STAR TREK, BLAKE'S 7,
LORD OF THE RINGS, FOREVER KNIGHT
Zine stories by titleTrek, Blakes 7
Zine stories by zineTrek, Blakes 7
Online only storiesLord of the Rings
Script SampleForever Knight
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Full versions of stories



ZINE STORIES BY TITLE


ZINE STORIES BY ZINE


NOME 8 - 1985


NOME 9 - 1986

  • One Hundred and Eighty Degrees, Mary Suskind Lansing, Novella (art by Marilyn Cole), Nome 9, 1986, Surak Award for Best Novel (adult)
  • Intermezzo, Mary Van Deusen, Short Story (art by Caren Parnes and Pat Cash), Nome 9, 1986


CONSORT 2 - 1986


RESISTANCE 7 - 1986

  • Lay Your Bet, Blakes 7, A/B, Catharine Bell, Short Story, 1986


CONSORT 3 - 1992


DARING ATTEMPT 8


ONLINE ONLY STORIES


LORD OF THE RINGS - 2006


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EXTRACT FROM DATING GAME

There were only ten minutes left of first shift, and Trish was getting desperate. For the last three hours she'd been busily engaged in Vulcan First Officer Ploy Number 17, "Display an interest in his work." The problem was that since she also worked in the Science Department, she really was interested in the application of multiple annealing to four-space. By the time they'd finished the last set of measurements, she'd forgotten she was supposed to be trying to seduce him and, by the time she'd remembered, Spock was already summarizing the shift results for the benefit of the people coming onshift next.

It was all beginning to seem too much like an old-time musical comedy. All that was needed was the music. Which reminded her, that was the only thing she could find fault with in her otherwise perfect fantasy lover. He played the Vulcan harp beautifully, but she really wished he could restrain himself from the vocal accompaniment. Well, you couldn't have everything and, except for that, he was undeniably perfect. Admittedly, a number of her friends did try to deny it, but they were probably just jealous that she got to spend so much time with him in the Astrophysical Lab.

Spock glanced up at Trish, and she hurriedly began her own summarizations. Since she hadn't done anywhere near the amount of analysis that the Science Officer had, it didn't take her anywhere near as long. That meant she still had a few minutes to daydream and sneak a few lovesick looks before they had to leave.

This was it -- she'd promised herself! No more tricks, no more strategy sessions with her friends, and no more making a fool of herself. Ploy Number 1, before she'd realized she'd have to number them to keep track, was "Be friendly but a little distant. Men like to take the initiative." After four months, she'd decided that by the time he got around to taking the initiative, she'd be too old to care. That had led to Ploy Number 2, and Ploy Number 3, and ...


EXTRACT FROM COMMUTATIVE DIAGRAM
The Prequel to I Gave at the Office

McCoy turned his head to look at the bottle still glowing in the soft lights from the corner. He really ought to drink those last few drops, he thought. They were like abandoned friends who were missing the party in his gut. No, they were more than that. They were family. Like Jim and Spock. That thought brought him upright again and reaching for the bottle. He held it up to the light and tilted it back and forth. That drop there, the one that was so slow catching up with the other, that was Spock. Jim was always out in front. The Spock-drop, caught finally by gravity, fell and merged with the drops in the bottom. McCoy smiled happily. That's right. Family belongs together. With that feat of insight, he tilted the bottle and drank down his family. Now they really were all together.

The bottle crashed back down on the table and fell over, the hand that had been holding it fumbling in stupored confusion. Some family! Jim had the right of it when he asked what they were all doing out here. Sure, everyone else had family. But what they had was some twisted, distorted -- McCoy laughed -- drunken imitation. A gleam of thought began making its tortured way past the alcohol fumes, springing full-blown behind the doctor's eyes. Family Planning! That's what they needed to do, plan their families!

McCoy turned to the computer on his desk, holding the table with one hand to balance himself before the display. His mind blanked as he looked at the empty screen. "Damn it! Computer. Where's that blasted information on family somethingorother?" A menu selection list of data having to do with families began slowly scrolling up the screen. "Not those, you damn fool computer. I want the one to do with finding yourself a wife." The computer matched "family" and "find" and "wife" and, assuming the query was not asking for information over one week old, brought to life upon the computer screen an application form -- an application form to find a wife.

...

Your application for a bride (File Number 336188SH) appeared on the computer network about 5 minutes ago; I took some time to think about it and decided to apply. You don't give many requirements, so I would say I fit the bill. And though you don't know anything about me, I've certainly read enough about Captain Kirk since I was at the University to feel that I know you. I know that you need someone whose work can let her be stationed whereever your ship's schedule centers you, someone whose work is important and fulfilling enough to her so that she won't hold you back from what you need to do, and someone who wants to create a family with you that could be your anchor.

If I sound like the person you're looking for, I will be available in three months (that's June by the old Earth calendar!). Thank you for your consideration.

Val Alain
File Number 3278592Z

"What in hell is this about?" Kirk's confusion was rapidly turning to anger. He poked his finger at the screen. "Who is this person? She says I applied for a bride."

A chuckle began, turning into a snicker that was just stopped from full-fledged laughter by a glance at Kirk's face.

"Bones! This is not funny. If she thinks..." Suspicion flared at a sudden silence. "Bones!" The threat hung suspended.

McCoy seemed puzzled, as though there was something he should remember but couldn't quite. Kirk stood up from the console and leaned on the desk, staring into the doctor's face. "What," he said very slowly, "have you done?"

There was still a little confusion in McCoy's expression as he looked at the whiskey in his glass, looked at Kirk, then set it firmly on the desk. Straightening his spine, he addressed his captain, "I think I found you a wife."


EXTRACT FROM I GAVE AT THE OFFICE
The Sequel to Commutative Diagram

Stardate: 8477.5
From: Captain Spock, Xtmprsqzndtwifb, NCC1701A Enterprise
To: T'ran, Vulcan Bureau of Population Genetics
Regarding: C63413867A24

Greeting:

I wish to request exemption from VDN55075 on the basis of mixed racial parentage. If this request is denied, I wish to quality for VD B56UH3 on the basis of the hazardous exposure clause, since my work on a Starship takes me into high radiation environments.

Live long and prosper.

*****

Stardate: 8480.2
From: T'ran, Vulcan Bureau of Population Genetics
To: Captain Spock, Xtmprsqzndtwifb, NCC1701A Enterprise
Communication: C6343AAD2OFF

Greeting:

Referring to your communication dated Stardate 8477.5: Request for exemption from VD N55075 on the basis of mixed racial parentage has been denied due to the usefulness of this gene stock in current experiments.

Request for VD B56UH3 exemption on the basis of exposure to high radiation during employment on a Starship will be granted if form D118490 is filled out in full by the physician at your place of employment and states that out of 10 DNA samples, 7 have differing gene maps, indicating an abnormally high radiation damage rate.

Live long and prosper, now and for future generations.

*****

Stardate: 8485.3
From: T'ran, Vulcan Bureau of Population Genetics
To: Captain Spock, Xtmprsqzndtwifb, NCC1701A Enterprise
Communication: C6343AAD2OFF

Greeting:

I wish to appeal...

"What I don't understand, Spock, is why you don't just give in and let them have their sample." Rubbing his back, Kirk got up from looking under the bed, straightened his red uniform jacket, and went to stand at Spock's shoulder. The screens of text scrolled before him at, to human eyes, unreadable speeds as the Vulcan searched through obscure regulations for the one elusive section which would end this farce.

"If I choose not to have children, I cannot believe that it is anyone's right to demand that I do." One of the sections on the screen stilled for an instant, then was lost again in a dizzy whirl of text. "It is now a matter of principle."

Accepting the right of every sentient being to attempt to find their way through the Gordian knot of bureaucratic logic, Kirk just shrugged unseen and turned in a circle one last time in the hope that he would see his mislaid glasses. It looked like this was going to be another fuzzy day. As he left the room, calling out that he expected Spock not to be late for his shift, the noise of his leaving was overlaid by the steady sound of typing.

...the decision to make use of my gene stock for experimental purposes. In the case of Sprang and T'opl (Vulcan High Court, Docket Number VHC 00028F945217), the fact that...


EXTRACT FROM PARTED AND NEVER PARTED
The Prequel to Divorce Vulcan Style

He couldn't make Spock speak of the accident, or the first operation. Spock hid the past, as though he could wipe it out by not letting any reminder show. And what he couldn't hide in the darkness of their room, he hid in the brightness of their conversations.

Kirk turned away and stared blindly at the fire idol. The flame expanded through his mind, and he heard again the screaming over the intercom from the devastated auxiliary control. His heart pounded as he ran through the corridors of his ship, the emergency lights showing shadows on contorted groups of bodies -- dead bodies sprawled in the grotesque poses of death, and live bodies of crew scrambling through the wreckage to try to salvage what life remained.

And all he could see was the grey uniform soaked in emerald, the so-still body lying in the spreading pool. Command training had made his actions instinctive, his hands seeming to act without input from his mind, searching out the wound and applying pressure until he could rip loose a connector cable to use as a tourniquet.

"Are you all right, Jim?"

He blinked, his eyes closing on the living hell and opening on the quiet normality of their quarters.

"Sure, Spock", he said, with what he hoped was reassuring confidence. "I was just thinking that we'll have to hurry if we're going to have lunch."


EXTRACT FROM DIVORCE VULCAN STYLE
The Sequel to Parted and Never Parted

"There will be a time when you will settle somewhere. And when that times comes, whenever and wherever it is, I expect you to know that I will be beside you."

"Thank you, Spock."

There was nothing else to say, and what there might have been was left unspoken, though understood. By mutual agreement they continued walking, wandering through dimly-lit markers delimiting pathway edges, silent witness to private grief.

"Bones said to say hello when I remembered. I think he misses arguing with you."

"Unlikely. He seems as prone to contentiousness in messages as he does in person. Did he tell you we roomed together at the Politics and the Sciences Conference on Deneva last year?"

"He never even told me he'd been in touch with you. The bastard!"

"Would you really have wanted to know, Jim?" The words blended softly into the quiet of the night.

"Of course, I..." Kirk paused, then slowly shook his head. "No, you're right. I needed to forget." He glanced at Spock and added, "I never succeeded."

"I know."

There was a reluctance in each to leave the quiet place as awareness grew that each step forward brought the coming loneliness that much closer. But still they walked, paces firmed with the determination which duty, rather than desire, brings to necessity.

The builders were newer here, newer and much larger. Buildings catering not so much to individuals as to more impersonal needs. The style was the universal style of spaceports everywhere -- repair facilities, cargo isolation and storage, machine shops of every kind. These were the buildings of their lives; the sights, the sounds, the smells evoking the excitement of a profession whose domain was the universe. They walked the dark streets remembering.

For Kirk, they were the dreams of a child, a child who walked through giant spaces clutching the hand of a father too often absent. In that sandy-haired child were already the awe, and pride, and even the fierce determination which were the makings of the man who walked the past.

For Spock, they were the dreams of an adolescent -- dreams as troubled as those of any human boy. More, perhaps, because they were unshared on Vulcan by those his age. He was a half-breed in a culture priding itself on its traditions; rebellious and testing his maturity in a culture where peers bowed to authority in the trusting faith of childhood. Even now his blood aged him uniquely. It was only in the death bond with Kirk that he had found the joy of no longer being different. Now he, too, had a lifespan completely in parallel with another human being.


EXTRACT FROM 180 DEGREES

The last of the supplies had been inventoried and stacked next to the tent: four uniforms for McCoy, six for Kirk (two too small), four power packs, emergency supply food in six varieties, more emergency medical supplies, enough bottled water to last six months with a water-refresher unit, four changes of underwear each, six blankets, a fuel consumption report, the latest report on Romulan activities, and Yeoman Kriga's reprimand.

Damned supply clerks," McCoy grumbled as he looked over the list again. "They send us reusable uniforms and no soap to wash them with. If we have to share a tent for long, I'll have to give us both doses of cavornine so that we won't be able to smell anything."

He kicked one of the power packs and kept reading.

"We've got seven power packs now and what have we got to run on them -- two tricorders, a heating unit, a water filter, and your audio tape player. There's enough power here so that we could run hot baths for the next fifty years, listen to continuous music -- as long as you don't mind hearing the Ardelian Grand Marches over and over -- and still have enough power to broadcast clear around this planet. That is, if we had a transmitter and if there was anyone to listen."

McCoy punched his finger at the food list.

"They send us instant chicken sandwiches, instant goulash, and instant Andorian peach cobbler. By the time we get back to the ship, we'll be so dried out they'll have to add water to us." His voice rose in righteous indignation. "And not a drop of anything medicinal in the lot. If I ever get my hands on the idiot who put this stuff together..."

His voice faded off as he realized that Kirk wasn't listening. The captain held a message tape in his hands, turning it as though he could read words upon its surface. McCoy hesitated, reluctant to interrupt, then turned away to pull down one of the just-stacked boxes. He busied himself removing clothes and making piles.

The silence reached Kirk where the stream of complaint had not. He seemed to shake himself mentally, turned without really seeing McCoy, and walked into the tent. After a few moments, Spock's voice could be heard in the still morning through thin tent walls. It was hard to understand through background babel and confusion.

"There has been a malfunction of the equipment and we are assessing damages now. Over the past hour we have discovered that the power source and retrieval mechanisms are completely destroyed. In addition, there has been damage to the coordinate selector. The extent of that damage has not yet been estimated. We are beaming down a six month supply as a conservative measure, but to do this we've had to use ship's power and the drain is so severe it will take 12.4 hours to restore power to a level where we can continue to send supplies. If we haven't been able to recover you by then, I estimate that we should be able to supply you on a regular 7.9 hour basis by operating at half-power. That would mean two months between supplies for you."

The voice paused for a moment.

"Be assured, Captain, we are doing all that can be done to effect your safe recovery."

There was a pause again and the voice continued, almost too soft to be heard above the background noise.

"We will bring you back, Jim. I promise you that."

Again the plain was silent, an almost-paradise separated by space and time from that determined voice.

The tent flap was pulled aside and Kirk came out, his face showing none of the fear or worry that McCoy knew he had to feel.

"Spock is getting things under control, Bones. We got ourselves another two months worth of shore leave."

McCoy looked down at the neat piles of randomly sorted clothes and started resorting them into some semblance of order.

"Yeah, I heard. Wish I'd thought to bring my pajamas."


EXTRACT FROM INTERMEZZO

Kirk looked around for some receptacle for the Vulcan Consciousness. The guidebook had described its crystal composition but had neglected to describe its physical shape. Looking closer, he realized that the crowd had enlarged and that McCoy was now standing near a rock. The doctor and most of the healers had left earlier so that there would be time for meditation before the ceremony. McCoy seemed all right, but Kirk moved slightly into his line of sight, knowing that the results of this morning were out of his control but hoping that his presence would be of some support. Bones glanced at him and raised an eyebrow, clearly looking as though he would have preferred a good drink of brandy. The group moved back into a wide circle, leaving McCoy and a healer in the center. Kirk moved into the space which T'Aren had left for him.

The chanting started up again as the healer lay one hand on the boulder and the other on McCoy's face. Kirk stared in disbelief.

They're going to put you in there? They're crazy. That dirty rock is going to be your eternal home?

An almost hysterical sound escaped him. Pain from the pressure of T'Aren's foot on his brought him back under control. He took a deep breath and exhaled, the thin air making him slightly dizzy.

"We come to serve, passing finally into service."

The words hung in the air, shimmered in the heat and fell into silence. An intangible power seemed to surround the watchers, sensible even to Kirk. Each Vulcan stood quietly, head bowed, joined with the others in common intent.

McCoy was the center, the reason for this gathering, and he stood as quietly as the rest, only a slight awkwardness of posture showing how much he hated letting a stranger into his mind. The healer's hand moved away.

"The katra is here. McCoy, son of David, do you accept, for the katra you keep, this permanent commitment to the Consciousness of Vulcan?"

A chill passed over Kirk's body as the soft words reached him.

"I do."

"Then let it be done."


EXTRACT FROM TO CATCH A SWALLOW

Being able to remember so much, so clearly, was not always a blessing. As Spock waited for someone to answer, seven large, grey dogs paced proudly across the mists of his mind. As each one reached the center of the foggy plain, it would stop for a moment and meet his eyes, tail waving in the joy of memories shared. And, for that moment, past and present merged.

Far in the distance, a grey blur could be seen racing toward the pack. As it came closer, the blur became a form and the form became a dog -- legs extended in a long, smooth motion that, for a moment, brought a memory of the gliding swoops of swallows against the morning mist. The dog was like the others, grey and huge, but there was something in his posture that was immediately recogniable. Magnificent, yes, but with something that was maybe just a little crazier than the rest, something that Spock knew would burrow just a little further into his heart. With a silent bark of farewell, the last dog joined the line and slowly they faded into mist.

"I'll remember."


EXTRACT FROM ASSUMPTIONS

Kirk waved a hand toward the crowd surrounding Uhura and what was obviously his radio transmitter.

"And that?"

"Well, Scotty and I explained to Spock that it was traditional to broadcast weddings over the intercom to certain recreation rooms so that the crew who couldn't attend could still join in the solemnities. It was his idea to broadcast with your transmitter. Uhura is the one that connected it to the general PA system."

"She did what?"

The rise in Kirk's voice caused some eyes to turn in his direction, and he lowered his voice to an angry whisper.

"I don't remember giving any permission for a general announcement of this ceremony."

"You didn't have to, Captain. Regulations say that the senior duty officer can make that decision."

Four eyes found Scotty discreetly returning a flash to some obscure location in his skirt. Kirk's hand on McCoy's arm would probably raise bruises later.

"Scotty's duty officer today?"

McCoy calmly unwrapped the fingers. "He's got to be DO in order to officiate. Remember?"

The captain was beginning to get a somewhat glazed look. McCoy took advantage of this to pull him into the corner, out of sight behind a couple of large, and loud, geologists. Before Kirk could object, he'd taken out his hypo and given him a fast shot.

"What's that?"

"Just a mild tranquillizer to get you through until the bar opens."


EXTRACT FROM BUT WHERE IS HOME?

Once Kirk had seen himself as a hunter, a searcher whose quarry was adventure, whose thirst for action had never been completely satisfied. Cursing the fate that had chained him to a desk, he had conveniently forgotten that fate and choice, in this case, were synonymous. And in these last few years, he had almost succeeded in becoming the very bureaucrat he had railed against. Life had become a routine in which he had lost sight of the beauty of the pattern in the monotony of the repetition.

One day he was complaining to Spock that nothing ever changed. The next day he was praying to wake up and find that nothing had. His last adventure. His last hunt. Even now the memories came hard. Countless times he had thought Spock dead, and each time Kirk had bled inside. But somehow he had become lulled by the security of the very tediousness he had damned, reassured by the permanence of a tie never previously imagined.

The air was even thiner up here. Kirk's breath burnt in his chest and his legs ached with the unaccustomed climb. But resting now would just mean delaying the confrontation and instinct told him, whether it was true or not, that whatever peace they were able to make had best be made soon.


EXTRACT FROM SOUND OF HEARTBEATS

Spock keyed the food processor for coffee and moved over to the window. Far below the bungalow, the waves crashed toward the shore with a roar which could be heard through the closed windows. The day had been windy but it wasn't the wind that made Spock shiver. he moved back to the familiarity of the kitchen and took out the coffee. He had programmed it to be weak and the temperature was only barely above warm. He looked vaguely around the room, wondering if there was anything he could bring that Jim could eat. He knew he wasn't concentrating and mentally shook himself. The bright color of flowers in a vase drew his eye. On impulse, he chose a moss rose and laid it on a tray beside the coffee. He watched his hand shaking as though it belonged to someone else.

Control starts at the surface and moves down - down to level one, down to level two, down to level three.

Now why did I remember that exercise? Was I six or seven when I used to use it? Strange. I can't remember.

It did seem to be working. He picked up the tray and walked toward the bedroom. As he passed through the living room, he noticed the chess game still set as it had been from their last game. he paused involuntarily and closed his eyes, the quiet and contentment from that evening's memories filling empty places. The sound of a soft cough brought him sharply back. The contentment shattered and the soft afternoon light cast shadows which, suddenly, appeared dark and threatening. He started to shiver again and moved quickly toward the bedroom.

The bedroom seemed to have its shadows, too, as though the darkness and emptiness were beginning to spread. The bed lay in front of the large window. Spock stood for a moment watching Jim. He seemed to do that often these days. Jim was looking down twoard the water, but turned his head back toward Spock.

"What mush are you trying to give me now? You think that weed is going to make it taste any better?"

He smiled and his smile, as always, seemed to stop Spock's heart. Spock placed the tray on the table beside the bed and settled himself slowly and carefully on the bed next to Jim. He supported Jim with one arm and held the coffee to his lips with the other. Jim sipped carefully and smiled with surprise. Spock put the coffee down and settled Jim against his chest. The time passed quietly as the shadows lengthened throughout the room.

"The coffee was good, Spock. I won't tell the doctor if you won't."

The quiet descended again and Spock listened to the sounds of the waves beating an odd rhythm in counterpoint to their heartbeats. he bent his head gently to Jim's and touched his lips to the thin, white strands. The always uncontrollable lock of hair fell over Jim's forehead and Spock smiled as he tried, unsuccessfully, to make it stay put.

I believe I could spend eternity quite happily pushing back your hair.

Jim straightened himself and turned so he could see Spock.

"Did you remember to set up those savings accounts for Uhura's grandchildren?

"And don't forget you have to write up the scholarship requirements for the Fleet scholarship."

Spock nodded and put his free hand over Jim's.

"We made up a list of the people you'll have to notify, but I don't remember where we put it. Do you know?"

Spock just nodded again.


EXTRACT FROM ARROW STRAIGHT

The moment between sleep and waking was normally swift for the Dwarf. He would use that moment to listen for danger, but this time he awoke not to peril, but to grief. The mourning song of the Elves was a pain within his chest, bringing back memories of Moria that his dreams had kept at bay. Around him he could hear the reassuring sounds of his sleeping friends. Knowing that he wasn't going to fall back to sleep, Gimli moved carefully from his bed, quietly picked up the clothes and weapons he'd removed, and crept from the shelter to avoid waking the others.

Above him, silver lamps glowed through tall mallorn trees. In the high distance, far off figures could be seen moving on the walkways of the trees and, nearby, the fountain played its own reassuring song. A bench near the fountain was occupied by Legolas, who lay without moving upon the stone, face tilted toward the trees he had been so excited to describe as they first approached Lothlorien. Gimli wasn't sure if the Elf slept, but a flagon, precariously perched on the Elf's stomach, rose and fell with each slow breath.

Awkwardly pulling on his boots and shrugging into his jacket, Gimli settled his axes into their accustomed places in his belt, comfortable now with the familiar balance of weight. He was expecting any moment to see the Elf's head turn, but it didn't. A deep breath, almost a sigh, made the flagon wobble, and the hand that reached up to steady it showed Legolas was awake.

If not asleep, but not aware, then the Elf was likely once again deep in his own black memories. Durin's Bain! A balrog, Legolas had said. And the fear in the Elf's eyes had taken one of life's certainties away. Never before had he seen the Elf afraid. Well, if not friends, they were companions, and that meant a responsibility on himself to lighten loads where he could. And he knew well that this was a load no one should bear alone. Walking quietly on the smooth dirt path, Gimli approached the fountain.

"There wouldn't be ale in there, I suppose?"

Chuckling at the sudden start of the Elf, Gimli lifted the flagon and waved it slightly, confirming that there was still some liquid left. Gimli, not bothering to look for a cup, drank down the beverage in a single swig. Then choked as the taste registered. "What was that?"

"I thought you were sleeping." Legolas sat up, retrieved the container and set it on the ground, laughing as Gimli wiped his mouth with his beard, and spit out into a nearby bush. "A bitter brew to toast a bitter parting."

"Aye, a bitter parting indeed. But I don't need that to remind me."


EXTRACT FROM THE HOPE STORIES

Seeing Estel's bay still standing before Elrond's Library, Legolas walked in quietly, hoping not to interrupt if a meeting still continued. But the only sound he heard were his own footsteps on the stone paving. Wandering around, he finally saw the man he looked for standing before a massive painting of a battle scene.

"Estel?" Legolas called softly.

"No," was all the man replied, not taking his eyes from the painting.

Confused by the response, Legolas walked over to stand beside him, so that he could see what seemed to so fascinate the man.

Estel glanced over to the Elf, and then returned to his examination. "That's Isildur, and I am Isildur's heir," Estel said quietly.

Legolas jerked around to stare at him. "What?"

Estel never turned. "It's true. Eldron told me today."

"How could you not know? How could this be, and they not tell you?" Legolas cried, still not willing to believe it true.

"Sauron forever seeks to find Isildur's heir, and now I am of age to protect myself."

A chill ran down Legolas' spine as he stared at the profile of his lover, just beginning to comprehend the immensity of the threat. Moving to stand at his shoulder, Legolas said quietly, "Not alone, Estel." And his words were a vow. "With my life I will protect you for as long as you live."

Estel turned, his face lightening as he looked deep into the Elf's eyes. "I know," he said. "But you'll have to learn to call me by my name. I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Chief of the Dunedain." And he turned back to look again at what Legolas would never see.


EXTRACT FROM LAY YOUR BET

"Is there something you want?" Blake didn't look particularly reassured but, at Avon's hand gesture, lay back down.

"You complain I never talk to you. So..." Avon paused to smile again, "...I've come to be sociable."

The comment only seemed to increase Blake's confused and wary expression as Avon pulled a chair up to the bed and sat down, blocking any easy exit for Blake. Tilting the chair back, Avon put his feet up on the edge of the bed. Blake looked for a moment at Avon's boots on his blanket, then ignored them. "I was actually more concerned with keeping up on what you were working on."

"We could talk about that if you like." Avon enjoyed the experience of looking down on Blake in the bed. The man was becoming distinctly more uncomfortable by the minute. Avon's own confidence was growing by that same minute.

Blake struggled up to a sitting position and rearranged the pillows to support his shoulders. When he had settled back with a yawn, his eyes were on a level with Avon's. "No, that's all right. We can do that later."

Avon waited for him to continue. After all, as the ship's resident messiah, Blake usually had more than enough to say. This time the silence stretched on in growing discomfort. For Avon, that is. Blake didn't look uncomfortable at all. He just sat calmly, waiting for Avon to start. Avon glanced around the room. It was unusual for him to come here and, when he did, it was usually on the type of business that had him in and out in the shortest time possible.

Blake seemed still to be waiting for him to begin. Well, why not? That's what Avon was here for. "Where are you from originally, Blake? The London collected from a pretty wide area. I've just assumed you were from Earth." The question wasn't important. Getting Blake used to having him in his room was.

"Oh, I was from Earth all right." A cloud of memory drifted across Blake's face, then passed on. "My father was a research scientist. He was the only one of his family to stay there. My uncles were scattered some years ago." Blake's eyes focused back on the present as he looked intensely at Avon. "What about you?"

Avon watched the play of lights across the blanket as Blake idly jogged one knee up and down beneath it. "I was raised there." There was a faint odor in the room which he was only now recognizing as the warm smell of Blake, the scent caught in the bedclothes and spreading through the air.

"Are your parents still alive?"

The words brought harsh memories rising into the dream world Avon was creating. "No." His answer was abrupt.

"How did they die?"

"They're dead. Isn't that enough, Blake?"

The challenge died as Blake continued to sit quietly watching. In the end, it was Blake who finally broke the silence. "This was your idea, Avon. Are you regretting it now?"

Avon's immediate answer was bitten back as Blake began to rise from the bed. That didn't seem to matter anyway since Blake responded to the unintended answer on Avon's face. " I'll be right back."

Blake's head indicated the bathroom doorway as he tried to navigate over the outstretched legs. With the grace that only comes with the control of exercise, Avon swung his legs down and waved vaguely in the same direction. He watched the disappearing back as he settled in his chair again. Damn the man! Turn and doubleturn was a fine art with him. As the minutes passed to the sound of running water, Avon let the unexpected respite work for him, piece by piece building back his mental balance.

By the time Blake had returned, Avon was smiling pleasantly again. Blake glanced over with apparent curiosity as he made himself comfortable once again in the bed. Avon returned his legs to their previous position.

"So where were we?" Avon found it disconcerting to notice that Blake actually seemed to be enjoying himself.

"Socializing." Avon pulled his left shirt cuff down more comfortably and examined it for dirt.

"Ah, yes. Socializing. I must admit, Avon, that you do surprise me."

"Well now, Blake, I certainly wouldn't want you to start taking me for granted."

"It's not necessary to startle me for that."

"Do you think all surprises are unpleasant?"

"I've stayed alive as long as I have by being wary of the unexpected. Haven't you, Avon?"

"I'm still alive."

"That's true."

Both smiled as if the opening moves in a chess game had left each opponent in a new, but equal, position.








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