For Pity's SakeBy Julia Stamford
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"This is boring," Kerr Avon remarked.|
Roj Blake turned to look at his reluctant companion. "Complaining about being bored? I'd have thought you'd appreciate a nice, simple mission with nobody trying to kill you."
"Precisely. It was an expression of pleasure, Blake, not a complaint." Avon stretched his arms and legs before settling back against the rockface. "For once, no one is trying to kill me. You are not nagging me to do anything. We have teleported down to a meeting point in an open area that for once has a pleasant climate, has nothing dangerous by way of fauna and flora," Avon picked up a pebble and tossed it at the nearest large plant, which did nothing by way of retaliation, "and is not situated in an abandoned quarry."
"It is rather pleasant," Blake said, tossing a pebble of his own. "Although I wouldn't bet on it not being an abandoned quarry." He'd seen markings on the rockface behind them that suggested that the rock had been drilled for explosive charges at some time. A long time ago, though, going by the erosion on the marks.
"What is this fascination rebels have with quarries?" Avon asked.
"They're generally situated in holes in the ground. Difficult to monitor electronically." Blake admired the view. This particular putative quarry wasn't a hole in the ground; rather it was what had probably once been a natural rockface at the edge of a gently undulating plain, facing in the direction of a truly magnificent sunset. A pleasant enough place to wait for an indeterminate time.
"Ah," was all Avon said in reply.
"You didn't have much experience with the great outdoors before taking up with me, did you?" he asked.
"You seem to enjoy it well enough now."
"When it isn't trying to kill me in one fashion or another." Avon reached for the tendril of creeper that dangled near his shoulder, gently stroked one of the pretty blue flowers lining the stem before breathing in the scent released by the pressure of his fingertip. "Zen is programmed to vary the environment to provide stimulation, but we do suffer mild sensory deprivation when confined to the ship for long periods." He yawned heavily. "I would beg your pardon, but it was your idea to drag me down here during what should have been my sleep shift."
Blake chuckled. "No you wouldn't. It just makes a convenient excuse to complain. You'd have complained a good deal louder if I'd left you behind."
Avon yawned again and grinned at him. "Not as loudly as you would have, had I refused to come. Your mystery friends were rather insistent that they needed my help."
"Your reputation as a tamer of computers precedes you." Although why the devil the Demetrians couldn't have explained what they wanted Avon for, or given a more accurate time for a meeting....
"My reputation as an ogre apparently does not. They expect us to wait for a period of up to twelve hours, until such time as they choose to meet us?" Avon commented.
"At least it's a pleasant enough place to wait. Even you agree about that."
"Pleasant, but getting dark. I am having trouble staying awake without full daylight to convince my body clock of the local time."
Blake glanced at Avon. The man looked tired, and no wonder. He'd been on night watch the last few days, and this was well into what would have been his sleep period. Blake wouldn't have asked him to come, if not for the Demetrians' urgent insistence on Avon's presence, and his belief that the break would do Avon good. "Then don't try to. You were planning on sleeping down here if we had to wait long." He waved an arm in the direction of Avon's pile of sleeping gear. "Have a nap. I'll keep watch."
"You don't believe this planet's quite that harmless, then?" Avon reached for the sleeping pad he'd brought with him, touched the control pad to inflate it. "It's outside Federation territory, but not that far outside." Avon laid out the pad with the length running along the rockface, and Blake wondered if it was an intentional defensive arrangement, with the rock at Avon's back. Pad arranged to Avon's satisfaction, he dropped a pillow near one end, lay down, and pulled a blanket over himself.
"It doesn't hurt to be careful," Blake said.
"So why didn't we wait on the ship?"
"And pass up the chance for some sensory stimulation? Have you decided you want to complain after all?"
Avon laughed. "No. It's pleasant enough, even if I have to sleep through it." Then there was silence.
Blake watched the last of the sunset fade from the sky, streamers of deepest crimson staining the blue-black long after the sun had dipped below the horizon. The rock beneath him had retained the heat of the sun for some while, but was growing cool now. He hadn't thought to bring a mattress pad for himself. He'd never needed one just for sitting on during the evenings he'd spent outdoors on Exbar, but he'd been younger then. And he might be here a good few more hours yet, if their hosts used all of the time slot they'd asked for. He'd be stiff if he sat here all night.
He could call the Liberator, ask for someone to bring equipment down, but he'd feel a bit of a fool. And there'd be the inevitable "Why not stay on the ship, leave a communicator at the rendezvous point?" He didn't really want to explain to the others his need just to be off the ship for a few hours.
Easier by far to simply sit on the pad that Avon was using. There was plenty of room at one end; the pad was large and Avon wasn't that tall.
He stood and picked up the bag with the provisions, dropped it next to the pad within easy reach, and sat down again. He lost his balance slightly, and put out a hand. It landed on the pad next to Avon's head and skidded, knocking the small pillow out of position.
Blake froze, hoping that he hadn't woken Avon.
Too late. Avon opened his eyes, looked up. "What's going on?" he asked in a quiet whisper that wouldn't carry far.
"Just me being clumsy," Blake reassured him. "Go back to sleep."
Avon propped himself up on his elbows, looked around to confirm for himself. Blake shifted along the pad to reach for the pillow lying behind Avon and put it back in place. Avon blinked sleepily at him before lying down again. Only this time, he dropped his head onto Blake's thigh instead of the pillow Blake was still holding.
Blake held his breath. No movement from Avon, just the quiet rise and fall of his chest in the even breathing of sleep. The man obviously hadn't even realized what he'd done before falling asleep again.
Blake let his breath out in a long, quiet sigh. Now what was he to do? If he moved, or tried to dislodge Avon, he'd wake him again, and Avon needed the rest. That had been part of his motivation for dragging Avon down here, somewhere quiet and peaceful with no distracting, exciting technology to tempt the scientist to push his body beyond its limits in his frantic urge to learn as much as possible as fast as possible. And yet he couldn't let Avon stay where he was.
Whatever he did would be wrong. He sighed again, and accepted the situation. All he could do was hope that Avon would move of his own accord before waking.
He pulled the blanket up a bit, settling it back over Avon's shoulders. Once he was satified that Avon would be warm enough, he managed to grab the second blanket from the bag, and shook it out over his own legs, pulling back the portion that would have covered Avon's head. The air was mild, but even so, he'd get cold eventually if he wasn't going to be able to move. Then he leaned back against the rock, stared down at Avon sleeping peacefully in his lap, and wondered how the hell they'd got into this situation. The trip had started so well, with Avon at ease with him, enjoying the break, enjoying the luxury of nothing to do but doze in the sunshine and watch the butterflies dance. It was the first evidence he'd had that Avon understood the concept of relaxation.
Doubtless it was that relaxation that had allowed Avon to drop his guard like this.
Blake couldn't really pin down how long he'd been aware that Avon wanted him. Certainly not on the *London*; Avon's talent for self-preservation would never have allowed a hint that he was--that way inclined--to slip out. It would have been suicide in that situation, even with the suppressants. Somewhere in the weeks aboard the *Liberator* Avon had started to trust him just enough that something had shown. Avon might not even realise that he knew.
Either that, or the poor bastard assumed that he knew but was polite enough to disguise his disgust. Not that he felt any. If Avon liked men as well as women, and he certainly liked women, judging by the way he admired Jenna and Cally, then that was nobody's business except Avon's. Fuck the Federation's mind games, encouraging people to hate one another, encouraging division between those who might otherwise be friends, allies, all in the name of tightening control. One side-effect of the repression that the administration probably hadn't expected--by the time Blake had encountered the concept 'homosexual', he'd been old enough to ask "why *should* I despise someone like that?" rather than simply accepting what he was told, and had not been satisfied with any answer he'd been given.
That was one of the earliest signs of his rebellion that he could remember. Ironic, that they had chosen the lie about assaulting little boys as the way to discredit him on this latest round. Blake wasn't bothered by homosexuality, didn't believe that crap about them all being child molesters, and wasn't in the least bit interested in men himself. He had never acknowledged Avon's attraction simply because it seemed the kindest thing to do.
He looked down at his sleeping friend, gently stroked the silken hair. Avon had made no approach, and it seemed unlikely that he ever would. Too scared of the reaction he might get.
How would he react? Blake had no desire to hurt Avon, even if Avon frequently displayed a desire to hurt him. He couldn't really see himself pulling away in disgust, but he couldn't give Avon anything. He simply wasn't interested. He didn't even have enough prurient curiosity to have wondered overly much about it.
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