The Shadow That Walks Between UsBy Linda Terrell
Page 2 of 7
|Blake knew he had to find someone but he didn't know who or where. A face flashed through his mind and he rejected it. That one again! But the deep spark that was Blake told him here was cold logic, a way to sanity and comfort, a way back to himself.
But the face kept changing. First the one he knew could help, the one he cared so much for. Then, that other, dark, challenging, cruel.
The way back! That was it, he had to get back. Back where? His planet, and it was outside this building. He had promised to go back, hadn't he? Going back would rid him of this terror and the dark, roiling mists that kept him from himself.
The face loomed before him again, the eyes accusing, laughing, the lips parted in that predatory smile. Somewhere, the screaming began again, running together into one long shriek.
It hurt to scream so. No, it felt good to scream--to slip into the darkness away from that terrible noise.
Gan found him, curled into a fetal ball in the cargo area, rocking and whimpering, so blind to everything that Gan was able to roll him over and bring him to his knees with gentle hands and voice.
Suddenly, Blake rushed past Gan. The man barely flicked the giant aside but the bigger man went sprawling.
Just as suddenly, Blake went sprawling over Avon who had followed Gan with his usual stealth. He was convincing himself that he was doing this out of pride, curiosity, anger--anything but affection.
Avon was coming to his hands and knees when Blake picked him up off the floor and began smashing him against the bulkhead.
He opened his eyes experimentally, prepared to retreat if it still hurt. Blake had hurt him and he wasn't sure he wanted to face the reality of that just yet.
"Ah!" he winced when he tried to move his arm. "Where...is...he?" It was a snarl.
Vila's voice reached him. "Sedated. Dammit, Avon, why'd you do that? Cally didn't want to use drugs on Blake but it was the only way to get him off you. He was totally crackers. He was going to kill you!"
Avon was stung beyond his own belief. "And if he had, it would have been all my fault?"
"Pretty much, yes...well, er, no, not like that, exactly. It's just that when he sees you, he seems to get worse. Cally has a theory--"
"Shut up." Avon attempted to roll over. Even his teeth hurt. "I always thought he hated me..."
"He doesn't hate you," Vila said a little too hastily. "He loves you and that's the problem."
"Vila," Avon warned.
"No. Listen to me. Cally and I had this theory. Well, no, actually, Cally did but I agree. We put it to Orac while you were sulk, er, shut away in your cabin. It's a Puppeteer's trick. A subliminal order. The original conditioning wiped Blake's brain of his friends' faces and names. So the next time they put in an order that at some distant date, he'd be wiped clean again of his current friends and the closer he is to any of them, the more permanent the wipe. I think that's something like ORAC said. He uses such complicated words, Avon. But, you see, Blake is fighting it so it isn't just a simple wipe, but a walking nightmare for him."
"Shut up," Avon repeated, turning away.
"Er, yes, right. Sure. You're alright now so I'll go back to Bla...Cally. We're taking turns with him. He seems to accept me, us. Well, you know I'm harmless and..."
Stung by the anger in Avon's voice, Vila clamped his mouth shut. Yes, hurt was there too. Avon hurting. That wasn't good for any of them. Avon was unpredictable at the best of times. This wasn't the best of times.
How dare Blake turned on him like that!?! Avon's mind raced, his fury turning to icy righteousness. He would reject on his terms, not the other way around. Oh, how he had so carefully snarled and snapped and slashed at Blake these months, to keep the man away, to reject the affection Blake always offered. And he had wanted it. Wanted that strong, silent warmth. But to succumb was to show weakness and Blake would possess him.
A corner of his brain reminded him that it wouldn't be so bad, not with Blake. Could he even think of possessing Blake? Never--not when he'd have to share him with so many.
He laughed. He was jealous. Jealous not just of Cally and Gan and how Blake...allowed...them to get close to him. But jealous of--Vila! He was further gone than he thought.
He decided to get through to Blake. Oh yes, he would get through. Kerr Avon wasn't going to be left hanging and alone again, not this time. For once, he told himself, he was not going to back up and freeze everyone out. He will come to me.
You're being petulant, a cool logic told him from that part of his brain he reserved for all things Blake.
Nonsense, I'm being sore...and petulant.
Stiffly, he moved off his couch and dressed gingerly. Formulating a plan, he moved out toward Blake's quarters....
Cally felt a soft swirl of air as the door to Blake's cabin opened and Avon slipped in. Moving with unusual stiffness, he sat down beside Cally, drawing his knees up. Clasping his hands around his legs, he leaned forward.
Vila lay curled up near Blake's couch, sleeping with that innocent air so peculiar to the thief.
Blake was still, the muscles in his face twitching as some picture disturbed him.
//Avon, if Blake should awake and see you...//
"He will not see me," Avon whispered tightly. "I want him to come to me."
He felt a flash of apprehension from Cally, then realization. //It could work. There would be little fear for him if he took the initiative. But he must not see your face.//
"1 know," Avon rested his forehead against his knees and let out the smallest of sighs.
Cally moved silently with her own cat-like grace, stirring Vila with her foot and pulling him gently to his feet. He grinned stupidly and leaned heavily against her.
//We will be right outside. Blake could hurt you...//
"I'm ready this time." I hope.
//Let us hope Blake is. I fear it may be too soon. But he is still lightly sedated.//
Avon had lapsed into silence. Cally and Vila left, settling themselves on the floor outside against the closed door.
Mumbling, Vila fell back to sleep against Cally, his head on her breast. She allowed it, even welcomed it. Vila could be so endearing. And wasn't he harmless?
There was a movement and Avon flinched. He was vulnerable, sitting in the center of the room, nothing near to hide behind or grab and use as a shield. For all his bulk, Blake could move nimbly and fast when he wanted to, with a finesse one wouldn't expect in such a solid, burly man.
Fingers were touching him, exquisitely lightly. Exploring. His hair, his shoulders, arms and hands. Moving back, urging him to show his face. Avon pressed into his knees.
Blake had come to him and knelt before him, searching reassuring himself by touch in the dim room.
"I...have to...find someone." It was a hoarse whisper.
"Who?" Avon chanced, keeping his voice pitched high and soft. It was his own most seductive voice.
"Don't know," Blake grunted succinctly, sitting back with legs crossed, eyeing Avon intently.
Avon could sense that gaze and it made his skin prickly. That warm, humorous gaze that often ended so many arguments--he feared the blankness of it now. Chancing a look between his knees, he could see only Blake's bulk, not his face. Just as well. Blake mustn't see his face, not yet. He waited endlessly for Blake to speak again. Blake must take the lead here, be allowed the initiative.
"Cally...where?" Blake continued having trouble speaking, finding words. That shook Avon. Blake was the best repartee artist he'd come across in his adult life.
"Outside, Blake. Close."
"Which one...are you...then?"
Avon shuddered involuntarily. Would the name alone push Blake back into his nightmares?
"Which one do you want?"
"The one...who can help. He's...outside this...place...I... need...him before...my mind...dies."
Hearing a sharp intake of breath, Avon chanced another glance. Blake was curling into himself again and beginning to rock, the square, strong face contorting.
Gathering all his iron will and determination, Avon did not move, did not reach out, did not touch or soothe. He was surprised to find he wanted to but he knew to do so would destroy what very little rapport had been gathered here.
Blake moaned and Avon cringed, never raising his head. Blake cried and Avon curled into himself. It was the single hardest thing he had had to do since...leaving...Anna. He never thought his control could waver after that, but he felt it cracking. Dammit. Watching people he liked hurting was not a recreational pastime, feeling Blake break down was almost more than his shields could bear--he had come to depend on Blake's strength more than he knew. That annoyed him and still he dared not move. How much did you know I depended on you, Blake?
Blake was quiet for some time then Avon felt the man move to him again, touching lightly. It was almost sensuous, this child-like tenderness. If he didn't watch himself, he could grow to enjoy it.
"Which one...are...you?" Even in madness, Blake's voice could still caress.
"Avon...." he tensed.
There was a long sigh, then the sounds of Blake putting himself back into his bed. "I do not...know...him. The...other knows. My mind...is...dying." He curled up and rocked himself into a fretful sleep.
Avon kept watch for another hour. Then, rising slowly--relentlessly stiff from his vigil--he left the room. He did not stop to talk to Cally or Vila still sitting outside, or Gan who passed him carrying food to Blake.
"Go off watch, Jenna," he said as he walked onto the Flight Deck.
"No. Avon." Her blond head didn't turn to acknowledge him. "I need the distraction."
"We do not need you taking double and triple watches because you cannot deal with losing Blake." Avon's tone was unusually gentle given the subject-matter.
"It's Vila's watch anyway," her tone was accusing.
"He is watching Blake, along with Cally, and Gan. Go to your quarters, or the mess or the rest room. Your watch was over two hours ago and...why am I arguing over a watch?" he snorted, throwing himself across a corner of the U-shaped couch. "Stay on watch until you drop if it suits you, Jenna. I can ignore you."
"You excel at that. And don't snarl at me because you can't deal with losing Blake."
Avon leaned his head into his hand and listened to Jenna leave, her perfume lingering. She did have a penchant for heady scents, that one. Someday he would seduce her, just to see her reaction. Just to see if he could and if she would.
"Status report, Zen."
+Traveling Standard by four with no destination change since four watches ago.+
Leaning forward, Avon rested his hands on ORAC's solid rectangle. Activated, ORAC came to life with a sullen 'aoow'.
"You went to Blake."
Avon knew better than to ask how ORAC knew that.
"Yes, and sat in a wretched position for several hours. But he came to me and spoke. Do I dare ever show my face to him?"
"No. You must not. He will collapse. It is you he is most conditioned to fear and reject right now."
"That has become clear. But who is the one he thinks he needs?"
"But he fears me."
"Yes, but a part of his sanity--what he can hang on to--tells him your cold logic can find a way for him."
"Then who is 'the other'?"
Coming to his feet, Avon struck one of his more sartorial poses, hand on hip, the other resting at waist level. "How very useful, Blake is a schizoid."
"No, you are."
"Don't psychoanalyze me, Orac!"
"It is a statement of fact. You have always been two people with Blake and he has seen it when the others could not. He now only knows enough to need the logical Avon, whom he fears and to seek the friendly Avon, whom he cannot remember."
"Then you are saying the one he needs is the one who terrorizes him?" Why did that hurt?
Avon's eyes clamped down as he went introspective. "To help cure him, I now have to terrorize him?" he let out a breath through pursed lips. "Well now, we'll do our best, I'm sure."
"I suggest continuing to sit quietly near him as often as possible. After he has accepted you--"
"If he accepts me."
"Will you please let me continue or have you formulated your own diagnosis and cure? Why do you insist upon asking me questions when you are prepared to supply your own answers?"
Avon couldn't contain a smile. "Please continue."
"That is better. Now, as soon as he has accepted you, and I believe he will, there is a possibility you could face him as 'the other'. Blake has much stronger mental processes than you give him credit for. Even now, some of his circuits, as it were, are healing. But be careful. Expose yourself to him too soon, and he will shatter. And he will take you with him."
"I'm not sure I was meant to be a diamond cutter." Avon keyed ORAC off before the box could deliver a patronizing harangue.
"You do do better with computers, Avon," Vila's breezy voice reached him from the doorway. "Sitting with Blake until he came to you was your own idea was it? You didn't consult with Orac first?" He bounced down the steps and spread himself insolently across the same corner of the couch that Avon had just abandoned. "The age of miracles may still be with us. But I doubt it."
Regarding Vila with a strange irony, Avon spun on his heel and left the deck.
"Just as well," Vila muttered, settling himself comfortably. "Status Zen."
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