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You only Had to Ask

By Hades
Page 1 of 1

They worked well together. Drive maintenance was a complex and messy job; but they established a routine, a language of unspoken communications, each anticipating the other's needs.

        Tarrant chuckled. Avon looked quite sweet, with smudges of oil on his face. Perhaps he would help him clean up - or at least see if his maternal instinct produced the irritation he anticipated.

        'Come here, Avon.'

        Tarrant produced a slightly tattered rag, which used to be a handkerchief, from his trouser pocket. It was warm, a little grubby, but it would suffice. He touched it to Avon's face, intending to be practical, efficient. But for some reason...

        For some reason he didn't understand, his hand would not move with speed, instead lingering, enjoying the plump flesh giving under his fingertips. Avon's eyes were closed - not tightly, not uncomfortably, just closed. Tarrant found himself wondering, how long since he has been touched with tenderness, not anger? Were... were Avon's lips parting, just a little? Or was that Tarrant willing it to be so? Abruptly, Avon seemed to catch himself, perhaps before a fall; he took hold of Tarrant's wrist, pulled it a fraction away, just enough to break contact. 'Thank you.' But the job was unfinished... in Tarrant's opinion.

        Avon moved gently, a pristine white square of the softest, coolest cotton gently stroking away the smears from Tarrant's cheek; a stroke, or a caress. Avon moved so slowly, so precisely; it was practically an invitation. A translucent, perfectly blue veined wrist presented itself, too great a temptation to resist. Tarrant checked Avon's face carefully; neither encouragement nor resistance. His head turned slightly, his lips moving dangerously close, all the while holding Avon's gaze...

        His mouth opened and lips brushed against the fragile skin, felt the faint pulse of rapidly moving blood; travelled higher so that his teeth could bite delicately into the fleshy palm; just once, one foray into dangerous territory.

        Tarrant, this is ridiculous. This is suicide.

        Avon gave no clues. But he hasn't said no...

        Avon only watched, betraying no emotion. He's scared that he wants this. Or that he doesn't, but can't bring himself to stop me.

        Tarrant took Avon's hand in his own palm, clammy with the anticipation, the tension; this time biting down harder, sucking the skin between his teeth, his mouth opening wider to take in more, taste more.

        Avon.. not snatched, no, but withdrew his hand slowly, wiped it dry on the handkerchief.

        'Avon.' Avon was cleaning and packing the equipment. Nothing had happened. Nothing at all.

        'Avon. Is it too soon?' Surely he wouldn't ignore a direct question.

        'No. I know now, Anna was dead long before I killed her.' He opened the tool chest. 'You thought I couldn't say the name?'

        'No. You never having a problem expressing yourself if you choose to. But... I didn't mean Anna.'

        Ah. That topic was apparently not open for discussion. Unless.. unless he could force it, a little.

        'Vila says I look like him.'

        'Does he now.' Avon slid the laser probe into its housing. 'Vila has a somewhat unreliable memory.'

        Tarrant caught Avon's hand as it reached for the wire cutters. 'Then what?'

        'Is it so improbable that I should find you unattractive, Tarrant? Perhaps. Perhaps, with your youth and charm, you encounter few refusals.'

        'I see.'

        I don't. But I will.

####

        Avon discovered Tarrant alone on the flight deck, calling up pictures of Blake. Seen side by side... yes. There was a resemblance.

        Avon answered the unspoken question. 'Of course I lied. It would do neither of us any good to be aware of your physical resemblance to my former..' What could he call him? Partner? Friend?

        'Lover,' completed Tarrant.

        'If you will. The word does not convey the nature of our relationship.'

        Avon studied the images with a great sadness. Sometimes he could forget the loss; deceive himself into forgetting.

        'It is only a passing, physical similarity, Tarrant. Something in the eyes, perhaps the mouth a little.. the hair. Nothing more. You are taller, more slender..'

        'Younger.'

        Avon poured two glasses of soma, sat next to Tarrant and handed over one. 'Yes. Younger.' Avon drank, almost half the glass. 'May and December, Tarrant. I do not wish to be reminded.'

        'Of imperfection?'

        'Remind me not to assign you to any missions requiring tact or sensitivity.'

        Tarrant sat his glass on the table, and took a deep breath. He couldn't explain. On each occasion he tried, he failed.

        With one movement he lifted and removed his jersey, tugging to free his head. As he peeled the sleeves off, he heard Avon gasp. They all did that; he no longer knew why he hoped for anything else.

        It had taken Tarrant many months to be able to look at the ruins of his body. His stomach was a mass of scars, some inches long, some raised pads of tissue, some cut deep into the skin. Old scars, many years old. See, Avon? It's just that mine are on the outside, too.

        Avon's expression was revulsion; pity. Angry disappointment rose in Tarrant.

        'I don't want your sympathy, Avon.' He threw the jersey at him. 'I thought you, of all people, would see beyond the physical. I was wrong. I'm sorry. Sorry for you.'

####

        Avon, of course, went to him. Had to go to him. Tarrant's door was locked, but he decoded it easily.

        Tarrant lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He had put on a pale tunic.

        'I brought you this back.' He placed Tarrant's now neatly folded jersey on the desk, before sitting on the edge of the mattress.

        'I'm sorry for your injuries. And my reaction. I was less than subtle, I admit. It was a shock to me.'

        Tarrant seemed to defrost a little.

        'You do see, Tarrant, that it would be quite impossible. We live together, work together.'

        'Unlike you and Blake.' He saw the stab of pain Avon fought back.

        'That was.. that was quite different.'

        'How? No, really. Explain to me. I want to understand.'

        'Tarrant, if I could, I would. I almost died for him. I may die because of him. Please, I... believe me, I am very... fond of you.' He shook his head. There would never be the words.

        'You have to give yourself a chance Avon. A chance of happiness, you can't just shut yourself off.'

        'Can't I?'

        The door closed silently behind him.

####

        Avon sat up late, playing the pictures one after another, silently mourning, his sorrow deepening. Hours later, Cally found him asleep where he sat.

        She left, patched through from the corridor to let him know she would be late on shift.

        Giving him time to conceal the evidence.

####

        More and more, Avon worked alone, and at night. Tarrant grew deeply concerned.

        He was fine before. I unlocked something. Maybe it was best left alone. Maybe sometimes the best solution is to do nothing.

        Let me find a way to help him, before his morbid sentimentality kills us all.

        Before he kills himself.

####

        After Terminal, it was clear what had to be done. There was, really, only one thing. He instructed Orac to begin investigations; to search out Blake. To know the truth, once and for all.

        'And Orac, when you present your findings, say nothing of my request.'

        Because I cannot compete with a ghost.

        Because he cannot ask for himself.

####


THE END


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