Part Seventeen: A Special Night
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. I know, it’s been forever waiting on this one. May has been a hell of a month. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it.
For Garrett, talking with Robbie for any stretch of time these days was almost as rare as getting a moment with his father, and he was trying his best not to squander it. Wyl was working while Robbie was home for once, and Garrett was doing his best to maintain his half of the conversation despite the fatigue that had set into him over the past week.
Unfortunately, Robbie wasn’t like Wyl. Wyl could practically carry a conversation by himself, and he knew how to interpret murmurs and grunts with the best of them. Robbie wasn’t as much of a talker, and he was surprisingly good at reading people for someone who worked in a concrete, military, hierarchical world. Of course, he also had a lot of experience at reading Garrett.
“So, why aren’t you sleeping?”
“I am!” Garrett protested. Robbie just raised an eyebrow. It was an expression that seemed contemptuous if you didn’t know better, and even then it could still be annoying. Like right now. “At least four hours a night.”
“That’s not enough for you.”
“Don’t I know it,” Garrett sighed. “This is the problem with having regular working hours. There’s no time for catnaps. Not that my working hours have been at all regular lately.”
“What’s Martina up to?”
“Well, we’ve finally entered Pandora’s system. We land today, actually, and so Martina’s been going crazy getting instruments recalibrated, prepping for the power transfer, compiling data for the science team she left on the planet…we’ve been working sixteen hour days. Something she’s apparently allowed by contract to require us to do, if circumstances can be justified as ‘extraordinary’. This fucking contract,” he groaned, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “If I never sign another goddamn employment contract again it’ll be too soon.”
Robbie graciously let that go without teasing Garrett the way Wyl would have. “And how about Jonah?”
Garrett frowned. “When did I tell you about Jonah?”
“Wyl told me.”
“Oh. Right. It’s going okay. It’s…frustrating,” Garrett admitted. “He’s hard to get a read on because of Cody. I’m usually really good at figuring out what people want and giving it to them, at least for a while. I know what Jonah wants, on one level at least, but he won’t do what he wants with me. Did Wyl tell you about the movie?”
“Yeah.” Robbie actually cracked a smile. “I have to say I have trouble picturing you sitting through a kid’s film.”
“I know. Especially one about evil sentient meteors.” Garrett stared down at his hands, hoping his frustration didn’t show in his face. “Since then we’ve done dinner once, all three of us in a restaurant, not either of our apartments. It was nice, but hardly intimate. And then Cody’s class came to the lab and I did a presentation on Pandora’s climate with my simulator.”
Thinking about that brought a reluctant smile to his face. It wasn’t that it was an opportunity to be alone with Jonah; Garrett was beginning to think that that wasn’t going to happen again. It was that it was actually pretty fun for a while, insofar as fifteen five-year-olds had the capacity to be anything other than terrifying. Martina had kicked up a fuss when she found out he had invited them to visit, but the freedom to conduct educational seminars was a nice surprise he’d dug up in his own contract, and it helped that Cody’s teacher, Mr. Hugelin, was Lila’s elusive new love interest. Lila was pleasantly surprised to see him, and Shekar was a masochistic mix of curious and jealous, so he also encouraged the interlopers. Jonah and another parent, a short black woman with twin girls in the class, rounded out the motley crew.
The presentation had gotten a mixed result. Garrett had darkened the back of the lab and set his simulator up to project across the walls, and without really considering it he ran the last simulation he’d plotted, the one that ended with the world subsumed by the sea. The kids were interested enough in the beginning, but by the time the tidal wave washed over them half of them were screaming, several were crying and Cody had actually covered his eyes with his hands.
It then became a matter of damage control to turn the lights back on, reassure frightened children that that wasn’t going to really happen to them (although technically it was, at least once a year, but Garrett didn’t feel like it was the right time to point that out), and show them something far more pleasant and innocuous to soothe childish nerves and adult indignation. The only good thing to come out of it, as far as Garrett could see, was the fact that Jonah seemed to find the whole thing more amusing than anything else. He’d stared at Garrett over the top of Cody’s head with a smile on his face, that same calm, relaxed smile he’d shown when he’d pushed Tamara into fixing Garrett’s ship. Then he’d winked, and Garrett managed to let go of his sudden surge of anxiety, herded the children around a microscope and showed them something blobby with flagella that they all found wonderfully disgusting.
Robbie was actually laughing by the end of Garrett’s retelling. “I would have paid to see that.”
“I bet you would have, you sick fuck,” Garrett muttered, but his heart wasn’t in it. “Be kind to me when you tell Wyl about it, I can’t take his particular brand of teasing when I’m this unsettled.” And he was, and it was ridiculous, but he couldn’t help it. The few hours of sleep he got every night now were filled with dreams that revolved around Jonah and Cody, and in none of those dreams did Garrett manage to do anything right.
“Relax,” Robbie said, in that tone of voice that commanded and soothed all at once. Miles had that tone as well; maybe it was a military thing. “I’m sure they both like you. It’s not as though you can’t be a nice person.”
“Being likeable isn’t enough. Anyone can be a friendly Mr. Joe Blow. I need to be more than that. It would be different if he and I were sleeping together,” Garrett said tiredly. “I can make myself indispensable when I’m sleeping with someone if I really try. If you hadn’t been gone so much when we were together I would have managed to keep you.” Whoops, did that actually slip out?
Robbie frowned. “We both fucked up with our relationship, Gare. It wasn’t a matter of you not being good enough for me.”
“Oh, I know that,” Garrett said airily, essaying a smile. It wasn’t convincing Robbie, but before his ex could say anything else Garrett changed the subject. “I talked with Claudia yesterday. She’s looking pregnant, huh?”
“Very. Although I hope you didn’t phrase it like that to her.”
“No, I told her she glowed with a motherly radiance,” Garrett grinned. “She still looked like she wanted to smack me.”
“She smacked Wyl this morning when he ate the last of her stash of mint chocolates,” Robbie said. “She didn’t hit him hard, of course, this is Claudia, and she apologized afterwards, but I think your dad being away so much is hard on her.”
“I actually talked to him for a while too. He looks exhausted.” Miles had looked far too exhausted to deal with any of his son’s personal issues, and so Garrett had stuck to the basics and let his father have the comfort, however minimal, of Garrett’s virtual presence without any fuss.
“Paradise is a very unstable place right now,” Robbie confessed. “The new parliament is in place but there are accusations of voter fraud, and some of the outlying states are threatening to secede again. If they do that the entire planet’s Federated status could be jeopardized, which your father wants to avoid if at all possible. Plus, there are the personal threats…”
“Yeah, Claudia told me about them. Not so much against her but definitely against Dad.”
“We’re taking every precaution we can.” Robbie shrugged his shoulders. “It’ll work out, I think, once the parliament gets settled and a few laws get passed.”
“I’m sure it will,” Garrett murmured. “Make Wyl take care of you when he gets off work. You look as tired as I feel.”
“Wyl’s working long hours these days too. Isidore’s been a real help to him, though.”
“Glad to hear it,” Garrett said. He glanced at his watch and sighed. “I’ve got to go. We’re docking in an hour and I’ve been invited to watch from the observation deck.” The private observation deck was one level below the captain’s cabin, and you had to have an invitation to be admitted. That had been Jonah’s doing, and Garrett appreciated it even though he knew they wouldn’t be alone.
“Have fun.” They exchanged their goodbyes and Robbie signed off. Wyl glanced down at what he was wearing, a pair of loose, comfortable drawstring pants and a t-shirt, and decided something dressier was called for. He got up to rummage through his closet, finally deciding on a suit in jade green that struck a nice balance between professional and elegant. He paired it with a high-necked black silk shirt that brought out his eyes, smudged a little liner around them to bring them out even more, and decided his hair was as artfully mussed as it was going to get at this length. He’d have to get Lila to cut it again soon.
The private observation deck was busy with people, all of them key players among the new colonists. Jezria was there, with Stephen beside her. The captain of the ship was there as well, and standing beside him was a familiar petulant face: Tamara. He had a hand on her shoulder, and the resemblance between the two of them was strong enough that Garrett was sure she was his daughter. No wonder she knew so much about ships. And no wonder Jonah’s threat of telling her dad was so potent. Next to Jezria, Captain Carson was the most influential person on this expedition. He certainly wouldn’t like hearing that his kid was breaking in to other peoples ships.
Garrett looked around for Jonah, but he didn’t see his broad shoulders and sandy brown hair standing out in the crowd. After a moment of searching, he felt a tug on his hand. Garrett looked down and saw Cody standing next to him, holding onto his sleeve for all he was worth. “Hey, Cody.”
“Hi,” the boy said quietly, then held out his arms. Garrett had seen him do this with Jonah and knew that it meant pick me up. He complied, a little surprised at how light the child was. Cody wrapped his arms around tightly Garrett’s neck, almost choking him.
“Hey, now.” Garrett gently pulled until the stranglehold relaxed a little. “Where’s your dad?”
“He was here, but he had to go help do something with the controls and he told me to stay in my chair until he got back, but I wanted to look around and then I got lost until I saw you.” His big brown eyes, the same eyes as his father, gazed happily at Garrett, as though the child was actually comforted by his presence. Which was somewhere between funny and ludicrous to Garrett’s mind, but he wasn’t about to complain.
“Want to go look at the planet?” Garrett asked.
“I wanted to before, but I couldn’t see as high as the windows.”
“I’ll keep holding you up.”
“’kay,” Cody said, and Garrett maneuvered them through the crowd and over to the observation part of the deck as smoothly as he could. He nodded to Jezria and ignored Martina’s glare on the way, and then they were at the windows, and the perfect, cloud-covered sphere that was Pandora was clearly visible against the black background of space.
“It’s very small,” Cody said disappointedly.
“We’re still pretty far away. It’ll get bigger fast,” Garrett promised him.
“As big as Olympus?”
“Pandora is about as big as Olympus,” he agreed.
“As big as Earth?”
“Pretty close,” Garrett said. “I think it’s a little smaller than Earth.”
“Why don’t we all still live there?”
“Because there are too many of us for one planet,” Garrett told Cody, picking the easiest answer. “There are too many of us for a dozen planets. That’s why we keep having to find new ones.”
“I’d like to have my very own planet,” Cody said dreamily. “If I had a planet, I’d name it Kiko.”
“After the monkey?”
“Yeah. And it would be red and there would be lot of fun animals, and Daddy and you could live there with me and all my friends, and Daddy would be happy there.”
“Isn’t he happy here?”
“No.” That was all Cody would say, and the two of them watched in silence for a while as Pandora loomed larger and larger. Shades of purple and violet began to mix with the navy blue, and teal and satiny gray as well. It was beautiful, at this distance.
“It’s stormy down there,” Jonah commented from over their shoulders. Garrett whirled around and Cody reached out happily towards his father, who took him with a kiss. “The landing’s gonna be a little rough. We should strap in for it.” He pointed towards the seats, which were already filling with people. The official announcement that they were preparing to land came over the intercom a moment later, and Captain Carson left the room after sitting his daughter down in a chair. There were three empty seats next to her, and Garrett took the one beside her while Jonah occupied himself with getting Cody strapped in.
Tamara looked at him and flushed, but didn’t say anything. Her lips were pursed in a tight line, and she was trembling slightly, like she was about to break down into tears.
Garrett didn’t say anything to draw attention to her, something she clearly didn’t want. Instead he sat down and fastened himself in silently, letting his arm brush hers but carefully not looking at her. She didn’t move away, but she didn’t look up either.
Pandora filled the observation deck, the slow-swirling clouds getting closer and closer. Familiar small fingers tightened over Garrett’s own, and they all watched in silence as the Neptune began to enter the atmosphere. The ride became bumpy, the inertial dampeners working overtime to control the shock of their descent. The ship plunged through a thick layer of white, which got darker and grayer by the moment, and after a seemingly-eternal instant they emerged into a dark, rain-soaked sky. Garrett glanced over at Cody and saw that his eyes were squeezed shut again; he stroked the child’s hand reassuringly.
The faint lights of Pandora City swam into sight, and the pilot expertly maneuvered the Neptune into position to dock. The environmental shields retracted to let the massive colony ship in, and after a surprisingly brief amount of time, they were on the ground. The captain gave the go-ahead to move around again and the observation deck erupted into excited chatter, people freeing themselves and milling around and hurrying to get a spot in line to leave the ship. Most people wouldn’t be leaving the ship yet, actually; in fact no one would be living off of the ship until the permanent housing was built, which would take at least four months, but Jezria and the captain and a few other people were going to greet Pandora’s stay-at-home colonists tonight, and everyone wanted to be there. Almost everyone.
After Garrett got up he glanced over at Tamara. He was shocked to see her crying, and struggling angrily with the latch on one of her shoulder straps. Moving quickly, he unfastened the strap and helped her to her feet. She glared at him, shoving white-blond hair out of her eyes, but her heart wasn’t really in it.
“Are you all right?” he asked quietly.
“Do I look all right, you stupid doll?” she muttered at him. “I’m fine, just leave me alone.” She turned and walked quickly out of the room, almost stumbling on the step at the door before making it out.
Garrett considered going after her, but she seemed to want some privacy, and suddenly Cody was up and chattering in an excited voice, running over to the window and tracing the trails of raindrops with his fingertips, leaving smudgy marks behind.
“Thanks for takin’ care of him,” Jonah said softly as he watched his son.
“He actually found me, just after I arrived here,” Garrett demurred.
“So he said. Didn’t want t’leave him alone, but they needed a hand in control.” The two men stared silently out into the darkness for a moment, a thicker, richer darkness than anything they saw in space.
“So this is Pandora,” Jonah commented awkwardly after a moment.
“This is indeed Pandora. Lovely, wet, cold, stormy Pandora. Welcome home,” Garrett added, a trifle sarcastically. “I hope you find what you want here.”
“What I want…” The sudden desire in Jonah’s voice was almost palpable. He caught Garrett’s eyes, and the look that passed between them was so shockingly heated that Garrett felt himself respond almost instantly. Jonah’s pupils were blown wide open, his nostrils were flared and his mouth was firmly compressed over what seemed like rapid breaths. Garrett swayed towards him, like a moth captured by a fickle flame, but before they could make contact Cody was running back over to them. Jonah shuddered and broke their gaze to look down at his son. “What is it, bucko?”
“Can Garrett come to dinner tonight?” the little boy begged. “’Cause it’s a special night?”
Jonah hesitated for a long moment, and then surprised both of them when he said, “Sure.”
“Really?” Garrett couldn’t help asking.
“Yeah, really,” Jonah said, smiling at his incredulous look. “It is a special night and all. Gotta celebrate it somehow. If you want to, that is.”
“Well.” Garrett insinuated himself closer and grinned with pleasure as he watched Jonah’s eyes widen with lust again. “Then I guess I can come to dinner…since it’s a special night.” It could be a very special night, he thought to himself. He just had to keep himself from blowing it.