Monday, January 30, 2012

Hi there! Update and excerpt.

Happy Monday!

So, I'm off from work this week.  Writing is happening.  I have to finish the third novella in the Treasured series by next Monday, I'm putting more of Pandora onto Lit (the third part will be posted later this week, probably by Thursday) and I'm finishing up an urban fantasy novel that, astonishingly, has no actual sex in it.  I know, why would I write something like that?  Weird.

My short story, Different Spheres, comes out with Dreamspinner Press on February 22nd.  I have a link now and everything!  Different Spheres, check it out!  This is a really fun story, clocks in at 47 pages and I think you're going to enjoy it.  It's contemporary, so it might be a different taste of things for those of you who prefer my science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, etc. 

Also, someone asked me about where to find my original post of the first chapter of Changing Worlds, which is the novel-length follow up to my short story Opening Worlds.  It is a post here, but I'm having trouble opening it.  So I'm going to repost the first chapter below, for the interested.  This story won't come out until May, but it's going to be a big one and I'm really excited about it:)

***



Chapter One



A month, Jason Kim reflected, was a very malleable amount of time.

As a child a month had been a near-interminable amount of time, its challenging length compounded by the fact that he lived on one planet, went to school on another, and that neither of those places had months that matched the Federation standard.  He’d count down the days until he got to return to his parents’ house, only to realize that because of calculation errors he would be stuck in limbo for three days until the school’s shuttle schedule matched his own internal clock the way it should to get him home.

Once Jason entered the Academy, everything changed.  Life revolved around the Federation time standard, a relic from Old Earth, twenty-four hour days and seven day weeks.  Seven years of intensive training left him a capable military officer and an absolute adherent to the standard, and that was how Jason lived his life.  One month passed the same as every other, and life was dictated by the mission, not by the prospect of leave or the chance to see family and friends.  It was easy to let any idea of a personal life slide after his parents died, and he had always been most comfortable in his own company anyway.

Things didn’t change so much after he left the military.  Jason immediately went to work for the Shimona cartel, specializing in transferring goods and passengers in a state of elegance.  Jason had the kind of appeal they were looking for in a ship captain: he was attractive, he was efficient and he was impersonal.  They needed someone who could be polite while maintaining his distance, who wouldn’t get distracted from doing his job.  Jason was that person, even after he met Blake, even after they blended their lives together.  Time might have passed more pleasurably, but it was still set to a steady, predictable beat.

Blake left and time became purely professional again, perhaps a little slower than before, but still filled.  After a year of solitude, Jason had begun to feel like he had gotten a handle on the rhythm of the rest of his life.  And then…then, Ferran had come aboard.

Suddenly a month was nothing, a tiny blip on the radar.  Suddenly a month was filled with a whirlwind romance, ridiculously fast-paced from Jason’s perspective.  His passion for Ferran was consuming, more so than he’d ever experienced before.  Jason had no idea that so many of the emotions he’d been sure he could live without would come barreling back into his mind and body.  Because there was a time limit on Ferran.  Less than a month, from the time he boarded Jason’s ship, the Silver Star, to the time that he returned to his planet, Perelan, and reintegrated into his home society, so truly alien from a human’s.

Monotonous weeks turned into a conscious measure of minutes, and those minutes were spent memorizing, cataloguing and cherishing every bit of his lover that Jason could get.  Ferran had been the first to say it, “love,” that fraught and frightening word, but he had meant it, and so Jason had felt relief when he said it back, even though their affection was destined to end in nothing.  How could it not?  Ferran was restricted to his home planet after his brief period of interstellar liberty, the fate of all male Perels, and Jason took a leave of absence and returned to his own home, alone, and emptier than he could ever remember being.

A lot could change in a month.  Jason had found love like he’d never experienced and lost it all faster than he could get his head around.  And now, less than a month after he’d given up hope, Ferran was back, he and Jason were for all intents and purposes married and both of them would be moving back to Perelan in the company of the Federation ambassador tomorrow, to begin training Ferran as a diplomat. 

And Jason?  He didn’t know what role he was going to play on Perelan, other than husband and resident alien oddity.  To be perfectly honest, he didn’t really care.  For the first time in a long time Jason was content to live in the moment, not because he had nothing to look forward to, but because he was happy.  Really happy.  The whole thing still felt slightly surreal.

“What about this?” Ferran asked, looking over at Jason from where he sat, cross-legged, in front of the closet.  They were packing up the last of Jason’s belongings that would be brought with them to Perelan, and Ferran was incredibly inquisitive.  It was fortunate that Jason didn’t have much of a capacity for embarrassment, because otherwise he’d have been constantly red.  He’d had no idea his mother had kept so many of his childhood things.  What Ferran was holding up now looked like a plaster imprint of Jason’s five year old hand.

“That can stay,” Jason said, carefully folding one of his favorite sets of casual clothes, made from actual silk and cotton.  They wrinkled if he wasn’t careful with them.  He set them into the case laid open next to his dresser.

“What is it for?” Ferran asked, setting his own hand curiously against the imprint.  His fingers were long and milk-pale, capped with thick, blunt nails that were almost out of place on his otherwise delicate hands. 

“It’s just a child’s gift,” Jason replied.  “We made them in class one day.  I thought my parents had gotten rid of that long ago, where did you find it?”

“In a box in the back,” Ferran said.  “There’s a mask as well.”  He pulled out a brightly-colored dragon mask, the lines almost perfectly colored in by a young Jason, who had been something of a perfectionist even then.  Ferran put the mask in front of his face.  “It’s very fierce, but a little hard to see out of.”

“Your eyes are a little bigger than mine,” Jason remarked, amused.  Ferran’s eyes were easily twice the size of his own, with amber irises and large, dark pupils evolved to capture the light.  Ferran pulled the mask away and grinned, and for a moment it was all Jason could do not to stop what they were doing and take Ferran to bed.  Again.  But they’d only been given a week for their impromptu honeymoon, and spending too much time absorbed in his lover was what was giving Jason a headache about finishing packing now.  It wasn’t like he owned a lot of things.  Packing was a task that should have taken half a day, max, but it had stretched out, slowed down and crawled to a halt as Jason let himself get lost in the reality of having Ferran with him again.

Forever, he reminded himself, turning back to the last of his clothing.  We have forever now.  I don’t have to count every second.  But the anxiety in him refused to be soothed, and he abandoned the clothes in favor of joining Ferran in front of the closet.  “What else is back there?”

“I haven’t checked yet,” Ferran said, but he looked eager to keep going. 

“Let’s find out.”  Jason reached back into the cedar-scented depths of the closet and closed his hands around a small cylindrical tube.  He pulled it out.  “These are mine, actually.”  He barely remembered burying it back there only a year ago.

“What’s in it?” Ferran asked curiously.

Jason unscrewed the cap on the cylinder and pulled out a sheaf of thin films.  “They’re pictures.”

“Pictures of what?”

“All sorts of things,” Jason said absently as he remembered back to why he had stuffed almost all of the pictures he owned into a tube and shoved them into the back of his closet like a petulant child.  It had been an unusually turbulent moment for him, one of the few times when he let emotion carry him away into actions that weren’t logical.  Instead of just getting rid of the pictures that bothered him, Jason had completely cleared house.  Both his quarters on the ship as well as his home had been cleaned out.

“Do you mind looking at them?” Ferran was an empath, and he doubtless was picking up on the sense of resistance inside of Jason.  These weren’t really things that he wanted to look at again, but he didn’t have any choice.  He had no idea when he’d get the chance to come back to his childhood home, and apart from that he wasn’t a child any longer.  He couldn’t hide from things that made him uncomfortable.

“It’s all right,” Jason said gently.  “Let’s look at them.”

The first one was a black and white photograph of his parents.  They were in profile, looking out from the balcony of their house at the crashing waves below the small, cliff-top colony of Jacksonville.  They both looked stern, a little distant, but that was how his parents had always looked in pictures.  You had to be with them to see the grace of his mother’s movements, or really tell that the lines in his father’s face came from smiles.  They had been older than most couples when they’d had him, and he’d lost them far sooner than any of them had planned.  He shouldn’t have hidden this picture away.

“My parents.”  He handed the film over to Ferran, who took it carefully.  His lover gazed down at the photograph with lively interest. 

“You look like your father.”

Jason smiled.  “Thank you.”  He had always admired his father’s way with people, his inner strength and his calm demeanor.  Any comparisons were, in his mind, favorable.

“What was his name?”

“Gary.  My mother was Min-suh, but my father called her Minnie.”  The next picture was a portrait of his mother, and Jason handed that one over as well.  The one behind that was a candid photo of himself and Blake, and that…that wasn’t quite so easy to look at.

Ferran knew instantly.  “This is your last lover?”

“Yes.”

“How long were you together?”

“Just for a year.”  Which was still the longest romantic relationship Jason had ever had, actually. 

Ferran was quiet for a moment, then asked, “Does it bother you to look at him?”

“A little.”  He didn’t want to lie to Ferran, and he suspected that the Perel would know if he’d tried to anyway.  “But you should know about Blake.  At the least you should know that he existed.  He was out of my life for a year by the time you met me.”  Jason put that picture, and the two behind it, back into the tube.  “These ones can stay.  I’ll take the other two, though.”

Ferran held the pictures of Jason’s parents side by side and admired them for a long moment.  “We don’t have anything like this on Perelan.  It’s considered disrespectful to make images of our loved ones, because it implies that we can’t hold them in our hearts without help.  Remembrance of the past is important, but our historians do not like dwelling on specifics.  I’ve only ever painted in the abstract.”

“You’re a painter?” 

“It was one of the skills my mother thought it important for me to learn.”  Ferran handed the pictures back carefully.  Jason took them and set them back on the bed, filing this new information about his husband into the “to be explored” category.  Jason wasn’t a painter but he had access to courses that Ferran might like, instructional holos and the means to buy any equipment that Ferran might need.  Although right now there wasn’t the time to buy anything, and Jason knew for a fact that nothing was shipped to Perelan without express permission.

Jason reached back into the closet.  After a moment of searching his hands closed on another cylindrical object, and he felt like groaning for a moment.  More pictures?  How many of those had he secreted away?  But no, this time what he brought out brought a smile to his face.  “I thought this was in storage on board the Silver Star.  He partially unsheathed the weapon and looked down at the short, straight blade.  Still shining, still sharp.  Just like he’d left it.

Ferran’s eyes went a little wide as he took in the sword.  “You use this?”

“Not really,” Jason said, turning the sheathe over in his hands.  It was painted with a flower pattern and coated with red lacquer, and the metal fittings were engraved with silver that was so tarnished it was almost black.  “Swordsmanship went through something of a renaissance while I was going through the Academy.  I learned fencing and kendo, and some Indonesian styles.  This sword is actually Korean, and a lot shorter than the katanas that samurai used.”

“Who are samurai?” Ferran asked.

Jason smiled.  “I forget sometimes how few movies you’ve seen.  Why didn’t you go to any theaters while you were travelling around the universe?”

“There were other things to do,” Ferran replied, a mischievous look in his eyes.  “Many other things.  And alien films are one of the few things we’re occasionally granted access to on Perelan.”

“Well, tonight I’m introducing you to the archetype that is the samurai,” Jason said decisively.  “Movies and popcorn, that’s the tradition.”

“I like your traditions,” Ferran smiled, wrapping his arms around Jason’s shoulders.  “I liked celebrating your birthday.”  It had been Jason’s birthday three days ago, and they had baked a cake, loaded it down with candles and spent the rest of the evening celebrating in a more intimate way.  The kitchen was a place they both liked to be and Ferran was an excellent cook, far better than Jason even after so many years of learning it on his own.  The white truffle cake was one of the few things Jason could make that Ferran didn’t already know how to improve upon.

“We’ll do the same for you when your birthday rolls around,” Jason promised, but Ferran shook his head.

“My birthday isn’t important,” he said, quietly but with complete assurance.  “We never celebrate the birthdays of males on Perelan.  Instead, each house celebrates the birthday of their reigning matriarch.  It’s a feast day for the entire family.  To celebrate my own birth would say to the others in my house that I was putting myself above them, and above where a sterile male should be stationed.  I don’t mind it.”

Jason was inclined to insist that Ferran’s birthday was important and that they should celebrate it anyway, but he stopped himself.  There was a lot he had to learn about Perel culture, and he didn’t want to make any assumptions before he had a chance to really sit down and talk with Giselle Howards, the Federation ambassador to the planet.  She’d be able to give him a crash course in Perelan and its people without the risk of Jason offending his new husband.

“What is it?” Ferran asked, curling in even closer.  He tended to cuddle when he thought something might be wrong.  It wasn’t a habit that Jason felt like breaking, either.  He liked the fact that for the first time in a long time, someone wanted to be close to him.  Not just wanted, but needed to be close to him.  The intensity of that emotion was something that Jason was still adapting to, but the more they were together the more he grew accustomed to letting himself need his husband back.

“Nothing that can’t wait,” he said after a moment.  “Come on.  Samurai movie time.”

In the end Jason chose the movie Samurai Fiction, an Old Earth classic and a far less violent example of the genre than some of what he had to pick from.  There was plenty of fighting to keep it interesting, and enough discussions of personal honor and the Japanese class system that it would give Ferran a good beginning.

It was definitely violent enough for Ferran.  “Is killing really so casual for humans?” he asked a little tentatively at the end of the movie.  Jason ran a soothing hand down the feathery, amber-tipped quills that ran the length of Ferran’s spine and over his head.  They tended to get sharper when he was upset or confused, and at the moment they were standing nearly on end.

“Not really,” Jason replied.  “It’s just a movie.  People watching it know it’s just for entertainment.”

“Why is death so entertaining?”

Jason stared at a piece of popcorn that had fallen to the floor and considered the question for a moment before answering.  “Death is…mysterious.  For some people death is the utter end, for others it’s the beginning of a new way of life.  Everyone has a different opinion on death, but the only thing we know for sure is that there’s no definitive explanation for what happens after you die that everyone can agree on. 

“The ability to take another person’s life can be seen as a good thing depending on who does the dying, or it can be a skill that makes other people consider you a monster.  It all depends on what you decide to do with it.  And a person who can face the prospect of death with calm and acceptance…it’s captivating, in its way.  Admirable.”

Ferran listened to the explanation with his head cocked, disbelief clear in his eyes.  “Perels think of any death other than old age as something shameful, something to be avoided at all costs.”  His beautiful, expressive face was somber, and his ears were flared back, a sign of discomfort.  “After our civil war, with so many of us dead or wounded, it became clear that we had taken our ability to destroy life too far.  It was unsure for a time whether our species would even survive.  All lives are to be treasured, even those who have little to offer their houses or society at large.  Unnatural deaths are very rare, and suicide is one of the worst things a Perel can do.  It brings shame on an entire family.”

“Like what happened with your brother?”

Ferran nodded.  “It’s one reason that my petition to be trained as a diplomat was taken so seriously, even though I’m only a sterile male.  There’s a flaw in my breeding, and the matriarchs thought it was possible that I might kill myself if they denied my petition.”  Ferran took in Jason’s expression and hurried to add, “I didn’t lie when I told you before that I wasn’t going to kill myself, though.  I would never do that.  It is the ultimate expression of hopelessness, and I was never without hope.”

“Good,” Jason said firmly, leaning in and capturing Ferran’s lips in a kiss.  The Perel seemed to melt against his body, warm and lithe and pliable, and Jason pulled him closer, framing Ferran’s smooth, pale face with his hands and opening up to his lover’s rough, questing tongue and the hungry little purrs that accompanied it.  Before they had technically gotten married, Ferran had let Jason do all the driving when it came to their sex life.  Now that he felt more secure, Ferran was occasionally reaching for control, taking it and giving it back to Jason as they gently dueled for dominance.

“It’s our last night here,” Jason said around their kiss, barely able to spare the breath to get the words out.  “What do you want?”

“You.”  It was what Ferran always said, and it was so full of truth and need that Jason couldn’t help but hold him a little tighter, and pull him a little closer.

“In our bed?” he whispered, nuzzling the pulse point beneath Ferran’s jaw before he bit it, very lightly.  Ferran shivered in his arms.

“Wherever you want me,” Ferran breathed.  “Anywhere, any way you want me.”

“The bed, then,” Jason decided, standing up and drawing Ferran up with him.  They had already christened every room of the house, including the butterfly pavilion and, during a rare moment of good weather, the balcony.  He wanted their last night to be one of comfort and closeness as opposed to fast and furious, or in the case of the garage, practically acrobatic.

They kissed their way back to the bedroom, so absorbed in each other than Jason didn’t remember the photographs he’d left out on the bed.  Ferran reached out and moved them to the dresser before they could be crushed, and a moment later they were lying on the bed against each other.

Perels were physically similar enough to humans that it had never been a challenge for Jason, physically or mentally, to be intimate with Ferran.  The challenge had come in being emotionally ready to involve himself with a race of people who were renowned for their sexual appetite.  That was the most that the majority of people ever learned about the few Perels that were allowed off their planet, and it was initially enough to put Jason off of getting close to Ferran.  He hadn’t counted on his second in command conspiring to force him to socialize, and he’d soon learned that there was a lot more to Ferran than simply sexual hunger.

Which wasn’t to say that there was anything wrong with Ferran’s hunger when it was focused on Jason.  Ferran twined his slender, strong legs with Jason’s and pulled them tightly against each other, their erections rubbing tantalizingly through the thin cotton pants that they both wore.  Jason had a shirt on as well but Ferran was bare-chested, which he always preferred as long as it wasn’t too cold.   His skin was so warm…

The urge to strip them out of their clothes and just rut until they came was strong, but Jason wanted more than sex tonight.  “Let me touch you,” he said softly, stilling the rhythm of Ferran’s hips with one hand as he caressed the length of his lover’s thigh.  Ferran was panting quickly, his chest rising and falling in short bursts, but he nodded his assent.

Jason started at the too, stroking a hand carefully through the quills on his lover’s head, feeling them quiver under his fingers and switch from soft to sharp, soft to sharp.  When they were sharp, they were almost edged enough to cut the tender skin of his lips, so Jason left the touching to his toughened hands and winnowed his fingers through the thin, straight strands.  Short and blunter at the edges of Ferran’s face, the longest quills along the top of his head and the nape of his neck were almost six inches in length. 

Jason trailed his fingers down a cluster of quills just behind Ferran’s ear, pausing there to gently scratch the tight skin.  Ferran purred and turned his head into the touch, the rigid focus of his desire relaxing some as he got into the comfort that Jason was offering.  Ferran’s ears slanted back against his head, crinkle-edged and tufted with a wisp of amber hair.  They were adorable, and incredibly touchable, but Jason knew that Ferran was sensitive about the things that spoke most loudly to the differences between him and Jason, and that sensitivity sometimes made him self-conscious. 

For a moment Jason wondered exactly how much his new husband was working to be sensitive to human culture, perhaps to things that even Jason wasn’t noticing, but then Ferran mewled needily and nuzzled against Jason’s throat, redirecting his attention back to the now.

Jason kissed over Ferran’s closed eyelids, so thin they were almost transparent, their lashes long and dark.  He kissed his pointed nose and the tip of his sharp chin before losing himself again in Ferran’s mouth.  God, his lover could kiss.  His tongue was long, and rougher than a human’s, but Jason never came away from Ferran’s embrace feeling raw.  Jason’s tongue delved into Ferran’s mouth in turn, cautious over canines that were marginally longer and sharper than a human’s.  Perels could be omnivorous but preferred vegetarianism, by and large.  One hand cupped Ferran’s neck, fingers burrowing into the quills there while the other kept moving against Ferran’s side, brushing over the edge of his abdomen before skirting back to safer territory.

They broke apart long enough for Ferran to murmur, “Jason.”  His voice was dark and throaty, almost a growl.

“Let me,” Jason replied, trying to stay on track with what he had in mind.  He wanted, no, he needed to ground himself in Ferran tonight, touch every bit of him, feel the reality of him.  Everything else in his life was about to change.  Ferran had to be familiar; he had to become the basis of Jason’s sense of home now. 

Ferran whined faintly but acquiesced, and Jason continued his steady march down his lover’s body, kissing and licking at his throat, tormenting each new set of nipples as he worked his way down Ferran’s chest.  The skin was slightly darker around those, a flush of pink against unrelenting paleness.  Even on the tender skin of Ferran’s stomach the tissue was thicker than a human’s, more resistant to scratches and tears.  The only place his skin truly softened was over his eyes, and…

Jason undid the tie on Ferran’s pants and pulled them down and away, leaving his lover nude.  The head of his erection was bright red and flowing with milky fluid.  It glistened against the length of it and pooled at the base, no hair to get caught in.  Jason liked being able to see everything.  He licked the head once, gently, just enough to get a taste before moving down the bed.

Ferran whined again, louder this time, but he didn’t reach for himself, or reach to redirect Jason back to his cock.  He pulled his knees back and shuddered when Jason kissed the insides of his thighs and stroked down over the taut muscles of his calves.  Ferran’s toes were long, exceptionally so when compared to a human, and his feet had high, spring-like arches.  His toenails were black and thick, protective, and Jason spared a moment to kiss the biggest nail on each foot before he finally began to slide back up Ferran’s body.

God, he was leaking, flowing so much it almost looked like he was coming in slow motion.  Perels, Jason had learned, produced a lot more seminal fluid than humans did, and their bodies made use of it.  Jason ran his fingers through the liquid that had collected against Ferran’s balls, which were drawn hard and tight against his body, then ran them back underneath his lover until his slick fingers probed at Ferran’s entrance.  His lover relaxed immediately, welcoming the press, the rich fluid acting as a perfect lubricant.  Gathering a little more, Jason pushed his fingers back inside as he lowered his mouth onto Ferran’s cock.

His husband came quickly, keening, the build-up too much for him to resist.  Hot sperm filled Jason’s mouth to overflowing, and he swallowed quickly.  It tasted bitterer than a human man’s, musky and thick, but Jason swallowed again and again, addicted to the flavor.  When it was clear there would be no more, Jason gently let go of Ferran’s swollen, sensitized organ and moved to pull his fingers out.

“No,” Ferran pleaded, clenching him tight.  “Be in me.”

“I will,” Jason promised.  “Give me a moment and I will.”  As soon as Ferran nodded and relaxed he sat back, pulling off his shirt and pants with more haste than he normally did, even when they were making love, and threw them onto the floor.  A second later he was pressed against Ferran again, their bodies perfectly matched, and then Ferran drew his legs back and rolled his hips and suddenly it was impossible not to slide into him.

Hot, so hot, so slicktightperfect…and God, Jason was going to come in a second if he didn’t control himself.  He leaned back on his arms a little bit, putting some distance between himself and Ferran.  It didn’t help.  The low lights made his lover’s eyes look like they were glowing, and Ferran’s hands were everywhere, stroking down his chest and over his shoulders and urging him on.  After a moment he gave into the urge, pulling back and then stroking in with more and more force until Jason was gasping for breath, his whole body was burning with tension and he knew that he was on the cusp of exploding, and all it would take was a look, a word, a movement…

“Jason.”  One word, one look that he couldn’t even decipher when there was so much there to see and Jason flew apart, burying himself in Ferran and coming so hard that his vision dimmed and his hearing went fuzzy.  Everything seemed to be quivering, from his hair to his toes, and it took all that he had left not to black out and collapse on his lover.

Ferran knew, of course.  He was an empath, he felt Jason’s emotions, and his ability to feel them was becoming stronger the more intimate they became.  He held Jason close, cradling him against his body but not suffocating him, giving him the space he needed to catch his breath.  It took minutes, and every minute was a gift, every second was a blessing.  He breathed out and Ferran breathed in, drinking in his exhalations and purring with pleasure.

It was frightening, how much Jason was beginning to crave the closeness he had with Ferran, how much he was starting to need him.  The love hadn’t been nearly as hard for Jason to reconcile as the growing understanding that he was becoming genuinely dependent on someone else for the first time since he was a child.  Jason had been part of a team, he’d been in relationships but all of those had paled in comparison to what was happening to him now, and he was both glad and anxious about that.

Eventually Jason came back to himself enough to get up.  He went into the bathroom and got a clean washcloth, wet it and came back to find Ferran curled on his side, his huge eyes at half-mast, gazing in his direction.

“I am also nervous.”

Ferran’s sudden confession took Jason a little by surprise, and he raised an eyebrow as he scooted close enough to begin to wipe his lover clean.  “Why are you nervous?”

“I want you to be happy on Perelan.”

“I will be happy,” Jason promised.  “I’ll be with you.”

“Yes,” Ferran said, but that was all he said, and Jason was learning to hear his new husband’s silences as well as he did his words.

“I said forever,” Jason told him, smoothing a palm over damp skin.  “I meant it.  I don’t expect it will all be easy, but we’ll learn how to deal with that.”

“I believe you.”

“As well you should,” Jason said, trying to lighten the mood a little.  “Or didn’t you know that I’m always right about these sorts of things?”

“That’s not what Florence told me,” Ferran countered, referring to Jason’s former second in command on board the Silver Star.  She had been keeping in touch with both of them, sending brief text messages to their communicators almost daily, perhaps in an effort to make up for the fact that once they reached Perelan, they’d be cut off.  No outside communications of any kind would be allowed unless they related to a family emergency, and Jason didn’t have any family left. 

It was a shame, because Flo was a lot of fun to talk to, a good listener and an immovable pillar of support.  She managed to make them laugh more often than not, very frequently resorting to ancient idioms that Jason had to explain to Ferran, or jovial commentary on what she considered Jason’s many amusing traits.  Her last text to Ferran had read, Suggest installing a low-intensity shock button to use when you go out on the town with him.  Wished for one many times myself.  Might prompt him to use his words.

“Flo is biased against me, you know that.  She thinks I have no social skills.”

“She’s wrong about that,” Ferran agreed with a smile.  “You’re very sociable with me.”

“You see?  You can’t listen to her.”  Jason leaned in and kissed Ferran, and let his lover’s insistent hands keep him drawn close instead of getting up to clean the clothes from the floor like he’d intended to.  Jason was well and truly exhausted, and it didn’t take much time for him to fall asleep in Ferran’s arms, his lover curled possessively around his head and shoulders.



***



Jason woke up in a cold sweat sometime before dawn, his breathing fast and his heart pounding so hard it felt like it might beat out of his chest.  The nightmare that had woken him was dissipating quickly, leeching from his brain like an evaporating mist but leaving behind a dark, sticky residue.  The urge to scream, caught by his tight jaw and clenched teeth, slowly receded, and eventually Jason was left exhausted but absolutely unable to get back to sleep.  He glanced over at Ferran, still curled close to him, still asleep.  Well, that was a mercy.  He didn’t want to have to explain to his lover what was going on with him.  Not that he knew himself, exactly.

Moving slowly, Jason eased out of the circle of Ferran’s arms and off of the bed, grabbed a robe that hung on the back of his bathroom door and slung it on, then walked quietly into the living room.  He stood at the door that led to his balcony and stared out into the darkness, just barely able to detect the violent crashing of the waves far below.  Lightning cracked through the sky, streaks of silver and gold in dark indigo clouds.  Beautiful.  Frightening.  Sort of like what was happening here.

In his most ruthlessly practical moments when he was alone, Jason contemplated what he’d gotten himself into with a certain amount of grim resignation.  He was going to be the first human being given intimate access to an alien world, an alien world that humans didn’t honestly know very much about.  He was going there married to a highly-ranked member of that society, from what Jason could tell, but also a relatively powerless one.  Infertile males were used as bargaining chips by their mothers, traded to other families to be caretakers and homemakers.  Ferran was the first one ever to be allowed to pursue a different path, but there were probably whole labyrinths of political issues driving that decision that Jason knew nothing about, much less how he fit into the grand scheme of things.  There was no doubt in his mind, though, that his presence among the Perels was entirely calculated. 

Jason didn’t doubt that Ferran loved him.  His new husband was as innocent a creature as Jason had ever seen in some ways, barely old enough to be considered an adult by his own people. He and his cousins had been on the verge of completing their post-adolescent tour of the ‘verse, were actually headed back to Perelan, when he and Jason had met. The depth of deceit that it would take to fool Jason into falling for him was beyond Ferran, not to mention that had snaring a human partner been premeditated, Ferran could have done a hell of a lot better.  He could have gone for someone with more money, more power, more connections.  Jason was a loner and always had been, and there was no lack of infatuated humans waiting for the first hint of something more with the attractive aliens to catapult them into love.

Instead Ferran had fallen in love with Jason, and he had risked a great deal to be with him.  The proposal had come through Ambassador Howards, the Federation’s representative to Perelan, not from Ferran himself, and there had been no assurance that Jason would agree to a marriage.  But in the end Jason had agreed, and for the next year at least, he and Ferran were legally bound to each other.  There was still a lot to work out about that: how they would need to conduct themselves on the planet, how Jason’s actions would reflect on Ferran, even what Ferran’s duties within his own house would be now that he was no longer a viable bargaining chip.  All his worth, all his beauty and gentility and intelligence had been spent on catching Jason, and Jason wasn’t at all sure that he was going to prove a worthwhile investment.

He hadn’t had a nightmare for a long time.  As a child they were night terrors, leaving him upright in his bed screaming, unable to see or hear as his mother tried to calm him.  His parents had refused drugs and therapy, his father instead opting to teach Jason meditation and other methods of self-control.  They had eventually worked, and he’d become very adept over the years at blocking or burying the things that made him uncomfortable.  Only occasionally was it so bad that those things manifested as nightmares, but it looked like now was going to be one of those times.

Uncertainty, doubts of his own self-worth, fear of leaving the simplicity and structure of everything he knew for the mystery that was Perelan…Jason had a lot to be afraid of.  He closed his eyes for a moment and breathed in deeply, letting the air circulate through the lowest parts of his lungs before emerging as a faint hiss through his teeth.  He needed to handle this.  And privately, because the last thing his new husband needed at the moment was insecurity from Jason.  Ferran was going to be dealing with a lot once they got back to Perelan.  Jason couldn’t add to that stress.  Silently he promised himself to take up daily meditation again, to work kata and other exercises that were comfortingly mindless, physical movements that would ground and occupy him.  He could handle this on his own.  He would have to.

Jason opened his eyes again and sighed.  The very edge of the horizon was limned with violet, signaling the beginning of dawn. Ambassador Howards would arrive in less than three hours to take them away in her ship.  Jason glanced around his house, his eyes lingering on the hardwood floors and handmade cabinets, the simple, comfortable furnishings and soothing earth tones.  There was a neat stack of containers by the door that contained everything he was taking with him to Perelan.  Well, almost everything. 

Jason turned and headed back into the bedroom.  If he couldn’t sleep, the least he could do was finish packing.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

Potential Silence, an Explanation For.

Hi guys!

So lets get the fun stuff out there first.  The next big installment of Pandora (the collected editions, haha) will be up on Literotica in a couple of days.  It's queued, what can I do after that?  Check out www.literotica.com if you want to see the slightly modified version from parts 8 through 15, I believe. 

Let's see...I got to look at the header for my soon-to-exist website, and it is super sexy and lovely and makes me happy.  The existence of said site is coming ever and ever closer to fruition.  Cannot wait.

Different Spheres is in production mode (ie getting a cover) and will have it's own url on the Dreamspinner Press website soon, so I'll pass that along when it happens.

Now the not-so-fun stuff.  Tuesday I go in for knee surgery, which means I will be hopped up on the good stuff for a few days and in all likelihood an incoherent mess, so don't expect me to post much beyond "Mhuhwhaaa...?" or to be quick to respond to emails.  On the bright side, I get two weeks off of work, which means lots of time to write once I'm sensible again.  Also, once recovered I will know better than to try to choke a person with my shin, which is what put me in this situation.  It's been a learning experience all around.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ooh, hey!

The first collected chapter (1-8 I think) is now up on Literotica.  If you're not in a compromising position or, you know, at work or something, please go give it a look!  I'm going to try to get the next quarter or so of the story queued up asap. 

Am I wasting your time sending you over there?  Well, it's been a long time since the first chapters were front and center on this blog, and I did make minor changes to make it more readable as a longer piece, so you might enjoy that if you enjoyed the story.  I've been discussing things with my readerwife and I think I know what I'm going to do next, but there are a lot of kinks to work out (possibly literally) and so will take me a little time. 

http://www.literotica.com/

then find New Stories!

This is the first place I ever put anything up for public consumption.  It's a great site with an awesome number of great free stories (and some incredibly bad stories, but their rating system can help you avoid those).  And remember: not at work.  Thank God I work out of my car:)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back To Work, Woman!

Hi there!

So, I've gotten some distance, made some space, now I can look at my blog rationally and figure out the next step.  Yes I'll keep posting excerpts and news of my upcoming publications here, and yes I'll throw in the occasional RL tidbit, but the real thing that this blog motivates me to do is to write.  I'm the sort of person who functions better under a deadline, weird but true.  If I want to be really productive, I either have to exercise the kind of discipline that comes my way about once every six months and regiment myself, or rely on outside sources to do it for me.  Hence the indespensibleness of my readerwife and the other people who follow what I write and then tap me with the "Get Your Ass Back To Work" stick.

It has to be something I can bring myself to focus on, though.  I can't write too much of the same thing or my mind starts to melt.  I want to do another series on this blog, but genres that are currently off-limits are, in no particular order: science fiction, urban fantasy, anything having to do with shapeshifters, fairies or vampires... I'm juggling several novellas and a novel right now, which will be totally fun once they're done but currently are eating my brain.  Anyway.  Feel free to suggest a topic, a situation or even just a theme.  I love you and your help:)

In other news, I've put the first eight parts of Pandora together and put them into the queue on Literotica.  I did end up changing a few bits and pieces, and it reads very nicely in its longer version, so even if you've already finished it you might want to check it out again.  Give it a few days.  There will probably be four extended parts altogether.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ding! Next Round...

So...just let me get this moment out before the really relevant stuff, dahlings.

Hindsight seems to be showing that my man and I should have just gone with public transportation instead of persnal vehicles on our return.  1 inch of snow shouldn't make driving so hard, but I swear people who are awesome in a foot of snow suck in 1 inch of it.  This morning going to work, some poor lady's Explorer swung a fishhook and crashed into my little car's front end, driving us both off the road.  She had insurance but no drivers license (how does one accomplish that anyway?) and in my compassion (weakness?) I didin't call the cops to officiate our accident.  On the plus side, all this has resulted in me missing work today!  On the minus side I have to make up all my client visits tomorrow, in what car I don't know, but I have to find one by then.  Joy.

Okay, gripe over with.  Holy crap, guys, thanks for reading Pandora!  I have some work to do before it's ready to post on Lit, but hopefully the first collected installment will be up around the end of the month.  I'm writing a sequel to Shadowed, probably the last installment in that series even though I adore Danny and Reese.  My follow-up novel to the short story Opening Worlds is written and beginning the editing process.  I linked the first chapter a while back.  The whole thing came out pretty darn good, I think.  I'm going to submit stories for a few anthologies in the coming months, because damn it, I love doing anthologies.  So much less stress, so fun to see other people's take on an idea.  Oh, and, my short story Different Spheres will be out with Dreamspinner Press sometime in the next month, I believe.  I think Jana's the only one who's read that so far, but I think you guys will like it.  There are excerpts posted somewhere on this blog:)

In other news, I'm hopefully going to have a website--a real website, all big-girl and everything--up soon.  The blog will be coming along for the ride, but gosh, the whole thought of it makes me feel so official.  Like now I need something else to strive for, like a cabana boy, and a cabana for him to be a boy at.  Or something.  Kinda tired and knocked around here.

I hope your new year has gotten off to a safe and successful start.  Stick with me, guys, 2012 is going to be an exciting, creatively productive year.  Next post: where the hell do I go from here?  Or, name that serial story.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pandora Post #30: Finale

Title: Pandora



Part Thirty: Climax, Literally



Notes: Long notes section this time, guys, since this is the LAST PART OF PANDORA!!! I know, I kind of thought it would never end, but it has. The final product in it’s current state is 90k words long and took me over a year to write. I’m going to be polishing it up for posting on Literotica, but I doubt I’ll make any major changes. Thank you so much for sticking it out and waiting, through thick and thin, Togo and America, for me to finish this darn thing. I kind of love Garrett and I wish I had more to say about him, but for now his tale is HEA. Special thanks to my readerwife for commenting all the time, which is basically like feeding my brain, and to everyone else who commented and thus made me a happy, happy girl. I wuv you all.



PS, as if it isn’t apparent from the title, this section has dirty scenes. R-rated at least. Don’t go there if you can’t take the heat.



PPS, I will be begging for fic suggestions/preferences in my next post, most likely, so think about it. I already have a request for more in The Captain series, which I will do, but those stories don’t really lend themselves to being written as serials, and I’m going to need something to keep you all visiting my blog.





***







Nervousness, Garrett told himself firmly, was for other people. He didn’t do nervous. Nervous saw him coming and transformed immediately into cockiness, because nervous just didn’t fit Garrett. Especially not when he had almost nothing to be nervous about. Right? It wasn’t like everything wasn’t going exactly the way he wanted it to so far. No, everything was working out perfectly.

Miles had been given the gold star of approval over his health a few days after he was revived. Garrett had tried to stay on the periphery as his father got reacquainted with his younger family, with limited success. It was kind of sweet, actually, the way Miles always had to have an arm around Claudia or Renee in his arms. It was kind of annoying that Garrett was drawn into the gravitational pull of his father’s recovery instead of keeping his distance and making plans to leave, but he didn’t fight it too hard. Miles and Garrett were friends as well as father and son, and had been for most of Garrett’s life, but it had been a long time since his father had reached out to him so casually, or so often. Not since Garrett had gotten out of rehab as a teenager, still aching and confused and afraid, had Miles ruffled his hair or squeezed his shoulder or hugged him like he was now. Annoyingly, it took Wyl to explain it to Garrett.

“He’s not really doing it for you,” Wyl had sighed, saying it like it was the most obvious thing on the face of the planet. “He’s doing it for himself. The man’s been out of the loop for months, he wakes up and has to relearn his whole life, and you’re a big part of that life whether you want to be or not, Gare. Miles is just reassuring himself that you’re really there. Hand me that wrench.”

Garrett had handed over the tool with a frown. “Did you do the same thing with Robbie?”

“What, go through a clingy phase? Yeah, but that’s not all that different from how we are most of the time,” Wyl replied, and Garrett could hear the grin in his voice. “Just give your dad a little more time.”

“I have to head back, Wyl.”

“Back to Pandora?”

“Yes.” Garrett shook his head slightly. “Although I’m really not sure why I’m so eager to get there. I know I love Jonah, I know I’m in love with him, but I’ve got such a fucking miserable track record with relationships. One man has never been enough for me in the long run. How do I know this is going to turn out any different?”

Wyl had crawled out from under the ship and scowled irritably over at Garrett. “You know, you have got to be the most beautiful, most brilliant, most clueless dumbass I’ve ever met.”

Garrett blinked. “Come again?”

“Look, even if you weren’t totally ass-over-teakettle in love with Jonah, which I know you are by the not-so-subtle way you pine for him, you’re not getting one man with this relationship, Gare. You’re getting two. You’re getting a family.”

“Ah.” After that Garrett shut his mouth and just handed Wyl tools for a while.

Garrett left Paradise three days later, just before Miles was set to go back to work. “For fuck’s sake, be careful,” he muttered into his father’s shoulder as they said their goodbyes.

“You too,” Miles said as he pulled back. One hand tapped the spot right between Garrett’s eyes. “No more surgeries without telling us what’s going on.”

Garrett flushed. “How did you know?”

“Your eyes are still a little darker than they should be,” Miles replied. “I called Jezria once I noticed. You’re lucky to be alive, son.”

“I know.” There was a moment of silence, strained in a way it hadn’t been between them for a long time. They were both lucky to be alive.

“Bring your guys along the next time you visit,” Miles said at last, easily changing the subject and giving them both an out. “We all want to meet them.”

“I’d like that.” He really would, too. He wanted to join the two disparate sides of his family together.

Garrett bid the rest of them farewell, saving a kiss for his little sister and getting Therese to unbend far enough to give him a one-armed embrace. Leaving them was hard, but the prospect of returning to Pandora was rapidly overshadowing any angst or sadness he was feeling.

Garrett had finally actually talked to Jonah the night before, to let him know he was coming back. The surprise on Jonah’s face hurt a little bit, but Garrett supposed it was warranted.

“How much time do you reckon it’ll take to get here?”

“A little over three weeks,” Garrett replied. He glanced around Jonah’s living room, where the vid screen was set up. “Where’s Cody?”

“Friend’s house,” Jonah replied automatically, running his hand through his hair. “If I’d known you were gonna call I’d have gotten him, but…”

“Yeah, I know.” Neither of them wanted to raise Cody’s hopes for no reason.

“Your dad’s okay now?” Jonah asked quietly.

“Yes. He woke up healthy and with almost all of his memory intact. It was pretty amazing, honestly.”

“Good, good. Good.”

It was the most awkward conversation Garrett had ever had with Jonah. After a few more exchanges they cut the connection, and Garrett was left feeling more unsettled than ever. Nothing had been decided, no intentions or words of affection had been exchanged. Which was stupid, Garrett reflected sourly, but not incredibly unlike him.

Getting to Paradise had been one long, hyper, hopped-up blur for Garrett, one which had worn him down to nearly nothing, but at the same time at least his mind had been occupied. He’d been filled with purpose. Returning to Pandora didn’t have the same sense of excruciating urgency about it, but it was much more difficult in some ways because of that. There was nothing for Garrett to do but think about the cliff he was about to jump off, if Jonah and Cody agreed to it. Garrett was a fan of doing new things, but most of the new things he’d tried in the past had been well within his comfort zone. This was definitely not.

By the end of the trip Garrett had gotten so sick of his own whiny indecision that he could barely look at himself in a mirror. He was directed to land in the Neptune’s docking bay, which he supposed made sense since his apartment was still on the ship. The first person to meet him as he disembarked was, sadly, not Jonah. It was Jezria. As happy as he was to see her, Garrett couldn’t stop the disappointed frown that flashed across his face.

“Clearly I’m not who you were expecting,” Jezria said dryly as she enfolded him in a motherly hug. Garrett put down his duffel bag so he could hug her back.

“You know I’m glad to see you,” he told her. “Even if you did go behind my back and tell my dad about the incident in the lab.”

“You can’t expect me to lie to one of my oldest friends when’s he’s already seen through you,” she protested, letting him go. “Miles is well, I take it?”

“Very well.”

“And everyone else?”

“Fine, which you already know because I’m sure you’ve talked to them recently.” He glanced around. “Do you have any idea why Jonah isn’t here?”

“He had intended to be, but he was called out at the last minute to pick up one of the research teams that went inland for the day. Their shuttle broke down.”

“You mean they crashed it.”

“They…bumped it.”

“Shit.”

“You could go and pick Cody up from daycare, though,” Jezria suggested with a small smile. “I know he’s looking forward to seeing you.”

“Really?”

“Of course, really,” she said, graciously not adding anything derisive about Garrett’s insecurities. “The daycare is right next to the primary school in Pandora City. Do you know how to find it? It’s just five blocks south of here.”

“I’m sure I can find it.”

“Good. Cody can take you home with him afterwards.”

Home. Right. “Okay.” He hefted his bag over his shoulder again, the edge of a box inside of it digging into his mid-back. “Thanks.”

“Get some rest, my dear. You have a few days to adjust before you’re expected back at the lab.”

“At least they didn’t give away my spot,” Garrett joked as he turned towards the exit.

“Of course not. You’re under contract, after all. The months you were gone have been added to your end-date, by the way.”

“Contracts make allowances for massively extraneous circumstances!” Garrett protested out of habit, even though staying on was exactly what he had in mind.

“Most contracts do. Not this one.” She shook her head and tutted slightly. “You really should have read the entire thing before you signed it, Garrett. Now go on, have a lovely afternoon.”

“Thank you,” he grumbled before leaving the Neptune.

Amazingly, it wasn’t raining outside. The sky was thick with blue-gray clouds, but they weren’t doing more than threatening. Garrett still walked fast in the direction Jezria had given him, and before long he saw the school. It was a bright building, painted in orange and yellow and red. Playground equipment dotted the lawn beside it, and next to that was a smaller building that was bustling with children. Garrett assumed that was the daycare. He looked around the playground for Cody’s curling blonde hair. Cody spotted him first, and Garrett had all of three seconds to prepare himself for the child torpedo that hit him in the midsection.

“Garrett!”

It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, how relieved holding onto Cody made him feel. How stupidly happy he became when he lifted the child up into his arms and got a kiss on the cheek for his effort. Garrett held the boy close and laid a kiss of his own into his hair, and didn’t let up until Cody started pushing impatiently at his shoulders.

“Look, I lost a tooth, see?” Cody opened his mouth and showed Garrett where the gap was in his lower jaw. “And I lost another one while you were gone, it was on the top and Daddy had to pull it out and it didn’t even hurt, but it did bleed for a while and that tasted kind of nasty.”

“Did you get any money from the tooth fairy?”

Cody’s brow wrinkled. “What’s a tooth fairy?”

“It’s criminal, the things you don’t know,” Garrett sighed, but he was smiling. “I’ll tell you when you lose your next tooth.”

“Okay,” Cody agreed complacently. “Hey, wanna go see our house?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay and play for a while longer?” Garrett asked, eager to see their place but a little unsettled at the prospect as well.

“No, I was just playing with dumb Lacey, I wanna go home.” He wriggled until Garrett put him down, then grabbed his hand and started pulling. Garrett made sure one of the monitors saw him leaving with Cody before he followed the child’s lead.

“Why is Lacey dumb? I thought you guys were friends.”

“We were, but then Lacey’s dad told Lacey that you weren’t really coming back to this God-forsaken place, and I asked Lacey what God was but she told me she didn’t know, but she thought it was maybe a swear word, and her dad swears a lot. Then I told Lacey you were coming back but she didn’t believe me, so I kicked her and then she punched me and I got a black eye but Lacey got into big trouble, so it was okay.”

Garrett tried to follow all of that. “But now you’re friends again?”

“Kind of, but she’s still dumb.” They turned down the third street on the left and Cody broke into a jog, tugging on Garrett to make him go faster. “Ours is at the end! Come on!” They ran up to the front door of a two-story house, cute and quaint with a solid stone facing and sharply-slanted roof. Cody pressed his palm against the identification pad by the door, then opened it up and dragged Garrett inside.

The short front hall let out into an open living room, with a kitchen on one side and a small dining area on the other. One wall was taken up with a big vidscreen, there were chairs and couches and a low table, and of course there were toys scattered all over the floor.

“Come see my room,” Cody said, and Garrett set his bag down and let himself be drawn back into their home. All the furnishings were light-colored, and the whole place was comfortably warm and smelled faintly of mint. Cody’s room was the first on the right, and it looked just like it had when he’d shown it to Garrett in the video they’d sent him.

Cody went straight for his toys. “Remember I told you I got the black Space Ranger? Dallas? Remember his cool move?” Cody sat down and turned the doll on. “Here, watch.”

Garrett sat down cross-legged and watched as Cody gave the commands that made the toy jump and spin and kick. He resisted the urge to pull Cody closer and dutifully took the red Space Ranger when it was handed to him. They went through the fighting gauntlet with all of the dolls, until it was finally down to two. Garrett was so involved in the game that he didn’t even notice that Jonah was home before Cody jumped up and ran past Garrett to the door. “Daddy! Daddy look, Garrett is back!”

“I can see that,” the voice replied, amused. Garrett turned slowly and looked up at the man hugging his son in the hallway. Jonah looked like he always did, in dark worn jeans and a loose green button-up shirt that hung off of his broad shoulders. He was always kind of lanky, but that shirt made him look almost skinny. His feet were bare on the composite floor, and Garrett was seized by the urge to do naughty things to Jonah’s toes. Good thing the man was a few feet away. “Did you show him around?”

“Just to my room, ‘cause I wanted to show him Dallas and we played tournament.”

“We should show him the rest of the house,” Jonah said, and he extended a hand toward Garrett to help him up off the floor. Garrett took it, and had a moment to revel in the feeling of warm fingers and a calloused palm against his own before he was upright, and close enough to Jonah that he could smell him.

“Hi.”

“Hey.” They were both quiet for a moment, just looking their fill. Garrett felt like he could never get enough of looking at Jonah in that moment. His warm brown eyes were wide and eager, darting all over as he kept a grip on Garrett’s hand, tugging him a little closer. “Welcome back,” Jonah said at last.

“It’s good to be here,” Garret replied, totally honest.

“Daddy, can we show him the rest of the house now?” Cody whined, bored, and Jonah started a little.

“Yeah, bucko, sure we can.”

“Cool!” Cody took Garrett’s other hand and he found himself dragged down the hall towards the stairs. “That’s my bathroom and that’s the guest room there. Daddy’s room is up here.” Cody led the way up the narrow stairs. “This is Daddy’s bathroom,” he pushed open a door on the left to reveal a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub. “It’s got a door to his bedroom, see? And this is his real door,” Garrett caught a glimpse of the room beyond it, mostly dark colors and an enormous bed that made him sigh, before Cody turned them again. “And this is the laundry room and this one is your room, Garrett.”

Garrett looked over at Jonah. “My room?”

Jonah blushed and raised a hand like he wanted to run it through his hair before he remembered it was pulled back. “Yeah. Your room.”

“It’s empty now ‘cause you haven’t put your stuff in it yet,” Cody announced, looking around the good-sized room like he was imagining it filled. “But there’s lots of space for all your clothes and stuff, ‘cause it’s not like you need your own bed.” He let go of Garrett’s hand. “So that’s the rest of the house. Daddy, I’m hungry.”

“Go on downstairs, bucko, I’ll be there in a minute to make dinner,” Jonah promised him in a kind of strangled tone.

“’kay, Daddy.” Cody left and the two men just looked at each other for a moment.

“That wasn’t how I intended on askin’ you to move in,” Jonah confessed.

“You really want me to move in with you two?”

“Yeah,” Jonah said, but Garrett could hear the edge of resignation in his voice. “If you want to, of course. I know your contract’s just for a couple more years, but even just a couple more years with you has gotta be better than missin’ you when you’re on the same damn planet as us.” He moved a little closer, his other hand coming up to stroke down Garrett’s arm. “I want whatever I can get of you, Garrett. Missed you like crazy while you were gone, and I’m so damn grateful you’re back. You have no idea.”

“I think I have some idea,” Garrett replied, strangely breathless. “And I was thinking of extending once this contract is over.”

Jonah’s hands tightened on him for a moment. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“How long were you thinkin’ of?”

“How long do you want me here?” Garrett countered. A second later he was wrapped up in Jonah, and it was the most amazing feeling he’d ever experienced. He tightened his own arms around Jonah and absorbed the relief and joy he felt coming off the other man.

“As long as you’re livin’,” Jonah told him, his voice a little rough. “I want you here all the time, Garrett, fuck, you have to know that.”

“Because you love me?” Garrett asked, sure he was right but still a little tentative saying it out loud.

Jonah chuckled. “Yeah, and because you love me. Us. Right?”

“I’m insane for you,” Garrett sighed. “Of course I love you.”

A second later they were kissing and Garrett was thrilled because really, that had gone a lot better than it could have and he was grateful the talking was finally behind them. Also, he was holding his lover for the first time in months, months of taking care of himself and having to make do with the memory of Jonah, and now he was here and real and warm and Garrett got hard so fast that it almost hurt. He ground forward against Jonah and relished the low moan that escaped from his lover’s mouth, and the desperate way he leaned into the touch, gripping Garrett’s hips hard enough to bruise as he jerked him closer.

“Daddy, I’m hungry!”

“Oh, hell,” Jonah groaned, tearing his mouth away from Garrett’s. “We’ve gotta wait. Can’t do this the way I want to while he’s still up.”

One of the many joys of parenthood. Garrett’s hyperactive libido railed against being shut away, but he ignored it and nodded, putting a little space between himself and Jonah. “Right.”

“Even though all I wanna do is throw you down on our bed and have my way with you.”

“Oh, you son of a bitch,” Garrett muttered as he gritted his teeth while Jonah grinned.

“Dad, I’m hungry!”

“I’m coming!” Jonah yelled back. He took a few deep breaths and looked at Garrett, then said, “Take a couple minutes, darlin’, you look like you need it.” Judging from the erection tenting his pants, Garrett agreed.

“You’re going to pay for this,” he warned.

“I sure as fuck hope so,” Jonah said, his voice little more than a growl. Abruptly he turned and left, leaving Garrett alone in his empty room trying to will away a hard-on that just didn’t want to quit.

“Bastard.”

Ten minutes later Garrett joined the guys downstairs. Jonah had made mac and cheese thanks to Cody insisting it was a celebration and so they needed special food. Jonah raised one eyebrow as Garrett sank into a seat at the table.

“Took you a while, darlin’.”

“I was just looking around a little,” Garrett replied breezily. “Getting a handle on the layout, investigating our bedroom a bit. Opening a few drawers.”

Jonah’s blush spread across his cheeks and down his neck. “Yeah?”

“Yes. I think I can work with what you’ve got.”

“Garrett, eat,” Cody interrupted, pushing the dish toward him. “Before it gets cold.”

Garrett took some food and they listened to Cody talk about his day, all the while Garrett making a minor production of every bite he took. Jonah didn’t stop blushing the whole evening, and by the end of dinner he was starting to look desperate.

“What did you bring me from Paradise?” Cody asked after the plates were cleared away.

“That’s not polite,” his dad scolded him. “Garrett didn’t go travelin’ just to buy you things.”

Cody huffed and Garrett said, “Actually, I did bring you something, but I’m not sure you can have it yet. We might have to wait for your birthday, because this is a majorly incredibly good present.”

Cody looked at him with wide eyes. “Really?”

“Yes. Phenomenally good. I can’t even tell you how amazing because it might make your head explode.”

“What is it?” Cody breathed.

“Think I have an idea,” Jonah muttered, but he didn’t look upset. “You’re gonna spoil the pants off our kid, Garrett.”

Our kid. Right, because they were a family now, because Garrett was staying. Speaking about Cody in the possessive made him feel oddly soft, though.

“Please please please don’t make me wait for my birthday,” Cody whined. “That’s like forever away!”

“Less than half a year,” Jonah said implacably, but clearly Cody was the master of breaking his dad down. He opened his big brown eyes even wider than usual and poked his lower lip out just slightly, and tilted his head a little bit to the side. Then he sniffled.

“Oh, hell,” Jonah sighed. “Fine. If Garrett says it’s okay.”

Cody turned the eyes on Garrett, who was more than ready to fall prey to the sudden influx of adorability. “Sure. Let me get it out for you.”

Cody jumped up from the table and ran over to the duffel bag anyway. “Is it in here?”

“Where else could it be?” Garrett asked as he joined him. He opened the lock, unzipped the bag and pulled out the square plastic box that had been resting against his spine on the walk over. “Here you go.”

Cody took the box and put it down on the ground, then said breathlessly, “Open.” The box folded itself out, revealing a figurine dressed in white standing within, with a white falcon on her shoulder.

“You got Sharla.” Cody sounded positively worshipful. He reached around and turned the doll on, and moment later she shook out her long blonde hair and smiled.

“Command me.”

“Oh, that’s just wrong,” Jonah muttered.

“Show me your special move,” Cody demanded.

“She finds a pole to slide down and I’m taking that doll out of here,” Jonah said quietly to Garrett, who just shushed him.

“Go, Star!” The doll raised her arm and the falcon, faintly connected to her by a filament-thin line, flew out into the air, turned a sharp figure eight, then dive-bombed back toward the floor, flicking up at the last moment to land back on the white Space Ranger’s shoulder.

“Oh wow. Wow! Garrett, did you see that? Daddy, did you see? Show me again!” They sat through another five renditions of the special move before Cody was satisfied. “Now we have to make her fight!”

“Not tonight,” Jonah said, to an immediate moan of discontent from his son.

“Daddy!”

“It’s bed time, bucko.”

“But I barely got to see how she works,” he complained.

“You can see tomorrow.”

“But I have school tomorrow, I’ll have to wait all day.” He turned beseeching eyes on Garrett. “Pleeeease…”

Very conscious of both pair of eyes on him, Garrett shook his head. “Sorry, Cody. But I can come and pick you up after school tomorrow, and we can see how she does against the red Ranger then.”

“Yeah, ‘cause she’s got a monkey, so it’s more fair,” Cody immediately agreed, even though he was still frowning. “You can come and get me?”

“For a couple of days, I don’t have to go back to work yet.”

“But even when you do, you’re still going to stay with us?”

“That’s the plan,” Garrett said slowly, glancing over at Jonah for cues. Jonah’s expression was totally blank, though.

“And you’re not going to go away for so long again?”

“No,” Garrett promised. “Not without bringing you guys with me. My dad really wants to meet you, and I have a new little sister who has all sorts of things to learn. I bet you’d be a great teacher.”

“Yeah,” Cody said confidently. “I’d be the best.”

“Bed time,” Jonah reminded him, looking much more relaxed now than he had a few moments ago. “C’mon, you’ve gotta shower too.”

“I’m clean!” Cody protested even as he got out of his chair, picking up the white Space Ranger and holding her close as he walked back toward his room. “I only fell once on the playground and that’s just ‘cause dumb Lacey was chasing me, and all the dirt just got on my clothes, see?” He pointed towards the stains on his knees.

“We’ll make it a short shower,” his dad promised. “Get goin’, bucko.” Cody sighed and moped off to his room, and Jonah turned to Garrett. “I’ve gotta clean up from dinner. You want to put your stuff upstairs?”

“In my room?” Garrett asked with a smile.

“In our room,” Jonah replied. “Your room’s more for the big stuff you can’t live without that’s not clothes, though we’re probably gonna have to use the closet in there for some of it, because there won’t be near enough space for it all otherwise.”

“Well, you’ve got to have the right wardrobe to look this gorgeous all the time,” Garrett said blithely. Jonah just shook his head and turned back to the few dishes, so Garrett grabbed his duffel bag and headed up the stairs. He didn’t even stop at his room, just headed straight back to the bedroom he’d be sharing with Jonah and walked inside.

The bed was familiar and large, but now there were two bedside tables, and after pushing a few buttons Garrett found a second set of drawers extend from the wall, these ones empty. Garrett moved his clothes into the top drawer, hung up the things that needed hanging, then sat down and looked around again. The room had a warm feeling, and when he lay back on the bed he noticed that the comforter smelled like Jonah. He’d almost forgotten how amazing it felt to be surrounded by that scent.

Two pictures glowed on Jonah’s side table. One was of Cody, gap-toothed and smiling wide. A smaller frame beside it held a picture of Garrett that he didn’t even remember being taken, a profile photo. He wasn’t laughing like Cody, but there was the smallest smile playing around the corners of his mouth.

Jonah’s weight suddenly came down over him, pressing him deeper into the mattress, and Garrett exhaled his lover’s name. “Cody’s in bed?”

“Already fell asleep, or he would’ve wanted you to say goodnight,” Jonah said, bracing himself on his forearms so he didn’t completely crush Garrett into the bed.

“So.”

“So…” There was a moment of awkward silence. “I can see where I might be assuming a lot thinkin’ that you’re stayin’ on here for a while, but you are, aren’t you?”

“I told you I am.”

“Yeah.” Jonah’s eyes roved over Garrett’s face, drinking in every detail. “You did say that.”

“You don’t believe me?” It hurt a little, but Garrett didn’t suppose he could blame Jonah for being cautious after he’d been a jerk for so long.

“I really, really want to believe you, darlin’.” Now Jonah was looking kind of miserable. “And I do, pretty much. I just…things weren’t goin’ this way when you left, and now you’re back and suddenly everything’s workin’ out perfect? That just doesn’t happen to me.”

“It should,” Garrett said, irritated a little at himself and a lot at Jonah’s ex and his mother. “You deserve to get what you want, whatever makes you happy. I want to be here, Jonah. I’m happy with you, I didn’t know how happy before I went away. And I love Cody, and I’m completely in love with you and in the end I just want to be where you two are, even if that’s Pandora for the foreseeable future. I’ll get used to it.”

Garrett could see the anxiety die down in Jonah’s eyes. It didn’t vanish, not completely, but that was something that would probably take years to accomplish. Years of his presence, his help and care and participation in being a part of this family. Years of love. Years of sex.

And God, speaking of sex, they were months behind on it. The pressure of Jonah’s body against his made Garrett get hard fast, and fuck it was so much better than any of his toys or his hand or his memories. He stared hungrily at his lover, and he watched with satisfaction as Jonah’s pupils rapidly blew up until they blotted out all traces of color.

“I want to taste you,” Garrett whispered, leaning in and brushing his tongue across Jonah’s mouth, opening it up for him to take control of. Jonah went with it, letting Garrett in, letting his hands roam and peel away clothes, shift their bodies until Jonah was beneath him, naked on the bed, his erection straining so hard it was almost purple. Garrett reached beneath the pillow on his side of the bed and grabbed one of the things he’d found in Jonah’s nightstand. Jonah saw it and blushed hard.

“I haven’t used it yet,” he managed around his stuttering breath.

“I didn’t think so,” Garrett purred. He kissed his lover hard on the mouth, then slowly began to work his way down Jonah’s body, relearning his hot spots with a tender kind of desperation that blew his mind. It was insane, how much he wanted this. Didn’t even want it for himself, really; he just wanted Jonah to keep making those noises, to keep going higher and higher, to keep looking at him like he was the beginning and end of Jonah’s universe right now. Like Garrett was everything, like he was a fucking god.

And he kind of was. At fucking, at least.

Garrett pulled Jonah down the bed until his hips rested at the edge of it, and Garrett himself was on his knees on the floor. He licked a line up Jonah’s cock with his tongue, smiling at the noises that precipitated, then nuzzled lower, between his balls and down the line of his perineum. When he got to his hole Garrett didn’t stop, he just flicked his tongue out and brushed it over the tight, furled muscle.

Fucking hell…” Jonah jumped reflexively, his bent legs driving him away from the edge of the bed. Garrett reached out and pulled him close again.

“Give me this,” he told Jonah, putting every ounce of longing he felt into his voice. “Let me have you however I want you, tell me I can have you anyway, anywhere. Give yourself to me. You’ll love it, I swear, you won’t know how you lived without me, just let me have you.”

“Was just surprised, darlin’,” Jonah panted, running his hand through Garrett’s short hair. “Do what you want. ‘M yours.”

Garrett grinned ferally. “Good. Don’t come yet.” Then he lowered his mouth to Jonah’s ass and went to town, licking and humming and thrusting his tongue past the slowly-loosening ring until Jonah was wet and shiny and dying for more, careful not to make too much noise for Cody’s sake but shaking with the effort it took.

When he thought Jonah was ready, Garrett grabbed the little toy, made sure it was set correctly, then slowly pushed it inside of his lover, using nothing but his spit to slick the way. The plug vibrated merrily, and after a few seconds Garrett could see it expand, just slightly.

Jonah was moaning audibly now, clenching around the plug and jerking slightly every time it got bigger. Garrett licked a circle around the end of it, then moved forward just far enough to catch Jonah’s gaze. “By the time I get you off, you’ll be ready for me.”

“Darlin’—” Whatever was going to follow the affectionate diminutive was lost to a sudden flurry of swear words as Garrett swallowed Jonah’s cock to the root, only backing off when it was clear that he had to slow things down if he wanted the plug to have time to do its work before Jonah came. Garrett gripped the base of his lover’s cock hard and pulled off, just long enough to catch a breath before sinking his lips back down.

Fuck, Jonah tasted so good. A little salty, a little bitter but still sweet somehow, and all of it surrounded by the scent of his need, hot and strong. Garrett brushed the fingers of his free hand over the base of the plug, felt Jonah jerk in his grasp, as though he didn’t know which sensation he wanted to chase. Garrett decided to give him both, licking and sucking up and down the length of Jonah’s cock as he gently twisted the plug, pulling it a little ways out before pushing it back in even deeper than it had been before, then repeating. Before long Jonah was babbling, and a few moments after that he was begging.

“Fuck, baby, please, please, Garrett, God—”

Garrett didn’t say anything, just releases his tight grip and twisted the plug again, so much bigger now inside of his lover. Jonah came with a wordless cry that was probably a lot louder than he’d meant it to be, his come gushing into Garrett’s mouth almost faster than he could swallow. Hmm. Someone had been saving up. It was the sort of thing he’d make a joke about if he wasn’t so horny he could die.

Garrett pulled off when it was clear that Jonah was spent, reached for the lubricant he’d stashed as well and quickly covered his length with it, then reached down again and slowly pulled the plug free. Jonah groaned as it came out, but the look on his face was anything but pained. “C’mon,” he breathed, and Garrett pulled his lover’s legs up over his shoulders, gripped his thighs and thrust quickly inside of him.

Holy fuck. It was so perfectly tight, just relaxed enough to keep Garrett from worrying that he was hurting Jonah, and Jonah himself looked like a hot fucking mess against the bed, his hair free from its tie and loose against his pillow, sandy brown waves that glistened with sweat, just like every inch of his golden skin. His muscles were slack with pleasure, but his eyes glittered with fervor, desperate for Garrett. “’M yours,” he said again, and everything that went unsaid was still plainly heard by Garrett. I’m yours, love me, fuck me, use me and make me feel you, make me believe that you’re staying forever. Garrett could do that.

God, could he ever do that. Garrett just let himself go, thrusting hard into Jonah, hard enough to move both of them slowly up the bed until Jonah’s outstretched hands hit the wall, stopping them. In him, he was in his lover, this man who had somehow become his family, given him a chance for something he hadn’t even recognized that he wanted, or needed. Garrett was buried inside of Jonah, fucking him like he wanted to push all the way inside of him, and he kind of did. He needed to prove to himself, and to Jonah, that this was perfect. Oh fuck, was it perfect. Jonah tightened his channel and Garrett literally saw flickering stars dart across his vision. He couldn’t look at his debauched lover sprawled across the bed, welcoming him, giving him whatever he wanted because he just wasn’t going to last a second longer if he did, and it had barely been any time at all…

“Love you,” Jonah said quietly, and Garrett immediately surrendered the fight and fell off the cliff, happily abandoning the last vestiges of his vaunted independence for the absolute, consuming love of this man. He came and it felt like dying, as he lost all his breath and his heart skipped in its rhythm. His vision went black and he finally collapsed with a grateful sigh.

When he came to Garrett was in Jonah’s arms, no longer inside of him and feeling more than a little embarrassed. Jonah grinned when he saw Garrett’s expression.

“Never had that happen during sex before.”

“I’m coming off a period of abstinence, so sue me for being a little over-enthusiastic and forgetting to breathe,” Garrett groused. “Wait, are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“You didn’t hurt me, darlin’. You took good care of me.” There was more than a hint of devotion in Jonah’s voice, and even though Garrett was still embarrassed, he smiled.

“Good.” He kissed Jonah’s shoulder. “You’re amazing, you know that?”

“I think it’s more that we’re amazing together,” Jonah replied. “You’re really stayin’, huh.”

“Why would I leave when I can have that every instant that Cody isn’t within earshot?”

Jonah rolled his eyes. “This is about more than sex.”

“I know. I want more than sex from you, you know that.” Garrett closed his eyes and pressed himself a little closer to Jonah’s body. “I’m still figuring out what all the other things I want are, but they’re there.”

“You know I’ll give you everything I can.”

“I know that.” Garrett shifted, then grinned suddenly as his hip came into contact with a very happy erection. “And it feels like right now you want to give me this.”

Jonah shrugged. “Got hard again while you were inside of me. Now I want to be inside of you.” He kissed Garrett’s lips, his mouth earnest and urgent. “Let me have you, darlin’.”

“However you want me,” Garrett promised, already spreading his legs.

Jonah lasted a long time, but by the end he was just as desperate for it as Garrett, and when he came he shouted, only hastily muffled by Garrett’s kiss. By then Garrett was burning for a second orgasm, and it only took a few strokes of Jonah’s callused hand before he came all over both of them. They fell asleep draped across each other, exhausted and fucked out and utterly content.

The next morning, Cody woke them up. The blankets had fortunately kept them decent, but Cody was still cross.

“I slept bad,” he informed them, pouting relentlessly. “’Cause you guys wouldn’t go to sleep for forever, and now I have to go to school and I don’t wanna ‘cause I’m gonna fall asleep at my desk and my teacher will get mad at me. I think you should let me stay home today.”

“Not gonna happen,” Jonah said, a little hoarsely. “But I tell you what, bucko, give me a minute to get dressed and I’ll make you pancakes for breakfast.”

Cody looked at him speculatively. “With chocolate chips?”

“Yeah.”

“And chocolate syrup?”

“Maybe.”

“And whipped cream with sprinkles?”

Jonah frowned. “No.”

Cody shrugged and grinned. Two out of three apparently was pretty good. “Okay, hurry!” He ran out the door and Jonah groaned.

“We’re gonna have to get some sort of proximity alarm for the bedroom.” He glanced at the clock. “And shit, I’m gonna be late for my shift.”

“I can’t cook chocolate chip pancakes,” Garrett informed his lover as he watched him stumble out of bed with appreciative eyes.

“Can you run him to school after he eats, then?”

Garrett thought about it, and everything else, for just a second. “Yes,” he said, smiling wide and happy. “I can do that.”