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At The Closing Of The Day

By Julia Stamford
Page 1 of 6

I need a break. I've read this paragraph three times already.

Blake glanced at the clock, realised that it was only fifteen minutes to his turn on watch, and decided it was time to quit. He might as well head down to the flight deck and check on what Vila was up to. Probably not paying attention - he tended not to when he drew late evening or night watch and thought that there was nobody about to check on him.

On the other hand, he might well have Avon keeping him company. Avon tended to insomnia, and Blake had noticed that of late he tended to join Vila if that worthy happened to be on watch. Nobody else had been favoured by Avon's presence, if favoured was the correct description, and Blake had started to wonder about the pair. Just what do you two find to talk about, in the dead of night when there's no-one to listen?

Well, satisfying his curiosity about that was as good a reason as any to turn up early. Blake stood up, woke up his muscles with a joint-cracking stretch, and headed for the flight deck.

What he found when he got there was quite enough to make him wonder. Avon was sat on the couch, with Vila sat between his legs on the floor on front of him, leaning back against the base of the couch with his elbows slung over Avon's legs. They looked very comfortable and contented.

Moving quietly round, Blake saw that there was a good reason for this rather odd seating arrangement. Vila was busy demonstrating a card trick, and was obviously sat in a position where Avon could follow the mechanics of the manipulation. Nonetheless, the obvious intimacy between the two men was startling, in more ways than one. Blake was shocked to find that he was jealous. Not just a twinge of envy, but stomach churning, face wanting to pull into a snarl, muscles tensed with the desire to run over and physically pull them away from each other. The green-eyed monster well and truly had him in its grasp, and for no readily apparent reason. It wasn't his business what his crew chose to do in private, so long as it didn't affect the smooth running of the ship.

Heart aching, he thought about it, and realised why. It wasn't so much the implied physical intimacy, as the clear emotional intimacy. Avon was at ease with Vila in a way that he never was with Blake, and it hurt to see it. Why couldn't Avon give of himself in that fashion to anyone else?

As he watched them, Avon leaned forward to point at a card just as Vila leaned back. The physical contact obviously startled them both. Then Vila tilted his head up to look into Avon's face, and murmured something Blake couldn't hear. The answering grin suggested what it might have been, as did the affectionate ruffle of Vila's hair, and the clenching in Blake's gut told him more than he'd ever wanted to know about his feelings for Avon.

They obviously hadn't realised he was there, and he had shame over his voyeurism to add to his collection of unpleasant emotions. Before they could go any further, he announced his presence with, "Playing cards when you're supposed to be on watch? Shame on you."

They both turned to look at him, with matching "What, innocent little me?" stares. Neither seemed in the least concerned about what he might have witnessed. Then Avon said, "I'm not on watch," and Vila followed with, "And we're not playing cards," and they grinned in tandem. The effect was quite disconcerting.

. As usual, his pair of thieves were obviously torn between wanting to hide whatever mischief they'd been up to, and winding him up about it. It broke his emotional tension, and, amused by the double act, he asked, "So what are those in your hands, Vila? A figment of my imagination?"

The reply came from the other half of the team. "Demonstrating a card trick is not 'playing cards'. Vila has invented a new variation of Find the Lady, and was showing me how to run it." As he drew breath to reply, Avon forestalled him with, "If you insist on criticising it as a waste of time, I will remind you of the number of occasions on which Vila's skill at magic has been useful." As was so often the case with Avon, the actual words were not that unpleasant, but the snide tone stung.

Blake choked back the retaliation that rose to his lips, smiled, and said, "True enough. Only don't let yourselves get too distracted." Then he wandered over to inspect a console, ostensibly to check on the state of the ship but in reality to give himself a chance to get control of his feelings. He'd chosen one of the secondary consoles at the outer edge of the flight deck, where he could turn his back on them without it appearing to be deliberate. What he'd seen had had an effect on him, and he was uncomfortably aware that it might be a visible effect. He distracted himself with running through the display of the ship's status, an activity guaranteed to have the same effect as a cold shower.

Blake calmed down as he checked through each of the important items. Then he came across something odd on one of the sensor readings. Puzzled, he rechecked it. It was still there, but now at a different level, suggesting some sort of system malfunction.

It wasn't something of immediate importance, but better to check it over. "Avon, come and have a look at this. I think there's a fault that hasn't been picked up by the auto-repair system."

Avon's response wasn't particularly helpful. "You're the engineer. And it's your watch, or about to be."

Blake turned to scowl at him. "And you're the systems engineer. I'd rather have your opinion. If you can tear yourself away for a moment." He'd bitten back on the "from your fun", but some of the acid must have leaked through. Avon gave him a nasty look, but pushed Vila gently out of the way, and came to join him at the console. Blake ignored the look - he'd had ample opportunity to practice doing so, and he could live with Avon's nasty looks, so long as Avon obeyed orders. He pointed out the fault. "You see these odd readings, here?"

Avon obviously saw. "We could ask Zen to check it, but it'll be easier if I run through it myself." He fetched some tools, removed the front panel, and knelt down to get access to the circuitry behind. He rummaged briefly, then said from under the console, "It'll take me a couple of minutes. I'll have to discuss the delay in the auto-repair system with Zen, but that can wait until the morning." Then the disembodied voice said in a louder tone, "It'll be the end of your watch by the time I'm finished, Vila. You might as well pack up the cards for now, and go and fetch us some refreshments. Then we can continue in private. Without rude remarks from an audience."

As Vila left, that brazen comment set Blake thinking along forbidden lines again. He'd been trying hard not to think about the tempting sight in front of him, but it just wasn't possible to ignore the view. Avon was wearing one of his more flamboyant outfits, something that somehow contrived to be not actually indecent while still appearing to have come from the sort of shop that didn't allow minors past the door, and it only made matters worse that Avon clearly had no idea of the effect it had. The sight of tight leather stretched over a very trim arse was more than a man should be expected to bear. Especially when that arse was just the right height, just the right posture, to be fucked.

Then Blake's distracted and frankly obscene thoughts were interrupted. "Pass me that probe," came a pre-emptory tone from in front of him. He knelt down to pick up the probe in question, then leaned forward to pass it in to Avon. As he did so, he came tantalisingly, perilously close to the object of his attention. So tempting, the idea of moving his hips forward just a few centimetres. Just being able to rub himself against those taut, inviting buttocks would be bliss. Paradise would be ripping the leather trousers down and taking Avon here and now, and to hell with the risk of someone walking in, as he had walked in a few minutes earlier.

Blake closed his eyes briefly, willing himself not to think about it. He stood up hastily as soon as the probe had been taken from his hand, desperate to avoid the risk of losing control and giving in to his fantasy. Avon's interests evidently lay elsewhere, and there wasn't any point in wishing otherwise. It would only result in embarrassment all round. And possibly physical pain. Blake had no illusions about Avon's likely reaction to anyone trying to push him into something he didn't want.

Avon had finished tinkering while Blake had been distracted, and wriggled back out. As he stood up, he brushed against Blake. And went rigid.

Blake felt fire spread through his body from that point of contact. The flames of desire licked at him, burning him. If he hadn't been thinking about it already, he might have been safe, but feeling Avon touch, if ever so lightly, against his erection was more than he could bear. He gasped, wanting to seize Avon by the hips and pull him tight against him, but terrified of humiliation. Wanting Avon to release him from his thrall by moving away, because of a certainty, Blake couldn't break the contact.

Then Avon did pull away, after what seemed an eternity and more, and Blake was undecided between relief and disappointment. As Avon turned to face him, he braced himself for the mocking cruelty that was sure to come.

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