Part Twenty-Five: First Separate, Then Recombine
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. But where’s the R-rated stuff?!? It’s coming back soon, promise.
In the three weeks his trip took, Garrett almost burned his engines out pushing them to get to Paradise. It was easier not to sleep and have to deal with the dreams that inevitably came with it, so he stuffed himself with all the stimulants the autodoc would give him and spaced forty-hour periods of wakefulness with five hour stretches of sleep, over and over until he finally got the proximity alert for Paradise. An extremely thorough check with the tower got him access to the private landing pad for the governor’s mansion, and Garrett didn’t care that his ship’s landing probably looked like a drunkard slumping to the ground, he was just ready to be out of there.
He raced out of his ship and into the safe zone, where Claudia was waiting for him. A second later they were in each other’s arms, and Garrett couldn’t tell who was clutching who harder. She smelled different than she used to, warm and somehow fresh, but overlaying that was the slightly sour scent of fatigue, and she was trembling just a little bit. They didn’t speak for a long time, didn’t even move until one of the marines on protective detail cleared her throat and gently touched Claudia’s shoulder. “Ma’am, we should move back indoors.”
Claudia pulled back a little bit and wiped her eyes with the edge of the long white shawl wrapped around her shoulders and neck, then nodded wearily. “I know, Therese.” She kept her arm around Garrett’s waist and he kept her tucked close to his side, and they walked into the mansion flanked by eight wary, gun-toting marines.
The marines left them alone once they were in the private family wing, except for the woman, who after a nod from Claudia set down her rifle and moved softly into one of the back rooms. Garrett kissed his stepmother’s dark hair and gave her a squeeze. “Are you okay, honey?”
“No,” she whispered, her breath hitching in her chest. “But I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Is Renee okay?”
“Oh, God, yes,” Claudia replied, actually managing a chuckle, “Renee’s fine. She’s in perfect health, she’s noisy, she’s so beautiful…Renee is the one good thing I’ve got right now.”
“I take it Miles is still being difficult, then?” Garrett teased her.
“Don’t make jokes,” Claudia begged. “Not about Miles. I’m going out of my mind worrying about him, and the doctors still don’t have a good idea of when he’ll come out of the coma.”
Garrett couldn’t say he was sorry because he wasn’t, really. Jokes were how he dealt with his father. Thinking serious thoughts right now, when he was sleep deprived and skirting the edge of overdose on stimulants, wasn’t something he could handle yet. “He’ll come out of it sooner than anyone thinks. Miles is impossible to keep down.”
“That rocket did a pretty good job of keeping him down,” Claudia said bitterly, moving out of Garrett’s arms and towards the kitchen. She started making tea, the old-fashioned way, with a kettle and everything. Garrett sat on a bar stool and watched her move. Claudia had changed a little with her pregnancy, become a little softer, a little more curvaceous. To him she looked absolutely gorgeous, and he could only imagine how his father had looked at her. Claudia had gone from an environment of love, comfort and security to pain and panic overnight, and she wasn’t dealing well with the changes. Not that anyone could really deal well with something like this, Garrett allowed, but he was suddenly extremely glad he’d come, because Claudia looked like she was headed for a breakdown, and he needed to help her release some of that pressure.
“The doctors didn’t think Miles was going to survive at first. He was badly burned over most of his body, and then there was a lot of shrapnel.” Claudia’s hands shook a little as she poured the hot water into small white cups. “His head was mostly uninjured, but there was significant swelling in his brain before the doctors managed to get everything stabilized. He’s not healing as quickly as they thought he would. They don’t know when he’ll wake up, and even when he does they aren’t sure what he’ll remember.” Or if he’ll remember anything, her body language screamed.
“He’s in the barracks medical bay, in a separate room from the others who are being treated. Wyl’s there too—did I mention that?”
“You did,” Garrett said quietly. “Why is Wyl in a coma?”
“It’s just until the Regen is done working. You remember what a hard time he had watching Robbie go through the regrowth process on his leg…Wyl couldn’t handle watching it happen to himself, he was having panic attacks. He asked to go under until the process was finished.” Claudia glanced over at Garrett. “Do you want milk? Sugar?”
“Sure.” Not that he ever drank tea, or really cared what went into it, but she needed something to do right now. “So Miles is in a separate room?”
“Yes, it’s more secure, there’s a DNA scan to get you in. It’s only keyed to allow the doctors, Robbie, and Renee and I in so far. And you,” she added. “I put you on the list even though you weren’t here, because I knew you’d come as soon as you could.” She came over to Garrett and handed him the steaming cup of tea. “He’s locked in a Regen chamber, of course, but the doctors set it up with a microphone system that lets out voices get transmitted through the walls so that Miles can hear us if we want. They thought it might be good for him to be able to listen to the sound of our voices.”
“Right.” More likely they thought it would be good therapy for Claudia. “What’s Robbie up to?”
“Oh, poor man,” Claudia sighed, sitting down on a stool next to Garrett but not touching her tea. “Well, the parliament never got around to electing a lieutenant governor, so after the attacks a de facto martial law went into place, and Robbie is the highest-ranked military official, so he’s taken over almost all of Miles’ responsibilities. Of course the parliament is taking up a lot of his time, and he’s still running all of the security operations.” She shut her eyes for a moment. “If only Jane was still here, this would be a lot easier on him.”
“How did she die?” Garrett asked gently, taking one of Claudia’s cold hands in his.
“Jane was close to the epicenter of the blast in the barracks. Doctors determined that she died instantly, but it took a while to find the body.” Tears slipped down Claudia’s cheeks. “Robbie was frantic, you know, because Jane and Wyl were both missing and we didn’t have enough emergency responders who had security clearance to get survivors out quickly. Robbie found Jane first, and with her being the way she was when he found her, he got kind of…he was…”
“It’s okay.” Garrett put his tea down and pulled her in for another hug. “It’s okay, I get it. I know how Robbie can be.”
“Would you talk to him when he gets in?” Claudia sniffed. “I think he needs help, but he said he doesn’t have time for anything but working right now and that I shouldn’t worry, but you know me, I always worry.”
“I’ll talk to him,” Garrett promised. He knew what was probably going on with Robbie, and the answer right now wasn’t going to be pity or commiseration. Tough love could wait, though.
Just then the marine came into the kitchen. She’d taken off her armor and was carrying a squirming bundle in her arms. “She’s getting a little fussy, I thought you might want to feed her.”
“Renee’s always fussy after naps,” Claudia sighed, but a genuine pleasure seemed to light up her eyes. “Thank you, Therese.” She held out her arms and the other woman carefully handed the baby over.
“You’re a bodyguard and a nanny?” Garrett asked curiously.
Therese blushed slightly. “Bodyguard first, but I have three younger brothers that I helped bring up, and Claudia needed the help.”
“Therese is from Kalmia, like me. The same city, even,” Claudia said as she lifted the infant to her breast. The baby latched on quickly and began to nurse, and Claudia sighed.
“You should go lie down,” Garrett told her. “Get some rest. You look exhausted.”
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “I can stay up with you.” She tilted her head suddenly and stared at him with curiosity. “Did you change your hair again?”
If only you knew. “Not since I cut it short. And you don’t have to play hostess with me, Claudia, we’re family.” He reached out and stroked his little sister’s forehead, his fingers lingering on the tips of the downy-soft fuzz covering her head. “I want to go look in on Miles anyway.”
“If you’re sure…” she wavered, glancing longingly towards her bedroom.
“Well, at least let Therese show you the way,” Claudia insisted. “And let me know as soon as you need something. I’m happy to get up and keep you company.”
Clearly she was determined to be helpful. Garrett decided trickery was the best way to go. “I’ll do that,” he lied courteously. “Go on, go lie down. Snuggle your baby for a while. Get her ready to deal with me.”
“Oh, she’s going to love you.”
“How could she not?” Garrett agreed. “Now get.”
Once Claudia was gone, Garrett turned to Therese. He could see a marked resemblance between the two women: both slender and fine boned, both dark haired and pretty. Probably distantly related, like everyone on the tiny moon of Kalmia was. The original settlers had been insular but very prolific. “I have no intention of waking her, just so you know.”
“Good,” Therese replied bluntly. “I’m glad I won’t have to lock her door to keep you out, then.”
“Ouch,” Garrett said, but he was smiling. “Feeling a little protective, are we?”
“Claudia has been through a lot. I was a little worried that you coming here would sap her resources further, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find you reasonable.” She motioned towards the door. “The infirmary is this way.”
They left the family wing and headed towards the barracks. “How did you pull guard detail?”
“It was left in Governor Caractacus’ instructions to staff in case of emergency,” Therese said, opening another door. “He wanted to make sure Claudia was looked after. He left instructions about you as well, but they were a moot point after you left.”
“You sound almost accusatory,” Garrett noted as they entered the infirmary.
“I don’t mean to be accusatory, sir.” Her tone was perfectly even and formal.
“It’s all right if you do, I don’t mind.” Honestly, Garrett didn’t mind; it was actually kind of funny to him. He couldn’t seem to do the right thing whether he chose to go or stay, on either Paradise or Pandora. Story of his life, and right now he was too wired to feel either affronted by the marine’s presumption or self-pitying over her insight.
They walked in silence through the infirmary, pausing only so that Therese could point out Wyl’s Regen chamber. His was the third in four rows of fourteen, almost all of them occupied. “Mr. Leyton is enclosed right over there.”
“Good to know.”
At the end of the main hall was a small, securely sealed door marked PRIVATE. To the right of the handle was a medical gauntlet. “Just let that take your reading and you’ll be let in.”
“Thank you.” Garrett watched Therese walk briskly away, then put his hand into the gauntlet. A tiny prick and a few seconds of whirring, and then the security system acknowledged him and let him in. Garrett shut the door behind him and walked slowly into his father’s private room.
It was cold in there, the faint light emanating from the walls and ceiling hardly enough to illuminate the chair beside the Regen chamber. Garrett walked over to the cylindrical healing unit and inspected the top. There was no window to look in at the patient, but there was a readout showing the current state of regeneration. Fuck, Claudia hadn’t been kidding when she’d said Miles had lost a lot of skin…he was only at sixty percent across his legs, eighty percent on his chest and back.
The chair next to the chamber was hard. It felt quite fitting, considering the mausoleum-like atmosphere in this damn place. Garrett sighed, then flicked the microphone on.
“So.” He felt like his voice should be echoing in such an empty place, but the room was too small for that. “Here I am. And there you are. You know, I really prefer being the one in the box. It’s a lot less work, none of the emotional baggage that comes with waiting for the other person to wake up. You could drown in the sentiment floating around here, and I’ve only spoken with two women and a baby so far. Not that Renee had much to say, but I’m sure she’ll be a stunning conversationalist given time.
“Claudia’s holding it together. This is probably more difficult than anything she’s ever gone through before, and she’s been doing pretty well from what I can see, but the cracks are there, and they’re getting wider and wider. I’m going to do my best for her, but my best isn’t you. She needs you, Dad, as fast as possible. If you could come back with your memory completely intact so we don’t have to go through any awkward explanations and additional emotional anguish, that would be infinitely preferable.
“Speaking of angsty subjects, thought, I’m perfectly fine with appealing to the lesser parts of your nature to get you to wake the hell up,” Garrett continued, letting a little of the anger and worry he felt creep into his voice. “You are an incredibly lucky son of a bitch, you know that? You have a gorgeous wife and a beautiful baby girl and, last but not least, me. You’re loved and respected by everyone on this planet who isn’t a terrorist. You’re in a position of power on a world in chaos. These aren’t the kind of responsibilities that benefit from time away from you while you mosey your way back to health. You’re fucking all kinds of shit up by taking your goddamn time in this fucking chamber, so get your mojo going and speed up your goddamn engine already!”
Garrett rubbed a hand through his hair tiredly. “I have to get some sleep, I’ve been up for a few days…maybe a week. I’ve lost track. I’ll be back later, though. Don’t think you’re getting out of this by ignoring me.” After a moment’s hesitation, Garrett laid one hand on the chamber, let the feel of its quiet thrumming soothe him. “I love you, Dad.” He couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually said those words out loud to his father. It made him a little uncomfortable, even though he was sure that Miles couldn’t actually hear him. “Wake up soon.”
It was somehow both a relief and wrenching for Garrett to leave Miles, but that was characteristic for them. There were other people who needed his attention right now, though. With that in mind, Garrett went to look for Robbie.