The Biter BitBy Nova
Page 1 of 5
It's not easy, putting yourself together after a Federation mindwipe, and I'd
had to do it fast. Oh, I'd spent a few years impersonating a model citizen,
once the psychosurgeons had finished with me, but then a pair of rebels
turned up and convinced me that I used to be one of the leaders of the
Freedom Party. After that, in quick succession, I witnessed a massacre of
dissidents by the Federation, went through another trial (on trumped up
charges of child molestation, that being the crime most unacceptable to the
general public and, incidentally, to me), found myself on a prison ship
heading for one of the penal colonies, escaped, gathered a few recruits and
became a freelance rebel. And, somewhere in the middle of it, I also fell
for my computer expert.|
If that sounds like a throwaway line, it's an accurate impression. My attraction to Avon wasn't exactly a grand passion: closer to a bloody nuisance, actually. I was fighting an unofficial war. I didn't have any spare time to waste on getting through to the most difficult man (no, make that the most difficult human being, Supreme Commander Servalan included) that I had ever encountered.
Kerr Avon was a complete bastard - arrogant, cynical, mercenary, detached, apolitical, insubordinate and too damned clever for my own good. Unfortunately, he also happened to have skin like cream-coloured parchment, a tightly rounded arse and a mouth that embodied everything a generation of ancient Greek sculptors had spent their lives trying to replicate, not to mention indecently long eyelashes that, every time they caressed his cheeks, seemed to be inviting you to do the same. Nonetheless, I'd managed to keep my hands off him, with difficulty but with a reasonable degree of success. It was a sensual obsession, nothing more. I let myself watch him on the flight deck every now and then and indulged in the occasional fantasy. But that's as far as it was allowed to go.
Until Arkady, a friendly planet that was hosting a rebel conference. An exceptionally friendly planet, as a matter of fact. Not only did the Arkadians voluntarily turn their governor's residence into a conference centre: they also installed Avon and me in an upstairs suite, equipped with a water based shower. an acre-wide satin-sheeted bed and, as the governor informed me while he showed me round, 'A supply of lotos, Arkady's natural aphrodisiac, to help you and your charming friend unwind.'
I stared back blankly, partly because the shrivelled twists of dried fruit looked distinctly anaphrodisiac but principally because I found it hard to believe that anyone could describe Avon as charming. So I missed my opportunity to correct the governor and explain that Avon and I weren't lovers, far from it - which was fortunate, as it happened, given that seconds later I realised I'd just been handed the perfect set up.
I was ushering the governor out when Avon appeared in the doorway and looked round superciliously. To anyone else's eyes, the suite would've seemed luxuriantly welcoming - woodland colours, soft lights and softer chairs, an Arkadian water sculpture rippling in a corner. But Avon could find flaws in paradise. He complained at some length about being forced to share a room and a bed, until I pointed out that both room and bed were at least five times the size of their equivalents on the Liberator. That shut him up, temporarily at least. He shrugged and subsided into the nearest chair, looking as exhausted as I felt after a day of strenuous negotiating. I poured two glasses of wine and then, as an apparent afterthought, pushed the bowl of lotos towards him.
'What's this?' he asked, prodding the shrivelled twists with a disdainful finger.
'Dried lotos,' I explained, offhand and casual. 'Some sort of local delicacy. I presume it tastes better than it looks.'
I selected a piece, lifted it to my mouth and palmed it, a minor conjuring trick I'd made Vila teach me, on the basis that it might come in useful some day. Then I turned away and studied the water sculpture, to ensure that I didn't appear too interested or eager. A few seconds later I was rewarded by a nasal drawl, edged with Avon's usual delight in contradicting me.
'Wrong, Blake. This shred of mummified rubber tastes precisely as it looks.'
I swung back just in time to see him swallow the lotos with a grimace of disgust, after which he propped his boots on the low table and started to list alternative methods of fast-tracking the next day's negotiations. Our host had informed me that the lotos would take ten minutes to act, so I lounged in my chair and talked strategy in a deliberately lulling Celtic rumble. Before the ten minutes were up, I could tell that Avon's attention, normally concentrated to an alarming degree, was beginning to wander. I raised my voice slightly and watched his eyes lift towards me, puzzled and unfocussed. He blinked twice in quick succession and asked me to repeat what I had just said.
Wonderful. He was well on the way now.
'That's enough business for tonight,' I rumbled. 'You look tired, Avon. Why don't we talk about something more restful? For example, Vila's suggestion that we need a break - by which, of course, he means sensory ecstasy hours on a convenient pleasure planet.'
A touch of colour stained Avon's pale skin and his breathing quickened, as if he were unwillingly forming his own pictures of sensory ecstasy. I had known I was going to enjoy this but it was a thousand times better than I'd hoped. In the ordinary run of things, Avon is exceptionally self-contained, a quality that irritates and fascinates me in equal proportions. Although I have a fairly strong will myself, it's nothing compared to his. I sprawl and gesture, scowl when I'm angry and pluck at my bottom lip when I'm puzzled or confused, whereas Avon controls every movement with impeccable rigour. So it was, frankly, quite delectable to watch him squirm in his seat, long eyelashes flickering, tongue-tip darting out to moisten lips dried by hot, swift breath. Not much of a reaction from anyone else, perhaps, but from Avon it came close to a scream for help.
I leaned over to refill his glass, letting my shoulder graze his arm lightly. The rigorous control was still functioning: he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the rising level of the wine, though I could feel his body tilt infinitesimally towards mine. An iron filing trying to resist the magnet. I smiled and said, 'Avon' in my richest, gentlest, most charismatic voice. 'Avon, how about a toast to tomorrow's success?'
His hand reached automatically for the glass. Given his penchant for theatrical gestures, Avon ought to have long-fingered concert pianist hands but he doesn't. In fact, his fingers are square and blunt and, in consequence, absurdly endearing. I watched them hover around the glass's stem and waited for Avon to turn towards me. Once I had his eyes, I would have him: I was sure of that.
But certainty and Avon aren't compatible concepts. While I leaned back and gloated, he balled his hand into a fist, rose abruptly and murmured, 'Excuse me, Blake.' Then he strode off to shut himself in the bathroom, clearly intending to take care of the problem on his own, which seemed a waste. I hadn't gone to all this trouble simply to give Avon the chance to masturbate more enjoyably than usual.
I was still frowning resentfully at the closed door when the vidcom unit pinged and the governor's image formed on the screen. 'Blake, there's something I forgot to mention,' he said, looking flustered. 'Lotos works in conjunction with human pheromones. Once you've taken it, you're - ah, positively required to have sex with a partner. Otherwise the drug can linger in the bloodstream for twenty four hours, with some fairly agonising side effects.'
I thanked him for the warning and hurried to switch off the vidcom, to make sure we weren't interrupted again. At that moment Avon returned, looking impressively controlled, if a little white around the mouth. Clearly the governor's information had been accurate, which seemed to indicate that I was now more or less obliged to seduce Avon, for therapeutic purposes. Not that I minded the responsibility, of course. Avon is beautiful enough when he's posing on the flight deck, like a statue with a transportable pedestal. But with his hair ruffled and a faint sheen of sweat across his pale skin, he looked quite impossibly lovely.
I strolled over and touched his arm, murmuring, 'Are you all right?' As my fingers tightened round his bicep, he shuddered and tried to push me away, wincing at the contact of skin on skin.
'Blake, don't,' he said. 'I feel ... a little odd at present.'
'Feverish, Avon?' I asked and pressed my palm to his forehead, stirring up a further reaction and enjoying my secret awareness of its cause. That famous control had finally begun to slip. Before he could stop himself, Avon was nudging against my hand like a caress-hungry cat. He glanced sideways, troubled and at a disadvantage, which improved his looks no end.
'Oh hell,' he said suddenly, tiring of the struggle. 'Why not live dangerously?'
Then he cupped my face in his hands and kissed me. Avon's mouth is a classic of its kind, the outrageous heart-shaped curve of the upper lip balanced by a neat full arc below. A statue's mouth: I'd often wondered whether it would taste of marble or metal but the lips that parted for me were warm and wet and human, as bittersweet as the man himself. Their perfect definition melted on contact, battening and sucking hungrily and drawing my tongue into their humid depths, before he groaned and wrenched away.
'I must be mad,' he said quietly, as though he were speaking to himself. 'Blake, stop me. Don't let me do this.'
'Why? I don't have any particular objection,' I told him, deliberately patronising. 'After all, you're a very attractive man. There's no need to explain, Avon. I can see what the problem is. A touch of space fever, hmm? It's all right, I don't mind helping out.'
Experienced spacers take mineral supplements to control the random randiness called space fever, so it was a reasonably insulting thing to say. But, just as I'd anticipated, Avon was past caring about that. 'Ah,' he breathed, charging the single syllable with a combination of urgency and uncertainty. 'Then, if you're agreeable, we may as well proceed further.'
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