The rains on Pandora were constant for most of the year. Some of the time it was a light drizzle, and on those days the city council left the environmental shields open and let the rain come down on Pandora City, or “the Box,” as most of the residents called it. It was always cool and moist, and after a year of living there, Cody could barely remember what it had been like back on Olympus, where the air was hot and bright and smelled like blossoming flowers.
Occasionally, when it was Garrett’s turn to tell Cody a bedtime story, he would talk about some of the planets he had lived on. Paradise was Cody’s favorite, because it was so strange there, nothing but rock and sand and sun. Garrett would load pictures of Paradise into the walls and they would lie together on Cody’s bed and watch the brown, barren landscape fill the room. Sometimes Daddy would join them, just for a while right at the end. He’d pet both of their heads, maybe lingering just a little on Garrett’s, like he was worried about something and didn’t want to say it. Cody knew enough about his dad to know that he worried a lot about Garrett, but did his best not to show it. It had been…not bad, when Garrett had gone away, but quiet. Sad.
It was a lot better now that Garrett was back. He and Daddy talked a lot, and they laughed and touched and they kissed, gross, even in front of him. Someone was always home when Cody got out of school, and Garrett would play games with him after Cody finished his homework, and Daddy usually cooked dinner and made fun of Garrett for burning water, which was weird, because Daddy had to know that you couldn’t really do that. It must have been some kind of dumb grown-up humor. Anyways, they were all happy most of the time. Daddy might worry, but Cody never did.
Well, almost never. Today at school the alarm went off a half hour before classes ended. It was the first time it had ever gone off for real, and Mister Hugelin-Padin explained to them all that it wasn’t a drill this time, the alarm meant that the shields were being brought up for an emergency, and so they were going to get out a little early and had to go straight home. One of the aides offered to walk Cody back, but his house was really close and he didn’t want to be a baby about it even though it was kind of scary outside, with the sky going dark as the shields engaged. He walked until he was out of sight of the school, and then broke into a run the rest of the way. He was out of breath by the time he made it home, but it had to be a record. Cody was the fastest runner in his class.
When he got home after school and found the living room empty, Cody was kind of confused. It was Garrett’s turn to be home with him, and he always met him at the door. Yeah, Cody was early, but only by a half an hour.
“Garrett?” Cody dumped his backpack at the door, conveniently ignoring the fact that he’d be scolded for leaving it there as soon as one of his dads saw it. He kicked off his shoes and remembered to hang his dripping coat on the little hook that was his, then jumped from the tile to the carpet in one big leap, so he wouldn’t leave wet footprints on the stone. His socks were kind of damp, but no one would be able to tell on the carpet.
“Garrett?” Cody looked to make sure Garrett wasn’t taking a nap on the couch, then walked down the hall. The bathroom was empty, and so was his room. Cody frowned, puzzled. Garrett had been back for almost six months, and he’d never not been here when it was his turn. Cody took the stairs two at a time, making his legs stretch way far, but that was how Daddy usually went up them. Someday he’d be tall like Daddy, and then this would be easy. Everything fun was easy when you were an adult.
Cody checked the upstairs bathroom, and then he checked Garrett’s room too, although he didn’t really think Garrett would be in there. It was just a place for Garrett to store the stuff he didn’t want to keep on his ship but that there wasn’t really room to put out here. A lot of it was clothes. Some of them were really weird, made from light, shiny fabrics with all sorts of hooks and buttons and zippers, that Garrett called his clubbing clothes. Cody asked if he could have some clubbing clothes too, but Daddy had very firmly said no, while Garrett laughed.
Finally Cody checked their bedroom. He was only allowed in when the door was open unless he knocked, and the door was closed right now. He knocked, but there was no answer, so Cody gingerly opened the door and looked inside. No Garrett. The bed was a mess, which totally wasn’t fair because they made Cody fix his covers every morning, and there were a couple small bottles and something long and bumpy and shiny out on the bedside table. Cody kind of wanted to go look, but Daddy had been really clear about him coming in and poking around without permission, so Cody sighed and shut the door again.
So, no Garrett. Maybe he would be home soon. Cody went back downstairs and made himself a protein-spread sandwich as a snack, mixing the banana, chocolate and chalaberry flavored ones so it was like eating dessert. He munched away and watched the clock tick over to when he’d normally have gotten home, and still Garrett wasn’t here. It was unnaturally dark outside, the environmental shields muting all the light, and after a few more minutes of waiting Cody decided that he’d better call his dad.
He fished his com unit out of his jacket pocket and tapped it. “Call Daddy.” A second later the light went green, which meant the link was open. “Daddy?”
“Cody?” Daddy sounded kind of distracted. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Garrett’s not home yet.”
There was a pause. “Are you okay?”
Cody rolled his eyes. His dad always asked that question, like Cody was still six instead of just turned seven now. “I’m fine.”
“Did Garrett leave you a note?”
“Um…” Cody checked the countertop, then the fridge. He turned on the holoscreen just to make sure Garrett hadn’t left a message there, then shook his head.
“You gotta speak up, bucko, I can’t see you on this thing.”
“No, he didn’t leave a note.”
“Okay.” Daddy was speaking kind of slow, like he was working something out in his head. “I’ll be home real soon, okay? We’ll figure it out.”
A sudden, awful thought struck Cody. “He didn’t leave, right Daddy?” Garrett had promised he wasn’t going to leave again; he had promised.
“No,” Daddy said immediately. “He didn’t leave. Probably something came up with work. I’ll figure it out. Stay inside, bucko. I’ll be home in a few minutes.”
“Okay.” Cody ended the call and felt his stomach do a little flip-flop. All of a sudden he wasn’t hungry for the rest of his sandwich, even though it had the best flavors in it. He left it on the counter and went over and sat on the couch. Space Rangers vs The Haunted Mansion was playing, which was kind of a dumb episode, but it was better than nothing and so he watched it until he heard the door chime. His dad came in still talking on his com, and he sounded kind of angry. It made Cody nervous until he realized his dad wasn’t talking to Garrett.
“It’s important because I’ve got a kid at home who needs supervision, and if one of his parents can’t be here then the other one needs to be informed…no, I didn’t get Garrett’s message, I’ve been ferrying supplies up to the Indigo all day, but you should have forwarded it to—no, it is a part of your goddamn job description.” Cody listened with wide eyes as his daddy said a curse word. That meant he was really mad. “You work for Resident Services, it’s your job to facilitate communication between families. The regular ground coms still haven’t been expanded to cover low orbit, which is where I’ve been for my entire shift…well next time, think about it.” He disconnected the call and took a deep breath, then turned toward Cody. “Hey, bucko.”
“Hi Daddy.” He waited for his dad to take off his jacket and shoes before asking, “Where’s Garrett?”
“Apparently he had to go fix some things Outside this morning. He wasn’t supposed to be gone long, and he did leave me a message, but I didn’t get it until just a few minutes ago.” Daddy got that worried line right between his eyebrows. “He was supposed to be back over an hour ago, though. I talked to the lab, and they haven’t heard from him since his shuttle landed.”
“So he’s still Outside?” “Outside” meant outside the city, outside the environmental shields, which were closed now. “But how’s he going to get back in?” Ships couldn’t permeate the shields when they were up. Cody felt his stomach roll over again. “The alarm went off at school and we all had to come right home, that means something’s wrong, right?”
“Tsunami alert,” Daddy said, coming over and sitting down next to him on the couch. Cody burrowed into his side immediately. “One of the big waves is coming in, kind of by surprise. It wasn’t supposed to be big enough to reach the city, but the scientists upgraded it and sounded the alarm. We’ll be fine in here.”
“But Garrett’s Outside!” Cody protested. Of course they’d be fine in the Box, it was always safe in here, but Garrett wasn’t with them.
“Yeah.” His dad took a deep breath and let it out slow, then tried a smile. It wasn’t a very good one. “But he’s in a good shuttle with a good pilot. I’m sure they’re holed up somewhere safe. They’ll wait the wave out and then they’ll come back once the shields are down.”
“Why didn’t they come back before the shields went up?”
“I don’t know,” Daddy said quietly. “We’ll have to ask him when he gets back.” He ruffled Cody’s hair, then tried to stand up. Cody clung to him like a monkey, and his dad took the hint and picked him up too. “I can’t cook dinner when I’m holdin’ onto you, bucko.”
“’M not hungry.”
“Not even for mac and cheese?”
Oh…that was Cody’s favorite, all gooey and cheesy and crispy on top. Daddy usually only made it for special occasions, or if Cody was feeling sick. He was feeling kind of sick right now, so it made sense that Daddy would want him to be better. “Okay,” he agreed finally, and his dad let him sit on the counter and help grate the cheese.
By the time they ate Cody was really hungry, and he finished two servings, but his dad hadn’t eaten very much of his own. “I’ll save it for later,” he said when Cody asked about it.
The com unit suddenly activated all on its own. “Advisory alert: wave impact in five minutes. All residents are required to remain indoors for the duration of the wave. Again, five minutes to wave impact. Remain indoors until you hear the relief bell sound.”
“You wanna watch it?” Daddy asked Cody after the com turned off. They had a big picture window at the top of the stairs that gave them a good view of the shields.
“Sure.” They put the dishes into the autoclave and then Daddy picked Cody up again, without him even having to ask, and they went upstairs. Usually Cody liked to watch the waves wash over the shields, but this time, as the faint light was replaced by no light at all and the thunderous crash of so much water filled his ears, all he felt was sick again. Garrett should be home, with them, and instead he was Outside where anything could happen. He could get washed away. He could fall into the ocean and never come back. He could die.
“Hey now, don’t cry,” his dad murmured, kissing his cheek. “Garrett’ll be fine. He’ll be back real soon and he’ll tell us all about it.”
Cody wasn’t stupid, he knew when his daddy said things just to make him feel better, but it did help a little. He sniffed and wiped his face on his dad’s shirt, and they stood quiet for a while longer until the thunder died down and the water washed away again.
“They’ll open the shields soon, and they’ll send another shuttle out to look for him if he doesn’t call,” Daddy said soothingly.
“Could you go look for him?” His dad was a real good pilot, the best. He’d find Garrett super fast.
“Nah, bucko, I’m stayin’ here with you.”
“It’s gonna be fine.” Daddy walked them back downstairs and sat on the couch. Cody spread out but kept his head in his dad’s lap. “You look tired. You want to go to bed?”
Cody shook his head vehemently. “I want to stay up with you.”
Daddy didn’t even argue this time. “Okay. But go wash your teeth and get into your sleep clothes just in case. Maybe take a quick shower, too.” He sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. “You kinda smell a lot like a little boy right now.”
“I am a boy!”
“I know, and phew.” His dad waved the air in front of his nose theatrically.
Maybe it was the glue. Cody had kind of gotten some of it on his shirt during art. And then he fell in the mud at recess, but the aide had helped him wash most of it out of his hair. But okay, maybe he did smell, just a little. “Fine,” he said with a huge sigh. He pushed up off the couch and headed for his room just as the relief bell sounded.
As he picked out the sleep clothes he wanted to wear, Cody could hear his dad on the com with someone, but he was talking too quietly for Cody to hear. Well, if it was important, his dad would tell him about it later. Cody finally decided on the blue sleep set, because it had ships and teddy bears on it, then went into the bathroom and got into the shower. He conscientiously put his clothes in the cleaner before he got in, and then remembered that he’d left his backpack by the front door. And Daddy hadn’t even noticed it. That meant Daddy was really worried, because he always noticed when the backpack was there. Usually because he tripped over it.
Cody washed fast, bounced up and down while he waited for the sonic cleaner to finish with his teeth, then ran back out into the living room. He jumped on the couch and snuggled close again, and his dad covered him with the blanket that Garrett’s stepmom had sent them. It was the softest thing Cody had ever felt, and had a warmer built into the fabric. Daddy turned the holoscreen on but turned the volume down, and stroked his hand through Cody’s damp hair, slowly untangling the curls.
Cody didn’t want to sleep yet, but the show was boring and his eyelids just got heavier and heavier. He wasn’t going to sleep, though. He was just going to close his eyes for a while. Just…for a little…while.
Jonah watched Cody run off to get cleaned up and waited until he was back in his room, out of hearing distance, before he called the lab. Dr. Sims answered almost immediately. “Jonah?”
“Martina, what’s happening?” The relief bell sounded and Jonah felt a corresponding tremor of relief resonate through his chest. They’d reopen the environmental shields now. “You’re sendin’ someone out after him, right?”
“Soon,” she said, but her tone was more annoyed than comforting. “But it’s not just the tsunami, Jonah, there’s a hell of a storm on the coast, and the equipment that Garrett’s working on is in the thick of it. The security team won’t go out after them until it’s safe to fly, and that’s not going to happen for at least a few hours.”
“Have you at least contacted him?” Jonah asked, trying hard to keep his voice down for Cody’s sake but really wanting to yell. This was important, damn it. “Is he okay?”
“We haven’t heard from him for several hours.” Martina didn’t believe in sugarcoating the truth. “One of our com arrays is down thanks to the storm, and it’ll take some time to repair. He made it out there without problems, though.”
“Who’s his pilot?”
Martina sighed. “Jonah, try to relax. We have protocols in place for what to do if things get a little hairy. Garrett knows them all, even if he doesn’t have to use them very often. He’s fine.”
“Why was he the one filling in for Lila, anyway? Why not a technician?”
“Garrett’s had some training in Lila’s geological equipment, more than any of the technicians. It’s one of her experiments that’s on the line here, and she’s not well enough to head into the field right now.”
Jonah knew that Lila had trouble with Regen treatments every now and then, like almost all of the people living on Pandora. She wasn’t immune to the effects of it like Cody, who was destined to grow old and die much faster than 99.9% of all humanity. None of the treatments used to prolong human life, developed over thousands of years of genetic experimentation, would work on Cody. He was a natural, a throwback to an earlier and harder time. Jonah tried not to dwell on it.
Garrett, on the other hand, was perfectly healthy. He was only a contractor on Pandora, and even though he’d promised to stay here with Jonah and Cody, Jonah sometimes thought that it inevitable that Garrett was going to leave someday. He was brilliant and beautiful and sophisticated and used to things going his way, and being stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a storm unable to contact anyone wasn’t going to put him in a good headspace.
“I’ll get him back to you as soon as possible,” Martina promised.
“Okay.” Jonah turned off his com and stared at nothing for a while. Cody came back out quickly and jumped on him, pressing in close. Jonah covered them both up with a blanket and turned the holo back on to one of Cody’s shows, and he kept it on until he felt his son drift off into sleep. Jonah put the show on mute and stared down at his child.
It was funny, actually, how much Cody looked like Garrett. His hair was a darker blonde, curly instead of straight but still close in appearance, and he was a little small for his age, delicate instead of long and lanky like Jonah had been. Jack, Cody’s other biological father, had been dark-haired and dark-eyed and damn handsome, but he didn’t have much in common, physically, with their kid. After Cody had been taken out of his growth pod and handed over to them for the first time, Jack had commented, numbly, on how little their son looked like him. It had been the first sign of the problems he’d had with Cody, and the first cold dash of impending reality for Jonah.
Jack was gone now; he’d been out of their lives for years. Jonah had talked to him all of once in the past year, and that was via message, not face to face, not even over a holoscreen. It was good that way, better for all of them. It had been twice that long since he’d talked to his mother.
It was funny, actually. Garrett talked to his family at least once a week, and he did his best to include Jonah and Cody in the conversations. In the past six months Jonah felt like he’d grown closer to Garrett’s family than he could even remember being with his own, and Cody couldn’t get enough of Robbie and Wyl, Garrett’s best friends. Once they had the time it was pretty much a given that they’d all go back to Paradise for a visit, which was a good sign. They were balancing their lives, they were stitching themselves together. Jonah just hoped that they could stitch tight enough.
Cody stretched and pushed his face against Jonah’s thigh, still sleeping, but as unable to keep still asleep as he was when he was awake. Jonah kept stroking his head, switching sometimes to the top of his back. Cody settled after a little bit, taking away Jonah’s distraction, so he played Garrett’s message again, just to hear his voice.
Hey babe, I’m not going to be able to meet Cody after school. I’ve got to go fix a piece of shit system in the middle of nowhere before some practically valueless data is lost. He laughed softly. I’m sure you can tell how thrilled I am. I don’t know when I’ll be back in, but I’ll make it up to you guys, okay? I love you.
Garrett ended every message with “I love you.” Even when he was annoyed, pissed or generally short-tempered, he always made it a point to say that at the end of his messages. Garrett was surprisingly good at talking things out, a lot better at it than Jonah, who tended to ignore problems in the hope that they’d work themselves out over time. Garrett managed to make Jonah talk, even when he wasn’t interested in doing so, instead of letting things fester. Being forced into functionality, when he hadn’t even realized he was dysfunctional, was a strange experience.
Jonah shut his eyes and leaned his head back against the top of the couch. He wasn’t going to sleep, he knew that much, but the only thing that was preventing him from getting up and pacing was the weight of Cody’s head on his leg, and he didn’t want to wake up his kid. Jonah sucked in a deep breath, held it for a moment, then let it out slowly. He tried not to dwell on how much he wanted to talk to Garrett right now, how much he wanted to feel him, how much he wanted to be the one flying him around instead of entrusting him to some other pilot who might not know what he was doing.
It was better to think about other things. Cody rolled over and pressed his face against Jonah’s stomach, and Jonah smiled briefly. That was another thing his boys had in common. Neither of them were inclined towards stillness. Garrett slept deeply, but he’d gone from lying mostly still at night to clinging like a limpet, shifting and rolling and grabbing variously. Jonah would wake up sweating under Garrett’s weight, or so tightly wrapped in his arms that it was hard to breath. It was the closeness that both of them craved without having to talk about it, which Jonah appreciated. And it very often led to sex, which both of them appreciated. And…
And it was so not the thing to be thinking about when he was sitting up on the couch with his sleeping son. Jonah sighed again, quietly, and turned his attention back to the holoscreen. At least with Cody asleep, Jonah could change the channel away from cartoons.
It was cold, wet and dark. A perfect trifecta of discomfort. Garrett resisted the urge to cover his ears against the continual heavy pound of water on the bunker roof, and tried to ignore the crawling, itchy dampness of his clothes. They were designed to move water away from the skin, but when you were basically marinating in a frigid six-inch pool, there wasn’t much that could be done. A few feet away his pilot leaned up against the wall, closed eyes cast upward, a picture of misery. Her brown hair clung like limp seaweed to her face, obscuring her pale, square features, and the only noise she made was an occasional sniff. Garrett wanted to say something consoling, but there wasn’t any way he could approach that genuinely. After all, it wasn’t him who had mistimed things and lost the shuttle.
It wasn’t entirely LeeAnna’s fault either. The wave had come faster and higher than anyone had predicted, which stung because Garrett’s environmental modeling had been way off this time around. The colony’s single weather satellite was on the fritz, so it wasn’t reliable either, and by the time they’d made it out to the coastal lab the storm had taken out the closest communications array. There was no way to get back in touch with the Box, and so they’d taken refuge in the underground bunker, per emergency orders, and waited for the wave to pass.
Then things really got fucked up. LeeAnna didn’t secure the ship well enough to the landing pad, and the all-encompassing tsunami washed it away like a grain of sand. The bunker had withstood the wave, but not well enough to keep water out, and now there was the rain on top of that. Continual dripdripdrips of water splashed into the dank pool at their feet, an unsynchronized accompaniment to the gloom. It was so much like a scene out of obnoxiously atmospheric literature that part of Garrett was tempted to laugh. A small part, a jerky, perky part. The rest of him felt better being pissed.
“They’re never gonna let me fly again,” LeeAnna said suddenly, her voice quivering a little. Garrett didn’t know whether it was from the cold or her state of mind, but she sounded pathetic either way. “I can’t believe I lost an entire shuttle.”
“You’re not the first one,” he replied philosophically.
“No, I am!” she insisted, her voice rising a little at the end. “Danny just scraped the bottom of his on a landing, and yeah, it flipped, but at least there’s something left to repair. Mine is completely gone. Gone! Fuck, I should have stuck to sims and kept my job with the factory. They’ll never trust me again. Shit. Shit.” Her teeth were chattering now, and she wrapped her arms around her chest even more tightly.
An unhappy thought occurred to Garrett. “Are you a natural?”
“Why?” she demanded, suddenly angry. “What, you think we can’t be shuttle pilots just because we’re naturals? Think we can’t do the work, huh? Is that what you think?”
“No…” he said slowly, revising his words before they came out. Time to tread cautiously. “It’s just, it’s cold down here. There’s who knows what kind of bacteria in the water, and I don’t want you to get sick.” He forced a chuckle. “Hell, I don’t want to get sick either. We should conserve body heat.”
She looked suspicious. “Aren’t you married?”
Garrett rolled his eyes. “I’m not coming on to you, I’m cold. Just come here.”
LeeAnna pried herself off the wall, shivering too hard to really argue the point. She sloshed over to him and tentatively leaned in. Garrett took over and pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her and briskly rubbed her back. After a few seconds of stiffness she faded into his embrace with a quiet moan of relief, and he felt her muscles unknot in ragged jerks. And the movement helped bring up his own temperature a bit.
You’re not my type anyway, he snarked to himself. His type was hours away, someplace warm and dry, probably sleeping at this time of night. All alone in their huge bed…just the thought of Jonah sprawled out beneath their comforter made his chest tighten a little. Surreptitiously, Garrett checked his com. No signal. He hadn’t had a signal for hours.
It was the perfect storm. No way to communicate, no way to get out of here, and “here” was an absolute bitch. It wasn’t as though it was Garrett’s first time in a bunker; he’d played a part in too many of his father’s war games to be unfamiliar with bunkers, and the last time he’d been “kidnapped” he’d been held for three days. But that bunker had come with amenities, including entertainment and a bored, suggestible soldier who was more than happy to keep his “prisoner” occupied while they waited for the counter-assault. This bunker had none of the same attractions, and even if Garrett had been standing chest to chest with the sexiest man alive, he still wouldn’t have been compelled to do anything. That was monogamy for you, taking all the fun out of ways to combat boredom.
Hopefully Cody hadn’t been too upset when Garrett hadn’t come home. He was a smart kid, he knew the drill, but Garrett still worried. Hell, worrying was kind of his job now. He was practically a parent. Jonah would say that he was Cody’s parent, but Garrett knew that that wasn’t technically true. They weren’t married, after all, despite LeeAnna’s perception. The subject had never even been broached. Why the hell hadn’t it been broached?
Because Jonah is scared to push, scared to ask, scared to make any extra demands. Despite everything, Garrett knew his lover was still worried that he was going to take off. His ex had done a number on the man’s self-esteem, and no matter how many times Garrett told him he loved him and was staying, it still hadn’t sunk in. Jonah just smiled and kissed him, or changed the subject. The man was a master at avoidance.
And now here Garrett was, hugging a distraught, distrusting woman in the middle of nowhere while they waited for rescue, so tired and cold he could barely stand, wet in all the wrong places and chafing mercilessly. Perfect time to think about marriage; why not? It wasn’t like he was any stranger to crazy right now.
Honestly, Garrett had never considered getting married before, not even to Robbie. Marriage was an ancient institution that didn’t have the same social consequences these days; in fact it was more symbolic than anything. There were enough alternatives to marriage out there that most couples just didn’t bother. His parents had been an exception, driven by the old-world conservatism of his grandmother.
Still, marriage was just so…quaint. Partnerships were more common, and simple contracts even more so, but when he considered the options, Garrett knew that those weren’t going to cut it. A contract would send the wrong signal, and a formal partnering wouldn’t be emotional enough, not for either of them. Garrett wanted forever, he wanted Jonah and Cody to officially be his family. He wanted there to be options for them if something moronic like this happened in the future and he ended up dead. He wanted Cody to be able to get advanced medical treatments back in the central system, and getting there would be a lot easier if they were married. He wanted Jonah to look at him and realize that he wasn’t going anywhere, because he loved what they had together, and what they were together. He never wanted it to end.
“What?” LeeAnna mumbled against his shoulder.
“Nothing.” Just coming to a life-changing decision, here. Marriage. Garrett wanted it. So many of his exes would be laughing their fucking heads off if they knew.
Garrett spent the next hour daydreaming—or maybe it was closer to hallucinating, he was practically out of his mind with fatigue—about how he’d propose. Something romantic, definitely. Dinner out at a restaurant, a custom-made ring or a brand or whatever Drifters used to signify permanence. Fancy suits, decadent dessert, getting down on one knee, the works. Classic. It would be awesome. They’d be awesome.
“Awesome,” he slurred. Yeah, he could do that.
Finally the rain let up enough for another shuttle to reach them. No one said a word as the rescue crew hauled them up out of the bunker, other than to ask if they were okay and attach portable warmers to their clothes to start raising their body temperatures. LeeAnna fell asleep as soon as they were strapped in, but Garrett fought to keep himself awake. He couldn’t sleep yet, he still had to get home to his guys.
Martina was waiting for him back at the lab. “What happened to you?”
“Got stranded,” Garrett muttered, rubbing his hands together. The heater was good for his core temperature, but it kind of sucked with the extremities. “Lost the shuttle, lost the coms.”
“And the experiment?”
“Fuck the experiment.”
Martina scowled. “That equipment is expensive, Garrett, and nature getting in the way is no reason to scrap months’ worth of work. Tell me you re-secured it before you took cover.”
“I re-secured it.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying!” he exclaimed. “I’m too miserable to lie right now! I re-secured the damn equipment and uploaded the latest data to my portable before I scuttled into a hole in the ground like a fucking cockroach. Where I was cold and wet and stuck with a bitchy pilot and didn’t have my husband or my kid for comfort, so excuse me for being abrupt with my honesty!”
“Your husband?” Martina smiled slightly. It didn’t at all look like a natural expression on her. “Are you and Jonah planning on getting married?”
“We will be as soon as I ask him,” Garrett assured her. “Can I leave now?”
“Sure. I’ll even give you a lift.”
“What’s the catch?”
She sighed exasperatedly. “There isn’t always a catch when I offer to do something for someone. I’m just trying to make things convenient for you. And it will give me time to transfer the data to my own portable.”
Ten minutes later Garrett let himself into their small, stone-sided home. He wasn’t expecting the light to be on in the living room, and he really wasn’t expecting both Jonah and Cody to be waiting up on the couch. Well, Jonah was waiting up. Cody was asleep, but seeing both of them together still sent a thrill of warmth up his spine. “Hey.”
“There you are.” Jonah twisted as best he could and held a hand towards Garrett. He looked tired but so relieved. “Hey, darlin’.”
“Hey.” Garrett took off his heavy coat, worked his feet out of his boots, tripped over Cody’s backpack and came over to the couch. He took Jonah’s hand and let himself get pulled down so he was sitting on the arm. Jonah gently kissed the back of his hand. It was ludicrously charming.
“Yes,” Garrett nodded slowly. “I am. Just tired.”
“I bet. You wanna head up to bed? I’ll join you as soon as I put Cody back in his room.”
“I want to marry you.” The words just slipped out before he had a chance to sensor them. Jonah’s eyes went wide, and he shook his head slightly.
“You must be real tired, darlin’.”
Garrett sighed. “I am, but that’s not why I want to marry you. I’ve been thinking about it all night. I want this, this life with you and Cody. I want everything. I don’t want to leave, I don’t want that to even be an option. I want you to look at me and know that I really want to be with you. I want us to get married.” He grimaced. “And I wanted it to be all romantic, but that didn’t happen. Fuck. Can we start over?”
“This is plenty romantic,” Jonah breathed. His grip on Garrett’s hand got tighter. “No do-overs. But baby, are you sure? Marriage is a…it’s a big shift. I’d never make you do that.”
“See, that’s the problem. You think I have to force myself, but I want to do this. I want to marry you, I want to be Cody’s real dad, I want…all of that. Public recognition, legal status, all the good stuff and all the shit that comes with it. You’re my…my everything. I want all of you.”
“You’re really sure?” Jonah’s eyes were darker than usual, and his lips were still open, parted just enough to tempt. Garrett wanted to fall against him and consume him, but Cody was there. “You want to marry me? Marry us? ‘Cause it’s not just me, it’s both of us.”
“I love Cody and I love you.” Garrett slid off the couch and down onto his knees so their heads were at the same level. “Marry me. We can symbolize it however you want; I’ll get you a ring, anything, I’ll tattoo your name on my forehead. Just say you’ll marry me.”
“Darlin’.” Jonah pulled Garrett closer and brushed a kiss against his mouth, just a brief caress, but it was electrifying. “There’s nothin’ I want more.”
Relief flooded Garrett’s chest, blended with a giddiness that was only partially due to his utter exhaustion. They kissed again, deeper, longer, and astonishingly he felt his libido start to kick in, despite his damp and horrible clothes and the awkward angle, and maybe, just maybe, they could—
They stopped kissing and looked down. Cody was rubbing his face against Jonah’s thigh, his sleep-crusted eyes slowly opening. “Garrett?”
Ooo-kay. That put a damper on things. “Hey, Cody.”
“You’re back!” Thin arms wound around his neck and gripped way too tightly for such a small kid, and Garrett pulled Cody up against his chest and kissed his hair. “I was worried about you.”
“I’m sorry you were worried. I came back as fast as I could.”
Cody pulled back a little and frowned. “You’re all wet.”
“I know. We got stuck out there for a while because of the storm, but it wasn’t too bad.”
“You missed dinner. Daddy made mac and cheese.”
“Really?” Garrett glanced over at Jonah. “I’ll have to ask him to make it again.”
“There’s enough left for you,” Cody assured him. “Daddy didn’t eat much.”
“Aww, because he was pining?” Garrett asked with a grin. Cody looked puzzled. “Never mind, I’m just tired. You ready for bed, Cody?”
“Will you tuck me in?”
“Sure,” Garrett said. He stood up and lifted Cody into his arms with only a little wobble. “I can do that.” He and Jonah shared a smile. “I can do that.”
He could do it for as long as they needed.