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By Helen Patrick
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Peace and quiet at last. Thirty hours of it, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. With only Soolin for company, he had time to sit and think in comfort, uninterrupted. A woman after his own heart, that one. He'd been damned lucky to get her, she might so easily have asked to be put down on the nearest uncivilised planet in the clean-up after Dorian's... death. Competent, efficient, obeyed orders, didn't make a nuisance of herself by defying him for no reason other than wanting to be top of the pecking order. Unlike Tarrant. Who made him feel more sympathy for Blake than he would have believed himself capable of.

He might have made a damnable nuisance of himself to Blake, but at least it was -- much of the time -- in the cause of keeping them all alive. Which helped keep him alive. Tarrant, gallant, handsome, daredevil Tarrant, appeared determined to find trouble, for no better reason than that otherwise intelligent mind was easily bored, craved action. That seemed to be much of Tarrant's motive for opposing him at every turn. At least Blake had had a reasonable motive for his idiotic antics, a genuine desire to achieve something. Even if the something was unattainable, by its very nature. Blake had never believed that the masses were not interested in being freed, couldn't comprehend the mindset of the average Federation drone.

Ah, yes, Blake.

He tried not to think of Blake too often, it was galling to realise how much he missed the man. The clash of philosophies that stretched his mind, made him examine why he felt the way he did. The easy companionship. The friendship that withstood the heated arguments.

And other things besides.

He shouldn't be thinking of that, not even here on Scorpio, alone save for a single, sleeping companion. Nothing much he could do about it. Which left him with a problem. On watch, and a hard cock. Good thing the flightsuits weren't tightly fitted.

Not quite loose enough to be able to fit a hand around his cock through the cloth, though. Damn. He wanted this, it had been too long since he'd had even the relief of masturbating to a fantasy. Not long now, not long at all, until he could have the real thing. Get this alliance up and running, set up a production line for the Pylene-50 prophylactic. Then collect Blake from that miserable planet and let him have the job of keeping Zukan under control. Blake always was so much better at manipulating people.

So good at manipulating him. In more ways than one.

He'd called Blake a wanker in public once. Only the once. Blake had simply grinned, said "Isn't that why you love me?" and then proceeded to brush one of those big hands across his crotch every time there was no one looking at them. Gripping hard when there was a chance to do so, a sly jerk when there were more than a few seconds. Said, "I'm afraid I do manipulate Avon, sometimes it's the only way to get him to do anything I want," with that disarming smile that made people think he was joking when he was telling the truth.

He'd thought he was going to blush, given what Blake had been doing to him under cover of the tablecloth. Fortunately it had been a fairly dimly-lit room. Nobody could have seen what was going on on their side of the table.

This reminiscing was doing him no good at all, just reminding him of how very good Blake had been at doing this. Better than he was, in fact. He needed skin on skin, not this rubbing through the heavy cloth of the flightsuit.

Yet he couldn't leave his watch. Peaceful it might be, but there was no going to one of the bunks while Soolin still slept, and they weren't private enough to serve once she woke. He wasn't doing it in the toilet, he deserved better than that. Memories of Blake deserved better than that.

So, in this chair, a quick jerk while still dressed in his flight suit. One piece of good fortune, it fastened with press studs rather than a zipper. One stud eased open, and he had room to slip his hand inside, fondle his cock. No need to half strip himself first, he could look perfectly innocent within a second or two should Soolin wake early.

On the other hand, it didn't have to be press studs in his imagination.

Blake, an hour or so after one of their louder arguments, standing over him, straddling the recliner he was resting in. Laughing at him when he commented, "The body language is a bit obvious even for you, Blake, and it certainly isn't going to work on me." Moving to kneel beside him, whispering, "But this will," easing the zipper on his tunic down, kissing first his mouth, then down the track of skin exposed by the slowly moving zipper.

Taken by surprise, he hadn't resisted, and then it had been too late. He wanted more, and Blake had given it to him. First the zip on his tunic, and then the zip on his trousers, kissing and nibbling the length of his cock through his underwear, agonisingly slow as the zip crept down. He was trying to thrust into the tormenting mouth long before Blake finally freed him from his clothing, took him in. One thrust into that warm haven, then another, and another, and he was finished, tied to Blake for good. And Blake had known it, the bastard.

Blake had fucked him often enough after that, but the first time had been all for him, an odd way of apologising for the bullying. It had tumbled him into wanting more, rather than the resentment he'd have felt if Blake had started by trying to use him.

Blake's mouth on him again, and then realising they'd been idiots, pausing briefly to lock the door before exploring each other's bodies. Blake inside him, hand on him, squeezing, not taking before it was offered. And coming had been even sweeter the second time, he hadn't expected it, he'd only offered because Blake had been so good to him and demanded nothing in return, letting him feel safe giving this.

God, the memories...

Another advantage press studs had over zippers was that the mess was confined inside his suit rather than sprayed everywhere. Clammy, if he didn't get to the toilet and clean it off soon, but at least it wouldn't give him away. He fastened the suit, quickly in spite of his shaking fingers, and stood up.

"Do you miss him that much?"

He spun around to face Soolin's bunk.

"Miss who?"


He stared at her.

"You called his name. That's what woke me."

He'd lost control to that extent, given himself away?

Soolin stood up, stretched, walked over to him and patted him on the shoulder.

"Go and get cleaned up. I'll take over the watch. Make us some tea when you've finished."

No questioning, no sentimental nonsense. No intrusion on his unbidden desires. Just an acceptance that he cared about someone he didn't have any more, a quiet sympathy that meant more because she didn't say it.

A woman after his own heart indeed. Once again, he wished he could find room in his heart, try again. Soolin was very like him in some ways, understood him well enough to leave him be, not try to make him something he was not. But even if he'd dared to care once more, he seemed to have forgotten how.

At least he'd had his memories of Blake. Soolin's Dorian had betrayed her in the end, had intended to use her life to extend his. And was nothing but dust now. Even in her mind.

It was one difference between them he was grateful for.

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