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"...Like a Worn out Recording of a Favorite Song"

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Tarrant stood up from the flight deck sofa, stretching ostentatiously and leaving his cards facing upwards, visible to the others. A seven and three deuces. Not a winner, but not bad.

“It’s all getting a bit dull, these games, if you ask me,” Vila sighed. “Drop your cards in the pile, everybody.”

“Should we start playing for stakes, then, Vila?” Dayna asked, laughing as Vila gathered up the cards. “I wouldn’t want you to get bored. Or perhaps you’re just tired of losing.”

“Then we’ve found least one sentiment Avon and Vila share in common.” Tarrant fixed his eyes on Avon.

“Oh, be fair, Tarrant. Avon’s won the past three games,” Dayna replied. He’d hoped Dayna would say that. They were all getting a little too predictable, but at least he could make it work in his favor.

“Who said anything about games?” Tarrant flashed his teeth.

“You’re repeating yourself, Tarrant,” Avon drawled.

“I thought you said I hadn’t said anything particularly memorable,” Tarrant shot back. He really did have it down to a science, didn’t he? Still, it was something of a pyrrhic victory, as it meant acknowledging the rut they were all in.

“What sort of stakes, Dayna?” Vila had either taken Avon’s side or just didn’t want to watch another sniping match between them. Tarrant didn’t know or much care which it was.

“Well, not money, obviously--”

“What’s obvious about that? What’s so wrong with money?” Vila interrupted Dayna. Tarrant watched the cards arc from one of Vila’s hands to the other in a perfect cascade.

“We could wager lessons. Whoever wins gets to have a lesson from any of the losers. I could teach you a thing or two about weapons, or Tarrant could teach you a bit of fancy flying.”

“Yes,” said Cally, speaking for the first time in nearly a quarter of an hour. “I think it is a fine idea, Dayna.”

“Lessons? Sounds like enough to make any reasonable person want to lose,” Vila sighed.

“Good,” Dayna pulled her legs up, so she could sit cross-legged on the sofa. “Maybe that’ll stop you being such a bad loser, for once.”

“And what do you say, Tarrant?” Avon asked, gaze hard, “If you agree, you will have to admit that there is anything in this world you do not already know. I imagine that will be difficult for you.”

He’d considered it before, and here was a perfect opening. Did he dare? Yes, he did.

“Oh, I’m glad to admit it, Avon. In fact, I’m certain you can teach me a thing or two.”

Avon’s eyebrows lifted. “Such as?”

“You’ll just have to see, won’t you?”

Let Avon wonder for a while.


Tarrant was almost sure Avon had thrown that next round. Curiosity was one of Avon’s weaknesses, vanity another, and Tarrant had played to both.

“I’ll pay you a visit at 19:00 hours, then,” Tarrant said, grinning. “For my lesson.”


Tarrant studied Avon’s room. Spartan. A narrow bed just like his own. Crimson sheets, which pleased Tarrant more than it ought. He hadn’t known Avon fancied the color.

“Well, Tarrant, what is this about?” Avon asked. “Didn’t the FSA do a thorough enough job on you?”

“As a matter of fact, in one respect, the experience was rather limited. You’ve had your share of men, haven’t you, Avon?”

He watched Avon go still. Execute a snap roll, and whoever is in pursuit, crack pilot or not, he’ll freeze for a moment at his controls, just watching you spin.

“And if I have?” There. Avon was quick. Already back in motion.

“I was coming to that. I’d like you to show me how it’s done. I already know how to please a woman, of course.”

“Well, now. I expect you’d like a hands on demonstration?” Avon sounded amused.

“I find that’s usually best, don’t you?”

Avon stood for a moment, considering.

“Very well. Strip, then,” Avon said finally, beginning to remove his own clothes, carefully deliberate. He was doing his best not to seem human, as usual. “One can make an erotic production out of undressing a lover, but as the same principles apply regardless of the sex of one’s partner and since, as you say, you know how to please a woman, such a demonstration would no doubt be tedious for you.” Avon’s tone was faintly mocking, as though he doubted Tarrant knew anything about making love with anyone at all.

Peeling Avon out of all of those layers had rather appealed to him, but never mind. He removed his own clothes.

“Now, lie on the bed. Do not assume you know what he likes, simply because you are a man and so is he. You will have to be systematic in your explorations of his body. Touch with hands and lips.”

After Tarrant had sprawled himself across the sheets to good effect--he knew red looked smart on him--Avon knelt above him. To Tarrant's surprise he began with Tarrant's cock, with firm strokes, but that didn't last. Avon soon switched to lighter tweaking, then to brushing his fingertips across Tarrant's inner thighs. When Avon flashed a smile that didn't touch his eyes and abandoned Tarrant's cock entirely in favor of his nipples, he decided he'd had enough of Avon's torture--good as it felt. He turned over, hoping the view might entice Avon into getting on with it.

Of course not. Hard touches, light touches, light nips, and harder bites on his ribs, shoulder blades, backs of the knees—that he particularly liked. He found he was moaning damply into Avon’s pillow. He hoped Avon wouldn’t mind about that, but thought he probably would. Maybe the pillow would dry out before they were through.

“The simplest way to do this will be for you to remain lying face down, as you are now." A touch of humor there. "Kneeling is also an option, but penetration will be deeper that way. Now, I’m lubricating one finger, and I am going to insert it. Try to relax.”

Tarrant knew that he should be concentrating—he did want to learn how it was done-- but he was experiencing the most incredible sensations. He found he was dangerously close to orgasm. Well, he wasn’t going to finish off like this. He had better control than that. He began to recite poetry in his head—a feat of memory seemed just the thing to distract him. There, that was better.

Avon was talking, telling him he thought he was ready for the real thing. Tarrant thought so too.


“Were all of this in earnest, I would probably be moaning profanities and praise into your ear. I trust you grasp the principle. The effect is generally erotic. Care to try?” Avon’s voice was still flat, passionless, lecturing. Tarrant’s legs twitched. Damn, he didn’t think he’d ever been so desperate to finish.

“Not particularly,” Tarrant gasped.

“Tell me. How good I am,” Avon grated.

For the first time, Tarrant sensed that Avon might want something from him. And if he gave it, gave it just right, the game could change completely, perhaps irrevocably. He hesitated. Though he wasn’t one for deep analysis, particularly with Avon, he was aware that Avon’s pedantry was a sort of protection. He let himself imagine words that could make this into something…absolutely suicidal. He could tell Avon he was perfect, magnificent. He could tell him he wanted him. See how the man would react to that. He’d have to be insane. Was he insane?

“You’re pretty good, Avon, but I bet I could do better.”

“Could you, now?” No trace of disappointment. Perhaps he’d been mistaken, after all.

“Face it. I’m in my prime, and you’re past yours. You should let yourself enjoy my body more. Cut the lecturing nonsense. Because ordinarily I’d be out of your league, wouldn’t I, Avon?”

“Careful, Tarrant. Or hasn’t it occurred to you that you are in a compromised position?”

“Yes, I’m entirely at your mercy,” Tarrant said, as breezily as possible. He probably could have done better if he wasn’t so desperately aroused. Another verse of that poem—yes, that would do it.

Avon took one hand off the bed and trailed it lightly over the bumps of Tarrant’s spine. Then, without warning, he raked his nails brutally hard over Tarrant’s back.

Tarrant yelped. The pain shattered his control, and he came. “Damn,” he gasped, “Damn.” Avon kept thrusting into him until he, too, had finished. Avon came silently, but a moment later Tarrant could hear him trying not to gasp for air. The bastard had been holding his breath!

Tarrant was sweaty and flushed beneath Avon, his back was stinging, and his muscles were shaking a little with fatigue. In other words, he was shagged out. “I’m…” he started to say, but he was still too breathless. In. Out. There. “I’m really not much for sado-masochism. I was doing my damndest not to finish off and you broke my concentration,” he said.

“Ah,” Avon said, dryly. “Too bad.” As Avon pulled out—ouch!--Tarrant grabbed him and pulled him down beside him. He took in Avon’s sweat drenched hair with a grin. Suddenly he wanted to kiss Avon, so he did, hard and long.

Avon pushed him away, but he didn’t look too cross. “Now you can get out,” he said.

“Yes, alright, Avon. That was informative. Thank you.” Tarrant tidied himself up as best he could, then dressed.

Tarrant couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed himself so thoroughly. There were rewards to be reaped for being humble, confessing ignorance, admitting a weak spot here and there. He should probably remember that, he told himself. Shake himself out of his old predictable ways. But hell, who was he kidding?