Notes: Another two-parter, I’m sorry! I really will try to get the other part posted quickly. I’m so behind…but at least you get some Cody to tide you over.
Part Fifteen-A: Baby, I Was Born This Way
The room after Miles and Garrett left it was uncomfortably quiet. Cody sat still at the very end of the couch, pressing his lips together tight. He didn’t want to look at anyone. Daddy was upset and confused, the way he almost never was, and even though no one was speaking, everyone was angry. Cody could tell. They were twitching, mouths twisting, like the words behind them were fighting to get out. Wyl had a hand on Robbie’s arm and his chin pressed to his shoulder, trying to keep him still. Jack’s lawyer was huffing tiny breaths through her nose like one of the dragons in the holobooks Garrett had been reading with Cody. He sort of expected puffs of smoke to come out.
Something was wrong with Garrett. Cody knew as soon as he saw him when he came into the room, but he hadn’t said anything. And as soon as Jack touched his arm…Cody shivered, and his daddy pulled him closer. Garrett had hurt Jack, and now he was sick. Maybe he was dying. Cody knew that every time he got sick, his daddy was always worried that he was dying. Normal people were stronger, they didn’t have to worry about that sort of thing, but maybe Garrett wasn’t normal too. Maybe he was broken like Cody.
Not broken, his mind reminded him. Daddy and his teachers and all the therapists had told him that over and over after they left Grandma’s ship. The first few years of his life that he remembered, Cody had known he was broken, because so many people had said so. Then everyone had said he wasn’t, but he didn’t really know how to believe them. If he wasn’t broken, why had they had to move away? Why had Jack left them alone for so long? Why was Garrett sick now, if Cody hadn’t made him that way?
Everyone looked over at Jack in surprise. He was cradling his broken arm close to his side, wincing, but he was looking straight at Cody. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I shouldn’t have grabbed you like that.”
“Damn straight you shouldn’t,” Jonah said, but he didn’t sound angry, just tired and sad.
“Don’t apologize,” his lawyer said crisply. “You did nothing wrong. It was that unbalanced man’s fault.”
Cody frowned at her. “He’s going to be my daddy.”
“I sincerely doubt that at this point,” the lawyer said. She sounded like Grandma when she had talked to Daddy, like she was the biggest and bestest thing in the whole universe and everyone else was just stupid. “He’s clearly unhinged. A man who can’t be trusted to self-medicate in order to keep those around him safe belongs in an asylum, not taking care of little boys.”
“He’s going to be my daddy!” Cody yelled at her, knocking that superior look right off her face. He turned to his dad. “Promise he’s going to be my other daddy,” Cody demanded. “You can’t put him in a ‘sylum. You said he’d be our family.”
“Of course he will be,” Daddy said, and the speed with which he said it made Cody slump with relief. Daddy pulled him closer into a hug. “He’ll get better and everything will be fine.” He glanced over at Robbie like he was asking a question, but Robbie just shrugged, a little helplessly, like he didn’t know the answer.
“I don’t like you,” Cody said to the lawyer. She looked unaffected, but Jack looked upset. Good. Cody stared straight at Jack. “And if you let her take me away, I won’t like you either.”
Jack looked curious. “You like me?”
Cody shrugged. “I don’t really know you.”
Jack looked at Jonah, who sighed. “Not like I’ve been poisonin’ his mind against you,” Daddy told Jack. “You don’t come up a lot. Didn’t come up, at least. He had his memories and they were fine and that was it. Reckon there’ll be a lot more to remember now.”
“Stop talking to them,” his lawyer advised. “You’re in a position of strength. Don’t compromise it for the sake of expediency.”
“We’ll see about that,” Robbie said from the door, his voice cold. A moment later Miles came back in, followed by a doctor holding a med bag.
“Where’s Garrett?” Daddy asked immediately. The doctor came around the table to treat Jack, but Cody ignored both of them. Miles looked very serious. That wasn’t good.
“He’s in the infirmary. He’s sleeping.”
“As soon as my client is treated, we’ll be leaving to draw up the necessary papers and alert the local police to this incident,” Jack’s lawyer said.
“They have no jurisdiction here, the altercation took place in the Governor’s Mansion, which is technically a part of the Federation military presence in the capitol,” Daddy’s lawyer told her. “Moreover, your client isn’t a citizen of Paradise. His very legality here is in question at the moment. Any and all repercussions for this interaction fall within the purview of the military police, not the civilian forces.”
“That is pure sophistry,” the dragon lady huffed, her face so tightly screwed up Cody thought she was on the verge of sneezing.
“You’d know if it were, your whole case is based on it,” their lawyer replied. Miles stepped in before anything else could be said.
“Now is not the time. We’re in the middle of a family emergency. These discussions will continue tomorrow, at noon, here.” He held up a hand before the dragon lady could even get out the first word. “This is the most neutral territory you’re going to be offered. The incident that happened today was regrettable, and I apologize for it, and for my son. However, it has no bearing on the issue at hand.” Miles’ face, which was almost always smiling when Cody saw it, was so stern and dark that he looked like a thundercloud. “The issue at hand is Cody’s legal placement, his future and his happiness. Compile whatever documents you want, but rest assured that we’ll be doing the same.” He looked hard at Jack. “I sincerely doubt your past is so pure that you’re safe from it, son. Remember that when you’re thinking about what you hope to get out of this.” He stood up and walked out the door. After a moment, Robbie turned and went after him.
Claudia came into the room, without Renee this time. She smiled and held a hand out to Cody. “Do you want to come with me for a while, honey?” She glanced coolly at the lawyers and Jack. “We can leave the details to the grownups and watch a show.”
Cody looked up at Daddy, who gave him a little smile. “It’s okay with me, bucko.”
Jack looked surprised. “I used to call him that.”
“Well, I’d never hold a nickname against him,” Jonah said softly. He unwrapped his arm from Cody’s shoulders and smiled again. “Go on. I’ll come find you soon.”
“Okay.” Cody got off the couch and walked around the back of it, very conscious of every eye on him. He took Claudia’s hand and they left the room, and it was like coming up for air after he’d dived really, really deep into a pool. Part of him wanted to bury his face in Claudia’s side and cry, but he couldn’t. He needed to make sure Garrett was sleeping okay. Being in the infirmary sucked, and Cody sometimes got nightmares. He always felt better when Daddy and Garrett were there with him, and he would do the same thing for Garrett.
Claudia was leading him toward the living room, but when she saw Miles and Robbie talking so seriously there, she diverted to the kitchen instead. The remains of their cake party were still out on the counter, but just seeing it made Cody feel sick now. “Do you want something to drink?” Claudia asked.
“No thank you.” Cody sat on one of the stools and tucked his feet up so that his knees were right under his nose. He shut his eyes tight and tried not to remember anything at all, not the noise of Jack’s fingers breaking or the way Garrett had swayed, like he was just about to fall over.
“Oh, sweetheart.” Claudia’s arms came around him and held him close, and he gave in and held her back, hard. She smelled so good, and was warm and soft. Cody had never had a mom, but if he could have picked one he would have wanted someone like Claudia. “It’s going to be okay,” she promised him.
“How do you know?” Cody asked miserably. “Why is Garrett sick? I thought normal don’t get sick.”
“I don’t really know,” Claudia admitted. “I don’t know much about the details, but Miles does. He knows what to do for Garrett. He can explain it to you."
“Right now.” A new hand fell on Cody’s shoulder, and he turned and launched himself into Miles’ chest instantly. Miles picked him up like he was little again and put him on his hip, and even though Cody was really too old for that, he let him do it anyway. “Should we go and see him?”
“Can we?” Cody asked, wiping a stupid tear off with his palm. “He’s not in…” What did Daddy call it? “Solitary?”
Miles smiled. “You mean isolation. No, he’s not. We can get right up close.” He turned his face and kissed Claudia, then started walking toward the infirmary.
“Where’d Robbie go?”
“He went to get something out of Garrett’s ship that he thought might help us with Jack.”
“Like what?” Cody sniffed.
“He’s not sure. He’ll have to listen to it and then we’ll see.”
“Oh.” They went a little further before Cody confessed, “I don’t want to live with Jack.”
“You won’t have to.”
“But I’m sorry he got hurt.”
“Yeah, me too,” Miles said with a sigh. “I had no idea Garrett had let it get so bad. He’s supposed to take his medicine every day when he’s travelling, and he forgot this time.”
“He was very busy,” Cody defended. “He was always working or planning or helping me with my school work. Daddy said he wasn’t sleeping enough.”
“I’m sure he wasn’t. The last time this happened, he’d been awake for twelve days straight before he went in for treatment.” The doors of the infirmary swooshed open for them, and Miles walked straight back to a private room.
“Why did he stay awake for so long?”
“Because his brain was sick,” Miles said. Then they were with Garrett and Miles put Cody down, and he ran over to the bed and stared.
The surface of the bed had retracted beneath Garrett’s body, submerging him in stasis gel. He wore a small respirator, and his eyes were closed. A thin film rested over the gel, white and opaque, so they couldn’t see any of his body except for his face and his hands, which were elevated out of the gel on little pads. Numbers kept popping up on the surface of the film over his chest, too fast for Cody to make out. BP? HR? He looked confusedly at Miles.
“They let the doctors know how Garrett’s doing,” Miles told him. “He’s mostly fine, but he’s going to have to sleep for a while.”
“So his brain gets better?”
“Exactly.” Miles sat in one of the chairs to the side of the bed and took one of Garrett’s hands. “You can touch them,” he told Cody. Cody nodded and took the other one, which was warm, not like it had been the last time Garrett had touched him.
“He feels better.”
“Good.” Miles smiled at him, and it was like Cody could finally recognize him again. “Then he’s improving already.”
Cody sat in the other chair and kept holding Garrett’s hand. “How did his brain get sick?”
“He was just born that way.”
Cody hadn’t known that. “Just like me.”
“Exactly,” Miles said.
“And you couldn’t fix it?”
“Oh, it used to be much worse. We fixed a lot of it, but we always knew that Garrett would have to be careful for the rest of his life,” Miles told him. “It was very hard for him for a while. Eventually we got to the point where he was mostly better, and he stayed better after that for a long time.”
“Until he met me.”
“This isn’t your fault,” Miles said, so firmly that Cody couldn’t drop his eyes. “Not at all. Garrett’s been responsible for himself for a long time now, and he knew what he needed to do. He either forgot to do it or deliberately put it off and didn’t tell anyone, but that isn’t your fault, or your daddy’s.”
“Is he gonna get in trouble?”
“No.” Miles looked down at Garrett now, and Cody recognized that expression. He’d seen his own daddy look like that when he was with Cody, and even Garrett had a few times. It was somewhere between love and stubborn. “He’s not going to get in trouble. Not the kind we can’t handle, at least. I’ve got plenty to say to him about taking proper care of himself, though.”
“Don’t yell at him though,” Cody begged, because he knew Garrett hated that.
“No yelling,” Miles swore. “I wouldn’t yell at my boy, not even when he’s being dumb.”
Cody looked down as he tapped his toes lightly against the rounded base of the bed. “Are you glad that he’s your boy? Even though he was born like this?”
Miles reached across the bed and tilted Cody’s chin up. His eyes were just like Garrett’s, bright and blue. “I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”
A little of the knot in Cody’s tummy dissolved. “Me neither.”