Part Twenty-Four: Tipping Point
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, I know…how can I leave it like this? Don’t worry, I can’t, not for long.
The day started with a fight. Not the kind of fight that Garrett preferred if one was inevitable, full of angry declarations, wild claims and drama that was resolved either with brutal makeup sex or a badly needed break from each other. It wasn’t the kind Robbie preferred either, which was purely physical, any interpersonal conflict resolved with fists and feet, knees and elbows, and perhaps a shock baton if you were feeling vindictive. No, this kind of fight was the kind that Jonah seemed to lean towards, which was to say that it wasn’t really a fight at all, more like a mass of unresolved feelings that tainted everything you did and said but maintained deniability.
Garrett had been expecting a fight. Truth be told, he would have welcomed a fight at this point, in the way that a child welcomes the sting of a needle because it means the shot will be over soon. It was time to stop living in a fantasy world where he could stay with Jonah and Cody without having to stay here, on Pandora, forever. Yes, he’d finish out the contract here, and if things went the best way Garrett thought they possibly could, Jonah would accept his lover’s decision and decide that they could still be together for the remainder of Garrett’s time here. If things didn’t work out, well, at least then they both would know and could move on, instead of being trapped in the limbo that was “maybe”.
Garrett had had his new eyes for close to a week, and in two days Jonah and Cody were moving into their new house. Cody talked on and on about how great it was and how much Garrett was going to like it, and both of the adults had been indulging his fantasy, but the issue remained, well, an issue between them. Jonah wanted Garrett to move with them; Garrett wanted to keep his apartment on board. Garrett had suggested splitting his time in an effort to compromise, but Jonah had been pretty adamant that he wanted Cody to be able to depend on Garrett. “We’re not part-time people,” Jonah had said, almost angrily as they went to bed last night. “I told you that from the start. Cody doesn’t need you around some of the time, he needs you to be there for him all the time. So do I.”
Garrett had rounded on that, ready to argue his side, but by then Jonah had sighed, apologized and gone to shower. By the time he came out he was mostly silent, not angry, and he clearly didn’t want to talk about it. “Not my place to tell you what to do,” he’d said before kissing Garrett firmly on the mouth.
It honestly wasn’t surprising that Jonah was a passive-aggressive arguer. He’d been raised a Drifter, and Drifters had to be charming as hell if they were going to make berth at any place in the central system, but once they docked they had to be prepared to bargain hard for the best deals they could in the time they had. Also, most likely the last time Jonah had had a huge fight with a lover was when he’d split with Jack, and that had resulted in a tacit exile from his family. No wonder he was cautious now with Garrett.
Especially because he loves you. Garrett knew Jonah loved him. They hadn’t exchanged those words but it was there in his movements, in the way he touched Garrett when they were together, the way he held him at night, the way he smiled. He hadn’t said it yet because Garrett hadn’t, and Garrett wasn’t going to, either. It was bad enough that he’d already admitted it privately to himself.
Which means you’re giving up on any possible future with the man you love, and his wonderful child, because you’re a selfish bastard. Yeah,well, of course it sounded bad when he put it like that.
The day didn’t improve with work. Garrett’s climate modeling unit crashed during the first hour, and the technical support staff were all busy out in Pandora City doing custom power and appliance installations for new homeowners. That left Garrett with trying to repair it himself, and while he was an excellent climatologist, he was a terrible mechanical engineer.
“That’s the fifth fuck this hour,” Lila commented from her workstation. “Don’t you want to just leave this for a professional.”
“I am a—fuck it—a professional. I can do this. I just don’t have the right tools, I had to jury rig the right soldering tip and the welds aren’t sticking.”
“You can’t use a soldering iron in one of those,” Shekar objected. “The backing is a non-conductive alloy, it won’t bond with typical solders. Let me see the module.” He wiggled his fingers imperiously.
“Fine.” Garrett gave the piece up reluctantly and watched sullenly as Shekar immediately discarded the soldering iron and began rummaging through his station for tools of his own.
“Someone’s being Mister Grumpy,” Lila said quietly.
“You’ve been spending too much time with your kindergarten teacher lately,” Garrett replied. “And how is Mr. Hugelin-Padin?”
“He’s fine, and don’t change the subject. What’s the problem?”
“Not one I want to share in any form or flavor, thanks.”
“Is it about Jonah?” she asked. “Did you guys have a fight?”
“What part of ‘not going to share’ don’t you comprehend?”
“Oh, you did,” she cooed sympathetically. “You know, it might help to talk about it.”
Garrett shut his eyes for a moment. “Lila…you are not Glinda the Good Psychiatrist. You don’t get to psychoanalyze me or encourage me to talk about my feelings, not if you want to maintain a decent working relationship with me.”
“I thought we were friends as well,” she said with a frown. “Friends share things that are bothering them with each other.”
“I have nothing to share. I’m not bothered, Lila, this isn’t my bothered face.”
“You shouldn’t lie to yourself like this, Garrett.”
It was becoming perilously easy for Garrett to picture himself bopping Lila upside the head with the soil sample she was currently analyzing. The sounding of his com saved him from too much temptation. “Yes?”
“Sir, you have an message coming through marked urgent.”
“Where is it from?”
“Planet designation Paradise.”
An urgent message from Paradise could only be bad. Garrett hadn’t heard from anyone there since his father introduced him to Renee. “I’ll take audio now.”
“Connecting you, one moment please.”
A second later Garrett heard Claudia, and a second after that he was glad he was sitting down.
“Gare, it’s me.” Her voice was nothing like he was used to hearing, husky with exhaustion and something else. It sounded like…pain. “There’s been an attack—well, there were a couple really, but they all happened at the same time. Terrorists launched rockets at your father’s motorcade yesterday while he was heading to the Parliament building and two of the vehicles were destroyed. Six people were killed…not Miles, thank god, but he was very badly wounded. He’s in an artificial coma for the Regen work and probably will be for weeks.” Her voice hitched and he could almost see her passing her hand in front of her eyes, trying to keep it together. She went on after a moment. “A bomb went off in the motorcade next to the barracks and blew up most of our troop transports, too. Wyl was injured, and Jane Freeman is dead. Robbie was out on patrol though, and he’s fine, he’s just fine.” Claudia sounded like she was reassuring herself as much as Garrett.
“Gare…I need you to come home, please. Just come home, for now, please. I need you here, Miles needs you, and Robbie is…Gare, come home to us. We’re your family, and we need you.” A pause, then she said, “I have to go. Come as fast as you can.” The message ended.
Vaguely Garrett could hear other people’s voices, a hand on his shoulder, overtones and gestures of concern, but for a few moments none of it really registered. Every fuse in his mind had blown, and it took several seconds for reality to seep back in through the haze of anxiety that Claudia’s voice had left him with.
“I have to go.”
“What?” He could hear Lila clearly now, and see her beside him, looking at him inquisitively.
“Never mind.” Garrett stood up, relieved his legs were steady, and headed out of the lab without another word. He ignored the shouted questions and forwarded the message to Jezria, walking fast along the hallway towards the nearest lift. By the time he reached her office, she was ready for him. Steven opened the door at Garrett’s first knock and got quickly out of the way.
Jezria was standing in the foyer, her face serious and sympathetic. Her voice, fortunately, was nothing but professional. Garrett couldn’t deal with comfort at the moment.
“When do you want to leave?” she asked.
“As soon as possible,” he replied.
“I’ll tell the control tower to be ready to open the environmental shield on your signal. Does your ship need fuel?”
“I’m not sure. Probably.” Garrett hadn’t been on his ship in months, he barely remembered the last diagnostics he’d run.
“I’ll have the technicians see to it. It will take as much as an hour for them to remove the locks and ensure it’s ready to fly, though.”
“That’s all right, I have to pack.” Reality flooded back into his brain and he groaned under his breath. “And I have to tell Jonah and Cody I’m leaving.”
“And a little more, maybe.”
“Yes,” Garrett sighed. “And a little more.”
“You’ve never shared very much with him about your family, have you?”
“He’s talked to them,” Garrett said defensively. “He knows where they live, he knows my dad is a politician, he knows I have a little sister.”
“What else does he need to know?”
“Oh, Garrett.” Jezria sounded disappointed. “Well, now’s not the time to be worrying about those sorts of things. Go and pack up, I’ll make sure everything is ready with your ship and call you when it’s done. Do you want to send a message to Claudia from here? I can give it priority.”
“No, I’ll call her once I’m underway.” Garrett began to turn, but then Jezria opened her arms and gently pulled him into a hug. He tensed, stiff in her grasp, until she sighed with exasperation and let him go.
“Get there safely,” she told him. “No pushing the engines too hard, because the last thing you need is to break down in the middle of nowhere without anyone there to help you.”
“Yes, Mother,” he said sarcastically.
“I wish I was, sometimes,” Jezria replied. “Give your family my love, please.”
Garrett flushed, feeling inexplicably embarrassed. “I will.” This time when he turned to leave she didn’t do anything to stop him.
Garrett had been planning on calling Jonah and Cody once he was all packed and ready to go, but someone had beaten him to the punch and they were waiting for him when he got home. Cody launched off the stool by the counter as soon as Garrett walked through the door and latched around his waist. “Garrett! Where are you going? Why are you leaving?”
Oh, wonderful. Garrett could have killed Jezria. The urge to snap and snarl was almost overwhelming, but he knew he couldn’t afford to give into that temptation, not with Cody. Once he was thinking straight he’d never forgive himself, and neither would Jonah.
“I have to leave,” Garrett said, and he thought his voice sounded pretty calm, all things considered. “My family was in an accident, and they need me.”
“Are you going back to Olympus?”
“No…my family lives on a planet called Paradise. It’s a little closer than Olympus.” Garrett slowly detached Cody and pushed him back a few steps. “I have to get ready to go, okay?”
Cody looked distressed, but he nodded and didn’t try to cling again. Finally Garrett raised his eyes to Jonah, and the flat, expressionless look on his lover’s face made his chest ache sharply. “I’ll help you pack.”
There was going to be no avoiding this. “Fine.”
“Stay here, bucko, we’ll be out soon,” Jonah told his son, ruffling his curls before heading back into the master bedroom. Garrett followed him, feet dragging a little, not looking forward to what was coming, not wanting to talk, or think, or do anything but fly into the black of space and leave everyone and everything behind for a while.
Jonah had stopped next to the bed but Garrett continued to the closet, pulling out a storage kit and laying it open, then turning to contemplate his clothes. Funny…they took up nearly two-thirds of the space in there, smooth and shining next to Jonah’s simpler things. Had it always been this way? The closet would be practically empty once his stuff came out, and that would just be…odd. What to bring…Garrett reached for his favorite blue suit.
“So. Your dad’s a governor.”
“Yes.” The blue suit went into the kit, followed by a dark gray pinstripe that looked fabulous on Garrett but that he hadn’t worn for months.
“The governor of an entire planet.”
“He had to do something after his military career.” Purple suit…no, kind of ostentatious, not the image he wanted to project when he got to Paradise, which would be…what, grieving son, stalwart friend, support staff? All of the above?
“Is all your family that illustrious?”
“Or infamous, take your pick.” The white, definitely, both of them.
“So you were never even considering staying here,” Jonah said, his voice hard in a way Garrett had never heard before. “Why stay here when you’ve got all that wealth and power waiting for you back there?”
“Yeah, and look at what that wealth and power is getting me right now!” Garrett rounded on Jonah furiously. “My father almost died, he’s in a coma. My stepmother is taking care of an infant and an insurrection on her own. One of my friends is in all likelihood running the entire military operation on that planet, another is injured and a third is dead. I get that you’re upset at me, but the last thing I’m going to do right now is let my family down because I’m wasting time trying to soothe your hurt feelings.”
There was a long moment of complete silence, with the two of them just staring at each other. “Got it,” Jonah said at last. “I’ll clear your things outta the bathroom.” He disappeared into the small side room and Garrett pressed a hand to his eyes, trying to control the sudden burning feeling. He couldn’t cry now, he couldn’t, this was not fucking happening…
“Hey, no, I’m sorry.” Arms came around him a second later and Garrett tensed like he had before, but it felt too good. He turned into Jonah’s chest and squeezed his eyes shut. “Don’t do that, I’m sorry, darlin’.” Jonah rubbed Garrett’s back slowly and rhythmically.
“My father gave up everything for me…” That was all Garrett managed before his throat closed off.
“I understand. He’s your dad, of course you’ve gotta go. I didn’t mean to start a fight.” Jonah kissed Garrett’s temple. “Better finish packin’.” He drew back from Garrett and squeezed his shoulders briefly before letting go. “Y’all right?”
Garrett cleared his throat, with some difficulty. “Close enough.”
“Good.” Jonah glanced over at the storage kit. “You want help in here?”
They packed the rest of Garrett’s things in silence, exchanging brief touches here and there, but they were friendly touches, not particularly warm ones. They were comforting but not really loving. Garrett felt the distance but there wasn’t anything he could do to bridge it, not when this was Jonah’s chosen way of dealing with Garrett leaving. Almost immediately after they were done packing Garrett’s com signaled him.
“Your ship is prepped and ready, sir.”
“Thank you.” He took the communicator off and set it on the bedside table. “I won’t need that until I get back. Will you hold onto it for me?”
“Sure.” Jonah glanced down at it, then back at Garrett. “Until then.”
“Hope your family pulls through this okay, darlin’.”
“Let us know how you are, all right?”
“I will,” Garrett promised, his arms shaking with the urge to pull Jonah into his grasp and never let him go. He didn’t want to face this alone, he really didn’t, but there was no way he could ask Jonah and Cody to come with him. He filled his arms with his belongings instead and walked out into the living room.
The goodbye with Cody was long and loud, and by the time Garrett got to his ship his shirt was damp with a child’s tears and he felt so low that the autodoc on his ship insisted on giving him a mood enhancer before allowing him to pilot it. It was raining as he pulled out of the Neptune’s hangar, pouring down in hard sheets, and outside of the environmental shields the rain fell twice as hard. Garrett accelerated into the upper atmosphere and watched the water peel away, the final few droplets freezing against the hull as he emerged into space. The dark blue and purple of Pandora drew back, and as he accelerated away Garrett numbly mused that the planet was actually quite beautiful, much more so than he remembered it being when he first arrived.
Very beautiful. But gone in minutes.