Notes: So I decided on a one-shot gift to you, my readers, for getting me over the 100k milestone. This is a vignette set after Paradise. Yes, that means Garrett, Jonah and Cody, with a few more guest appearances. It also means I opened the floodgates in my mind, and now must actively resist delving any further right now. It would be so easy. Sooo easy. These guys are the easiest couple I’ve ever written, and I think I could do Cody justice in a new setting. What am I talking about? Read on, my darlins. And enjoy!
Title: Vignette: Transition
There weren’t many places a person could go to get some privacy inside Pandora City, and after ten years of running all over the place after his kid, Garrett figured he knew where most of them were at this point. He headed for the park at the edge of the bio-dome that kept the fury of the storms from drowning their little city, ignoring the little specks of rain that floated down like afterthoughts out of the cloudy sky.
The Box hadn’t changed all that much over the last decade: there were a few new families, other families had expanded and added to their numbers and a continual flow of researchers and contractors kept the place from becoming stale, but the city wasn’t really growing. The high percentage of naturals in the population meant that, no matter how good their health was and how careful they were, the mortality rate was much higher than on any other law-abiding colony on the Fringe. The first year, five people had died due to old age or accidents. That average stayed pretty level for the next decade, excepting the year when a mutated form of pneumonia had slipped past the doctors and killed eighteen of the residents over a hundred years old, and five children under the age of ten.
Cody had caught the virus but kicked it fairly quickly, thank fuck. The medical team had fought hard ever since to make sure than never happened again, subjecting all visitors to an extensive decontamination process before they were allowed to mingle with the general populace. It was a safe but restrictive way to live.
Which was, of course, the problem.
Garrett pushed his sleek damp hair back from his face and scanned the park. He might have to go along to the next site, it didn’t look like—no, there. Cody was sitting on the swing set, obscured by the drizzle and the slate-blue uniform Cody was wearing. It was a Federation cadet uniform, one of two that had come with Cody’s acceptance package. He’d won a scholarship to attend a prestigious military academy back on Olympus, and he’d been overjoyed. He also hadn’t discussed his decision with either of his parents, and Jonah’s reaction had been, to put it mildly, explosive.
Cody hadn’t pulled any punches, of course. When the kid decided he wanted something he went all the way with it, and so he’d gone up to his room, put on the uniform, come back downstairs and calmly announced that he was going to the Federation Academy on Olympus next year instead of continuing his education on Pandora.
“The hell you are,” Jonah said immediately, his eyes almost bugging out of his head.
“I passed my A-levels with flying colors,” Cody reminded him.
“You’re only sixteen. Those academies don’t let you in until you’re twenty.”
“They make an exception for people like me.”
“People like you—naturals, people who are more vulnerable, people who can get hurt more easily. ‘Course they make exceptions, they’ve gotta have time to work on you before something bad happens to you.” Jonah’s tone was unnaturally harsh, and Garrett knew it was just fear, but that didn’t make it any easier to hear.
Cody rolled his eyes. “Nothing bad is going to happen to me.”
“You don’t know that. We can’t even guarantee that here, and Pandora City is designed around your needs. How are you gonna survive in a place like that?”
“There’s an entire program in place for people with special needs, look—”
“When did you apply?” Garrett broke in, wanting to head off the apoplexy that was building in Jonah’s face.
“Last winter,” Cody said, a little sullenly.
Ah yes, last winter. When Tamara had come home to visit, bringing with her tales of the graduate-level polyengineering program she had enrolled in at the Academy, how amazing it was, all the things she was learning, the training for covert operations—because that was what naturals did for the Federation. They were the ultimate shills, wolves in sheep’s trousers, or however the saying went. Naturals were one of the most vulnerable populations out there, and as such were treated as delicate, looked down upon and generally ignored by much of society. They might not be able to use Regen to heal their wounds or cure their illnesses, but there was nothing wrong with their brains, and with the right kind of training they made excellent spies.
“And I got a full scholarship,” Cody added.
“It doesn’t matter if they sent a damn Space Ranger to give you a ride back, you’re not going,” Jonah informed his son. Then the yelling started.
The fight ended with Cody desperate and furious, Jonah heartsick and angry and Garrett getting backlash from both of them. Jonah thought Garrett had encouraged Cody, and Cody thought Garrett wasn’t sticking up for him enough. Cody ran off into the rain, Jonah retreated to their bedroom and Garrett…
He went out onto the porch and smoked a cigarette. An old-school cigarette, with actual tobacco in it and everything. He kept them as a treat for when he really couldn’t deal with his beloved family, and smoking them gave him the time he needed to center himself and figure out what he needed to do. Today, it was a two-cigarette problem.
There had been a time when Garrett had considered himself a drama queen. Hell, he’d been a drama addict, loving the thrill of the emotions that ran through him when tempers got hot. Since Cody had become a teenager, Garrett had called his own father up at least a dozen times to ask for advice, and to apologize for once being an adolescent himself. By comparison Cody was a model of teenage perfection: he’d never been arrested, he hadn’t had to be committed to a mental institution for any period of time, he didn’t do any drugs…apart from adrenaline, but Cody didn’t do anything there that his daddy didn’t know about. At least, that was what Garrett assumed. He was actually rather impressed that Cody had been able to keep this a secret from both of them. It begged the question: what else had Cody been keeping to himself?
It didn’t really matter right now. Kids were entitled to their privacy, and Garrett had no desire to stifle his son’s individualism. He did want to keep Cody from doing something rash, though, and that meant not leaving him alone for too long.
Jonah was standing in the kitchen when Garrett came back inside, his back stiff and face blank. He stood there like he was frozen in place, unsure whether he should move to go after his son or go back upstairs to brood. Garrett ached to embrace his husband, but experience had taught him that sometimes, Jonah just wouldn’t accept comfort. Sometimes he needed careful handling, and this looked like one of those times.
“I’ll go after him,” Garrett said quietly, pulling on his shoes.
“You do that, and when you find him tell him he’s not going anywhere,” Jonah growled.
Garrett shook his head. “I can’t say that.”
“He’s not going to listen if all we give him are commands, sweetheart. Cody isn’t going to stay here forever, that was never going to happen. You’ve known that for years.”
Jonah shook his head silently. Garrett moved a little closer and pressed the point. “He’s too smart and too young and just too bright to stay here, Jonah. Cody wants to see the universe, and he’s chosen a way to do it that’s going to do a better job of preparing him than anything else I can think of.”
“He could go somewhere with us, we could do a tour, we could—”
“No, Jonah.” Garrett reached out and rested a cautious hand on his husband’s arm. Jonah jerked back out of his reach, and Garrett sighed. “That’s not what he wants. It’s not what Cody needs: he needs independence, he needs excitement. He needs to live his own life, and he’s not going to get what he needs if he stays here with us, no matter how good our intentions are.”
“He’s sixteen,” Jonah bit out. His jaw was clenched so hard it had to hurt. “He’s just sixteen, he’s too young. He’s my baby, I can’t let him go. Not yet.”
“He’s my baby too, and I love him more than anything, but we can’t stifle him.”
Jonah chuckled bitterly. “You didn’t even know Cody when he was a baby.”
Garrett knew that as soon as his husband had said it, he’d regretted it. He could see the remorse flash in Jonah’s eyes, see it in the abrupt movement of his hand toward Garrett. He knew his husband hadn’t mean to imply that Garrett loved their son any less, but he’d done it anyway, and it stung deep.
Garrett stepped back and opened the front door. “I’ll find him,” he said before stepping out into the drizzle and shutting the heavy door behind him. Half an hour later he was at the park with Cody.
Garrett sat down on the swing next to Cody, but he didn’t say anything. He tucked his hands around the plastic chains at his sides and drifted back and forth, looking out at the roiling grey horizon Outside where multi-colored lightning did battle in the dark expanse of clouds. He sat and waited, and after a few minutes of silence, Cody finally spoke up.
“I want to go.”
“I know you do,” Garrett said mildly. “You made that rather clear back at the house.”
“M’sorry for yelling,” Cody said, scuffing his shoe against the spongy surface of the park. The surface wasn’t grass, because a natural might be allergic to grass, and not made of gravel or rocks like everything surrounding them, because a natural might fall and hurt themselves. It was all soft, spongy and safe. Dull. Boring. “But dad wasn’t going to listen to me anyways, and I’m so tired of him not letting me do anything.”
“Actually, he lets you do quite a lot.” Garrett swung around a little so he could glance at Cody. The kid—young man’s—dark blond curls were plastered to his face, and he was shivering. Garrett couldn’t tell whether he’d been crying with the rain, but Cody had never had his father’s unease when it came to showing emotions, so Garrett was willing to bet he had. “I can’t think of any other person in this entire colony who gets to spend some of every year on a fairly unsettled Federation planet, learning diplomacy from a former Governor and getting cross-cultural immersion with the local Drifters.”
“You set all that up,” Cody protested.
“You think you’d get out of the front door if your dad wasn’t okay with it? He let me use my resources to get you opportunities, but it’s all with his consent. He wants you to have the best, Cody. He always has.”
“Then why won’t he let me go to Olympus?”
“Hmm, maybe because he’s scared?” Garrett mused, still looking out at the sky. “Maybe because you sprang this on him with absolutely no warning, no discussion, nothing to let him get used to the idea, just an announcement followed by a fight. Your dad worries, of course he does, but he’s not unreasonable, Cody. You know that. And if you’d told me, I could have helped you instead of being made into the enemy here.”
Cody looked guilty now. “Are you and dad fighting too?”
Garrett shrugged. “We might be. We’ll figure it out, but first we have to figure you out. When does the school year start?”
“In three standard months.”
Garrett raised an eyebrow. “That’s not long. Considering it’ll take well over a month to get to Olympus in a fast ship and you’ve undoubtedly got a whole slew of medical procedures to get through, not to mention academic prep for the Academy’s first year classes, how exactly did you think you were going to accomplish this without our help? What would have been better, a discussion that led to a real plan, or springing this on your dad and hoping for the best?”
“I can always tell when you guys are fighting,” Cody said, a little out of the blue as far as Garrett was concerned. “You start saying ‘your dad’ like you’re not my dad too.”
“Legally I’m your father,” Garrett agreed. “And I love you so much it hurts sometimes, but it’s different for Jonah. Losing you would break him.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” Cody said in a small voice. “I just didn’t think he’d ever agree to let me try, and I have to do this, Garrett. I don’t want to stay on Pandora forever, I can’t.”
“I understand. I don’t think that was ever in the cards, but this is a little sooner than we were expecting.” Garrett stood up and moved in front of Cody’s swing. “Let’s head home, okay? It might be tough, but I think we can talk your dad around.”
“Okay.” Cody took Garrett’s hand and stood up, then pulled him into a hug. “I didn’t mean to yell at you,” he whispered.
“I know.” If there was once thing Garrett understood, it was how a situation could get away from you sometimes. “It’s okay, Cody.” He stroked his son’s wet hair, a little amazed that Cody was almost his height now. Fuck, where had the last decade gone? “It’s going to be okay.”
The rest of the walk home was silent, but not uncomfortable. Garrett was busy marshaling his thoughts, preparing for an argument of epic proportions, and he could sense that Cody was doing the same. Neither of them expected to be met on the road at the end of their subdivision by Jonah, moving fast and holding both their jackets in his arms. Garrett’s clothes were water-repelling, like everyone’s here, but that didn’t meant the air wasn’t chilly.
Cody and Jonah both pulled up and looked at each other. After a moment, Jonah extended Cody’s jacket toward his son. “Here,” he told him. “Put it on before you get any colder.”
Cody stared at the jacket, then at his dad. Then he leapt forward into his dad’s embrace, locking his arms around Jonah’s neck and pressing his face against his shoulder. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorry,” Cody babbled, and Jonah dropped the jackets and clung to his son in return, holding him so tight it had to hurt.
“It’s fine, we’ll work it out, we will,” Jonah promised, meeting Garrett’s eyes for a moment over Cody’s head. “We’ll work somethin’ out.”
Garrett ended up carrying the jackets home, because Jonah and Cody couldn’t quite let go of each other. They all sat down together at the table and ate reheated food and looked over the details of the scholarship together, and at the end of it all even Jonah had to admit that the deal looked good. “I like the bit where you have to get checked out once a week by the medical staff,” he said, spearing a bite of macaroni.
Cody rolled his eyes. “Of course you do. I like the part where I get to learn to pilot everything from gliders to Class H spacecraft.”
“Piloting’s not exactly an elective, what makes you so sure you’ll get accepted to the pilot’s program?” Jonah asked.
“Because I already know how to fly small ships pretty damn well,” Cody said. “You taught me, after all.” He let his father grapple with the feelings that statement evoked and turned to Garrett. “And I’m way ahead in biological and environmental sciences thanks to you, so I’ll be able to skip some of the low-level courses, and there’s a genetics lab on campus that’s supposed to be amazing, and do you think Dr. Sims will write me a letter of recommendation?”
“Probably,” Garrett said. “She’s fairly fond of you, after all.” Actually Martina Sims, like most of the people who worked with Garrett, was ridiculously fond of Cody.
“You know what they’ll be teachin’ you to do, right?” Jonah asked more somberly. “You’ve got a strong resume, obviously, but these scholarships are granted on the condition that you work where you’re told for at least a decade once you’re done with school.”
“That’s a fair point,” Garrett agreed. “You don’t have to accept a scholarship, Cody. We’ve got more than enough money to send you to a Federation academy if that’s what you want. Or a private university, too.”
“Yeah, but…I wanted to prove that I could do it on my own, you know?” Cody looked a little embarrassed, and a little worried of giving offense. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate everything you guys have done for me, and everything that Grandpa would do for me if I asked. But I needed to have something that just came from me being me.”
“I can commiserate,” Garrett said dryly, and they shared a smile. Heading to Pandora had been the first real moment of independence in Garrett’s life, and he’d never regretted it. That decision had gotten him his family, after all. Well, his immediate family; Garrett had quite a lot back on Paradise.
“And you’re sure this is what you want?” Jonah pressed. “Knowin’ that you’ve got options, knowin’ that I’m not gonna throw another fit if you want to go. You could wait a bit, defer for another year or two.”
“I know I could,” Cody said. His eyes looked a little misty. “And I’m really, really grateful for that, but I want to do this now. I want to get started as soon as possible, because who knows how long I’m gonna have, right?”
“Cody—” Jonah sounded anguished and Cody held up a hand.
“I’m not saying that to make you upset, and I’m not upset by it either. Not anymore,” he promised. “I’ve lived like this forever, it doesn’t bother me. I just want to do as much as I can with the time I have. And maybe, maybe something will happen that will let naturals use Regen, or to modify our genetic markers and then I won’t have to worry about it anymore, but I don’t want to wait for a miracle, dad. There’s so much I want to do.”
Jonah stared at his son with a mixture of pride and resignation on his face. “Then I guess you’d better do it, huh.”
“Yes!” Cody launched around the table for another hug from his dad, then again from Garrett. The rest of the evening was spent on logistics: travel plans, equipment needs and informing the rest of the family. Everyone on Paradise was at home when their call went through, and Cody got to tell Miles and Claudia and Renee and little Yvaine all at once. They were all incredibly happy for him, and after a few rounds of congratulations Miles split the call so he could work more of the details out with Garrett while the ladies caught up with Jonah and Cody.
“Can you afford to spend a few days here on the way in?” Miles asked. He looked relaxed in his loose, light clothes, casual for around the house. Miles Caractacus had formally resigned as governor of Paradise two years ago, but he and Claudia maintained a house in the capital city Rapture, in part because he liked it there and in part because moving back to the central system would put them further away from Garrett than he wanted to be.
“Probably, if Jezria lets me take enough leave,” Garrett groused.
“Because you know that Jack’s going to want to see him too.”
“I’m so very far away from caring about what Jack wants.” Jack Vendam was Cody’s other biological father, Jonah’s much-former lover. The man had wriggled his way back into Cody’s life but it was a courtesy at this point, nothing the courts could enforce.
“And I’m sure I could get Wyl and Robbie in to port if you give me enough time.”
“Yeah?” Garrett asked with more enthusiasm. “That would be great.” Wyl and Robbie Sinclair were two of Garrett’s oldest friends, and after Robbie’s retirement from the marines they’d taken off to see the sights on their private ship and hadn’t stayed in one place for more than a month since then. They’d come to visit Pandora twice, and Garrett knew Cody would love to see them again. “I’ll let you know as soon as our itinerary is set.”
“Good.” Miles rested his hands on his knees and really looked at his son for a moment. “Are you all right with this?”
“I’m fine with it.”
“Because it’s hard letting a child go.” Miles smiled faintly. “Lord knows it was almost impossible for me to let you out of my orbit. I don’t know what I’m going to do when Renee gets old enough to go off to school.”
“Well, you’ll still have Yvaine for a few years after that,” Garrett said. “Lucky man.”
“Gare…have the two of you considered having another child?”
Garrett felt his heart literally skip a beat. “You know we haven’t,” he whispered. “I’m not meant to reproduce, Dad. Too many potential problems.”
“None of which are insurmountable.” They stared at each other in silence before Miles finally said, “Just think about it. Your history isn’t enough to stop you, is all I’m saying.”
“I will think about it,” Garrett said, and the worst thing was that it wasn’t just a platitude. He already thought about it, ever since Yvaine had been born and Cody hit his teens. Cody was an amazing kid, everything Garrett could want in a son, but despite all of that Garrett still felt sometimes like he wanted more. He wanted to experience a child’s life from the moment of its birth onward, he wanted to see a baby’s first moments. He wanted a little girl with bright blue eyes, or a baby boy with Jonah’s brown hair. He wanted selfish, selfish things.
None of them got to bed until late that night. Cody was the first to drop, exhausted by the emotion and excitement of the day. Jonah tucked him in bed like he hadn’t since Cody was a little boy, and then he let Garrett lead him upstairs to their room. The couple was quiet as they got ready for bed, and for a while after they lay down together Garrett was sure they just weren’t going to talk about it. Which wasn’t going to fly for long, but Garrett was willing to cut his husband some slack after the day he’d had.
Then Jonah rolled over, pulled Garrett close and buried his face against his neck. “I was an asshole,” Jonah admitted. “I didn’t mean what I said. Cody’s as much yours as he is mine, has been from the moment he met you. Hell, he listens to you a lot better than me. If that doesn’t make him your kid, I don’t know what does.”
“Is this an actual apology?” Garrett asked tartly. “Because I still haven’t heard the magic words.”
He felt Jonah smile against the crux of his neck. “I’m sorry, darlin’. I shouldn’t have lost my temper today, and I definitely shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I don’t know what the hell I would do without you.”
“Me neither,” Garrett said. He didn’t even want to contemplate a life without Jonah. Seeing the reality of his own father aging, knowing that in another decade Cody would look practically the same age as Garrett, it scared him. He turned and clung to Jonah just as hard as Jonah was clinging to him. “I need you tonight.”
“I’ll give you anything you want,” Jonah promised, kissing a line across Garrett’s shoulder and chest. “Anything. God, I love you so much, fuck…”
Garrett grabbed the lubricant and pressed it into Jonah’s hands. “Now,” he urged, shimmying so that Jonah was between his legs. “I need you now.”
They had sex often enough, and with Garrett bottoming enough, that Jonah didn’t have to worry about hurting him if they skipped the preparations. Jonah reached down and slicked his eager cock, then pushed Garrett’s thighs up and back, lined up and slid inside. They both groaned as he sank in to the hilt.
Ten years of sex with Jonah, and it still felt amazing. Garrett had had his husband more ways than he could count, in different positions and with a huge variety of toys and still, he could find utterly perfect release just like this, with Jonah’s cock spearing him deep, his lips worshipful against Garrett’s pale, perfect skin, wherever his mouth could reach as he thrust deeper, harder. No one had touched Garrett like this before Jonah, this strange, comfortable desire that still seemed so intense, so new and desperate and alive.
“Love you Garrett, hell, I love you,” Jonah murmured, punctuating each word with a kiss or a thrust. “Darlin’, Garrett, please…”
“It’s good,” Garrett moaned. “It’s so good, you’re always so good. More, I need it.” He needed harder and faster, and Jonah gave it to him, his breath hitching as he braced himself on his arms and slammed in so hard Garrett had to lift his hands up to keep from hitting the headboard. Perfect, rough and hot and heavy, and he could feel every tremble that coursed through his husband’s body, he could feel the tension build as Jonah drew closer to the end. Close, but not quite there: Jonah always waited for Garrett to come first unless asked otherwise, and from the feel of things he wouldn’t be waiting long. Garrett’s prostate hummed with pleasure, his dick was hard and leaking pressed between their abdomens and his balls were pulled so tight to his body it was like they were begging him to let them release.
Garrett freed one hand and swept his fingers over the head of his cock. Just a glancing touch, but the light stimulation was all he needed to fall over the edge. He arched and came, squeezing Jonah’s cock hard as he did, milking the orgasm out of his husband. Jonah gasped and thrust a few more times, slower, harder, before he finally stilled. Garrett pulled him in close and they stayed that way for a while, still connected, the rhythms of their hearts slowly coming into synch. It was moments of intimacy like this that Garrett loved almost more than the sex, when they were sweaty and tired and utterly together.
“It is going to work out, isn’t it?” Jonah asked at last, his voice soft and young-sounding. “Cody’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.”
“I think so,” Garrett replied, not wanting to promise anything he might not be able to keep but knowing that Jonah needed his reassurances. “I think everything will be fine.” Garrett would do his absolute best to make sure that it was. Still, the thought of the two of them here alone, no Cody, with no idea when he’d be back…it made Garrett’s heart ache.
“We’ll do our best.”