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By Teri White
Page 3 of 4

He had given Avon a much stronger dosage of the sedative than was normal. It would be best if he slept quite soundly during the journey to the shuttle.

By waiting until dawn, he was indeed lessening their chances of encountering a patrol, but there were still dangers enough to make him tense. Beyond the obvious threats of the bounty hunters and the gun-runners, he could not discount interference by his own former associates. Some of the rebel forces, no doubt, would not take kindly to his desertion.

And last, but far from least, there was Avon's crew. Blake had no way of knowing what their response would be to finding their erstwhile leader being hauled along by someone they had very little reason to trust. The least they might do was attempt to "rescue" Avon. Blake might appreciate their motives, but he was not inclined to let them take Avon.

After waiting so long to be reunited with Avon, Blake would not---perhaps could not--- face the prospect of separation again. Not even by Avon's own crew. If his motives were less than clear and perhaps even more than a little suspect, he chose not to dwell upon that fact at the moment.

When it was time to leave for the hidden shuttle, he tied the sleeping Avon to the stretcher once again. It was going to be a three-kilometer journey. Blake found a blanket and rolled it to use as a cushion for Avon's head.

At last, he extinguished the candle and they left the shack.

They had gone just one kilometer when the patrol appeared out of nowhere. Blake barely had time to drop into the tall grass, his arm sheltering Avon. He waited, not even breathing, for the patrol to pass by. It seemed to take forever, but was actually only a few minutes before the woods were quiet again.

Avon never stirred. In fact, he was so still that for one horrible moment, Blake thought that he had overdosed him with the sedative. Panicked, he open Avon's shirt and pressed one ear to his chest. The heart was beating. Then he held a hand in front of Avon's lips and felt a soft, damp breath.

Blake sighed in relief. For just a moment, tired and perhaps seeking solace, he left his head where it was, on Avon's chest.

Then, brusquely, he prepared to resume the journey.

They were very nearly to the shuttle silo when he again heard voices. This time, he took shelter behind a fallen tree trunk.

Almost immediately, he recognized the patented whine that was Vila's voice. With a sidewise glance, he draped his arm across Avon again.

"...and just because he wasn't in the wreckage of the Scorpio, are we going to pretend that everything is fine?"

"What would you have us do?" snapped a voice that had to belong to Del Tarrant, the pilot. "If Avon wanted us to find him, we would have done so by this time."

"Maybe one of the bounty hunters nabbed him," a young, female voice said.

"I agree with Soolin." Another young female and, by process of elimination, Dayna Mellanby. Her tone dripped with suspicion. "If Orac was right about Blake, maybe he captured Avon."

"I know where Avon is," Vila said wearily.

"Where?" Tarrant said.

"Obvious, ain't it? He's looking for Blake."

"Yes, well," Dayna said, "I still think maybe Blake found him first. He's probably collecting the bounty on him right now."

Vila snorted. "You people don't know Blake."

"We know very well what Avon thinks of him," Tarrant said.

Again, Vila made a sound that showered contempt on the words. "All you know, Tarrant, is what Avon wanted you to think were his feelings about Blake."

Blake was listening to the conversation with rapt attention. Vila didn't sound much like a man who was glad to be rid of Avon.

Still, he was probably better off this way, as Avon had said.

In any event, Blake had absolutely no intention of letting them know that the subject of their conversation was only meters away.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tarrant asked.

"Just that things aren't always what they seem. I spent two years with Blake and Avon. Not even they really knew how they felt about each other most of the time. Sometimes you'd think they were best chums. And then, one minute later, you'd think they hated each other."

"And what was the truth?" Dayna said.

"Bloody hell if I know," Vila replied complacently. "But one thing I do know. Blake would never turn Avon in for the bounty. He might betray the cause; he might turn you in. Or maybe even me. But not Avon. Never Avon."

Soolin made an impatient sound. "All of this is very interesting, but it doesn't get us any closer to knowing what to do."

Suddenly Avon gave a soft moan.

"What was that?" Vila asked.

Blake swore silently and put his hand over Avon's mouth.

The group was quiet for a moment, listening, but then Tarrant said, "Well, Orac gave us directions to the rebel camp. I suppose we might as well go there."

"And do what?" Vila asked suspiciously.

"Sign on?"

Everyone but Vila seemed to find that fairly amusing. They all stood and moved out quickly. In a few moments, it was quiet again.

Blake turned to look at Avon, whose eyes slowly opened. He lifted his hand.


"We're fine, Avon," he said softly. "I just stopped to rest for a moment. We'll be at the shuttle in a few minutes."

Avon nodded. "Thought'd changed your mind...left me."

Blake pushed sweaty hair back from Avon's forehead. "No, I haven't changed my mind. I won't change my mind. Go back to sleep."

Avon did.

Blake watched him for a time, then, with a sigh, he stood and resumed the journey.

This was the right thing to do. Maybe not for the Cause. Maybe not for Vila and the others. But for Avon, it was. For he himself, it was. They had to end the insanity that had become their lives.

Blake was going to get Avon to safety. Nothing else mattered.

* * *

He awoke aboard a shuttle, lying on a narrow couch on the flight deck. Blake was bent over the control console and for a moment, Avon just watched him. "Are we away?" he finally asked hoarsely.

"Hours away," Blake said, spinning the swivel chair to look at him. "How are you feeling?"

"Quite thirsty."

Blake got up and brought him a cup of water. "There seems to be no infection in your injury," he said. "The ship's computer is a far cry from Orac or the medical facilities on board the Liberator, but I deduce that you shall live."

Avon set the empty cup aside. "That would have to qualify as a mixed blessing, I should think."

Blake stared at him. "Not to me."

Avon sighed. He could feel the heavy sheath of a plasti-form cast around his body. His legs were still numb and the actual purpose of wrapping his spine in the cast was unclear, except that it probably made Blake feel better. As if he had done something to help. Beyond that, Avon felt only the vague distancing made possible by a heavy dose of drugs.

Blake sat beside him. "I have located a planet where I think we might be able to conceal ourselves for a time. Gryphon. Very much out of the way."

"Whatever you decide," Avon said wearily. "I am merely baggage."

"Stop it, Avon," Blake said sharply. "Self-pity is not a charming quality. Especially in you."

Avon felt the heat of anger flare up for a moment, then he merely nodded. "You are right, of course. I should at least attempt to be useful. If you can somehow contrive to get me to the computer, I will assign myself the task of monitoring communications."

"Are you feeling up to it?"

"Yes. I feel remarkably good, considering. Your nursing skills are apparently satisfactory."

Blake gave him a faint smile. Then his eyes darkened. "I can carry you to the computer. If that is all right?"

It was a moment before Avon replied. "I imagine it will have to be," he said. "There seems little choice, at least for the moment."

Still, Blake seemed to hesitate.

"I do appreciate your asking the question, however," Avon said.

Finally, Blake stood and lifted Avon into his arms, carrying him across the flight deck and settling him in the chair by the computer. "Comfortable?"

"As possible," Avon snapped. Without saying anything more, he turned his attention to the computer.

Blake sighed audibly and returned to the navigation console.

Avon touched a few sensors, setting the computer to scan the sector for reports. It would probably be a good idea to know if someone were chasing them. "This equipment is very nearly archaic," he complained after a time.

"It will get us to Gryphon," Blake replied, seemingly unconcerned.

"We hope," Avon muttered.

"Attention, attention," the computer chimed suddenly. "As per previous programming, I am receiving a priority report from the planet Gauda Prime."

Blake looked at Avon for a moment. "Give us the report," he ordered the computer.

"The rebel camp was attacked by Federation troops. Heavy fighting has occurred. Many casualties were suffered by the rebel forces."

"Arlen," Blake said. "I knew it."

Avon was frowning. "Computer, scan the casualty list for the following names: Soolin. Dayna Mellanby. Del Tarrant. Vila Restal."

There was a pause, during which time, Avon did not meet Blake's gaze.

The computer voice finally spoke again. "Mellanby and Soolin are listed amongst the dead. There is no mention of Tarrant or Restal."

Avon didn't say anything.

"Avon?" Blake finally said softly.

"You knew something was going to happen," he said. "You knew."

Blake shrugged. "I was expecting a raid, yes. There was a spy in my organization."

"And still you had me leave them there?"

"You yourself said there was no choice."

Avon shook his head. "But we might have tried something." He didn't really know why he was arguing the point. Perhaps it simply seemed better than doing nothing.

"Don't fool yourself." Blake stood and walked over to the computer. "In any event, my only priority was getting you away safely."

Avon raised his eyes and searched Blake's face intently. "Why?"

Blake sat down next to him. "Why what?"

"Why was your first priority my safety? After all, you were the one who left. You made no effort to contact me for two years."

"That is not quite true."

Avon didn't try to hide his anger. "You abandoned us. You abandoned me."

Blake gazed at him, chewing on a fingertip. "From my point of view, it was the other way around. You never came for me after Star One."

"I tried," Avon said heatedly. "But by the time we arrived at where Orac had said you were, there was no sign of you."

"By that time, the Federation had me."

"You were a prisoner?"

Blake nodded. "But you speak of abandonment." His gaze hardened abruptly. "What about Terminal?"

The name hit Avon like a physical blow. "Terminal?" he repeated.

Blake leaned closer to him and spoke in a low, tight voice. "I waited for you to come back for me. I knew you would. But you never did. You never came back, Avon. Can you have any idea what it felt like to lie in that room waiting for a friend who had promised to return?"

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