Notes: This was so much fun to write. Not exactly what I’d envisioned, again; this time the POV is Ten’s. But it has Jonah and Garrett and happy fun times, which Ten finds kind of perplexing, and man, now I want to write more Jonah and Garrett. Damn it. Anyway, enjoy, guys. It’s a longer post today, so hopefully that’s gratifyingJ
(PS-thanks for the help with corrections, guys, I wrote this in two hours this morning and clearly missed some editing issues going through. I like to know when I need to clean things up.)
(PS-thanks for the help with corrections, guys, I wrote this in two hours this morning and clearly missed some editing issues going through. I like to know when I need to clean things up.)
Title: The Academy
Part Seventeen: Positively Shattering
Ten didn’t care about hir parents.
It sounded callow and insensitive, but it was true. Ten had stopped caring about hir parents when they left hir to the tender mercies of Symone St. Clair so they could go and do whatever it was that drove them away from Solaydor and their fledgling family. Ten had been five, and utterly unsurprised when they had left hir behind. Ze was more than a handful, as Symone complained constantly, and there was no room for a third person in the galaxy of hir parents’ existence. They lived for each other and the grand adventure, whatever it happened to be at the moment. They had never cradled hir, never tucked hir in at night, never read hir stories or built holographic cities with hir or educated hir in anything beyond the feeling of neglect, so Ten decided very early on not to care about them. It was an easy decision, and Ten had ruthlessly ignored the entire concept of caring after that. Caring about someone else, beyond what they could do for you, was ridiculous.
That wasn’t to say that Ten was completely ignorant. Ze thought of hirself as the most observant of their little cabal, actually; perhaps after Grennson, but Grennson’s perceptions were all tinted with the rosy perspective of someone who looked at everything in his new life with delight, so his accuracy was entirely suspect. Empath or not, Ten was certain that hir own observations were more reliable. And what ze saw around hir mostly confirmed hir own stance on the matter: caring was dangerous, painful and mostly a waste of time.
Look at Darrell, drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations and trying to do them proud regardless of the impossibility of success. Look at Grennson himself, coddled and adored because he was special but the target of much more societal dislike than he realized. Look at Kyle, cold and aloof because his brother didn’t have time for him and almost everyone who met him only played nice because they wanted something from him. Huh, at least he knew it, though. Look at Cody…
Cody was the outlier, the one point on the graph that didn’t fall in line with Ten’s expectations. Cody was…well, he was an idiot. Not stupid, but so terribly trusting with everything except the things he should have been telling Ten about all along, like his naturalism. Honestly, how could Ten fix it if Cody didn’t bring it up? And despite Cody’s firm responses to the contrary, Ten knew that he wanted to be fixed. Who wouldn’t? Who wanted to limit the span of their life when everyone around them would live for so much longer? Centuries more of discovery and learning, of course Cody wanted to be fixed. It was probably his parents’ fault that he had the silly perspective that he did.
Cody loved his parents. That wasn’t hard to realize. And why wouldn’t he? They’d obviously showered him with affection, the way people did when they were given something very breakable and tried to protect it against loss and damage. They’d covered him with love like an insurance policy, so that he would get something good out of his life despite the issue of his longevity. How could they demand the things they probably wanted out of him, when he had so little time? No, they were kind, so they didn’t do that. They let him come here, to the Academy, which was a stupid move in Ten’s mind because how could they guard him here? Kindness overruling their common sense, clearly. And now they were coming to visit, which meant everyone would have to put up with their kindness, but Ten could see right through that sort of thing. It was probably going to be very pitiable. Oh well, Ten would put in an appearance for Cody’s sake, and ze did kind of want to meet Garrett after all ze’d heard about him from Symone, but after that ze’d get back to the important work of curing Cody, not just indulging him.
The knock at the door wasn’t a surprise, Cody had clearly been waiting for it, and he shot off the couch like he’d been launched from a blaster and jerked open the door. “Dad!” he exclaimed happily, and Ten rolled hir eyes and turned back to hir experiment. The resequencing was at a critical stage, and ze needed to give it hir full attention…
“Hey, Bucko.” Oh yay, cloying childish nicknames, check. The sound of an embrace, soft and punctuated by grunting exhales as they squeezed each other to within an inch of their lives. Typical.
“He had a quick meeting with Admiral Liang, he’ll be here soon. Who are the rest of your quad mates?”
“Right, Dad, this is Darrell Parrish.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir.” That was a handshake, Ten was sure. Firm and polite, boring boring boring.
“Just call me Jonah, Darrell.” And there was the folksy Fringe manners coming into play, how adorable. Ten scowled into hir microscope.
“And this is Grennson Kim.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you!” Oh, typical Grennson, so excited about everyone. “Cody told me you were a Drifter in your youth.”
“Oh he did?” Now would come the recriminations, because really, who wanted to be outed as a former Drifter?
“Yes, and I would love to learn more about it. We have nothing like that sort of life on Perelan.”
“I’d be happy to talk about it with you,” and wait, what? That wasn’t in the script. “Aren’t we missing someone here, though?”
“Yeah. Ten!” A second later Cody was in their bedroom, placing a hand on Ten’s shoulder. “Ten, come meet my dad.”
Ten sighed but turned around, because ze was smart enough to know when arguing with Cody was hopeless, and now was one of those times. He was so pleased to see his father again, and he wanted to share that pleasure with others because he was soft, soft, soft. Ten firmly kept hirself from acknowledging the little frisson ze got when ze looked Cody in the eyes. “I’m at a delicate place here, I can’t—”
“Si-mu-la-tion,” Cody sing-songed annoyingly. “Put it on pause and get out here.”
“But—” Oh shit, big eyes, earnest expression, no no no—“Fine,” ze muttered, and pushed the stasis button. “Let’s get this over with.” The look of hurt that flickered over Cody’s face made Ten feel like an ass, and ze hated feeling like that. Ze plowed ahead of Cody and out into the common room.
Ten had seen Jonah a few times on the projector, but he was taller in person, the tallest one in the room by several inches. He was pretty normal looking beyond that, blonde-brown hair down to his shoulders, a little scruffy, long and lanky. He turned to look at Ten and—oh. Ah. The eyes, then. Some people had a little something special that made them stand out even when they didn’t work for it, and for Jonah Helms it was his eyes. Light brown, sort of amber, they shouldn’t have been anything special but when they connected with Ten’s, ze thought they were possibly the warmest, kindest eyes ze’d ever seen. This…this was where Cody got it from. Cody’s eyes were exactly the same, like they were being so honest with you that you couldn’t help being honest right back. Then he smiled, and Ten wanted to throw something, because this guy was the reason Cody was causing hir so many problems, ze was sure of it now. People shouldn’t be allowed to look like this, it was too vulnerable. How this man had lived to adulthood, Ten had no idea.
“Tiennan,” Ten blurted. “Or Ten, that was Cody’s idea and I haven’t been able to shake it. St. Florian. Is my surname, I mean.” Shit, shit, shit.
“I’ll go with Ten, I think,” Jonah said, and he shook Ten’s limp hand and wow, warm. Cody’s were usually cool, it was strange that—oh, no, Regen, right, this man could handle Regen, of course his circulation and body temperature were regularized, just like everyone else’s. Ten should have realized—
That he was still holding on. Ten jerked hir hand back and wished desperately not to blush. No, no…”Nice to meet you,” Jonah said, and great, now Ten was definitely blushing.
The potentially awkward moment was broken by the arrival of Garrett Caractacus-Helms, and Ten sighed with relief. Now here was someone he could understand. Garrett was, in a word, gorgeous, precisely put together platinum perfection, just the sort of person Ten had grown up surrounded by on Solaydor.
“Garrett!” Cody threw himself into the embrace and Garrett caught him with a grin. Ten watched closely for signs of what the man was really thinking, but he was good. All that came through was happy affection.
“My god, are you taller? You’re not supposed to grow any more, at this rate you’ll be Jonah’s height.”
“Maybe an inch?” Cody said. “It’s been almost five months, that’s not too fast.”
“It feels like a mile,” Garrett said before he kissed Cody’s cheek. He pulled back and looked around the room. “Let’s see—Grennson Kim.” Garrett smiled charmingly. “It’s lovely to meet a Perel again. The first Perel I met were your uncles, actually.”
Grennson’s enormous brown eyes grew even larger. “Neyarr and Parrel?”
“On their famed year abroad, yes. They were delightful. Very friendly, and very, very flexible.”
“Agh, Garrett!” Cody made a face. “Do you have to talk about that?”
“It was well before I met you or your dad, Cody,” Garrett said soothingly.
“That doesn’t mean I want to hear about you and…Dad, tell him.”
“You and two Perel?” Jonah said, perfectly deadpan, and Garrett grinned. “Why’m I not surprised?”
“Because you know me so well, darling,” Garrett replied. “At any rate, it’s lovely to meet you, Grennson. You must be far better behaved than your uncles to make it to the Academy.”
“I am,” Grennson said, and oh, there were stars in his eyes. He was done for. No resilience, Ten thought.
Darrell was Garrett’s next prey. Ten waited for him to make some comment about Darrell’s father, but he didn’t. All he said after they were introduced was, “I hear you’re brilliant with languages.”
That cracked Darrell’s composure. “Really?” He glanced at Cody. “You told them?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Cody said.
“Because it’s not really interesting…”
“On the contrary, it’s amazing,” Garrett said. “Too many people rely on the automatic translators, but those lose so much intonation and don’t help with body language at all.”
“It’s true,” Grennson put in.
“It’s much better to tackle it yourself,” Garrett continued. “You’ll have a deeper understanding and be a much better diplomat for it.”
“I’m not…I’m not going to be a diplomat,” Darrell said falteringly.
“Then it will serve you well when you escort a diplomat to Perelan,” Garrett said smoothly. “A skill is a skill, everything has its use.” He turned to Ten, and ze tensed, ready to fend off any false compliments or ingratiating pablum.
All Garrett said was, “Nice hair.”
“What?” Nice…hair? Not that it wasn’t, it was, but no one bothered to compliment it. He should have said something about Ten’s brilliance, hir ability as a scientist, not…
“You must have made that dye yourself, there’s no way they sell something like that commercially on Olympus.”
“I did make it.” Ten’s hair was a silvery-blue from one angle, and a warm pinkish-gold from another. The two-toned wraparound treatment was devilishly hard to get right, you had to take into account the geometry of the hair, and the application process was tricky, especially when you were doing it yourself.
“It looks good. Professional.”
“I’m better than any professional,” Ten snapped, because ze wasn’t going to be cozened. “You couldn’t get something this nice done on Solaydor or Ceyla City, and don’t even get me started on the Central System.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Garrett said, and then he turned back to Cody, leaving Ten flat-footed. That was supposed to be an argument…where had it gone?
“So, according to the admiral, we can have you guys on the ship, but not beyond.”
“Yep. Those are the rules during term, you have to stay on campus, and our ship is temporarily an extension of that. Not that that’s stopping me,” Garrett said with a grin. “I’ve booked us the rooftop of Zenith. We can have a gourmet dinner on the roof and watch the suns set and drink their very expensive booze—yes, we can and we will, it’s a special occasion,” he added without looking at his husband, who gave in with a sigh. “And we’ll have you all back before midnight. Except you, Cody, we’d love for you to spend the night on the ship with us, but it’s your choice.”
“That’d be perfect,” Cody said.
“You got reservations at Zenith?” Darrell said, gaping just a little. “I thought they only let officers and politicians eat there.”
Garrett waved away the concern. “I know people who are both, happily. They’re making our dinner right now, we should go before they have to preserve anything.” He pulled Cody in close and swung and arm over his shoulder. Jonah fell in on Cody’s other side, and they headed out of the common room. They looked…huh. Comfortable.
“Ten, come on!” Cody called out, and Ten realized ze was the only one left in the room. Ze shut the door and hurried after the group before ze had a chance to talk hirself out of it. Ze had other things to do, after all, important things, and ze wasn’t at all impressed by going to fancy restaurants and getting special service as a way of showing how special you were, but this…it was more like they’d done it for Cody, than for themselves. It was something nice for him, and for the rest of them, and it was gaudy and elaborate but…nice.
Whatever. Ten would go, but ze didn’t have to like it.
It ended up being kind of hard not to like it, actually. Zenith’s staff had cleared the top of the building, and there was plenty of room for the Helms’ not-quite-space-legal ship to land. There were controls on the pilot’s panel for thrusters that just weren’t supposed to be there, Ten was sure of it, but ze didn’t say anything. A heavy base beat was pumped through the roof into the landing gear of the ship, reverberating in a way that should have felt cavernous but was more energetic than annoying, and true to his word, Garrett led them all up onto the top of the ship, where they had a brilliant view of the city.
Cody had never seen it like this before, Ten knew, and Cody's breath caught as he looked out over the shining scene, bright and glittering in the sinking sunlight. Jonah stood close and they shared a few quiet words while Garrett organized the food with the very friendly waiter, who used a hovering lift to get up to their level.
They sat on blankets and ate delicate tapas and drank wine, and the conversation was…well, it was strange. They didn’t talk about politics or Drifters or any of the stuff Ten had expected, because wasn’t that why Cody’s parents were going to Parliament? To fight about policy? Instead they talked about friends on Pandora, they asked Cody about his classes and about the club, they asked Darrell about paraball and Grennson about his family, and they didn’t ask Ten anything other than, “Want some of this?”
It deflated hir. Ze was ready for an argument, ready for sharpness, ready to defend Cody against anything, but especially his family. Family were the worst, they used their intimate knowledge of you to their advantage and hit you where it hurt, and Cody had probably lived with that all his life and didn’t even realize it, and…
It was possible, Ten admitted after hir second glass of wine, that ze was wrong. Garrett seemed genuinely interested in everything they had to say, and if he was lying it was a lot of work to go to for the benefit of very few people, because Cody clearly thought the suns revolved around his dads. And Jonah was just…perfect. He was so nice, and his drawl was colloquial but alluring, and he and Cody were so much alike it was almost painful to watch them together. That was what Cody could become, that was the way he could stay if Ten was good enough to figure out a cure. The universe needed more people like Jonah Helms. Ten had to figure out a cure, because it was clear to hir now that losing Cody would devastate his parents, and that would be a terrible, terrible thing. Apocalyptically terrible. Like, so, so…terrible.
How had ze ended up with hir head on Garrett’s lap again?
“I really do like your hair,” Garrett said, running his long fingers through the loose strands. Grennson was trying to teach Darrell and Cody a Perel dance, and they were failing miserably but enjoying themselves immensely if the laughter was anything to go by. Jonah was keeping them all from falling off the edge of the ship.
“Thank you,” Ten said, feeling inexplicably sad. Was this what ze’d missed out on, without hir own parents around? Thoughtless kindness, easy compliments, no sense of stress or disappointment? Sure, they could have been like Darrell’s, but maybe…maybe if ze’d been an easier child, if ze had been just a little better, ze could have had this instead of Symone’s well-meaning distance.
“And thank you, for looking after Cody.” Ten tilted hir head up to look at Garrett, who was smiling faintly at hir. “I know he wouldn’t thank me for bringing it up, but he was really nervous to come here, and it’s been harder in some ways than he imagined. You’ve been a very good friend to him.”
“No I haven’t,” Ten said miserably. “I’m not a good friend. I spend all my time in my experiments, I ignore him, I get him into trouble. I’m a terrible friend.”
“That’s not what Cody says.”
“Cody’s too nice,” Ten grumped, rolling over and shutting hir eyes resolutely.
“I know. That’s why he needs you around. You’re a realist, my dear, and our high flying optimists need us to keep them grounded sometimes. You are good to him, and we appreciate it. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a genius on their side.”
Ten snorted. “Did Cody tell you I was a genius?”
“Yes, but Symone did first.”
“Really. She used to talk to me about you all the time, about your latest experiment, how school was too easy for you, how smart you are. I think she misses having you around, her calls have been very dour lately. You might consider calling her, just to let her know how you are.”
“I’ve been called into the Admiral’s office twice since I’ve been here, I’m sure they contacted her.”
Garrett shrugged. “That’s just discipline, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t tell her anything about how you actually are. Just something to consider.”
Ten sighed long-sufferingly. “Fine.”
Ten looked blurrily out across the roof, where Cody stumbled over a twirling step and fell into his dad’s arms, and Grennson and Darrell burst into laughter, all of them finding it hilarious for some reason. Garrett chuckled, and the motion rocked Ten’s head gently. Warm fingers brushed hair out of hir face, and Ten had to shut hir eyes. Too much. So much that ze might cry if ze saw any more.