Notes: Originally I had planned this story to be another vignette in the Bonded/Pandora saga, fairly short and from multiple POVs. Then I started writing it and I realized that there’s no way it’s going to be short. Probably not as long as Pandora, but definitely not short. There’s just too much story to tell here, so I’m abandoning the idea of short and sweet and going with whatever happens. I’ll keep the multiple POVs, I’m having fun delving into Jonah and Cody’s minds, and I may even branch out and revisit Wyl and Robbie once everyone is together. Basically, this is going to be an ensemble piece. If you haven’t read Pandora, I recommend it before diving into this. You can find the full thing here on my blog.
Part One: Ready, Set…
All right, so the circumstances that had led Garrett to propose to Jonah were somewhat irregular, and yes, his reputation of decades as a cavalier playboy was now ruined. But this kind of reaction was just excessive.
“It’s not that funny, damn it.”
“It is!” Wyl howled, doubling over until just the top of his head could be seen on the holoscreen. “No, it really is, it is! You all wet and smelly like a drowned catterpet and him all worried and you just up and…like, out of the black, you…you spring a proposal on him…fuck!” He kept laughing, loudly, one hand beating on the table he was leaning on, and Garrett had finally had enough.
“Call me back when you’re done, you freak.” He shut off the call and glared at the screen for a few moments before getting up and mixing a drink. It was frothy and purple and not the sort of thing he usually went for outside of very pretentious parties, but it was sweet and alcoholic and the chemical reaction in it sparked tiny lightning bolts against the glass. It was the sort of cocktail you drank to cheer yourself up, and that was what Garrett needed right now. He stuck a slice of lemon in it and took a sip. Not bad.
The chime of the com sounded, but Garrett ignored it in favor of finishing his drink, slowly. It wasn’t Jonah or Cody, and he wasn’t worried about offending anyone else. The news of his proposal had prompted some smiles and a little teasing here on Pandora, but for the most part everyone seemed excited for them. There were far more couples and families than single colonists living in the colony, and most of them were married, not just contracted or partnered. Apparently when life was abnormally short, people tended to take commitments more seriously.
Not that life would be short for Garrett and Jonah. Both of them were fully capable of using Regen, and if they were lucky they’d have each other for many, many years. The only member of their small family that couldn’t use Regen was Cody, and he was still just a child. He had his whole life to live, and who knew how long that might be? Secondary treatments were getting better, Cody might live to be a hundred. He might live even longer. He might…
The chime kept ringing. Garrett rolled his eyes and put the empty glass in the autoclave, then went back to the couch and sat down. He turned on the screen, expecting to see a repentant Wyl.
Instead he saw Jezria Dowd, the administrative chief of Pandora City and the woman who had originally hired Garrett to come and work here. He put on his professional face. “Jezria.”
“Garrett. I was wondering if I’d have to send city security over to check on you, you always answer your com.”
“I was busy.” He plowed ahead before she could ask what he’d been busy with. Jezria was an old family friend, and she thought that just because she’d first met him as a toddler meant that she had the right to ask about his personal life. Which she kind of did, but now wasn’t the time. “Are you approving my request for time off?”
“What do you mean, in part? Which part? Why not all of it?”
“Garrett, you’re asking for three standard months’ worth of leave. That’s a long time for the colony to be without its weatherman, not to mention one of its most versatile pilots.”
“I am not a weatherman,” Garrett interrupted with a groan. He was an expert in climate modeling and long-term climate prediction, not local weather forecasts, but somehow his responsibilities had morphed into taking on the task of short-term weather prediction as well. Still, he hated the term. “Weatherman implies some smarmy piece of meat hamming it up for the vacant masses. I’m a scientist, not a soothsayer.”
“Regardless,” Jezria continued smoothly, “it’s a long time to be gone. I’ll approve two months.”
“It’s a three week trip! That would give us two weeks with my family before we had to come back, which is next to nothing.”
“Two months, or you agree to work a three-day week from Paradise for the duration of your stay there. Three full days, Garrett, spent on Pandora’s issues, not half-heartedly fussing with your modeling program while you play with Wyl and Robbie.”
Garrett gaped at her. “You’re a slave driver.”
“I’m just holding you up to your end of the contract.”
For the umpteenth time, Garrett mentally kicked himself for signing his employment contract before reading it all. “Any restrictions on Jonah?”
“None at all. He hasn’t taken the time off that you have so far, dear.”
“That was a family emergency!” A bomb putting his father into a coma and knocking his best friend into a Regen tank for weeks definitely qualified as a family emergency.
“Yes, but after two months, family emergency leave is calculated against your regular leave. Honestly, didn’t you read any of this section?”
“I skimmed it.” Sort of. “Fine, three days a week in exchange for three months leave.”
“And you have to keep Cody up to date on his lessons.”
“Oh, for fuck’s—”
“This is for his own good, Garrett. He shouldn’t get behind the rest of his class just because his daddies have decided to be romantic. His teacher will be sending you a lesson plan shortly. There are homework assignments in there that he’ll need to show when he gets back.”
“You sort of suck the life out of spontaneity, you know that?”
“I know.” She smiled slightly. “I wish I could be there for the ceremony.”
“I’m sure my father will immortalize it so he can embarrass me forever. Ask him for a copy.”
“I’ll do that.”
The com light blinked soundlessly, letting him know that another call was coming through. “I’ll talk to you again before we leave, okay?”
“All right.” They cut communication and Garrett put the next call in through the holoscreen. When he saw that it was Robbie he relaxed slightly.
“Hey. Sorry about that.” Robbie shook his head slightly. “Wyl’s low on sleep and running on fumes, he didn’t mean to be offensive. I’ve put him to bed.”
“No problem,” Garrett shrugged. They stared at each other in silent, comfortable companionship for a moment. Robbie was one of Garrett’s exes, the only man before Jonah he had been remotely serious about, and even after they called their relationship off they continued to get along. The fact that Robbie’s partner Wyl was Garrett’s best friend bound them together in ways that had the potential to be awkward, but never had been.
Robbie looked good. A little more gray in his short-cut, sandy brown hair, but his face was unlined save for the corners of his eyes, and the clinging t-shirt he had on modeled his perfect physique very nicely. Robbie was, without a doubt, the most classically handsome man Garrett had ever been with. Jonah liked him okay, but he knew Wyl a lot better. Wyl was outgoing and easy to speak to, and not quite so physically imposing. Plus, Garrett and Wyl had never fucked. That might have had something to do with Jonah’s comfort level.
“Where are your guys?”
“At the hospital. Cody’s got to get boosters for all of his shots before he can go anywhere, and they tend to make him feel ill. Jonah’s staying the night with him and I’m getting things ready to go here.”
“When are you leaving?”
“In a few days.” The sooner, the better.
“You told your dad yet?”
“Yeah, I called him first. He and Claudia are putting something together for us. Something small.”
Robbie quirked a smile. “Have you seen Claudia in event planning mode? Small isn’t really her thing.”
“She’ll restrain herself for us, she promised.”
“If you say so.” Robbie was quiet for a second. “I thought you should know that there are some Drifter ships in orbit right now. We haven’t seen much of them down in the city, they’re mostly keeping to themselves, but they’ll probably still be here when you guys arrive. You might want to let Jonah know, just in case.” Robbie knew some of the background info about Jonah and Cody’s split from their Drifter clan; not the gory details, but apparently enough to concern him.
“I’ll let him know. Thank you.”
“Gare…” Robbie started blushing, but he pushed through his embarrassment to get the words out. “You know we’re happy for you, right?”
Garrett grinned devilishly and batted his eyelashes at Robbie. “Oh, I know, darling. I know I’m inspirational to you in so many ways. My happiness is your happiness, my tears of joy moisten the verdant fields of your soul—”
“Oh, shut up and go pack your trousseau, princess.”
“I love it when you order me around,” Garrett purred.
This time Robbie was the one to hang up, but Garrett was still smiling as he shut down the holoscreen. He looked around the living room and sighed. He should start packing, he really should, they were leaving in two days and a lot of that would be spent getting Cody ready, but the house…it was too quiet. Kind of lonely, actually. And Cody was in the hospital, after all.
Screw it. Packing could wait.