A Pink Dormouse Production
Dariel walked into the lobby of his Lindor club, taking stock of the situation as he did so. It was reasonably busy for midweek and there looked to be little chance of trouble from the punters. He dismissed the two hired-helps, no point in keeping them around when he had handpicked all the bouncers here himself. He slung one arm across his companions shoulders and entered the main room of the club.
Toreth spotted the big guy the moment he walked in. More than his jobs worth not to; and you could hardly miss a six foot eight ex-pirate built like the proverbial brick outhouse. Dariels companion for the evening seemed older than his usual totty; hair only just covering his collar, which was unusual by SCorps standards. The fur coat looked like a Dariel Special though, not often you saw something made out of one whole animal like that. But then Dariel always got the pick of the hunting on all the planets he visited. The man hung his coat behind the bar and Toreth did a double take. You definitely did not see fifteen-buckle thigh boots every day of the week either. And over such a well cut pair of blue velvet trousers too.
"Drink?" Dariel asked.
"Dont mind if I do. Just the one though, I am supposed to be working." Avon scanned the room. His target was conspicuously absent so either their arrival had been noted, or the mark was as lazy as he was bad at cooking the books. No harm in checking who else was there though... Then Avon saw Him. No mistake, even if the black uniform had been replaced by Black Tie. His breathing quickened enough for Dariel to notice something was wrong.
"You could say that. Blond bouncer over there. We met once before under entirely unpleasant circumstances."
"Him? That is Val Toreth, he notified me that something was amiss here in the first place."
"Senior Para-Investigator Toreth?" Avon transferred the flick knife sheathed in his boot to his sleeve. "Ex, I suppose, if hes working for you? I had hoped he was dead like so many other Interrogation Division scum."
"So just what did he do to you?"
"What do you think?" Avon was justifiably bitter. "Tortured me for the better part of a week." Toreth was also the only person ever to get information out of Avon against his will but there was no need for Dariel to know that. "Look, I know your Death Before Dishonour extends to avoiding interrogation at any cost, but some of us had little choice in the matter." Avon turned to face the bar, picked up his cognac and drained the glass. A waste of a particularly fine vintage but he needed it. After all this time he had hoped never again to be reminded of the events leading up to his trial.
Dariel gestured to the barman and the empty glass was replaced by a full one. Avon picked it up fully intending to take his time savouring this drink. The alcohol of the first was starting to work its way into his bloodstream and his unease had dissipated a little.
"You said he tipped you off? I suppose that means it will be necessary for me to speak to him." Avon glanced briefly in Toreths direction. Dont start all that again, he told himself, you handled those last three bank jobs without any problems, this should be no different.
"Would you like me to speak to him?" Dariel asked. "You could go and make a start on the computer records in the managers office."
Avon hesitated. It would not need both of them to confirm Toreths information in person and the sooner he cracked the falsified records, the sooner he could move on to his other reason for coming away for the week. But now he had seen the man, it would not do to run away from the confrontation.
"Very well," he said at last, "you talk to him now, Ill join you when I have need of further information."
Toreth wracked his brains as to where he had seen Dariels new boyfriend before. The man was not entirely familiar so it was possible that a few years had passed since they had met. That would almost certainly place him on Earth. So, social or professional? He seemed to be the subject of a discussion over by the bar, judging by the looks both men were giving him. Presently Dariel came over alone.
"Toreth. Working hard, I see." Nothing could be read from Dariels tone of voice but that was hardly unusual.
"You know me, Dariel. I take my job very seriously indeed." Particularly as no one seemed too worried if the odd batch of confiscated pharmaceuticals wound up in Toreths possession rather then being recycled through the bar.
"If only all my employees were so diligent. Now, about this information you gave me..."
"He doesnt know we suspect and hes away for the rest of the week if you need to verify anything."
"Avon is doing just that right now." Dariel glance towards the door that led to offices and his own private suite.
Avon. Fuck, that was why he recognised the man. This could complicate matters nicely.
"Kerr Avon? I remember him," Toreth chose his words carefully.
"I was wondering if you would. He certainly remembers you." Dariels tone harshened. "I hope you realise what an awkward situation this puts us all in."
"It was a job. Same as any other. How was I supposed to know that seven years later I'd be working for you and you'd be fucking him? What am I, psychic?"
"Toreth, Toreth, dont be so defensive. I only ask that you use a little discretion when you come to talk to him."
"I was only doing my job--he was the one who held out for days and nearly lost me two hundred credits of sweepstake money."
"I would not mention that if I were you. Avon might not take too kindly to hearing such things."
Avon let himself into the managers office using Dariels master key, rather than picking the lock. He was still on edge, still had his knife to hand, not forgetting the two-shot pistol concealed in his other boot. The computer equipment was standard, very standard in Avons opinion. He switched the main terminal on and watched the screen as it booted up. Nothing significant to report there. He started scanning files, searching for the obvious and not so obvious traces of tampering and found them disappointingly easily.
"So what am I supposed to do about it? Apologise for doing what the Federation paid me for?"
"That would be one way of dealing with the problem."
Avon looked up from the screen as he heard the door mechanism clicking open. Toreth entered, closed the door and leaned back against it.
"Dariel seems to think we should talk," he said. Avon let the knife slide down his arm and felt the point press into the flesh of his thumb. He had no intention of drawing blood- not his own at any rate- but it was reassuring to know that he could.
"Does he now?" Avon kept his voice steady and his eyes fixed on Toreth, not trusting the man one millimetre. "And what do you think?"
"None of my business is it? Doesnt matter to me who the boss fucks, or what secrets theyve got in their past." Avon got up and walked around the desk, very much on his guard and intending to stay that way.
"I told myself once," Avon said with as much emphasis on each word as he could manage, "that I would kill you if I ever saw you again."
"I dont think Dariel would like that very much," Toreth said remarkably calmly, but then it was his job to deal with situations like- well maybe not exactly like- this. "Look, whats past is past. We can both be adults about this, cant we?"
"I think hating you is a perfectly natural reaction after what you did." Avon continued to glare at Toreth daring him to make just one move closer. He could always tell Dariel that Toreth started the whole thing.
Toreth returned Avons stare with one of his own. Never let it be said that Dariel had anything but impeccable taste in fashion accessories. All mad as hatters, of course, why Dariel let any of them get involved with the business side of things was quite beyond Toreth. And it was common knowledge exactly what kinky games Dariel was into. If Toreth had known about Avons masochistic streak at the time of the interrogation, he would have run things very differently indeed, might even have got results in record time. Toreth knew that screwing the boss current bit of stuff was as unthinkable as, oh say screwing a former interrogatee. Be very interesting though. He wracked his brains for any scraps of useful information about what Avon had done over the intervening years. God, there was a lot of it.
"Look, weve both done things we probably shouldnt have." Avon gave no sign of caring either way. "But Im sorry you had to go through all of that."
"Not that it ever stopped you, of course. Not with me, or with any of your other Victims."
"Hey, I quit didnt I?" Admittedly to save his own skin but Toreth was not going to worry over minor details. "For what its worth, Im sorry we couldnt have met over pleasanter circumstances in the first place."
Dariel paced, not something he was particularly accustomed to doing. He had switched from spirits to beer, figuring that the longer it took to finish one drink the less he would get through over all. He had known for much of his career that the chances of his employing persons who wanted, or had previously tried, to kill each other became increasingly likely as his empire grew but he should have realised that bringing Avon and Toreth together was doomed. He just hoped that they would have the sense to put their differences aside for the duration of the investigation. Such a shame to lose either one of them... Dariel decided to try chatting to the attractive redhead standing at the bar. Not that he screwed redheads- too many reminders of Roal- but he could always take a closer look to pass the time.
"What do you suggest I do about it?" Avon asked. Two apologies in a row, the man had to be after something. Although, now he thought about it, Toreth was rather, make that very, attractive. Something Avon had not had an opportunity to notice before now. Personal feelings aside, Toreth was no worse than plenty of other people Avon had been to bed with. Dariel had killed many times over and probably ordered the deaths of far more. But Dariel killed cleanly and for reasons he could justify, whereas Toreth had followed orders and changed sides when it suited him. Like certain other interrogators who were long since disposed of.
"I just think we should let bygones be bygones." Toreth smiled. "Come to an arrangement that suits both of us."
"Quite out of the question," Avon said.
"The idea that I should feel anything but hatred for you of course. I wouldnt fuck you if you were the last-"
"When did I ever suggest that you had any interest in me at all? I thought we were supposed to be discussing how we could work together in spite of everything not..."
Avon tuned out what Toreth was saying. He had fallen for that one of course, playing games with language until he admitted to Toreth what he would not admit to himself. Avon had heard of interrogation junkies obviously, but up until now he had always kept what he did for recreation entirely separate from anything that had been done to him by his enemies. Admittedly a spot of fun now should take the edge off enough to prolong things nicely with Dariel later. The thought felt like a betrayal, but of whom? Not Anna, Anna had never been real. Dariel obviously would not object, provided the work got done and his own needs were taken care of. Vila was back at Base with Marianne so no worries there. Blake? After killing him, any other betrayal by Avon was insignificant. So that just left Avon himself and he had to admit that submitting to some ex-Int Div thug was no worse than a lot of other actions in his past.
"Well then?" Toreth interrupted Avons thoughts from a lot closer than the door. Avon kept his eyes shut (when _had_ he closed them?) and took a deep breath. Toreth grasped both of Avons wrists in one hand and pushed him back onto the desk. "Those buckles look too fucking complicated. How about a handjob? Try not to get anything on the DJ though, it costs a fortune to clean."
"Whatever." Avon was rapidly losing the power of rational thought- completely bloody stupid- and was the door locked? Would he prefer that it was, or that he had an escape route should he change his mind?
"If Id known how easy it was to get you this compliant, Id never have bothered with anything else." Avon flinched at Toreths words then reminded himself that it was all part of the Game. "But you werent back then, were you? Defiant little bastard if I remember correctly. Or was that why? You knew what you could take so you didnt let it bother you?" Avon nodded. He remembered having said something rather similar to Dariel before ever he let the Big Guy touch him.
Toreth pulled Avon up off the desk and manoeuvred him round and back against the wall, then released his wrists. Avon was well used to rough handling- in context- but this was definitely blurring the lines, whether Toreth realised it or not. He tried to tell himself that it was just another Scene, nothing to worry about. But then he had never agreed a safe word, had he? And while he was prepared to take fairly big risks where Dariel was concerned, Toreth hardly knew him outside the context of the interrogation chamber.
The interrogation... oh fuck.
"Give me a minute." Avon sounded ragged. Toreth took a step back cursing himself soundly for assuming too much, taking things too quickly. Avon pushed his fringe out of his eyes and glared up at Toreth defiantly. "I dont know who- or what- you think I am, but no one gets to treat me like that other than by prior arrangement." He was losing the plot, that much was obvious. Now if Toreth could just remind Avon that he had agreed to the encounter at the outset- or not objected anyway- he might just get to keep his job.
"So you changed your mind. No big deal. We can just forget all this ever happened if thats what you want." Toreth reached out to touch Avon on the shoulder. Avon swung round and drove a fist under Toreths ribs. More than a fist. Toreths last thought involved his stupidity in not checking the man for concealed weapons.
Avon hated hospitals, and he had seen more than enough over the years. He sat on a chair that had obviously been designed with discomfort in mind and waited for Dariel to get back from speaking to the doctors.
"Hell live." Dariel held out a hand to pull Avon to his feet.
"Im glad. Well, only a little but at least theres less explaining this way."
"Explaining?" Dariel raised one eyebrow. "It was an accident, pure and simple, no one need ever think otherwise. Our lit-" Dariel stopped, remembering something Storme (or was it Vila?) had said about trigger phrases. "I mean, falling on a knife like that, could have happened to anyone. Just unlucky that he punctured a lung." He slung an arm across Avons shoulders and nodded to the bodyguards by the door. "How about we go back to my suite now and you can finish your work on the computers in the morning."
Avon thought that sounded like an excellent idea.
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