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Blood Ties

By Willa Shakespeare
Page 2 of 11

"Yes." Avon wasn't in any condition for hand-to-hand combat, but he still considered the possibility of getting the man's gun away from him.

"Blake said you were to have whatever you needed. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"No."

The man accepted this. "Right, then you take that corridor there." He pointed to his right at a cross-connecting hallway. "Take the first left and straight on. You can't miss it."

"Miss what?"

"Why, the med-center, of course. You'll want to look in on your crew, won't you?" He sounded surprised.

"Of course," Avon answered vaguely.

"You should have the doctor check you out while you're there. You don't look so good." The man then strode off, to commander an empty-handed, able-bodied rebel for his crate-moving.

Avon watched him leave. It was obviously a set-up, but what could he do? If there was any chance any of the others had survived, he had to know. He'd stand a much better chance of escape with help.

The medical center was comparatively quiet. Avon paused inside the doorway, uncertain. Until he saw Vila standing at his ease talking with a woman wearing a medical smock. Sensing Avon's gaze, Vila turned, and smiled. "There you are. We were starting to worry about you."

"We?" Avon asked, coming slowly toward the other man.

"Don't exaggerate, Vila." The voice might not have been quite as resolute as usual, but it was unmistakable. Tarrant had survived also. He was propped up in a narrow bed, looking uncomfortable, with a heavy white strapping of bandage encasing his chest. One leg was stretched out on a layer of pillows, and he wore a loose set of blue-gray pajamas. "I wasn't worried."

"Yes, I can see you had your own concerns."

"Oh, this is nothing. As soon as the doctor returns, I'm out of here."

"Good job Blake had on that trick protective vest, though," Vila said. "You know, that wasn't exactly the brightest thing you've ever done, Avon. I mean, dragging us halfway across the galaxy and getting Scorpio blown up just so you could use Blake for target practice. If he'd been hurt, we wouldn't be very popular here, now, would we?"

Avon stared at Vila, totally at a loss for words.

Soolin entered the room, then. She didn't quite smile at the sight of Avon, but her taut posture relaxed slightly. "Avon. Good. I told Blake he'd better produce you soon or we'd come looking."

Avon flinched, then covered hastily with a question, "And Dayna? Is she..."

"She'll be all right," Soolin said. She'd seen his reaction, and came forward, briefly putting her hand on his arm. "She's out of surgery and they say she's doing well. She was lucky, the shot missed anything major. Mostly, she's suffering from blood loss."

Avon swung his head sharply away at that. Too sharply, abruptly he was dizzy again.

"Here, sit down." Soolin briskly guided him to a visitor's chair. "Perhaps you should..." At Avon's glare, Soolin shrugged. "Have it your way, Avon. We were all a bit unsteady, maybe the stun hit you harder than us."

Stun- Yes, that made sense. The Federation wanted them alive, for one of their 'show trials', no doubt. And his crew thought that the same thing had happened to him. It might be better to let them continue to think that. Avon went silent, considering his options. If he told the truth, they'd think him mad- of late, he had been treading a rather fine line and it wouldn't take much to make them believe he'd overstepped it. Concentrating, he barely noticed when Vila pressed a warm mug into his hands. Automatically, he lifted it and drank. Then sputtered.

"What is this, glycolene dregs?" He pushed the mug back at Vila. The medical ward door opened and Avon stiffened, feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck. Without looking, he knew who had entered. He fought to maintain a cool facade and knew how miserably he failed by the odd looks the others gave him.

"Avon." Blake's voice was calm and self-assured. "You shouldn't have left our room without eating."

Our room? Avon met Blake's one-eyed gaze and found himself agreeing. "I know."

"Come back with me, Avon," Blake said, seductively and Avon nodded. He made no resistance as Blake urged him to his feet, then kissed him full on the mouth before Avon's startled crew. "I've missed you." Blake turned to Vila and smiled. "We've reconciled, Vila." He laughed at the thief's fish-mouthed gape. "Come now, did we really fool you all that time?"

"Er, um. Well, actually, I suspected, but I didn't want to say anything," Vila remarked, eyes wide as he looked from the smug Blake to the unnaturally quiet Avon.

"The truth was uncomfortably close to the lies the Federation spread about me." Blake caressed Avon's shoulder slowly while he spoke. "We decided it was better to be discreet. But I've lost patience with discretion." Avon trembled under Blake's touch.

"Avon needs to rest, now," Blake said. He began walking toward the door, with Avon in tow. He paused to smile back over his shoulder. "I really am glad you've come to join us. Avon and I need all the help we can get." Then they left.

"I don't believe it," Soolin said, after a lengthy silence.

"You didn't know how it was with those two. " Vila shook his head. "They fought all the time, but anything Blake really wanted, Avon did it for him. And he kept saying he was leaving, but he never did. You know, thinking about it, it's obvious."

Tarrant was still staring at the door. "But if Avon was...that way, then I should have noticed something."

"Oh, why?" Vila stared at Tarrant, "You aren't saying you're...?"

"No, I am not," Tarrant flushed, "but for some reason, I've had more than my share of propositions. I thought I could tell when a man liked other men."

Soolin shook her head. "Pity," was all she said.

Blake led Avon back to his quarters and sat him down at a small table. "You really should have eaten, Avon."

Like a leash being unsnapped, Avon felt his will released. He pushed to his feet and backed away from the table. "Why?"

"You need to replenish your blood supply. I should think that would be obvious." Calmly, Blake uncovered the platter, revealing an assortment of cold meats, fruits and cheese. He opened a thermal container and poured steaming hot coffee into a mug.

"That's not what I meant, and you know it." Avon stepped back quickly when Blake turned.

"Because I didn't want to kill your friends. Or would you rather I sent them away? You know I have to keep you close- that was an explanation they could accept."

"Will they? Vila knows how ridiculous the very idea is."

"Is it?" Blake looked up, serious. "There was always something between us. Perhaps we just never saw the truth."

"What truth? The truth is, you can do whatever you like to me," Avon said bleakly. He wrapped his arms around his chest, shivering.

"I won't do it again, Avon. At least, not that way."

"Oh, really."

"I need blood, but not all the time. If you don't fight me, I won't control you." He looked at Avon. "I have other needs, too. Other- appetites, part of my condition."

Avon turned aside, feeling sick. "Why didn't you do that too, last night?"

"Because I do care about you, Avon. I don't want to hurt you."

"Then let me go. Let us all go. I swear not to tell a soul. After all, no one would believe me."

"I can't." Blake reached Avon in one long stride and turned him to face the rebel leader. "I need you. I need your skills, and your loyalty."

"And my blood."

"Yes." Blake pulled Avon snugly against his broad chest, speaking softly into Avon's hair. "I can't help what I am."

"What are you, Blake?"

"It has an ancient name. On Earth it was a legend, but out among the stars, it became reality. Do you remember the planet where Travis and I fought a duel?"

Avon nodded.

"The people of that world destroyed themselves. They created a weapon that ultimately wiped out both sides, leaving only two of them to guard it. Sinofar and Giroc were the last. They stayed because they couldn't die, but they weren't alive either. I think the weapon was a virus, something that transmits in the blood and changes the entire body. I was bitten on the planet by a small bat-like creature. It didn't affect me then. But later..." Blake stopped.

"What?" Avon prompted.

Blake sighed. "I don't like to remember what happened. How I found out what I'd become. I was caught on the planet Jevron."

Avon lifted his head, teased by the familiarity of the name. Wasn't that where Servalan said Blake had died?

"I was captured by the locals, but they wanted to impress the Federation." He stroked along his scarred face. "I didn't talk, and Jenna rescued me." He paused again, then took a deep breath and continued, "We hid for weeks. We should have stayed hidden, but Jenna was worried about my eye. She thought the longer it went without proper treatment, the harder it would be to cure. We nearly made it, but at the spaceport an over-ambitious guard recognized us and gave the alarm. I was shot, Avon. And I died." He shook his head. "At least I think I died. I can't really be sure of anything. It was like a fever-dream. I...woke and someone was with me, crying over me. I was in a box- a cheap fiber carton- and the room was hot. I got out of the box and it was Jenna there with me. She was hysterical, she said the Federation intended to preserve my body and display it as an example to the rebels. She stole my corpse, intending to cremate it. She thought they'd made a mistake, that I had been in a coma." Blake shuddered. "She put her arms around me, and kissed me. And I... and I killed her. I couldn't help it. The hunger was uncontrollable- I didn't even realize what I was doing. When I returned to my senses, Jenna was dead."

"What did you do then?" Despite himself, Avon felt sympathy, which changed to a cold gnawing in his stomach. Blake could just as easily have killed him.

"I thought about suicide, about giving myself up to the Federation. But then they'd have won everything, and all our sacrifices would have been in vain. I burned Jenna's body in my place. And then I got the hell off Jevron and started looking for a planet I could survive on while fighting. Gauda Prime seemed ideal. It has a large population of villains the universe is better off without and nearly as many disaffected citizens ripe for revolution."

"Who decides which is which?"

"I do. Along with the curse, there are a few gifts, Avon. I know when people are lying to me. I can even compel them to tell the truth."

"Or do anything else."

"Yes." Blake lowered his mouth to Avon's, pressing gently. Then he pulled back. "I need you, Avon. I won't compel you, but if necessary, I will force you."

"Oh, and there's a difference?" Avon stood stiffly, neither resisting nor cooperating.

"You know there is. I'll let you hate me. It would be very simple to make you love me, to make you my slave, body and soul. But I won't. It's all I can give you. I'll not touch your mind again."

"But the rest of me?"

"Will belong to me." He gently pushed Avon toward the table. "Eat. I've got to go advise on the reorganization since we've moved. But I'll be back."

"Will I always belong to you?"

Blake ran his hands through his hair. "No. Only until the revolution is over, one way or the other. I don't want to live like this. When I've succeeded- or lost beyond hope- I'll tell you how to destroy me. That will free you."

"And will I become like you when I die?"

"I don't think so. After my change, I found a doctor who came up with a cure for the virus. It's gone, I can't transmit the disease, but I had it long enough for the changes in myself to be irreversible. I am frozen as I was the day I died. I can't even get this scar reduced. The pattern is fixed." He smiled at Avon. "You told me often enough that I was too stubborn to change. I've got to go now and give orders on the reconstruction of the base. I should be back within the hour." He glanced significantly at the food on the table. "If you want something else, order it. Just be here when I return, Avon." Blake strode from the room, head high, as determined a crusader as ever lived. Or died.


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