Sometimes, perhaps a little too often for it to be coincidence, they find themselves in the galley together. Blake cooks eggs and bacon or another of the simple things he can manage, and Avon watches. Blake knows that Avon never left the domes before he got arrested, never ate anything that didn't come from a cafeteria or a snacks machine. He seems to find the process of cookery interesting.
Without asking, Blake gives Avon half the portion; without saying thank you, Avon eats it.
Over the meals, they talk. There aren't many safe subjects. Politics is off limits; so's the future, most of the recent past, and anything to do with Avon's embezzlement scheme. They talk about Terran University 9, which they both attended, although Avon left before Blake started. They talk about old jobs and the universal curse of paperwork.
The first time they discuss the Aquitar Project, Avon gets excited and starts speaking in maths. Non-abelian gauge theory, particle twinning, quark confinement, and even less decipherable jargon pours out while he twists his hands together as though it hurts him not to be scribbling equations. And the physics of it wasn't even Avon's job; he designed computer simulations and data analysis programmes.
That's when Blake realises that Avon really is as smart as he claims. It's a limited kind of intelligence--Avon is grossly ignorant of history and admits without shame that he's never read a poem--but a fierce one. And, on the Liberator, a frustrated one. Avon's got nothing to do but tinker with self-repairing systems that won't let him in for a proper look. All his brilliance goes into quarrelling and worry.
Blake doesn't, on the whole, mind being a palliative for Avon's boredom. The insults amuse him, and having his own devil's advocate makes him think harder.
Anyway, Avon's his hobby. His other project, besides sorting out the Federation, is tinkering with Avon, unknotting him so he can find a little ease.
In the moments after sex, when orgasm has stunned Avon into calm, Blake daydreams about the transformation he'd work if he could. A happier Avon, one less burdened by his own heavy armour of cynicism. An Avon who wouldn't be uncivil; an Avon he could kiss whenever he wanted.
Really, he could have picked an easier hobby.
But Blake has his little successes. He can sometimes spin out that blessed post-coital languor when Avon's body quietens his mind. The trick's in touching him just the right way. Avon likes his hair stroked and his back softly rubbed. He likes attentiveness and seems to feel it through the skin. The closer Blake can come to doting--and heaven help him, he gets closer all the time--the better it works. Avon curls dreamily around him and stays an hour or more, or even falls asleep. For some little while, Blake wins his trust.
Minor victories, but delicious. The truth, Blake thinks, is that he's as restless as Avon in his own way. He likes struggle, and he enjoys his times of peace and pleasure best if he knows he's earned them.
The galley's food dispenser synthesizes decent enough bacon, or so Avon tells him, but he'd rather eat his own cooking.