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He did not exactly give his support, but as Gan put up good enough a fight
for both of them, he left it at that.|
I was wrong. It was that simple. A severe error of judgement. Sometimes whatI see as pragmatism is quite the opposite.
I grow frustrated with the limited communication the Federation leaves open to us, the resources and the manpower we have. I was looking for a short cut.
Sometimes I trip over my own feet in the rush.
I swear, apology was my only motivation.
Then again, I have rarely apologised, so perhaps it was not.
He was tired. I forgot how easily he grew tired. Sometimes, he would sleep for a whole day and not even be aware of it himself. I would watch him checking chronometers when he thought no one was looking.
He was unaccustomed to physical work, and felt stress more than I do. He could work through the night on a mental problem, but other tasks exhausted him.
It amused me, that he wore pyjamas. Like we mortals.
'Not now, Blake. I have a headache.'
'I didn't come for that.' I didn't think I had come for that. He was drawn, grey skinned, eyes heavily rimmed with blue bruised skin, which would vanish by morning, if he slept. By morning, he would appear as his usual self.
Fighting fit, and fighting.
'I was attempting humour. Evidently, I'm too tired to convey it.'
I don't know why. Maybe I was worried about him, and he sensed it. He invited me in, anyway.
And started to pull off his faded grey jersey top. I stilled his hands. 'No. I didn't come here for that.'
'No? Ah, well.' He opened his locker and took out a similar outfit to his own, in navy. A size larger, and then I noticed how much weight he had lost. A stone, at least. Obvious, if you were looking for it. Space, dried food, and battle did not agree with him.
'Maybe in the morning,' he said, throwing the bundle at me. I caught the top but not the trousers.
He turned the covers back and got into bed, facing the wall. Startled, I changed and got in after him. It seemed the natural thing to do. I wanted to.
It was comforting, more than anything else. I think he liked having someone with him. I know I did. Always too stubborn to admit it, though.
He pushed back against me, and was asleep in minutes.
I lay awake, watching him, until both kinds of warmth overtook me.
Sleeping in a strange bed has never been a problem for me. Sleeping with strange people, that I haven't mastered.
So it was a surprise when he awoke me with a hand sliding over my chest, underneath the fabric.
He didn't kiss me, so I didn't try to.
'What do you want, Blake?'
Did he mean generally, or there and then? His immediate intentions were clear. There was only one thing I wanted. I hadn't been able to get it out of my mind. And I was half asleep, which made me foolhardy. That and the fact that I couldn't not say it.
'I want to watch you. Watch you prepare yourself.'
He smiled lazily, taking no offence, and reached over me to turn the cabin temperature up. His body on top of mine, then gone, too soon.
With a few movements he was naked, and leaning across me again to retrieve a jar from the bedside table. He was without embarrassment, unlike myself. He kept glancing at me, checking for my reaction. I suppose my arousal was evident. He looked sufficient pleased with himself, so it must have been.
He put on quite a show. He is well practised. At one point, when I was close to touching him, he made me move.
'You'll get a better view from over there,' he said, indicating the chair. I sat over there.
He touched himself with great attention. His movements were precise and graceful. His eyes never left me.
When he had finished demonstrating on himself, he beckoned me over. Then he demonstrated on me. This time, though, he spoke. His fingers stroked inside me, as he revealed his fantasies. He told me how he thought of me as he masturbated, what he wanted me to do to him, and where, in slow, sensual detail.
His physical actions. I had experienced them before, with other partners, but not often, and never to such effect. Never with such intensity.
Never by Avon.
Then I was in his mouth, and he in mine, and it was too much, over too soon.
I looked at him, still so tired, and was overwhelmed by a new urge. To protect him.
I covered him, placed a pillow under his head, and almost kissed him goodbye.
I needed to find out if there really was anything wrong with him. While he slept, I went to the medical unit and accessed the records. His was encoded.
I began tapping my way in the long way round. No doubt Avon would find his way through in seconds. I knew a few tricks, but they took longer.
Vila appeared, popping up inconveniently as he often did. 'What are you doing?' He came to peer over my shoulder. I told him I was looking through old files, for general research.
'He won't like you looking, you know.'
'I'm not. Not for anything in particular.'
'So what you're looking for, he won't mind you seeing it? Because he'll be able to tell.'
'You can't be sure of that.'
'If it's any guide, he caught me. Anyway, if he wanted you to know, he'd tell you.'
There was something, then, and Vila knew about it. I had imagined myself as having a general concern for Avon's well-being, but I was chilled with the thought of discovery, more so with the prospect of ignorance. I had to know.
I kept my voice level, but heard it waiver. 'Fatal?'
Vila wouldn't discuss it. Avon didn't want to be treated like an invalid, he said. So I had to forget I'd even thought about looking, and treat Avon like the arrogant, supercilious git we knew he was. Which was rich, coming from Vila, who was softer on Avon than any of us, always conveniently making cups of tea, and tidying up after him.
'Don't you see, ' he said, 'It would be worse for him if we started being nice to him. He wouldn't know how to react at all. He probably feels pathetic enough as it is. He needs to have fights, good old hammer and tongs battles, to know he's still.. still important enough to fight with. Please, Blake,' and he had that indulgent expression again, the one that used to make me wonder if there was anything between them. The one that accompanied the sigh as he reluctantly trudged off to the kitchen. 'Don't take that away from him. And don't tell him I know. I'm pretending I didn't get that far into the file, and he's pretending to believe me.'
After Gan died, he didn't speak to me, except in response to commands, for almost a month. I didn't go to him. He didn't come to me.
I assumed he was grieving, in his own way. Not solely for Gan, partly for himself. Mortality. It curses and blesses us all. And I think he was having a bad spell. His energy came back in waves, giving me hope; then subsided as quickly, leaving him weak. I wanted to help; but the best way to help was to do nothing.
It wasn't to be. I had to let it go.
However. As I have said, pragmatism is sometimes my downfall. But in this case, I didn't even give it a chance. I set it aside.
The catalyst was, of all things, a woman. Or more accurately, her brother.
Avon wouldn't discuss the past, which was no surprise.
My jealousy, however, was.
Me? I respected freedom, personal choice. It's what we fight for. It's what everything had been about, the cause, the goal, the dream. And yet I wanted to possess him, to have him do my will. Perhaps by possession of him, I could protect him. From himself. Logically, my mind was unwilling. My flesh was the stronger force.
If only I had know what he actually needed was protection from me.
If it hadn't been for Del, things might have worked themselves out, in time. I might have moved on, Avon might have learnt forgiveness. Although that seemed unlikely.
I was confused. It had been a long time since Horizon, when Avon had come looking for me.
Perhaps back then, he had wanted to play the hero, or at least be exonerated of bastardy.
Perhaps it was practical; I hadn't yet discovered how long he expected his motor functions to work, and his medical file had been un-mysteriously erased. Maybe he needed us more than we knew.
Perhaps he just wanted me to be there to revile me, having proved me wrong once more.
Perhaps he just wanted me.
After Gan, it was different. Like Exbar. He was correcting his own mistakes.
*See, Blake? I may misjudge, but I don't murder.* That was always about him, not me. Bastard that I am, I refused to let him martyr himself for me. He never forgave me for that.
But whatever happened, my mind kept returning to Del Grant. The man whose admiration he sought. He didn't risk death for a million unknown souls on a planet he didn't care about. He did it to make his peace with Del Grant.
I wanted to be that important to him. To someone. Oh, hell, the rebel leaders had some kind of respect, admiration even, but for what they wanted me to be, the big Blake propaganda machine. Not for me, not Roj Blake.
I wanted to be admired as a man, as myself. Liked. Loved. Who doesn't?
My attempts with Avon were dire. I found myself setting him ridiculously simple tasks for a man of his ability, and being equally disproportionately pleased with the mediocre results he deigned to deliver. My blatant experiment in provoking a Pavlovian response. Be nice to Blake, do as he says, your life will be much better. Good boy, Avon.
It earned me the contempt I deserved.
Damn it, I wanted him to *want* to impress me.
Perhaps I overestimated the way things were with Grant. Perhaps Avon's life didn't mean the same thing to him, as it did to the rest of us. Is time, when you know how little of it you have left, worth more or less to you? Do risks have the same fear attached?
Meanwhile, I continued with my battle strategy, looking for Star One. The Great Hope.
Avon - well, frankly, he messed about. Gambling. Tinkering with little projects to make little bits of money he had little use for. What was he going to spend it on, and why, when we had a strong room loaded with every kind of treasures?
If that had been his only occupation, I could have let it lie.
He was also quietly, strategically, stirring up feeling against me within my own crew. They all swayed. They doubted me where they had trusted before. All down to him. It had to be down to him. They questioned every decision. I had to explain, justify and defend to the point of stagnation.
And then, once he was sure of support, from his apathy, sprang action.
Frankly, he was out of control. Reckless with his own life, and others.
Including mine. He abandoned me, trying to kill Travis - long his goal, not mine. But he did it for me, he claimed. I neither asked for, nor wanted that. He called me an ingrate and idiot, and volleyed abuse at me as if we had just met.
I could not remember the last time he was so full of passion and life.
Did he think the end was close for me? Did he expect me, too, to die at Star One?
In his rage, he was magnificent. He was the man who came to me that first time, the man who told me what I wanted and needed, and was right, but forced it upon me anyway. The man of logic who seduced me against the protests of every bit of logic I have ever possessed.
And he made me want him again; just want him for himself, pure and simple.
And I couldn't have him.
I knew I couldn't win, fighting him. I'd tried and failed. My attempts to be worthy of his effort were ridiculed. My guerrilla warfare was a futile effort by a pathetic idealist.
He complied to my orders under protest, giving the minimum possible of himself.
It seemed as if the only time we had ever been in harmony, was in bed. And now, we did not go to bed.
Well all right.
This time, I was going to give him what he wanted. I wouldn't stop until I got the response I needed.
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