Part Thirteen: A Trouble Shared
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. Enjoy!
“How’s the trip so far?” Claudia asked. She looked a little different at almost four months pregnant, a little softer and brighter. Her hair was down, and it fell in dark, shining waves around her face and shoulders. She looked happy, and Garrett appreciated that. He wondered how he looked to her.
“Oh, it’s a thrill a minute. Truly. I can barely contain myself, what with all the excitement around here.”
“Gare.” She sighed with a certain exasperated fondness that Garrett had seen in his father at times. And Robbie. And Wyl. Come to think of it, everyone he was close to made that noise on a semi-regular basis. “Be honest.”
“You don’t want me to be honest, Claudia.”
“Sure I do.”
“No,” he said emphatically, “you don’t. Not if you value your sanity. I can tell you that I want to kill Jezria, however.”
“She sent Miles a message that had him chuckling a few days ago. I think it was about you.”
“Yes, well, they both have sick and twisted senses of humor. Seriously, you’d better hope the baby gets the vast majority of her personality traits from you. In fact, next time, screw the sex thing, just pop off a clone. The universe could use more Claudias.”
“Garrett.” It was too easy to make his step-mother blush. “Be serious for a moment. It’s not really that bad, is it?”
“No,” he assured her. “It’s not that bad.” Because the expedition wasn’t, it was just oddly confining, restricting in a personal way that he hadn’t had to deal with since boarding school. His work was challenging but the atmosphere in the lab was brittle, and the tabs that were kept on his consumption of all things even remotely related to vice made him feel like an inmate. Plus the thing with the guy in the ship…yeah. Strange.
Jonah. Not “the guy”, Jonah. Funny how he didn’t want to forget that name.
“How did the elections go?” he asked, done talking about himself.
“Pretty smoothly. There were a few incidents but no more bombs, and no one was killed. The Federation troops are still out in force as part of a police effort as the new members of Parliament get situated, so Robbie and Wyl are working almost as much as Miles is. Oh!” Claudia smiled suddenly. “Wyl hired a friend of yours for the motor pool. I think his name is Isidore Cain?”
“Seriously?” It had been several months since Garrett had given Wyl Isidore’s information, and he’d thought that nothing had come of it.
“Oh yes. Wyl was way too busy keeping all the vehicles going since all the troops are on call and he really needed the help, and apparently it’s working out very well. I guess that getting the security clearance took longer than expected because of some of his family’s connections, but it worked out in the end.”
“He’s related to people who were against Paradise joining the Federated Colonies?”
“In a big way, but I don’t know the details. He’s here now, though, and I’ve met him. He seems very sweet.”
“’Sweet’ is the perfect word for Isidore,” Garrett said with a lascivious grin, and Claudia giggled. “Get him on his back with his legs in the air and—”
“Don’t tell me about it!” she begged. “Gentlemen aren’t supposed to tell!”
“Who did you think you were talking to, honey? Robbie?”
Claudia opened her mouth to speak, but then a chime went off in the background. “Oh. I’m sorry, Garrett, I have to go. We’re hosting a dinner for the Parliament members and their families tonight and I need to start getting things ready.”
“Better you than me,” Garrett said easily. “I should head to the infirmary anyway.”
“Infirmary, why? Are you okay?” Her pretty features creased with worry, and Garrett swore silently at himself even as he decided lying was the way to go here.
“I’m fine. I just have to take a first aid class. You know, what to do in case a natural gets his arm chopped off or something.”
“Oh, that makes sense.”
“Go get ready for dinner, Claudia. Tell Dad hi for me.”
“I will,” she promised. “Hopefully next time he’ll be able to talk.”
“When things calm down a little,” Garrett agreed. “Bye, honey.”
“Bye, Gare.” Her image winked out and Garrett shut off his screen. He hadn’t actually signed up for a first aid class yet, but he knew the nurse would bother him again about it today. He’d been receiving perky little messages to that effect all week. In fact, the number of messages he received was huge considering he didn’t have many friends on board the ship. It turned out most of the notices were for group socializing events, which Garrett had no desire to become involved with. Artificially constructed mixers where you got a flashing nametag and had to tell people Three Fun Things About Me!!! was not in the game plan, not if he wanted his brain chemistry to stay on an even keel. Thanks, but no thanks.
Garrett wasn’t a complete shut-in. He had dinner with Jezria once a week, he ate lunches with Lila and Shekar, and he ran regularly with a group of the ship’s security officers whom he knew by sight if not by name. Officer Brady turned out to be Officer Carrie Brady, and she was cute and could run like the wind, so they chatted more often than not while he worked out. The rest of the time, he worked or entertained himself. It wasn’t a wonderful life, but it wasn’t bad either.
Garrett forced himself off the couch and out the door. He wanted to get the infirmary appointment over with. Hopefully all would be well and he could give it a rest after this.
The place was surprisingly busy today. There were at least four doctors bustling around seeing to various people, and when he looked at the sign on the wall Garrett found that they were giving out vaccines today. Vaccines for what he had no idea, but he recognized several scientists who were naturals sitting down, and figured it was specific to them. The nurse was different, but the girl who’d replaced him for today indicated that Garrett should go ahead to Booth Two and let the autodoc do its thing. He went into the small room, but stopped at the door when he saw a small child sitting in the diagnostic chair.
The kid wasn’t being analyzed, he was just sitting there, his knees tucked to his chest and his face hidden in his arms. A wild mess of butter-yellow curls several shades darker than Garrett’s own hair made the boy look like he’d just come in from a windstorm. He peeked over his arms at Garrett.
“Are you a doctor?”
“No,” Garrett replied, squelching his initial impulse to call someone and have them get the kid out of the room. “Not this kind of doctor.”
“You aren’t gonna give me a shot?”
The boy sighed deeply. “Okay, then you can stay.”
“Thanks.” Feeling bemused but oddly entertained, Garrett sat down on the bed next to the autodoc chair.
“What’s your name?” the boy asked.
“Garrett.” There was no way he was throwing his last name at a toddler. “What’s yours?”
“Cody David Helms, and I’m five years old, but I’ll be six in three months, Daddy says.”
Five. Okay, so not a toddler. Garrett wasn’t comfortable with kids. He’d never had the opportunity to get to know any, but he didn’t feel the need to run out of the room screaming yet, so that was good. “Five, huh?”
“Yep.” The boy nodded firmly. “How old are you?”
Garrett cracked a smile. “A lot older. Super old. Probably as old as your daddy.”
“That’s old,” Cody agreed.
“I know.” They were silent for a moment. “Aren’t you supposed to be out there?” He gestured towards the main room.
“Yeah, but I thought they were just gonna check my ears again, ‘cause I have tubes in my ears and they have to make sure they’re okay, but then they said they hafta give me a shot too and I don’t like those, but Daddy can’t come right now and I don’t want to do it without him.” Cody looked thoroughly miserable at the prospect of getting a shot. Garrett could commiserate. It really was easier to be on Regen.
“Well, I don’t know—”
“There you are!” A white-coated doctor appeared in the door, her face set in a slightly scolding smile. “Cody, I’ve been looking for you. It’s time for your vaccination.”
“No.” He hid his face in his arms again.
“You’ll get a treat when it’s over, honey.”
“Cody…” She sounded exasperated. “Doctor Caractacus needs this room so he can use the autodoc. We don’t want to inconvenience him.”
“It’s me,” Garrett confessed.
“You said you were Garrett.”
“I’m that too. That’s what you can call me.” He looked at the frightened boy and the annoyed doctor and made a decision. “How about we get our shots at the same time? That way we can stay here together.”
“You aren’t scheduled for a…” Garrett caught the doctor’s eye and stared until she caught on. “I mean, yes. Both your shots. I’ll just go get one more.” She turned and walked away.
“Is that okay with you?” Garrett asked Cody. “Because I know I’m not your Daddy, but honestly I don’t like getting shots either and I don’t want to do it alone.”
“Will you go first?”
“’kay.” Cody seemed resigned if not enthusiastic, and after a moment he got out of the chair and pulled himself up onto the bed next to Garrett. The boy’s warm little body pressed against his side, and Garrett found himself actually thinking that the kid was pretty cute, as kids went. His hair was all over the place, but it was a nice color, and he had brown eyes that looked too big for his face but made him look completely adorable.
And this, Garrett thought to himself, is why parents don’t go homicidally insane more often. Cute gets you out of a lot of trouble. It had worked for him, certainly.
The doctor came back, two small syringes in hand. “Who’s going first?”
“I am,” Garrett told her. She nodded and rolled up his sleeve, then wiped the skin just below his shoulder clean. “You’ll just feel a little pinch,” she told him.
All of a sudden Cody was clinging to him, holding his side tight, and Garrett was so taken aback by it that he didn’t even realize he was getting the shot until the doctor pulled back and said, “All done! That wasn’t so bad, huh?”
“Not at all,” he replied honestly.
Cody looked up at his face from under long, sandy brown lashes. “Really?”
“Are you ready for your turn, Cody?”
Cody nodded, but there were already tears in his eyes, and when the doctor touched his arm to roll his sleeve back he buried his face in Garrett’s arm. “I don’ wanna watch,” he mumbled.
“That’s okay, you don’t have to watch,” Garrett said, feeling totally out of his depth. The doctor smiled slightly at him, then gave Cody his shot. The little boy flinched but didn’t make a sound, and after a few seconds it was done. The tiny hole was bleeding, though, and Garrett watched in fascination as the doctor wiped it clean again, then put a Space Ranger band-aid over it. Having a band-aid seemed to cheer the kid up some. Huh. Weird.
“There you go,” she said cheerfully. “Good job, Cody! If you come with me now I can check your ears and Doctor Caractacus can finish his things in here.”
“’kay.” He reluctantly let go of Garrett but looked up at him. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” Garrett replied. “I didn’t want to do that all by myself. You were a big help.”
“Oh. You’re welcome.” Cody smiled and Garrett felt himself smile back, unable to resist. “You can call my Daddy if you hafta get another shot and we can come help again. Daddy is really good at helping.”
“He can’t be as good as you,” Garrett said.
“He is. He’s the best,” Cody assured him. His insistence was very cute.
“I’m coming.” He got down off the table and walked over to the door. “Bye, Garrett.”
The doctor winked at Garrett and then laid a gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder, guiding him out. Garrett watched them go, completely bemused for a few seconds, before he remembered why he’d come into the infirmary in the first place. He moved down to the chair and put his hand in the gauntlet. A few moments later he was being analyzed, and a minute later the hologram informed him that his blood chemistry was back to normal and he could go. It felt cold and impersonal after the interaction he’d just had. Garrett removed his hand, stood up and walked back out into the waiting room.
“Sir!” The perky girl at the desk waved him over before he could leave. “About the first aid class…have you signed up yet?”
“Only we’ve got just five weeks to go until we reach Pandora, and all personnel and family members have to be certified by then. We have the classes every other day.”
“Next week, then, on this day.” Maybe if he was lucky he’d see Cody again. The kid was cute, no denying it, and Garrett wouldn’t mind meeting his parents.
“Thank you!” The girl beamed at him. “I’ll make sure you get a reminder before the class.”
“I’m sure you will.”
“Have a lovely day!”
“I…will.” Actually, Garrett had no idea what he’d do with the rest of his day. After chatting with Claudia and meeting Cody, however, it was looking up. “Thank you.”
“Journal record three, beginning.”
“So, I had a minor epiphany today: children are not the devil. They might seem like it most of the time and I’m certainly happy I don’t have any, but there are moments when their sheer adorableness probably makes having them worthwhile. It’s conceivable that when my stint on Pandora is up I might go back to Paradise and do more than spoil my upcoming sibling rotten during brief trips. Cody Helms is a cute kid, and I hope his father realizes how much he idolizes him.
“I don’t remember if I idolized my father when I was that age, but…I don’t think so. I don’t think I knew him well enough to. Then I got older and I hated him, and it took a long time for us to get past that. I love him now, but I hope he gets that kind of pure idolatry from his and Claudia’s baby, because just being on the periphery of it for a few seconds made it seem like a pretty special thing. Dad deserves that. Everyone should have someone look at them like they mean the world to them…”