Notes: Wow, look at you all checking in so diligently! I’ve never gotten this many hits before. Really. You guys must like this story or something. Given that, how could I bear to disappoint you? The answer is, I couldn't. Here’s part two. Plus, tomorrow: big news to tell you! Super exciting! I’m melting into a quivery little puddle in my chair just thinking about it. Anyway…happy readingJ
Part Fifteen-B: Nobody’s Perfect
If he’d been asked afterwards, Jonah wouldn’t have been able to repeat back any of what was said for the rest of the meeting before their lawyers finally called it quits. His mind was spinning with too many possibilities and fears, and it didn’t help that Jack just sat there silent, his arm fixed up in a sling, and stared at him with a considering look on his face.
Jonah was very familiar with that look; it was the harbinger of big things, and not many of them had turned out well. Jack had worn that look when he bought his first ship, a clunker called Beulah that he never was able to get into useable shape for spaceflight and eventually ended up selling to a small shipping company that only did planet-side traffic for half what he paid for it. He had worn that look when he’d agreed to them having Cody as well, and the best that Jonah could say about that decision was that it had ended with him having a beautiful child, even while everything else fell apart. And now…Jonah wasn’t quite sure what Jack was thinking about, but he didn’t really have the energy to care as much as he probably should.
As soon as hands were stiffly shook and Jack and his lawyer were gone, Jonah bolted from the room and headed straight for the infirmary. God damn it all to hell, why did he end up spending so much of his time here? If it wasn’t Cody getting shots, it was Garrett getting his eyes burned out of his head. Might as well rent space in the one back home, if this was an indicator for the kind of trouble his guys could get into.
There was a part of his brain, getting louder and louder by the minute, that was yelling at him about what an absolute idiot he’d been. Not because he was with Garrett; no one could have looked at what had happened today and not noticed how devoted Garrett was to Cody. The man was goin’ out of his mind and he’d still moved to defend Jonah’s son, and even though it hadn’t been necessary, had in fact been just about the definition of overkill, it wasn’t anything Jonah felt he had to fear. No, Jonah was shouting at himself because he’d let distractions get the better of him and hadn’t noticed his lover, his fiancé, slowly goin’ crazy. Or whatever was the matter with him.
Jonah asked the first doctor he saw where Garrett was, and was directed to a private room on the west side of the facility. The walls were clear, the type that could be blacked out with a touch for privacy, but right now they were transparent and Jonah could see the bed, and Miles sitting beside it. He was holding one of Garrett’s hands and looking down into the recessed bed, and it almost seemed like too private a moment to break. Then he reminded himself I’m family, opened the door and stepped inside.
Miles looked up and smiled slightly when he saw him. “You just missed Cody.”
“Who’s he with?”
“Wyl came by to get him. They’re going to go repaint Garrett’s bike, as a surprise gift for him when he wakes up.”
“Wyl’s a good guy,” Jonah said as he sat in the chair on the opposite side of the bed and looked down at Garrett. The blue-tinted gel covering him gave his face a strange, corpse-like cast, and Jonah unconsciously bit his lower lip.
“He is. We’re all happy he and Robbie found each other.”
“Kinda surprising, you gettin’ along so well with your son’s ex.”
“If I couldn’t get along with Garrett’s former paramours, I’d lose a large number of friends,” Miles said dryly. “And generally my son’s partings have been amicable. He doesn’t take a lot personally.”
“Good to know,” Jonah muttered.
Miles stared at Jonah for a moment before he sighed. “Stop it.”
“Blaming yourself. Garrett has been dealing with his medical issues for most of his life very successfully; this little lapse isn’t your fault.”
“I should have paid him better attention,” Jonah said stiffly. This wasn’t exactly a conversation he wanted to have with his future father-in-law, but it didn’t look like he was going to have a choice. “I knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. I thought he was just anxious, you know. Worried about the wedding, and then worried about Jack and Kilroy. I should’ve—”
Miles was already shaking his head. “There’s no amount of hindsight that’s going to help, son. There are plenty of things you could have done, or that any of us could’ve done, but Garrett’s an adult. He knows his responsibilities. He let this slip, and I’m not blaming him for everything that’s happened, but still. It’s clear there’s a lot you don’t know about his history, and he should have explained it to you long before things got to this point so that you would be able to help him.”
“I know he was sick as a kid,” Jonah offered, wondering—hoping—that Miles was going to fill in some of the gaps Jonah knew were there.
“He tried to kill himself.”
“Oh.” Holy…shit. Suicide wasn’t all that rare in a Drifter community, but on Federation planets, where doctor visits were mandatory and regular, Jonah knew it almost never happened.
“I should have seen it coming,” Miles said pensively. “And don’t look at me like that; I’m allowed to take responsibility in this instance because Garrett was only thirteen. His mother had killed herself when he was a small child, and I knew there was the potential for it in his genetics, but I was a rather neglectful single father for a long time, and I didn’t make sure he was getting the care he needed.” He took a deep, slow breath. “Ten years to the day after his mother’s death, Garrett shot himself in the chest.”
“Holy shit.” Jonah had just thought it, but he figured it merited sayin’ aloud too.
“He missed his heart, and fortunately the kind of gun he used made a wound that cauterized around the edges, so he didn’t bleed out. My housekeeper found him and got him help. By the time I returned from deployment he was already out of the hospital.
“We had such a fight about it.” Miles stroked the back of Garrett’s hand carefully, but the look on his face was almost fond. “He didn’t want to get treatment, especially not the rather drastic kind that had been recommended by his surgeon. He shouted about how I should just go away, how he had always taken care of himself and he could keep doing it, how I didn’t even care. He was a very melodramatic teenager. He heaped all sorts of abuse on me, a lot of it well deserved, and I sat there and took it and then told him he didn’t have a choice, he was going to a specialist. He stayed in a private hospital for nearly three months while they worked out a solution to his particular mental imbalance, and then he came home.”
“And you stayed with him.” Jonah knew this part of the story; it was one of the reasons Garrett loved his father so much.
“I did. And he hated me for the first, oh, six months. We got counseling, obviously, and eventually Gare accused me of wanting him to be different. He said I had forced him to change. And I told him I loved him however he was, and that I always would.” Miles smiled slightly. “It’s strange, but before Gare shot himself, I knew almost nothing about him. He was a perfect son whenever we saw each other, which was maybe twice in a standard year. Excellent scores in school, physically healthy, polite. Like a caricature of a child, and I didn’t even realize it. I’d made the same mistake with his mother, never digging deep enough to understand the real her. Do you know who his mother was?”
Jonah knew. “Larissa Child, the actress. She starred in the first holo I ever watched,” he added, remembering sneaking into the theater on Belamonte when he was a child and watching her float across the screen, a goddess in white and gold.
“Larissa. Garrett’s a lot like her. Beautiful, smart, captivating. She could make you believe anything, and make you do almost anything as well. I was never sure why she agreed to marry me, honestly. My family has influence, but she didn’t need our help in that arena.” Miles shrugged. “But she did marry me, and we had Garrett, and then she killed herself. It took a long time for me to let go of the guilt I felt over that. I don’t think I actually managed it before I spent a year with Gare and got to know him, to really know him. He’s one of the most complex people I’ve ever met, and I don’t think anyone can really understand everything that goes on in his head. Or anyone’s, really.
“A parent is responsible for their children, but an adult can only truly be held responsible for their own decisions, not the decisions of the people surrounding them. It was hard for me to accept, being career military and very accustomed to telling people what to do. I got it eventually, though, thanks to my son.” This time when Miles smiled it was easy. “We do love our flawed children. They make us become better people than we thought we could be.”
“I get that,” Jonah agreed, and he really did. Before Cody he had lived a very different life, a wild life, angry and insecure and often desperate. Cody had taken all of that chaos and focused it into a burning desire to do right by him.
“He’s going to feel awful once he wakes up,” Miles predicted. “He won’t blame you, he’ll blame himself. However you respond is up to you, but if I might make a suggestion?”
“Be kind to both of you. Don’t let him wallow, but don’t try to take all the responsibility onto yourself either. He won’t accept that. I assume you’re still planning on going through with the marriage?”
“’Course,” Jonah said, surprised Miles even bothered to ask.
“Good. Then with that in mind, and with the emotional health of all your family in mind, demand honesty from each other. Make a plan. Be prepared to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, but follow it up with action. Intent only counts for so much in life.”
“Good advice,” Jonah murmured.
“I’ve been around the ‘verse a time or two by this point,” Miles said. “I’ve got a decent working knowledge of how to get results out of people, and promises are only worthwhile if they come true.” He patted Garrett’s hand, then got up and moved around the bed. “I need to go prep for tomorrow. I’ll make sure someone remembers to bring in a meal for you.”
“Thank you,” Jonah told him sincerely. Miles squeezed his shoulder on the way out. Jonah looked down at Garrett and tried, very briefly, to imagine a life without him. It was as painful and impossible as imagining life without Cody, and he shied away from it almost immediately.
“Okay then,” he told himself firmly. “Definitely not an option. And if you even bring it up,” he said to Garrett, “we’re gonna have words, darlin’.”
Garrett’s hand twitched under his. Jonah just held it tighter. They would figure this out. Nothing else was acceptable.