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Blood Ties

By Willa Shakespeare
Page 4 of 11

Blake came to himself slowly, resting on Avon's awkwardly bent legs. He didn't really want to move, but pulled back, slipping wetly free. It was cold and unfriendly outside of Avon, he discovered. Avon lay limp, totally enervated, long-lashed eyes shut and sultry mouth open, panting. He lowered Avon's legs carefully, massaging along their length, aware of the force he sent through his hands to ease the cramping muscles. He lay next to Avon, wrapping his arms protectively around his lover.

Avon opened one eye slightly. He stared at Blake, without expression.

Blake smiled and drew Avon closer to his chest.

Avon sighed and put his arms around Blake in return.

When he awoke, Blake was gone again. Avon was beginning to wonder if the other man ever slept. He certainly had remarkable stamina. Avon lay still, thinking. His 'slavery' was not exactly as he had envisioned it. Blake used him, but he was also influenced by him. The situation wasn't materially different from his tenure on Liberator under Blake's autocratic rule. Unless you factored in the intimacy. That was unnerving, especially when he realized that Blake was falling in love with him. Which gave him a small measure of power of his own.

An intelligent man adapts, he'd once told Blake. Adapts and survives. Very well, if the price of his survival was sex with Blake, he could accept it. He'd even enjoyed the second experience. However, in future he decided not to anger Blake in bed.

There was no message from Blake as he half expected. Instead there was fresh tray of food on the bedside table and a neatly piled stack of clothing beside the jumbled contents of his pockets- mostly electronic bits and pieces. And the weapon Avon had used on Blake, leaning negligently against the table. He raised his eyebrows at that, and checked the gun. It was fully functional and loaded. Was it a not-so-subtle reminder that he could not hurt Blake, or that he owed him for attempting to kill him? Avon smiled and shook his head. Blake was always playing head games on him. And usually winning.

He left the gun where it was, showered, ate some of the overabundance of food and dressed in the new clothing, transferring his few possessions to it. As his own clothing had disappeared, he hadn't much choice. It was a fairly plain dark blue jumpsuit with matching poloshirt and vest. As a concession to fashion it was piped in black along collar, cuffs and the edges of the numerous pockets. He looked like a computer technician in it, instead of a desperate rebel. He shrugged. Let Blake play rugged rebel hero, Avon was tired of the role.

Avon sensed Blake was not too far away, but he headed in the opposite direction, in no hurry for another confrontation. First a trip to the medical center was in order. Knowing Vila and Soolin, they'd have all the information he'd need about this base's layout and its personnel. Also, he admitted to a certain amount of curiosity about Dayna's condition.

When he arrived Dayna was sitting up in bed, looking impatient and irritated. Avon wasn't surprised, he'd have been climbing the walls if he was restricted to a hospital bed with Vila sitting on the edge of it, blathering away.

"Avon!" Dayna's eyes shone with relief at the sight of him. She'd been worried and the story Vila had told her hadn't eased her mind. She patted the bed beside her. "Here, come and talk to me. I can't get anything but nonsense out of Vila."

Vila jumped up, relinquishing his seat to Avon. "That's not fair, here I am, spending my valuable time entertaining the invalids..." He ducked as Dayna waved a pillow at him in threat. "I know when I'm not wanted." He perked up. "I'll just go rescue Tarrant from one of his prettier nurses." He headed two rows over to the knot of young women gathered around his shipmate's bed.

Avon watched Vila for a few seconds, amused and more than a little relieved by Vila's behavior. He hadn't been his normal cheerful self in a long time. Apparently, he had decided Blake's base was safe. Which was more than Avon could say. "How are you, Dayna?"

"Oh, I'll be all right. These doctors like to make a fuss, that's all. It was only a flesh wound. Come on, sit down and talk to me. I have thousands of questions."

He located a visitor's chair and brought it to Dayna's bedside. "What would you like to know? I must warn you, I don't have thousands of answers."

"Of course you do. You're the one who's always right, aren't you?" Dayna teased gently.

Avon smiled. "Not always. Just more often than the rest of you." He glanced at Dayna's bandaged shoulder. "I assume they are treating you properly?"

Dayna sighed. "Frankly, it's embarrassing, they keep falling all over each other, trying to do something for me. I finally had to have Vila chase them away. They seem to think we're something special, because we came with the great Kerr Avon. Apparently, Blake's been singing your praises." She eyed Avon speculatively, judging his response to Blake's name.

Avon looked away, feeling a warm flush creep up his neck. Damn it, he was blushing.

Dayna crowed with triumph. "Oh, Avon, it's true, isn't it?" She took his hand. "I'm so glad for you, really I am."

He pulled out of her grip. "I don't know what you're talking about," he replied, frost an inch thick on the words.

"Of course not." Dayna decided she'd teased Avon as much as he'd stand without stalking out. "Tell me, are we staying? Soolin's been scouting and she's impressed. Vila likes it here, too. He says the morale is very high."

"That probably means he's found the liquor supply. I haven't had time to investigate the situation yet," he stared at her, daring her to ask how he'd been spending his time. Wisely, she said nothing. "But it seems marginally safer than leaving. At the least, you and Tarrant must stay until you're recovered."

"You wouldn't leave us, would you?"

Avon paused, then admitted, "No. It's taken too long for me to grow accustomed to all of you. I don't want to start over."

Dayna smiled, then yawned. She tried to cover it, but Avon saw and rose to his feet. "I'd better leave before one of your over-protective doctors throws me out."

"Just let 'em try," Dayna mumbled, slipping back to rest against the pillows.

He looked down at the sleeping woman, thinking how very young she was to devote her life to weapons and warfare. And to him. He shook his head. It would have been a tragic waste for her to die following him. He turned, without surprise, to see Blake standing at his shoulder, watching him.

"Feeling a bit melancholy?" Blake inquired. The big rebel glanced at Dayna. "She'll be all right. And so will Klyn," he added.

"Klyn?"

"That's right, you were never properly introduced. She was in the tracking gallery."

Avon remembered. "She was going for an alarm."

"To protect my base." Blake relented. "I've already spoken with her. She understands, but she's still not too friendly toward you."

"Does that matter?"

"Apparently not." Blake rubbed the side of his neck. "Deva- the head of my computer section- wasn't so lucky. The Federation agent killed him. Which leaves me with a gap in that department."

"And you're offering it to me?"

"I am."

"What if I refuse?"

"Then I suppose you'll be terribly bored. This isn't a very high-tech establishment, in case you haven't noticed. Most of the equipment we do have is scavenged, stolen or patched together. A lot of it had to be left on the other base."

Avon stiffened. "There was something else left on that base, Blake. I have to go back there."

"That may not be wise, Avon. Someone sent those Federation guards. The place could be swarming with troopers by now."

"All the more reason for haste. Or do you want the Federation to get Orac?"

"Orac! I thought you had lost him when Liberator was destroyed." Blake started for the doorway. "Come on."

Avon started out, then paused. "Vila." He waved the thief over. "Take this." He handed Vila a small object. "As a precaution." And was out the door, before Vila could wonder what he meant.

Avon followed, bemused to find himself once more accepting the other man's lead. Blake assembled his lieutenants to inform them he would be temporarily leaving the base in their command. They protested shrilly, concerned about his safety, particularly when he informed them he and Avon would be going alone. Avon could have told them to save their breath.

Instead, he looked about the meeting hall for something to occupy his time until Blake placated the rabble. He found a computer terminal. As Blake had said, it was sub-standard, but at least it was connected to a functional system. He investigated the data banks, accessing the restricted areas first. After all, that would be the place to find anything interesting. He ran afoul of a clever bit of security after a quarter of an hour, distracted as Blake thumped the table behind him. The programmer had not been very subtle in his response. Instead of a message on the screen, or an immediate shut-down, the terminal began blaring sirens, flashing lights and shrieking the location of the infiltrated terminal over the base-wide intercom. He quickly silenced the alarms, then folded his hands and waited.

"Was that intended to get my attention?" Blake asked. He'd been startled, too, but now chuckled. "You could have tapped me on the shoulder, you know."

"Ah, but first I would have had to fight my way through the teeming multitude."

A band of rebels pounded into the room, guns drawn and pointing at the computer terminal. Avon raised his hands. "I surrender."

"Could have done that in the first place," Blake muttered. He waved the nervous rebels back. "Avon was testing our security- apparently, it works."

"Well, if you discount the fact that I had full access for thirteen minutes, I suppose you could say it works. You might want to consider having the system revamped."

"I had thought about it," Blake admitted. "Once I get the particular piece of equipment I'm after, it should be simple to upgrade, don't you think?"

Avon scowled. "Provided you leave this base before someone else acquires it."


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