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Substitute

By Vanessa Mullen
Page 1 of 3

Blake flung a handful of sand at Jenna and she ducked, laughing loudly. She bent, grabbed a handful from the beach herself, and tossed it back with unerring aim. Blake rubbed the grit out of his hair ruefully, then, just as Jenna thought the mock battle was over, he sprinted forward, caught her around the waist and kissed her. Laughing, she pushed him away. Then Blake caught Cally's eye. With a "can't catch me" look, she sprinted over the sand away from him. Determined, Blake set off in pursuit. Twisting and turning, they dodged through the trees that fringed the beach, until Cally tripped over a root, and Blake claimed his reward.

      Cally was slim and supple in his arms, as they lay for an instant in the cool sand in the shade. Then he looked round for Jenna once more.

      "No," she protested cheerfully, with a shake of her head. "I'm worn out. Go chase someone else." A wicked glint entered her eyes. "Give Avon a run. I don't think he's been really entering into the spirit of things. The first holiday we've actually managed to talk you into, and all he can do is walk along the edge of the sea."

      "That's right," Vila piped up, waving a glass of some tropical looking beverage that Zen had synthesized, "the man has no idea of how to enjoy himself."

      Jenna glanced down the beach to where Avon stood watching them. "Go on," she challenged Blake. Grab him, make him join in."

      Gan looked up from where he was stretched out on a towel. "If Avon wants to be alone, maybe you should leave him."

      "We are a group," Cally said. "On Auron it would be considered wrong to leave one alone in such a manner. Avon should be one with us, not separate."

      "Bet you a glass of passion fruit and soma that you can't catch him," Vila challenged.

      Blake measured the distance. It shouldn't be too tricky. He could cut Avon off between the sea and the headland. He loped off at a steady run, enjoying the idea of the hunt.

      "Hey, Avon!" Vila shouted. "Look out!"

      Avon eyed the situation and began to move away. As Blake approached, he left the water's edge and moved towards the trees. Blake had allowed for that. He changed his angle of approach and ran a little faster. Avon broke into a run. Blake grinned to himself. It would be a close thing as to whether Avon reached cover in time. As they drew closer, Avon speeded up. He was running seriously now. Blake caught a glimpse of his face in profile. Avon didn't look like a man running in a game - he looked like a man who was fleeing a serious threat. Couldn't the man ever take a joke? Slightly irritated, Blake put on a final burst of speed as they passed into the shade of the trees. Diving forward, he threw his weight against Avon, knocking the other man off balance.

      Avon fell awkwardly to the ground and Blake landed on top of him, retaining the advantage. Avon struggled beneath him, trying unsuccessfully to throw off Blake's weight. Blake wondered for a moment what Avon was so afraid of. What was he expecting Blake to do, for heaven's sake? From the way Avon was twisting his head away, it would seem that he expected Blake to try and kiss him as he had kissed Jenna and Cally. The idea was almost laughable - so laughable that Blake was perversely annoyed by Avon's expectation. If that was what Avon expected, then that was what he was going to get, no matter how much he objected.

      Blake seized Avon's head in both hands and forced it around to face him. He brought his mouth down hard, putting far more force into the kiss than he had with either of the girls. Avon's struggles intensified, then abruptly ceased. Blake felt all resistance fade away. Avon's eyes closed. His lips melted under Blake's; the mouth opening to give him entrance. Blake could feel Avon's body arch under him, pressing hard against him. A low moan sounded deep in Avon's throat, an almost unimaginable loss of control.

      Blake pulled back in shock, breaking all contact between them. Avon's eyes blinked open, staring into his - deep, dark, and lost.

      For the first time he could remember, Blake was lost for words. This hadn't been what he had intended. It had been a game, nothing more. What Avon had revealed to him now was something that he felt incapable of handling.

      "I'm sorry," Blake said meaninglessly. "I didn't know."

      He got clumsily to his feet, trying to give himself some space. Avon remained, lying supine in the sand.

      "I'm sorry," Blake said again.

      "And that excuses everything," Avon replied bitterly.

      Blake stammered on, trying to find the words to extricate himself from the situation. "I've nothing against homosexuality. I mean, everyone is entitled to love wherever they want to. It's just that - "

      "Just that you don't feel that way about me." Avon completed the sentence for him. He rolled away to lie on his side, half curled up, back pointedly facing Blake. "Just go away," he said tightly. "Just go away and leave me."

      "It's not you personally," Blake tried to explain. He felt hideously awkward. It was a very embarrassing situation to be in, and it had to be even worse for Avon. "It's just that I've never been attracted to men."

      "Do you think I don't know that?" There was an awkward catch in Avon's voice. Then he placed his hands over his head, shutting Blake out of his world. "Now go!" The last words were almost shouted.

      Blake looked down at him. It was a problem with no solution. Avon was not going to forgive him for this for many a day, if ever. He tried to imagine for a moment that he was making love to Avon. The image stirred no emotional response in him at all, apart from a slight sense of revulsion.

      He liked Avon. He respected him. He'd even risk his own life for him, but this was an area where Blake could not help him at all. Sadly, he walked back across the beach back to where the others were waiting.

      "Well?" Vila inquired. "Did I win?"

      "What?" Blake looked at him blankly.

      "Did he escape, or do I owe you a drink?"

      Of course, they wouldn't have seen. He rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. "Yes, I caught him. But I'll pass on the drink. I don't feel like it right now."

      Jenna, always perceptive, caught onto him at once. "What's wrong?" she asked.

      Blake coloured. "Nothing."

      "Funny kind of nothing," Vila commented, "when you leave here like a six year old playing games and come back looking like a wet Monday afternoon."

      "What happened?" Cally asked.

      It was clear that he'd have to tell them something. It was going to be obvious that something was wrong between himself and Avon anyway. They'd hopefully settle down to their old way of working before too long, but the next few days were bound to be difficult. Would Avon try to leave the Liberator? Was this sexual attraction part of the reason he had stayed until now? It was all still new for him to be able to be able to put it properly in place.

      "Well?"

      Blake realised with a start that he'd been miles away. "Sorry," he apologised. It seemed to be his day for apologising.

      "Avon thought I was making a pass at him."

      Vila burst out laughing. "I bet that really pissed Avon off. Prim and proper Avon thinking that you were after his virtue!"

      "I do not understand," Cally said. "Why should Avon think that you desire him sexually? You are both men."

      "I kissed him," Blake said wearily. "It was a joke," he added hastily, seeing the look in Jenna's eye. "Avon just misinterpreted it."

      "I trust you sorted that out with him," she replied icily.

      "I did, but Avon's not very happy with me at present."

      A giggle from Vila distracted Blake from Jenna's disapprobation. "You and Avon! I wish I'd been there to see it. I just wish I could have seen the look on his face."

      Avon's face. Blake shivered. The look of loss in Avon's eyes would haunt him. The naked need he had glimpsed before Avon had turned away from him. Would Avon ever forgive Blake for seeing him like that? For knowing the depth of his passions?

      Funny how the others all assumed so automatically that Avon had rejected his advances. Or was it so unlikely given the emotionless face that Avon normally showed to the world? It was probably best if he left them thinking that - it would cause Avon the minimum of embarrassment. "Look," Blake said seriously. "Avon is touchy enough as it is. I'd appreciate it if you don't tease him about this." He caught their eyes in turn.

      Cally nodded. "Of course."

      "All right," said Jenna, but in a tone that suggested he hadn't quite heard the last about the incident from her.

      "Vila?" Blake queried.

      Vila squirmed. Blake could well imagine that the thief would well love to rub Avon's nose in this for weeks to come. The potential results didn't bear thinking about. "Vila," he said again, more firmly this time.

      "Oh, all right."

      Blake looked around for Gan, but Gan was nowhere to be seen. Had he been here when Blake got back? He couldn't quite remember. It was odd really, but in spite of Gan's size, he was sometimes the easiest person to overlook in the group. Oh well, he'd just have to clear things with Gan later. At least Gan, unlike Vila, wasn't the type to tease. Avon might not be his favourite person, but Blake found it hard to imagine Gan picking on anyone.

      


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