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Prisoners: The Shattering

By Kai Aurelius
Page 2 of 3

"Well," Tarrant started again, "I mean, there've been many women, but none to which I'd formed a real attachment." Tarrant tried to dredge up a broken romance to provide some kind of analog for Avon's suffering, but found that nothing in his experience could truly rival the betrayal of a singular love, except... "My brother, well, I loved him more than anything. Perhaps it's not the same..." Tarrant trailed off as he desperately tried to grasp the realities of his own relationship in order to relate them to Avon.

"Go on, Tarrant, tell me about your brother," Avon said distantly, but with wistful sincerity, his depleted faculties further diminished by the brandy.

Tarrant started and hesitated, "He was rather difficult. I mean, I loved him and I think he loved me, but he was...distant. And sometimes, well, he was very hurtful, highly critical. Perhaps I was too young, or I didn't know him very well, but he meant the world to me, despite his cruelties. He could be that...quite cruel, so absorbed in himself. But he was all I had and I loved him."

"Loved? Is he dead?" Avon asked tentatively.

"No, I don't think so. I mean, I think I would have heard about it...I think..." Tarrant trailed off again with considerably more emotion than he would have revealed, had he not been drinking Avon's very potent brandy.

Avon then reached over to the table by the bed where Tarrant had placed the bottle and poured them both another glass. The computer expert's eyes, even in the dying candle light, were already glazed, and his hand tremulous. Tarrant accepted the glass, not quite as bewildered, but still somewhat apprehensive, by the fact that he was sitting here getting drunk with Avon, discussing the impossible and improbable. Avon, by contrast, was completely unincredulous and seemingly accepting of Tarrant's revelations, almost mellow. Tarrant was finding this unlikely scenario oddly comfortable as more of the liquor burned its way down his throat, numbing his sensibilities.

 

Avon was not at all oblivious to the effects of the brandy. Despite his much vaunted reserves he was physically exhausted, and his mind raced erratically. He hadn't slept, nor had he eaten, for three days. The brandy was calming him and nauseating him slightly at the sane time, but it felt right and comfortable. Even Tarrant's presence and story was a comfort of sorts. Deep inside himself, Avon didn't want to believe he was the only creature in the universe who felt so betrayed and miserable. His precious barriers were being dissolved by the liquor, but just at this moment he didn't care to maintain them. He was hopeful of discerning a model for his own pain in someone else's, and somehow find a way of dealing with it. Never in his experience, not even in the aftermath of that once certain knowledge of Anna's torture and death, had he felt so marked by the cold hard despondency that was his world at the moment, that seemed would be his world from now on. But, he was very nearly comfortably numb, now. That's how he wanted to stay, and he wanted Tarrant to keep talking, even if his ramblings provided only the background noise against which Avon could suffer. He could almost smile at that unbidden thought, as Tarrant was always given to talking far too much. Now, the pilot was strangely and incongruously silent for some reason.

"It's a very bad time to shut up, Tarrant," Avon drawled drunkenly and suppressed a nearly irresistible urge to giggle. Avon averted his eyes from the pilot, afraid that the sight of Tarrant's indignation would cause the computer technician to burst into either uncontrollable tears or laughter. "I'm really well and truly out of control," Avon whispered, barely coherently, to himself. He couldn't, however, find the strength to care.

"What? Oh...well...I was just thinking of Deeta. He's my brother," Tarrant affirmed to Avon with an exaggerated nod. "Damn...What an unadult...undera...uh...right bastard he was, too, now that I think of it. Why, in the name of all the bloody gods," Tarrant rambled and stared into the middle distance, "do we find anything lovable about...these people?" Tarrant made an expansive and graceless gesture with his arms. The pilot was now virtually sprawled on his chair, legs askew and arms flailing haphazardly to make his point. He noticed his not-quite-empty glass on the table, grabbed it and tossed the remaining brandy down in one swallow.

"Do you hate him then?" Avon barely managed to ask. "What I mean to say...is could you kill him for...doing whatever he did to you?" Avon's head was beginning to throb and the room was beginning to spin. "I think I...need another drink," Avon rumbled and reached unsteadily over to the table, missing the bottle on the first try. The second attempt was more successful, and he sloshed more of the dark sweet brandy into his glass, and a good deal more of it onto the floor. Tarrant watched Avon's struggle with the bottle in fascinated detachment, trying to formulate an answer to Avon's question. Since nothing was forthcoming for the moment, it seemed wise to follow suit and pour himself another drink, as well. To his chagrin, he, too, drained most of the drink onto the floor and onto his trousers.

Avon's response to Tarrant's discomfiture and annoyance was a drunken, glazed, but very expectant stare. It occurred to Tarrant that the whole scenario could be construed as comedic if Avon's doleful expression and his own soggy apparel hadn't driven home the tragedy of bitter memories. He remembered, as if it were yesterday, the horror of being seven years old and thrown, naked, shivering and crying in misery and fear, into a swift— running semi—frozen river. The imagery of roiling, glacially cold, diamond sharp and numbing ice-water drawing him into the darkest depths, the frantic struggle as his lungs seemed to burst and burn from the lack of air, and in the distance, Deeta's laughter from the rocks, aroused the deepest of hurts and betrayals. Deeta had been the only family he could remember since their parents had died when he was only two. The thought of his total dependence upon Deeta, his virtual worship of the person who should have been his protector, sickened him now.

The incident at the lake was merely representative, but was the first indication in his child's mind that love was not unconditional and that treachery lurked in those one loved more than life. Deeta had finally fished him out of the frigid water, blue, numb to the bone, lacerated by sharp rocks and swift—flowing miniature icebergs, nauseous from the frigid water he'd swallowed, and barely conscious. He vaguely remembered Deeta mumbling something, in harsh and bitter tones, as he was being wrapped in a warm blanket, about needing to be toughened up and prepared for the unpleasant realities of life. In retrospect, Deeta was even more of a cynic than Avon appeared to be. In a way, Tarrant thought, he could now afford to be more philosophical about the needless viciousness of his brother, since much of Tarrant's experience since then had proved Deeta correct. It was indeed a brutal education his brother had bequeathed him, and it hurt; but Tarrant's memories of his upbringing were mixed with a paradoxical admiration and love for the man who'd reared him.

Harsh lessons had been intertwined with occasional tenderness. It was somehow unreal that Deeta had only been seven years older than he; the elder Tarrant had seemed ancient and ageless, and occasionally wise, to the youngster who knew no other caregiver or model for behavior. Tarrant discovered that he was hard—pressed to sort out all the very strong emotions, especially in his present inebriated state, and Avon waited expectantly for an answer to his question. How could he answer, when part of him wanted to cold—bloodedly obliterate Deeta Tarrant for his betrayal of innocent trust, and another part wanted to embrace him lovingly? It was all too confusing. But Deeta had always demanded responsibility, even in one's most vulnerable moments; and responsible Del Tarrant would be.

"There were...many times when I wanted to kill him. I might have done...eventually...if he hadn't left me to my own devices," Tarrant managed to articulate. "I love him, I hate him. I don't know what I feel anymore." Tarrant swayed on the chair as he took another gulp of his drink.

After a silence of interminable length, Avon responded. "Anna and I...I was a complete fool, Tarrant. I didn't see the signs. And the really stupid thing is...I still love her. Even when I knew she was dead, I wanted to bring her back with me. Even when Servalan held the gun to my head, I could only think of how badly I wanted to hold her. I wanted to breathe life back into her and hope that the whole sorry mess was just a misunderstanding, a joke, a bad dream..." Avon's voice was rough with strain and emotion and strong liquor. In the dying candlelight, his eyes were glazed not only from drink, but from tears still left unshed. "...Or join her in whatever oblivion I consigned her to...and I hate her for what she's made me." Avon hung his head and sobbed, his drink wobbling precariously in a trembling hand.

Tarrant reached over and, sympathetically, placed an unsteady hand on Avon's shoulder. He didn't consider the possible consequences of such a bold action. They were beyond that now. He whispered, "I understand, Avon...truly." Avon's shoulders were shaking perceptibly now as he wept silently, and Tarrant was becoming desperately uncomfortable, despite the drink and his own vulnerabilities. Deeta's "practical" lessons, and Tarrant's own techniques for recovery, were assailing him. Avon needed succor, desperately, but he also needed to go on, a reason to live. A distraction, a catharsis. But Tarrant's liquor—fogged brain was at a loss. Until he spotted the innocuous disposal unit on the far wall of Avon's cabin. Tarrant abruptly disengaged himself from his chair and staggered over to the unit and pulled the handle to open it wide. He looked back at Avon, who had composed himself and was silently watching him.

"Things can't be so bad, Tarrant, that you're considering throwing yourself into the disposal chute," Avon drawled, sounding so much like his usual sardonic self that Tarrant was very nearly startled into sobriety. The very idea of Avon's laconic suggestion did, however, cause Tarrant to burst into laughter.

"Target practice is what I had in mind, actually," Tarrant said as he returned to his perch nest to Avon's bed. Avon wiped his eyes with the palm of his hand, poignantly reminiscent of how a small child would rid himself of the evidence of tears, and with considerable self control and genuine curiosity, said, "Enlighten me, Tarrant."

Tarrant smiled crookedly and picked up his half-empty glass, gulped the contents, and proceeded to toss the glass at the disposal from across the cabin. The resounding crash of glass against Liberator's herculaneum—enforced hull was deafening. Tarrant, of course, had missed his target and the shattered remains of his glass scattered across the floor of Avon's room.

"Well," Tarrant sniffed, "that was meant to be Deeta."

Avon gaped incredulously at the pilot and then at the bulkhead. "Which was he, the glass or the wall?"

Tarrant's mouth formed a large "O" as he looked at Avon in acute embarrassment and said, "The glass, actually."

Avon smiled wolfishly (or as wolfishly as he could manage under the influence of so much fine Cetian brandy) and benevolently slapped Tarrant's back rather hard. "Good man. Smashed the hell out of him!" Avon then picked up his own glass and lobbed it forcefully in the general direction of the disposal unit, nicking the edge, but it was ultimately and miraculously swallowed with a thud, and then the satisfying shatter of glass echoed into the bowels of the ship.

"That was Anna!" Avon enthused for a moment, and then gazed at Tarrant in desperation. "I need...to let her go," he said sadly, but with certain conviction.

Tarrant nodded vacantly, but wasn't going to be outdone. He got up and wandered over to Avon's drinks cabinet to remove a few more glasses. Before Avon could open his mouth, Tarrant viciously pitched one into the chute, not missing his mark this time. "That...was Jarvik!" Tarrant virtually yelled as the crystal shattered distantly. He handed a glass to Avon, who turned the fine crystal over in his hands. He seemed to think for a moment and swiftly volleyed the glass toward the chute. It shattered on the bulkhead. The force and angle of the collision caused a shower of shards to rain closely to both men.

"That," Avon said with some surprise, "was Servalan." He gingerly picked up a shard that had landed on the bed and tossed it to the floor with the remains of the ruined crystal. A thin stream of blood welled up on his hand from the jagged cut and Avon gazed at the spreading crimson fluid. A few drops already spattered the coverlet with small dark rosettes. "Just the mention of that viper's name draws blood," Avon said quietly and sadly.

Tarrant bent over to pick up a shard and kicked the rest of the glass into a corner. He turned it over and over in one hand. The crystal seemed to swallow the meager light of sputtering candles and the incandescence reflected from the strange material permeating the bulkheads. Everything seemed suspended in this one fragment, all the light, the pain, the silence. The cabin itself shimmered with suspense and tension, all focused on a thin slice of glass. It seemed to Tarrant that a thousand years passed by him and through the shard and back again. With casual ease, he pressed the glass to his palm until his blood obliterated the hypnotic light and he returned to the now of his presence on the Liberator and his attendance at Avon's living wake. Tarrant looked up to see Avon hovering unsteadily over him with an expression as brittle as the crystal impaling his hand, his deep brown eyes reflecting another nuance that Tarrant had never noticed before -- need.

The pilot stood and, very deliberately, pressed his own bloodied palm to Avon's, an interpretation of and response to his companion's need. Blood mingled, time stood still, and then there was something entirely new between them, something electric, but as familiar and comforting as choosing just the right word at the right time. It was as if something lost for too long was unexpectedly dropped at one's feet. No explanations were necessary because the sheer delight of the discovery obliterated all sense of loss. It was a sense of coming home, a perfect harmonic played on a violin. Too sweet for words, it shattered and filled the soul. Tarrant's mind groped for analogies as Avon's blood washed over his own.

"What now?" Avon whispered as if flame had lodged in his throat. His voice had such a raw quality, Tarrant thought. Avon's lips were parted very slightly, very vulnerably. The fragile light created deep shadows on the planes of Avon's fine features and melancholy created such an illusion of softness that Tarrant was compelled to touch Avon's cheek lightly. Seemingly of its own volition, Tarrant's hand trailed down Avon's throat to the pulse point.

Avon was perfectly still as Tarrant touched him. The intimacy of the moment, the tenderness, lacerated him viscerally. His emotions were so friable that he closed his eyes and leaned into Tarrant's caress. "This," Tarrant answered Avon's question and softly brushed Avon's lips with his own. Avon's hand tightened its grip on Tarrant's, more blood mingled as Avon stroked the pilot's palm and fingers in a sensuous massage. Tarrant could feel the rapid pulse in Avon's throat as he dared to deepen the kiss. Avon's lips parted fully and their tongues began the same dance as their fingers.

Avon pulled the pilot down to the bed, his lips and tongue having moved from Tarrant's lips to his throat. Avon's groin was pinioned against Tarrant's and he began a slow pumping motion. His unbloodied hand stroked and kneaded Tarrant's buttocks until Tarrant's motions synchronized with his own. Breathing became nearly superfluous as both men began stroking each other's clothed bodies, careless of blood and dignity.

The tenderness of a few moments ago became ignited by a desire so heated and powerful that Tarrant found himself tearing at Avon's clothing. The tech's eyes were glazed with passion and seduction, inviting Tarrant to strip him right down to his soul. It was fortunate that Avon was wearing a loose soft tunic and trousers in place of his normal leather armor. Tarrant, in his ardor, virtually ripped the tunic from Avon's shoulders, revealing a slender, but well—muscled chest. Avon's arms were flung over his head and his smile was the most seductive thing that Tarrant had ever seen. Avon sensuously lifted his hips for Tarrant to undo the trousers and pull them off, leaving only Avon's briefs. Avon's erection was all too evident and Tarrant softly caressed it through the thin material. Avon's hips thrust into Tarrant's hands and the pilot reached inside to stroke the shaft that was aching for release. With a sultry smile to match Avon's, Tarrant bent to suck Avon's nipples as his hands worked magic on Avon's penis and testicles with slow languid strokes. Tarrant could feel the tech's trembling muscles, the control which just barely held his climax in check, as he licked his way down Avon's torso to his groin.

Avon felt any control that he had slipping as Tarrant's tongue grazed his chest. This was madness, but a madness so erotic and pleasurable that he could lie like this forever, allowing Tarrant to meld his synapses into ecstatic oblivion. Missing was the pleasure of Tarrant's flesh on his own. Avon gathered all his reserves and grasped Tarrant's hands and head as the pilot's tongue approached Avon's nexus of pleasure, startling Tarrant into stunned stasis. "Strip, Tarrant, or I'll do it for you," Avon managed to rasp, quite aware of his own physical desperation, but unwilling to meet his partner on unequal ground.

 


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