Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Forty-Two

Notes: Oh my god, it's the last chapter. It's the end! Almost 70k and one year later, it's the end! Whaaaaaaat?!? It's a bit of an open question, but that's because this universe never really ends. I'm sure I'll return to it after the next story, which will be a continuation of last year's The Train. So! Gimme a week to put myself in order and I'll compile this onto a single post to make reading easier, and...well, wow. Thanks for following along and loving my people so much :)

Title: Reformation: Chapter Forty-Two

***


Chapter Forty-Two



Cody didn’t know what to do next.

Ten would say that was a fairly normal state of being for him, but Ten was caught in the same boat. Ze dealt with it by throwing hirself into science: modifying the shield on the hoverbike, testing the fuel mixture, idly designing a better waste management system for the enormous Drifter ship that was still floating above Pandora, riddled with problems and slowly being fixed. Ten had plenty to keep hirself occupied. For Cody, things were…a little different.

Maybe it was more fair to say that he didn’t know what was going to happen next, to anybody. Independent action was all well and good, but sometimes life took over the controls. In this case, “life” was “a huge, sticky morass of political, military, and socioeconomic explosions rocking the Federation ‘verse in all directions.” News reports from Olympus showed the Senate under the direct control of Admiral Liang, a situation unlikely to change in the near future. It was far from business as usual, though. Everything about that business was under review, from the way contracts were assigned to non-governmental entities to the data used to determine allotments and supply status for various Fringe planets. A lot of Central System leaders had protested the changes, to which the Admiral said they were welcome to initialize proceedings for withdrawing from the Federation any time they wanted.

No planet had withdrawn a membership from the Federation for over a century, and the Central System had been entrenched in position and power for twice that. One of their governors decided to push things and try, and the speed at which Liang had signed off on the preliminary paperwork for Monteyo’s exit had alarmed its citizens so much that the government had had to beg to withdraw the petition, weakening their status. Things were unstable, and instability made most people reach for whatever they could hold onto that was rock-solid. Plenty of corporations were folding under the weight of sudden abandonment by their CEOs, and law and order was hanging by a thread in most places.

The upheaval touched Pandora differently, mostly because it was a Fringe planet already used to being ignored, and partly because—well, a good portion of the entire Federation’s fleet was using its resurrected space dock. There were no questions of more piracy, not on Pandora or any other planet within easy jump distance. In fact, for the first time in more than a decade, not a single planet on the Fringe had suffered any sort of external attack for over two weeks. Plenty of people had a lot to say about “state-sponsored terrorism,” but Cody didn’t let himself dwell on that either. His issues all hit a little closer to home.

He'd made it. He’d done what he set out to do, made it to Pandora and found his father in an almost-miraculous fashion. He should be happy. He should be thrilled with the way things had turned out, but it had all become so…brittle instead. Nothing was the way he’d left it. Nothing was the way he remembered it, and nothing, Cody was coming to understand, would ever be the same.

For starters, Miles was going to Perelan. Claudia and the girls were already there, and had been welcomed by the House of Grenn as political refugees. When Cody had asked his grandfather why, Miles had sighed. “I was basically illegally ordered back into the field. The people who put me here are still out there, even if Liang’s got a chokehold on the military at the moment. They tried to kill my family. Until I know for sure that they’re out of power, I’m not going to risk living on a Federation planet, and going into the Beyond isn’t an option, not with the girls. Perelan’s ambassadors offered a temporary refuge, and I’m going to take them up on it until the Senate works out a guarantee of immunity and safety.”

Even worse, Grennson and Darrel were going with them. They were still technically a part of the Academy, but the admiral had personally signed off on a study abroad for both of them. “It will help Darrel further his language skills,” Grennson had said cheerfully. “And give me a chance to educate my people about the incredible complexities of Federation life. Our matriarch had wanted to push for Perelan to become the first non-human world to enter the Federation, but now she’s thinking it might be better to form an alliance with the Dorn and the Maazi. Humanity has turned out to be rather unpredictable.”

A long-term stay on Perelan wasn’t really an option for Cody, though. The atmosphere there was so toxic to him that he hadn’t been able to spend any time outside, not without taking major precautions. So instead of going with his friends and the rest of his family, for now Cody, Ten, Jonah and Garrett were staying on Pandora. Ten didn’t really care, as long as ze had access to a lab. Jonah was just happy to have all of them together at last. But Garrett…

Garrett had been different since he joined them on Pandora. He seemed subdued, less talkative than Cody remembered, less inclined to join in their conversations. A week ago, Cody had asked his father if Garrett was still mad at him, even though his stepdad had assured him that he wasn’t. Jonah had shaken his head. “He’s a little off-kilter right now, but he’ll come around. Just give him some time.”

Garrett wasn’t supposed to need time, though. He wasn’t supposed to get off-kilter. He was always in control, always perfect, always healthy—how could he not be, when he had full access to Regen and was smarter than most entire groups of people? The change made Cody nervous, and he tiptoed around his parents until Ten finally got sick of it.

“If you want to know something, you have to ask,” ze’d insisted one night, after commenting that Cody seemed unusually mopey. “Even if there isn’t an answer to the question yet, it’s better to know, isn’t it? That way you won’t be distracted when I’m giving you a blowjob, either.”

“I’m not distracted!”

“Prove it.”

Cody had definitely proved it that evening, and the next day he took Ten’s advice and went to Garrett directly. It was kind of hard to find him: he wasn’t in the command center, wasn’t supervising any of the ship repairs or communicating with Perelan or any of a hundred other things that would have been normal for him. Instead Cody found him standing just outside the force field that kept out the worst of the weather, his eyes closed against the cool mist that whipped up into an icy frenzy every now and then.

Cody stopped next to Garrett and stood awkwardly for a moment. “Hey.”

“Hi.”

Nope, his dad wasn’t going to make this easy on him. “What are you doing out here?”

Garrett shrugged. “Nothing in particular.”

But Garrett was always doing something! “Why?”

“Because it’s nice.”

“And cold. And wet.” On impulse, Cody reached out and took his stepfather’s hand. “Walk with me?”

Garrett smiled slightly. It wasn’t the beam that Cody was used to seeing, but he’d take it. “All right.”

Cody led him back into The Box, and after a moment steered them in the direction of the playground. It was where he’d run to, back when he first wanted to join the Academy and his dad had told him no. Garrett had been the one to mediate that fight, the one to figure out how to make things work for everybody. It was time for Cody to do the same for him. He tugged Garrett down onto a swing, then sat down beside him. “Are you sick?” he asked point-blank.

“Hmm.” To Cody’s dismay, his dad actually had to consider the question. “No, I wouldn’t say so. Not right now.”

“But you’re acting differently.”

“Because things are different. I’m different, you’re different, the whole universe is different. If that’s not a good reason to change things up a little, I don’t know what is.”

“But you don’t seem happy,” Cody pressed. “Not like you used to.”

“Was I happy, or was I just busy?” Garrett wondered out loud. “I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been breathtakingly busy for over a decade, now. I think…I think everything I am just needs a break from that.”

Cody felt like he’d been punched. “You weren’t happy before?”

Now it was Garrett’s turn to take his hand. “I was, when I was with you and Jonah. When I had my family. But that happened less and less as time went on, and I know that I’m not going to be able to keep everyone within arm’s reach of me forever. Look at Miles and the girls, look at Robbie and Wyl. Look at you.”

“I’m so sorry—”

“I know, I’m not mad about you leaving the Academy anymore,” Garrett soothed. “Although I maintain that the way you did it was tempting fate. But I’ve been taking care of so many people and processes and ideas for so long, I hardly know what to do with myself when all of that goes away. I think now is as good a chance as I’m ever going to get to figure it out.”

“But you’re not going to do it…alone, right?” The thought of Garrett deciding he needed to completely separate himself from the rest of them, from his family, made Cody’s heart race.

Garrett shook his head. “I’m not leaving Jonah. I’m not going anywhere, I just need to take the time to consider what happens next without thinking ten steps in advance. It’s exhausting and it never works out how I foresee it anyhow, no matter how good I think I am at it.” He smiled crookedly. “You’re the one who drove that lesson home for me, and it’s good that you did. My life, my future…they don’t and shouldn’t revolve around your choices. You’re an adult now, for all that you’re still my kid.”

A month ago, Cody would have rejoiced at such a statement of independence. Now, though… “I’ll always be your kid.”

“I know.” Garrett leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Let’s go find your dad and get him to make us dinner, huh?”

“I’ll see if I can pull Ten out of hir lab.”

“If anyone can, it’s you.” Garrett stood up and put his hands in his pockets. “And if you can’t, well…nobody can control everything.” He sounded considerably lighter saying it this time, like he was breathing easier. “And it’s better not to try.”

They walked in silence back to the house, but at least for now, it was a contented silence.


The End

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Forty-One

Notes: Did I say one more chapter? I meant at least one more. This one isn't exactly a sweet, light-hearted reunion, but that's coming, I swear! In the meantime, have some Garrett and Jonah. Some ACTUAL Jonah.

Title: Reformation: Chapter Forty-One

***

Chapter Forty-One



Five minutes to docking.

Jonah let the text pass across the visual input from his implant and vanish, trying to ignore the way the words ratcheted up the tension crawling across his shoulders and tightening his chest. There was no need for him to be nervous. This was his husband, for cryin’ out loud. This was the person he’d been trying to reach out to for over a month, the man who’d featured in every one of Jonah’s daydreams, sustained him with his memory. He wanted him here, right now, yesterday, before any of this had ever happened. So why was he so…not nervous…concerned?

The texts didn’t help. They’d been cleared for enough bandwidth to send video messages for the past two days of Garrett’s travel, but his husband stubbornly clung to words only, no visuals. Jonah wondered what that said about his husband’s state of mind, and tried not to let fear get the better of him. Garrett didn’t blame him for getting shot down, of course he didn’t. There was no way he could have known that Pandora was going to be invaded then and there, and Lacey had come through okay, so there was no reason to hold a grudge. Not that he would, it wasn’t Garrett’s style, but…

But maybe he resented the fact that their son had spurned every safety Garrett had offered in favor of flying to the Fringe in a Drifter deathtrap with people who’d as soon sell him for parts as take care of him, all to find Jonah. Maybe he was too busy dealing with the fallout from the state of near-anarchy in the Federation senate to give Jonah more than the cursory attention he was getting. Or maybe…

Maybe the thing that was wrong here was Garrett, and he didn’t want Jonah to know. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d neglected his health when something caught his attention. Usually Jonah was there to badger him into taking better care of himself, or Miles, or Claudia. But this time around there had been no one, and it had been more than three standard months since Jonah had physically been in his husband’s presence. A lot could happen in that amount of time.

Jonah determinedly relaxed his clenched fists and made himself take a deep inhale, then exhale slowly, loosening some of the pain in his chest. It would be fine. He knew things were gonna take a while to get back to normal, and for a first meeting—well, there was a reason he’d asked Cody and Ten to stay behind. If they were gonna fight, the kids didn’t need to see that. If they were gonna cry—and Jonah couldn’t speak for Garrett, but it seemed like his tear ducts had been on a hair trigger all morning and jut seeing his husband’s bright hair would be enough to set him off—then they didn’t need to see that either. It wasn’t shameful, but it was personal.

Jonah squinted up into the surprisingly-sunny sky, looking for the familiar outline of his husband’s ship. There—coming in slow, the sleek lines beautifully illuminated by the daylight. Jonah shivered, anticipation and desire warring with his nervousness now in a way that made his muscles try to jump straight out of his skin. There he was. Just another minute and Jonah would have Garrett in his arms again.

The ship set down smoothly on the landing pad, hydraulics settling with what sounded like satisfied hisses. The outer hatch opened and the walkway extended, and Jonah held his breath. Any second now…any second…

Can you come aboard?

What. The. Hell? Why was he being asked to board when there was a whole planet waiting beneath their feet? Jonah felt a cold wave of fresh anxiety sweep over him. Sure, darlin’.

With steps that trembled despite his best efforts, Jonah headed up the ramp and toward the cockpit. Garrett was there, but he was sitting down at the small table that unfolded from the wall behind the captain’s chair, the ship’s portable medkit open next to his left arm.

He looked…ghostly, was the best word Jonah could come up with off the top of his head. So pale he was wan, too thin for the cobalt blue suit he was wearing. Still gorgeous, still the best thing Jonah had seen since Cody almost crash-landed here weeks ago, but not well.

“Darlin’?” he asked, careful not to press too far into the cockpit. He didn’t want Garrett to feel crowded. “What’s goin’ on?”

Instead of answering him directly, Garrett looked to the side and said, “So, you see that too?”

Jonah felt his hands clench again. Shit. He was having hallucinations. He needed the med unit—hell, at this point he probably could use an hour or so in a Regen tank, to help regain some of the muscle mass he’d lost—but Jonah couldn’t just up and demand it. Especially not if Garrett wasn’t sure he was real. “It’s me,” he said softly. “It’s Jonah, I’m here. Really here.”

“Of course that’s exactly what he’d say if he were like you,” Garrett said miserably to the wall. Or, no—he was definitely focused on something. Someone. Whatever vision he was having. “What if he isn’t?” He glanced back at the medkit, it’s glove port already open. All Garrett had to do was stick his hand inside and it would pop out an assessment and deliver an initial, stablilizing dose of Regen.

Jonah fought off the urge to take his husband’s hand and stick it in there himself. He hadn’t seen Garrett in the grips of his illness often—usually his husband was meticulous about maintaining his Regen levels. But if he hadn’t been taking meds, he’d probably gone off them for a reason. Jonah couldn’t force him to use the kit, any more than he could force his son never to do anything that might endanger his fragile, natural health. As long as Garrett wasn’t hurting himself…then Jonah was gonna to talk him into it, slow and gentle. “Sweetheart,” he said. “C’mon, let’s get you fixed up, yeah? Then you’ll know I am who you think I am.”

“Who do you think I think you are?”

Jonah was almost surprised to be directly addressed, but grateful for the opportunity. “You think I’m a hallucination of Jonah. But I’m really here, darlin’. You made it to Pandora and I’m here, I’m fine. Cody is back home waiting for us, him and Ten, and Miles is in the command center. They all want to see you.”

“Why?”

Good God, did he want to reach out and grab his husband and just hold him in his arms until they both stopped shaking. Jonah forced the words out through his suddenly-sticky throat. “Because we all love you. So much. We want you with us, not here on board. Come with me, Garrett. Come on outside, get some fresh air.”

“What if you go away?”

Jonah shook his head. “I won’t go away.”

“One of you will, eventually.” His eyes teared up. “I don’t want either of you to leave.”

“Nobody wants to leave you either,” Jonah pressed. “And I won’t, I promise. I’m here, and I’m not gonna let go of you.”

Garrett looked away from him, back at the nothing to his left, and cocked his head like he was listening to someone else. “Are you sure?” he asked after a minute. His hand trembled above the medkit. “Are you really sure?” There was a long silence, and then Garrett closed his eyes and leaned forward, almost like he was leaning into a touch. A moment later, he lowered his hand into the medkit glove, which beeped alarmingly and flashed a whole bunch of lights before finally returning to a steady green. Jonah held his breath.

Garrett opened his eyes again, and they fixed steadily on Jonah. “You’re…really here. This is real.”

Jonah nodded. “Yeah, darlin’.” He was crying now, there was no way around it, and in the end he didn’t have to go to Garrett—his husband came to him, wrapped him up in an embrace so tight Jonah’s ribs clenched against the pressure, but he didn’t care, just held Garrett back twice as hard.


It was a start. That was all he needed right now.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth of July

Hi darlins!

It's a holiday here, which means while I'll try to get my writing done (we're down to the last chapter, WHAAAAT) it's also very likely I'll spend most of the day doing chores/hanging out with my man/chilling. So, forgive my lapse, and if you're celebrating it, have a wonderful Independence Day!