Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Academy Post #8

Notes:  And we’re back to the main story, and somehow I wrote over 3k of it in two hours, so let’s hope it’s comprehensible.  A little illumination, a little introspection, a few pointed threats…all in a day’s work.

Title: The Academy

Part Eight: Hit Me Where It Hurts




                If there was one thing that Ten hated above all else, it was waiting.  Sitting around with nothing to do and no way to get something to do because ze was, ostensibly, being punished…well, it really was kind of punishing.  All Ten could do to get through it was to try and make the wait as punishing for the people around hir as possible.

                Ze and Valero sat on opposite sides of Admiral Liang’s antechamber, waiting for their sponsors to arrive so they could go in and get chewed out together.  Which, hah, if inconveniencing hir sponsor was supposed to make Ten feel extra bad, the admiral was going to be sorely disappointed.  Ten’s sponsor hated hir, and the feeling was mutual.  The thought of Barré hoisting himself out of bed and running to the admiral’s office just to be told off for not being more responsible for Ten…well, sweet didn’t really do enough to describe it.

                But Barré wasn’t here yet, and neither was Valero’s sponsor, so they only had each other and the two security officers assigned to watch them while the admiral and Master Sergeant Jessup dueled over their fates.  Ten didn’t know what was going to happen, but ze figured the punishment would land somewhere between scrubbing latrines and expulsion.  Second warning and all that, but on the other hand ze hadn’t started it, and Ten also could count on the sympathy vote for the black eye and the huge swelling bruise ze could feel puffing up on hir right cheekbone.  Not to mention the bloody nose…Ten checked to make sure the dried blood was still crusted on hir upper lip.  Perfect.  Now ze could look small and pathetic and be sort of believable, as long as ze didn’t laugh or something to ruin it.

                Bored.  Bored, bored, bored.  Ten kicked hir feet against the base of the bench ze was sitting on, making it thud.

                “Stop it,” Valero snapped.

                Thud.  Thud.  Thud.

                Stop it, you chummy little sack of wormbait!”

                “Is that an insult on your planet?” Ten asked idly, still thudding hir heels against the bench.  “Is it bad to be wormbait?  Wait, does that mean I’m bait for worms, or bait made from worms?  Because either way, it makes me feel useful.”  Valero glared angrily at hir but didn’t reply.  “On Solaydor, for example, if I wanted to insult you I’d call you…”  Ze looked Valero up and down.  “An unfashionista, maybe.  Or better yet, just an un.  Uns are what we call people who have no function in society.  Before at least you were decorative, like a lamp, but now—well, with that hair, I mean—”

                “If you,” Valero breathed, her expression murderous, “don’t shut your hateful mouth, I swear that the next time I get you alone, I’ll—”


                Ten and Valero looked over at the door, both of them startled.  Ten hadn’t even heard the man walk in, and ze was usually more observant than that.  Both the security officers looked relieved.  This was someone who could control Valero then, probably her sponsor.  And oh, wasn’t he pretty?  Wavy brown hair, golden tan skin, ridiculously fit…and angry.  You couldn’t see it in his perfect face, but Ten read it in the stiffness of his shoulders and the tension in his voice.  Valero clearly saw it too.

                “Kyle, it’s not my fault.”

                Oh, the infamous Kyle, captain of the paraball team.  Ten froze for a second as the young man’s eyes flashed toward hir, then forced hirself to relax.  Just because Valero’s sponsor had the eyes of a viper didn’t mean he was going to strike.

                “Really,” Kyle said mildly, turning back to look at Valero.  “Because from what the master sergeant told me when he called me ten minutes ago, this—” He gestured at Ten, “really is your fault.  So is breaking a table and trying to headbutt an alien.  The only alien on campus, the one that people are falling all over themselves to get a glimpse of, much less an invitation into his quad.”

                “To be fair, she’s never really gotten an invitation,” Ten said cheekily.  “She just shows up.”

                Kyle turned and stared at hir again, and Ten shrank back despite hirself.  This man was packing some serious intensity.  After a long moment he looked away, and Ten could breathe again. 

                The door to Admiral Liang’s office opened, and Master Sergeant Jessup called out, “Senior Cadet Alexander, Cadet Balteran—get in here.”  Valero stood up shakily, her eyes on the ground, and Kyle took her elbow and walked her into the office.  It shut after them, which gave Ten a chance to come to grips with what ze’d just heard. 

                Alexander…Senior Cadet Alexander, and he had to be a Legacy or Valero wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and Alexander was an old-world name, Central System for sure, and as far as Ten knew there was only one Alexander with the pedigree to be a Legacy, which meant…

                Holy whoa.  Kyle Alexander was the younger brother of the President of the Federation.

                Raymond Alexander was at least a full generation ahead of Kyle; he’d been in politics for the past fifty years, and President for ten of those, half of the terms he was allowed by law.  The Alexander patriarch who spawned both of them had had a reputation as a playboy, not a politician—it had been sheer bad luck that his ship had been attacked by pirates as he traveled between central planets.  Foster Alexander had, by all accounts, behaved very heroically as he fought to save his crew and his youngest children, who were travelling with him, but didn’t make it out alive himself.  His commission in the military, even though he hadn’t been active duty for decades, made all his children eligible to be Legacies.

                Kyle must have been one of those kids.  He’d been there when his father—and mother, Foster’s fifth or sixth wife, Ten thought—had been murdered.  That was…rough, Ten acknowledged.  Very, very rough.  But then, whose life was a perfect party?  Ten was effectively an orphan, Darrel hated his family, Grennson was a stranger in a very strange land…the only person Ten could think of who had it close to perfect was Cody, with his doting dads and his high-performance bike and his “I like everybody” personality.  Cody and his inoffensive nature, his adequate but not exceptional intellect and his natural cuteness.  What did Cody have to be sad about?  Nothing.

                Well no, not nothing.  There was something there, something different about him, and Ten felt on the verge of a revelation, especially after tonight.  Cody was lying about himself.  Ten just wasn’t sure exactly how yet.  Ze’d figure it out, though—Cody wasn’t a very good liar.  Ten felt sure that with just a little more time and the right questions, ze’d be able to—

                “Tiennan!” Barré hissed, slinking into the room and onto the bench next to Ten.  “For the love of God, what did you do?”

                “I set myself on fire, what do you think I did?” Ten demanded, instantly irritated.  Ze and his sponsor weren’t a very good match.  Barré was a genius at chemistry, but way too cautious to ever come up with anything spectacular.  He was all about “improving current chemical processes to reduce waste and blah blah blah,” which was so boring that Ten hadn’t been able to keep hir eyes open during their introduction.  That had gotten them off on the wrong path, and two months in things weren’t any better.  “I got beat up by a stupid Legacy,” Ten continued.

                “For the love of God, don’t call them that!”

                That was the other annoying thing about Barré.  He referenced God in almost everything he did.  “Why are you even here?” Ten asked.  “We haven’t even seen each other since the first week of classes.”

                “When Admiral Liang himself asks me to come to his office and explain the actions of my plebe, I obey,” Barré said gloomily.  “Even when that plebe is you.  God is punishing me with you, I know it.”

                “But why is he punishing me with you?” Ten asked snidely.  Barré didn’t answer, he just sank his head into his hands and whimpered.  Wuss.  It was no fun to tease someone who refused to tease back.  Ten went back to thunking hir feet against the bench, hoping to get a rise out of hir sponsor, but Barré seemed immune to any distraction from his misery.

                A few minutes later, the office doors opened and Valero and Kyle emerged, Valero looking incredibly chastened.  She walked straight over to Ten and said, very stiffly, “I apologize for losing my temper with you.  It won’t happen again.”

                “That sounds like a promise destined to be broken,” Ten said.

                “For God’s sake, be gracious,” Barré muttered.

                “I’m just telling it like I see it!”

                “I personally guarantee that it won’t happen again.”  Valero shrank a little as her sponsor spoke, blushing so hard that her skin almost matched her hair color.  “Random violence is never a good solution to interpersonal problems,” Kyle continued.

                Well, that was…true, if weirdly phrased.  Ten nodded.  “Okay.”

                Barré nudged him.  “Now you.”

                “Now me what?”

                “Now you apologize?”

                “For what?”

                Valero scowled, and Barré rolled his eyes.  Kyle looked on imperturbably.  “For her hair!” Barré said.

                “But I’m not sorry for that.  I’m just being honest,” Ten added when hir sponsor looked like he might erupt.  “She was being mean to Cody, which is like the equivalent of kicking a baby catterpet, and so she deserved it.”

                “And she’ll apologize to Cadet Helms personally as well,” Kyle said smoothly, “but you seem the sort to understand that he’s going to have to learn to deal with conflict and verbal defense on his own at some point.  I’m not saying assisting him wasn’t warranted, but you denied him the opportunity to fight for himself by intervening.”

                Oh, fucking logic.  And worse yet, it was true.  Cody was too nice, it made Ten want to lock him in their room and keep him with hir all the time.  “Fine,” Ten huffed.  “I’m sorry I denied Cody the chance to stand up for himself by pouring dye all over your hair, Valero.  I’ll give you the solution to remove it tomorrow,” he added in an effort to be extra nice.

                Valero still scowled, but Kyle seemed satisfied.  “Thank you.”  He nodded to them, then turned and left the antechamber, his plebe hurrying after him like a bright orange hazard flag.  It would be a shame to wash that color away, Ten thought.

                “You two, in,” Master Sergeant Jessup called.  Ten popped to hir feet and walked into the office, followed by a very dispirited Barré.

                Admiral Liang sat behind his desk, as stylish at midnight as he was every other time Ten had ever seen him.  The admiral had an element of elegance that seemed to defy time and space, his own private dimension of class that he carried with him at all times.  He should give seminars on that, not graduate level quantum theory, Ten mused.

                “So,” Admiral Liang said, a little smile on his face.  “Here you are again, Cadet St. Florian.”

                “Yes, sir.”

                “I’ve been told by numerous people that the incident which occurred tonight, while precipitated by you, wasn’t really your fault.”

                “That’s true, sir,” Ten agreed, pleased that the admiral saw things hir way.

                “Mmhmm.  I’ve also been reliably informed that you are still performing experiments in your quad, keeping Class Four chemicals in unsafe containment, and heedlessly involving yourself and your quadmates in unnecessary altercations.”

                “No!” Ten exclaimed.  “That’s not…I mean, okay, yes with the experiments but it’s all in my room, not in the common area, and the chemicals are perfectly contained because I’m the only one who can get to them and I know how to use them safely, sir, the stuff I poured on Valero is completely nontoxic, and I don’t see why I should be punished for sticking up for a fellow cadet!  Sir,” ze added.

                Master Sergeant Jessup didn’t look at all convinced, and it sounded like Barré might hyperventilate before too long, but Admiral Liang nodded slightly.  “Valid points.  Nevertheless, you were warned about fighting, and it can’t be denied that your actions tonight were excessive.  You didn’t land the first blow, but you did fire the first volley, if you take my meaning, cadet.  You escalated a situation that had no direct bearing on you, and the subsequent brawl disturbed the serenity of your entire floor.  Having warned you in the past, and having had that warning ignored, I’m left to come up with an appropriate punishment.”  The admiral steepled his fingers.

                “We tried physical punishment last time, and that seemed to have little effect on your actions.  I suspect I could have you trimming every hedge on this campus and you’d find a way to do it that made it pleasurable for you.  Due to your declared major, we can’t bar you from the public labs, and I hate the thought of you resorting to making your own chemicals.”  Ten smiled at that.  The admiral didn’t smile back.  “Expulsion is always an option, but it’s a drastic one, and I feel like expelling you would be doing you a disservice.  You’re not a hopeless case, Ten, just a stubborn one. 

“Most cadets can be relied upon to change their behavior because of their sense of shame, but I’m beginning to think you don’t have one.  So, what is an appropriate punishment for someone as self-sufficient as you?”  Admiral Liang leaned forward.  “Tell me, what do you think of your roommate?”

“Cody?”  That had changed directions fast.  “He’s nice enough.”

“Nice to you, even?”

“Yeees…” Letting me do experiments in the shower, cooking me food, telling me jokes—stupid jokes, but he tries—and telling me all about his family…  “He’s nice to me.”

“And you, Cadet, are you nice to him back?”

Helping him with his chemistry homework, with his implant, with everything a Fringe kid doesn’t know about life in the Central System, he’s so happy to listen, he makes me feel…responsible.  “Yes,” Ten said quietly.  “I try to be.”

“Would another roommate be as nice to him, do you think?”

Oh, oh no.  “Are you saying you’d move him?” Ten demanded. 

“Cadet Helms would be easier to relocate than you, certainly.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but no one in your class would welcome you into their quad with open arms,” Admiral Liang said calmly.  “I put the two of you—the four of you, really—together for a reason.  You have complimentary skillsets, and you in particular are very strong willed.  I think you could be good for your quad mates, Cadet, but if you can’t control yourself enough to solve things with your brain instead of your little toys, then I’m not sure you’re the best influence for someone like Cody.”

“But…this…”  No, Cody couldn’t be moved, he loved it in their quad.  He was like a sponge, he soaked up everything, even Darrel talked to him, Grennson loved being around him, and Ten…

“Please don’t.”  Ten couldn’t be the reason Cody was sent somewhere else, ze just couldn’t be.  “Don’t move him.  I’ll do better.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“But I mean it this time!” Ten exclaimed.  “Really!  I’ll be better, I swear, just leave Cody alone.”

“I want to,” Admiral Liang said.  “I truly want to.  And I will, for now.”  Ten relaxed with a sigh.  “But you have to learn some self-control, Ten, before you draw one of your quad mates into a situation that they can’t help you out of.  Something that could get one of them hurt.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Your frankness is a gift, don’t ever think that it isn’t,” he added.  “I wish more people spoke their minds like you do, there were be far fewer misunderstandings in this universe.  But you need to temper it, Cadet St. Florian.  And you,” he looked at Barré, “have been underserving your plebe.  Managing people is as much a responsibility of a Federation officer as managing your own tasks is, and I expect you to use this opportunity as a chance to learn and improve.  You might start by making some room in your own lab for your cadet’s use.”

Barré opened his mouth to argue, then shut it.  “Yes, sir,” he said a moment later.

“Good.  Good!”  Admiral Liang sat back and lowered his hands.  “Then I think we’re done for now.  Good evening, Cadets.”

“Good evening, sir.”  They both saluted, then Barré led the way out of the office door, which shut promptly behind them.

“I can’t believe you’d argue with the admiral,” Barré muttered.  “To his face!”

“I can’t exactly argue with him behind his back,” Ten replied.  “So…lab space?”

“Fine.  Two meters square, but that’s all!” hir sponsor insisted.  “And you have to buy all your own chemicals, don’t even think about filching mine.”


Barré scarpered and Ten walked back to Hebe Tower, lost in thought.  Admiral Liang was…tricky.  Very tricky, Ten concluded.  Ten was no stranger to threats, ze’d been dealing with them all hir life and ze was an old hand at playing them out.  Punishment?  I can handle whatever you can dish out.  Expulsion?  Fuck you, I can have more fun in a less restrictive environment.  But moving Cody out of the quad…Ten didn’t think ze could take that. 

And it was stupid to be so concerned about another cadet, it wasn’t like moving out would kill Cody or anything, he would probably be fine, but Cody liked them.  He liked where he was, and he was already a little insecure after such a huge change in his life, and yes, fine, Ten was selfish and didn’t want him to go anywhere and fine, damn it, ze’d restrain himself a little if it meant keeping them all together.  Even Darrel, although frankly Darrel should have been dragged to Liang’s office too, in Ten’s opinion.

Their quad was dark when ze opened the door, everyone already in bed.  Ten locked the door with a thought and headed for hir own room.  Ze looked over at Cody, lying curled in a ball, his transmitter still on his pillow.  He’d been talking to his dads, probably.  He looked…uncomfortable, a line of pain furrowed between his eyebrows even now.  But how could he possibly be in pain?  Everyone here had painkillers built into the nanos that were refilled with every Regen treatment, and Cody had barely been tapped with that knee, he shouldn’t…

Unless—he couldn’t process the painkillers.  Why wouldn’t he be able to do that?  Was it a religious thing?  God, Ten hoped not…Cody was from Pandora, wasn’t he?

Ten took a moment to look up Pandora’s specs.  Class M planet, one small community, some interesting scientific research in genomics and—

Oh fuck.  How had ze not seen this before?  But there were so many Fringe planets, all of them weird and unique, and Cody seemed so normal, except now Ten knew, almost positively, that he wasn’t.

A natural.  Cody was a natural, he had to be.

Well, Ten thought, settling into hir bed but staying awake.  There was no way ze was going to sleep, and while ze wasn’t quite rude enough to wake Cody up, as soon as morning came, ze was getting some answers.  At least now I know what you were lying about.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Hi, People!

Wow, comments from out of the woodworks, new followers, happy days are here again...what did I do?


I love new people.  New people, new things...I'm prepping some self-publishing stuff, I'm finally getting back to my epic fantasy story (huge thanks to my readerwife, who reminded me it existed), I'm about to finish a long novella with my coauthor...it's a good start to the new year!

But you don't have to be new to have my love either.  All the readers who have stuck with me since time out of mind...you are the butter on the bread of my soul.  I wish I had a good gif for that, but you get this instead:

It's hard to stay excited and motivated sometimes when your job is Not Going Well (check), your family is A Little Crazy (check-check, especially with the wedding stuff in the offing) and you've set goals for yourself that might be considered Unrealistic (trying not to check this one).  But you guys do it for me!  You are a source of excitement and motivation, and you make me happy, so...thank you!  And welcome!

Is work over yet?  It's Friday, can't I just...no?

Mmkay then.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Academy Post #7


Notes:  Time for a story aside.  Jonah and Garrett, yay!  Honestly, I went into this hoping that I’d be able to write something R-rated, or maybe X-rated as this is Garrett we’re talking about, but then things shifted and I wrote aftermath and prelude, but nothing of sexual substance.  I will get to that, though!  Next time, I swear, I’ll do our boys proud.  As it is, though, you get the parents, not the lovers. 

Title: The Academy

Part Seven: Parental Interlude, or: Timing Is Everything





The pulse of the call signal was a vague, far off noise as Garrett arched his neck, baring it to the slide of Jonah’s teeth, harmlessly tracing smooth muscle before they dug delicately into the meat of his shoulder.  Garrett hummed his pleasure, smiling to himself; he couldn’t get Jonah to bite him very often, usually only letting it happen during the afterglow once he was sure he had control of himself, but it felt exquisite every time he did it.  Garrett’s feet moved restlessly against Jonah’s legs, hooking into the back of his knees before sliding low across his long, long calves, then back up.

“You can’t possibly be ready to go yet,” Jonah mumbled, turning the bite into a kiss.  “You just came, darlin’.”

“Mm, so did you,” Garrett said with a grin, focusing for a moment on the slick trace of Jonah’s come, wet between his thighs.  One more mark, one more lingering reminder of their love making, and the best thing was, there was no rush to clean it up.  Garrett adored Cody, he loved him so much that some psychologists would surely say it was an unhealthy attachment, but he also loved the fact that he and Jonah could take their time with each other now without having to worry about being interrupted, or showing Cody something he didn’t need to see.

Speaking of Cody, though…anyone else would have stopped calling by now.  Unless it was bad news.  “We should get that.”

“Get what?”

“The comm, Jonah,” Garrett said, nodding his head at the signal alert.

“The…oh, shit, thought that was just my ears still ringing,” Jonah said, extricating himself from Garrett’s legs and reaching for the comm.

“Audio only.”

Jonah rolled his eyes.  “Been answerin’ comms for a long time, darlin’, but thank you.”

“Jackass,” Garrett said playfully, then quieted as Jonah looked at the call’s origin address before he answered the comm. 

“Cody?  We weren’t expecting a call from you tonight.  What’s happening?”

There’s a pause, and then—“Nothing,” Cody said, but he didn’t sound like himself.  His voice was tight and a little clipped, like his whole body was tensed against something.  Jonah frowned at the comm, and Garrett had to fight back the instinctive flutter of worry that suddenly appeared in his chest.

“What’s wrong, bucko?  Why are you upset?”

“I’m not, really.  It’s just…it’s been a rough night here,” Cody said.  He seemed uncertain, unhappy, and that meant conflict.  Cody could handle all sorts of adversity without blinking an eye, but he hated it when the people he lived with fought.  The only time he and Jonah had ever gone after each other had been when Cody had decided to attend the Academy, and the aftershocks of their argument had left him numb and shocky.

“Quad mates going after each other again?” Garrett asked, trying to narrow it down.

Cody laughed weakly.  “Yeah, they were.”  No prevarication there, no attempt to explain or justify it...it must have been a bad fight then, bad enough that Cody didn’t want to dwell on it.  “I just…I don’t know, I wanted to hear you guys.  I don’t have a real reason, I just miss you.  It’s fine, though.  I’m fine.”

The kid was just like Jonah sometimes.  Jonah opened his mouth, probably about to try and drag all the details out of Cody, but Garrett cut him off.  “Of course it’s fine, you don’t have to have a reason to call us.  Do you have time to listen to us ramble about what we’ve been doing this past week?”

There was a gentle exhale, a sign of relaxation, and Garrett smiled with relief when Cody said, “I’ve got time.”  If he had time for comfort, time for something that would have bored him under almost any other circumstances, then Cody needed the reassurance.  Garrett was glad Cody was so comfortable with them, glad that even now that he was figuratively on his own, he still reached for them when he had a problem or was upset.  It spoke to the health of their relationships, the love and trust between a son and his occasionally very odd fathers.

“Well, you got our package, right?”


Close enough to a yes.  “People think that color sand is a joke, but I swear, I gathered it myself off of one of the natural beaches here.  Pink was probable the least ludicrous color I could send you, they range anywhere from shimmery white to neon orange, which is where we went yesterday.  We couldn’t stay very long, though; your dad said his eyes hurt after only an hour.”

“They did!” Jonah protested, playing along.  Garrett kissed his husband’s shoulder in thanks.

“Yes, yes, your poor retinas, they’ll never recover,” he teased.  “The science of it all is quite interesting, actually.  The beaches look this way due to a combination of coral degradation, bacterial sea life and unique silicates that washed out of the mountains millennia ago that have a mirror effect, which is part of the reason the colors are so damn bright.  It’s fascinating, it really is.”

“And you could go on and on and on about it,” Jonah said.  Garrett made a dismissive sound.

“I know how to keep science interesting,” he said.  Jonah snorted.  “I do!”

“Yesterday you talked for three hours—three!—about the effect of dual suns on a developing planet, what the benefits were when considering terraforming, how the biological diurnal cycle of humanity has adapted…”

“And it was all brilliant, and you said so, so you can’t go lying to your son now and pretend to be put upon, because you are the luckiest man on this planet.”

“True,” Jonah said after a moment, and Garrett had to stop himself from kissing him again, because now wasn’t the time.  Damn it.

They talked about their activities, the things they’d seen, batting the conversation back and forth like pros until, very softly, Cody started to snore.  Jonah looked tenderly at the comm, all his love and longing for his son evident on his face.  “Sleep well,” he murmured, then ended the connection.

They lay in their messy bed in complete silence for a moment.  “I miss him,” Jonah said at last, still staring at the comm.

“The feeling seems to be mutual.”

“I know he needs this, I know it’s good for him, but there’s times I’d give anything to have him back home with us, where I know he’s safe.”

This was an old conversation, the kind that didn’t go anywhere except down due to Garrett and Jonah’s different, and equally firm, opinions on the subject.  Garrett didn’t say anything, just ran his hand through Jonah’s hair—it was growing out again, almost long enough to touch his shoulders, and Garrett loved playing with it.  He petted and stroked until Jonah disengaged from the comm and looked over at Garrett.

“You really think this roommate of his is gonna be a help to him?”

“Symone says Tiennan is desperate for a friend, and Cody is just about the friendliest human being in the universe,” Garrett replied.  “I think once they get used to each other, they’ll get along like a house on fire.”


“Oh, that was only the first day, Tiennan hasn’t started any fires since then,” Garrett grinned.  “Cody doesn’t mind hir experiments, and Tiennan would be a fool not to realize what a good thing ze has in Cody.  He’s not alone, Jonah, even if he feels that way sometimes.  Things will get better for Cody, I know they will.”  Jonah didn’t look convinced.  “This is the first time he’s called us feeling out of sorts in two months, isn’t it?  Not since he got homesick the first night he was there.”

Jonah reached out for Garrett and pulled him close, and Garrett went willingly.  “I’m never gonna stop worrying,” Jonah said into Garrett’s hair, quietly, like he was ashamed.

“Neither will I,” Garrett said.  “And that’s fine.  Hell, Miles still worries about me and I haven’t lived with him for decades.  It’s natural to worry.  It will get easier to bear, though.”

“Can’t imagine my mother ever worries much about me or Cody these days.”

Oh, if that topic wasn’t an emotional minefield…they didn’t talk much about Jonah’s family, mostly because Jonah resented the fuck out of them and Garrett wanted nothing to do with them, but Jonah had brought it up, and Garrett wouldn’t run from a challenge.  “Maybe not.  But she’s never been someone worth emulating or wasting thought on, from everything I know about her.  We have the freedom of ignoring her, and I love that.”  He kissed Jonah’s chest, rested his cheek against the steady rhythm of his heart.  “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Take a bath with me.”  The mood wasn’t going to be recaptured in bed, not after spending an hour on the comm with Cody, but Garrett has high hopes for round two in a different location.  After all, they were on what amounted to a honeymoon, and if he couldn’t give rein to his libido at a time like this, when could he?

Jonah didn’t speak for a long time, and Garrett resigned himself to bathing alone.  Then Jonah said, “Okay,” and Garrett buried his grin of triumph in Jonah’s chest.

He felt it, of course.  “I swear, you live on smug,” Jonah grumbled as he slid away and out of bed.

“It’s a fetching emotion on me,” Garrett said coyly, stretching his arms above his head and kicking the covers off, beautifully bare.  He watched Jonah’s eyes linger and darken, and felt his own body respond.

“That’s…yeah,” Jonah said.  “You…”

Garrett could render his husband almost speechless after ten years of marriage.  I’ve still got it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Chapter One of a new story...


So...for those of you who read my New Year's list of "shit I've got to get done, for the love of Christ", you  might have noticed that I'm coauthoring a lesbian contemporary BDSM novella (so many syllables, my god) with Caitlin Ricci.  The first chapter of that story is posted on KT Grant's website as part of her lesbian fiction appreciation event, split over two days.  Find it here: http://kbgbabbles.com/2014/01/2014-lfae-caitlin-ricci-116.html

Originally it was just a fun little thing that we wanted to do for publicity and, well, because we appreciate lesbian fiction.  Caitlin even made a cover for it:

Then Caitlin, who is a sorceress, got to talking with Less Than Three Press and somehow convinced them, and me, to do a series of short novels all about the two characters that we introduce in this first chapter.  It's so much fun to write, a novelty for me, and I'm looking forward to doing more with it.

So, if you're interested in lesbian fiction, or in my writing, or just curious, follow the link above and check it out.  If you love me for my men only, stay tuned, I've got more of them coming up soon.  And now I have to get some work done before my sister flies in from Chicago so we can start the prep work on her upcoming wedding.  It's not until December, but she wastes no time.  Hopefully I will survive this.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Academy Post #6


Notes:  Oh my god, almost 3500 words for the Academy in a single morning.  This story is good for me, even if it’s not particularly good for our characters at the moment.  Yeah, I’m doing stuff to them.  I’ve got reasons, I swear.  It’ll all be okay! 

PS, it’s my man’s birthday today, and although he doesn’t read this blog often I have to celebrate him regardless, because he’s just that awesome.  Happy 34th birthday, baby!  I love you.

Title: The Academy

Part Six:  Orange Is The New Blonde





It was probably inevitable that the fragile peace that existed in their quad couldn’t last for long.  Ten was too volatile and Darrel was too defensive for the two of them to successfully ignore each other for long, but Cody didn’t think that anyone saw the status quo being blown away by someone outside their quad.  Although in retrospect, it was a bad idea for Valero to try to insinuate herself into their home with no regard for whether or not she was wanted.

Valero and Darrel’s relationship baffled Cody.  It wasn’t romantic, that much was clear, and it wasn’t even really affectionate.  It was almost a parental type of thing, which was weird since they were the same age, but Valero seemed to be categorically incapable of taking a hint.  Darrel could, and did, close his door regularly when he and Grennson were working on speaking Perel, and instead of leaving Valero would just sit down in their common room and start doing her homework.

“Don’t you have a quad of your own to go to?” Ten demanded more than once.  Valero just tossed her hair and ignored hir, or worse yet, gave Ten a knowing smirk that meant nothing but got Ten’s hackles up like nothing else.

“Get her out of here,” Ten snapped at Cody the night before they were supposed to go out on his hoverbike.  “Get her out of here before I take care of it on my own.  I am so sick of the smell of her perfume that I could choke.”

If that wasn’t ironic then Cody didn’t know what was, but now didn’t feel like the time to be amused by that.  On the other hand…  “I’m in the middle of a conversation,” he pointed out, indicating the screen where Lacey was staring at Ten with interest.

Cody hadn’t been the best correspondent, hardly talking to anyone from home for the first month of his stay here, but as his schedule settled down and his quad mates stopped trying to kill each other, he got better at remembering to call.  Lacey was rightfully pissed, at first.

“Oh, now that your new friends are getting boring you remember me?” she asked the first time Cody had called.

“I’m sorry,” he’d apologized with complete sincerity.  “It’s just, there’s a lot to take in here.  I’m still getting used to being in a new place and finding my way around this huge campus, and not living with my dads anymore.”

“Even your dads called me before you did,” Lacey informed Cody.  “They’ve called me twice, actually.  And they send me an opal necklace from Zair, so I’m considering making them my best friends instead of you.”

Shame burned bright and hot, and Cody felt himself flush, but he didn’t try to defend himself.  After a few seconds of letting him suffer, Lacey sighed.  “Sorry, I’m being mean.  I miss you, that’s all.  Things are crazy here with the new baby.”

Right, Lacey’s stepmother had been expecting.  “How’d that go?”

Lacey shrugged.  “Perfectly healthy baby boy.  They named him Percy.  Dad’s thrilled, of course.”

Of course.  Lacey’s dad had always been a strange mix of guilty and bitter when it came to his natural daughter, and having a normal child now had to be a relief to him.  A stupid, guilty relief, but a relief nonetheless.

“I don’t want to talk about me though,” Lacey said after a moment’s silence.  “Tell me about your roommates.”

“Quad mates,” Cody corrected, but he told her all about them, lingering on the insanity that was Ten.  Five more conversations in, though, and Lacey still hadn’t actually seen any of them.  It was slightly deliberate—Cody made it a point to try and call her when Ten was out, not because he was ashamed of either of them but because Ten had a way of derailing conversations fast, but tonight he’d hoped Ten’s experiment in the kitchen would keep him occupied for a few minutes, just so he could check in on Lacey, who was in the infirmary again.

“Stupid chest infections,” Lacey had said with a scowl, rubbing her sternum irritably.  “I could have handled it at home but Dad didn’t want me to be around the baby, in case he catches it.  Which he won’t, he’s already been inoculated against everything except acts of God, but whatever.”

So now Ten was in their bedroom, and Lacey was staring at hir from her med bed like ze was the most interesting thing she’d ever seen, which was entirely possible.  Ten had changed hir hair a few weeks ago to bright orange with sparking yellow and pink tips—literally sparking, it wasn’t just an illusion, and even though Ten assured Cody that it was just a harmless chemical reaction that would diminish over time, it still made Cody nervous to essentially see Ten’s hair on fire.

“Who’s that?” Ten said, flopping angrily onto Cody’s bed and staring at the holoscreen.

“That’s my friend Lacey,” Cody replied, forgoing any attempt at subterfuge.  It never worked well with Ten.  “Lacey, this is Tiennan St. Florian.  Ten.  My roommate.”

“Hi,” Lacey said with a grin.  “Your hair is far, Ten.”

“Is that some quaint, colloquial way of saying incredible?” Ten asked snippily, but hir eyes were sharp as they looked over Lacey, taking in everything.  “Because yes, it is, thank you very much.  The technique is proprietary, I just came up with it.”

“You came up with that yourself?”

“Naturally.  I’m a genius.  Why are you in a hospital?”

Aaand too much.  “Lacey, I’ve got to go, I’ll call you back later,” Cody said before abruptly ending the transmission.  He turned to Ten.  What do you need me to do?”

“Why was she in a hospital bed?” Ten asked, undaunted.

“She wasn’t, I was just calling her late,” Cody lied gamely.  “That’s her own bed.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Yes it is.”

“Noooo…it isn’t.”  Ze stared at Cody.  “Why don’t you want me to know that?”

“Problem with Valero, you say?” Cody changed the subject.  “I’ll get right on that.”  He stood up and headed out into the common room.

Of course, figuring out what to say to the beautiful woman currently occupying most of their couch and ignoring him completely was another story.  Cody could smell her perfume, a light floral scent, and it didn’t bother him the way it seemed to bother Ten, but knowing Ten ze was less bothered by that and more by the intrusion.  Cody sat down next to Valero and cleared his throat.

Valero ignored him.

Cody tried again.

Valero ignored him.

“Excuse me?”

“Mmm?”  Valero looked over at Cody and smiled brightly.  It was an entirely fake smile, the kind that Cody had seen Garrett give to people he really didn’t like.  “What is it, Darling?”

Cody frowned.  “Why are you calling me that?”

“Because you’re a little Darling, that’s why,” Valero said with no further explanation.  “What do you want?”

“Why are you here?” Cody asked bluntly.  “Darrel’s not even available, and he won’t be out for hours.  Why stay?”

“Because I can.”

“No, you really can’t,” Cody said.  “Ten asked you to leave, so why aren’t you?”

Valero rolled her eyes.  “Tiennan knows better than to expect me to leave simply because he asks.  He knows a lot more about hierarchies than he’s letting on.  Simply put, I’m making a point.  Darrel’s being a little reluctant to come into the fold, but once he’s over that, I’ll give you back your space.”

There was so much wrong with that statement that Cody barely knew where to start.  After a moment of stunned silence, he did start though.  “Ze.  Not he, ze.”  Valero snorted.  “No, you know Ten wants to be referred to that way, you’ve been here enough times.  You should do it that way.”

“What gave you the impression that I have to care about babying Tiennan’s preferences?” Valero asked idly.  “I know you’re from a backwater Fringe planet and probably don’t understand this, but trust me, I’ll be gone soon enough.  Faster if you convince Darrel to start spending time with the people he needs to get to know.”  She smiled that awful smile again.  “Legacies need to stick together, after all!”


“Goodness, you’re just precious, aren’t you?” Valero sighed.  She put her tablet down and turned to focus on Cody.  Out of the corner of his eye Cody saw Ten watching from their door, but he kept his focus on Valero.  “The president of the Federation is a Legacy from the Academy.  Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t,” Cody replied.

“And fifty percent of the highest ranking command staff of the Federation military is made up of Legacies.  As are the presidents of the most influential universities and research institutions.  The Academy is the place to be if you want to rise up in the ranks of the Federation’s elite, and the best way to let a head start on your competition is to be a Legacy.  We have a public persona to uphold, and we are endowed with a gravitas that no one else our age merits.”  Valero leaned against the back of the couch and rested her face on her hand. 

“In order to continue to thrive, our group has to be united.  That means bringing reluctant Legacies into the fold, and that’s why I sit in your smelly, dingy quad even when Darrel isn’t available.  Because even when he can’t see me, you can, and you can tell him I was here.  The best way to get me out of your hair is to convince him to socialize with the rest of us occasionally.  We’re not asking for all of his time, after all.”  Another bright, horrible smile.  “Just a few evenings a week.  Then he can spend the rest of his time with the Alien, the Freak, and,” she reached out and patted Cody’s cheek, “the dear, dim little Darling.”

Cody’s throat was tight, the way it got when he was meeting with the doctors, or on the very rare occasions when his dads fought.  It was so tight it was painful, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to say anything in the face of Valero’s blatant, insulting honesty.  Fortunately, he didn’t have to.

Ten, who could move with almost complete silence when the mood took hir, crept up behind Valero on the couch and upended a flask over her head.  She shrieked and turned around to grab at hir, but Ten had already backed away, and looked on with satisfaction as the liquid spread to coat all of Valero’s perfect platinum hair, turning it the same bright orange color as hir own.  Valero held it up to her eyes and gaped.  “What…you!  What is this?”

“It makes you look sooo superior,” Ten said mockingly.  “Also like a fashion disaster, which, two for two as far as I’m concerned, I’m rather happy with the results.”

Neither of them expected Valero to scream, launch herself off the couch and tackle Ten into the kitchen.  Darrel and Grennson’s door opened but Cody couldn’t pay any attention to them, he was too busy lunging after Valero to make sure she didn’t kill Ten. 

Valero was on the combatives team, which meant she was a brutally good fighter, but Ten was surprisingly adept at protecting hirself from the worst of the attacks.  They scrapped and rolled and screeched at each other before Valero worked her arms around Ten’s back, picked hir up and sent hir careening into the kitchen table so hard it broke under the force of hir fall.  Cody tried to catch Ten but ended up taking a knee to the stomach in the process, which left him gasping and seeing stars.

Ten tried to squirm away and reengage but Cody held on for all he was worth, and just before Valero reached them long, milky white arms enfolded her and picked her up off the floor, squeezing tightly.  Valero tried to fight, kicking back at Grennson and trying for a headbutt, but the Perel only tightened his grip until she could barely breathe.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Darrel yelled as he looked between Valero and Ten, finally focusing on Valero.  “And why are you even still here?”

“Look at what he did to me!” Valero screamed, or tried to scream—Grennson cut her off with another squeeze.  “Tell—him—let go—”

“She stays all the time and you never notice because you go and hide in your room like an infant and leave us to put up with her!” Ten yelled, finally escaping Cody’s grasp.  The fight got louder from there but Cody didn’t really follow; his abdomen hurt so bad he was still gasping, and that wasn’t good.  It wasn’t good because all of his quad mates were here, and Valero was here, and Ten was bleeding in three places and had huge bruises coming up on hir face but still managed to walk and talk normally, while Cody couldn’t even handle a knee to the gut, and they would all know he was a natural if he didn’t get the fuck up, and…

“Cody.”  Cool hands enfolded his face, and Cody forced his eyes open so he could look up at Grennson, who blocked his view of the rest of the room.  The Perel’s enormous eyes stared down at him, concern clear on his face.  “Are you injured?”

“No,” Cody managed after a moment.  “Just…just winded.”

Grennson leaned in close.  “You feel injured,” he whispered cautiously. 

Oh, shit, empath.  “I’m fine,” Cody forced out in as normal a voice as he could.  “Help me up, please.”

Grennson did so, and once he was standing the pressure on his abdomen relaxed a bit.  It was hard to stand up straight, but Cody forced himself to as he looked at the crowded wreck of their common room.

“All right, Cadet Helms?”

Oh shit, that was Master Sergeant Jessup behind Valero.  Cody straightened even further, determinedly keeping the wince off his face.  “Yes, sir.”

“Good.  Now, you two.”  The Master Sergeant glared at Valero and Ten, who glared just as hard back.  “Cadet St. Florian, I warned you about fighting in your quad.  It seems like the lesson hasn’t taken.”

“She attacked me!” Ten exclaimed.  “And she’s not a member of our quad, as much as she’d like to be, so it shouldn’t count!”

I attacked you?” Valero demanded.  “Look at what you’ve done to my hair!  It was a deliberate assault on my person and I’m going to get you expelled for it, you grimy little—”

“You two are both going to be disciplined for this,” Jessup snapped.  Ten and Valero both looked like they wanted to argue, but his gaze was flinty.  “In fact, Admiral Liang has already asked for you both to be brought before him.  Tonight, not tomorrow.  Apparently your altercation was loud enough that some of your neighbors thought someone was being murdered in here, and the admiral doesn’t appreciate that kind of worry among his cadets.  Now, you two with me.”  He looked at the rest of them, his eyes lingering on Darrel, who still seemed shocked.  “The rest of you, start cleaning this up.  You can requisition another table in the morning.”  He left, Ten and Valero reluctantly following in his wake.  Ten looked back at Cody several times before ze cleared the door, and Cody met hir eyes as coolly as he could.  He didn’t want Ten to wonder or worry about him.

Once ze was gone, though, Cody slumped against the wall.  It was the best he could do under the circumstances.

“You should go to bed,” Grennson said.  “Darrel and I can clean this.”

“I helped make the mess, I should help clean it,” Cody protested.

“No, really,” Darrel added.  “Go on.  It’s fine, I’ll handle it, you should both go on.”  He looked…what was that, ashamed?  Confused?  Either way, he wasn’t looking directly at Cody, which was perfect as far as Cody was concerned.

“I will help you,” Grennson said smoothly, turning away from Cody, who decided not to complain anymore and slunk back to his room and shut the door.

Fuck, he hurt.  It wasn’t a sharp, stabbing pain, but a deep ache that seemed to quiver in his guts, making everything from standing to breathing hard.  Cody staggered over to his bed and collapse onto it, thinking rapidly.  He couldn’t call the medical unit, he couldn’t, it would be public and everyone would know something was wrong with him.  But he couldn’t stop worrying, either.  What if it was bad?  What if he’d really hurt something?

Cody finally decided on a compromise.  He put his hand to the wall, engaged his neural implant and thought, Hermes?

“Cadet Helms.  Your biometrics indicate distress.”

I know.  Is there any way you can check me out without me having to go to the med unit?

“Such an action is contraindicated by my programming.  If you need assistance, you should go to the med unit.”

Cody sighed.  I don’t think it’s that bad.  I just want to be sure.

“I recommend you take yourself to the med unit and allow them to look at you.”

I don’t want to do that, and I don’t authorize you to contact them on my behalf.  Can’t you just take a look?

“It is within my capacity, but only under emergency circumstances.”

This is an emergency circumstance.  Scan me, whatever it is you do.  I have to keep this quiet, Hermes.

The AI was silent for a moment, then Cody jerked as a light suddenly appeared in the wall.  It projected a grid over him for a moment.  “Move your body so that it is completely against the surface of the wall.”  Cody complied with a grunt, and a moment later he felt warmth along his back.

“Preliminary scans indicate internal bruising, no damage to the skeletal structure or integrity of the organs.  This is a preliminary scan only.  If you do not get yourself to the med unit within the next twelve hours or worsen in condition, I will be obliged to immediately inform your superiors.”

Oh, what a relief.  Cody felt better already.  I understand.  Please send a message to my sponsor, First Lieutenant Philomela Xavera, informing her of my condition in the morning.  She can help me then.  And she’d do it discreetly, because she had been the one to lecture Cody on discretion in the first place.

“Understood, Cadet.”  Hermes disengaged and Cody felt his neural implant switch to standby again.  He lay there for a while, staring blankly at the wall and testing the pain in his stomach and wanting, more than anything, to be with his dads right now.  He had been doing so well, he was independent and strong and he could handle this, he could, but right now the thought of Garrett wrapping him up in a hug, or his dad making his favorite meal and sitting down with him to eat while they talked…

Cody couldn’t stop the tears from rising up in his eyes.  Fuck, he wasn’t a kid, he couldn’t believe he was acting this way.  The need didn’t go away, though, and after a few more minutes of internal debate, Cody reached for his private transmitter.  He turned it to audio only, then activated a call to his dads.

The connection pulsed, no response on the other end for long moments.  Answer, please answer…

“Cody?”  Just hearing his father’s voice made Cody relax.  His dad sounded a little out of breath, but Cody didn’t have the energy to bother getting worked up over what could have made him that way.  “We weren’t expecting a call from you tonight.  What’s happening?”

“Nothing,” Cody said, but he didn’t sound quite right, and his dads knew it.

“What’s wrong, bucko?  Why are you upset?”

“I’m not, really.  It’s just…it’s been a rough night here,” Cody said.

“Quad mates going after each other again?” Garrett asked.

Cody laughed weakly.  “Yeah, they were.”  Close enough, anyway.  “I just…I don’t know, I wanted to hear you guys.  I don’t have a real reason, I just miss you.  It’s fine, though.  I’m fine.”

“Of course it’s fine, you don’t have to have a reason to call us,” Garrett said before Jonah could get any more worried, and Cody knew he was worried.  “Do you have time to listen to us ramble about what we’ve been doing this past week?”

That.  That was exactly what Cody wanted, just to close his eyes and listen and pretend everything was normal for a while.  “I’ve got time,” he told them, and settled his head against his pillow as his dads started to tell him about Griffin, and pink sand beaches, and the warm heat of two distant, dying suns.