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By Paula
Page 2 of 7

      When Avon went to the rest room in search of his meal he encountered Blake eating lunch alone and programmed a tray which he carried over to join the rebel.

      "Blake," he said by way of greeting.

      "Hello, Avon. Watch over?"

      When Avon responded by dipping his head in response to a question he thought unnecessary, Blake smiled. "I wonder if I could borrow you for a time when you've finished eating. The computer interface in my room is acting up. Jabberwocky says it needs some replacement components."

      "And of course such work is beyond you?" Avon said wryly. "Or is it that if I'm up to my elbows in your computer I'll be a captive audience for a preview of your new speech?"

      Blake grinned. "Well, perhaps that's a part of it, but you are our computer expert, after all. Come along and earn your pay."

      "Pay?" Avon said with a dry smile. "I admit I would value some pay, should any come my way. However, think of this: I am quite likely to be brutally honest with you about your speech. Are you certain you are up to it?"

      "I always have been," Blake replied. "You've always been the one to keep me honest, Avon. You told me the truth when other people tried to placate me with lies. You pointed out every single one of my follies and foibles. With a friend like you..."

      "Who requires enemies?" Avon concluded, amused. At times like this, he enjoyed Blake's company very much, though it was never wise to tell him so.

      Blake's grin widened as if he knew exactly what Avon was thinking. "Precisely. So will you come and listen to my speech?"

      "If I must, I must," Avon replied and resigned himself to an hour of total boredom.

      Blake began the speech the minute Avon walked into his cabin, before he even had the casing off the outlet. With a sigh, Avon told himself he could always pretend to listen while he concentrated on the schematics and data boards before him. Yet as he activated the screen and called for a list of the damages, half his mind was on his work and the other half on Blake. The rebel leader started slowly, collecting himself and his thoughts, but it took very little to bring his crusading zeal to the fore. Avon half-expected him to start with humour, to cajole his audience into listening, but Blake didn't do that. Instead, he started low, making the audience - Avon - work for his every word. The tech recognised the strategy for what it was, but Blake was good at it, his voice golden as he coaxed his one-man audience into paying attention, into anticipating the next word. Though Avon was more a rebel through proximity than throughany deep and burning commitment to the Cause, he found himself hanging on Blake's words, and he could imagine the audience tomorrow night erupting into cheers again and again. Yet it wouldn't do to show Blake how moving his speech was. Avon was even better than Blake at making his audience work for it, so he bent his head over the damaged data board, tracing the damaged circuits with a probe, pretending boredom and a complete lack of interest, making Blake's voice strengthen with new purpose.

      Even as his fingers and eyes traced the damage and speculated whether it would be better to install a whole new board or to repair this one, his ears were Blake's, as the rousing and compelling words worked their magic. Avon closed his eyes, allowing himself a moment of sheer pleasure at the sound of Blake in full cry. Though he would never admit it to the other man, a part of him awakened to this side of Blake, even at first when he had wanted nothing less than to be drawn to someone so likely to get him killed. A long time ago, Jenna had been drawn to the man who still had the power to dream, and though Avon had fought the pull far longer and more successfully than Jenna had, he too had been compelled by the dreamer. For a time, Blake had toppled from the pedestal upon which Avon had unwittingly placed him, but Blake was back, and the pedestal still stood.

      A flood of sudden warmth ran through Avon, surprising him in its intensity. He was not given to moments of sheer sentiment, but there it was. Blake was special, and Avon had not been able to deny it for some time. What startled him now was the strength of the affection he could not hold back. He looked at Blake and listened to Blake, and Blake's eyes gleamed as he realised he had caught his audience.

      The rebel plunged on with even greater zeal, moving closer involuntarily, wooing his audience still further, his eyes and Avon's locked together. Avon had seen the technique with other speakers at different times, the sense that the words were special and designed for him alone, but if Blake thought to win him to the Cause that way, he was wrong. Avon wasn't hearing the words. He couldn't have told anyone what Blake was saying. He could have been reciting an engineering text or the list of the Federation's Top Ten Wanted Criminals for all Avon knew. He let the words flow over him and his eyes never left Blake's. The room crackled with intensity.

      Blake was within touching distance now, his face aflame with earnest drive, with triumph, with sheer delight. Avon reacted to it, his whole body aware of Blake. A voice in his head said, Yes, yes, yes, though he didn't understand what it was in reaction to. The data board slid from his fingers as he forgot he was holding it and even when it clattered to the floor unheeded, he didn't reach after it. Blake saw it go and his smile widened but Avon scarcely registered it.

      He leaned closer to Blake, as the speech built to a climactic moment, putting out a hand. In his mind, he felt flesh beneath his fingers, arching up into the touch, and suddenly Avon's whole body was alive with sexual arousal. It burst into his consciousness, drowning out everything but himself and Blake, and it was as if they were together, touching each other, mouths catching and clinging, tongues exploring, bodies pressing against each other, as vivid in Avon's mind as if it were actually happening. He was momentarily stunned, so great was his desire to take one quick step, gather Blake into his arms and make love to him.

      Blake's voice was so hypnotic, so compelling as he made whatever point the speech required, and Blake's hand clasped his when Avon reached out. He wasn't sure if Blake believed he'd sold Avon on the Cause or if the rebel was even aware of the heightened tension in the room, but perhaps it was the latter because his voice ran down, his eyes widened and he said, "Avon?" in a questioning voice as if he found himself confronting a stranger.

      The voices in Avon's head were louder now, driving him on, making his fingers tighten over Blake's, his thumb slide caressingly over the back of Blake's hand. He said, "Blake!" in an urgent cry and pulled the other man against him. Blake came, startled but not unwilling, and did not resist when Avon groaned and kissed him with fierce fury as if only ferocity could compensate him for the burning need that had sprung into being full blown from nowhere.

      For that first startled instant, Blake didn't respond at all, then, suddenly, his mouth opened beneath Avon's and he returned the kiss as if he had been starving for it all his life. The two men tightened their hold on each other as if they could meld and become one person, and in Avon's mind he could hear a burst of triumphant passion, urging him on. Don't stop, the voice pleaded. Don't ever stop.

      Avon had become incapable of stopping. His fingers fumbled with the opening of Blake's shirt, desperate to touch the bare flesh beneath, hungry to be touched in return, to feel for real the ghost touches that were filling his mind with need. "Damn it, Blake..." he groaned.

      "Avon, Avon," said Blake incoherently but Avon's meaning must have been transmitted somehow - telepathically? - because Blake already had Avon's tunic off and was working on his shirt. His fingers slid up underneath the material, hands splayed against Avon's chest, fingertips toying with the nipples. Avon's breath caught because the reality was far better than the ghost images in his mind, and he burnt with flame wherever Blake touched him. When the heat of Blake's fingers opened his trousers and moved inside, Avon was already painfully erect and he pushed his hips forward to meet the touch as Blake stroked him, first light and teasing, then encircling him and pumping hard. Avon almost came right then, but Blake took his hand away as Avon copied the motion. They paused a moment to kick off shoes and trousers, then they were on Blake's bed. Avon had one frivolous thought, that it was a good thing Blake hadn't made his speech on the flight deck, then he was lost to everything but the fierce pleasure Blake was giving him.

      A distant part of Avon's mind, one he was incapable of listening to, was confused, wondering blankly how he had come to this, but the rest of him, a part he had long denied and never consciously admitted until this moment, was glad. The voices were still there, still inside him, still urging him on, but they were distant now, not as important as the reality.

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