Part Twenty-Nine: Goes Around
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. OMG, next to last post! I’m hoping my first post of the new year will be the final part of Pandora. This is a very talky, exposition heavy section, I know, but grin and bear it. The last part will be dirtier than you can shake a stick at, I promise.
Garrett wasn’t a naturally organized person. It was one of many differences between his own and his father’s personality, and had led to a lot of memorable arguments when he was a teenager, but eventually he’d gotten it into his head that everything and everyone he enjoyed would be a lot easier to handle if he kept things like the names of his various boyfriends straight. He went from a laissez-faire slob to a conscientious planner, and the change stuck. As he took on more responsibility with work and his father’s career, he became more and more grateful that he’d bothered to learn the skills. Garrett could network, reference and crosscheck like a pro, and all of that ability was coming in handy now, because when life got busy naturally it didn’t stop at “busy,” it tried to kick his ass.
He had scores of contacts from his solitary days in the central system, and he tossed two thirds of them immediately when it came to getting help for Isidore. He needed someone patient, compassionate and relatively wealthy to act as a sponsor, and honestly Garrett’s tastes hadn’t run that way for most of that phase of his life. In the end he talked to several different friends before deciding on Symone St. Clair, the daughter of a Federation senator who lived in New Paris on the planet Solaydor. She ran a charitable organization now, but when Garrett had known her she’d been a slutty, outcast aristocrat who could find anything for anybody, good or bad. Since then she’d reformed somewhat, but she was still willing to do a favor for the right price.
“What do I possibly have that you want?” Garrett asked as they chatted via vidscreen.
“Nothing but your company,” she pouted. “And the name of your fucking tailor. You refused to give it to me when you lived here and you always looked so fucking good, and my Jeanine is finally leaving me for New Caledon and I hate to buy without the creation fitting me like a glove.”
“You’ll find him a place to stay?” Garrett pressed. “And help him get whatever professional certifications he needs to work there? Immigration visas, health screenings—”
“I won’t let your little lamb loose on New Parisian society, Garrett, don’t be so fussy,” she sighed. “He’s that good a piece of ass, hmm?”
“No prying, Symone.”
“It’s not prying, it’s gossip!” she exclaimed. “That’s totally different. And word has trickled down that you’re actually living on the Fringe, willingly. And that you’ve had a baby.”
Garrett burst out laughing. “I have absolutely not had a baby. Hell no. I’m dating a guy with a kid.”
“But do you want to have a baby?” She batted her long, violet eyelashes at him. “I bet you’d look super hot all knocked up. Some men really enjoy the experience, and you know, you could just have the uterus and it’s accessories put in without going for the entire changeover to female. Although either way you could always change back afterwards.”
“Thanks for the thought, but I don’t have any desire for swollen feet or awkward cravings,” Garrett replied, remembering some of his conversations with Claudia.
Solaydor was one of the most gender-fluid planets in the central system, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to swap sexes or create their own entirely. Garrett had slept with Symone several times when she went through her Symon phase, and might have stayed for longer if she hadn’t abruptly decided to switch back when she met a straight guy that she wanted to go after. As a result of their mental and physical flexibility, Solaydors had some of the most open immigration policies in the central systems. Incoming immigrants were judged more on their mental fitness and ability to accept other cultures than they were on their health or job set, and Garrett was sure that Isidore could pass the psych exam.
“When’s he going to arrive?” Symone asked, letting go of the pregnancy issue for now.
“In a month. He’s got a few transfers to make, but I’ll give you his Federation ID number and schedule. I’m giving him a com too, so expect him to call you once the distances get a little more manageable.”
“Gotcha. I can’t wait to meet him.”
Garrett hoped Isidore would survive meeting Symone, but she could provide the quickest avenue to an exit for Isidore. The sooner he left Paradise, the better.
The plan was made in one week, getting the equipment and documents Isidore needed took a second week, but the delay was all right since it took that long for Isidore to regain most of the weight he’d lost and learn the basics of interstellar travel. Garrett lent his ship to Thérèse to drop Isidore off at the nearest space station that ran regular trips back to the central system, because even if Thérèse wasn’t crazy about him, she wasn’t going to screw him over either.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” Isidore told Garrett as they said goodbye, his mouth muffled against Garrett’s shoulder.
“Don’t thank me. Just go and don’t look back.” Garrett kissed his cheek and then let Isidore go. “And keep in touch with me, all right? I’ve paid for service on your com for six standard months, so don’t let it go to waste.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
Seeing Isidore leave was satisfying and more than a little bit of a relief. One thing down, a seeming thousand others to go. Wyl had regenerated to the point that the doctors had decided to wake him up, and Garrett wanted to be there for that, but he had to deal with some family troubles first. Not with his father, who was still comatose, and not with Claudia or Renee, but with his grandmother, who had decided that she needed to take a larger role in her son’s life now that he could no longer fight her about it. Claudia was afraid of defying Dame Mildred Caractacus, but Garrett, who was more than accustomed to pissing off his grandmother, took point on the issue.
He let his grandmother’s call come through on the video, then muted it before she had a chance to say anything. “Hi, Millie.” He watched her carefully sculpted mouth make a moue of vicious disdain. Mildred Caractacus had seen more surgery than a ward of cardiac patients in her lifetime, and these days she looked like the most brittle twenty-five year old that Garrett had ever seen. After a few centuries not even grafts and Regen could hide the passage of time, and Garrett had the feeling that Mildred was growing herself a transplant shell in some hidden underground bunker. He watched her mouth move for a few seconds, then said, “Oh, sorry, we’ve lost sound capacity. I actually can’t hear a word you’re saying.”
Well, get it back! she mouthed. Garrett tilted his head and frowned like he didn’t know how to read lips. “Wait, is this about your trip? Because there’s really no room for you here, Millie, the mansion is completely full right now and anyway, I can’t approve your temporary visa.” He saw her say something about Claudia but feigned ignorance. “Bother? Oh, it’s no bother for me to pass the information along. Maybe you can come next year, once Dad is up and running again. No change recently with him, by the way, but thanks for asking.”
I wasn’t asking that! he saw her say.
Garrett’s face lost all expression and he leaned in toward the vidscreen. “No, but you should have been,” he said grimly before canceling their link. The com beeped again a few moments later, and Garrett went on to block Mildred’s com signature from getting through.
Claudia covered her mouth with one hand from where she sat off screen. “She’s going to be furious.”
“Furious at me.”
“And at me, Garrett.”
“Yeah, and at Dad, but it’s going to be okay. He’ll be awake soon and he can take care of her from there. I’m just running interference.”
“She’s your family,” Claudia reprimanded him gently. “I don’t know why you and Miles have always been so upset with her.”
“Millie’s something of a perfectionist,” Garrett replied with a twisty little smile. “She hated the bad publicity my mother’s death brought on her family, and she recommended that my father disown me when I went through my own difficult period. Dad disagreed, obviously, and they haven’t been civil to each other ever since.” He held out his arms. “Gimme baby, I need oblivious cuddling.”
Claudia rolled her eyes but moved over to sit next to him and handed him Renee. “She looks bigger,” Garrett said, shifting the sleeping baby in his arms so that she rested more horizontal. “I haven’t even been back a month, but she looks bigger to me.”
“Little babies grow so fast,” Claudia agreed. “Miles is missing it. I feel so bad, like I should be filming her, capturing every moment so that he can relive it later and see what he didn’t get to, but I just don’t have the energy.”
“He’ll see plenty,” Garrett predicted. “I mean, she’s not even crawling or talking yet. All he’s missed is watching her eat and make messes in her diapers, which isn’t exactly compelling.” Claudia smacked the top of his head. “Although she’s so cute that everything she does is special,” he added with a grin.
“Nice try, mister. Have you talked to Jonah and Cody?”
“I heard from them last night,” Garrett replied. “They sent me a vid of their new house. They’re almost all moved in, apparently.” Toys were already littering the floor and getting in Jonah’s way. It hadn’t taken long for Cody to forget the time he used to spend making sure the floor was clear so that Garrett didn’t fall and trip over any of them when he was blind. Cody had held onto the portable projector and taken Garrett all around the house for the message, leaving a few rooms unopened that he described as “just full of Daddy’s stuff.”
His bedroom was pretty large for a small child, and the walls were sunshine yellow and made to look like fields stretching out into the distance. Garrett had no idea why Cody had chosen that simulation for his room, the kid had never lived anywhere with fields, but maybe it was the oddity that appealed to him.
“I got a new Space Ranger,” Cody said, and he set the projector down on the floor and picked up a foot-high doll. “The black Ranger. He’s new, his name is Dallas. He has a really cool special move.” Cody gave a command and the doll jumped into the air and kicked his legs out to the sides, then managed a front flip before landing in a crouch. “Isn’t he cool? There’s another new Ranger out that’s white too, but Daddy says I don’t get to have her until my birthday. But that’s not until forever, but he says I need to learn to be patient but I don’t want to.” Cody sighed massively. “He’s grumpy, so you should come home and we can cheer him up.”
Jonah had looked okay when he came on screen. Tired, but still absolutely gorgeous. “Hey, darlin’. I hope things are looking up for you and your family. We’d love to talk to you, Garrett. Call us when you can.”
Garrett had taken the coward’s way out and sent them a message instead, and then he had been unable to go to sleep for three hours until he finally jerked himself off, picturing Jonah the whole time. Bastard.
Still, he felt relatively alert and fresh the next day when the doctors took Wyl out of Regen. Robbie was there, not pacing but set and still in that watchful way that meant he was tenser than a taut wire.
The Regen tank was drained, Wyl was taken off the respirators and then the top of the tank was opened up. It shouldn’t have been enough to wake Wyl up; he’d been under sedation for weeks and usually it took an injection of strong stimulants to get the subject stirring, but then Wyl always had to be different. Five seconds after the tank was cracked open his eyes were fluttering, and five seconds after that they were wide open and he was speaking. His voice was hoarse, he was still covered with the viscous healing gel of Regen and beneath that he was stark naked, but he either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
Robbie stepped forward stiffly, reaching a hand in towards Wyl. Wyl got a grip and pulled himself up against his lover, holding him in a brutally tight grip. “Fuck, ‘m sorry, I’m so sorry, I knew you would be upset but I couldn’t wait but I wanted to, Rob, I swear I did but I just couldn’t, I couldn’t, I couldn’t...” After a second Robbie’s arms mirrored Wyl’s, coming around to hold him up and close and so tight that you didn’t have to be an empath to know that this was a desperately intimate moment, the kind of moment that didn’t need a lot of outside eyes intruding.
“Come on,” Garrett whispered to Claudia as he gently pulled her back towards the hall. “We’ll come by and say hi later.”
“Right…” Claudia replied, a little dazedly. They left the room but instead of heading back towards the living quarters, Claudia pulled away from him. “I think—I think I need to go see Miles. I need to talk to him for a while.”
“Okay,” Garrett replied. He watched her walk towards his father’s sealed room and gave himself one moment to feel the kind of pity he knew Claudia didn’t want, then went back to their living quarters.
Thérèse was with Renee and didn’t seem to have any intention of handing her over, and so Garrett went to his room and lay down on his bed. After a few minutes he took his journal off the table beside him and opened it up. The little cartoon hopped to brisk attention. “Journal Record Twenty-Three Recording!” it shouted. The tiny machine clicked, and Garrett knew he was supposed to start talking, but he didn’t know how to start. He couldn’t even parse it all out in his mind, how could he possibly make his thoughts intelligible enough to be spoken? Eventually though, words did start come through.
“I think…I might be…an idiot. I think it’s entirely possible that I’m too much of a fool to keep the good things that seem to come my way, which you’d think would indicate that I don’t deserve them, but…I still want them. I want them more and more every day, yet I’m awful at expressing that. But I also think that it’s past time I work through it. And I need to do that fast, because I’m starting to feel hollow and I know that when my dad wakes up it will help, but I know now that what I need most in my life isn’t something I can find here. I’m just afraid I’ve already fucked that it all beyond repair. I do that.
“Miles needs to wake up and he needs to do it fast, because we need him back and then I need to go. I really, really need to go.” He paused for a second, then shut the journal down and rolled back out of bed. Whether she needed it or not, Thérèse was going to get some help with Renee, and Garrett needed to use the house’s off-planet connection to order something anyway.
Two weeks later, Miles woke up. His awakening was much more structured than Wyl’s, more gradual and controlled. The doctors had given them a few days to get used to the idea and prepare things back at home for Miles before doing the deed, and Claudia was a nervous wreck the whole time.
“He might not remember us.”
“They can do some restoration therapy if that’s the case,” Garrett said reassuringly as he stirred a pot on the stove under Thérèse’s watchful eye. “But he’ll remember.”
“He might not.”
“He might have changed emotionally,” Claudia continued, her worry unabated. “That can happen sometimes coming out of a long Regen. He might remember us but not love us anymore.”
Good fucking lord, had Garrett ever been this insecure? He dropped the spoon, earning himself a smack on the shoulder from Thérèse, and went over and sat next to Claudia on the couch. “Sweetheart, of course he’s going to love you. Even if he didn’t remember you, he would love you. How could he do anything else? You’re awesome. Your baby is awesome. And hell, I’m obviously awesome, so how can he not remember and adore us?”
“You need to calm down. It’s going to be fine. Want a sedative? Maybe a drink to soothe your nerves?”
Claudia huffed an amused sigh. “I’m breastfeeding, Garrett.”
“You have packets and packets of that stuff stored up. You can afford to go out on a limb and have a glass of wine without polluting your baby.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Crass,” Thérèse muttered from the stove.
“Don’t talk about my stepmother that way!” Garrett protested, and got glares from both women for his trouble. “Fine, I see that my attempts at levity are unappreciated. I’ll just sit here quietly and brood with you.” He put a mock-tortured expression on his face. “Oh no, will he remember the color of my hair? Will he remember the time I crashed his official car when I was ten? Will he retroactively punish me for the tree incident?”
“What tree incident?”
“You don’t want to know,” Garrett assured her. “Let’s just say I barely escaped with my life after destroying some very public property and leave it at that. By the time Miles found out it was a little late to ground me, thankfully.”
“You must have been a frightening child,” Thérèse commented.
“The emotionally supportive term is ‘challenging,’” Garrett replied, and changed the topic before she could say anything else. “The doctors want us there in half an hour. Do you want to get gussied up or anything?”
Claudia’s eyes went wife, and she glanced down at herself in horror. “Oh God yes. Oh, I have to hurry.” She checked that Renee was still sleeping in her bassinet before rushing over to her bedroom and shutting the door behind her.
“You don’t need to be adding to her stress,” Thérèse chided.
“Are you kidding me? I’m making her happier. She’ll spend the next twenty-five minutes doing her hair and putting on makeup she doesn’t need instead of worrying about Miles and what he may or may not remember.”
“Still nothing. Stop talking to me and stir.” That got him a dirty look, but Thérèse did keep stirring the pot, which was beginning to smell delicious. Garrett didn’t tell her that, though. She didn’t need the encouragement.
They weren’t allowed in for the process of actually removing Miles from the Regen tank, cleaning him up and getting his first impressions like they had been with Wyl. Miles was a more medically complicated case, but after about ten minutes one of the doctors came out with a smile on his face, looked at Claudia and said, “He’s asking for you.”
“Oh,” she breathed. Her arms were shaking slightly as she held her baby, and Garrett was almost tempted to offer to take Renee, but he knew Claudia wouldn’t give her up now. She wanted them to be reintroduced as a unit, and there was no denying that her daughter was an emotional support Claudia badly needed.
“Get going,” Garrett said. He gave her a little push towards the door. She went, the doctors left and the door shut. Garrett looked around the barren hallway, figured it would be a while before he was needed, and called up Wyl. “Bring cards.”
Wyl came, looking as healthy and normal as he ever did after two weeks out of Regen, and they sat cross-legged on the floor and played poker.
“Busy as hell,” Wyl replied, but the smirk on his face was very informative. Garrett groaned.
“Glad your homecoming party has been so vigorous.”
“What can I say, absence makes his heart grow fonder,” Wyl said, and the smirk spread into a grin. “And abstinence makes his—”
“Stop, I already know, and please don’t talk to me about abstinence.”
“Feeling a little pent up?” Wyl asked as he laid down a straight flush. “A little…restricted? A little unfucked?” Garrett sighed and folded.
“Whatever,” Wyl said. “You’re so pining for Jonah. You can’t even touch yourself, can you?”
“Of course I can.”
“Not without thinking of him,” Wyl predicted.
“You’re just so adorable.”
“Seriously Wyl, I don’t care if you’re fresh out of the tank, I will hurt you.”
“Then Robbie will seek terrible revenge on you.”
“It might just be worth it,” Garrett warned, staring at his cards. Three queens. He had to win. He laid his cards down and Wyl nodded his head for a moment, impressed, before he put down three kings.
“Son of a bitch.”
“I’m a lucky guy,” Wyl said expansively, collecting the cards again. “I’ve got Robbie, I’m alive and fully functioning, I still have a job…thanks for what you did for Izzie, by the way.”
“You call him Izzie?”
“It was that or Door.” Wyl shrugged. “And honestly it was just as much my fault that that dumbass got into the compound, because I was the fucking supervisor and I could have checked the guy out more, but I didn’t.”
“Don’t dwell on it,” Garrett advised him. They both glanced over at the closed door.
“How long do you think they’ll be at it before they remember you?”
“If I’m lucky,” Garrett said, gathering up the cards and shuffling them, “all day.”
In the end it was only about two hours, but that was long enough for Garrett’s ass to get numb and for him to lose ninety percent of the poker games he and Wyl played. Usually Garrett was pretty decent at poker, so he figured Wyl was cheating and informed him of this suspicion. Wyl just laughed, gathered up his cards and left when Claudia came out of the room, looking just disheveled enough and holding a squirming Renee.
“Are you ready to go in?” she asked him, the brilliance of her smile lighting up her entire face.
“Sure,” Garrett replied easily, getting to his feet. “I take it your reunion went well.”
“Yes,” she murmured, her hips swaying back and forth to a gentle , unconscious rhythm as she rocked her baby. “Very well. After you two talk the doctors will check Miles’ blood work again and then he’ll come back to the house. They don’t want him stressing over his duties yet, so he’s going to take another week off just to be with us.”
“Good,” Garrett said. He kissed the top of Claudia’s head, then went into the room that had formerly held his father’s Regen tank. Now there was a bed, and the lights were bright and his father was awake, sitting on the bed in loose pants and a short-sleeved shirt and looking a decade younger than he had the last time Garrett saw him. “Dad.”
Miles smiled. “Son.”
“Nice to see you up and about,” Garrett said. “You took your sweet time,” he added.
“Sorry about that.”
“Yes, well…see that it doesn’t happen again.” After another second of just looking at each other Garrett came over and sat down on the bed, and he tried not to feel too much like a kid again when his father slid an arm around Garrett’s shoulders.
“Where are your boys?”
“They stayed on Pandora, Dad.”
“You’ve been away from them for a while, then.”
Nearly two months. “I have. But I needed to be here.”
“I’m glad you came.” Miles smiled. “Claudia couldn’t praise you enough. Thanks for everything you’ve done for her.”
“I couldn’t do anything else,” Garrett replied seriously.
Miles stared at him for a long time, totally silent, doing that assessing thing that he did that Garrett had hated as a child, because his father could always read him like a book if he could get him to hold still long enough, which was one reason he’d never stopped moving. “But now you can, Gare,” Miles said at last.
“I will,” Garrett said, and it felt so good to have it out there, even if obliquely. His father knew what he meant. “As soon as I’m sure you’re okay.”
“Yes,” he said, finally returning his father’s embrace. They held each other tight, reconnecting with flesh and bone and breath, and Garrett felt lighter than he had for months, maybe years. Soon. Soon he would leave. Soon he would be back where he was needed now, and where he needed to be. He thought maybe he was finally ready for it.