Friday, July 29, 2011

Pandora Post #21

Title: Pandora

Part Twenty-One: Revelations

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. This part is rated R for yummy man-sex. Perhaps one day I’ll rate something R for another reason, but it hasn’t happened yet. This will be the last post for at least a week, maybe two, because we start heading down country for the last time tomorrow. This part is correspondingly longer and hopefully more satisfying, to keep you sated and content while I wrestle my life into a bush taxi and hope for the best. Readers, you are awesome to stick with me, tease that I am. We’re over halfway done at this point, I think.


The next time Garrett woke up, he was just as disconcerted as the time before. Only this time he was lying on his side, curled against a tall, lean body on a firm bed, covered with a sheet. It felt like a dream. It felt like a beautiful, excellent, latently lascivious dream, and he felt warm and happy and content, and so rather than open his eyes he snuggled further into his bedmate’s side and reached a questing hand beneath the sheet.

A low chuckle interrupted him. “Don’t think you’re quite awake enough for that, darlin’.”

Oh. Oh. Holy shit, it wasn’t a dream, Garrett never got turned down in his dreams. That either made this a nightmare or…he tried to open his eyes and couldn’t. No, still a nightmare, just a waking one. Although the fringe benefits of his current situation were pretty damn pleasant.

Recent memories crept back into his mind. They’d left the infirmary and gone to Garrett’s apartment just long enough to grab his toiletries and clothes and, after a moment’s pause, his journal. Garrett had never even gotten out of the wheelchair, although he figured he could find his way inside of his own place easily enough. He’d heard voices in the halls, murmurs, quiet exchanges of question and answer, and it bothered him more than he could say. Garrett liked to be in control of his surroundings. If something or someone rubbed him the wrong way he changed it, either by manipulating it or modifying his own actions. Now there was nothing he could do, no way to change himself to diminish the attention because he tacitly wasn’t in control of himself. He had to rely on Jonah, Cody, Rickie and Jezria, and he both wanted their care and despised himself for wanting it.

Jezria had been very approving of the plan for him to stay with Jonah, even giving the pilot a week off from work to help care for Garrett. She came to meet them at his apartment, and together she and Jonah picked out clothes they knew Garrett liked, things they knew he needed and asked him enough questions to distract Garrett from himself. Cody had ridden along on Garrett’s lap, begging the whole time to go faster, faster, and Garrett had been relieved when Jonah firmly said no.

Rickie then met them at Jonah’s apartment and talked at length about the importance of counting steps, of keeping clothes and toys off of the floor (which was met with a brief flurry of activity) and especially of being patient all around.

“I’ll keep monitoring your brain chemistry,” she added quietly to Garrett at the end of her visit. “But if you start to feel depressed—really depressed, Doctor Caractacus, not just out of sorts or unhappy or impatient—let me know immediately, and keep talking to Jonah, okay? He wants to help you.”

“I know,” Garrett had replied. The doctor squeezed his shoulder briefly and then departed, letting him know that she’d be back tomorrow to give him another shot for the pain. Shortly afterwards Jezria left as well, and the brief rush of adrenaline that had come as he learned the new walkways of his temporary home had deserted him. Just then Garrett had wanted nothing more than to lie down.

Jonah must have read it in his face, because he called a friend to come over and take care of Cody for a while, then took Garrett back into his bedroom. He’d helped him get out of the scrubs, into a soft pair of sleep pants and led him to the bed, then lay down beside him. One of his arms went around Garrett’s shoulders, and his mouth pressed a gentle kiss to Garrett’s forehead, then his lips.

“This isn’t how I pictured my first time in your bed,” Garrett said ruefully, not quite managing the teasing tone he was going for.

“Me neither,” Jonah agreed. “But I’m glad you’re here.”

“So am I.” He was warm and comfortable and so tired, and after a few minutes Garrett had fallen into a deep, unmoving sleep.

Now he was awake and plastered to Jonah’s side, and after a moment’s consideration Garrett decided he was completely okay with that, and if Jonah’s possessive embrace was anything to go by, so was he.

“How d’you feel?” Jonah asked.

“All right,” Garrett said cautiously. “Not in any pain, at least.”

“That’s good.”

“Do you really have the week off, or did I just dream that?”

“Nope.” Jonah’s voice was smug with satisfaction. “I’ve got the time approved and everything. It’s good, this way I won’t be worryin’ about you all day long. Cody’s still got school all this next week, so maybe he won’t tire you out too much.”

“He won’t.”

“I hope not,” Jonah said. “You’ve been down for about ten hours. Care for something to eat?”

Garrett wrinkled his brow. “What time is it?”

“Eight in the mornin’. Cody’s already at class.”

“Huh. I must have been tired.”

“You’ve got reason to be.” Jonah’s hand stroked along the side of Garrett’s face. The suddenness of it made him jerk back, and the hand withdrew. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinkin’.”

“It’s okay.” Garrett fumbled until he found his lover’s retracted hand and pulled it back to his face. “I don’t want you to be afraid to touch me. I like it when you touch me.” It grounds me, it comforts me, it makes me feel…I don’t even know, but I don’t want you to stop.

“You sure?”

“Positive. You can touch whenever you want. Other people, not so much,” Garrett amended, because he really didn’t want to deal with grabby hands and overly-helpful tugs on his arms.

“Got it.” Jonah’s thumb smoothed over Garrett’s cheekbone and down the shell of his ear before he drew his hand back a second time. “You want breakfast?”

His stomach rumbled uncomfortably. “Yes, but I need to use the bathroom and get changed first.”

“You remember how to find it?”

Garrett wracked his brain for a moment. “Ten feet to the left of the bed, the door is beside the dresser so I should mind the corners?”

“Good memory.”

“I do try.”

“I’ll put some clothes out on the bed for you if you want. Casual?”

“Semi-casual,” Garrett said. “I have the feeling I’m going to be getting a lot of visitors today, and I want to look like I’m taking them seriously.”

“You’re right about the visitors,” Jonah agreed. “I’ve already turned away three people, told them I’d let them know when you were feelin’ up to guests.”

“After breakfast.”

“What would you like to eat?”

“Cereal,” Garrett said after a moment. “Not that I don’t love your pancakes but I don’t want to spend half the morning fumbling with a fork and trying to hunt down bits of food. Cereal I can do without too much mess.”

“Whatever you want.” Jonah brushed his lips lightly over Garrett’s, then got out of bed. “Your stuff’s on the right hand side of the sink.”

“Thank you.”

Getting out of bed was easy. Walking to the bathroom without feeling like a moron with his arms stretched out like that? Not so easy. Remembering where all of the fixtures were was even harder, and Garrett was incredibly grateful that no one was around to watch him stumble against the edge of the sink, or grope around for his sonic cleanser. He finally accomplished everything he needed to, but it took ten minutes longer than usual even though he had no hair to style and no makeup to apply.

“First order of business,” Garrett told himself, resolutely looking forward towards the mirror he knew was there even though he couldn’t see it. “Hair.” Short enough he didn’t need to style it was fine, but going without completely made him feel like he was back in the mental institution again, with doctors trying, and only partially succeeding, to remedy his condition with invasive brain surgery. Garrett was never sure how much of his gray matter had been replaced during that operation, but he did know that his temperament was markedly different once he recovered. He still had the mood swings, absolutely, and he was continually monitored, but a fundamental part of himself had been changed. Garrett barely recalled how he’d felt and thought before the surgery, but he remembered plenty of instances afterwards of his father staring at him, lost in contemplation with a look Garrett couldn’t really describe on his face, but that seemed edged with sadness.

He didn’t want to think about Miles right now. That would only make him feel guilty. Instead Garrett worked his way back into the bedroom and felt around for clothes on the bed. There was a set laid out, smooth fabric that matched top to bottom, felt thicker around the collar and hems, slim-fitting…Garrett knew this outfit. It was a perfect fit for semi-casual. Garrett pulled the clothes on, smoothing the creases into place, then slowly walked towards where he knew the door was. Slowly, slowly, the last thing he needed was a black eye or split lip from banging into the doorframe…there. Now five steps straight down the hall, past Cody’s room on the right, up to the main living area. The dining room was straight ahead, with an open floor plan into the living room on the left and the kitchen on the right. Three steps and a right turn, six more steps and he should feel—

“Aha!” Garrett laid his hands on the counter.

“Nice job.”

“Why thank you,” he smiled. There was a barstool to his left and he levered himself up into it, then started slowly creeping his fingers across the countertop.

“Sorry, hang on a sec.” A moment later there was a ceramic clink right in front of him. “Had the bowl over here.”

“That’s all right.” Bowl, yep, there it was, and a spoon, and resistance that told Garrett that there was plenty of cereal in it. Now he just had to eat without spilling all over himself. “Do you mind not watching? This is likely to be awkward.”

“I’m here to help you, Garrett,” Jonah replied, his voice unruffled. “Can’t do that if I can’t see you. I don’t care if you spill.”

“I do.”

“Darlin’…” Jonah sounded like he was trying to work out the best way to say something in his mind before trying it out loud. Finally he sighed. “Nothing you do’s gonna make me think less of you. I don’t care if you hold the bowl up to your lips and slurp out of it. I won’t watch if it really makes you uncomfortable, but this is just day one of maybe two weeks, and you can’t live on cereal for all of it.”

Personally Garrett felt like there were a lot of things he could do that would make Jonah think less of him, but upon reflection he decided that watching Garrett mess himself up eating was minor by comparison. “Just don’t laugh.”

“I’d never.” And he didn’t, not when Garrett held the spoon upside down, not when he took nearly-empty bites, and not when he stopped after eating less than half of it with a sound of disgust. Jonah just cleared the bowl away, handed Garrett a napkin and said, “Care to talk to Lila? She said she brought you something.”

Hair, excellent. “Yes, I’d love to see her.”

“Let’s get you set up in the living room, then.”

“I’ve got this,” Garrett assured Jonah. He got off the stool, moved through the dining room without banging his shins on any of the chairs, and remembered enough of the layout of the other room that he found the couch with no problem, and sank down onto it gratefully. “Ta-da.”

“Nice work,” Jonah agreed. “I’ll call her, let her know she can come around now.”

“Thank you.” Garrett sat and listened to Jonah move around, the faint shuffle of his feet on the carpeting, the low and steady sound of his voice as he opened his comm. Garrett was a visual learner, he always had been, and even now he couldn’t listen to those sounds without immediately painting a picture in his mind to accompany them. Jonah with his hair tied back, t-shirt, jeans, bare feet…or maybe not. “Come here,” he said when Jonah was done with his call.

“What’s up?”

“Just sit next to me,” Garrett requested. Jonah sat down, close, and Garrett reached searching hands toward him. Jonah’s own hands rose up to meet Garrett’s. “No, just let me look for a minute.”

Garrett could almost hear Jonah nod his head. “Sure.” He felt along Jonah’s shoulders, broad and strong, in a button-down shirt, a little nicer than Garrett had expected. The warm, strong line of his neck flexed beneath Garrett’s fingertips, and it turned out Jonah’s hair was loose, and feathered backwards away from his face. Garrett traced his lover’s features, from the top of his head and across his face, down his chest, over his abdomen and lower. He reached down and felt Jonah’s feet, smiling when he found them bare.

“Missed a spot,” Jonah said hoarsely.

“No, I didn’t,” Garrett replied, his hands finally ghosting over the bulge that he knew was pressing against Jonah’s jeans.

“Oh, hell…we don’t have the time, darlin’, your friend’s gonna be here any minute.”

“Then you’ll just have to save it for me,” Garrett said saucily, feeling more in control with every stroke of his lover’s body.

“I can do that,” Jonah promised just as a knock sounded on the door. “Shit, you see? Goddammit.”

“Think unsexy thoughts,” Garrett advised. “Think of childbirth, that usually does it for me.”

“That’s cold, man.”

“Hey, old fashioned human childbirth is not sexy. Miraculous and joyful maybe, but sexy? Try messy and agonizing instead. I’m so glad I’m missing my little sister’s birth.”

“Your parents are havin’ another kid?”

“Not exactly…”

The knock came again, louder this time. “Okay, I can do this now,” Jonah sighed. The couch creaked slightly as he got up and walked over to the door. Lila’s worried voice greeted him, and a moment later she was beside Garrett on the couch, her hands clasping his tightly.

“I was so worried about you! When we heard what happened we all knew it had to be bad, and to lose your vision…Garrett, I’m so sorry.”

“My eyes will grow back,” he quipped.

“But not for two weeks.”

Garrett was in no mood to have a pity party. “You’re just jealous of all my sudden paid vacation time. I’m told you come bearing gifts. What did you bring me?”

Some of the fun came back into her tone. “Aren’t you glad now that you let me take your hair? I was going to give the wig to Lawrence, but after we heard what happened he figured you’d rather wear your own hair if given the chance. It’s backed to adhere and looks pretty nice, if I do say so myself.”

“Because modesty is your middle name.”

“Look who’s talking. You want to try it on?”

“Don’t make me look stupid,” Garrett warned, but he bent his head forward accommodatingly. A moment later a smooth, slightly sticky skullcap settled over his skin. Lila tugged the sides down a bit, touched up the edges and then pressed her hand firmly over the short and, Garrett presumed, blond wig until it was firmly adhered.

“Very nice. Kind of macho.”

“What did I tell you about giving me a marine haircut, woman?”

“It’s not butch,” she protested with a giggle. “Just, y’know…manly. And you are a man, so it fits.”

“If my boyfriend laughs at me I will definitely hit you upside the head the next time I see you,” Garrett threatened. “Where is Jonah, actually?”

“He went into the back. I think I hear the shower.” Now that she mentioned it, Garrett did too. “So…he got over the kindergartener fiasco enough that he’s letting you live with him during your leave. Niiiice.”

“Jealousy is an ugly emotion,” Garrett said.

“Oh shut up, I’m not jealous.” Lila paused. “Well, maybe a little. He is a pretty hot guy, and his kid is just adorable.”

“Yeah, I know.”

For the next half an hour the two of them talked about their lovers, their work and went down dozens of nearly-inconsequential little tangents. It was the sort of light, careless conversation that Garrett enjoyed and excelled at. He would have felt totally normal if it weren’t for the fact that he couldn’t see. Nevertheless, by the time Lila left he was in a much more balanced mood, feeling like he could face the rest of his onslaught of guests with equanimity.

Jonah kept things from being too overwhelming, but there were a lot of people who wanted to poke their heads in. Shekar visited, and Andrews and Ruxin, the scientists who had wisely fled at the first sign of danger. Ruxin, full name Leonard Ruxin, seemed upset by what he deemed his “desertion” of Garrett and Martina, but Garrett told him not to be an idiot and after a few minutes of banter they were okay.

At noon Rickie came to give him another shot, and then Jezria visited with Captain Carson, followed by a few more official types who gave him their sincerest apologies for the surge that led to the explosion. Garrett accepted their rote concerns with rote gratitude and waited impatiently for them to leave.

His last guest of the afternoon was Lawrence Sims. Garrett was more than a little surprised that it wasn’t Martina coming to visit him, and it must have showed on his face.

“She wants to come, but I felt she needed a little more time to pull herself together,” Lawrence said as he slowly, carefully sat down on the couch. He sighed as he settled back, seeming to creak. It was so hard for Garrett to picture this man as a contemporary instead of an elder, even when he was blind. Blind Garrett could hear the wear and tear that steeped every one of Lawrence’s movements in caution, the sighs and groans of pain and relief. It hurt to hear him shift in place.

They got through the initial, familiar question and answer phase in short order, and then Lawrence paused. When he spoke again, his voice was soft. “My wife acted rashly and foolishly, but she didn’t do it to secure her image as a martinet. When she gets an idea in her head Tina gets driven, to the point where she can’t see the forest for the trees. She was so focused on getting the backup generators for the hospital that she didn’t realize the potential cost of her actions.”

“Why are the generators so important?” Garrett asked.

“Because some of them are going to be supporting the cellular genetics lab in the hospital, whose power generators have already quit twice. She’s got one of her pet projects under construction there, and it means a lot to her.” Lawrence sighed. “I’m dying, Doctor Caractacus. It started as bone marrow cancer and has since spread to my lymph system.”

Garrett was actually speechless. He fumbled fruitlessly for something to say, and after a few seconds Lawrence kindly ended the awkward silence. “Cancer is how most naturals end up dying. I’ve already beaten three different types, but they just keep coming. The vaccines don’t work on me, of course, and surgery is difficult. Every recovery takes longer than the one before. Tina is trying to synthesize a marrow transplant that my body won’t reject, making recovery easier, but it’s not going well. I’m not telling you this to excuse her actions,” he added firmly. “If one of our employees had acted in such a manner, Tina would be the first to talk about disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of contract. However, she’s got a terrible blind spot when it comes to me, and you were the unfortunate victim of her persistence. I’m sorry about that, Garrett. She is as well, and she’ll tell you herself soon.”

“I had no idea,” Garrett finally managed. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right. I’ve had years to get used to the idea,” Lawrence said easily. “I might not be that much older than you, but I feel old. I’ve never been under any delusions about how long I’d be around, and frankly this is longer than I had figured on. If you stay here, Garrett, you’ll come to realize that taking care of the caretakers is just as important as making sure naturals live a full, healthy life. For us the end comes fairly fast. For our loved ones, like you and Mr. Helms, our end lingers for many years.”

Years. Decades of life without Cody, decades of Jonah mourning the loss of his beautiful son, mourning the loss of his family and friends. Mourning the long life that he was able to live that Cody simply hadn’t been born with the capacity for.

“I should go,” Lawrence said. “Thank you for letting me ramble a bit. I hope your recovery is fast.” He pushed slowly to his feet and set his cane down on the rug. “Martina will be by later this week.”

“Thank you,” Garrett said, a little numbly.

“You’re welcome.” Soft footsteps, the nearly-silent creak of the door and he was gone. A few moments later Jonah reentered the room.

“All done for now?” he asked.


“You want lunch?”

“No.” Garrett stood up and headed carefully for the sound of Jonah’s voice. His lover’s hands touched his arms after a few steps, sweeping upwards to his shoulders gently. “What I’d really like is for you to take me to bed. I need you.”


“I need you,” he insisted. “It’s not taking advantage and it won’t be weird unless you make it that way, but I really need you right now.” Around me, inside of me, all over me. I need you to fuck the future right out of my head.

“I can do that,” Jonah said after a moment, and his voice was suddenly lower, and darker, and then his lips were on Garrett’s and it wasn’t gentle this time, it was hard and desperate. “Fuck, Garrett…”

“That’s it exactly,” he said. “That’s what I need.”

They made it into the bed without falling by sheer chance, because Jonah couldn’t have been looking where he was going much more than Garrett was; their mouths never separated. Then they were on the bed and somehow Garrett was on top, and he ground his hips down ruthlessly onto Jonah’s, rutting against him before sliding his lover’s denim-covered cock between his ass cheeks. “Fuck me.”

Suddenly Garrett was flipped over, and his suit was torn away from his body as Jonah went a little bit insane, kicking and biting and kissing every new inch of exposed flesh. “Want you,” Jonah groaned, his words barely a rumble in the back of his throat. “You…now.”

“Take me,” Garrett insisted, his own voice far breathier than usual, all the force gone from his lungs as he struggled to breathe through the pleasure. “Please.” He didn’t want to be the aggressor, didn’t want to manage or handle or conduct. All Garrett wanted was Jonah, all of his care and attention and the pleasure/pain of his body and soul. This wasn’t an easy man, but Garrett had to have him anyway. “Jonah.”

“Fuck, darlin’, look at you.” A hand smoothed through Garrett’s new, short hair, tickling his scalp and adding another layer of sensation. “So amazing.”

“Are you going to make me beg?” Garrett demanded.

“Need you too much,” Jonah confessed, and he pulled away for a second, just long enough for Garrett to make out the hasty rustle of falling clothes before Jonah was back on top of him, hard and naked and incredibly hot. His lips moved down to tease Garrett’s nipples as one of his hands, already slick, slid across his perineum and over his hole. He pressed one in slowly and Garrett sighed and relaxed, letting him in. Jonah’s touches seemed to linger now in a way they hadn’t when Garrett could see. He felt the fire of his lover’s body caressing his long after a particular moment was over, and it wasn’t long before he was burning too.


“Soon,” Jonah murmured, pressing back inside with three of his fingers and pumping, first slowly, then faster.

Garrett wanted to make more demands but he couldn’t, his voice had crumbled to ash. He spread his legs wider and welcomed all of Jonah’s attention, almost sobbing with relief when he felt his lover adjust his position. A lift, a push and then Jonah was sliding smoothly into Garrett, and both of them moaned with contentment.

The last time Jonah had fucked him, it had been a slow thing, only briefly quickening at the end before they both had come. This time is was fast and hard from the start, the strain of weeks of avoidance and frustration and sheer wanting wearing away at their patience until all Garrett could do was grip his lover’s forearms and take him, deeply, reveling in every thrust and glancing strike to his prostate while he fisted himself. Garrett came first, sooner than he’d expected to, with an almost surprised half-gasp, half-sob as he coated his chest with his cum. Jonah followed a minute later, slamming into his body as deep as possible before releasing into Garrett.

There followed a strange, warm, swimmy kind of time, dizzy and lethargic, where Garrett just lay there and let Jonah collapse against him, slowly recover his breath, withdraw and clean both of them up. Garrett just let him do it all, smiling slightly to himself, and when Jonah reached over and enfolded him in a hug he simply shrugged an arm over Jonah’s waist, not willing to exert himself to grab yet. He felt utterly in the present, and he loved it. God, he loved it. He loved…

Oh, shit.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2 Years Stuffed In A Duffel Bag

The end is nigh.  We're packing our house up, cleaning everything for the next volunteer and getting ready to leave our little town for Pagala, a village in the middle of the country where we'll be teaching at a girls' science camp for the first week of August.  Then it's off to Lome for our close of service interviews, over the border to Ghana and poof!  Back to America!

This post is mostly to let you know I will be without any means of communicating with you for a week in August, but that I'll definitely give you another chapter of Pandora before losing my source of blessed internet.  Did you know Boulder, where I'm going, has free Wifi for all within city limits?  WTF!?!  What kind of crazy technological world is this! 

We've rented a car.  Five seats, and we have to fit ourselves, 2 huge duffel bags, a dog in his crate, two bikes, water filters and a gigantic barrel (which we're using to make a biogas generator at camp, not for the squeamish) inside/on top.  Oh, and the driver.  Daunting?  Not at all!  This is Togo, where cars routinely look like slow-moving mushrooms that someone half-tried to kick over.  They list.  They veer.  They wobble precariously, and we're going to help in continuing that fine tradition in our last voyage south.  It brings tears of nostalgia and terror simultaneously to my eyes.

More Pandora soon!  I think we're over half done with it now.  Holy jeez.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review for Shadowed

Jenre, at her aptly-named Well Read blog, has reviewed my novella Shadowed.  This is a squee-causing event, and as such deserves a post with a link for the interested:  Shadowed review

Here's a taste of said review:  Those readers who liked Treasured are going to like this book too. It gives us an opportunity to delve deeper into the relationship with Daniel and Rhys as well as seeing some of Rhys' background. There's a good mix of emotion and action in the story coupled with some interesting paranormal ideas. Overall, I would recommend Shadowed with a grade of 'Very Good', and I'm really looking forward to more from these great characters.

Aww, thanks!  I hope to write more for them.

As noted, Shadowed is the sequel to an earlier story, Treasured, and things are brought up in the review that remind me that there's still a lot of back story to resolve, and so I'd better get on it.  Hopefully Pink Petal Books will contract me for a third installment.  If you're looking for an intro to the body of work that is my fictional existence, I think this series is a fun way to go.  You can get it here:

And just as a reminder...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pandora Pt. 20

Title: Pandora

Part Twenty: Bombs Away

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. Forewarned is forearmed, although this chapter is of a necessity PG-rated.


Something was going on. Something was disturbing the darkness that he was surrounded by, that he slept in. It was waking him up, and he didn’t want to be awake.

“Garrett? Can you hear me?” The sounds were strange, a little echoey, and he felt like he should understand what the words meant, but he really didn’t.

“He’s definitely coming to, just keep talking to him,” another voice said.

“Come on,” the first voice said, a little clearer now. “Come on, it’s time to wake up.”

“There, his fingers twitched. He’s almost there. Would you like me to stay and explain the situation to him?”

“No, I think that’s better coming from me. If he needs clarification on anything I’ll call for you.” There was a sliding sound, and then for one beautiful moment, stillness, before the voice started in again.

“Garrett?” Cool fingers stroked soothingly over his shoulder, and a low, feminine voice murmured close to his ear. “I know it’s hard to come up, but you have to now. You’ve got some decisions to make.”

“Sleeping,” Garrett mumbled almost incoherently. God, his head felt like it was filled with sand, ears to eye sockets, and his throat was terribly sore. A moment later a straw pressed against his lips, and he sipped briefly, then opened his eyes.

At least, he tried to open his eyes. After a few seconds of straining he realized he couldn’t, because there was nothing to open. No eyes, and perhaps no eyelids either. It didn’t hurt, nothing hurt, actually, but he had good enough proprioception to know that he hadn’t just had the optic nerves blocked. His eyes were gone. “The fuck?” He tried to sit up and hissed with sudden pain as the movement jarred IV lines that were attached to his neck and wrist. “What the hell is going on?”

“Garrett,” the feminine voice said again, and now he could tell that it was Jezria, from the sound of her voice and the firm pressure of her fingers. “You were in an accident. Do you remember that?”

“Yes…” he said hesitantly. “Some.” Sparks cascading through the lab, hot and blinding. Blinding…something blew up right in front of him. Them. “Shit, Martina?”

“Fully recovered. She’s currently on administrative leave pending your statement. When you’re recovered enough to—”

“Why am I in the infirmary?” Garrett demanded.

“Because,” Jezria said very clearly and carefully, “You were badly injured. You lost your sight. Your face and upper torso were covered in second and third degree burns.”

“Then why am I waking up blind?” Garrett moved his free hand over his face. The skin felt the same as normal, maybe a little smoother. “You’ve got my medical power of attorney that authorizes all grafts and transplants, I should be waking up with new eyes. Shouldn’t I?”

“Yes, you should.” Jezria’s voice didn’t change, even as Garrett’s sharpened with accusation. “You would be if the transplant templates had survived the fire. As it was, those slides were all destroyed.” She gripped his hand a little harder, obviously reacting to some expression of his that he couldn’t see, that he could barely imagine. “Your will get new eyes, of course, Garrett. The doctors just have to do it the old fashioned way, and that means giving the tissue the time to grow. In ten to fourteen days, they should be ready for transplant. Apart from that, you’re fine. All the skin damage was successfully repaired.”

Holy. Shit. It wasn’t the first time Garrett had been in an infirmary, far from it. It wasn’t even the first time he’d been in an infirmary due to a severe injury. It was, however, the first time he’d entirely lost one of his senses. And his sight…how the hell would he take care of himself for ten to fourteen days?

He zoned back in to what Jezria was saying when he heard, “—course, now that you’re awake we can arrange to contact your father, and—”


He heard Jezria shift in her chair, the only sign he could discern of discomfort. “Garrett, you should tell your family.”

“I don’t want them to know.”

“Why not?”

“What would it accomplish?” he parried, ignoring the curling, churning acidity starting to flare in his gut. “Miles is a busy man. It’s not as if he or Claudia could get here in time to sit and pat my hand before the transplant. He’s got enough to worry about on Paradise right now without distracting him with my latest fiasco.”

“Miles is your father,” Jezria said softly. “Of course he’d worry, but he’d still want to know. Claudia too.”

“Claudia’s getting ready to have a baby, she doesn’t need to be fretting about this either. They can’t help me, Jezria, they can’t change anything. But I can help them.”

“By lying to them?”

“I don’t plan on mentioning it at all, actually.”

“Lying by omission is still lying.”

“Don’t tell them, Jezria.” His fingers found her wrist and he grabbed her, as hard as he could, which wasn’t very hard given the drugs and the fact that he’d just woken up. “Don’t.”

She didn’t say anything for a long moment, and when she did speak, her tone was acrid. “Fine. But I think you’re making a mistake. Your family loves you and deserves to know when you’re injured badly enough to be hospitalized.”

“I’m not arguing with you about this,” he told her.

“Well then. Enjoy spending the next two weeks on your back in the infirmary.”

Garrett frowned. It felt strange to furrow eyebrows that were no longer there. “What do you mean by that?”

“Since you live alone, you’ll be spending your convalescence right here. It isn’t safe to let you try to care for yourself in your apartment, and you’re not authorized to get sight implants.”

“Why not?” he demanded. “I was authorized for them on Paradise.”

“Paradise had ready access to significantly more advanced medical facilities than Pandora. You know how implants, particularly brain implants, can have a negative effect on someone’s mental and emotional equilibrium. We’re simply not equipped to handle the possible health ramifications of that right now.”

“You think I’ll go off the deep end.” His voice was flat and cold.

“It’s a possibility we have to take into account, especially given your history,” Jezria replied. She reached out and touched his shoulder again. “I’m so sorry, Garrett. I know this must feel like some sort of punishment, but I swear I don’t mean for it to be. I’m concerned for your wellbeing, and even if you had consented to inform your family, I would have asked that you remain in the infirmary while you wait for the transplants. I would invite you to stay with me, but people are always coming in and out of my apartments, and I know how much you value your privacy. Here you can get help without making things awkward.”


“Garrett…” Jezria blew out a sigh, then changed the subject. “How do you feel about some visitors?”

Honestly what he really wanted to do was hit something until it broke, or he did, but that would hardly reassure the medical staff about his state of mind. Besides, he was already pretty broken. “Who wants to visit?” he asked.

“Who doesn’t want to?’ Jezria replied rhetorically. “Martina and Lawrence have asked, of course, but I thought that that should wait, all things considered.”

“Good call.” Garrett’s mind was spinning out of control, and he didn’t know if he could be polite with Martina now when he was barely civil to one of his oldest acquaintances.

“There are several of your coworkers who’d like to see you as well. Ms Englander wanted me to assure you that she saved enough of your hair to make a temporary replacement for what you lost, which due to heat damage ended up being everything.”

Everything? He was bald? Garrett rubbed his free hand over his head and groaned. “Shit.”

“She said the wig would be ready sometime tomorrow.”

“How long was I unconscious?” Garrett asked.

“Three days.”

Long time. His thoughts must have shown on his face, or maybe Jezria was just taking the conversation to the logical next step. “The damage was extensive, and the skin grafts took some time to set. It was easier for the doctors to keep you down while they worked.”

“Oh. Right.”

“The most fervent visit requests have come from the Helmses, Jonah and his son Cody. I didn’t know you and Mr. Helms were seeing each other.”

“We’re…well, it’s kind of complicated.”

“Apparently,” she chuckled. “But they’re actually here now, if you feel like company. I have to get back to the office, but I’ll be by again later this evening to see how you’re doing.”

“Wait.” He reached out for her, his hand stretching into space. After a second she took it. “What do I look like?”

“What, as far as scars and the like?”

“As in am I going to scare a five year old kid?”

“Ah.” Her palm touched his face briefly, her thumb smoothing over his cheekbone. “You look fine, Garrett. Your eyes are sealed right now, but it simply looks as though they’re closed, not like there’s a problem with the eyes themselves. You are hairless at the moment, but it will all start to grow back in a few days. Your skin is beautiful.” She pressed her lips to his temple. “You’re beautiful.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Garrett said, and if he sounded a little hoarse it was just because his throat was still sore.

“Shall I let them in?”

“Can we get this IV out of my neck first?”

“Let me get the doctor back.” The was the near-silent click of a button being depressed, and then a few seconds later the door slid open again.

“Doctor Caractacus, it’s good to see you awake!”

Her voice sounded familiar. “Thanks.”

“My favorite patient and his daddy are waiting outside to see you.”

“About that…can we take the IVs out? At least this one?” Garrett fingered the line irritably.

“Sure we can. The lower one was just giving you nutrients while you were out, you shouldn’t have any trouble switching back to real food.” Her hands worked briskly as she spoke, freeing his hand and removing the shunt. “This other one is a direct blocker for your eyes. If you want to get rid of it you’ll need to let me give you a shot for the pain, and I’ll need to renew it on a daily basis until we’re ready to do the transplant.”

“That’s fine.”

“It will make you drowsy,” she warned.

“Then let’s wait on the shot until after they leave, but take the IV out now, please. Needles freak Cody out and I don’t want him to see me like this.”

“Of course,” she said. He felt the line withdraw, and a warm trickle of blood slid down his neck. A moment later it was wiped away, and something sticky was laid on top of the hole. “It’s a Green Space Ranger band aid,” she told him with a smile in her voice. “I’m thinking Cody will like that.”

“What’s not to like?” Garrett deadpanned. “Thanks, Doctor…”

“Reynaud. Rickie Reynaud. Like the fox.”

“The cartoon fox?”

“The cartoon was actually named for me,” she confided. “My dad was the lead animator.”

Garrett smiled, and it felt strange on the new, tight skin of his face. “No wonder you’re up to speed on all the latest kid fads.”

“Yeah, I’m good that way. I’ll let them know you’re ready for them.”

“And on that note,” Jezria added, “I’ll be off. I’ll be back this evening, Garrett.”

“Thanks.” He heard the two women walk away, their heels clicking in a way that men’s never seemed to, not even when they wore stilettos. Maybe it was something in the hips…

His admittedly inane train of thought was derailed by the entrance of someone else with noisy feet, but noisy in an entirely different way. “Garrett!” The rapid feet stopped next to his bed. “Your hair is gone!”

“I know,” Garrett said, trying to point his face in Cody’s direction. “I’ll grow some more soon though.”

“You look weird,” Cody said uncertainly. “And your eyes aren’t open.”


“He’s not gonna be able to see for awhile, bucko, I already told you that,” Jonah admonished as he sat down on the edge of Garrett’s bed. Garrett felt the mattress move a little, felt the warmth of Jonah’s body and caught the scent of him, so ephemeral he couldn’t even name it as anything other than Jonah. He took in everything he could, and when Jonah laid a hand on his leg, for the first time since he woke up Garrett felt the low-level panic he’d been feeling recede.

“How ya feelin?” Jonah asked softly.

“Not too terrible. All things considered.”

“You missed dinner,” Cody said indignantly.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Cody…” his father began warningly.

“We missed you,” the child continued. One of his small hands found its way into Garrett’s. “It’s been sad without you.”

“Oh.” Garrett really didn’t know how to take that. Part of him wanted to be annoyed, but most of him was aching, with loneliness and stupid sense of hope that he would never, ever admit to. “I missed you too. Both of you.”

“They said you were sleeping.”

“I was. I missed you even in my sleep.”

“Me too,” Cody confided.

Jonah cleared his throat. “What’s the word, Garrett?”

“My transplants won’t be ready for another two standard weeks,” he said, not quite as matter-of-factly as he would have liked. “Since I live alone, that means I get to spend the next few weeks in here. I’m hoping they’ll send someone for my own clothes though, because these,” he plucked at the scrubs, “never make anyone look good.”

“You’d make a paper bag look good, darlin’,” Jonah told him, and he squeezed Garrett’s knee. “And we were thinkin’…maybe you’d like to shack up with us. Until you’re better.”

Garrett froze for a moment, then shook his head. “I’m sorry, I think the drugs must be affecting my hearing. Did you just say you want me to live with you?”

“Better n’staying in here, isn’t it?” Jonah asked defensively.

“But you—” Garrett tried to keep his voice from rising, but he was tired, and the panic was coming back. Jonah seemed to notice.

“Hey, bucko, could you go chat up the Doc for a minute? Ask what we’ll need to do to take Garrett home with us?”

“Sure!” Noisy feet scampered off again, and then it was just Garrett and Jonah, and Garrett exploded.

“What the fuck do you mean, move in with you? Where do you get off telling me it’s all right for me to stay at your place if I’m something useless you can put wherever you want, like some kind of goddamn decoration, when you won’t even give me the courtesy of sleeping with you in your bedroom—just sleeping!—when I’m fully functional?”


“How does my being blind make it easy for you to open the door, so to speak? Do you get off on helplessness? Do you like having people be utterly dependent on you?”

“You’re not helpless,” Jonah snapped. “And neither is Cody, so take that line of thinkin’ and shut it the hell down right now. You won’t be totally dependent on us; ‘n fact you’ll have more independence once you get used to things there than you’d have here, and God knows how you love your independence.” There was a bitter note to his voice that Garrett had never heard before, or at least never noticed.

“I’m offerin’ this now because you need it, Garrett, and we need it too. Not because I want you to feel indebted to me, not because I’m tryin’ to make up for being an ass earlier about you stayin’ over, but because Cody and I have missed you like crazy for the past three days and I don’t wanna keep missing you when I don’t have to. I want you with us. With me.”

“But…” Garrett felt the flames of his anger flicker out almost as quickly as they’d fanned up. “I can’t really follow all this right now,” he confessed, his voice small and tired. “I’m scared, and I’m still exhausted, and my fucking head is starting to hurt.” It was, too, burning as though a needle was heating up right behind his eyes.

Jonah gently clasped Garrett’s face between his hands. “I’ll get the doc to give you somethin’. We can figure all this out tomorrow.”

“No.” Garrett laid his hands over’s Jonah’s, only fumbling a little. “Please. I do want to stay with you.” Even though it frightens the hell out of me. “I really do.”

Soft, dry lips briefly touched his. “Then I’ll get to doc to give you somethin’, and then we’ll take you home.”

“Thank you.”

“Pleasure’s all ours, darlin’.” Garrett was kissed again, a little slower, a little more thoroughly. “It’s all ours.”