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The Shadow That Walks Between Us

By Linda Terrell
Page 3 of 7

He never saw the man come in, just usually woke up and found him already there, near, darkly quiet. Both fearing and liking the presence, he was continually drawn to the figure. Like Cally, there was something compelling and comforting when he was near, speaking with that soft, velvet voice.

There were long, terrible periods of darkness which overcame him and he would be lost for hours, days. Then he would wake and the figure would be just in sight as he opened his eyes. Did the man time it or did he sit there that long? But he never showed his face.

This time he would see the face. He was tired of talking into the dark hair and bowed head. Though sometimes the man would chance a look and once he almost caught the dark eyes. Sometimes he would adopt the same drawn up pose, resting his head on his knees and staring until the man stirred.

"I want...a name." he whispered, touching lightly yet again, just barely stirring the smooth cap of hair. "And a...face, please."

His face was centimeters from the man now. He put out his hands and took the head, urging it to look up, at him.

The man only allowed his eyes to clear his arms. Black diamond eyes flashed at him, then the lids closed over them.

"What name do you want?" the figure asked, muffled into his arms.

"You told me...Avon...once." He remained close, breathing the other man's breath. So close.

A very deep sigh rose from Avon--he saw the shoulders rise and fall with it. Felt the breath released. Avon was looking at him, the eyes wise and bright. No smile lit the sharp features but there was a softness there. Long lashes shadowed the cheeks. A firm mouth was set haughtily. In all, not an unpleasant face.

"Why do you...hide? I...like...your face." Talking was less of an effort but it still tired him.

A flash of surprise crossed Avon's face. "Cally thought that you might think me to be another who disturbs you."

"I...don't think so. There is...another...face. Dark, like...yours. He keeps me...from safety. He brings...the dark. You do not."

"Are you sure?" The predatory smile began then was shut down as the face returned to stone.

He smiled at Avon. His nearness was a comfort. It kept the darkness away. The dark had never once taken him while this Avon was with him. So he sat and returned Avon's silence with his brightest smile.

Avon crumbled, a smile capturing his face. Even as a woebegone waif, Blake radiated charisma and charm. Unfolding, he reached out and touched Blake's shoulder. "I can reach you, can't I?" Avon said with wonder and satisfaction.

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And so it went for weeks: hours spent on the floor with Blake, sometimes just staring at each other, exchanging smiles and affectionate touches.

Blake seemed at ease and the Dark rarely took him. But he still wasn't quite Blake. There was always something hesitant and dependent about him. He would move about Liberator with familiarity but showed no signs of taking command. No flashes of the brilliant leader--he simply was.

Avon suspected an emotional 'bomb'. Cally concurred, which made Vila cower and become reluctant to rotate watches over Blake alone.

Avon's watches drained him. He slept unusually long after a session with Blake. Blake usually slept equally as long, but far less fretfully. It was as if Blake's turmoil was transferred to Avon then Avon had to fight to be rid of it.

He lost weight, Blake did not.

Meanwhile, Jenna moved about with cold detachment. Blake neither recoiled nor sought her. This left her with little idea as to where she fit on his list of priorities. But it was obvious that everyone took their place on Liberator after Avon.

#

'I'm too comfortable,' he chastised himself. 'You really are letting yourself become too comfortable with this situation.'

Blake was looking at him, the warm brown eyes searching his.

"Have you thought about where you're going to leave me?" Blake asked quietly, matter-of-factly.

It came like a slap across the face. He literally reeled from it and found himself as close to panic as he ever wished to come.

"'Leave?' How could you even think of such a thing?" he said with all the dignity he could muster, his words dripping with outrage.

Blake continued, completely unaware of the emotions he had aroused in Avon. "Well, I'm not much good like this. It seems logical to leave me somewhere quiet to let me try and get it together."

"Then what have all these hand-holding and snuggle sessions been about?"

"You can't keep looking after me. I have to be of some use on this ship and..."

"Never ask that or even think that again!" he had Blake's shoulders in a vice-like grip and was shaking him. "Don't even dream it." He stopped as suddenly as he had begun, searching Blake's trusting eyes. He was shaking at his own outburst. He couldn't believe he could be hurt so much. "You could think that of us? Of me? After all I...." His voice caught as Blake continued to watch him with his level, appealing gaze.

"It sounded like an adequate solution at the time," Blake offered.

Arms slipping from Blake's shoulders, Avon sat back a bit, then rocked forward. "You mean more to...us, than that. We, I...."

"Avon?" Cally called tentatively.

He tried to compose himself but it was far too late.

"I am sorry to barge in like this, Avon, Blake. You know I would not do such a thing as a rule...but I sense great distress from you, Avon." Moving to the two men, she knelt and put her arms around them both.

"Blake is confused," she smiled as Blake bowed his head to her shoulder, slipping his arms around her waist. "And you are hurting."

He closed his ayes, setting his head in his hands. "Blake wants to know when we are going to put him off somewhere to heal."

Cally did not register surprise. "He has come to what seems--for him--a logical process."

"Where did he get an idea like that?" He was indignant and didn't try to hide it.

"Wounded wolves are killed by the pack. We are a fighting crew and he is on the outside now. See it as he does. You always said you were more levelheaded than Blake."

"Cally, you're really suggest--" He smiled, realizing he'd taken the bait. "Once I would have, wouldn't I? I think Blake is worth a little more time."

"I think you are right and he's falling asleep." She settled Blake against her, like a very large, bulky child. Then watched Avon's face. "It really stung you."

"I, I didn't think I could still be hurt so deeply."

"Then think of the times you have stung him."

"I did. I think that's why it hurts so much. Dammit, I'm into the very thing I've been trying to avoid: being hurt by people I like." His hooded hawk features fell into a pout, causing Cally to giggle, which caused Blake to stir, which made Avon finally break down and laugh softly.

"I hope Blake doesn't remember this later. He'll hold it over me."

"You still do not know him, do you?"

"I'm trying, Cally."

"Yes, and we often sit and wonder at it."

"Oh, you gather together to analyze me, do you?" He put a hint of threat into his purr.

"No, Orac analyzes. We just find hope and strength in it."

Well, then, there was nothing left to be said, was there?

He didn't move until Cally left.

#


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Linda Terrell

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