"Since it's not a weekday, hopefully, there won't be many officers here," Black said as he led Calyx down the long walkway that spanned the indoor range. "It's usually quiet here on Sundays."
"Trying to respect God on the one day they aren't out shooting innocent bystanders?" Calyx asked brightly.
Black's look was dry. "Something like that."
They paused before a narrow cubicle which held a white computerized podium. Down the range hung a blue screen on a wire that could be adjusted for distance. There were only a handful of other shooters currently practicing, but Black looked around in obvious concern.
"If it becomes too much, let me know," he told Calyx for what must have been the third time. He handed over the range gun with some reluctance. "I can't give you Bliss while you're handling a firearm. But I don't want you in pain. We'll just leave."
"You're such a softie, Darkness. I'm moved. But you forget that I'm a professional." Calyx smirked. "I'm used to feeling other people. I do it all the time. Sometimes, I even enjoy it."
Black ignored the innuendo and stepped to the side as the empath tested the weight of the gun. It wasn't Calyx's issued gun. That particular weapon was locked up in the locker back home. For purposes of evaluating his skill, Black had checked him out one of the range's laser guns, a weapon that didn't fire a projectile but instead emitted a laser beam that would register on the pre-selected practice screen. Black had selected "Turandot Bridge, Hostage" on the range computer. Fifty feet down the range, the screen showed a scene of the bridge bathed in moonlight. Three masked men were running down the asphalt.
Calyx looked at the scene and sighed. "This brings back such fond memories." A masked assailant darted across the screen, one arm wrapped around a screaming hostage. "I feel like I'm back home."
"You're being timed," Black reminded him, watching the screen.
Calyx sighed. Darkness was no fun sometimes. Well -- most times, actually, but the empath was willing to overlook Black at his most stoic because that presented a challenge of sorts. Calyx wasn't used to people not responding to either his flirting or to the simple fact that he was an empath. It was . . . different.
"Starr . . ."
But at the moment, he wouldn't have minded a little play.
Calyx raised the gun in a single-handed grip, his body turned slightly, feet spread. He took a breath, and as he breathed out, began firing. He'd learned that particular trick while 'listening' to some street cops who had been shooting cans in a deserted field. Excitement and anticipation on the inhale -- calm concentration on the exhale to prevent yourself from aiming too high.
Calyx kept both eyes open as he tracked one of the video thugs and took him out with a shot between the shoulder blades. Another computerized thug spun, gun extended, but he never got the shot off as Calyx dropped him with a shot to the heart. The remaining thug with the hostage was a little more difficult to hit since his hostage kept getting in the way, but he, too, at last fell in a heap to the asphalt of the bridge. Calyx lowered the gun, smiling.
"Ten seconds too long," Black commented, loading another program into the range system.
Calyx couldn't even be angry. It was typical Black. Leaning one hip against the console as the dark-haired man worked the controls, Calyx let his eyes drift over the man's profile.
"I'll do better," the empath said easily.
Black's eyes lifted to him. "I know you will. You have good technique. I'd like to see how you do on the move, but I can see that your rating is legitimate."
Unexpectedly pleased by the compliment, Calyx moved forward slightly. He noted how Black paused a moment before continuing with the programming as though the empath weren't there. It made Calyx smile. "When I'm moving, I'm so much better, you know. Fast or slow -- however you want me to do it --" he lowered his voice, "-- I'll take your breath away."
Black stopped and looked up. His expression was thoughtful, his emotions carefully shielded. "That's how you handle other people's emotions, isn't it? You manipulate what they're feeling so it won't be as painful for you."
Calyx straightened, too surprised to respond.
"You use sex to manipulate them."
The empath lowered his lashes, his mouth twitching with amusement. "I don't need to manipulate anything, sweetheart. People look at me and naughty things just naturally come to mind." He shrugged, brushing a hand deliberately across his throat, drawing Black's eyes there. "I might encourage others to think about sex when they're around me, but that's only because it's so easy. People want to be dirty. They just need the excuse. You all do."
Black's eyebrow lifted at his use of the word 'you'.
Calyx tapped his forehead. "Anyone who's not a psypath. It's a sale day at a department store in most people's minds. Jumbled, noisy thoughts, conflicting emotions. Such a headache, really. You're the only one who has any order in your mind. Or maybe, as I suspect, you're just hiding all of the particularly juicy bits where I can't see them. Is that it? Are you holding out on me, you tease?"
Black punched in some codes. "Nothing that would interest you. You're only interested in sex. I have more important things to think about."
"The perfect answer of the sexually repressed," Calyx said with a delighted laugh. "Now do you understand why I'm interested in you? You're a locked door, sweetheart. You give no one a key and you never answer the door when anyone knocks." He licked his lips. "Ah, but sometimes, sometimes I get a peek through the keyhole and what I find there . . ." The empath's voice grew husky. "It's like glimpsing you as you're stripping. Underneath all of that darkness is something hungry, something desperate, something, oh, so deliciously vulnerable." The empath felt something tickle his senses. It made his pulse quicken. "The more you suppress it, the stronger it grows, doesn't it?" Beside the other man's ear, he murmured, "I enjoy feeling your desire, the lust that sometimes catches you by surprise. I get turned-on when I can sense you fighting it. The struggle makes it so much sweeter to me."
"I'm not fighting anything," Black said, pulling away. But there was a faint pink tinge to his dusky cheeks. Calyx could practically see the iron control Black was holding over his emotions.
"To paraphrase Shakespeare, I think you protest too much," Calyx murmured. He caught Black's hand and quickly pulled it beneath the flaps of the long duster he wore. Black's expression was frozen into one of horrified fascination. "Curious?" Calyx whispered, drawing the other man's hand slowly toward his body. "Want to know what it feels like to just give in?"
But Calyx didn't need his empathy to sense the uncertainty Black was emitting. Risking castration, Calyx pressed the trembling hand to his groin. Black's hand was hot against him. The empath groaned at the sudden flare of desire that swelled in his cock.
"Why can't you just give in for a little while?" he whispered, watching Black from beneath his lashes. Black was still staring at where his hand disappeared beneath Calyx's jacket. "I won't hurt you. You won't hurt me. Just pleasure, Darkness. Surely you miss it? I know it's been so long for you . . ."
But the moment he spoke the words, the empath knew he'd said the wrong thing. Black yanked his hand back. Calyx let him. The flush on Black's cheeks faded swiftly as he determinedly completed the programming and stepped back. "You're confusing what you sense from other people with what you can't sense from me." His sable eyes blazed. "Get this straight, Starr: I'm. Not. Interested."
"Maybe," Calyx murmured, swallowing his disappointment, "then again, maybe you simply can't admit it."
Deciding to take pity on his leader for the time being, the empath turned his attention to the screen. Black had chosen "Dance Club, Robbery". "Someday," the empath said casually, "I'll take you dancing at a club like that. I'd like to see you fight your feelings on a dance floor, Darkness. Skin to skin, hip to hip with me and no place to hide -- I'll bet you'd be amazing."
Not waiting for a response, Calyx raised the laser gun and the screen exploded into motion, dancers and club lighting flashing in a dizzying whirlwind. It was a robbery scenario, with several masked thugs robbing the club's two bars. Shots rang out. Young dancers screamed and ran across the screen. It was difficult to separate the clubbers from the robbers, and the ambiguous lighting didn't help. Calyx found himself frowning a little, concentrating on the beam of his gun as it played across the screen.
"You must lose yourself, sometimes."
Calyx almost took his eyes off the screen, the comment was so unexpected. He fired twice, taking down one thug and missing the other. "Lose myself how?"
"When you feel so much from other people, you must lose track of what it is that you feel." Black paused as the empath accidentally shot a female clubber in the leg. "So do you? Do you find it hard to separate yourself?"
Calyx wounded another thug, but also shot a bartender in the process. No one had ever asked him such a question before. He hadn't really thought of it that much himself.
"I -- it happens, I suppose," he said distractedly, firing and missing.
"Do you even know for sure what your own feelings are?"
Two more clubbers went down screaming from errant bullets. Calyx lowered the gun. The screen froze.
"Why do you care?" Calyx demanded, annoyed that his concentration had been broken by a single, ridiculous question.
Black took the gun from him, careful that their fingers didn't touch. He inspected the gun before raising his eyes to the taller man. "Because if you don't know what you feel, you can't know what you want. You think you want me, but you don't. Not really. You only want me to feel something for you. You're used to reflecting other people's emotions back onto them, and when you can't do that with me, it frustrates you. You view me as a challenge. But that's all this is, Starr."
Calyx stared at him, any glib reply lost to him. "I had no idea you were a telepath, sweetheart."
Russet eyes shuttered. Black frowned, turning to face the screen. "And I had no idea you're so afraid to face the truth."
"There is no truth," Calyx returned. "Everything is perception. Life is what you choose to show yourself." He smiled suddenly. "The world shows me lust and greed and anger and hate. If it's my feelings or someone else's, it doesn't matter. That's how it is. I can't block it, so I live with it." He shrugged. "So to answer your question: maybe you're right: perhaps I am truly myself only when I'm not -- when I'm high on Bliss."
"That's a sad thought."
"It's the only time the masses are silent, sweetheart."
"And yet when they're gone, you miss them," Black said quietly, staring at the frozen club scene.
Calyx said nothing, a rare unease settling over him. Black sounded almost as if he understood and Calyx had never experienced such empathy from a non-psypath before. The cold hard truth was that no one ever cared about a freak's viewpoint. As long as a psypath's attention wasn't focused on them, people were willing to give him a wide berth.
Calyx watched Black reactivate the simulation. Black moved like a stalking panther, every action deliberate and controlled. Steady, precise shifts of his shoulders and arms were his only movements as he tracked his targets with the laser beam. Two perpetrators down. Three. Four. Black didn't waste a shot. Not a single bystander was harmed. Black was obviously very familiar with a gun. Familiar, too, with dealing with psypaths, Calyx reminded himself. Leading JC2 in the fight against Bliss, Black had a perspective that few others did. It wasn't empathy or telepathy, it was experience on the street.
The realization was somewhat disappointing to Calyx, which amused him. Since when did he need someone to understand him? You're becoming too obsessed with him, sweetheart. Better rein it in.
A feat that was easy to accomplish when a pair of men entered their cubicle.
"I knew I'd find you here," Capt. Dickerson said, sounding pleased with himself. "Even on a day like today, Lt. Black doesn't relax an inch."
Calyx smiled thinly at the Captain, grateful that the older man was wearing a tab. He hated feeling the man's greasy lust. It was like taking a bath in used vegetable oil. "Capt. Dick, come to watch us shoot off our guns, have you? Or perhaps give us some tips on how to handle our weapons? I know you handle yours quite frequently."
Dickerson chuckled. "I see Black hasn't tamed that mouth of yours yet."
Calyx ignored him and turned his attention to the other newcomer. Calyx's interest sparked. He dragged a lock of purple-tinged hair across his lips as he regarded the Captain's companion, the blonde-haired man he had seen at the funeral. "And who's your handsome friend? Is this the big bad boy from JC1 that I've heard such flattering things about?"
"Starr, can it," Black said. JC2's leader set down the gun and regarded Lt. Sundhill warily. "I'm surprised to see you both here. You're looking for me, sir?"
Sundhill was staring at Calyx with an obvious urge to laugh that was only barely restrained. "Lt. Black, I consider myself lucky to finally meet your newest team member."
He was wearing a tab as well, but Calyx could read the man even without his empathy. Calyx teased the lock of hair he held, sliding it seductively around the edges of his lips. Sundhill's eyes were glued to what he was doing. Calyx smiled and let the tip of his tongue play out a little. "Mmm, why is it, I wonder, that the boys of the JC Units are all so -- impressive," he said, deliberately running his eyes across Sundhill's broad shoulders and down his torso to his crotch.
He heard Black mutter, "Jesus Christ."
Sundhill grinned even more, his eyes darkening. "Nice new addition, Black. Very nice indeed." Sundhill glanced at the other Lieutenant. "If you find yourself with your hands full, I'd be happy to take him off your hands and train him for you."
Fiery emotion flashed through the empath's head. Calyx sucked in his breath, his eyes shooting to Black in surprise. But the brown-haired leader of JC2 merely nodded in polite response. His face was a blank canvas.
Capt. Dickerson, unaware of anything going on, looked past Calyx and Black to the shooting screen. "How'd our little empath do?"
Black slid Calyx a warning glance. "As well as you claimed. A little more training in maneuvering and other weapons and he'll be able to meld seamlessly with the team."
The Captain had taken off his overcoat and was carrying it over one arm. He used it to motion towards the hall bisecting the range. "Excellent to hear, Lieutenant. Then if you can spare him a moment, I'd like to do a little briefing of Agent Starr on my own." He smiled at the empath. "See how things are going from an empath's side"
"This end's fine as it is, thank you," Calyx drawled.
Dickerson just smiled. "Now come along, like a good little freak, Starr. I've missed you."
A stab of irritation and anger that was not his own made the empath look to Black. JC2's leader, however, looked back calmly. "I'll be waiting," Black said.
Shit, Calyx thought. But his smile for Capt. Dick held mega-watts.
Capt. Dickerson kicked the range commander out of his office and ushered Calyx inside. The sound of the lock clicking into place didn't affect the empath's smile in the least. He swept inside and surveyed the small room.
"I would've thought you'd found some new playthings by now. Surely you're not still hard-up for little 'ol me?" he began.
A heavy palm struck him across the face. Calyx cursed, gingerly touching his tongue to his split lip. "Guess you're not getting any?" he asked.
"If I wanted to fuck you, I'd do it on the range in front of everyone just to remind you of your place," the Captain growled as he took the seat at the large metal desk that took up most of the room. "But I'm not interested in that just yet. I just got my physical back and I'm disease free. I'd like to remain that way."
Taking the man's position behind the desk as a good sign that he wasn't about to get screwed, Calyx lowered himself into the seat across. "So it's not me you want, hmmm? I wish I could say I'm disappointed." Deciding the cut on his lip wouldn't mar his looks too badly, Calyx allowed himself a small, dark smile. "So is it my luscious Lieutenant you're after? I received the most interesting readings from him last night."
Dickerson's eyes widened minutely; only someone looking for the reaction would have seen it. Then the older man smiled smugly. "Nice try. If there's one thing Lt. Black does well, it's keep a secret. What he and I do is none of your business. However --" the larger man leaned forward, pinning the empath with his gaze " -- what you and he do is very much my concern."
Calyx arched a brow in amusement. "Jealous? Why I thought you wanted me to be the Lieutenant's evening nightcap. Having second thoughts, Capt. Dick?"
"Shut up. I want more from you than that. When you finally slither your way into his bed, I want you to be the good little whore that you are and stay there. One time isn't going to be enough."
"You demand so much of me," Calyx murmured, but inside, he was smirking. Did Capt. Dick honestly think Calyx only intended a one night fling with Black? Having Darkness only once would be a torture beyond imagining. But Calyx wasn't stupid; he was from the streets, after all. "You're asking a lot. That man is like a robot. Gorgeous, yes, but I imagine his sexual technique will be about as thrilling as making love to a blender." He cocked his head, thoughtfully. "Although I have tried using various kitchen utensils at one time or another and some of them weren't bad . . ."
"Enough with the idiocy," the Captain snapped. "Become his lover and you'll get everything I promised you."
"I.D.s, bar codes, the complete set-up in the Silent City?" Calyx confirmed in a sharp voice. Since Dickerson had made him this offer two months ago, it had been sitting in the back of Calyx's mind like a diamond he was afraid to take to a jeweler's for fear it would turn out to be fake. It was the dream he was afraid to believe. But he yearned to. Oh, how he yearned to. "An entirely new identity that can never be traced or broken. Even by your boys?"
Capt. Dickerson nodded, studying the empath over steepled fingers. He smiled suddenly, and Calyx did not like the look at all. "However, I require a little more."
"You've already demanded that I sleep with him more than once," Calyx testily reminded him.
Dickerson was unmoved. "I want you to report to me on the state of his mental health." He smiled a little at the empath's surprise. "He's under some stress and he suffered a concussion a few days ago. He's reported headaches to the staff doctor, but I want you to feel him out in the way a doctor can't. He's leading one of the most dangerous, elite forces in the city. I can't have him buckling under the pressure and becoming a hazard to us."
Calyx frowned, thinking back to all the times he had tried to read Black. It was like trying to read Braille without using your fingers. Then again, Capt. Dick didn't need to know everything. Calyx was good at feeding people what they wanted to swallow. He smiled slyly at the Captain. "Whatever you want, sweetheart. No part of his body or mind will remain a secret to me. Or to you."
Dickerson grinned, the sight making Calyx want to stick his finger down his throat. Scheming sleazeball. Calyx almost felt sorry for Black. The man obviously considered Capt. Dick some sort of father figure. If he only knew.
But what do I care? Calyx asked himself. His ticket to freedom from both the JCPD and those who wanted him dead in Juxtapose City was within his grasp. All he had to do was reach for it. Years of feeding off the streets, of fending off madness with the equal evil of Bliss -- all of it would soon be over if he pulled this off. Sanctuary in the Silent City. Just the thought made Calyx want to smile. Whatever it took to get him there, he would do it.
The Captain's voice broke into his thoughts. "Now come over here, Starr, and earn your keep."
Revulsion and self-disgust did nothing to mar Calyx's smirk as he stood and rounded the desk. "Don't you ever worry," he purred as he dropped to his knees between Capt. Dick's spread legs, "that one day I'm going to get sick of this and bite off your little friend?"
The sudden wilting of the Captain's erection was worth the slap to the face.
"So is the empath as good as you claimed, or are you fudging for the Captain's sake?" Sundhill asked with a wink.
Black crossed his arms and leaned against one wall of the shooting cubicle. He watched the other Lieutenant fidget with the range gun. "His technique is solid; he must have seen a lot of shooting. He's a little loose in his movements, but that can be easily remedied. After he's gone through more training with my team, he'll be as effective as the rest of us."
"And you are extremely effective," Sundhill remarked. He looked up at Black and he smiled. "I'm sure this will come out sounding like I'm being condescending, but I'm proud of you, Lieutenant. JC2 is living up to every expectation the Captain has set for you and not just that: you're exceeding them. You're giving my team a run for the money."
It did sound condescending, but Black found himself not caring that much as a seed of warmth took root in his stomach.
"Thank you," he said. "The truth of the matter though, is that JC2 is only as good as it is because you've set the precedent. You've given us a goal to shoot for. JC1 is the standard for us all."
Sundhill set the gun aside, regarding Black with interest. "Do you really think so?" He grinned. "And as obvious as that sounded, no, I'm not fishing for compliments."
Black dared a small smile. It was hard to resist when Sundhill grinned at him like that. Andrew Sundhill smiled at you as though he shared a secret with you. To not give one in return seemed petty and juvenile. That was the last impression Black wanted to give to the man. When Black had begun his tutelage under Captain Dickerson, it was Lt. Sundhill whom Black had tried to model himself after. The man's record was impeccable. He was hot-headed at times, yes, but that only added to his legend. In the Department, it was Sundhill, not Dickerson, whom everyone aspired to be. Unfortunately, his and Black's styles of leadership differed wildly.
"The Captain filled me in on some of the details of the Wyatt Street bust," Black said tentatively. "The way you adjusted your methods at the last minute when you found out that the deal had been compromised -- it wasn't textbook, but it was inspired."
"It was a stroke of luck," Sundhill said with a self-deprecating laugh. "If I hadn't found that side stairwell, we would have been cornered like mice. No inspiration there."
the perps into circling around on each other and then you surrounded them.
You apprehended everyone."
"I've got a lot to learn," Black cut in, disliking any mention of his age and, by extension, his limited field experience. "I'm doing the best I can. It seems to be working."
"No need to get defensive," Sundhill said, smiling. His blue eyes gleamed as they looked over Black. "What I was going to say is that you're younger than I was when I received my first command, and yet you're doing considerably better than I did. There's no question in my mind that you should be the Captain's prodigy. You've an inclination for this stuff. If you weren't already his, I'd make you mine."
Black was suddenly very, very glad that Starr was nowhere in sight. He felt heat in his cheeks and immediately scolded himself for responding like a girl with a crush. Not for the first time, his eyes flicked to Sundhill's left hand. Of course there would never be a ring there -- letting a criminal know you were married was an impossibility -- but Black couldn't help looking for a tan line, an impression, anything to hint that Sundhill was anything other than available. Like always, he found no such thing.
"You should come down to our side of town," Sundhill went on. He looked amused, but Black didn't trust anything he was reading from the other man while his own senses were in disarray. "I think I'd enjoy spending a couple of hours with you going over a few of the tricks I've picked up here and there. Would you be interested?"
Black swallowed. "My time is limited, as I'm sure yours is --"
Sundhill took a step closer. Black had to look up slightly to meet his eyes. "We kill and arrest people for a living, Lt. Black. We need to make time for the more pleasant aspects of life or else we'll end up as little more than walking corpses. I would enjoy having you at my place. Or don't you feel the same about me?"
Black refused to read more into that statement than he should. "Of course I'd like to. I'm honored, but --"
Sundhill's handsome face definitely held amusement as he watched Black try to back out. "Don't insult me by refusing. I could use a nice diversion. After the events of late, I'm sure you could, too." He raised a hand to Black's shoulder. "Let me entertain you. It will be instructive as well as fun, I guarantee it."
"Well, well. Should I be jealous?"
Black reacted instinctively to the sound of Starr's voice: he imagined steel walls slamming up in his head. If he was too late to hide what he'd been feeling, Starr's expression didn't show it. Black moved to the side, letting Sundhill's hand slide from his shoulder. Black could have indulged himself and pretended that the other Lieutenant had turned it into a caress, but Black didn't believe in fooling himself if he could help it.
"Call my PRU," he told Sundhill calmly. "Leave me your schedule and we'll work something out."
Sundhill's eyes glinted with pleasure. "I'll do that. Just don't tell the others, right? They seem to enjoy believing that you and I are at each other's throats."
As the other Lieutenant laughed, Black cleared his throat, a nervous habit he thought for sure he'd broken. Sundhill winked and turned to face Starr and Captain Dickerson.
"Everything go alright, sir?"
Dickerson looked at the blonde Lieutenant with an odd smile on his face and nodded. "Everything went perfectly. Agent Starr is progressing nicely." He glanced at Starr, but the empath had his attention focused doggedly on Black.
Black returned the empath's intense look, wondering at its source. He doubted that the other man could be jealous. Starr didn't strike him as the type to grow attached to any one person in particular, much less himself. He'd given the empath every reason to believe he wasn't interested. Black wanted nothing to do with an empath. That was a road he knew better than to travel.
But Starr didn't seem to appreciate the determination of Black's thoughts. Green eyes were narrowed slightly as they jumped between Black and Sundhill.
"It's probably time that we return to the house," Black said, breaking the awkward silence. He turned to his Captain. "Anything else you need from us, sir?"
Dickerson waved him off. "Lt. Black, you need to take some time away from everything. I'm ordering you and the rest of JC2 to take a break for the remainder of the week. I don't want to see you anywhere near the Department facilities, do you understand?"
Black ground his teeth together. "Yes, sir."
Dickerson studied him much like a teacher would a stubborn student. "Lieutenant, I mean it."
"I understand, sir." He saluted and pretended not to see Sundhill's conspiratorial grin.
Once the other two men had left the cubicle and headed towards the front doors, Black grabbed the range gun. "Let's go."
"Oh, but don't you want to follow the shiny Lieutenant Sundhill?" Starr asked, batting his lashes innocently. "I mean, since the two of you do have that secret relationship he was referring to."
Black smiled abruptly, turning to face the empath. "Don't tell me you're jealous. Just don't. You and I have a working relationship. Despite your delusions to the contrary -- which I don't understand at all since I did nothing to contribute to them -- you and I are not equals with the possibility of engaging in a relationship. I am your commanding officer. I have the power to put you back on the street if you don't obey my orders. Is that clear to you, Agent Starr?"
Starr looked about to argue. Then the empath lowered his head and shook it, as if mocking himself. When he raised it again, the beautiful lines of his face were smooth and worry-free. "Answer me one question, sweetheart, and I'll leave you alone for the time being."
"This isn't negotiable, Starr."
The empath continued without care, "If you weren't an officer in the JCPD, and if I weren't an empath, would you still choose Lt. Sundhill over me?"
Frustration made Black take a deep breath. "You just don't get it, do you? There is no choosing. You don't know me and I don't know you. You're panting after me like a dog in heat, but that's just lust."
"What's wrong with lust?" Starr challenged, his green eyes flashing with unexpected passion. "It makes me feel alive. When was the last time you felt alive? When was it, Darkness? Was it on the street with your team when you thought you were going to die? Was it when you were about to have sex with Sgt. Cole? I'll bet it's the first, and that's sad enough to bring tears to my eyes. But I can change that for you, sweetheart. I can reawaken everything you've buried. I can bring you back to life. I'll tell you this a hundred times until it finally pierces that thick, beautiful skull of yours: no one will ever know you better than I can. That I can promise you."
But Black just shook his head. "You think that's an offer. I hear it as a threat."
Starr's eyes widened. For once, he looked without a smart retort. Black didn't give him time to recover. "We're going home. I don't trust the others not to have killed each other by now."
He expected a sarcastic comment, but Starr remained silent. Black didn't know which was worse: the knowledge that Starr had succeeded in goading him to reveal a weakness, or the fact that he'd pretty much guaranteed that the empath would eventually act on it.