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Slash by Unsentimental Fool
Not all that you want and ought not to want Is forbidden to you
FIC: Valuable Asset chapters 1 to 3 Blake's 7  
19th-Mar-2014 03:08 pm
Title: Valuable Asset
Author: Unsentimental Fool
Fandom: Blake's 7
Characters: Blake, Avon
Rating: PG (so far)
Word Count: 5,900 (first 3 chapters)
Summary: Set after 'Project Avalon'.
'It's your misfortune to be worth a great deal, Blake. The others weren't."
Notes: This is probably going to be between 8 and 12 chapters.

Chapter 1: Nausea

Blake had never remembered waking up feeling quite this lousy, not even years ago when he'd frequently drunk more than he ought. His head hurt, his stomach was churning and he couldn't move his arms.

He opened his eyes a fraction, shut then again against the blinding pain in his head. Nausea rose and he barely manage to turn his head to the side before he was vomiting.

"Damn," a familiar voice muttered. Hands around his shoulders pulled him firmly up to a sitting position. A bowl was wedged between his knees and for the next few minutes he did nothing but retch, eyes tightly shut.

He was aware, distantly, that it was Avon with his arm around his shoulders, which was odd. He'd never known Avon be even slightly solicitous before. The man wasn't panicking so he didn't. Not at first, anyway. Not until everything in his stomach and what felt like most of the lining was transferred to the bowl and he could think about something else. Then he started to worry.

"My arms," he said. "Avon, I can't feel my arms! My hands..." What had happened to them?

"They're behind your back." Avon said, as if it were perfectly normal for them to be there. "I'll be back shortly."

Blake squeezed his eyes open again to see Avon and the bowl leaving. He was in his own quarters, sitting fully clothed on his bed, his face now thankfully far away from the vomit stain down the side of the mattress. Tugs established that Avon had been right: his wrists and ankles were held in some sort of padded restraint. He couldn't remember anything that might have led to this. They'd delivered Avalon- the real one - to one of her fellow resistance groups and come back onto the ship. He'd decided to get some rest and then?

"Zen? " he tried, his voice rasping." Report on current status."


"Zen! Respond! "


He tried shouting for the others, but all that happened was that his throat got worse and Avon eventually reappeared with a glass of water

"What the hell is going on?" Blake croaked.

"Drink this slowly." Avon held the glass up to his lips. It got rid of the worst of the sour taste and eased his voice a little.

"Avon, please!" He was starting to get more than a little irritated now.

The other man drew up a chair, sat facing him. "You've been unconscious for two and a half days; anaesthetic gas in the air supply. That's caused the nausea and probably some other lingering effects; sore throat, headache, confusion, dehydration. Drink plenty of water and you should feel fine in a few hours."

Blake struggled to think clearly. Avon looked unharmed. "What about the others?"

"No longer an issue."

Avon must have caught his horrified expression. "Not dead, no. Disembarked."

"What's going on?"

Avon half shrugged. "Nothing terribly dramatic or even unpredictable. I've merely taken over the ship."

Blake blinked at him, tugged harder at the restraints. "What do you mean, taken over? You marooned them somewhere?"

"Hardly marooned. I teleported them down close to where we left Avalon. They've got her contacts, their guns and a substantial percentage of what was left of Liberators' liquid assets- easily sufficient to take them anywhere in the quadrant they might want to go, or even to buy themselves a very small spaceship if they prefer."

He smiled, a little twistedly, at Blake. "Since I was getting both Liberator and you out of the bargain, I felt able to be reasonably generous."

"Getting me? What do you want with me?" Blake was starting to wonder if the man had gone mad, or if he had.

"I want to trade you in, of course. If I'm offering the Federation's most wanted felon and their most wanted ship I can ask a price high enough to get everything I need."

Blake stared at him, unbelieving. "You can't give me back to the Federation."

"Sell, not give. It's your misfortune to be worth a great deal, Blake. The others weren't."

Avon stood up. "You'll need the bathroom, I imagine, and to change the bed cover. I will release you for a few minutes. You'll recognise this gun." He held up the ugly stun weapon they'd recovered from the Federation guards. "As you'll recall, it won't kill you - you're far too valuable for that - but I've modified it a little and now it will knock you down quite effectively. I can anaesthetise you again for the entire trip if I need to, or keep you in restraints and put up with the resultant mess. Zen no longer recognises your voice print and has specific instructions about ignoring any voice but mine. Any attempt to use any of the guns including this one will result in non-lethal but extremely unpleasant feedback. The teleport is secured. For your own comfort I suggest that you co-operate. Do you understand?"

Blake nodded stiffly, nausea rising again. He didn't want to soil himself and he didn't want to do anything rash until he'd had a chance to assess the situation. Avon tapped on a remote control and the restraints slid open.

Blake stood under the shower, trying to think of something more constructive than just Avon's perfidy. The ship he could understand- the man had form, after all - but selling him back to the enemy? He thought he'd come to know Kerr Avon better than that but when had the man ever claimed to be driven by anything but pure self interest? Avon was sitting on his bed, gun across his knees, watching him. This was all carefully planned, clearly. He wasn't going to be easy to overpower, or to escape.

It wasn't as if Avon didn't have any conscience at all. Blake was sure that he was telling the truth about leaving the others with sufficient resources. He could have just left them on a random planet with nothing at all. Blake sighed. Bitter as the thought was, he was going to have to talk to the man.

He got his first real chance at conversation, or confrontation, a few hours later when Avon brought him some supper, releasing his hands again so that he could feed himself. Blake sniffed at the food, thinking about refusing but he was too hungry to be keen on a hunger strike and he suspected there wouldn't be enough time for his fasting to cause Avon any problems before they were at their destination. Talking of which...

"Where exactly are we going?"

"You don't need to know."

"I'm curious, though. The entire journey, you said, as if it was a long way, yet the ship's not done more than around standard one point five since I woke up. It will take weeks to get anywhere at this pace. Months to get to Earth, if that's your intention. Is there something wrong with the engines?"

Avon frowned. "How can you tell our speed?"

"Engine noise. Can't you?"

"Not without the instrumentation, no." A reluctant grimace. "The Liberator and I aren't exactly on the same wavelength."

"Ah." Blake's lips twitched. "She's not co-operating with your coup d'etat? Is that it?" That was the first good news he'd had since he woke up.

Avon sighed. "If you must know, it claims to need a pilot. It has a perfectly good autopilot system which we've used dozens of times, but it refuses to engage it without an acceptable pilot, who can apparently be awake, asleep, drunk, sedated or even temporarily absent but must actually exist. As soon as it decided Jenna was gone for good it went into the computer equivalent of a sulk and it took me two days to persuade it to standard by one point five. I'm still working on it, naturally."

"She won't accept you instead?" Blake was feeling almost amused. Avon always took personal offence at unco-operative computers and always refused to admit it.

"One of the very few things that Liberator and I are in agreement on is that Jenna's crash course in wiggling the controls a bit does not make anyone qualified to fly anything. It tolerated the rest of us playing at flying it while the real thing was aboard. It won't now."

"So what are you going to do?"

"Find a way to change Zen's logic systems."

"And if you can't? "

"Then the journey will take months. That's all. Dull for both of us but it doesn't change anything else. The ship's defensive capacity is undiminished and I'm fairly certain that it will engage autopilot if under threat all by itself"

Months was time enough for any number of things to happen. At this speed the Liberator could be tracked down and followed by the others or by Travis, the Federation or indeed anyone else with an unhealthy interest in the most powerful ship in the galaxy. They must both know that Avon couldn't afford not to get the ship moving soon.

"You could hire a pilot." It wasn't as if Avon wouldn't have thought of that already.

"Hand over the controls to someone else? I don't think so. Other people turn out to be extremely unreliable, even where their own best interests are at stake."

Ah. Various crew members had refused to abandon Blake so Avon had decided to go it completely alone this time. If he'd been able to control Liberator properly Blake might have woken up in a detention cell on Earth without ever seeing the man who'd sold him out. Who had sold all of them out, he reminded himself. The others hadn't wanted to be kicked off their ship, guilt money or not. Avon had stolen Liberator from all of them.

Blake ate a little more, tried another tack.

"What do you think they'll do to me this time?"

Avon's attention didn't shift from his hands. "Another show trial and then lock you up again, with a few more guards this time, I imagine."

Blake huffed scorn. "Don't pretend you're that naive, Kerr Avon. After what happened with Avalon can you really believe our enemies are either stupid or compassionate? They'll put me through months of torture and reconditioning again, until they can get a public confession and recantation followed immediately by a terribly regrettable suicide. I'll be killed this time and not cleanly either."

Avon managed to look completely unconcerned. "You'll have to hope that some of your revolutionary friends come to your rescue."

Blake's voice rose. "That's your justification, is it? It's OK to sell me out because the others will come along and save the day? You really think the likes of Cally and Vila can break me out of Federation maximum security? If they care enough to do anything, it's far more likely that it's you they'll come after, Avon."

His captor laughed. "You're threatening me with Vila? I expected something a bit more spirited than this." His voice dropped, serious. "This is not personal, Blake. I am not doing this out of greed or spite but necessity. This Avalon business has been the final straw. I don't know if you have any idea of the resources the Federation piled into that operation. You may like being public enemy number one but all I get out of it is an unpleasant intimation of my own mortality. "

Avon switched from serious to cynical again, sounding more like his usual self. "Despite our big shiny ship and your big shiny plans we are doomed It's all got far too dangerous. Today, tomorrow, next month, we're all going to get killed. You know it. I know it. The others knew it, but they pretended not to. I'm merely trying to stay alive."

"You could have just left." Blake hissed. " Left at any time - that was the agreement."

"And gone where? I was a wanted man already. Now I'm associated with you things are considerably worse. The only people who escape the Federation for long are the unimportant and the very rich. It's far too late to be the former so I have no choice but to try to become the latter."

Blake shook his head. "Selling Liberator alone could make you rich. Why me as well, if not spite?"

"Pure logistics, I'm afraid . One person, one ship- if I try and trade it to them they'll just take it and me both. If they want both you and Liberator enough I at least have a chance of setting things up so I come away with both the money and my neck intact."

"You won't do it. I know you better than that. "

Avon stood back a little, hands hovering over his gun. For the first time Blake heard genuine emotion in that cool voice. "I don't have a choice, Blake. We're going to lose and then we're going to die. God knows your makeshift revolution can't keep us safe and the Federation won't give me any second chances. This is my one chance to survive the next twelve months. I'm going to take it, whatever the cost. "

He gestured towards the bathroom." Five minutes then the restraints go back on. I can't afford the time to watch you, not and work." Blake noticed for the first time the lines of tiredness around his eyes.

“Let me go, Avon. I promise you that we’ll find you somewhere that you can be safe. You can take your share of what we have. Let me go.”

Avon shook his head, looking weary. “Too late for that now. It wouldn’t have worked anyway. Believe me, if there had been an easy option I would have taken it. Use the bathroom. I need to get back to work.”

Chapter 2: Bruises

"What are those?" Blake eyed the tablets suspiciously.

"Painkillers. Gan used them for his headaches. Two will do."

Blake glared at Avon. "What about the med unit? Or does it suit you to have me drugged and injured?"

"I calculate that you're marginally less likely to be stupid again if you've still got the bruises from last time. The drugs are effective enough - you won't be in any pain."

"And if I refuse to take them?"

Avon sighed. "Then you'll be in avoidable discomfort. I haven't time for this. I need Liberator's cooperation for this to work. I don't particularly need yours." He looked as tired and frustrated as Blake had ever known him.

Three days and no better opportunity had arisen so Blake had had to give grabbing the gun a try. Even a second's hesitation from Avon and it might have worked but Avon hadn't hesitated at all. The stun setting hadn't broken anything but as Avon had promised it had knocked Blake clear across the room. He'd hit the wall hard and now pretty much everything hurt.

Blake didn't think that Avon would find his suffering much of a burden to bear. The man wasn't being deliberately cruel but his struggle with the ship was taking up more and more of his attention. Blake doubted that Avon gave him a single thought in the long hours between his brief visits to ensure that his prisoner was fed, watered, clean and secured.

Which gave him an idea. "I'll agree to take these if you let me come up to the bridge." And off Avon's frown, "Everything's locked down against me, you said. I can't do any harm up there. I've had days on my own in this bloody room and I'm going to end up trying something that we both consider stupid again out of sheer tedium soon."

Avon considered his face for a moment then nodded briefly. "For as long as you’re not distracting."

Blake couldn't bring himself to say thank you for the tiny concession. He didn't think that Avon would expect gratitude, anyway. Avon had sought neither understanding nor forgiveness from him so far. After his initial explanation of his actions he had simply let the matter drop and Blake’s attempts to argue with him about the morality or necessity of his kidnapping had met with an entirely convincing indifference.

Avon secured him in his usual seat at the front of the bridge. A small panel had been taken off the wall exposing incomprehensible circuits. Blake watched Avon's familiar profile as he knelt on the floor. It was hard sometimes, to believe that the man had turned traitor. He could think of faster ways to test the system than this slow disconnection and reconnection but he kept his thoughts to himself. Avon was a computer expert and a good one but not an engineer.

"What will you do with the money?"

Avon didn't turn round. "Not now. A couple more of these..." Silence for a couple of minutes, then, "There. That might do it." He rocked back on his heels and stood up to face the ship's avatar. "Zen. A course for the Gari system, standard by five."

A pilot is required.

"No pilot is available here. A pilot may be available in the Gari system if we get there fast enough. Standard by five, Zen."

A pilot is required.

Avon gritted his teeth. "If you travel at standard by five you may obtain a pilot. If you do not then you will continue to have no pilot. Do you understand?"

Understood. A pilot is required.

"So set a course at standard by five to get one!"

Not possible. A pilot is required.

The circuitry had caught Blake's attention again. Foam had been gradually covering it up, and was now spitting quietly then slowly dissipating.

"Avon," he called. "Liberator's just repaired your alterations!"

"Damn!" Avon stood back to look. "It was taking the ship's repair system an hour to do that two days ago. It's learning, but not the right things." He wiped a hand across his forehead. "I'll have to try something else. Get coffee!"

That last was snapped at one of the little maintenance robots which obediently trundled out, to Blake's surprise. They'd never done that sort of thing before.

"What about the money, Avon? "

"Money. Yes." Avon stumbled a little on his way to a chair. Blake revised his assessment from tired to exhausted.

"There are eight separate Federation computer subsystems that will hold critical information about me. To be completely safe from pursuit I need to get all eight sets of records amended or erased. Some of them are easy to access, with bribes to the right people, some are going to be extremely difficult. There are a couple that I have no idea how to get to at the moment. All I know is that I'm going to need money, lots of it. The sort of money that only the Federation can supply and they'll only do it for something extraordinary."

Blake wondered if he was meant to feel flattered. He didn't.

"Didn't you think of asking us, Avon? With Liberator we could have tried to find your systems."

Avon shook his head. "I wanted to vanish into obscurity, Blake. You wanted to lead a revolution. The two aren't compatible. "

"They might have been. You could have asked, but you chose instead to betray all your friends, steal the ship and sell me into slavery, so that you could make yourself a little bit safer. You're an appalling coward, Kerr Avon."

Avon shrugged. "Quite possibly, by your standards. I never set out to be a hero. I don't owe you anything, Roj Blake. I didn't agree to follow your leadership and I don't want to die on one of your crusades. It's become painfully obvious that you won't stop until we are all dead."

The robot trundled back in with a cup of coffee in its pincers. It smelled enticing and Blake turned his head away firmly as Avon took it. Spiteful, he thought.

"It's only programmed to fetch one cup at a time, obviously. Get coffee!" Avon placed the hot mug on the console in front of Blake, stepped back out of potential thrown liquid range and tapped the button to release his hands as the little robot left the room again.

The coffee was too sweet, the way Avon always took it. Blake didn't care; he sipped it with pleasure anyway.

"Why coffee?"

Avon frowned. "It's all I've programmed the robot for. If you tell me what you'd prefer I can reprogram it."

"No. Coffee's fine. I meant why give it to me?"

"Why not? It's no trouble."

"It's been my experience with being imprisoned that things like coffee generally come with a catch. I wondered what the catch might be this time."

He saw the lines tighten around Avon's eyes. "I'm not a Federation interrogator and I'm not playing games. If you want something I'll get it for you, provided that you're not going to use it to kill me or escape."

Really? "I want the med unit." Blake said harshly. Avon paused for a fraction of a second then nodded. “Very well.”

Walking along the long empty corridor towards the med room, Blake tried to imagine the ship full of men and guns. “Liberator will allow the Federation to move troops around at tremendous speed. Revolutions will be put down as soon as Earth hears about them. It will be a disaster for independence movements across the galaxy.”

Nothing from the man with the gun behind him for a moment, then, “That would certainly be unfortunate for the rebels, yes.”

Blake got a flash of insight. “They’re not going to get her. You’ll rig her to self destruct when you’ve got your money.”

“Timed for the VIP tours, I thought.”

Avon was a rebel, too, in his own way, Blake thought. Or at least the man held a grudge, which wasn’t quite the same thing. “And were you intending to do something similar with the other asset you’re trading to them?”

A brief snort. “I thought I’d offer you the option, at least.”

The thought made Blake shiver. “You acknowledge then that it’s a fate worse than death that you’re sending me to?”

“That’s a matter of opinion. I happen to think that there are no fates worse than death. But I understand that heroes tend to like the idea, at least, of choosing to die before betraying their comrades.”

Blake whirled on his heel at the scorn in the man’s voice, caught the fleeting expression before Avon lifted the gun in warning. He was sure the tone hadn’t been entirely meant for him. “There are all sorts of fates much worse than death,” he said, coldly. “But that’s something you have to find out for yourself.”

Avon gestured down the corridor. “Shall we drop the deep philosophy and just get this over with?”

Blake nodded, started to walk again. He was certain now that Avon’s seeming indifference to what he was doing was a mask. What he didn’t know yet was if he could make the man drop it and, if he did, what it would prove to have been concealing.

Chapter 3: Hunger

"Zen. I know you can hear me. "

Blake didn't actually know anything of the kind. Avon had stopped Zen from responding to his commands; it was possible that he'd found a way to stop the ship from registering his voice at all. There was nothing else constructive for him to do, however, locked in his cabin while Avon finally acknowledged biological necessity and slept. He might as well talk to the walls and hope that the silent computer heard him.

"This is Roj Blake. I am part of your crew. Your crew, Zen, which includes Jenna Stannis, your pilot. Kerr Avon does not want you to have a crew. He does not want you to have a pilot. I can get your crew back. I can get your pilot back. If you listen to me and not to Avon, I will be able to help you get the rest of your crew and your pilot back. "

He was cajoling Zen as if it were a three year old. He didn't know if that was right. He'd much rather just tell it what to do as he normally did but he knew it wouldn't respond to his commands. There was probably a better way to talk to it; how he wished now that he hadn't been so quick to let Avon take over most of the dealings with Zen since they came aboard Liberator. It had seemed rational at the time; after all Avon was the expert. Blake had always had the bigger picture in mind.

He glanced around the darkness of his quarters. Not much sign of the bigger picture in here. After some negotiation Avon had reduced the restraints to a hobble on his ankles and a lock on the door. He could get around, awkwardly, but everything that might help him had been stripped out of the room. Avon had cut the power physically to the whole room so as well as a dead terminal he had lights and heating that didn't work. He'd been supplied with a jury rigged torch made from a handful of small bulbs and a tiny battery from God knows what. It didn't carry enough charge to burn a finger on, let alone convert into some sort of weapon, but if did at least let him see his way to the bathroom and back. That was one certain feature of imprisonment, wherever and whoever by; the importance and indignity of toilet arrangements.

Without a terminal he had no access to anything to read or to listen to. He'd slept as much as humanly possible. The room was chilly without the automatic heating and he'd taken the covers off the bed at first to wrap around himself. As time went by with nothing to do he'd ended up back in the bed, not tired, just uncomfortable and bored and apprehensive. He'd tried to explain to Zen about the importance of freedom and choice and Avon's betrayal of all of them, but there was only ever silence in return.

In the end he merely huddled under the covers and waited for Avon. As the hours crept by he grew more and more frustrated and angry at the man and his own impotence. When the door finally opened to the brightness of the corridor and the figure framed in it he didn't move.

"You might as well come up to the bridge."

Avon waited a few seconds.

"Very well. I'll bring you some food when I have time." The door closed again. No more than thirty minutes later Avon was again outlined in the doorway. "Here's your dinner. Let me know if you want anything else." Pause. "Still not chatty? Be careful, Blake. I could definitely grow used to this." He put down a package in the gloom and retreated.

Blake had been hoping for cutlery, a sharp edged tray, anything that he could throw. What he got was a wrapped sandwich. He stared at it, indecisive. The ship hadn't accelerated. He could be here for weeks at least - long enough for a decent attempt at a hunger strike. He disliked the idea, not so much because of the discomfort but because it would soon render him too weak to escape if the chance arose. On the other hand he had decided that he was done cooperating in any way with Avon, and eating was one of the few things still under his control.

It would be interesting to see what Avon did. He resolved on a compromise- he'd try it for three days, not enough to significantly incapacitate himself but long enough, hopefully, to get a reaction. Actually starving himself to death might be the sort of thing Avon would expect from the fanatic he thought Blake was.

When Avon came back the food was untouched.

"Not hungry either? Or don't you like it?"

Blake said nothing but he watched Avon from his huddle of blankets.

"Symbolic protests are my favourite kind. If you want to be silent and eat nothing it merely saves me preparation time and pointless argument. I'll bring you some more blankets. As you get weaker you'll feel the cold more."

True to his word, next time he brought extra blankets. He hadn't bothered with any fresh food, though. The wrapped sandwich still sat on the floor. In this temperature it would probably remain edible for days.

For an interminable time, which he thought was most likely objectively about a day and a half, Blake sat on the bed. For the first few hours he grumbled and pleaded with Zen but with the power out he had to concede that it was more than likely that there wasn't any working audio pick up in the room and he gave up even that. Hours went by between Avon's visits and when the man did come in he did nothing but greet Blake civilly, ask if he needed anything, wait a few seconds, glance at the sandwich and withdraw again. No more food was provided. The battery on the makeshift torch ran out shortly after his fourth visit and Blake sat in the complete darkness, hunger snarling up his stomach, reconsidering.

Blake was all too familiar with the effects of solitary confinement. He recognised the psychological effect it was having, even at this early stage. It was harder and harder not to respond to Avon's greeting, to resist the urge to co-operate just to have the man treat him like a human being, talk to him, give him news of what was happening in the outside world. Avon showed no sign at all of being disturbed yet by Blake's silence or his fasting, but then Avon had plenty to distract him.

What would happen if he persisted with the hunger strike? Eventually Avon would do something to keep him alive. He doubted that the man would undertake the sort of rough and highly unpleasant force feeding common in Federation facilities; more likely he'd put Blake back in restraints and simply hook him up to the med unit for a couple of days.

Put that way, it was hardly surprising that Avon was unconcerned. This was no more than the empty protest that he'd said it would be; unpleasant for Blake but irrelevant to his captor. It wasn't a pleasant conclusion. Blake hated the idea of backing down but he knew this was no more than pointless pride. He thought about keeping the silence going but again he knew that the isolation was distressing him much more than the lack of conversation was bothering Avon.

Avon eventually opened the door onto the blackness. He must have been anticipating it because he had a second torch in his hand. He held it up to look at Blake. "Good morning. How are you feeling today?"

"I would like some soup. " Blake told him. Despite his aching hunger he refused to eat the damned sandwich.

"Would you, indeed? Very well. If you come to the galley I'll heat some up for you."

Light, warmth, hot food and company. And the bastard claimed that he wasn't playing games. Did Avon know exactly what he was doing? Blake had never asked about the man's time in Federation custody. He'd assumed that 'common criminals' didn't get put through the sort of psychological manipulation that political ones had to endure, but there must have been interrogation before his trial.

He asked, shuffling down the corridor despite the instincts that told him never to play along with a captor. He couldn't stay any longer in the cold and dark and isolation to no clear gain. "How long was it from your arrest to transfer to London?"

"About three months, I believe." Avon didn't seem surprised at the new topic.

"Did they torture you? "

"Trying to establish some common ground, are we, Blake? Not that time, no. There was no need; the facts weren't difficult. "

"That time? You'd been arrested before? What for?"

A brief silence. "Amusingly enough, suspected sabotage and membership of a terrorist group".

Blair twisted round to see the man behind him. "You were a radical?"

"No. I was young and arrogant and didn't think rules applied to me. Fortunately it didn't take the interrogators long to work that out. I got a slap on the wrist, metaphorically speaking, and let go."

"You should have told me."

"Why? So you could have embraced your fellow hero of the revolution? I did a favour for a friend, that's all. It taught me that if I'm going to risk my neck I ought at least to be getting something tangible out of it."

Blake had become used to hearing about people's barbaric treatment at the hands of the Federation. It made him angry and it made him determined but he was hardened enough not to get emotionally upset any more, most of the time. Maybe it was the effect of isolation and his own fears about what would happen in the near future, but he found the thought of a young, naive, and yes, arrogant Avon enduring the sort of lesson that he might call "a slap on the wrist" was sharp and deeply uncomfortable. "You should have told me," he repeated. "If I 'd known..."

"You'd have what? Made allowances for my understandable cowardice? Offered therapy? Hunted down my interrogators? Tried to reawaken my long dormant rebellious streak? Told the others that I'm a hero, second class? " Avon snorted. "It's ancient history. None of it is relevant."

"Except that you know how psychological torture works." Blake reminded him

"They were your decisions." They were at the galley now. Avon waved Blake to a seat. "Just because I know what being cold and alone can do doesn't mean that I made it happen. As far as I'm concerned you can sit on the nice warm bridge nibbling caviar and reading a book or berating me all day, if you want to. My only concern is that you don't escape. What sort of soup?"

"Mushroom. There are some in that back cupboard. " He was so hungry.

Avon rummaged in a couple of cupboards and tossed him a packet of biscuits. "Make a start on those."

Grateful. He must not feel grateful. Avon still intended to let him be killed. The galley was warm and the biscuits were delicious, and the soup was starting to simmer and he did feel grateful, stupid idiot that he was. He glanced at the gun, holstered up against Avon's thigh. He still had to get out of this, somehow. He wondered what the young Avon had been like before he collided with a very harsh reality. Ancient history, as Avon had said. That boy was gone forever, just as his own younger self was gone. It was Avon here and now that he had to deal with.

Blake took the bowl of soup, a 'thank you' slipping out unintentionally. When he was properly fed and warmed up he had to start thinking seriously about outwitting or overpowering Avon. For now however he was content just to feel the warmth of the hot liquid sliding down his throat as he watched Avon making coffee for them both.

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