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"You want a catalogue of my crimes?" Avon asked with a lift of one eyebrow.
"I'd be happy to oblige, although I can't guarantee to remember the full
quota. As I recall, it began with a lamentable inability to anticipate my
father's wishes and progressed through insolence and undesirable associates
to some reasonably sophisticated computer hacking."|
"So that's when they packed you off to the headshrinkers? You were probably fortunate, you know. A Delta in your position would have found himself in a Juvenile Resocialisation Unit."
Avon's hands flexed into fists. He frowned down at them and slid them behind his back. "Spare me the class analysis, Blake," he snapped. "As a matter of fact, I was first sent to Dr Sorensen's establishment for disaffected Alpha youth at the age of ten. By the time I was old enough to leave home, I had spent more time with the headshrinkers than with my family. And that is why I become ... disturbed when I am forced into the proximity of the caring profession."
Another of Avon's charming, inappropriate smiles, smoothing away the frown lines until he looked as serene as a choir boy. Blake gazed hungrily, fired by the transient beauty. He wanted to reach out and comfort the child inside the man but an insistent pressure against the fabric of his Federation uniform reminded him that he wanted the man even more. So instead he lounged back on the padded seat, ostentatiously casual, and said, "That can't have been easy, Avon. Is there anything I can do to help? You must've felt -"
And Avon's suppressed fury erupted. "Enough!" he spat, surging forward to stand over Blake. "I have no interest in discussing my feelings, with you or anyone else. It is unpleasant enough to be locked in here after a session with the headshrinkers, without being subjected to another inquisition. I wish I could ..."
His voice trailed away and his eyes stared blindly at the blurred landscape rushing past them. "Yes?" Blake prompted. "How did you usually let off steam after a session with the headshrinkers?"
The smile flashed out again. "Oh, just the usual boyish pranks. Smashing my father's crystal collection. Sampling a range of recreational drugs. Stealing ground flyers. Changing the codes on Federation data banks. Going to bars and picking up undesirable associates." He glanced down, focussing on Blake for the first time, and his smile broadened. "Well now, there's an idea. You certainly qualify as an undesirable associate. Since you are so anxious to help, you will presumably have no objection to this ."
He sank down onto the seat and bent over Blake, laying a proprietorial hand on his throat and forcing his head back. Blake twisted away, lost balance and slid down the wall. Avon moved with him, straddling his thighs and wrenching at the buttons on the Federation uniform. He slid sinuously across the bared chest, nipped at Blake's neck and, as he gasped, thrust the hard point of a tongue between his lips. Blake sprawled across the narrow bench, dangled and helpless, blood rushing to his head, blood rushing to his cock. He couldn't think. Could only groan and open to Avon's mouth, sucking the invasive tongue deeper.
Avon bore down hard and ground his hips against Blake's erection, urgent and ruthless. Blake cried out, half in protest, half in encouragement. He flung an arm up and latched onto Avon's shoulder, locking them together. They writhed and grunted and struggled, every movement tipping Blake further into a frenzy of desire. Then Avon arched slightly and slid his hand between them. Cool air tickled Blake's groin and knowledgeable fingers circled his cock, gripped tight and moved steady up the shaft, squeezing every throb of sensation from eager flesh. Blake's mind reeled. He whimpered and clung to the edge of the bench, while his hips jerked and hammered. Above him, Avon chuckled: a small sinister sound, without any vestige of enjoyment.
Blake's eyes flicked open. As he stared into an agate-hard gaze, his body chilled and his cock went limp in Avon's hand. "No," he said hoarsely. "I told you before, I'm not the enemy. Don't do this."
"Why not?" Avon asked, choirboy innocent. "You want it, Blake."
He shook his head and felt thought return. "True," he said honestly, "but it would be a mistake, all the same. You're not yourself, Avon. If I had to guess, I'd say that right now you're an angry ten year old boy."
"Ah!" Avon said with an exaggerated air of discovery. "So that is why you responded so enthusiastically."
The air stilled. There was a roar of sound in Blake's ears, like a chorus of voices shouting, "Kill kill kill." He brought his knee up sharply, fending Avon off, heaved himself into a sitting position and started to fasten his uniform with hands that, he was proud to notice, barely shook. Once that was done, he turned his face to the perspex wall and went away: into a place deep inside his head where no one had ever been able to find or hurt him, not even the Federation mindwipers.
I will survive. I can survive anything. Even this.
He was so far away that the voice took several minutes to reach him. A ragged, shaking voice, frayed breathless with alarm. Blake came back reluctantly to find Avon crouched beside him, fingers knotted in his sleeve and tugging tentatively. It was, apparently, a day for firsts. At any rate, it was the first time he had ever heard that note of panic from Avon.
"Blake, please," he was whispering. "Blake, I forgot. I never credited the Federation's propaganda about your propensity for child molestation. Believe me, I would not use that against you."
"Why say it, then?" he asked, still distant.
Avon rose and turned away. He walked to the far side of the shuttle and stood there, head bent, arms braced against the wall. "Yes, I suppose I owe you an explanation," he said finally. "You are not sexually interested in children, Blake. But Dr Sorensen was."
Blake's remote calm shattered. Before he had time to consider, he was standing behind Avon, arms wrapped tight around him. "Oh, Christ," he said in a low voice. "You poor bastard."
Avon turned in his arms with a bright, fixed smile. "Wrong again," he said. "I knew it and I played on it. I was the one who made the first approach. Dr Sorensen was the one who killed himself afterwards."
Blake swallowed hard. This is important. I have to get it right. But he couldn't seem to think properly. One minute he was trying to choose the most appropriate words; next minute he was snarling in outrage, "And how old were you then, Avon?"
"Thirteen," Avon said, politely puzzled.
"And Dr Sorensen?"
"How would I know? In his forties, I suppose."
"In his forties and your psychiatrist. Be logical, man. Which of you was responsible for the situation?"
Avon made a small inarticulate sound and fell forward. Blake caught him and held him. He could feel Avon's chest heaving, as though from some violent exertion. Could feel his own heart hammering violently in response.
"He betrayed your trust," he said finally. "You do see that, don't you?"
"Perhaps," Avon said into his shoulder. "Or did I betray him? I have always found it hard to recognise the difference."
"Thirteen," Blake repeated. "How much power did you have?"
"More than you think," Avon answered with a quiver of amusement but he didn't move away. They stood there for a timeless moment, Blake's hands resting feather-light on Avon's back, although eventually one hand lifted under the pressure of an irresistible compulsion to touch and, greatly daring, stroke Avon's hair. That broke the spell. Avon leant back and looked up at him, eyes glossy and impenetrable as polished stone.
And the door of the shuttle slid open.
The noise of the city rushed in. Buskers playing the latest synthoharp melody; street vendors offering news plaques and kaff and protein snacks; spruikers from the cathouses advertising nice clean boys and girls; the rumble of groundcars in the background. Blake took a deep breath, stepped out of the shuttle and went striding across the platform.
"Where are you going?" Avon asked, catching up with him.
"To the nearest wine shop," he answered without breaking stride. "Judging by what you've told me, I'd say you still need to let off steam. Since I'd prefer that you didn't smash or steal anything on the Liberator, I suggest we all get drunk tonight to celebrate your escape."
A quick gasp of laughter from behind him and then Avon said in his usual laconic drawl, "Wait for me, Blake. I doubt if I can rely on you to select an appropriate vintage."
As he fell into step, Blake let out a silent sigh. A day for firsts, indeed. The first time Avon had trusted him enough to reveal anything significant about his past. The first time he'd actually accepted one of Blake's offers of friendship. The first time Blake had ever felt so close to his difficult, demanding and tantalisingly attractive crew mate.
It was just a pity that, in order to deserve Avon's trust, he would clearly have to sacrifice those vague, wistful fantasies of some day getting Avon into bed with him.
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