White MutinyBy Vanessa Mullen
Page 2 of 4
He had to follow Avon and track
him down. Avon would not flee, for that would be an admission of
guilt, and Avon admitted to nothing. Determination drove Blake now,
that and an anger that he did not bother to conceal from himself.
Avon's callous indifference could endanger them
He drove his quarry to ground in the galley. Wonder of wonders, Avon had actually gone where he said he was going. Calm and unruffled, he stood in front of the dispenser, tapping in a code. Blake strode over to the machine as it disgorged Avon's drink, and slammed his fist onto the metallic top. The machine wobbled, sloshing hot coffee onto the deck. Gathering up his half empty cup, Avon glared at him.
"So when rhetoric fails, you resort to intimidation?"
Blake stepped closer, crowding Avon's personal space. "When reason fails, I'll resort to whatever is necessary. This crew needs you, but it needs you as a co-operative member, not as an anarchist."
"And I thought you believed in freedom for everyone."
"And I do." He grabbed the coffee cup from Avon's hand, and squeezed it between his fingers, the sudden crack as it broke sounding sharp and bitter. He ignored the resultant cut in his hand; that could be dealt with later. "But freedom has to be earned. Freedom is only worth the price that we are willing to pay for it, and those back on Earth do not even have the choice of whether to pay that price. We owe them Avon. We got away, but they are still behind."
Avon snapped, "And as far as I'm concerned, they can stay behind."
"I thought you might feel that way." Blake held up Orac's key. "Remember Orac's prediction?"
"That Liberator will be destroyed?" Avon was cautious now.
"If we are to stand a chance of preventing that prediction coming true, we need to check every inch of his ship for faults, to trace every minor error, to ignore nothing that could cause an accident."
"Or we could simply avoid all Federation bases." Avon tilted his head back. "I'll check those comm links for you, Blake, but don't expect anything more."
"On the contrary," Blake allowed the steel to surface in his voice, "I do expect more. And what is more, I am going to have more. This crew cannot survive divided, not with the problems that we are going to face. I need you fully with me, or not at all. Do you understand me, Avon? I want your word that you will obey my orders in future, or else you leave this ship. Either you become part of this crew or you go."
So, he'd got his promise. And Avon had kept it. Oh yes, Avon had kept it, to the letter. During the whole of their fight against Liberator's builders and beyond, he hadn't disobeyed a single order; but neither had he done anything spontaneously. A 'white mutiny' Blake had once heard it called: giving somebody exactly what they asked for in such a way that they wished they'd never asked at all.
It still rankled that Avon had worked out the geographical location of Orac's prediction and hadn't told him, but had instead simply waited until he was asked.
Everything Bake said was tested and checked: Are you willing to take responsibility? You're the one giving the orders. Avon suddenly refused to take anything upon himself.
It had been driving Blake to distraction, but he'd still allowed himself to go too far. The memory chilled him. What had he been thinking of? They'd escaped from the Altas, but instead of bringing them relief, it had only brought more aggravation. He'd laid in a course for Earth Sector and Avon, almost inevitably, had challenged that. There'd been a dozen ways he could have handled the situation, but he'd been tired and stressed and had simply ordered Avon back to his position. Avon had frozen, stared at him, and then finally done as ordered.
He'd used Avon's promise to humiliate him in front of the others. There was no escaping from that, and Avon hadn't forgiven him. But Avon had changed tactics. It had been subtle, so subtle that Blake wasn't even sure when he'd become consciously aware of the change. The touch of a hand on his shoulder, the lightest brush against him when Avon walked past, a glance in his direction that lasted just a fraction too long. He'd taken it for nothing more than casual interest, felt no surprise that Avon wasn't taking it any further. Then it had become worse. He knew, by what strange chemistry or pheromone he could not tell, but he knew Avon wanted him, and that knowledge was potent and erotic. When Avon glanced his way, Blake's eyes made covert response, seeking out the planes and hollows of Avon's body. When Avon stood, head casually tilted, Blake's lips twitched, longing to bury themselves in that white neck. When Avon walked past him, the very motion of his hips was as good as an engraved invitation to buggery. Blake watched, knowing full well that his own reaction had to be visible to Avon, knew too that Avon was watching him in turn, feeding off Blake's desires to fuel his own.
They were performers in a carefully choreographed dance of lust and seduction, but as to who was seducing whom, he was no longer sure. Avon spoke no word to him, requested no assignation - it was Blake's choice, to make the move, or to ignore it. Joining with Avon would be playing with dry tinder, a deadly game that could ignite and burn out of control like a forest fire. Blake allowed himself no illusions there. Avon hid his passions under a web of humour and cynicism, a veiling of deeper, darker things within. To pluck away the strands was enticing, to become tangled within them was not.
He sought Jenna's bed instead.
She smiled and welcomed him, and made him happy. But after she had fallen asleep, Blake dreamed of Avon and saw dark eyes laughing at him from under heavy lashes.
The next morning was worse. A knowing, raised eyebrow, a wolfish smile for Jenna, and a mocking "Sleep well?" whispered in his ear as Avon lent over to examine a chart he was working on. He could feel the cage of Avon's arms on either side of his body, Avon's breath warm on his neck and the subtle smell of sex. It was there, being dangled before him: the lure. Blake ignored it. He could guess Avon's price, and he wasn't prepared to pay it. His body played him traitor and he refused to listen to it, ignored the hairs prickling along his arms and the tension in every muscle that screamed at him to seize Avon and subdue him.
Voice carefully under control, he ordered Avon to check the main drive connections, but found only minor relief when Avon left. Conversation flowed around Blake without him taking it in, and he found himself inventing endless excuses that would allow him to inspect the drive chamber. Those too, he suppressed, but when after the evening meal, he needed to consult Orac and found it gone, Blake knew there was only one place where it would be - Avon was off duty.
Avon's cabin was dim, shadows lurked in the corners, suggesting unseen demons awaiting the orders of their lord and master. Incense hung faintly in the air, the scent of ancient temples and forgotten deities. A single light picked out Avon working at his desk, black silk shirt clinging loosely to his shoulders, falling in a gentle curve down his body. Orac rested on the desk, lights chasing in an eternal spiral like a caged animal seeking escape.
Without looking around at Blake, Avon reached out and removed Orac's key, the lights dying with Orac's whine.
Blake felt the dryness of his lips. "I need..."
Now Avon turned to look at him, eyes lightly mocking. He rose to his feet and moved with cat-like grace towards Blake. His hand smoothed his shirt, lingering just an instant too long on a nipple. Blake could see it indenting the fabric, wanted urgently to take it, bite it, make Avon cry out with the pleasure or pain if it.
"You need?" Avon prompted gently.
"Orac," he tried to say, but the word would not come. "You," he cursed, and reached out to take what he wanted.
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