Part Six: Dropping Bombs
Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. The first parts can be found a few posts down. I’ll put them all in the same place soon. Don’t read it if you don’t want to, people. If you do read though, enjoy! If you enjoy, please let me know:)
It was nice to have his mind finally made up. Garrett skated through the next few days, researching Pandora and updating his technical knowledge. It had been a while since he’d worked in the field, and he wanted to make sure he could do the job. Fortunately, it looked like the equipment on Pandora was very familiar, and it wasn’t likely that the mobile lab on board the ship taking the new colonists out would be any more elaborate.
Garret had exchanged a few messages with Jezria, indicating his interest in the position and her willingness to hire him. They’d gone over an initial contract too, but the deal wasn’t completely finalized until the day before her arrival on Paradise, her last stop before heading back to Olympus to pick up people and supplies for a two year stint. The morning before Jezria’s ship was set to arrive, Garrett was sitting down to breakfast with his father and Claudia when Miles said, very casually, “So, we’re expecting.”
Claudia blushed and Miles raised one eyebrow in a very familiar expression, and Garrett’s mind suddenly put two and two together. “You’re expec…oh, fuck, you’re expecting. A baby? You two are going to have a baby?”
“Well, Claudia will be doing most of the heavy lifting,” Miles deadpanned.
“Oh my god.” Garrett just stared at them for a moment, as Claudia got redder and Miles started to frown. After a moment he figured out that his reaction probably wasn’t the one they were looking for, and pulled himself out of astonishment and into enthusiasm. “I mean, that’s great news! Congratulations!” He got up and came around the table and kissed Claudia on the cheek, then the top of her dark, smooth hair. “Let’s hope the baby is as sweet as you, huh? Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl yet?”
“It’s still a little early to be completely certain, but the preliminary scans say a girl,” Claudia said, smiling now, relaxing some as Garrett expressed his pleasure.
“A girl. Perfect, then she probably will be as sweet as you. Hopefully she’ll get your looks, too.”
“Thanks,” Miles said sarcastically. Garrett moved behind him and squeezed his shoulders briefly, then sat back down.
“Wow. Um. What brought this about?”
“Well, sex is a kind of prerequisite,” Miles began, but Claudia smacked him lightly on the arm.
“We talked about it some before we got married,” Claudia explained, “and we thought having a child together was something we wanted, but we weren’t set on it, especially not while Miles was still in the military. But now he’s out and we’re going to be settled for a while, so we decided to try.”
“Gran must be happy.” Miles’ mother, the matriarch of the Caractacus clan, had never been satisfied with her oldest son’s meager contribution to the continuance of their genes.
“She doesn’t know yet. No one else knows yet, we wanted you to be the first,” Claudia said.
“I’m honored.” And Garrett was, in a way. “Congratulations.” He was spared from having to become more repetitive by the sudden chime of his com. “Please excuse me, I need to take this.” He stood up from the table and walked away, silently blessing whoever was on the other end of the line. “This is Garrett.”
“Garrett, good morning. It’s Senator Dowd.”
“Jezria! Finally! Get me the hell out of here.”
“I was actually calling to discuss a small change to the contract terms…”
“I accept. Whatever they are. I’m ready to go.”
“You certainly sound ready,” she chuckled. “What happened to light a fire under you? And for heaven’s sake, don’t accept a contract before you’ve read it all through.”
“Nothing happened, I’m just ready to go.” Lies, lies, lies. “What’s the change?”
“The length of stay is being changed from two standard years to three, but there’s a fifteen percent increase in pay for the last year, and it turns out we will be able to make room for your personal ship.”
“Three years. Excellent, that’s even better.” Time and distance had suddenly gained a lot of priority in his mind. “When can we leave?”
“I get into Paradise tomorrow…Garrett, are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine. How long are you planning on staying here?”
“There are some supply issues to work out with your father, but it shouldn’t take more than a day or two. Will that be enough time for you to prepare?”
“Yes.” An hour would have been enough time, the way Garrett was feeling now. “Perfect, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“I’m seeing Miles first thing in the morning, but if you meet me for lunch we can take care of the contract details then.”
Garrett smiled. “I’ll have the chef make ambrosia salad.”
“You remembered my favorite, how sweet. I’ll see you tomorrow, my dear.” Jezria disconnected and Garrett suddenly realized he’d walked all the way back to his ship over the course of their call, as far from Miles and Claudia and their impending new addition as he could comfortably get. He sat down in a chair, strangely affected but not exactly sure how. It was good news for them. Great news. A baby, that was big, important, life-altering stuff. Garrett was happy for Claudia, he was happy for his dad…for himself, he didn’t fucking know. Not that it mattered; it didn’t concern him except in a very peripheral way. All that should concern him right now was getting his shit ready to leave.
The fact that he could take his personal ship was saving him most of the work, actually. There would be no need to box things up, no need to choose and discard. Garrett could take as much of his old life with him as he wanted to. Funny how he suddenly wanted to get rid of all of it.
His com sounded. “This is Garrett.”
“Your coffee’s getting cold.”
“Dad! Sorry.” Garrett flushed uncomfortably. “I’m heading back right now.”
“Good.” They disconnected and Garrett sighed, then pushed his new tumble of emotions out of the way again and resigned himself to spending the morning trying to be enthusiastic over something he didn’t really understand the allure of. Parenthood…fuck, he personally had probably taken years off his father’s life by being such a shit son. Garrett hoped that no matter who his new sibling turned out to be, that they’d be a good kid, and not the royal terror he’d aspired to.
Garrett went back to the terrace and finished his breakfast without coming off too strangely, he hoped. Claudia was more than happy to talk and he was more than happy to provide appropriate noises and cheerful expressions of interest. They talked a little but about Jezria and the contract, and Claudia expressed some more-than-just-polite dismay at the prospect of Garrett being gone for so long. “You’ll miss so much.”
“I’ll get vacations,” Garrett replied. “I prefer to be able to swoop in and spoil my sister rotten anyway. That makes it so much more exciting for Dad.”
“I don’t know how much excitement from you I can handle at my age,” Miles said.
Garrett grinned. “Well saddle up, cowboy, because you’re about to start all over again. Remember to take your vitamins and do try to learn from past mistakes.”
As soon as he said it Garrett knew it was a mistake. His father wasn’t as calm and collected about Claudia’s pregnancy as he was pretending to be, and being reminded of parts of Garrett’s childhood wasn’t helping him any. Miles hid his discomfort from his wife, but Garrett had had decades of deciphering his father’s flashes of stillness. Now wasn’t the time to talk it out, however, and they finished breakfast and went their separate ways as usual.
Garrett had vaguely thought about cornering his dad that evening, but that plan was shot to hell when a bomb went off in the warehouse district of Rapture that afternoon, killing a dozen workers, injuring seventeen more and doing millions in damages. Miles dispatched security forces immediately and went to the bomb site himself to coordinate the relief and repair efforts, and he was out all night. So was Robbie, and so Garrett and Wyl and Claudia banded together and spent the night watching news reports and ignoring the reporters that seethed just beyond the gate. Claudia thought she should go and speak to them, but Garrett advised her not to.
“You aren’t on the scene, you can’t tell them anything they don’t know, and your PR person has already made a statement about how seriously you’re taking this. Dad is at the site of the explosion, he’s got this. They just want to interview you to see if they can stir something up.”
“Really?” Claudia asked, her expression torn.
“Really,” Garrett affirmed. “Stay here, let your staff do their jobs and make Miles’ and your lives easier by not saying anything he might have to refute. You don’t have an official place in his administration beyond spouse yet, but they’ll throw everything at you from ‘do you have any theories’ to ‘how do you respond to allegations of…’ whatever the fuck they want to allege. Probably something negative. Don’t go there.”
“You have a very cynical mind,” Wyl told him, bare feet dangling over the arm of his chair. Garrett had no idea how the man could be comfortable sitting sideways in a hard-backed chair, but maybe he liked the feeling of being contained.
“Cynical is synonymous with experienced,” Garrett replied. “I’m not trying to throw that in your face, Claudia…”
“No, it’s fine,” she said. Her voice was calm but her eyes were troubled. “This is the sort of situation I worry about without you, Gare. I don’t know what to do yet. I’d be out there making a mess of things right now if you weren’t here.”
“Dad’s chief of staff will advise you when I’m not here,” Garrett said soothingly. “You’re smart, you’ll learn fast, and in the meantime treat everything like a learning experience and be thankful that the bomb didn’t hit closer to home.”
“You don’t think…”
“You’re dealing with terrorists, honey. From the losing side of a civil war. They’re bound to be thinking about all sorts of targets.” Tears sprang up in Claudia’s eyes and Garrett felt like hitting himself. “I’m sorry, I‘m an idiot.” He got up and moved over to Claudia’s side, hugging her close and throwing a remorseful glance at Wyl. “Dad’s got great security. You and the baby will be completely safe.”
“What baby?” Wyl asked.
“Oops. Did I let that slip?”
Of course then Claudia had to explain to Wyl, who was very happy for her and told her as much, and after a little while the gloom was put aside and the conversation was onto lighter, happier topics, exactly like Garrett had intended. They shut the news off and made popcorn and played a non-drunk version of “Never Have I Ever…”, which Garrett lost soundly, and eventually Claudia dozed while Wyl and Garrett drank espressos and talked.
“So,” Wyl said, “when’s the goodbye party?”
“I’m not having one,” Garrett replied. “Assuming things still happen on track, there won’t really be time. I’m set to leave tomorrow.”
“No goodbye party.” One eyebrow went up. “You’re fucking weird these days, man.”
“You should let Robbie and I take you out. One last night on the town. I’ll even drag him to one of your clubs.”
Garrett grinned. “I loved doing that. He’s never understood how attractive he is. People would gravitate towards him and he’d be looking like he was plotting exactly how to take out each and every one of his admirers.”
“Yeah, he told me once he’s always looking for trouble. He’d be threat assessing in a nursery school.”
“Have you guys ever thought about…you know…”
“Having a kid?” Wyl asked with a grin. He brushed fine black hairs out of his face and threw back the last of his espresso. “No, not really.” He headed over to the machine and ordered up another one, waiting patiently while it churned and ground and steamed. Condensed espressos took a little longer. “I think Robbie would be a great father, but he says he isn’t interested and I know I’m not. Besides, I’ve got black marks on my mental health record that would make adopting or surrogacy tough.”
“There are some places that don’t care about that.”
“Yeah, and those are the places that produce fucked-up kids,” Wyl said, shaking his head. “I’ve got a friend from when I was a bonder named Leesie—”
“The undercover marshall?” Garrett broke in, remembering a little of Wyl’s story.
“Yeah, they use her for that kind of shit all the time. She’s got this way with people…anyway, she told me about an operation she took part in once infiltrating and producing evidence of wrongdoing at a baby mill. She said it was atrocious. The geneticists’ backgrounds were all forged, half of the kids they incubated didn’t make it and the other half…man, everything from deformities to mental retardation to naturals.
“And what could the parents do? The kids were biologically theirs, they’d paid for them, they had wanted them…but some people only want perfect kids, so when the place was shut down a lot of them went into Federation-run facilities instead of to their parents. If that was what the folks chose.” Wyl picked up his tiny cup and blew on it a little. “It still makes Leesie cry to talk about it.”
Wyl might have said more, but the faint door chime indicated that Miles was back, as he was the only other one who could get into the personal wing without having to be let in. Wyl set his fresh cup down untouched. “I’ll get out of here, Gare. Robbie’ll be back soon if Miles is in. Remember, tonight: club, dancing, party. Suck it up.” He went out the back door, and Garrett grabbed up the espresso and went out to meet his father.
Miles was setting his formal coat down on the table by the entrance, looking exhausted. “How’s Claudia?” he asked as soon as he saw Garrett.
“Good.” Miles took the proffered cup and sipped, did a slight double-take, then sipped again. “Did you make this?”
“Wyl was here. That was going to be his third.”
“Kid knows how to brew it,” Miles said appreciatively.
“Things okay out there?”
“As okay as they can be. We’ve got a lead on the bomb’s manufacturer, the company that was targeted is increasing security and I’ve spoken to the families of the victims…” Miles sighed. “So not great, but okay. Any problems here?”
“Lots of reporters. I persuaded Claudia not to make any comments.”
“I should have mentioned that before I left.”
“You might want to get her squared away with her own publicist or media relations person, just to be safe.”
“You’re right. I sometimes forget she doesn’t have your experience,” Miles said. He looked at Garrett fondly, and Garrett felt a surge of affection for his father.
“Can we talk in your office real quick?” he asked.
“Sure.” It wasn’t far, and they were careful not to wake Claudia as they moved past the cavernous living room. Once his door was safely shut, Miles turned to his son. “What’s up?”
“I’m sorry about this morning,” Garrett said without preamble. “I didn’t mean to insinuate that you’re not a good father.”
Miles’ lips twisted a little. “I made plenty of mistakes with you, Gare. Big ones. To be perfectly frank, I’m a little unsure about becoming a parent again. Claudia will do great, of course, but my schedule hasn’t gotten any lighter over the years.”
“It isn’t your fault I was an unstable, egocentric little freak,” Garrett snapped, not wanting to hear his father putting himself down. “Some traits breed true, and that gem came from Mom, no questions there.”
“You weren’t a freak,” Miles said calmly. “You had medical issues that were being overlooked, and I wasn’t giving you the attention you needed. I barely ever saw you, Gare. Who could blame you for doing what you did?”
“I can,” he replied. “It was a stupid, completely selfish thing to do to myself, and afterwards…afterwards, you could have sent me to a nice, discreet rehab center. Instead you quit your work, put your entire career on hold to stay with me for a fucking year. That is not the act of a delinquent father. You might not have been there for every milestone, but you put me first when I needed you and you’ve been there for me ever since. You’re a great father, and any more kids you have will be lucky to get you.”
Miles’ eyes were shining suspiciously, but his voice was reassuringly gruff as he said, “You can’t say that kind of thing to me without advance warning, kiddo, it doesn’t give me time to prepare.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a bastard sometimes.”
“Nope, completely legal.” His father held out one arm and they embraced, briefly but tightly, before the embarrassment got to be too much for both of them and they separated again.
“Are you going to catch a nap before your morning officially starts?” Garrett asked.
“No time,” Miles said, happily transitioning back to safer topics. “I’m supposed to meet with Jezria in two hours and I haven’t looked over the changes she wants to make to the shipping contract yet. I can’t go into that meeting unprepared.”
“Should I let Claudia know you’re in?”
“I’ll wake her up in a moment. Go get some sleep, son, you look beat.”
“Fuck you, I’m fresh as a daisy,” Garrett replied amiably. “I’ll see you later. Dinner out, maybe?”
“It might be better to order in for now,” Miles said cautiously, “just to be safe. But I think some sort of farewell celebration is in order, since you’re leaving tomorrow. Whatever you want.”
“Dinner with you and Claudia and Robbie and Wyl.”
Miles looked at him for a long moment, then shrugged. “As you wish.”