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Death Duel

By Catherine Salmon
Page 3 of 3

But in the midst of his despair, he felt a new presence. He looked up sharply. Sinofar!

"You let him die!" Avon snarled, rising to his feet in one fluid motion. "You could have transported him as you did me. He did not need to die."

"Avon. He is not dead."

He stared at her in disbelief. Not dead? But... He turned round, kneeling again at the rebel's side. Blake's chest was rising and falling in a regular rhythm.

"The knife wound?"

"Gone. Physically, he is as he was when he arrived."

Laying a hand on Blake's shoulder, the tech shook him gently.

"Blake?"

The unconscious figure only shifted slightly at first but woke as the shaking became more vigorous. He opened his eyes to a smiling Avon and, beyond him, Sinofar. Blake frowned.

"How... " Then with dawning comprehension, "I died!"

"You won, Blake."

He turned to Avon then looked up to Sinofar.

"Yes, you defeated Travis. You are both free to go, as is your ship."

Avon stood, holding out his hand, and Blake gratefully accepted, offering a smile. It was not returned but neither did Avon push him away.

"You did not act as we expected." Blake looked at the woman in puzzlement. "You did not kill to save yourself. You killed to save your friend."

"Not so surprising. Blake always was a fool."

Blake looked at him sharply, seeing the discomfort behind the words.

"I could not let him die. I have lost too many good friends already."

Sinofar smiled.

"Your caring is a great weapon, Roj Blake. Perhaps you had nothing to learn."

"Perhaps," Blake said with a smile, "but I think I have learned a great deal."

"That which is known, can never be forgotten."

Blake glanced at Avon, then locked gazes with Sinofar.

"You are free to go."

"Thank you."

* * *

Two days later, Blake finally cornered the computer expert. Avon was alone on watch when Blake entered the flight deck. Sitting down on the couch, Blake proceeded to chew on a finger. How to approach Avon? He glanced up. Avon was watching him with veiled amusement. He snatched the finger away, lacing his hands together in his lap.

"Avon... Thank you."

The dark head tilted inquisitively, but a wary expression clouded his eyes. "For what?"

"For caring. You tried to save my life, warning me, removing the knife." He shivered in remembrance. "It meant a great deal to me."

And Avon felt himself falling into the trap Blake wove. The snare of caring and affection that he had tried so hard to avoid. Trust no one. Care for no one. But all his resolve dissolved under Blake's influence. He cared for Blake, trusted him, would give his life for him. It was a hard truth to accept. He looked down, meeting the rebel's gaze, the compassionate warmth he broadcast like an aura to all around him. And Blake knew how he felt, damn it. That was the worst. Blake recognized his feelings before he himself did. But strangely, he felt little animosity. You will not let me retreat, will you, Blake? And there was safety in that knowledge, along with the discomfort.

"That which is known, can never be forgotten," Avon murmured to himself.

"Know this, Avon. I trust you and I am your friend, whether you want me to be or not."

A sudden smile lightened the tech's grim expression.

"Yes."

He stepped down to Blake's side, placing a hand lightly on the broad shoulder, though only for a second. The lesson was for me, not for you, Blake. The death of a friend.

Blake tilted his head to return the smile, recognizing the thoughts behind it, behind his own next words.

"Thank you."

"You are welcome."

And though the smile on his lips faded, the smile in the dark eyes remained.

"One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other...
... Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot-and after!"


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