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By Charlotte Kelly
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"What are you doing?"

Avon lifted his head to stare at Blake with irritation in his eyes. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

"A new experiment."

"Let's leave it at that, shall we?"

Avon resumed his work on the object without another glance at his leader. Blake walked around the flight deck, arranging little unimportant things and checking systems that had already been checked two hours ago. The sounds and sheer unrest almost drove Avon insane. * What the hell does the man want anyway? * After ten minutes of this continued behaviour, he had enough and put down his laser probe again. He turned around to find Blake staring at him.

"What do you want, Blake? Because it is becoming painfully obvious that something is bothering you and since you find it necessary to irritate me with it, I can only conclude that this problem has something to do with me."

Blake didn't answer him at first, but he came closer. "Not directly, no."

"Then why do you insist on being more annoying than usual?"

Blake let out a sigh and sat down on the couch. He actually looked kind of lost.

* What is going on here? *

Because Blake had sat down, Avon stood up from his crouched position to stand before him. The man could not do anything else but look up at him. When he didn't, it put another brick onto Avon's wall of frustration.

"Blake. Tell me and stop behaving like a psychopath who has lost his psychopathic tendencies."

"I don't like to be controlled, Avon." It came out softly, but he heard it all right.

"* Nobody * likes to be controlled, Blake. What has that got to do with anything?"



"Yes, you." This time Blake did look up, but after a moment of hesitation, he stood and left the flight deck in steady, fast strides. Avon did not go back to his experiment. Not when his pet project was acting up again.

The following day was not any different. Blake was moody, fidgety and sulking. The good thing was that no lunatic plans were conceived; the bad thing was that it did get on everybody's nerves. It seemed that they all preferred Blake to be fanatical and passionate, not depressed and burned out.

"Avon, this is getting ridiculous. Blake has gone from one extreme attitude to another." Jenna was always very straightforward. Sometimes she even had a useful thing to say. But then again, those occasions were rare.

"And what exactly am I supposed to do about it? Apart from shoving Fearless Leader out of an airlock?"

Now Cally chose to intervene. "This could be a remnant from the indoctrination, nightmares, and programmed conditioning this last incident involving LeGrand brought back."

"It could be." Avon started to walk and think about the possibilities. It would be wise to find out what the problem was, of course, lest they would end up on another asteroid or something more dangerous this time. He felt Cally come to stand behind him.

"I have tried to talk to him, Avon, but he won't say what is wrong."

"I have done the same."

"You haven't tried. You only aggravate him."

Avon gave a small smile and turned towards her. "Well now, it could just be that he is more easy to aggravate than to talk to."

Cally didn't answer, but walked away in Jenna's direction, Jenna, who stood glaring at him with her hands crossed over her chest. She didn't like him much; not that he cared, of course. Then Cally looked into his eyes and he could hear her voice in his head. // Talk to him, Avon. I don't know what to do, and this is affecting us all. //

"I don't like the liberties you are taking, Cally. If you have something to say, say it out loud, but stay out of my head."

He turned and left the flight deck. If he was the chosen one to put some sense into Blake, however improbable that sounded, why not? As long as it would serve his purpose.

The door to Blake's cabin was closed and somehow Avon had the feeling that opening it would prove difficult at any rate. Damn the man anyway. He pressed the door chime and responded to Blake's short answer. The door slid open to reveal a very dark room. "Do you have some light in here, Blake? I do not intend to end my life by breaking my neck in your quarters."

"Yes, that would be rather uncomfortable for you, wouldn't it?"

Nothing happened.

With an irritable sigh, Avon stepped into the room, careful not to trip over anything and told the computer the required light setting. Illumination came and was soft, making large shadows on the wall. Blake just sat in a chair and looked at him with weary eyes.

"Blake, I find this display of self pity rather annoying and disgusting. Do something about it, or if you can't, ask Cally for a brain transplant. Maybe that would prove the cure." The moment he had said it, he regretted it, for the look on Blake's face said he had hurt him. He carefully schooled his features so Blake wouldn't catch on.

"I do not * care, * Avon. Leave me alone."

"So you can sulk alone? You don't want that." He slowly walked towards the man in the chair.

"Yes, I do. I have made my wishes perfectly clear. Now get out." A command without fire.

* Liar. * "You love people, you want companionship, you want to share." Disgusting habits as they were.

This time some of Blake's fire returned. "Get out of my room!"

"It's the conditioning, isn't it? Are you afraid of it? Or do you regret the fact that it has proven you cannot be trusted? " That, after all, was the logical conclusion. He had to say it since nobody else did.

Blake was up in a fraction of a second, defiance shining in his eyes, standing inches away from Avon. The angry lion was showing.

"You liked that, didn't you, Avon? Seeing me helpless, making a fool out of myself."

"No more than usual, Blake. And, no, I didn't like it at all." He sounded more strongly than he wanted to. Strange how these confrontations with Blake affected him.

"I don't believe you."

"That is nothing new, is it? Sit down, Blake, before you have a stroke."

Blake's face set in a grim fashion. Most likely he was biting back some remark. "I didn't realise you cared, Avon."

Avon put his hand on Blake's shoulder and pushed him down in his chair, while following him at an arm's length and putting his other hand on the chair's armrest. "I don't care, but if something should happen to you, well, let's just say that I haven't gathered enough support yet."

"That is a weak excuse even by your standards, Avon."

* That was rather amusing, Blake, but you are not going to succeed in this evading game. * "I do not have to use excuses, Blake. I don't make mistakes."

Blake cocked his head, bringing his face closer to Avon's. It was at times like this that Avon felt ... something. "Coming here is a rational decision then, Avon ?"

"If that's what you like to think."

Abruptly Avon let go of Blake and the chair. It was getting too unnerving, though it wouldn't do to let Blake know that. He turned and pretended to look around Blake's cabin. "Let me put this simply enough for you to understand, Blake. Either you tell me or Cally what is wrong with you, or you stop sulking."

"And I told you to leave. I do not want to talk. It is not as if you care or understand."

Avon whirled around on his feet. "Then * make * me understand, damn you! I am tired of your manipulations, Blake. One day you wallow in self-pity, the other day you expect us to risk our lives for you. You want to save millions, you want to destroy the Federation, you want to a be * good * man. Well, that is all wonderful Blake, but do not expect our * dying * support on doing that."

Angrier than he should be, Avon stalked towards the door of Blake's cabin until he was stopped.

"Avon, wait. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your or anyone else's feelings. I do care about all of you."

Avon turned around again to blandly stare Blake in the eyes. "You do the caring, I do the taking. As long as you realise that I can do the taking any place else."

Blake nodded his head as if he was acknowledging Avon's threat, which wasn't really a threat at all. They both knew that. Avon continued, "Now, for the last time, what is going on?"

Blake seemed to be contemplating his options and brought his hand to his mouth, a character trait that Avon found highly disturbing, but tried to ignore. "Please sit down, Avon."

* Well now, let the counselling begin. * Avon sat down on the bed Blake had slept in not so long ago.

"You were right. I am more than a little bit disturbed about the things that have happened to me these last few days. It's just that I hoped that maybe I would regain a little bit more of myself. But I haven't, Avon. I still have nothing but our fight."

"In other words, you are wallowing in self-pity again."

Blake didn't seem to hear him and continued. "I can deal with it, I have for such a long time, but I realised that I have forgotten more things than just my past. I have forgotten little things, simple things. Oh, I can laugh with the others and maybe play a little game or two with you, but ...."

* Isn't that the truth. * Avon let out an involuntary shudder. Was it cold in here?

"I wonder, Avon, do you know what pleasure is like? What defines it? What it is? Do you still experience it, or are you as pathetic as I am?"

Avon gave an unfriendly smile. "Well now, we both know that you are the more pathetic individual of the two of us." He softened a bit and raised an eyebrow. "I am not quite sure what kind of pleasure you are talking about."

That seemingly frustrated Blake. "Anything, man! Pleasure, what more do you want to know?"

"Pleasure can come in many ways, Blake. The moment you snap Servalan's neck or shoot Travis to hell, a night of fun and games at a grand spaceport, a quiet night with a pet project or ... a night of passion with a beloved." Avon's last example had come out barely audible. It was just his luck Blake was there to see this rare weakness." God, how he despised the man!

Blake was looking intently at him now; the almost desperate look had turned into something else. "What would you consider ultimate pleasure, Avon? Killing Servalan or a night of passion with a ... beloved? You can only kill her once. Passion can be shared over and over again."

Avon averted his eyes from Blake's face. "You are wrong, Blake. I would be able to replay the moment of Servalan's death in my mind, while passion can only turn into something deadly itself. It usually is disappointing, to say the least. Something that you will ultimately lose, and then your pleasure will become the opposite of what you wanted to achieve. Why count on something as complicated as that when it all can be so ... poetically simple?"

He could hear Blake while he moved towards Avon now and sat in front of him on his haunches, clothing flowing around him as if he were some priest from the past. What was it with this man that fascinated him so? Why was he being drawn into yet another death trap, which was doubly dangerous since it concerned Blake personally?

"Avon, why is it so hard to find pleasure in passion? Why do so many people in this universe find it hard to show it, share it, experience it?"

"Because it is also the most lethal of emotions Blake. Love kills."

"I never mentioned love, Avon."

And there you had it. Avon looked into the other man's face in shock and started to get up, to get out of Blake's reach. The man was insane, let Cally deal with him.

"Avon. Wait."

The offending hands held him by the arm. Strong and unwavering. He wondered how they would feel -- No, that wouldn't do. He stared menacingly into Blake's eyes. "If you do not let go immediately, Blake, you won't be able to experience * passion * in that way ever again."

Blake let one of his hands drop, but the other, although hardly touching, remained where it was. "What are you afraid of, Avon? We are just discussing a problem, remember? If you're not up to it, however -- "

"Of course, I am up to it, Blake," he hissed. "That is the problem, isn't it?" He tore himself loose from Blake's grip and moved out of the cabin, off to his own quarters to suffer in silence.

When he reached his relative safe haven, he remembered what Blake had said. He had told Blake that, of course, nobody liked to be controlled and exactly what that had got to do with it all. Blake had answered simply, "You."

* You. * It couldn't be, not that. Anything but that. Avon was close to banging his head into the wall but decided against it since it wouldn't be a smart thing to do, considering he was planning on using it against the worst possible threat he had in a long time.

As predicted, the door chimed. "Who is it?" He already knew the answer.

"Blake. May I please come in?"

"We have said all there is to say, Blake."

"If I have offended you, then I apologise, but I think you have said all. I didn't get a very big chance."

Avon moved to the door and opened it. He was angry and knew it showed. "Say it quickly, Blake."

"Out here in the corridor, where everybody can see us?"

"Fine, but if I want you to leave, you * will * leave, Blake."

Blake nodded in consent, not that Avon believed him. * Then why do I let him in? *

Walking in, Blake gave him one of * those * looks again. The ones that turned his skin cold and set his heart afire. He needed to get rid of this man fast. "Now you are in my cabin, Blake. Does this satisfy you?"

Blake turned around, after surveying Avon's desk. "No, it doesn't. Show me that I am alive, Avon. Show me pleasure. You're the only who can."

For a moment, Avon didn't know what to say or do. The nerve of this man to even suggest such a thing. But he knew that this was exactly what both of them had been dancing around for months now. What was so wrong about Blake having said it? That * he * was the one who had said it, of course. Damn him!

Balling his fists, Avon stared defiantly into Blake's eyes. "I do not sleep or have sex with people I do not like, Blake."

A smile, one that Avon didn't like, crept up Blake's lips. "I didn't mention sex or sleeping now, did I?"

Avon felt his resolve crumble. "Damn you, Blake."

"Don't worry, Avon, I was damned a long time ago. Now, do you want to help me, or shall I continue to sulk?"

Blake was actually playful about it. * The gall of the man! * Parts of Avon's body were certainly responding to the challenge, no matter what he really wanted. Avon let out a frustrated groan, locked the door and faced the object of his new-found ... pleasure. "I'll help you, Blake, but if this ever gets out, I swear I'll kill you."

"I am counting on it," he replied, smiling warmly.

"Lay down on the bed."

"I would love to."

Love in more than one way. It always leads to one inevitable outcome.

Avon showed Blake pleasure, in more ways than one. They rode a tidal wave of joys and laughter, which conceived all that they wished for. However, it didn't prove to be the cure. It proved to be damnation.

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Charlotte Kelly

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