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Quest for Fire

By Riley Cannon, Cami O'Tool
Page 2 of 9

Wondering what had Tarrant so quiet and thoughtful, Avon didn't miss the way the younger man looked to be settling down for the proverbial long winter's nap.  There were perfectly good beds upstairs, but if Tarrant was comfortable where he was, Avon wasn't going to bother him.  Tucking a downy comforter closer around the pilot, Avon then dimmed the lights, put another log on the fire, and went up to one of the bedrooms.  He wasn't especially sleepy, but it probably wouldn't hurt to get some rest.

      It wasn't likely they would be able to leave first thing in the morning--not likely at all, he decided, drawing back a curtain to watch the snow still coming down, the flakes so fat and lazy.  Unless there chanced to be a sudden thaw in the morning, he and Tarrant were likely to be snowed in here for a few days.  Their circumstances could be quite a bit worse, however, and in any case they were going to need time to work on the flyer.

      Hard to believe they were so close to leaving Gauda Prime behind.  Of course it would probably be necessary to locate alternate transport off GP, as Tarrant's old associate had likely moved on when they hadn't shown up at the agreed time.  Quite a small problem though, compared to everything else, and Avon didn't intend losing sleep over it.

      Folding his clothes on a chair, he slid between the sheets--fresh from a linen cupboard--head turned on the pillow to watch the snow drift down.  There was something very soothing about that, lulling him not to sleep but to a state where memories came easily...that time on Bandajar[1], with Blake, when they had gone to talk with the leaders of the planet in hopes of gaining their support of the resistance, then having to retreat to a cabin in the hills, when a representative of the Federation arrived with the same intent--and proved to be none other than Supreme Commander Servalan.

      Very...revealing, those few days alone with Blake.  He could still remember the rebel's touch, the first kiss that had been so shy and startling to both of them--the fire that blazed between them.  And the chill he'd felt when the rebel vanished...the coldness that had possessed him since he had stood over Blake's body, realizing he'd killed his heart's best treasure.

      He had one last duty to discharge, to see that Tarrant was safe somewhere; and after that...well, it wouldn't much matter.  With Roj Blake gone from this life, what was the point of after?

                                 *     *     *

      Tarrant woke suddenly from some dream, the details instantly lost, just something vaguely disturbing around the edges.  For the moment he couldn't work out where he was, and when it did click he wondered what had become of Avon.  Unaccountably lonesome, he stood up, groaning a little at the ache in his leg, careful not to put too much weight on it.  Falling asleep on the couch may not have been the best idea, he thought, as a number of little pains began to make their presence known.  He may not have done himself a serious injury, falling down that slope, but it surely had not been good for him either.

      Reaching to massage the stiffened join of neck and shoulder, Tarrant supposed Avon must have opted for a more sensible bed upstairs.  There was no need to go check on him, and his leg might object to climbing those steps at the moment...  For some reason though, it was important that he know for sure where Avon was.  Odd, too, considering they had been sharing quarters for months now; he ought to welcome some time alone, some privacy.  Avon surely did.

      All the same, he draped the comforter around his shoulders, and holding onto the banister with one hand, began to negotiate the stairs, taking it slow.  At the top, he paused to rub a twinge in his calf.  Not too bad, no cramping anyway, he thought as he gazed down the hall, spotting one door standing open.

      Looking in, Tarrant was reassured at discovering Avon there.  Goal accomplished, he considered what to do now, not at all inclined to return downstairs, or even retreat to one of the other bedrooms.  Not when the bed in there was already nice and warm, and appealingly occupied--with plenty of room to spare.

      Approaching the bed, Tarrant quietly shed his trousers and pullover, hesitated about going any further, and finally settled for lying down with the comforter wrapped around him, regretfully leaving Avon alone under the bed covers.  Though they had shared quarters, this was the first time they had shared a bed, and Tarrant wasn't quite brave enough to assume that Avon would welcome the intimacy.

      Tarrant held very still as Avon stirred, shifted closer to him, an arm falling across Tarrant's chest.  Now this could get a bit tricky, the pilot thought, desperate not to react to that careless, accidental touch.  A resolution proving more difficult by the moment as Avon's hand seemed inclined to roam, fingers inching up to snag in his curls.  Something suspiciously like a satisfied sigh came from the tech, with him edging closer, the dark head burrowing into the younger man's shoulder.

      In the months since the debacle at Blake's base, Tarrant had often wondered if a physical relationship was what Avon needed to help him recover.  There had been times at the rebel base when he would have welcomed that kind of attention; nights when he'd found himself longing to crawl into Avon's bed, to share the comforting closeness of another body if nothing else.  But the older man had never provided any clues that he might want that, until now.  Maybe Avon wasn't as disinclined as Tarrant had thought. 

      He shifted a little, to slip an arm around Avon's back, pulling him closer, his body wishing the other man would wake up all the way so they could do something more about all this.  Still, this wasn't so bad, just being close, even if it was only for these few hours.  Cautioning himself not to read too much into it, Tarrant's desire soon succumbed to sleepiness, and a feeling more akin to tenderness, with just a twinge of anticipation--and worry--as to how everything would be in the morning.

                                 *     *    *

      Drifting towards wakefulness, Avon was comforted by the sense of someone near, and smiled as his questing fingers encountered a familiar tangle of curls.  Of course...it had only been a particularly nasty dream, vividly real at the time, but nothing more than the workings of an overtired mind.  He didn't particularly want to dwell on it either, probe its significance.  There could be no significance: there were no possible circumstances in which he would harm Blake.

      "Roj?"  Avon raised his head, needing to see Blake and reaffirm that the universe was as it should be--and felt as if he'd been kicked in the belly as Tarrant's sleepy blue eyes gazed back at him.

      Everything flooded back, the terrible memory of those few minutes when he had believed Tarrant's words..and taken Blake's life.  He pushed away from the pilot, climbing out of bed and pacing over to the window, not really seeing the snowy landscape outside...but instead replaying those final moments over and over.  Why had he done it? he asked himself, for about the thousandth time.  How could he have listened to Tarrant, and not to Blake?

      A hand fell on his shoulder, and Tarrant said, "Avon, what's wrong?"  Both hands slid down his chest to encircle his waist.  "Maybe I can help."

      "Take your hands off me," Avon told him, a warning note in his voice.

      "Avon..."

      Turning, Avon gave Tarrant a vicious shove that sent the younger man stumbling back to crash onto the rumpled bed.  Heedless of the bewildered...hurt...look on Tarrant's face, Avon grabbed up his clothes and fled the room, slamming the door behind him.

      The odd thing was, it wasn't even Tarrant he was angry with.  It was Blake.

                                 *     *     *

      Staring at the slammed door, Tarrant wished he knew what had gone wrong.  All right, maybe he'd presumed too much, overstepped the bounds, but Avon's (over)reaction was just as uncalled for.  A simple, "Knock it off, Tarrant," would have sufficed.  He wasn't so hard up for sex that he was going to force his attentions where they weren't wanted.

      He had a feeling there had been more to it than that.  Standing up and going over to the window, he watched as Avon emerged from the house and headed for one of the outbuildings, and wondered if he would ever really understand the other man.  No sooner did he feel that he'd finally gained some insight into Avon, then something occurred to turn everything inside out again, and he was beginning to wonder if it was even worth the effort.  Maybe the best thing to do, once they left Gauda Prime behind, would be to go their separate ways.  You didn't stay with someone just out of habit, simply because it was what you were used to; there had to be something more, something in common...some reason to give a damn.

      Tarrant guessed Avon wasn't up to giving a damn anymore, and he couldn't say he really blamed him.  Sometimes Tarrant thought he'd just about reached his limit, too.

      Stretching some of the stiffness out of his lanky frame, he decided to hunt up a shower and a change of clothes, then get some breakfast.  Maybe by then Avon would have cooled off and be willing to accept some help in working on the flyer he said he'd found.  The sooner they got to Vanash, the better.

                                 *     *     *

      Focused on the mess of wires before him, Avon wasn't aware of company until Tarrant stuck a steaming cup of coffee in front of him.  Blinking, he accepted the cup, straightening up and avoiding the pilot's eyes.  If it was all the same to Tarrant, Avon would as soon ignore what had happened this morning.

      "Want a nutribar?" Tarrant asked, proffering one of the foil-wrapped quicmeals that had been left behind by the rebels.  When Avon shook his head, the pilot tore open the wrapping, sinking his white teeth into the bar, crunching the nuts and grains.  "They're less noxious than they look," he commented as he took a turn around the flyer, poking and prodding.  "You need to keep your strength up."

      "I'm quite able to look after myself," Avon said.

      "Able--but disinclined to bother?"

      Wondering what that was supposed to mean--but not about to ask--Avon instead said, "The only thing I can find seriously wrong with it," he indicated the flyer, "is that it's low on power."

      "Is there a charger here?"

      "I haven't found one yet."

      Nodding, Tarrant looked around the barn.  "Funny someone would go off and leave a perfectly good flyer behind."

      "Not if whoever it was wanted to be sure of having emergency back up transportation on hand."

      "Which means there must be a charger here somewhere."

      "But not out in plain sight--where any thief might find it."

      "Hmm...  To bad we don't have Vila--he'd have probably found it in a flash," Tarrant said--and Avon thought it was odd that hearing Vila's name didn't bring any pain or feelings of regret now. 

      Tarrant crumpled the wrapper of the nutribar and tossed it on the table, where he'd placed a thermos and a carton of the quicmeals.  "I found a map of the area," he said.  "If I've worked it out correctly, we're about thirty-five kilometers northwest of Vanash.  So much for navigating by the stars and sun when the cloud cover makes them near invisible."

      Thirty-five kilometers...  On foot, in this terrain and weather.  It might as well have been three thousand, Avon thought.  They must have gotten badly turned around in the storm, which made it doubly fortunate that this farm had been out here to be stumbled across.  If not for that touch of providence it was only too probable that they would have either starved or frozen to death out in that forest.  With the flyer though, they could be in Vanash before nightfall.

      If they could find a charger, and if the power wasn't too low.

      Putting down his cup, Avon helped Tarrant look for the charger.

                                 *     *     *

     


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