Notes: Time to back off the angst a little and get in a different feel. Well, there’s still angst, but it’s not as heavy. We’re winding down! Oh man, how am I going to do this? How am I going to take a break from these guys? I just don’t know. You get at least another 3-4 weeks of this story, though, never fear.
Title: The Academy
Part Thirty-Two: Ten-To-One Odds
Cody wasn’t there when Ten came out of Regen. It bothered him, to learn that Ten was awake and getting cleaned up when he and Admiral Liang got back to the main floor of the infirmary.
“How is ze?” Cody asked Nurse Badass, which was easier to remember than her actual name.
“Tiennan seems fine. Irritable, even, which is how we know the Regen has set hir back to rights,” Nurse Badass replied with a little eye-roll. “Ze’s already informed us that we’re ridiculous, and making a huge thing out of nothing, and that ze doesn’t want to see any of us anymore and wants to go back to your quad, immediately. And,” she added as Cody smiled a little, because that was all so Ten, “ze said that ze doesn’t want to see you.”
The smile dropped off Cody’s face so fast you could almost hear it hit the floor. “Why not?” he demanded, barely noticing when the admiral excused himself. There were other people around, medics and doctors, but Cody didn’t give a damn who heard him right now.
“Think about it,” Nurse Badass said. “Think for a moment about what your friend has been through, and then see if you still need to ask me that question.”
Cody actually did take the time to think about it, going back over Ten’s behavior in his mind, the way ze’d clung to him so desperately, how intent ze’d been, how the strangeness only made sense when it came out that Pamela had been manipulating him—
“For starters,” Nurse Badass agreed. “Also ashamed, and violated, and worried. That cadet’s so socially disturbed to begin with that I can’t really imagine what’s going on in hir head, but it’s bound to be complicated.”
“And ze doesn’t want to see me?”
“No.” Cody felt crushed, and it must have shown because the nurse continued, “Fortunately, Ten is my patient right now, which means that hir health is my responsibility. If I think you could be good for hir, I can authorize you seeing hir despite the objections, but you’ve got to come through for me, Cadet Helms. You’ve got to make things better, and before I let you go in, I want you to think about the best way to do that. Not the way that would make you feel better, the best way for your friend. Now, sit.” She pointed him toward a chair, where he obediently sat. “Do you need another shot for the pain?”
“I can’t even feel it,” Cody said.
“Good. Let me know if that changes. I’ll give you a few minutes, and then we’ll see about getting you into Ten’s room.” Nurse Badass walked off, and Cody looked down at the floor and tried to get his thoughts past Kyle, sitting underground alone in a cell waiting to be tried for a crime he didn’t commit, to Ten. Ten, who went so crazy over Cody that ze’d been prepared to kill for him, however unconsciously. Ten, who had clung to him so tightly it had shifted the broken end of his collarbone. Ten, who’s planning and plotting and preparations had failed hir, possibly for the first time ever, and certainly for the first time in such a spectacular way. Cody remembered the corona in their room, wondering what the information was it had gathered, and how Ten had planned to use it. Ten had never gotten the chance to put hir efforts to practice, there hadn’t been time.
Ten had to hate that.
Ze hated being outsmarted, ze despised being vulnerable, and ze always, always wanted to be in control. Ten had to be feeling so used, small and stupid and gullible, and that…oh, the only answer for that was anger. Anger at everything, but especially the things that made hir vulnerable. Whatever ze felt for Cody, in particular. It was entirely possible that Cody would walk into Ten’s room and Ten would start screaming about how much ze hated him.
Just the thought of confronting that hurt. Cody was, well, he was pretty bad at fighting. Interpersonal conflicts of any kind had always bothered him. The few fights he’d had with his parents had left him feeling sick, and listening to them on the rare occasions when they’d raised their voices to each other had literally made him bite through his lip once. The physical stuff, actual contact, Cody could deal with. He could handle the adrenaline of fast speeds and dangerous maneuvers, he could handle the pressure of classwork and grades, of needing to perform, without breaking a sweat. But get someone yelling in his face and he had to force himself to be assertive, had to break the bindings that anxiety wrapped around his limbs and respond appropriately, instead of running away or, worse, yelling back. The thought of yelling at Ten right now was awful; he couldn’t bear it if they fought.
I’ll just have to keep it from getting that far, Cody determined. I have to stay in control. I have to stay calm. It has to be no big deal, and above all—I can’t believe hir when Ten starts saying horrible things to me. Because ze absolutely would, Cody had no doubt. It was a defensive mechanism, and Cody had seen other people suffer Ten’s articulate wrath. If he let it get to him, this would get ten times harder.
“Are you ready?”
Cody blinked and looked up. He hadn’t even heard Nurse Badass approaching. She looked at him questioningly. “It’s okay if you aren’t,” she said. “It’s a lot to prepare for.”
“No, I’m fine,” Cody said immediately. “I can do this.” He had to do it. He had to be able to do something good for someone he cared about, especially Ten. “I’m ready.”
“Good.” She led Cody down the hall to another private room, much like his own, where she knocked perfunctorily on the door.
“I brought a visitor,” she said through the interface on the door. Of course it was completely soundproof, but the interface allowed for external oversight by whoever was keyed to access the panel.
“I don’t want one.”
“Too bad, this one’s pretty determined.” She opened the door and waved Cody inside. “I’ll close it, but it won’t be locked. You can leave at any time,” she told him. Cody stepped in, and Nurse Badass shut the door behind him.
The room really was identical to his: one bed, one chair, a small table that emerged from the wall, and a private bathroom. What wasn’t at all identical was the person sitting at the head of the bed, arms crossed over the pillow in hir lap, a scowl on hir face as ze glared at Cody. Ten’s hair, an amorphous, nacreous color at the moment, was disheveled from hir post-Regen cleanup, and ze was wearing plain white scrubs that looked completely out of place. Compared to that, hir vituperative expression was surprisingly comforting.
“I don’t want you here,” Ten said immediately.
“I just wanted to see that you were okay,” Cody said, coming over and sitting down in the chair. He walked slowly, not just to make sure Ten was aware of every movement but also because he was tired, and drained, and knew that trying to hide that from Ten right now would be futile. Maybe a little sympathy would help the cause.
Ten made a pfftt sound. “Obviously I’m fine, you idiot, they wouldn’t let you in here to bumble around if I wasn’t. Now go.”
“In a minute,” Cody said with a sigh, tilting his head toward the ceiling. He hadn’t even realized how badly he’d wanted to see Ten, to be assured that ze really was okay. He knew that ze wasn’t, but still, the relief was there in him, trickling out like a raincloud just beginning to release its burden. “I’m pretty tired,” he remarked apropos of nothing, but it spurred Ten into talking again.
“Of course you’re tired,” ze snapped, “you’re a fucking natural who can’t use Regen to make up for everything you lack, and you’re a moron who doesn’t have the sense to stay in his own fucking room while he’s recovering, and you’re a, a, an imbecile for coming and bothering me when I said that I didn’t want to see you! It’s not like I need you around to be happy, all right? I’m just fine without you.”
Ten said it with such conviction that Cody’s heart panged, because at that moment he knew Ten was desperately trying to believe it hirself. If Cody wasn’t careful, ze would repeat it until ze was screaming it, because Ten had to be independent in order to be happy.
Cody, on the other hand, had no such qualms about independence.
“Well, I’m not fine without you,” he said, making no effort to mask the pain in his voice, and Ten’s quick, harsh breathing suddenly softened. “Everything is a mess.” And it was, holy shit, it was. “And I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff during a storm and any second now the wind will throw me out into the ocean, and I’ll drown there. I needed to see you with my own eyes, just to make…sure.” They stared at each other for a long moment, and the tense set of Ten’s mouth slowly went away until, eventually, ze sighed.
“What are you doing sitting like that in the chair, you’ll damage yourself. Get over here.” Ze scooted down the bed and pointed at where ze’d been sitting, and Cody obeyed and got himself there, a little awkwardly. “You know, you use a lot of strange metaphors,” Ten said as ze pulled the blanket back and tucked the pillow ze’d been gripping behind Cody’s back.
Cody smiled a little. “Comes from growing up on Pandora. The place is mostly water.”
“It shows you’re provincial, though. You should make an effort to be more cosmopolitan.”
Cody chuckled. “Yeah, right, because nobody knows anymore who I am, where I’m from or who my parents are. I’m the provincial as far as people here are concerned.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to act that way.”
“I’m tired of acting like something else,” Cody said with a sigh. “I don’t know if I’m cut out to be a spy, Ten. It’s what they wanted me here for, but I just don’t think I’d be very good at it. I’m a shit liar, and I really am too well-known because of my dads.” And after Kyle’s trial, it’ll only be worse, he wanted to add, but Ten hadn’t asked and Cody wasn’t going to be the first person to bring Kyle up.
“Then you shouldn’t be a spy,” Ten said immediately, more relaxed now that Cody had imagined ze could be after the tension between them when he first came in. “It’s a ridiculous waste of your time, there are plenty of other people who can do that, and besides, who would you be spying for? The Federation might not last all that much longer in its current incarnation, and the last thing you want is to be on the opposite side from your family. No, that’s stupid, don’t even think about it.”
“Okay.” Cody leaned against the wall and yawned.
“You can work with me, I’m going to have a lab like you won’t believe, and I’ll need you there anyway so I can do trials and run tests, because I still think I can come up with a solution for your problem, and…I’m sorry, am I boring you?” Ten asked acidly, but ze was already coaxing Cody further down onto the bed.
“No, you’re not boring,” Cody said honestly. “I’m just tired.”
“Then you should go to sleep.”
“But I don’t want to leave.”
There was a pause, and then— “Don’t leave. Stay. There’s enough room for two, I’m small, and besides I’m used to your snoring anyway.”
“And don’t think I don’t realize that you’re being manipulative, because I do, I am the master of manipulation, and you are a child compared to my own brilliance.” Ten looked a little pale as ze said it, probably thinking about Pamela, and how ze was a child compared to her, but they didn’t go there. Not right now.
“Yeah, but I’m in bed with you and you’re not yelling at me, so,” Cody almost shrugged, thought better of it and smiled. “I’m calling this a win.”
“More like a temporary cease-fire. A truce, at best,” Ten chided him, but Cody didn’t care because Ten was smiling back at him, just a little, which meant he’d done this much right, at least.
“Sounds good to me.”