One Night StandBy Sebastian and Nova
Page 1 of 52
They had a round table.
Unfortunately, this prompted Avon to point out the similarities between Blake and Arthur. Also the differences.
Well, if no longer unfamiliar after six months, Avon certainly hadn't improved on acquaintance. Blake had stopped thinking that he was shy, perhaps, or uncharacteristically awkward because he was unhappy, someone who would warm up and open out into the best of companions, given time. No, it had become clear by now that Avon was a darkly complex being, perverse by choice, if not by nature.
However, in this nightclub on the neutral planet Nirvana, in a metropolis where they could pass unnoticed among pleasure-seekers largely and determinedly unaffected by the state of the universe, Avon had proved useful, as he so often did. Indeed, indispensability was his only saving grace.
Tonight, he had with him a pass-card which gained them all unconditional admittance to this exclusive place - "Faked," Avon said briefly, in response to Blake's interest - and it seemed a pleasant way of spending an evening, different enough from their usual occupations to divert everyone throroughly from gloom, worry and tension. Which was why they had come, of course.
Blake leaned back in his armchair, stretched out his legs, took a first, appreciative sip of his drink and looked around with lively interest. The room was large and softly lit by bracketed lanterns, hung over dark, luxurious tapestries: a Babylonian-style battle depicted on the one nearest Blake, chariots and shields and longhaired Assyrians. The carpet, a soft blue webbed with dainty silver, was thick and plush underfoot. The seating was supple leather and extremely comfortable. Everything down to the delicate twisted-glass goblets on the table bespoke an unobtrusive opulence which pleased the eye and soothed at the same time. They had been given a good table, reasonably near the bar and right beside the dance floor, which was at present occupied by a girl singer, crooning in sensuous and husky tones. Blake let his eyes dwell on her for a while, then made an assessing sweep over his crew, sitting around the table with him, chairs facing outwards to the arena.
There was Cally. Attired in a long blue robe, she was eye-catchingly pretty, looking around with wide eyes at the richly varied spectrum of humanity on display tonight. She clung closely to their circle of six, leaning very slightly towards them, thin fingers toying with her glass. Next to her, Gan, large and solid in a floor-length black cloak, taking it all in his stride as very slow people do, goodnaturedly sharing a plate of some obtrusively crunchy snack with Vila. Vila himself, very much at home already, neatly and racily dressed in maroon, crimson and grey, eyes bright with expectation.
Jenna, dazzlingly attractive and dressed to kill in a slinky gold outfit which hugged her beautiful figure tightly, her long blonde hair bobbing down her back, her face alight as she made small talk, revelling in this rare chance to be nothing more than a sociable partygoer. Jenna dreamed of elegance and found herself a pirate in real life. A disappointment, to be true, but one she wore with style.
Avon. Aloof. Dressed in something well-cut with a pure silver vee relieving the overall blackness; his hair shining darkly; his eyes faintly hungry. He and Jenna were the two archetypal Alphas of a certain elitism in this party, both possessed of a classic, haughty beauty. Beside Avon, Blake felt pleasantly louche, at ease in a shirt whose sleeves he had rolled up to his elbows, a brown waistcoat swinging loose over all. It was, after all, a night off: a night to set the revolution aside, give a little free air to other preoccupations.
Avon and Jenna. Both of them with that casual arrogance of attitude, the world-is-mine air. Wolves, the pair of them, trusting no-one, taking nothing and no one in good faith.
Good faith! Blake sighed and lifted the glass to his lips. Naturally, various stimulant or tranquillising potions were freely on offer, depending on which area of your psyche needed attention. Blake, for example, was being slowly tranquillised. Avon, on the other hand, had probably taken a stimulant, because he was as sharp as glass and nasty with it. Vila was, no doubt, washing down one with the other.
They were sitting side by side, those two, and enjoying the entertainment. Blake, with half an ear on Jenna, laughed quietly to himself at some of Avon's driest comments concerning the floorshow, his quiet, acid voice intended for Vila, whose replies Blake couldn't hear. Their wit had an easy target. The floorshow was at present something of a talent contest, its participants drawn from the audience. A large woman was singing, her huge breasts wobbling frantically with every extended vibrato.
"Avon's ideal woman." Vila leaned over and addressed Blake solemnly, under cover of a loud and shrill aria by Verdi.
Blake chuckled. "She looks a little large for Avon!"
"That's the whole point," Vila said. "She'd smother him."
Blake turned to look at Avon with some amazement. "Does he like being smothered?"
His voice, to his annoyance, was already faintly slurred. He'd better watch it. The picture of himself, incapable, being helped out on Gan's arm before Avon's sardonic eye, was too unbearable to contemplate.
"Probably not, but at least it would keep him quiet for a while."
Vila slapped him on the shoulder with camaraderie and leaned back. A vision of Avon, his head buried beneath fleshly pink billows, rose to Blake's mind. He smiled involuntarily. You could not imagine Avon indulging in anything so undignified as sex. And yet he must.
Avon was watching him, neat and fresh as a diamond. Avon was always watching, that dark, brooding gaze trained exactingly on him, looking for flaws in his reasoning, a wavering in commitment. Then Avon could sear the gap with corrosive malice and walk away with devil's triumph in his eye.
Blake sighed, feeling the intensity burn between them. Let up, Avon. I'm tired.
"I don't think our fearless leader is enjoying your repartee," Avon remarked. "No doubt his mind is on higher things." He turned his head and said, "Isn't it about time to return to the Liberator, Blake, and plan the next stage of your campaign?"
Blake closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "Already planned."
"Where are we going, Blake?" Jenna asked keenly. Her perfume, a flowery musk, passed his way.
He shushed her, without opening his eyes. "We're not talking business tonight."
"That is the whole point of this," Cally put in seriously. "A complete rest, which we all need very much."
The lady singer, arms flung wide, finished her last, piercing note. As it wobbled to a dying fall, Vila jumped up. He stamped his feet, unabashed, and cheered loudly. "Encore!" A storm of clapping, whistling and shouting broke out. "En - wop!"
Jenna had pulled Vila down, thrusting a hand over his mouth. She was now withdrawing it and wiping it with distaste. "Shut up, Vila. You can't really want her to sing again."
"Why not?" Vila asked, offended.
"Because it's cruel. Seeing too much of our technical adviser, by any chance, Vila?"
Blake smiled secretly to himself. Jenna loathed Avon. Like a lusty weed in the rain, however, Avon seemed only to thrive on her dislike.
"Why cruel?" Avon was wanting to know. "Clearly, her life's desire is to perform before an audience. She can hardly afford to be choosy about their motives in listening. People are much more in control of their own fate than Blake would have us believe."
An argument ensued, which Blake mentally tuned out of, having decided that he rather agreed with Avon. Arguments among the crew were commonplace. Thrown together by circumstance, his little band were close only in the lion-pride sense that they presented a united front to outsiders. Within the group, they scrapped and snarled and slapped each other down with unsheathed claws.
The floor area was being cleared and men in overalls were setting up sound equipment. Dancing, it seemed, was next on the agenda. The table next to theirs was full of women, a work party out for a night on the town, perhaps. Shrieks of laughter kept bursting out like gunfire. Blake had already noticed some pretty girls among them - and noticed them noticing him with a flirtatious glance or two.
One of them, a redhead with huge dark eyes, particularly took his fancy. He felt a mild stirring of lust at the possibility. It had been a long time. Too long... Idly he let pleasant intentions form. There were probably rooms upstairs or near at hand.
Jenna was excusing herself, giving him a soft look and taking herself off. The Ladies' room, presumably. Music was starting up, loud but melodic. He swivelled in his seat to watch the band, three bone-thin individuals with green hair, playing a variety of synthesisers and bouncing vigorously up and down. It was infectiously cheerful. The floor was already filling up with dancers.
A gentle tap on his knee alerted him and he looked round, to see Avon settling in the seat next to him. He caught a faint waft of aftershave - something like pine. Oh, very nice, Avon. Who's it for?
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