Odd One OutAuthor:
Kerr Avon/Roj BlakeRating:
Blake thinks that he's found the solution to Avon's perceived isolation from the others on Liberator. It's high handed and simplistic, of course, and Avon has no intention of co-operating. Not without a few modifications, at least.Warnings
None, although it is a little sombre in tone.
It was one of the many things on which Blake had lectured them in the early days. Someone had tumbled into a bunk with someone else - Avon couldn't even remember who- and Blake's response had predictably enough been a long and incoherent homily. Avon had got bored long before he showed any sigh of getting to a point.
“Do you intend to post a rota?” he'd asked, cutting across some pontification about equal rights and responsibilities.
Blake had glared at him. “Of course not. All I'm saying is that exclusive pair bonding is not suited to good onboard working relationships.”
“Fine. You've said it. Can you please shut up now? I'm fairly sure I speak for all of us when I say that listening to you laying down the law on this particular topic is frankly excruciating.”
There had been a general mutter of assent and Blake had shut up.
Avon kept a tab, naturally, on who was sleeping with whom - you never know when that sort of information might come in handy. It was pretty straightforward. Jenna had impressively athletic sex with Blake about once a fortnight, shared a bed with Cally more often, sometimes at least just for the company, and very occasionally she and Cally extended a joint invite to Vila, who was tired and more than usually distracted for about three days afterwards. That was it. Cally and Blake seemed indifferent to each other, sexually at least, Vila obviously didn't get to proposition anyone and nobody, as far as Avon could tell, wanted to sleep with him. Not even Jenna.
That was convenient enough. His shipmates weren't exactly his soulmates, after all. Most of them failed to measure up to his fairly demanding standards of physical attractiveness and all of them were irritating in a multitude of ways. Having to negotiate the minefield of sexual relations with any of them was clearly more trouble than it was worth. He would have liked, if he was to be honest with himself, to have had the minor pleasure of rebuffing one or two of them, but at least this way he needn't be bothered with the whole subject.
He came up the passage to the main room one day to hear something that made him stop abruptly.
“I suppose Blake's right. It's not fair on Avon like this,” Cally was saying. “When you think about it.”
“There are four of us. Why me?” Jenna complained.
“Vila and I can't, obviously. And Cally is sensitive to emotion. It wouldn't be reasonable to ask her,” That was Blake.
“Once then,” Jenna grudgingly agreed.
Avon moved quietly back up the corridor then strode back down it more noisily. They all looked at him when he entered, but no one said anything.
He wasn't surprised when Jenna approached him at the evening meal
“Avon. I was wondering if you'd like some company tonight?”
“No.” He answered, deadpan, returned his attention to his food.
“Oh. Because I thought maybe we could have a bit of fun?”
“I am fairly sure that fun is what neither of us is likely to have. I'm grateful that you have found a way to fit me into your extremely busy nighttime schedule, Jenna but no, thankyou.”
“Another night, maybe?” Give her her due, she was still trying.
“No.” He turned away from her and she didn’t try again. Hopefully the episode had been sufficiently offputting for her for that to be an end to it.
When there was a knock on his cabin door that evening, late, he thought at first he’d been wrong. He was prepared to chase Jenna off with some trenchant remarks but it was Blake who stepped inside.
“And what can I do for you?” Avon asked.
Blake didn’t look precisely at ease. “I understand that Jenna talked to you.”
“And?” He wondered how Blake intended to make matters worse. No doubt that he would.
“And it's not good for you - for the crew - for you to be so solitary, Avon. I know you're fond of Cally... “
That was intolerable. He interrupted. “No thank you, Blake. I do not want Cally any more than I want Jenna. I don't even want Vila all trussed up naked with an apple in his mouth. It's very kind of you to offer up all the members of your crew, willing or not, for my carnal satisfaction but I am really not interested.”
Right. Blake was definitely reddening now, about to walk out. Avon decided that he really did deserve the full dressing down this time and proceeded to deliver it, with a great deal of quiet pleasure.
“Of course the one thing you haven't offered is the only one that you have any right to control. But that would be expecting far too much from your limited sense of decency, I suppose.”
“What do you mean?”
“You insist that the dynamics onboard would be improved if I took a sexual partner. I believe that is the gist of what this is about?” He raised an eyebrow and Blake nodded.
“I might be prepared to go along with that, strictly on my own terms.”
“I am a little choosy about these things. I tend to prefer my lovers uncoerced. Since the only people who you don't manage to bully on board this ship are you and I, this only produces one possible solution.”
Blake’s face was an absolute picture. He hadn't seen that coming at all. Stupid.
“I don't... Not with men.”
“Then it will be a new and possibly illuminating experience.” He snorted. “Don't look so frightened. It won't hurt. You weren't so worried about what I might do when it was Jenna or Cally as lambs to the slaughter were you?”
That was the killer blow delivered and Blake knew it. He drew himself up, stiff backed. “Is this really what you want?”
“What I want is to be left in peace. What you want is for me to have sex with someone on this ship. What I have given you is the only circumstance under which that is going to happen.”
He strode over to open the door. “Go away, Blake. I'm tired. If you decide that you need to sacrifice your virtue for the common good tomorrow night will do just as well. If you don't I think we can both pretend to forget this ever happened. Good night.”
That, surely, had to be an end to the matter. Blake was predictably sulky and refused to speak to him next day. Avon took the opportunity to spend a full day in the machine shop, pleasantly undisturbed by anyone. By late evening he’d fixed the tricky sensor problem with the remote control camera devices and was finishing a cold meal in his room. He was momentarily startled by the knock on his door. He’d got a mouthful to finish ; he waited for the second, impatient knock before he got to his feet and stabbed at the door control.
It really was Blake, looking annoyed and discomfited. Avon wondered why he’d bothered to come. Probably that overactive obligation drive. If Blake really had talked himself and the others into believing that ship morale required someone to provide Avon with orgasms then he might just be here as part of what he clearly believed was the greater sacrifice required of command.
Idiot. “Come in,” he suggested.
Last night Blake was focused on their conversation. Tonight it was clear that he was trying to distract both of them. He was looking around Avon's quarters as if he’d never seen them before.
“This is rather pleasant,” he said accusingly.” I thought with all that logic you wouldn't need all this.”
“Half right,” Avon said calmly. “I need none of this but see no reason not to make myself comfortable. Feel free to do the same.” He gestured at one of the squishy chairs, settled deep into the other and waited.
Blake sat on the edge of the seat, which was not that easy. “What do you expect me to do,” he asked abruptly.
“Expect? I expect you to make a fool of yourself at every possible opportunity. If you mean what do I want you to do, then I haven't yet given it any serious thought.”
Blake glowered at him. “This is not a chance for you to mock me, Kerr Avon.”
Avon didn’t bother to contradict him. It must be obvious to both of them that it was a perfect opportunity to do just that. Blake took the point of his amused silence for once.
“If you aren't going to take this seriously, I'm leaving.”
Avon sighed inwardly. He had set out his requirements yesterday and it seemed now that, extraordinary as it seemed, Blake was prepared to meet them. It was, he supposed, incumbent on him to keep his word and give it a proper trial or Blake would decide that he had something serious to sulk about.
It might have been a bit late to consider whether he found Roj Blake to his taste, but he did consider it and came to no definite conclusion. The body was certainly acceptable; there were muscle groups there that he was pretty sure he could work with, but the personality! He briefly wondered if he could persuade Blake to a temporary vow of silence but he could predict the argument should he broach that subject all too well.
“What sort of activities do you enjoy?”
“Me?” Blake looked startled. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I find myself peculiarly unaroused by the pervasive air of martyrdom in this room. If you want performance you are going to have to be prepared to enjoy yourself, I'm afraid.”
Blake eyed him suspiciously, unsure if this was some sort of trap. That alone would be enough to indicate what a sorry state their relationship was in, Avon thought, wearily. Last night he thought he'd done no more than highlight the man's hypocrisy. He didn’t like what tonight seemed to be turning into and he was determined to change the tone, over Blake's resistance if necessary.
Anything he tried with Blake in his current defensive state would feel uncomfortably like assault, despite the fact that this was entirely Blake's idea, Avon having been perfectly content to remain celibate, at least within the confines of Liberator. He briefly considered the possibilities of turning this into some sort of formal domination scenario which might suit their existing relationship better but he suspected they would merely end up at each other's throats, and besides he was not prepared to put that sort of work in just to get Blake off.
So the first thing to do was to reduce the tension in the room. From one of his cubby holes he retrieved two crystal glasses and a small green bottle. Bringing them back, he poured half a finger’s length of liquid into each glass, shook the bottle slightly, sighed, and added a little more. The bottle was now, to his great regret, empty.
“Marron Red liqueur.” Avon settled down again with his glass.
“Really?” Blake held the glass up to admire the deep scarlet colour. “Isn't it terrifically expensive? You kept this to yourself.”
“Try it.” Avon suggested.
Blake did. His expression was both startled and delighted. “That's... “
“... why I kept it to myself.”
“What will it do to me?” He was suspicious again.
“In small quantities it is a relaxant. In large amounts it inebriates. As you can see I regrettably did not possess a large amount.” It was also supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Avon had never experienced this himself and he calculated that mentioning it would be counter productive.
He shook his head at Blake's frown. "If I had wanted to drug you, I would simply have synthesised something appropriate. I would certainly not have used what might well have been the last half glass of Marron Red in this quadrant of the galaxy for such a prosaic purpose. If you don't like it, by all means please give it back.”
Blake clutches the glass a little tighter. “No... It's very nice. Thank you.”
Avon was mildly put out by the paucity of Blake's vocabulary. Marron Red - his Marron Red- was not "very nice". He sipped his own, feeling the rich warmth, the clean kick and the perfectly balanced taste. He needed to relax as well. To stop thinking about the emptiness of the bottle that he’d been nursing for months would be a start. Logically it was going to have run out soon, anyway. He’d given away only half a glass.
“You're welcome.” The liqueur was already affecting him. He almost meant it. There was a certain enjoyment in watching someone else discover the pleasure of Marron Red, even if it was only Blake.
“How did you get hold of this?”
“You will recall that we passed through the Junap system, some months ago...”
It was not a long story but Avon drew it out deliberately and gradually Blake settled back a little, then a little more, the chair encouraging him down into a long limbed sprawl. His head tipped back to nestle against the supporting back as he lingered over the last few drops. Avon watched him through half shut eyes, the spice of the drink warm on his throat. By the time he finished the tale Roj Blake had come to rest at last, all rigidity softened, all tension gone.
Maybe there was something to the aphrodisiac, after all. Avon contemplated what might lie ahead and felt an unexpected flicker of anticipation and arousal. If Blake could only let go of that righteous anger and wrongheaded determination more often....
He’d still got to negotiate the next part of this evening. Blake had reached the bottom of his glass.
“I advise that you stick to water for at least 6 hours. Anything else will taste like filter leavenings. You look comfortable there.”
“Yes,” Blake drawled. He was almost languid. Remarkable. “Thank you.” This time he said it as if it were a new realisation. “I didn't expect this sort of hospitality tonight. I didn't expect any hospitality at all.”
Avon wondered sometimes if anyone on this ship listened to a word that he said. What part of "willing partner" had Blake misunderstood?
“There is an equally comfortable bed in the next room, to which I am about to retire. Feel free to stay in that chair, leave or join me as you see fit.”
“I said,” Blake was getting to his feet, “that I'd do this.” He didn't sound entirely reluctant but there was a hint of that martyrdom creeping in again. Avon decided to ignore it for the moment.
In his quarters he paused for a moment, looking at the sleeping couch. There was a combination of buttons that extended it widthways. He'd never used it.
“Go back to sleep, Zen.” Blake pushed past him to the console. “You're not needed.” He tapped rapidly and the couch extended smoothly.
He smiled at Avon, triumphant. “I can't imagine you overlooking something basic like that if you'd been expecting company in here. “
“No,” Avon said, coolly.
“So you weren't expecting me.”
“I thought it improbable.”
“A pleasant surprise?”
“An expensive one.” Avon thought that sounded a little too ungracious. “An intriguing one, let's say. So far.”
“There's nothing particularly mysterious about it.” Blake sat down on the bed. “It’s not good for any group to allow one member to isolate himself, and you didn't give me any other options to put that right.”
"Are we a group, though? Or just your collection of useful subordinates, Blake?" He didn't put the heat into the gibe that he might have normally.
“The rest of us consider ourselves a group, Avon. That you don't - that's much of the problem right there.” Blake was serious now, eyes on Avon's face. “I know you think I'm idiotic to promise something that I might not want to do to a man who doesn't like me even in daylight, but the way I see it, this is precisely where I need to be right now. What you do with that is up to you.”
When one had to put up with the man's irritating habits daily, it was easy to forget that Blake didn't become leader of the resistance by chance or accident. Avon could see how little speeches like that might move the unwary. He caught at a minor phrase to give him time to regain his equilibrium.
“Might not want to do? Then there was a possibility that you might?”
“I didn't think so when I arrived.” Blake smiled at him, eyes unexpectedly bright. “Now- yes, I think there's a possibility. Maybe I'm wrong and it's just the Marron Red. We could find out.” He patted the couch beside him.
Avon stood motionless for a moment, thinking. Then he carefully fit himself into the space next to Blake who leant in to kiss him, close mouthed. It was not unpleasant at all. He kissed back, a little tentatively, trying to assess how much of Blake's reaction was genuine.
Blake pulled back and swung himself around to straddle Avon's lap. He was quite a weight, Avon thought, as the firm application of that weight pinned him down on his back. He was not sure that he liked being pushed around but his protests were swallowed unspoken as Blake started to undress. When the man was half naked he started on Avon's jacket.
Avon slid his hands up the bare arms, fingers digging into muscle. He was watching Blake's face, intent on his task. Avon saved his interruption until the man was finished.
“Do you know what you're doing?” He was genuinely curious.
Blake sat back and looked at him. “This far, anyway.” His hands ran across Avon's chest, caressing. It had been a long time since anyone touched Avon like this. That he should allow it to this man of all people was considerably more than simply unexpected.
“Your theory is nonsense.”
“What?” That had startled the man into inaction. It was a pity, but it had to be done. It should have been done earlier. Blame the liqueur.
“I am who I am. I am not part of your group because I neither share your ideals, follow your lead nor rely on your support. This won't change any of that. You achieve nothing by this, Blake. I will not be offended if you leave.”
“Will you be disappointed?”
“A little,” he admits, because it seemed that this was a time for truth. “But I'll...” ‘Get over it’ was smothered by a kiss that was not at all close mouthed.
He had said all that his conscience required. If Blake would not listen, as the man never listened ... He wrapped his arms around Blake's neck, pushed his tongue hard into the man's mouth, ground his hips upwards and abandoned logic temporarily at least to the demands of desire.
They ended up lying face to face, still kissing, legs entwined so that each was rutting against a hard thigh. It was not elegant but it had advantages, the main one being that neither of them had obviously taken charge. Not enough for Blake, however. He pulled away long enough to yank Avon's waistband down to his hips and then grabbed.
“Too rough?” Blake asked. He was grinning now but his grip had loosened slightly.
“You have no idea what rough means.” Avon informed him.
“Show me, then.”
Avon thought about it for a fraction of a second. “No.” He uncurled Blake's grip, rolled off the bed to stand beside it and finished undressing. Blake was propped up on one arm, watching.
“Take your clothes off,” he told Blake. It would be rather pleasant to help but he was not going within arm's reach again until they'd reached some sort of resolution about Blake's heavy handedness. Jenna might like that sort of thing. Avon didn’t.
Blake did what he was told, which was promising at least. He was flushed, hard and slightly unfocussed and Avon wondered what his own appearance said about his mental state. Never mind that for now.
“Listen to me for once in your life, Roj Blake,” he said, deliberately chilly. “I don’t much care what sort of issues a man like you carries around. I do care when you try to drag them into my bed. If you can’t do this without having to prove that you’re in charge you can get out now. “
Blake’s eyes focussed on his, startled. ”I wasn’t…”
Something- resentment?- flared behind the man’s eyes and Avon thought that perhaps it was over. Then Blake shook his head. “Maybe I was, at that.” He sat up, crosslegged. “I won’t do it again. Will you please come back to bed, Kerr Avon?”
Avon decided to give him credit at least for good intentions. “Very well. Do you know what you want us to do in it?”
“You just said that I wasn’t in charge?” Blake sounded bewildered.
Avon sighed. Sometimes Blake simply wasn’t very bright. “Expressing a particular desire is perfectly acceptable. Dragging me around by my genitals isn’t.”
“Oh.” Blake looked him slowly up and down, thinking. It was enough to tempt Avon to do some rather more consensual grabbing of his own. Instead he waited.
Eventually Blake shook his head. “No,” he admitted. “I mean, I’ve got ideas, but…I think it might be better if you took the lead on this one.”
Avon smiled, a little smug. “So do I.”
At some things Blake wasn’t a slow learner at all. Avon finally came with Blake’s hot mouth around his erection and the taste of Blake on his tongue. It had been good tempered, sweatily hot workout sex and he had been ready to crash when Blake dug out a couple of tablets from his discarded clothes.
“Come on, Avon. It’s not that late.”
Avon eyed the tablets with suspicion. “Fake sex doesn’t appeal.”
Blake laughed. “Then you’ve never tried them. Come on. Make you a deal. We’ll both try something new. Take one and fuck me.”
They’d both been keeping the language clean up to now, part of their care to be civil around each other. Blake’s proposition somehow bypassed the speech centres of Avon’s brain to go straight to his cock, which desperately tried to muster enough to respond. He wanted to… he looked again at the tablet. He knew its pharmaceutical properties; it just shortened the refractory period, was otherwise entirely inert in small doses.
He didn’t know if this thing with Blake was once only or not. It was quite possible that he would decide tomorrow that it was far too disruptive to repeat. This might be his only opportunity… he sighed, took one of the white pills and swallowed it.
Within five minutes he was hard again, and desperate, Blake squirming all over him, teeth and tongue busy. He pulled the man’s shoulders close, wrapped his legs over Blake’s and rolled them both over. Blake was still co-operating enthusiastically; his thighs spread wide of their own accord and Avon came down between them.
He needed control. It had been a long time and he was far more impatient than the pill or the distant memory of the drink could explain, but that was no excuse for rushing this. He’d got lubricant; he tried a forefinger and Blake was panting and snarling at him to fuck him already. Fuck him now. Stop being such a bloody coward, Avon and do it.
“No,” he told the contorted face below him. He ached bitterly as he sat up on his heels, wiping a hand across his sweaty face. “We’re done. I’m going for a shower.”
It was a long shower; time enough to come down. He was thoroughly down by the time he came out. He thought Blake would be long gone, but he was still on the bed, still naked. He woke as Avon walked in, and they looked at each other in silence.
“That was my fault,” Blake said eventually. Avon agreed with him but he didn’t say so. Instead he sighed.
“Not everyone is compatible.”
“We were pretty fucking compatible for a while there.” Blake insisted.
Blake bristled. “Maybe? Is that all you have to say?”
“I think it probably is.” Avon shook his head. “Unfortunate.”
“Unfortunate.” Blake repeated flatly. “That’s it? I fail just once to meet up to Kerr Avon’s exacting standards, and that’s that?”
“It’s not a matter of standards.” It was, partly, but he felt a little sorry for Blake. “And a repeat attempt would clearly do neither of us, or shipboard morale, any good.”
“Shipboard morale…?” Blake was on his feet now, snarling (again). “That’s it! You get dumped at the next planetfall, Kerr Avon!” He stormed out.
Avon had a headache. He left all the clothes on the floor and curled up in one of his squishy chairs, eyes closed. Blake was overreacting. When he calmed down he would realise that nothing at all on board Liberator had changed. He still had Jenna and his “group”. Avon had been the odd one out before and he was still the odd one out. It didn’t matter. It never had.
It took him a surprising amount of time to finally fall asleep, all the same.
Sequel Certain Parameters