Notes: Okay, so this isn’t exactly a feel good chapter. It gets a lot of things out in the open, though, and gives me stuff to work with for next time. I’m setting up a very long game here, guys. Also, keep in mind that I am a firm HEA believer, and I won’t hurt you. So now that I’ve sufficiently warned you, read on!
Title: The Academy
Part Twenty-Six: Imperfect Speakers
When Cody woke up, he was alone. There was no sign that Kyle had ever been there—the chair was back in its place in the corner, nothing left behind. It was almost as if he’d imagined him, but Cody held onto the comfort that Kyle had given him, and the new information—Valero was in Regen. She’d had an accident of some kind. Cody wondered what had happened to her.
“Awake at last.”
Cody glanced over at the nurse who appeared in his doorway, the same one who had thrown Ten out last night. “Did I oversleep?”
“You slept for as long as you needed to,” she said, coming over to his side and pressing a gloved hand to his forehead. The glove gave her his vitals, and she nodded. “No fever, and your endocrine system is back in balance. I’m sure you want some painkillers, though.”
Now that she mentioned it… “Yeah,” Cody said, shifting a bit and feeling his collarbone grind unpleasantly. “That would be nice.”
“You got it.” She adjusted one of the settings on her glove, then touched her finger to his neck. A burst of cold spread from the point of contact down into his upper back and shoulder, and behind it came a blissful numbness. Cody sighed with relief. “This is a combination of a nerve paralytic and a muscle relaxant, it should take away all of your pain as long as your bones stay in place. We’re holding them together, of course, the doctor put jointures in immediately, but a little bit of flex is possible if you’re not careful. If we could put you in a tank, the Regen would have those ends knitted together in under an hour, but as it is, this is the best we can do.” She let go of Cody and pulled a small, oblong tube out of the holster at her waist.
“This is a pain pen, calibrated to your physiology. When the painkillers start to wear off, press the round end here—” she tapped the side of his neck where she’d made her own injection, “and you’ll get another dose. I’ve loaded it with twenty doses, and each one should last about half a day, which means I expect to see you in a week and a half for a refill. You can’t share it, it won’t activate for anyone else, so don’t even try. If you use it up too quickly, I’m going to assume you need something stronger that necessitates you remaining in the infirmary during its use.” She looked at him sternly. “Do we understand each other, Cadet?”
“Glad to hear it.” She handed him the pain pen. “Leave the sling on at all times, even when you’re in the shower. Sleep on your back and don’t roll around, or you’re going to cause trouble for the bones. Absolutely no riding your bike until this injury is completely healed.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Cody said, a little bitterly.
“Glad to hear it. And if you’re going to have sexual relations, I suggest you let that boyfriend of yours do the heavy lifting.”
Cody blushed so hard he felt his heartbeat in his cheeks. “Ze’s not my boyfriend.”
The nurse raised one eyebrow. “You might want to talk to Cadet St. Florian about that,” she advised. “Now, do you want assistance back to your quad?”
“No, ma’am.” That was the last thing he wanted, to be escorted back to his rooms like a fragile little flower. Cody had no idea how many of his fellow cadets knew what was going on with him, but he didn’t want to give them ideas if they didn’t.
“Good. Then I’ll see you in ten days unless something goes wrong, and if something goes wrong, I expect you to shelve any ideas of toughing it out you might have and come to me immediately. Understood?”
Cody swallowed. “Yes ma’am.”
“Then have a nice day, Cadet Helms.”
Cody got a lot of looks on his way back to his quad—it wasn’t a day for classes, the weather was nice, of course people were milling around outside—but he did manage to avoid any conversations and get back to his room without stopping, which was good. He felt tired, a little nauseous, and more than ready to lie down again.
As soon as he opened his door he knew that wasn’t going to happen, though.
Ten and Phil were sitting on opposite ends of the couch, staring at each other as if each were trying to set the other on fire through willpower alone. The air was filled with the scent of lhossa tea, but Grennson and Darrell were nowhere to be seen. The combatants looked up as Cody entered the room, and naturally Ten spoke first, darting to hir feet.
“You should have messaged me and let me know that you were being released, I would have come and gotten you,” ze said, coming over to stand in front of him and look him over. “You look awful. Did they not feed you? Idiots.”
“I didn’t even think about messaging, I’m sorry,” Cody said. “Where is everyone?”
“I asked them to leave,” Phil said. “Since we have something to discuss in private. Your roommate refused to oblige, however.”
“Cody doesn’t keep secrets form me,” Ten snapped at her. “I’m just saving myself the aggravation of having to pry whatever you’re going to talk about out of him later, because I’m going to know.”
Phil stood up with a huff and crossed her arms. “You have got to be the most self-centered person I’ve ever met, you know that? Not everything is your business, Tiennan, and you’re not always right, no matter what kind of genius you are. You think you deserve to know everything by virtue of being indispensable, but you know what? Someday you’re going to get something wrong, and you’re going to hurt people. I just hope you don’t end up hurting your friends along with yourself.”
“Spoken like someone accustomed to failure,” Ten sneered, “which I am not.”
“I think I’d like some tea, please.”
Both of them looked at Cody, almost in surprise. “What?” Ten said.
“Tea. I know Grennson left some in the kitchen, and I really need to sit down.” Cody proved his own point by taking Ten’s place on the couch. “So I’d like some tea, and then I’ll tell you what I need, Phil. And you can stay,” he added when Ten opened hir mouth to object.
“Fine. Where do you keep your cups?”
“Oh, I’ll get it,” Ten muttered, heading into the kitchen before Phil could. “The last thing we need is you rummaging around in places where you don’t belong.”
“No, you’re the expert at that,” Phil agreed mildly. Ten hissed at her, literally hissed, and Cody covered his eyes for a moment. Was this what being a parent felt like?
“Tea.” Ten pushed a cup into Cody’s hand and sat back on the couch, close enough that if Phil had joined them, Ten would have completely blocked Cody’s view of her. She shifted to the side and kept standing instead, and Cody smiled at her, then took a sip of the tea. So delicious, warm and smooth and spicy. It did more to calm his nerves than anything else could.
“I need your help fabricating something,” he said to Phil. He would have handed her the false button, but his only good hand was full. “Grab the…on my jacket, the second button down, grab it and pull it off.” Phil did so, and her eyes widened a little as she took in the circuitry behind the smooth metal face. “It’s an inertial dampener—a used up one, they’re only good for about five seconds after activation. I used it yesterday when Ten and I bailed from my bike before it crashed. I want us to make more of them, if we can.”
“Do you have a working one?” Phil asked as she looked the device over intently. “And what sort of dampening effect are we talking about here?”
“I don’t know the exact specs, but it was enough to keep us alive when we were going several hundred kilometers per hour,” Cody said, and Phil’s eyes lit up.
“That’s…how…that’s brilliant, how did the manufacturer make the component parts small enough to fit into a…astonishing!”
Ten also looked impressed, and annoyed at the same time. “You could have just given it to me and let me figure it out,” ze said.
“It needs an engineer, not a chemist.”
“I can do both!”
“Isn’t one special project enough for you at the moment?” Cody asked meaningfully, and after a moment Ten nodded. “And I do have another working one, but…” His hand tightened around the cup spasmodically. “I’d like to hold onto it, if possible.”
Phil seemed to understand. “I can start with this one,” she said. “I’ll expect your help with this when you’re back to normal, though. This is exactly the kind of technology that suits our particular challenges in the field, and it could be extremely useful.”
“I understand.” She patted him on his good shoulder, then left without another word. Ten watched her leave, then looked at Cody and sighed.
“Are you really all right?”
“The nurse said I was.”
“The nurse,” Ten groaned. “That awful nurse. I can’t believe she kicked me out right when things were getting good.”
“Yeah,” Cody agreed, because his memory of that kiss, and what happened because of it, was still very vivid in his mind. “Speaking of that…” He left it hanging suggestively, but Ten went a completely different direction with it.
“Oh, oh! I was going to share my information with you!”
“What?” No, that wasn’t what Cody had been thinking about at all. “What information?”
“On who sabotaged the bike, obviously, try to keep up,” Ten replied. “I’ve thought and thought about this and there’s really only one person it could be, someone who knows you and your habits, someone who you wouldn’t suspect because of your friendship, someone who knows their way around a hoverbike…” Ten took a deep breath, then said, “It was Kyle Alexander.”
Cody had been following along until right up to that point. He immediately shook his head. “No, it wasn’t.”
Ten rolled hir eyes. “You’re being stubborn, stop it. The evidence is plain. He cancelled on you, didn’t he? He was supposed to go riding with you but he cancelled, so you brought me along instead. Don’t you see? He knew this was going to happen, he planned things so that you would die without casting any suspicion on him, since he’d be nowhere near the scene of the crash! He strung you along as his friend in order to get close to you, and once he was close enough and deemed the timing right, he went for it!” Ten’s voice got faster as ze spoke, trying to explain everything all at once.
“He’s a Legacy and the brother of the president of the Federation, and your fathers are doing their best to oppose the president on Liberty, so anything Kyle could do to disrupt negotiations is all to the good. He has no reason to like you, but he needed an excuse in order to spend time with you and learn your schedule. He’s probably got the connections to find a way to disrupt Hermes, which would explain why no one ever seems to record the bad things happening around you. And Marcys was a preliminary intimidation tactic, a show of force, a way to get you off balance. It all makes sense!”
“Kyle’s not trying to hurt me,” Cody insisted.
“You don’t know that, you just want it to be true because you want him,” Ten said viciously.
“I don’t want him, the last person I was in the process of wanting is you, and I know it’s not him because he visited me last night and sat with me while I fell asleep, and yet here I am still alive today!” Cody shouted.
Ten’s face went pale. “He…he came to you in the infirmary? He slept with you?”
“No, I was the one sleeping, he sat in a chair beside me.”
“Why did they let him stay instead of me?” Ten asked, sounding strangely young, before shaking hir head. “It doesn’t prove anything. Of course he didn’t try to kill you in the infirmary, that nurse whoever-she-is was watching you constantly. He just came to visit you to throw off suspicion.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You should believe me!”
“Why, because there’s really no way someone like Kyle Alexander wanted me as a friend? Thanks a lot for that,” Cody said, definitely bitter now.
“I’m not trying to insult you, I’m just telling you the truth! He’s a scion of the most important family in the entire Federation and you’re a Fringe charity case, and a natural, and nobody could—” Ten shut up, but it was already too late.
“Nobody could what? Give a fuck about me? Thanks a lot,” Cody said, putting his empty glass down on the table and standing up. “Good to know where I stand.”
Ten looked ashamed. “That isn’t what I was going to say,” ze said quietly. “It isn’t. I don’t think that about you, you know I don’t.”
“No, you think I’m a fascinating project,” Cody replied. Fuck, his shoulder hurt already. Weren’t these doses supposed to last for hours and hours? “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.”
“I’m done talking to you right now.”
“I’m sorry, all right?” Ten insisted. “I didn’t mean to be, I don’t know, insensitive. Not to you.”
“Maybe not, but you still were, and I don’t want to talk to you right now,” Cody said. “Just leave me alone.” He went into their room and shut the door, feeling the throb in his collarbone echo the throb in his heart. He was so done with this, so done, and he wasn’t supposed to use the pain pen so soon but he really wanted to because obviously something was wrong, and why was Ten so…so…like that? Why did everything ze said have to be barbed, why couldn’t ze just relax and be fucking nice sometimes? Any other day and Cody would have felt up to arguing with hir, but today wasn’t any other day. Today was the day after he’d almost died in a fiery crash, broken his collarbone, and gotten the best, most confusing kiss of his entire life, with no idea of what it meant. Yesterday had sucked, and today wasn’t looking any better.
The chime of his private transmitter jolted him out of his self-pity, and Cody realized that as bad as things were going so far, they were about to get worse. He should have known that they’d find out. He slumped over to his bed, pulled out the transmitter and answered the call. “Hello?”
It was Garrett, and…wait…just Garrett. “Hey, Cody.”
“Hey. Where’s Dad?”
“Your dad and I had an argument, and he’s off cooling down in order to keep from saying something he’d regret,” Garrett said frankly. Cody felt a tendril of guilt start to creep up his spine.
“Was it an argument about me?” he asked.
“Yes. Specifically, about whether or not you should stay at the Academy, all things considered.”
“What?” Cody jolted upright, then winced. “No, I want to stay!”
“Despite the ‘accident’ with your bike?”
“I’m okay,” Cody insisted. “It’s just my collarbone, I’ve broken worse at home. The inertial dampener worked really well.”
Garrett sighed. “I wanted those to be a last resort, a failsafe, and here you are using one not two months after I gave it to you.”
“I know, and I’m glad I had it, but I really am okay.” Cody couldn’t quite articulate why, but he knew he didn’t want to leave. “I’m as safe here as I would be anywhere.”
“Now that, I agree with,” Garrett said. “And that’s what I told your dad, and that’s why he’s off being angry at me and not talking with you. I know that the Federation is limiting the newsfeeds that make it into the Academy, but we’re just one step above civil war here on Liberty, Cody. It’s dangerous here, and your dad is worried about that spilling over into the Academy, but I can’t see how it would be better having you with us. Paradise isn’t safe now that Miles is no longer in charge there, and there have been two attacks on Fringe colonies in the last week by ‘pirates,’ and they’ve been brutal. All in all, I think the Academy is the best of a bad lot for the moment.”
Cody swallowed uncomfortably. “Are you guys in a lot of danger?”
“No more than usual, I promise.”
“And you and dad…”
Garrett smiled gently. “It’s just a fight, Cody. We’ll be okay.”
“But you never fight.”
“We never fought in front of you, but that doesn’t mean we always got along perfectly, even back on Pandora,” Garrett said. “Don’t worry about us, okay? Keep yourself safe, keep your friends close.”
But I don’t even know who all my friends are. There was no way Cody was laying that on Garrett, though. He just said, “I will. I promise.”
“Good. I have to go, but Jonah will probably call you later.”
“I love you.” It seemed important that Cody made sure Garrett knew that.
“I love you too,” Garrett said, and he sounded tired, but so sincere. “We’ll be fine here.”
“Get some rest, you look like you need it.”
“You too,” Cody said, and Garrett laughed.
“I know. We’ll call again later.”
“Okay.” Garrett ended the connection, and Cody stared at the transmitter for a long time and tried not to let his worry fly off with him. His parents were fine. They loved each other, they weren’t going to fight forever about him. He felt stupid, worrying about that part before everything else, but Cody could barely remember a time when he didn’t have Garrett in his life, and the very idea that things might change made him feel ten times worse than any broken bone could.
No, it was going to be okay. It was all going to be okay.
He wondered how many times he’d be able to convince himself of that before his brain just stopped believing him.