips. "I'd love to use it on you. I'm sure you want to feel it, sharp and stinging." He caressed Avon's back, dragging the leather strips slowly down to the base of the spine. Avon trembled as they brushed against the still sensitive skin of his ass.

      "Don't you have the guts?" Avon's ass twitched and Blake smiled.

      "No, I'm afraid not." Blake replaced the whip with his hand, stroking the pale smooth skin. "The welts would tear and I doubt that you would look as appealing with your skin in shreds." Blake paused, thumb invading Avon's crease, pressing lightly against his anus. "No, I think I'll have to make do with some of the other toys so thoughtfully provided. You understand, don't you? Don't you?" He grabbed Avon's hair and gave a sharp tug.

      "Yes." Avon hissed.

      "Yes, what?" There was a long paused and Blake began to wonder.

      "Yes... Master."

      "Very good, slave." Blake grinned, knowing just what Avon needed. "I think you deserve a reward." Brushing the cockring with one finger, enough to make Avon jerk, Blake unclipped the tails from the whip. He displayed the ten inch handle for Avon's benefit.

      "Should be enough to satisfy you, hmm?" Blake murmured, pressing it to Avon's cheek, pleased when the other man flinched but didn't try to move away. "Think about it, Avon," Blake whispered seductively, nibbling at an exposed earlobe. "Think about it filling you, the force of my arm behind it." Avon shivered, the dark lashes veiling his gaze. "Take it." Avon's eyes flew open at the command. Blake brought the dildo down to his lips, tracing them with the enormous tip. "Suck it, if you know what's good for you. You know where it's going next."

      And Avon did, opening his mouth, making the dildo wet with saliva. Blake propped the base between the bound hands and picked up the tube of lubricant, moving out of Avon's field of vision.

      "You like being told what to do." Avon's sucking faltered for a moment. "Like me telling you what to do, making you do it. You like sucking my cock, like kneeling, offering your ass for my pleasure." Squeezing the creme onto his fingers, Blake dipped them into the furrow between Avon's cheeks, tickling the rim of his anus, Avon jerking forward at the teasing sensation. Another squeeze of creme and Blake easily inserted one finger, pushing the creme in deeply.

      "Yes, you'll do whatever I want, Avon. And I want to see you spitted, writhing on that cock." Blake forced another finger in, drawing a gasp from Avon, the dildo sliding from his lips, shaft glistening.

      "No, not yet, Avon. It's pretty big. Another finger first, I think." Blake forced a third in; a groan slipped past Avon's control, his muscles clenched in protest. Blake wriggled his fingers, rewarded by a gasp of pain followed by a moan of pleasure as he found the sensitive prostate.

      "You like this, don't you, Avon? Being fucked belly down like a dog, on your knees at your master's feet. You're hot for it." He brushed a fingertip across the moist tip of Avon's captive cock, Avon arched up and back, squirming uncontrollably, the cockring preventing any relief.

      "Please, Blake," Avon choked out.

      "What do you want, Avon?" Blake demanded, hooking his fingers and tugging, drawing another cry from his captive. "You want my big cock filling you up? That dildo splitting you in two? Answer me!" Blake brought one hand down hard on Avon's unprotected ass, the reflexive tightening an agony and ecstasy for Avon.

      "Blake!" Avon jerked, trying desperately for release, shaking violently under the force of his desire. Cock swollen so hard it was a mixture of pain and pleasure, prostate sending chills through him with each flinch. He was Blake's. He always had been.

      "Whatever you want for me," Avon finally whispered. Blake smiled tenderly. Picking up the dildo, he traced it along the curve of Avon's ass, running it along the sensitive inner thighs. Avon trembled, his thighs tensing, muscles rippling. Withdrawing his fingers, Blake hesitated, captivated by his own captive.

      Avon knelt, head resting against his bound hands, intermittent shivers racking him, sweat making his skin shine. Blake tasted him, licking the sweat from the back of his neck. He himself was dripping sweat onto Avon's back, his own cock hard and aching, desperate to sheath himself where he loved to be.

      "You're ready." His voice was soft but stern, a command more than a question.

      "Yes."

      Blake dropped the dildo and thrust himself in, penetrating Avon's body with one powerful thrust. A harsh cry and Avon's back arched up to meet him. Fresh sweat broke out across the pale skin as Blake continued to thrust, gritting his teeth, controlling the urge to finish it now. Avon writhed in his hold, each driving blow pushing him a little bit closer to the edge.

      "This room is your fantasy, isn't it?" Blake stared down at Avon's bowed head, holding himself still within his lover's body.

      "No," Avon whispered. "Not the room..."

      And there it was. As close to an admission as Avon would ever get. And it was enough for Blake, more than enough.

      "Then it's time to fulfil it." He kissed the nape of Avon's neck, a moment of tenderness before beginning to thrust once more. One hand slipped down to Avon's groin, grasping his cock. Avon was almost sobbing now, his breath coming in harsh gasps as Blake squeezed once, then released the cockring.

      Avon screamed out, head thrown back, his muscles clamping down hard as orgasm claimed him, the incredible tightness dragging Blake over the edge with him. With a faint groan, Avon collapsed onto the floor. Blake was almost on top of him, having just enough sense of mind left to collapse at Avon's side, saving his back from further abuse. They lay close, bodies spooned together, Blake's arms wrapped around Avon, Avon's hand resting lightly on one of Blake's in a silent gesture of communion.

      

      

      

      Servalan pressed her hand tight against her aching breast, rolling the sharp pain of a nipple between finger and thumb. The scene on the other side of the one-way mirror seemed to have reached its conclusion, and she was aroused beyond belief. Who would have thought that Avon, proud, domineering Avon, could be subdued by any other man? She stared at Blake as he lay beside his lover, tousled curls damp on his forehead.

      A gentle moan distracted her. Verlis's eyes were closed, and she was obviously as far gone as Servalan herself.

      Servalan snapped her fingers authoritatively and Verlis snapped awake to look at her. "I would have thought you'd be used to this sort of thing," Servalan said.

      Verlis smiled. "I've seen dozens of such exhibitions, my dear, but its so rare that you see one where both participants are enjoying themselves. Slaves rarely have much enthusiasm for such tasks. Somehow, a willing victim is so much more erotic."

      Servalan picked up a small, compact gun from where she had left it lying on a shelf. She felt its smooth, cool length for a moment, then passed it to Verlis. "You take this. I want him."

      "Your pet?"

      "No." Servalan licked a dry lip. "Blake."

      Avon was vanquished: no matter that it was by his own choice, Blake had still defeated him. She wanted the stronger man, wanted to feel that strength against her, to feel his hardness inside her, filling her completely. Her hips swayed slightly in anticipation of that moment. The wetness between her legs was a void, aching for fulfilment.

      To step through the concealed doorway separating the two rooms was the act of a moment. Startled, the lovers flung themselves apart - Blake springing to his feet, Avon still manacled, could only make it to his knees.

      "Servalan!" Avon's voice had more hate in it than she could ever recall having heard before.

      She smiled insincerely. "I'm so sorry to disturb you: you were obviously having such a good time."

      Avon's eyes blazed with fury. "Blake," he hissed, "get me out of this contraption."

      Servalan shook her head, the slightest movement but enough to key Verlis to come forward with the gun. Blake's move towards Avon froze abruptly. "What do you want?" he said resignedly.

      "Why, Blake, can't you guess? I want you." She stretched her body in a way that could only have one possible meaning, and Blake stepped back in horror. Avon drew his breath in sharply. "Jealous, Avon?" Servalan queried lightly. "You shouldn't be; I've already had you. Didn't you tell Blake about our little tryst?" She caught the glance the two men gave each other. "Ah, I see you did. I hope you gave credit where it was due."

      Blake was warily alert now. "Why?" he asked.

      "Why Avon, or why you?"

      "Both."

      She shrugged. "Because it excites me? Because there's a touch of danger? Because I prefer strong men? Because it bores me to have sex with a man I have no respect for? Choose your own reason."

      Servalan thought she saw a touch of understanding there, now. Was that what fired Blake's own relationship with Avon?

      Blake took a step towards her, looming over her. "You want me to force you?"

      Something deep inside her quivered. Yes, she wanted what he had given Avon. She wanted to be plundered helplessly, to cry out in spite of herself, to have her deepest needs fulfilled.

      He smiled slightly, without humour, reading her reaction. "And if I break your neck?"

      "Verlis will kill Avon."

      "Don't do it, Blake." That was Avon of course. "She'll kill us both anyway."

      Surprise, surprise. Avon didn't want to share his lover. Either of them. She looked Blake directly in the eye. "While there's life, there's hope," she said mockingly.

      Grimly, Blake reached out his hands and took her face between them. His kiss was stern and demanding, and re-awakened every urge within her. A hand slid down her back, pressing her firmly against him. She arched into him, keenly aware of his strong masculine smell. Her dress was an unwanted encumbrance between her and the breadth of Blake's chest. She reached up a hand to undo the shoulder strap, only to be halted by Blake's barked command. "Stop! Did I give you permission to disrobe?"

      Servalan froze. Blake took a step back and looked her up and down calculatingly. There was loathing in his eyes, but perhaps a touch of something else too. He might hate her, but hate itself could lead to lust. "Take it off," he said finally, "but very slowly. I want to watch."

      The dress was long and close fitting. Servalan eased a strap from her right shoulder, and loosened the fastening down the right hand side of the dress. She moved her hands slowly, tantalisingly, drawing Blake's attention to the fullness of her breasts. He walked around her, casually kicking an abandoned boot out of his way. His hands gripped her shoulders from behind, but she didn't look around.

      "Good," Blake said with taut approval, "you're learning." One of his hands slid down to grip a breast. He squeezed hard, hating her, wanting to hurt, but not daring to take it too far. It was a fine line to tread: dominate Servalan, tantalise her, keep her off balance, but resist the temptation to humiliate her to the point where she'd abandon the game and kill them both. He moved the hand further down, letting her sense his strength. This was a contest that had to be played for everything it was worth; the prize wasn't life - Blake had no illusions that Servalan would let either himself or Avon live once this charade was over - the prize was time. Time to think. Time for chance to operate in their favour. Time - because that was all there was to play for. Releasing Servalan abruptly, Blake walked round to view her from the front once more. Taking her cue from the command in his eyes, she slowly released the other strap of her dress, and allowed it to fall in a silken pool around her feet. Her full figure stood in sharp contrast to the masculine body he had enjoyed so recently. If he had been a man who preferred women, he had no doubt that he would have had found her exciting. And Avon? Picturing the two of them together, he felt an incredible sense of resentment. Without warning, he slapped Servalan hard across the cheek. "On your knees!" he commanded. It was just possible that he was going to enjoy this.

      Blake was aware of both Avon and Verlis watching him. Verlis was obviously absorbed in what was going on, she'd allowed him to move into her line of fire. Avon, though - Avon was reaching out a hand towards the boot. Memory firmed. He thought he'd seen Avon slip something in the lining of his boots that morning. It had always been a habit of his to keep a couple of small tools concealed about him in case of an emergency. Blake remembered that from the Liberator days. The question was whether Avon had anything that was useful here. He didn't dare look too closely, that would only attract attention to what Avon was doing.

      Servalan knelt, her excitement obvious in the tension of her body. Blake stepped forward, a colossus towering over her. Legs astride, hands on hips, he stood silently waiting. Servalan reached out a hesitant hand to touch his genitals. Blake slapped her hand instantly. "Just your lips." For a moment he thought she was going to disobey him - their eyes locked - then she bent forward and took him into her mouth. Her tongue swirled around the tip of his penis, exploring, tasting. Not bad, although she obviously hadn't had as much practice at this as Avon had.

      He allowed his eyes to flick beyond Servalan to Avon. Partly hidden from Verlis, Avon was working on the snap lock holding his wrist chain to the floor. It was the simplest of locks, far simpler than the locks on his wrists, requiring little more than a straight piece of metal to release the catch. As the snap opened, he looked at Blake, the message in his dark eyes unreadable. There was calculation there, but emotion also: love, hate or jealousy, it was impossible to say. As Servalan moved to lick the underside of Blake's cock, Avon sprang.

      The chain wrapped taut around Servalan's neck.

      Avon jerked on the chain, then fell backwards, his body arching impossibly - the sound of Verlis's shot echoed flatly around the room.

      Servalan fell, the chain dragging her back. Fell, then freed herself, the slender neck uninjured apart from a few red marks.

      Blake froze, hands clenching and unclenching by his side. If only he could reach Servalan, he could strangle her. But it just wasn't going to happen - Verlis was too fast, and was still covering him. Furious, helpless, he knelt beside Avon's body. His lover lay still and silent. Reaching out a hand, Blake smoothed out the dark brown hair and ran a caress down Avon's neck. There was the faintest of pulses there; Avon lived, but barely, and Blake had no hope that it would be for more than a few minutes. To his surprise, Servalan shifted herself to sit on Avon's other side. He glared at her. "Get the key to his manacles."

      "Why?"

      "Because if he dies, he dies a free man. Avon is no one's slave. Not mine. Not yours."

      Surprising him again, Servalan rose to her feet and fetched the key from its hook on the wall. She dangled it from a finger, just out of Blake's reach. "I thought you enjoyed having him as your slave," she taunted.

      "That was a game. It meant nothing - no more than my taking you would have meant anything." There was a cold hard fury in him. Avon was dying, and nothing that he could do was going to make any difference. Avon was dying, and Servalan merely found it another source of amusement.

      "How very touching." She tossed the key casually onto Avon's chest. "I really do believe you cared for him."

      Blake faced the truth in all its bitter certainty. "That's what you'd never understand. You played games with him. I loved him." Silently, he unlocked the cuffs and held Avon's hands within his own. They felt cold to his touch.

      Servalan watched without comment. She felt empty. For all her power over them, the bond between the two men was something that excluded her totally. Blake's entire attention was focused on Avon. Without Avon she had no hold over him at all. Besides, the moment had passed - sex was no longer uppermost in her mind. She had taken a careless risk here, and now it was time to tie up all the loose ends. Smiling at Verlis, she walked over and held out her hand for the gun. As Blake caressed the unfeeling clay of Avon's body, Servalan placed her gun at the base of his skull and pulled the trigger. Without even waiting for the rebel's body to hit the floor, she turned around and shot Verlis. The surprise on the pirate's face was almost worth it - surely she had realised that her knowledge of Servalan's name, combined with her witnessing this scene here, had made her too dangerous to be allowed to live? A pity in a way, Verlis had been an amusing companion. But there it was, one couldn't afford sentiment these days; it was far too dangerous.

      Then why, asked the smallest of voices inside her, why didn't you tell Blake about the implant in Avon's skull? Wouldn't have that been the ultimate defeat for him: to know that Avon led you here, to know that love led to betrayal? Is it possible, just possible, the voice asked, that you wanted to leave Blake some small crumb of comfort, to leave him his love even as you took his life?

      She shook her head angrily. If she had given Blake that extra minute, Verlis might have realised the danger she was in and killed Servalan before Servalan could kill her. Her defeat of Blake and Avon, coming so soon after her execution of Vila, Soolin, Dayna and Tarrant, would assure her of greater things. She was back on the road that would eventually lead her once more to the Presidency.

      And yet, the small voice persisted in asking, when you get there, what will you have gained? Who had more? Blake with his passionate, argumentative lover, or yourself with your followers and flatterers who care nothing for you and only tell you what they think you want to hear.

      Ruthlessly, Servalan pushed the traitorous thought aside. Power was what mattered. Power was all there was. Because if there was anything more...

      Straightening her back, Servalan turned from the scene of death and walked on into her empty future.

      


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