Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Tower: Chapter One, Part Two

Notes: On to Part Two! I hope you enjoy it, I'm having a great time wrestling with this mystery. The plot thickens...

Title: The Tower: Chapter One, Part Two

***

Chapter One, Part Two



“Englishmen?” Anton was taken aback. “Whatever for?” There might be a fair number of his fellow citizens scattered across Zürich, but they were still a tiny minority in such a large city. Most of them were merchants, or students like himself. “Do you suspect the Dévoué?” The Dévoué were a sect of rabid nationalists, intent on breaking apart Napoleon III’s empire and reestablishing separate, sovereign kingdoms.

It was a member of the Dévoué who had been responsible for the death of Viscount Bonaparte, and in charge of the train on which Anton himself had nearly been killed more than once. It was a member of that sect that had composed a magical palimpsest that Anton was still working on translating, which contained a spell that would imbue weapons with the ability to ensure death once they were wielded.

He still had nightmares about those weapons—the gun that never missed, the knife that once unsheathed would not be put away until it had killed. Anton—and Camille—had been the targets of both of them, and it was only through sheer luck that they had survived. Such a spell would obviously be brutally dangerous in the wrong hands, and Anton had been more than ready to give the palimpsest up to Camille, but the lumière had entrusted it to his keeping instead. In deciphering the spell, they might learn how to defeat it. Or such was Anton’s hope, at least.

“It is possible,” Camille allowed, a frown creasing his brow and drawing down the edges of his moustache. Anton tried to watch him a bit less raptly, but it was hard. Camille had been a constant presence in his mind ever since Anton’s arrival in Zürich, the first man—first person, really—to get his attention and hold it, and one of the few men to openly praise his thaumaturgical skills. That he was tall, broad-shouldered and appealingly attractive were other marks in his favor. It would not be a lie to say that Anton drove himself to distraction with his work, in part, because it was better than fruitless pining.

“Possible, but if so, it is a very targeted attack,” Camille continued. “The English are no allies to Napoleon, despite the truce between our empires. Probably the only reason your leaders haven’t come out in open favor of the Dévoué is fear that such rebellion would spread to your own colonies. That does not mean that there aren’t covert actions being taken to strengthen dissent and weaken the hold of the crown.”

Anton was confused. “So then, it is spies who are being targeted? Could the killer be one of your fellow lumières?”

Camille shook his head. “Not that I know of. And as for who is being targeted, well, that is very odd. Four men have died so far, each of them relatively new to the city. They are largely solitary individuals, not members of established groups, and all of them have shown varying levels of talent in thaumaturgy.”

Now it was Anton’s turn to frown. “What do you mean by that? Are you speaking of formal masters or priests, or students, or is it street magic?” Street magic was what those who were born with more ability than most to effect thaumaturgy but without the means for a proper education, resorted to in order to hone their skills. Street magic was an unpredictable mirror of formal thaumaturgy, cut with poor ingredients and improper alchemical equations. Street magic could be immensely powerful when done by the right practitioner, but more than half who tried anything more complicated than a simple locator or resonance spell ended up hurting themselves, or even dying, from backlash.

“A combination of all, actually. One man was a journeyman thaumaturgical locksmith, employed by one of the banks. He was quite proficient within his own sphere, but knew little beyond it. Another was a priest, again a young man, stopping here to continue his study of religious architecture. The final two were street mages, one specializing in keeping away vermin, the other a finder.”

“A finder?” That was a rare skill to develop, especially for someone with an inferior education. “He must have been in high demand.”

“And he took the longest to die,” Camille said grimly. “All four of these men were killed over the past two weeks, all four of them tortured before having their throats slit. Whatever their murderer was looking for, it seems that he or she hasn’t discovered it yet.”

“How has none of this appeared in the papers? Why haven’t I heard of it before now?”

“The margrave of this canton has taken pains to conceal the deaths, putting the bodies in holding as they appeared. He requested a lumière to look into the matter, and thus, here I am.”

“You said you would allow no other to take it up.” Anton felt his face heat, and was grateful for the dim light in his laboratory. “But you haven’t yet said why, other than the fact that these men share my origin.”

“It is more than that. All young men, all arriving three months ago, all thaumaturges to some degree, all tortured to death. Do you not see the common thread?”

Anton frowned. “Other than what you’ve already laid out?”

“In addition to it, perhaps. Anton,” now Camille laid his hands on Anton’s shoulders and looked him straight in the eyes, “they are all of them quite similar to you. I kept your true identity hidden after the debacle on the train, but not everything could be concealed, including the truth that you were not, in fact, Consul Hasler, once the discovery of his body had breached the gap from Paris to Zürich.

“Puzzle pieces were put together, pieces I should have tried harder to eradicate, but there was so little time. It became known that you were English, that you had training in magic, and that you were also in possession of something very valuable. Something that a member of the Dévoué, or an unscrupulous lumière, or even an enterprising freelance spy or assassin would gladly kill to obtain.”

Anton felt the blood drain from his head. “The palimpsest.”

“Indeed. The ability of those weapons used on the train was not easily covered up, and with the revelation of Consul Hasler’s own skillset, well.” He shook his head. “It would be quite a prize.”

“Do you think it’s a lumière?”

“No,” Camille replied swiftly, which was something of a relief. “I know most if not all of my fellows, and while all of us are dedicated to justice in the name of the emperor, we are no less dedicated to finding the truth in ways that result in little collateral damage. Whoever the murderer is, they don’t care about leaving a trail of bodies to get what they want. There was another death.” He sighed. “The landlady of the locksmith was found in her front room, her throat slit before she had a chance to cry out. Her body, unfortunately, could not be held. She has already been buried.”

Anton felt dizzy. He gripped Camille’s forearms in an effort to keep himself upright. “What…what shall I…what do I…”

“Stay calm,” Camille advised. “Here, sit down now.” He led Anton over to his bench and knelt in front of him, chafing his arms and shoulders gently. “Breathe in slowly, there you go. I should perhaps have gone about telling you a bit more diplomatically,” he added, his voice rueful.

Anton chuckled weakly. “It would be hard to couch this in truly diplomatic terms, I think. Someone is murdering innocent people in an effort to kill me.”

“Indeed.”

“I wish we had burned that bloody book.”

“It would not have mattered,” Camille said quietly. “Someone would have come looking anyway. I’m sorry I involved you so greatly in the matter on the train, Anton.”

Anton met Camille’s concerned gaze. “I’m not.” He exhaled, some of his tension finally draining from his limbs. Unfortunately, the loss left him feeling sluggish, but such fatigue would tell one way or another. “So, what happens next? I haven’t finished translating the palimpsest, although I am more than halfway through it.”

“Any interesting discoveries?”

“A lot of threads that make no sense independently, but a tapestry is beginning to emerge. Once it is completely unraveled, I shall make a full study of it.”

“And where is the book now?”

Anton smiled. “It’s safe.”

Camille paused, then nodded. “Better that you don’t tell me, just in case.”

In case you are captured and tortured and…and… Anton shook his head in an effort to clear it. “How else can I help you?”

“I am not asking you for your help,” Camille said at once. “I am not well known in this city, and most never see me at all, but if I were discovered as a lumière and you were with me, it would throw suspicion onto you. The last thing you need is to be set apart in such a way.”

“I cannot sit idly by while you work on this case!” Anton objected. “People are dying, people who have the bad luck to share a few things in common with me. I am a forensic thaumaturge, and you have access to their bodies. You must at least let me help you to see their death miasmas.”

“It still puts you in harm’s way.”

“Camille.” Anton patted his shoulder. “You tell me I am already in harm’s way. Hastening the speed of your investigation shall only lead to a quicker resolution. Besides, there are some tricks I can employ to reduce my own visibility. Let me help you.”

Camille crouched in silence for a long moment before abruptly getting to his feet. “You have the devil’s own ability at persuasion,” he said. “Fine. But only if you take those precautions, and only if, when I tell you to leave me, you go without hesitation. I would never willingly risk your safety.”

“But you would risk your own.”

Camille shrugged. “Such is the life of a lumière.”

Well then. Neither of them were perfectly happy, but at least Anton was not entirely shut out. He pushed to his feet and was relieved to find himself steady. “When do we start?”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Tower: Chapter One, Part One

Notes: On to our new story at last! This is the sequel to The Train, and will make more sense if you've read that one. If not, then know this: this is alt history, magic-wielding, pre-WWI craziness. The continent remained conquered by Napoleon, and is now ruled by his grandson Napoleon III. Our hero is Anton Seiber, a young thaumaturge--a magical scientist, basically--from England who traveled to Zurich to continue his education. Getting there was really difficult, and he became friends--and maybe more--with an imperial investigator who is immune to magic.

This starts three months after they part. Enjoy!

Title: The Tower: Chapter One, Part One

***

The Tower

Chapter One, Part One



“Seiber!” A meaty hand clapped Anton on the shoulder before he could escape it. “Where are you lurking off to now? Not going to crawl back into your dusty lab and burn the midnight oil on one of your projects for the dead, are you?” Without giving Anton a chance to reply, his captor spun him around.

Face to face, Gerald Montgomery was even less appealing to Anton than he’d been from behind. Montgomery was the unofficial head of the surprisingly large contingent of students at the Universität Zürich who hailed from the British Isles. He was as loud, brash, and universally disliked by most of Anton’s fellow master’s students as any of his ilk had been at Cambridge. And like at Cambridge, he was not only tolerated, but by and large, encouraged—Gerald Montgomery was in line to become a marquess when his father died, and it was never a bad idea to ingratiate yourself with a member of the peerage. Anton had to remind himself of that as Gerald’s hand on his shoulder tightened to the point of pain.

“Alas, I have spells in situ that simply cannot wait.” Finally, Montgomery let go of his shoulder, but Anton’s relief was short-lived as the man immediately threw his arm around Anton’s neck. It felt—unsurprisingly—rather like being yoked as though he were a beast of burden.

“Seiber, Seiber, Seiber.” Montgomery shook his head. “You will waste the best years of your youth if you spend them all on the edification of the mind to the exclusion of the body. Mens sana in corpore sano, as the Romans say. Come with us to the pub, have a few drinks, relax for a while! The Langstrasse area is an easy walk from there, and I daresay we could find an easy woman who might tempt even your virtue.”

Oh, yes. Lovely. Just what Anton wanted after a long day of taking and teaching classes, handling both eager and recalcitrant students and pining for his own hard-earned space—a trip to the whorehouses of Zürich with a group of drunk, loud, and largely ridiculous fellow thaumaturges. Perhaps one of them would get creative with his spellwork and set off a stink bomb, or turn someone’s skin purple. Fortunately, Anton had a trump card to play.

“Have pity on a poor student,” Anton said smoothly, patting Montgomery on the forearm before casually ducking out from under his grasp. “Some of us are here on scholarship, you know. My work output is all that keeps me in my studies, and I cannot afford to falter.” Under normal circumstances, he would never advertise his own relative poverty, but on this early evening Anton was more than willing to paint himself as a sad sap in exchange for liberty.

Montgomery frowned. “You always say that. But I will spot you the coin tonight, free you from your workaday shackles.” Clearly the idea of being seen as a patron to his peers appealed to him. Anton wondered, for perhaps the hundredth time, why this privileged son of the aristocracy had come all the way to Zürich to pursue a degree he seemed to have little interest in, when he would have been accepted with open arms and grasping pocketbooks by the finest universities in England.

It wasn’t that Gerald Montgomery was unskilled at thaumaturgy—he was rather irritatingly efficient at casting spells, in fact, although his basic preparations left much to be desired and were more often assembled by his cadre of admirers. It was simply that he seemed to have little interest in doing more than the basics, spending the rest of his time in personal and rather frivolous pursuits. At a research institution like this one, it made no sense. The man wouldn’t even have to rely on his thaumaturgy skill to earn a living one day—he was nobility, he was guaranteed an income.

“Not this time,” Anton said. “My spells simply won’t wait.”

“Then later this weekend,” Montgomery insisted. “You cannot have every minute of every day planned, and if you do, then change it.”

Change your life to suit my smallest whim, Seiber. Anton kept his calm smile on his face with a great deal of effort. “I will endeavor to, I assure you.”

“Gerry!” Another one of their British fellows called to Montgomery from the lecture hall’s side stone egress. “Hurry, before we lose our chance at a good place in the pub! Ella’s section always fills the fastest!”

“Shut your flapping lips, Percy, I’ll be there in a moment!” He turned back to Anton with a bit of mischief still in his face. “Are you sure? Percy can’t hold his liquor to save himself, and he’s hilarious when he’s blotto.”

“Next time,” Anton said, and finally, finally, the other man shrugged and turned away. Once he finally vanished into his throng of admirers, Anton let out a slow, relieved breath. There was one obstacle down, at least.

Fortunately, he had no students waiting for his time this evening. As soon as the university’s Head of Thaumaturgy, Doctor Grable, had ascertained that Anton possessed a Device that allowed him to speak seven different languages—Doctor Grable was renowned for his ability to detect and interpret thaumaturgical signatures of all kinds, and Anton had had no chance of denying his father’s Device’s existence—he had made Anton the go-to graduate student for students who struggled with English and German. He’d spent many hours he would have rather been researching helping those students interpret thaumaturgical equations and simplifying high-level magic as best he could.

It was useful work, and he didn’t begrudge his professor the right to give him responsibilities, but Anton was desperate for time alone. He had far too much to be getting on with to waste time on people like Gerald Montgomery. Anton shook his head to help clear the day from it, then gathered his paraphernalia into his holdall and headed for the Tower.

The Universität Zürich had different branches scattered throughout the city, but the sciences were housed in and around the main building, an imposingly large gray stone edifice lightened by patches of lawn and sky-high cupolas. Just behind the main building was the Tower of Thaumaturgy, where the founders of the school had wisely set apart their most volatile researchers. It was less of a tower than a dark, veiny square block that rose without grace into the air, buttressed by thick stonework and fewer windows than the rest of the university monuments. It was often described as “ugly, a blight, more like a prison than a university.” It was heavily spelled to maintain a neutral magical space, and securing a place for research in it was the source of much cutthroat negotiating between graduate students.

Anton had such a place, a small laboratory on the thirteenth floor, the highest in the tower. It was a long walk up, especially after an exhaustive day of teaching. Happily, that very inconvenience made it even more worthwhile for Anton, because few people found their way up there, which meant less botheration by his peers. On top of that, his lab was thaumaturgically secured by a series of locks that Anton had been improving ever since he settled in, three months ago now. It was as inviolable as he could possibly make it, which made the sight of his door standing open rather shocking to him.

“Oh no,” he murmured, hastening along the hall toward his tiny chamber, silver wand held high to project his simple charm for illumination down the stone corridor. Rather than bolting inside as soon as he got there, though, he bent down and surveyed the door itself. The spells were still there, they had simply been rendered—inert, for lack of a better word. They would need to be recharged, but that was easier than reconstructing them completely. Only a truly exceptional master would be able to get through his defenses without setting off an alarm. There were no signs of scuff marks around the edge of the lock or handle itself, so if it was a thief, then they were very good at picking locks.

But if they were so good, why had they left the door open? There were only two logical options for who could have entered so smoothly and obviously, and one of them would never make the hike to the thirteenth floor when he had an expansive laboratory of his own on the first.

Anton’s hand trembled slightly on the handle as he pushed the door the rest of the way open. Inside, the last rays of the sunset were barely enough to combat the encroaching grayness, but Anton could make out the familiar silhouette of a tall man in a top hat standing along the far wall.

He's here! But Anton had to be sure. “Camille?”

The figure turned, and Anton’s heart leapt in his chest when he verified the identity of his mysterious visitor. “Anton.” Lord Lumière, special investigator for his majesty Napoleon III, solver of the convoluted murder of the Viscount Bonaparte on the train to Lucerne, and one of a secret class of people who were immune to magic—some said because they were soulless, damned at birth by God—inclined his head in a show of perfect politeness. The smile on his face, however, was far more welcoming. “It is astonishingly good to see you again.”

That was all the welcome Anton needed to cross the room in six long steps and throw himself into Camille’s embrace. It was precipitous of him, probably even ridiculous, but he couldn’t help himself. He had experienced no truly welcome touch since their kiss farewell, three long months ago. Anton barely knew Camille, really, but he felt far closer to him than their stressful, exciting train trip together had merited. From the way Camille’s arms closed around his waist like they belonged there, pulling him closer and warming him from head to toe, perhaps Anton’s feelings weren’t entirely foolish or one-sided.

Nevertheless, he remembered his own abandoned dignity eventually and pulled away with a faint cough. “I—I wasn’t expecting you.” He winced, because what had he expected, that the lumière would tell him he was coming? That was the opposite of covert, and Camille was an expert at being covert.

“Forgive me for not contacting you in advance,” Camille replied, surprising Anton. “I was actually on my way to another part of the country when the emperor redirected me here.”

Oh. So it was mere chance that had led Camille this way again, rather than…something else. Anton nodded and put a little more space between them. “I see.” Of course he did, and he could be professional about it. “What is it that brought you to Zürich, then?”

“A murder, of course.” Of course. “Several, in fact. And when I ascertained the targets of these murders, I would allow no other lumière to take on the task.”

“Oh? Who is being murdered?”


“Englishmen.” The word dropped between them like a boulder, heavy with unspoken implication. “People like you, Anton.”

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

One last delay!

I'm going on maternity leave soon, and I've got to prep for my replacements, so...one more delay! I'm so effing sorry, but I need another twelve hours in the day to get everything done.



Which...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!! This is going to be my life once I'm a mom! I need to get used to it now! My time management will get better, I swear to god.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Prepping

I'm prepping for the new story, I'm prepping for giving up my day job in anticipation of maternity leave, and I'm taking childbirth prep classes. I am prepping out of my freaking mind. Two and a half hours of learning about effacement and dilation and timing and relaxation techniques, all while sitting in a chair that would give anyone, much less a pregnant person, a backache. I eventually gave up and sat on a pillow on the floor.

But I'm going to be ready as hell, damn it.

So, hopefully I'll start The Tower next week. This week I'm getting my mind and my schedule straight.

Hope your week is a little more relaxed, darlins.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Forty-Two

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

Title: Reformation: Chapter Forty-Two

***


Chapter Forty-Two



Cody didn’t know what to do next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not distracted!”

“Prove it.”

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

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

“Hi.”

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

Garrett shrugged. “Nothing in particular.”

But Garrett was always doing something! “Why?”

“Because it’s nice.”

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

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

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

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

“But you’re acting differently.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m so sorry—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The End

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Forty-One

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

Title: Reformation: Chapter Forty-One

***

Chapter Forty-One



Five minutes to docking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you come aboard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who do you think I think you are?”

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

“Why?”

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

“What if you go away?”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth of July

Hi darlins!

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